Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Some Antidotes For Bob Herbert's Anti-"Pornstitution" Myopia

For those of you just coming from Feministe and Jill's tribute to Bob Hebert's latest display of myopia and sex shaming, I offer these articles in response for an effective antidote:

Elizabeth Wood of Sex and the Public Square: Note to Bob Hebert: Misogyny is much more complicated!

Let me start with the false assumptions about causality. Herbert seems to be asserting that the existence of pornography and prostitution, as evidenced by legal brothels in Nevada, serve as evidence of the misogyny in American culture that then leads to the epidemic of violence against women. Wrong. Are more wives and girlfriends murdered by their partners in Germany or the Netherlands where prostitution is legal? No. I would say it is our culture of violence that leads to violence of all sorts. (Note: I am not asserting a direct connection between watching violent movies or playing violent video games and committing violent acts. I am suggesting that in a culture where violence and aggression are rewarded, as they are here, that you get more violence and aggression.)

The other problem with Herbert's argument is his assertion that sex work is somehow uniquely problematic. The fact that he uses sex work and pornography as the sine qua non of misogyny tells us that he sees those things as uniquely and irredeemably degrading and dehumanizing to women. One of the bits of evidence Herbert shows us -- again -- from his Nevada trip to support his claim that the brothels there degrade women (and I have no doubt that some are run in degrading ways) is that the women must answer to a bell. Now others have previously pointed out that school kids answer to bells, workers in factories and other locations often answer to devices like bells or buzzers. I bet even Mr. Herbert has a Blackberry or some other device that vibrates or rings in his pocket, and causes a Pavlovlian response where he hastens to comply with some instruction from his employer. Oppressive? Yes. Unique to sex work? Not a chance.


Herbert also raises the very real -- and too little examined -- problem of sexual violence in the military, but again he misses an important connection. He completed passes over the degradation rituals common to military life. Think drill instructors shouting insults at new recruits as they train. Think chants about blood and killing. Think hazing-type rituals as groups are formed and as their members shuffle in and out.

Think leasing your body to a male-dominated institution for a period of years to be used as the leaders of that institution wish. They can send you to another country. They can separate you from your family. They can command you to kill and send you on missions where your chances of being killed yourself are incredibly high. And you can't refuse without breaking the rules.

Think your only option for escape, if they don't want to let you go, is to commit the crime of desertion.

It is all the more clear now that Herbert opposes prostitution and pornography specifically because they are centered on sexual transactions. But degradation and dehumanization in work are problems that are not unique to the sex industry, and the sex industry ought not be uniquely condemned for them.

And then, there is this collection of essays from our founder and chief Henchwoman, from her own blog:

A Problem Here

Not a Monolith

Classist and Privileged, oh my!


The Majority of the entries in the Activism & Outreach Tips for Allies Tag Section there on the sidebar.

And yeah, go on over to Bound, Not Gagged, and take a look.
And, if I find any more, I'll post the links here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

An Oldie From 1990 : David Brock Whacks Pro-Porn Leftists (With A Special Sheldon Ranz Sighting!!!)

One of the beautiful things about this Pro-Porn Activism blog -- well, other than the founding badassssss souljah sista who created this blog herself (Happy 2008, Henchwoman!!!) -- is the fact that the main contributors of this blog come from different perspectives. There's the independent Libertarian POV (Renegade Evolution). There's the new-school pro-sex feminist perspective (Amber Rhea). There's the male traditional progressive perspective (Iamcuriousblue). And then there's moi, representin' the Black Male Independent Sex Pox Left.

The latter perspective was at one time one of the only representing pro-sex viewpoints with much pull in political circles...until the likes of Robert Jensen came along and allowed antiporn repression and male guilt-tripping to dominate most of the intellectual inner circles of progressive activism. But at one time, it seemed that the greatest bit of activism for more open sexual expression and sexual media came almost exclusively from those who also called themselves socialists and Leftists. And just as usual, their main detractors were mostly old-school right-wingers defending the purity of the State and Chruch against such "communist" infidelity.

Here is one of the more...shall we say, interesting attempted assaults on one such attempt to merge pro-sex activism and socialism that took place in 1990. The attack took place in the form of an article in the old right-wing magazine American Spectator during its heyday in the 1990's as the main attack dog of the Right. The author of the hit piece was none other than David Brock, who at that time was cutting his teeth in the "politics of personal destruction" and preparing himself for his grand day in the sun and his "nutty and slutty" attack on Anita Hill for blowing the lid on Clarence Thomas and his harrassing ways. Of course, the world now knows that Brock is now using the Media Matters website to turn the tables on the very forces that he was so representing back then....but let's not let that fact ruin the beauty of this brief drive-by.

And you will notice that the name of a certain regular commentator to this blog appears frequently in this essay. It was that commentator (Sheldon Ranz) who first discovered the essay and posted it to Nina Hartley's forum as part of this thread.

The first part of the article consists of the usual boilerplate right-wing analysis of certain Leftist commentators at the height of the fall of the Soviet Union and the alleged final victory of "democratic capitalism" surmonting Francis Fukuyama's "end of history". (To which Hugo Chavez has recently responded, "Not so fast, my friend.") It's further down that Brock gets to the really good stuff:

In keeping with the weekend's secular tone, I spent the better part of Palm
Sunday at a workshop called Pornography with a Human Face: Toward a Sexual
Last year, the pornography panel was dominated by febrile feminist
censors; this year it was the socialist pornographers who got their say. The
panel far outdrew the others, and with the exception of some nervous snickering,
the audience proved quite pro-porn. This came as no surprise, given the limits
to which the left is pushing the notions of artistic relativism and free
expression these days, insisting that the production and exhibition of
homoerotic and pedophiliac images be not only constitutionally protected but
federally funded."

Adult video consultant" Sheldon Ranz warmed up with a comparison of
Gorbachev's economic reform program to the masturbatory act: "What do you call a
pair of Soviets watching porn under Gorbachev? A pair-of-strokers." Claiming to
have viewed more than 10,000 flesh-baring films, the aesthete went on to
delineate the "liberating" qualities of porn: "You see things Hollywood won't
show, like the Lady Godiva position, which has the woman dominant. They show
older women getting it. The Devil and Miss Jones stars a flat-chested woman. Men
ejaculate outside the body, eroticizing birth control. Pornography undoes
stereotypes. Bull-dykes look like the girl next door. Gay men are not punished
for being gay; they're rewarded with orgasms. Debbie Does Dishes is about a
Jewish housewife who does it with anybody who comes to the door, with no
postcoital regrets." As "People's Libido Exhibit A," Ranz introduced Shades of
, a "socialist film about a group of women factory workers who have
orgies on their lunch break. They find out their boss is secretly taping them,
and they take control of the factory in anger."

Sharing the dais with Ranz were "feminist-socialist" Vivian Forlander, a
kind of bubbly, bosomy Susan Sontag, and Ame Gilbert, of the "Carnival Knowledge
Collective." A writer of naughty novels, Forlander reveals the complex
intellectual history behind her pen name, Katie Nipps. Apparently, it started as
a high school nickname, owing to her ample chest size. One salutary result of
this adolescent trauma is the ease with which she slips into the point of view
of "a repressed man with a breast fetish." After reading a poem about the evils
of the male sex organ, (by way of introduction, if you will), Ame Gilbert began
to illuminate the world of "alternative porn." It seems that a group of about
100 "feminist artists" of the lesbian persuasion slink, when the urge moves
them, into a Greenwich Village basement to produce and watch their own
flagellating fantasies on film. Said the grisly Gilbert: "My own fantasy
involves tying up two women and a man . . . " No, I better not go on. This is,
after all, a family magazine. Besides, today it might ultimately be the decent
thing to let the left wallow in its own depravity.

Yeah, that was from that same "family magazine' that would make such an issue of "The Clenis" and Monica later on.

Sheldon, needless to say, had a slightly different take on Brock's impression of his project, as he mused over at Nina's board:

I purchased this article from the American Spectator web archive for just
$2.95, but it made my month, because of what it got right as well as what it
didn't. Brock cites me saying 'bulldykes' as if I were some bigot hurling an
epithet when in actuality I was referring to the mainstream media's stereotyped
depiction of lesbians as 'bulldykes'. I said the factory workers in 'Shades of
Ecstacy" acted out of revenge, not 'anger'. He screwed up the set-up to my
Gorbachev joke: It's "What do you call two Soviet citizens watching..." The
previous year's 'febrile' panel, which I also organized, only had one anti-porn
speaker.[Note: The only time he physically describes any conference speakers,
those speakers were women. Paging Ariel Levy...]But the most important thing is,
besides the fact that he reported my evidentiary firepower correctly, was that
this was a time when there were no Dworkinites claiming to be on the Left.
Ideological labeling was more honest back then. Everone's ducks were lined up
all in a row, and that's the spirit of those times, the 'zeitgeist', that Brock
captured accurately.

It's a pity that Brock missed next year's (1991) conference, when Nina made
her debut at the "Debbie Duz Democratic Socialism" panel. If I had known about
the American Spectator back then, I would have sent him an engraved

I wonder what the present day Brock would think today of pro-porn activism?? Only he knows....