Seeing the way discussion has degenerated and the ill-will that has formed over the last several days around "Lolitagate" is the kind of stuff that makes me want to throw in the towel and stop blogging altogether. It really underlines the limitations of online communication and the minefield you step into when you start discussing your own sexual likes and dislikes, especially in a milieu devoted to sexual politics.
First, I've really got to give at another apology to Caroline, especially, and also Tom, though he hasn't responded, for what might have seemed like a personal attack. It was never meant that way. I'm doubly apologetic that my post apparently brought ignorant trolls to your blog. (And if anybody who went over to Caroline's blog and called her something along the lines of a "lazy, superficial, careless, frigid bitch" is reading this – Fuck Off!)
Also, it seems like there's some factional shit among the polys and sex-pozzes going on here that I wasn't aware of – apologies for stepping into the middle of that, too.
At the same time, a lot of the anger directed at me is based on such a gross misinterpretation of what I said and to whom I was speaking, I hardly know where to start.
First, the irony here is both Caroline and I feel that neither has even bothered to read what the other has said before responding, and hence there's a lot of general pissed-offness over gross misinterpretation of what was actually said. For my part, I was critiquing the anti-"barely legal" porn arguments of several people, but somehow, it was interpreted as a focused attack on Caroline. I also used a bad choice of words, calling their arguments "radfemmish", though I probably should have had the good sense to know that in the sex-poz blogosphere, those are fighting words. This unfortunately was very quickly turned into "you called Caroline a radfem", which I did not do and is pretty illustrative of the kind of rhetoric inflation that takes place in blog arguments.
If I was focused on any one post, it was actually the initial post by Tom (who's writing I also generally like, BTW), which had kind of a finger wagging and moral absolutist tone that I found distasteful, and its pretty clear from the comments, I'm not the only one.
I was critical of Caroline's argument insofar as she was shoring up Tom's position, but I think her posts on the topic were actually rather peripheral to my argument. However, I also pointed to them as "characteristically thoughtful and reflective", which seems to have been lost on most readers. Still, I perhaps didn't read Caroline closely enough to note that this was a personal statement about why this kind of thing squicks her out based on her life history and experiences, and its now being interpreted that I'm telling Caroline and others that they have no right to feel the way she does, or that I'm blasting them for not taking a YayPorn all-the-time party-line.
This is where the discussion really becomes unproductive, because I'm hearing a lot of rhetoric to the effect that me, and other commentators who have been critical of Tom, Caroline, and others on this are guilty of trying to "silence" them. But this argument goes nowhere, because I can certainly point to the level of invective against me just for daring to state an opinion as definitely silencing. But, obviously, an endless round of arguing just who is trying to silence whom actually accomplishes nothing. Either discuss something of substance or agree to disagree and move on.
The other thing that really stands out is that when you start writing about your own reactions to images of real people, what a minefield that opens up, and I think that minefield can become a veritable Korean DMZ when start throwing things like feminism or pornography into it. I think its very easy to read into images, or people's reaction to images, "you're ugly", "the people you're attracted to are ugly", "she's prettier than you", "you should be turned on by this, and not by that" (and, boy, does discussion of "feminist porn" often come across that way), and, of course, "you're a pervert", which is where I think a lot people are see some insinuation of in this discussion. Which I think actually gets back to Caroline's point about how you respond to an image being very tied up in your history, experiences, and sense of self.
Case in point – a post by Soulhuntre on some controversial images of fat women that were being discussed around the feminist blogosphere. (And, yeah, there are a lot issues between Soulhuntre and a whole lot of people, but I'll put that aside for the moment.) Soulhuntre reacted to the controversy with a kind of "um, so does this mean I'm supposed to pretend to like fat chicks" followed by some other less than kind remarks, while Belledame, quite understandably, took his comments as a swipe at her appearance. And the thing is, I don't see either of them as wrong in their subjective reaction to the image, or how the image was being spoken of. But I do see Soulhuntre as being an ass in the way he wrote about the images – a lot of women look like this and a lot of people are attracted to them, and trashing them as self-evidently ugly was really insulting. At the same time, I really find it bothersome when I see some feminist discourse insinuates that this is the kind of women that people must be attracted to, less they be guilty of fat-phobia and "looksism".
In my case, when I look at the Luna and Mina images, I'm reminded of a couple girlfriends I had back in my 20s. (Actually some pretty key relationships, in fact.) Not in exact appearance, but having the same skinny build and being quite young-looking for their age, yep, definitely. And you know what, I'm not going to apologize one little bit for finding them beautiful and sexy then, or thinking, some 15 or so years later, that young women with a similar appearance are beautiful. And I'm certainly not going to hypocritically jump on board with some party line about just how fucking horrible it is that anybody would be turned on by somebody like that. On the other hand, I can understand where some women are coming from, who look at that image and see what was probably going through the head of every creepy guy who ever leered at them in high school.
This is where I get really impatient with the accusation that you can't criticize porn, which is kind of a cheap accusation and not where I'm coming from. I do, however, think that when you discuss porn or any other kind of imagery, you're really not just discussing porn, you're discussing things like sexual fantasies, appearance, self-image and so on. I think it goes back to why a lot of us consider ourselves to be "pro-porn", there's a hell of a lot more to the issue than just pornography, or even freedom of expression. As much as radfems might want to write it off with the line "porn is not sex", the fact is, its very much an expression of underlying sexuality, stuff that would still be there even if porn didn't exist.
I don't think there's any way of discussing it without stepping on people's toes, really, and I'm not saying that people shouldn't have these discussions. On the other hand, to defend oneself with "I have a right to my subjective opinion of that image" (which is totally valid, in itself), and then get really upset that somebody else might have a subjective reaction that doesn't agree with yours – that's a contradiction, to put it mildly.