Monday, June 30, 2008

There are now three angry girls

As of today, I am officially changing camps. In most issues in life, I have a very "live and let live" attitude. This has previously been my attitude towards pornography; its not my cup of tea, but whatever two consenting adults want to do in the privacy of their home...yada yada. I can thank Kate for my conversion - she got me started thinking and gave me some very interesting reading materials, including One Angry Girl's FAQ, a slide show from Stop Porn Culture, and the most convincing and well-written piece- an article written by Robert Jensen titled "Men Confront Pornography". It almost made me not want to write this blog post because I can in no way say things as elegantly as he does - but yet I trudge on.

Obviously we know how right-wing conservatives and the moral police feel about pornography, but feminists are split down the middle, those who are pro-porn because they claim it allows women to fully embrace and control their sexuality, and those who are anti-porn because they claim that porn by its very nature is oppressive and degrading. I have come to agree with the latter and I will try to explain why as succinctly as possible. First, very, very few women choose to do porn of their own free will. Many were sexually abused or raped as children or young women (including the two most famous porn "stars"- Traci Lords and Jenna Jameson), some are drug addicted, and some are simply socialized in a culture that teaches women that their only value lies in their bodies.

Secondly, my policy in the past has just been to ignore porn's existence, but I am finding that this is impossible. It pervades every area of our culture; how can a young boy exposed to pornography as his sexuality is solidifying not carry these ideas pounded into his subconscious into his treatment of women? Research shows that after viewing pornography, "men are more likely to report decreased empathy for rape victims, decreased sexual interest in their girlfriends or wives, and increased interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts". One study done found that pornography increased aggression in men so much that it cannot be repeated for ethical reasons. The most dangerous part is the way it slips into our culture in seemingly innocuous ways, think the "E" network's "Girls Next Door". A show that, I admit, I have watched; what's not to love about three beautiful fun-loving girls who just happen to also make porn? A lot.

I don't think porn should be outlawed - I love the First Amendment. I must admit, I borrow from Kate here - people just need to be made AWARE . Aware that porn is powerful and its influence is widespread and spreading, aware that if you watch porn you are a john, aware that every woman in a porn film is real person and is someone's daughter or sister. That's the part that really got to me. I was reading Jensen's article in which he describes a very graphic sex scene common in pornography and then talks about what happens when the cameras are off; he really forces you to see the woman as person, to think of her as your child or your friend and then I realized that I, as a woman, had dehumanized this woman without even realizing it. "She's not a woman like I am a woman - she's a slutty, worthless non-woman". Then it hit me, and I almost cried. Being constantly counter-culture is hard, but its even harder to realize you aren't doing a good enough job of fighting this culture of fear and misogyny and these attitutes big corporations are trying to sell have creeped into your subconscious.

Its not right to make someone else suffer for your own fantasy. Its not right to enjoy the subjugation of a woman in a fictional way because regardless of what you may think, it impacts you and you then carry this into real life.

And its not right for me to ignore it.

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