OK….I know that it’s been a while, so I have some catching up to do…..I’ll just do as Blackamazon does so well and kinda wing it in a “whatever breezes through my mind at the moment” way.
I’ve been wanting to post on this story, because there are so many angles, both on the political and sexual fronts, that can be raised here.
Iran Approves Death Penalty for Pornogaphers
By: David Sullivan
TEHRAN -Iran’s parliament has approved a bill that would sentence persons convicted of producing pornography to death.Lawmakers voted 148-5 with four abstentions that “producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corruptors of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corruptors of the world.”
The “main elements in…production”*referenced in the bill include producers, directors, cameramen and actors. According to CNN, the term “corruptors of the world”*is derived from the Quran and carries a death penalty under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.
Distributors and adult website operators could also face imprisonment and death. The bill encompasses all forms of sexually explicit media, including videos, DVDs and CDs. Pornographic books and magazines are already banned in Iran.
In order to become law, the bill must now be approved by Iran’s Guardian Council.
The bill follows in the wake of a scandal involving a pornographic video of Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi that began circulating on the country’s black market last year. While Ebrahami has denied that she is the woman depicted in the video, she faces “fines, whip lashing or worse” for violating Iran’s morality laws. Ebrahimi’s male partner in the sex tape fled to Armenia but was later brought back to Iran, where he currently remains in jail.
The Associated Press notes that “porn material is easily accessible through foreign satellite television channels in Iran. Bootleg video tapes and CDs are also available on the black market on many street corners.”
[H/t to Ernest Greene at Nina Hartley's forum for posting that excerpt.]
This pisses me off for several reasons, and not just the obvious ones.
First off…there is the citing of the Quran’s statement of “corruptors of the world” in supporting the death penalty, which would apply not only to producers, but also distributors, website operators, and even the actual performers. I mean, it’s known knowledge that Islamic societies are far more conservative and restictive when it comes to sexuality….but to go as far as to seek the freakin’ DEATH PENALTY for acts of private consensual sex??? I would think that that would run the risk of playing into the very scapegoat of “Islamofascism” that those who seek to topple that government would use to justify their actions.
And what would that say for those on the opposite side of the political equation: those on the political Left who have basically laid themselves down in defense of the ruling Iranian government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against those who favor toppling his rule?? I especially point to some American leftist women like Yoshie Furuhashi, who has been the most consistent defender of Ahmadinejad as an anti-interventionist and a revolutionary populist…..on occasion conviently glossing over the more reactionary social policies and gross anti-feminism that underlies his fundamentalism. She may be an extreme example of the boosting of fundamentalist Islam as populism and a acceptable alternative to “liberal interventionism”, but she is hardly alone.
Now, I happen to be a staunch anti-interventionist, and I will no more support invading Iran merely because the ruling government happens to be run by a bunch of misogynist thugs using religion to support their power trips, than I would have supported invading Iraq merely because Saddam was a butcher with a secret porn fetish. But….it does bother me more than a bit that so many Leftists are so willing to sacrifice even their own principles to defend “the enemies of our enemies”.
This isn’t to say that the fawning of “Cruise Missile Leftists” who exploit such issues as this to push for mass invasions are any better or worthy of my support, either; it’s just that perhaps we might be willing to acknowledge that merely opposing something without understanding clearly who we are standing with and standing for does make for some dangerous alliances that could easily wreck even the most careful organized progressive movement.
The other angle in this that gets to me is something pointed out by Ernest Greene in his post at Nina’s forum; it is a standard theme of his regarding the unholy alliance between fundamentalists and radicalfeminists on the subjects of porn and sexuality:
Now while I’m sure they’d deny it loudly, anti-porn feminists undoubtedly take some glee in the notion of pornographers being executed. Anyone who has spent much time at The Den of the Biting Beaver or read Andrea Dworkin’s “novel” Mercy, which extolls the virtues of murdering male derelicts as a form of protest against the patriarchy has some idea of the depth of homicidal loathing these fanatics feel toward pornographers.However, in their delight at the prospect of smut-peddler’s heads being lopped off, they might have overlooked a significant detail from the story above, which is that the first target of the Iranian death-for-porn law just happens to be a woman.
Societies that suppress pornography most brutally are the very societies that suppress the rights of women most brutally as well. This is a lesson that any American feminist traveling in the Third World is all too likely to learn first hand. But then, since most of them prefer the comforts of Wheelock College, with its $36K per year tuition and, its tenured professorships for porn-bashing paranoids and its cozy conferences dedicated to denouncing the evils of sexual liberalism at which no opposing voices are allowed a hearing, they needn’t have their sleep troubled by such contradictions.
That last sentence is directed towards Dr. Gail Dines, one of the main antipornradicalfeminist activist voices.
Again, I recognize that not even all APRF’s will go as far as to support something as extreme as the death penalty for (male) porn producers or consumers; but it does seem for some of the more strident activists (*cough* SamHeart(less)GayleStormCloudBitingBeaverWitchyWoo*cough*) that if they are serious enough about their advocacy that porn consumption amounts to nothing less than the total abuse of women and the gateway to rape and rapicity, then why wouldn’t they carry their arguments to the logical conclusion?? Of course, they would have to sustain some deniability to seperate themselves from the Religious Right…but I wouldn’t think that that wouldn’t stop them from at least looking the other way at such a solution.
All this is a segue into the rumble currently going on at Feministe, where Roy originally posted how news of the Iranian proposed death penalty law (and an associated post by Trinity at The Strangest Alchemy) gave him a totally new perspective on things:
I sat there at my desk, talking about sex workers and sex work and porn like they were abstractions… but they’re not, and mythago rightly called me on my shit. It took me a while to realize that, but it was a totally fair criticism. My sitting there saying that stats show this and stats show that and look how many sex workers were this or that… none of that helps them now, and talk like that does make me more likely to find myself allied with religious conservatives who have a “moral interest” in condemning sex work… and sex workers. And that’s the thing that mythago knew when posting that “Mackinnon and Dworkin made the silly assumption that their anti-feminist allies on the right would see their point of view, and apply protectionist ideas in a way that would help women instead of as a way to control women” and that trinityva was getting at when posting “often even “enlightened” people here who object to porn for the “right” reasons are willing to form alliances with those who oppose it for reasons of “religious morality”.”And when I allow myself to ally with questionable or even flat-out bad groups, I have to accept that the damage they do in the name of our cause is damage that I’m contributing to. I can’t wash my hands of the harm that my allies do if they’re doing the damage in the name of our mutual cause. If I’m rallying behind the cry of “PORN HARMS ALL WOMEN!” and I allow myself to get backing from a group that’s adding “BECAUSE DIRTY SLUTS ABUSE SEX!” then aren’t I at least somewhat culpable? Because, ultimately, don’t my actions help further that cause, as well? And doesn’t that mean that the damage they’re doing is to some extent, on my hands?
Because those people have made it absolutely clear that they don’t care about the women involved. They’re not working to help end the abuse of sex workers. They’re not condemning poor working conditions. They’re not working to help sex worker’s rights. They’re not even remotely interested in making sure that their voices get heard. They’re interested in keeping the whores out of their neighborhoods.
For the record, here’s what Trin posted:
Now this is Iran and not here. But I do want to post it, as I do think that it’s important to remember that in many parts of the world, including here, a lot of the objection to pornography IS a deep-seated fear of corruption or contamination. And a goodly bit of the opposition is religious. As a few kerfuffles I’ve posted about here have cast into relief, often even “enlightened” people here who object to porn for the “right” reasons are willing to form alliances with those who oppose it for reasons of “religious morality”.While this does have limited relevance to the US or even the UK, I think it helps to notice the strain of thinking that does look at porn this way. (It’s also worrisome to write this off, IMO, because we run the risk of doing that typical White US-ian “oh, we’re so much more EVOLVED than THOSE (brown) people!”)
We often like very much to hide behind veneers of theory. And to many of us: why shouldn’t we? We live in a wealthy country. Many of us are white, middle class, highly educated, comfortable. It’s very easy for us to think that we can dismantle an industry through “radical” means, at which point anyone formerly “enslaved by” it has a better life, presto change-o.
Too often our “radical” dreams can’t be achieved without nasty alliances. And too often we think of our “radical”ness and our “revolutionariness” and ignore what we deem collateral damage.
It didn’t work in the Iraq War. Why should it work in the Vice War either?
The subsequent thread went haywire when the usual suspects (read, Sam and gayle) decided to intervene with a defense of the “Swedish model” of controlling prostitiution, among other distractions…but that is a different story for another time.
But, it does go to show that in our efforts to dive in head first into any given controversy, we sometimes forget to understand exactly who we are diving with. The enemy of your enemy today could well turn out to become your enemy tomorrow…which is why it’s best to stick to principles as much as humanly possible.
As for me, I see no conflicts whatsoever between not supporting the ruling government of Iraq and simultaneously opposing a military invasion of that country by others. In the end, the same rule of self-determination that defends individual sexual autonomy (whether it be for LGBT’s, feminists, or porn) applies just as much for whole countries resisting war and imperialism. Ultimately, Iranians must decide what government they want, not the US….and certainly not by bombing them into submission. If you are that opposed to their sexual fascism as I am, then the better solution is to offer those women and men facing such repression a place of sanctuary until the laws are changed to reflect some decency and common sense.
As the old saying goes: An eye for an eye ultimately ends up blinding everyone.