Now that there’s been enough time since my initial tease last night, here’s the down low on the lowdown tactics and verse of antiporn male "feminist" Robert Jensen and his latest attempt to slay the porn demons.
The background for the following is that Jensen is co-hosting (along with his long-time sidekick and porn slayer Dr. Gail Dines) an antiporn "feminist" conference later this month at Wheelock College next month; and as a promo for that confab (in which likeminded antiporn radfem crusaders such as Chyng Sun, Rebecca Whisnant, and Melissa Fairley among others will simply make the case as to why adult consensual sexual behavior and the porn that reflects such behavior is the foundation for all the evils done to society….ahhh, I mean, to women), he posted an article last weekend in AlterNet attempting to defend the nature of antipornfem from their detractors and critics.
The main topic of Jensen’s grip and moan this time is the meme that his objection to the legality and legitimacy of porn is tantamount to being "anti-sex". Never mind the fact that radfem activists have consumed reams of paper and pixels of type to debunk that claim (or that perhaps that claim may have some semblance of truth, in that many antiporn activists — feminist or religious — do indeed have a personal disgust and loathing for certain sex acts, even when performed completely consensually); it is standard operational procedure for APRF’s to answer that challenge…even when it’s never offered to begin with.
Unfortunately for Jensen, this attempt causes more damage to him than his intended targets. To wit:
At a progressive media reform conference dedicated to resisting corporate control of mass media, where many of the participants focus on gender and racial justice, it shouldn’t be difficult to interest people in the feminist critique of mass-marketed pornography.
After all, the pornography industry creates a steady stream of relentlessly sexist and racist films and web sites that undermine attempts to build a healthy sexual culture, while filling the pornographers’ pockets with substantial profits. A general critique of the effects of misogyny, white supremacy, and predatory corporate capitalism on mass media dovetails perfectly with the feminist critique of sexual-exploitation media.
Of course, the "feminist critique of pornography" consists entirely of the practicioners who will be hosting and shilling Jensen’s own personal views about sexuality and porn….those critiques, including those from pro-sex and sex-positive feminists that don’t meet that level standard (that is, those who actually don’t back total censorship and shaming and humilation and objectification of men and women who don’t meet his rigid standards of a "healthy sexual culture") will be conspicuosly absent from such an "open debate".
And of course, in Jensen’s eyes, only hardcore porn is uniquely responsible for White supremacy or predatory corporate capitalism or misogyny….so much for the larger non-sexual media and their representations..or the forces of the Right.
Yet as I circulated at last month’s National Conference on Media Reform and distributed fliers for an upcoming feminist conference on pornography, the responses I got were often skeptical and sometimes hostile. The questions that were commonly asked of me that weekend revealed the need for the left/progressive political community to deepen its understanding of the issue.
Oh, gee, Professor Jensen….so people aren’t buying into your nonsense as much as before?? Call the Waaaahhhhhhhh-ambulance, please.
The most common of those questions was, "Is your conference an anti-sex project?" reflecting the common distortion that feminist critics of pornography share the right-wing’s obsessions about containing sexuality within traditional "family values."
My co-author Gail Dines has developed a clear response to the question, which I borrowed during the weekend in Memphis: When we criticize McDonald’s for its unhealthy food, environmentally destructive business practices, and targeting of children through manipulative advertising, does anyone ask whether we are "anti-food"? Of course not, because no one conflates McDonald’s with food; we recognize that there are many ways to prepare food, and it’s appropriate to critique the more toxic varieties. The same holds for pornography; pursuing a healthy sexuality does not mean we have to support toxic pornography.
Now let’s break this down brick by brick, shall we??
On the basic fact….errrrr, "distortion"…..that APFM’s share (if not totally embrace) the sexual fascism of the Christian FRight (*): I guess that sourcing the likes of John Court and Judith Reisman (aka Judith Bath-Ada); testifying in front of the Brownback committee on censoring porn; supporting the direct and indirect censorship efforts such as suing any producer or user of erotic material as a violation of ALL women’s civil rights…that would not be aiding and abetting the "antisex" project, now wouldn’t it??? Oh, but because we are soooooo progressive and "leftist" and don’t go around throwing the Bible at people, that makes our project "pro-sex" and OK by comparison???
But it’s this McDonalds analogy that has me in stiches. I mean, really, not even the most renowned and strident critic of MickeyD’s cooking habits would ever go further than to petition them to change their cooking methods to become more health-friendly, or to simply get those customers who may diisagree to spend their money elsewhere. Not to mention the basic fact that using Ronald McDonald to attract kids to his restaurants is standard operational procedure for ALL businesses in capitalism….would Jensen be so down on McD’s if they switched to more enviornmentally friendly and worker-friendly policies?? Or…if they didn’t, but decided to make a serious financial/political contribution to his antiporn battles??? Asking McDonalds to switch away from using trans fats is one thing, giving obese people the power to sue them for treble damages on behalf of all overweight people who dined at that place (or simply ALL obese people) is something else entirely.
And let’s not gloss over this business of protecting "healthy sexuality" from "toxic pornography"….the latter phrase being a Trojan horse used to conflate bad Anabolitc/Meatholes/Rob Black "in your face" misogyny with Playboy/Penthouse pinups, girl/girl sex clips sold on MySpace and YouTube (until those organizations were bought out by the same "corporate cannibal capitalists" such as Google and Yahoo! and NewsCorp..and promptly filtered out and purged adult sexual content from those sites), and websites of single women masturbating to the delight of their male and female viewers.
Another common response was, "Do you support censorship?" reflecting a distortion of what feminists have proposed as remedies to the problem of pornography. First, the original feminist anti-pornography movement in the 1980s rejected state censorship that works through existing obscenity law and proposed a civil-rights approach that would give people hurt by pornography a chance in court to prove the harm. There are questions to ask about any legal strategy involving expression, and concerns about suppression of free speech are important; there are even disagreements within the feminist anti-pornography movement about this. But that discussion should start from an accurate account of the alternatives.
Second, at this point in the feminist anti-pornography movement the focus is on public education. The goal is to begin an honest conversation about the way in which "mainstream" pornography, the bulk of which is marketed to heterosexual men, is increasingly cruel and degrading to women and more openly racist than ever — at the same time that it is increasingly accepted as mainstream entertainment. It’s ironic to be accused of trying to suppress free speech when trying simply to exercise free speech in critique of profit-driven sexism and racism.
[Emphasis added by me.]
Oh, really, they did, Professor Jensen??? So a law that would basically bankrupt purveyors of sexual material into nonexistence by offering triple damages through lawsuits by ANY woman claiming to represent ALL women allegedly damaged by porn as a violation of ALL women’s civil rights is NOT state censorship by your definition??? Even when it is proposed in state institutions?? Even when they are passed by local councils and legislatures?? Even when they are approved as law by the judicial system?? The same judicial system, BTW, that are controlled by mostly the very same White male wealthy "cannibalistic" capitalists..many of whom are directly funded if not totally su;pported by the Christian FRight???? Did you manage to miss the Meese Commission hearings, Professor Jensen, where the committee packed with and backed by CFRighters directly integrated the very same rhetoric you use today about "healthy sexuality" and "degrading women" into their findings (while rejecting the "civil rights approach" proposed by your mentor Catherine MacKinnon)??
And I am sure that there is a very real debate amongst even antipornradfems about the use of the state in pursuing their goals…..then why is that not reflected in your conference lineup?? I mean, every single one of your speakers are not only rabidly antiporn, but openly support the use of the state to impose censorship on (not to mention to intimidate, threaten and smear) those not conforming to your standards. Of course, it’s your conference to invite whomever you want…but let’s get a bit more real about claiming to "exercise free speech" while supressing others.
Jensen concludes his article with this zinger:
There was much insightful criticism at the conference of the subtle sexism and racism that still pervades mainstream corporate-commercial mass media. Although men and white people — including in progressive circles — are sometimes resistant to that analysis, no one argues that it’s an inappropriate topic for discussion. Yet for some reason, many of those same progressives — men and women alike — don’t consider a left/feminist/anti-racist critique of pornography to be part of the media reform/media justice agenda. Why? I think it has to do with fear.
Facing the pornography industry forces us to acknowledge the deep misogyny and white supremacy that still exists in the culture, even with the gains of the feminist and civil-rights movements. Both women and men might understandably be afraid of confronting what pornography tells us about the cruelty of our culture, our own sexual socialization, and the difficult struggles we face to create a world free of sexual violence.
That fear is real, and all the more reason to confront the issue of pornography more openly.
First, notice the veil-like implied silencing of women and people of color who might have a problem with Jensen’s alnalysis….as if the only "progressives" who are "resistant" to Jensen’s crackpot analysis happen to be White privileged men who are only being addicted to their penises. Of course, all women are down completely with antipornradfem agenda…even if they aren’t really, they are just victims of the patriarchy waiting for the speakers of this conference to give them the enlightenment to break free from their chains of repression.
But the final straw for me is Jensen’s insistence that the antipornradfem total abolitionist critique should be THE ONLY "left/feminist/antiracist" critique allowed. For someone who labeled his article as a call for open debate, he has a unique way of eliminating other real life critiques of porn….such as from insiders that seek to reform erotica and porn to become more humane and respectful of eroticism and sexuality as it actually exists and the people who do the "dirty work" in creating it (which is a bit different than the restrictive and reactionary "healthy sexuality" that Jensen and the APRF’s would impose on humanity).
There happen to be some of us Leftists, feminists, and antiracists, Professor Jensen, who think that totally obsessing themselves with shaming people who do no harm to themselves or to others by having erections and damp panties probably doesn’t make for legitimate or effective radical politics…indeed, it simply sells out to the same forces of reaction which have exploited the diversity of sexuality for their own purposes. If you really want to talk about the cruelty of our culture or the caniballism of capitalism or White supremacy, it would be far, far better to aim your gun sights a bit higher up than people’s crotches and breasts….try the main boobs who currently occupies the White House and their wealthy benefactors currently making huge bank off the torture and murder of other peoples, for an real example. And misogyny didn’t start or end with porn, either….what about the traditional attempts by the State to take away women’s reproductive choices and autonomy, or the continuing attempt to shame and humiliate those who are victims of sexual assault and battery…or simply those who deviate from the "norm" of seeking sex for "intimacy" or pumping more babies for The Church or The Corporation.
And if sexual violence managed to survive before erotica and porn became popular, I’m guessing that banishing porn from the face of the natural earth (while we still have one, that is) won’t rid the world of such violence, either.
But what the hell do I know….I’m just an underprivileged Leftist Black sex radical male who manages to respect women in spite of having a working dick…..so perhaps I may be in need of Robert Jensen’s unique perspective.
No. I don’t think so. I respect women and sexuality and Leftist principles waaaaay too much for that.
The only fear that I see is that Robert Jensen and the APRM’s are being revealed for the nonsense they are…maybe that’s the real reason why they called this conference. A few pro-sex feminists in attendence respectfully representing the truth would be welcome.
I am a feminist supporter and a Leftist..and I watch nonviolent, non-degrading, progressive porn. (And some maybe not so progressive). Deal with it.
[BTW…the comments accompanying Jensen’s essay contain plenty of heat from all sides of the debate…pro-porn, anti-porn, anti-censorship, and everywhere in between. Some links do require many clicks, but it is more than worth going through as a prototype of the real debate amongst progressives that Jensen goes so far to supress. Just scroll past the original article. (Warning: Over 250+ comments so far!!)]