[UPDATE: Well, Renegade Evolution is probably not a Leftist, but she is a woman who has done DP for pleasure as well as for pay….and she just poured Jensen a nice tall glass of Whupass over his presumptions over at her blog….feel free to check them out here.]
You know…I was wondering when that Professor Robert Jensen would take time from his radical crusades to return to his base obsession with sexual guilt-tripping men…..and it didn’t take long after the Democratic takeover for him to deliver.
For those of you who may not know about Robert Jensen, he is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who fancies himself as a radical Left activist, a male radical feminist supporter, and most of all an antiporn activist who attempts to apply the Dworkin/MacKinnon ideology of guilt tripping men about their sexual thoughts.
For his latest shame fest, Jensen used an essay from the Left news portal Dissident Voice titled "The Consequences of the Death of Empathy" (mostly on the supposed "privilege" of men and their alleged failure to understand how their "privileges" harm others) to bring forth his classic theories about how standard porn and male sex fantasies and acts inherently oppress and destroy women as part of the grand Patriarchy. To that end, Jensen tapped into a discussion with a student who attended one of his lectures who attempted to challenge Jensen’s theories:
I asked him to tell me more about what he watched. As he talked, it became clear he was describing exactly the kind of material I had discussed, and I could see the realization emerge in him: My assessment of the rough and degrading nature of that pornography was accurate, and he had simply never recognized it. When he mentioned a type of sex he liked to watch in pornography called a DP — double penetration, in which a woman is penetrated vaginally and anally at the same time — it really started to dawn on him: In these scenes, the sex was defined by men’s sense of control over, and domination of, women.
I pressed a bit more. What kind of things did the men call the woman during this sex? I asked. As he started to reproduce some of the terms — all names meant to demean and insult women — it became impossible for him to avoid the conclusion that the pornography he had been consuming is not just sex, but sex in which men act out contempt for women.
At that point, he stammered, “But I don’t hate women. I love women. I wouldn’t use pornography like that.”
That contradiction wasn’t going to be worked out in the moment. Instead, I told the student that I wasn’t arguing that he hated women but was simply pointing out he had been getting sexual pleasure from pornography that expressed hatred for women. Why had that misogyny been invisible to him? Why had he been unable to see what was happening on the screen and imagine how women might feel about such degrading treatment?
The answer is simple enough: The privileges that come with being a man in patriarchy had undermined his capacity to empathize, allowing the sexual pleasure he felt to override his humanity and making it difficult for him to put himself in the place of a woman experiencing overtly cruel and degrading treatment.
[excerpted from Jensen: "The Consequences of the Death of Empathy", Dissident Voice, posted October 1, 2006]
Aside from the usual Jensen tactic of avoiding the main question of the student, you may notice how he twists and contorts the student’s concerns to fit into his (Jensen’s) own ideological view…as if it is a given that the student’s love for a certain kind of porn (that involving double penetration) automatically implies a hatred of not only the women who perform DP, but ALL women everywhere. (Of course, this is perfectly consistent with Jensen’s core beliefs that any fantasy or any act of sex not specifically dedicated towards his "feminist" notions of "egalitarian sex" is inherently oppressive to women and one step removed from actual rape.)
Fortunately, there were some who were quite bothered by Jensen’s pronouncements and the implications for Leftist activists….and one regular contributor named Eric Patton decided to offer a response at the Dissident Voice website questioning whether progressives should take Jensen’s assumptions at face value:
I believe we, as lefties, have to be very careful when we deal with questions of sex and sexuality. There is a definite perception among the general population that we’re a bunch of anti-sex prudes whose views on sex differ very little from those of the Southern Baptist Convention (except that we’re pro-choice). Unfortunately, there is more than a grain of truth to this perception — we’ve earned it honestly in many regards.
I simply do not at all see how a woman choosing, of her own free will, to have sex with two men (or to do whatever she wants, for that matter, as long as she is not coerced or in some other way deceived into doing it) is somehow anything we lefties can possibly be opposed to. If women are empowered to make their own free, conscious choices, with no fear of reprisals or punishment, are we seriously opposed to this if the choice she chooses to make happens to involve double penetration?
And are many current incarnations of pornography sexist? Of course. Does that mean that somehow the very act of filming sex and making it available for public viewing is automatically sexist? I do not see how. Let’s assume we have overthrown capitalism and replaced it with parecon. Let’s assume that everyone works a balanced job complex, that no one is forced to rent themselves in order to survive, and that the people involved with the making of porn are there because they genuinely want to be there. (One might argue that, in a good and decent society, no one will want to do porn. I do not believe this will be the case for a variety of reasons which are not terribly important to the topic of this essay, but everyone has to decide for themselves whether they believe this or not. However, if it indeed turns out to be the case that no one wants to do porn, then it’s hard to see how there would be any.) Under these assumptions, which are not unrealistic in the long term, how is pornography in such a society automatically sexist — indeed, how could it be sexist at all?
[Excerpted from Eric Patton, "Thoughts on Sex and Pornography"; Dissident Voice, posted on November 10, 2006]
Note: "Parecon" is shorthand for "Participatory Economics" a theory of socialist economics that was developed by Michael Albert of Z Magazine as an Left alternative to Marxist theory.
Well…..it didn’t take long for Jensen to notice…and today he posted at Dissident Voice a rebuttal to Patton that attempted to justify his beliefs on DP as innately sexist….unfortunately, his rebuttal does more to distort the issue than to clarify it.
Right off the bat, Jensen throws down the gauntlet:
"A failure of empathy"??? For whom, Professor Jensen….the woman who you assume is being raped or degraded??? For all women who are represented by that woman enjoying the act? Or the fact that some men do get sexually aroused to seeing a woman who enjoys that kind of sex with more than one man???
And never mind the basic fact that you don’t even need a penis or even a set of penises for a woman to enjoy double penetration (there are such things as fingers or sex toys, you know), or that you don’t even need MEN for a woman to engage in DP…..I guess that for Jensen, merely the act of a man masturbating to an sexual image he doesn’t approve of as insufficiently "feminist" is enough to declare it as "sexist".
Next, Jensen shows his abject ignorance of sexuality outside of his "feminist" boundaries , by admitting the following:
From there, let’s move to other important observations and assumptions on which my conclusion will be based.
Assumption #1: There is considerable individual variation in the human species, yet there are also patterns in human behavior. That is, we cannot ever predict what any specific individual will feel, think, or do, but we often can find patterns in human emotions, cognition, and action. That leads to . . .
Assumption #2: There are women who in their personal lives find sexual pleasure and/or emotional fulfillment in DPs, which I call an assumption because . . .
Observation #2: In my 48 years, I have never met a woman outside the pornography industry who has acknowledged participating in a DP or having a desire to do so. It’s possible that I have met an unrepresentative group of women, or that some of those women have participated or harbor such desires but remain silent about it. But neither of those possibilities square with my experience, which includes traveling widely for many years to talk in a variety of settings about these issues.
Notice how Jensen arrogantly extrapolates his own experiences as a "researcher" and an activist to make sweeping overgeneralizations about both the men who consume such porn and the women who produce and engage in such activities. Now, if he ever bothers to slip away from the MacDworkinite cocoon and actually engage with real women not totally ensnared within that inner circle, he would find a whole lot of women outside of porn who do actually engage in DP with relish….and actually do come out mostly unscathed and with their full humanity intact. (I believe that Jensen even had a long debate with one such….errrrrrr….renegade. Assuming, of course. that RenEv has actually done that kind of thing, mind ‘ya…;-))
And notice how Jensen so blissfully dismisses the opinion of those within the porn industry who do DP….as if they are either faking their pleasure at being "raped" merely to take the paycheck, or they really are the paid agents of Patriarchy. Of course, only they make "assumptions", by contrast , antiporn activists like him make "observations" based on more than just their own personal biases and myopias. Really, they do.
Continuing with Jensen’s assumptions:
Observation #4: I have never met a man outside the pornography industry who has acknowledged participating in a DP, though some have told me they would like to. Given men’s typical celebration of their sexual feats, there’s no reason to think men are hiding their participation in DPs. These observations lead me to . . .
Assumption #3: Outside of pornography, very few heterosexuals are participating in DPs. There is no systematic data on this, because surveys of sexual behavior don’t ask specifically about DPs. But the most reasonable assumption is that DPs, while common in pornography, are relatively rare outside of the industry and are not part of the routine sexual practices of the vast majority of people.
Assumption #4: Heterosexual men who watch pornographic movies featuring DPs — whether or not they have a desire to participate in DPs in their lives — know that the vast majority of women would not find sexual pleasure or emotional fulfillment in a DP and do not desire to participate. Male pornography consumers have told me they think that the women being DPed in pornography like it, and some say that women outside pornography might like it if they tried it. But I’m relatively confident that most men don’t think most women really want to be DPed.
Now, Assumption #3 might indeed be true, and not many "civilian" men and women may be as interested in doing double penetration as professional porn starlets (and I should add that not even all porn pros or amateurs are doing acts like DP, either)…but does that say anything about those whom have actually tried it and liked it?? Or those who have tried it, didn’t like it that much, but have no ill will or political animus towards those who do?? Just because some women do take much pleasure in DP does not mean that all women would if given the opportunity…nor does it mean that all men who watch DP automatically believe that ALL women SHOULD like it. Remember, the main attraction of porn is NOT degradation or violence, but seeing people engage in sex acts for sheer pleasure. Since Jensen’s of the belief that sex should be only based on "intimacy" and "emotional fulfillment" and oriented towards only higher goals of human relationship rather than sheer pleasure (which he sees as simply "patriarchial" and promoting male violence and disrespect of women), it’s not surprising at all that he would dismiss the feelings of his student…and make totally invisible the women who might actually like such sex acts.
But the fun part begins when Jensen promotes his "conclusions" based on his assumptions about men and DP sex:
So, is a DP inherently degrading and sexist? In the minds of the men who want to watch them, I think the answer is yes. That is, men understand and experience it as a degrading and sexist practice. That’s why it’s sexually exciting, precisely because of men’s assumption that women don’t want it — because it’s degrading, something that has to be forced on women who don’t want it.
Oh, really, Professor Jensen??? Now, there is something to the sense that DP sex (and by extension, all other anal sex acts) can be seen as taboo in the eyes of more conservative and puritanical belief systems….and that among some of the more repressed and conservative men, such a mindset could show up in their choices in porn. But how in the hell does that lead to Jensen’s conclusion that men who masturbate to DP porn innately hate women?? Here is yet another example of how Jensen channels Far Right Puritan sexual mores to ostesnively sell a "feminist" agenda. I would think that the exact opposite is true here: men (and women) who are really into DP watch it for the pleasure of seeing a woman who really is into that particular act, thus putting her above the rest. In other words, it is the sexual worship of those who DO, rather than the putdown of those who DON’T.
Another fascinating aspect of Jensen’s critique is that he refers to heterosexual men, thus avoiding the basic fact of the "taboo" of anal sex for gay men (and for lesbian women who may use sex toys or digital penetration to achieve the same effect as a DP). It all makes me wonder if Jensen really is a double agent for the Christian Right, selling monogamous marriage as a feminist counter to the evil of the "male gaze".
To continue….Jensen then goes on:
That a DP is dirty is not my moral judgment, but is simply borrowed from a popular female pornography performer, Ariana Jollee. In an interview with a documentary film crew, she said: “Double penetration isn’t painful at all. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. It’s filthy and if you believe it feels good, it will always feel good, so just give it a try.”
That a DP isn’t painful is not so clear. The human body is amazingly flexible and can adapt to a variety of practices, but that doesn’t mean all such practices are easy on the body. I am not a woman, and so I obviously cannot experience a DP. While I speak without knowing how such acts feel, from watching these acts on screen it’s reasonable to assume — even though women performers routinely say they enjoy them — that they are hard on a woman’s body and require conditioning to endure. Belladonna, another well-known pornography performer, in an interview with ABC News, described such scenes this way: “You have to really prepare physically and mentally for it. I mean, I go through a process from the night before. I stop eating at 5:00. I do, you know, like two enemas. The next morning I don’t eat anything. It’s so draining on your body.”
Let us attempt to manuever through this briar patch of twisted logic here: Jensen, being a man, has no wish to speak for any woman about how degrading and sexist DP really is (that is simply assumed on his part)…but he then quotes two porn starlets who tell him in his face that they do enjoy DP personally to basically put them down as supporting his theory; then quotes Belladonna’s preparatory regimen for doing a pro anal scene. And then, he makes assumptions about how painful and damaging DP really is based solely on his viewing DP scenes (not even trusting the actual performers who tell him that DP is relatively safe as long as you have the proper lube and relaxation and preparation before the scene…and none of the other performers are STD-positive). And he completely discounts and distorts Ariana Jolee’s interpretation of the word "filthy"; in the sense that the act is defiant of conventional sexual mores.
And to finish off, Jensen offers this quite revealing (of his own sexual self loathing) thought, in response to a questioner at one of his lectures who challenged his theories:
It would have been inappropriate for me as an older man with a professor’s status to be so harsh to a student, and I was more measured in my response. But that’s what I wanted to say to him: Why don’t you come up here and we’ll let two of the biggest guys in the room fuck you in the ass at the same time so that you can tell us from direct experience whether a double anal is inherently degrading.
Oh, how touching. Forget the fact that Jensen mixes his sex acts (remember, the original question was about DP, meaning simultaneous anal/vaginal sex, NOT about "double anals", which raise its own seperate issues of safety); of course, no man would allow themselves to rip their clothes off and do anal sex of any kind…..in a professional lecture setting. On the other hand, how does Jensen know that the person he responded to might not be gay and like anal sex a lot…may even wish to experiment with double anal, given all the risks involved? You can make a genuine concern about the safety of certain sex acts being promoted in some of the more extreme porn, but to merely label them as "degrading" is a whole other kettle of fish, and implies exactly the kind of moral condemnation that is consistent with Jensen’s teachings about the shaming of male sexuality to fit his "feminist" beliefs.
Promise Keepers and the ex-gay ministers have nothing on Robert Jensen when it comes to self-hate and humiliation of men for their sexual fantasies….that he is able to call himself a "leftist" and sell his quackery as "progressive feminism" is a tragedy and a parody of genuine progressive activism.