Pornography is part of the patriarchy.

This should be a no-brainer, but there are some deluded “progressives” who still believe that pornography is healthy and even necessary: On Pornography and the Persistence of Patriarchy

There is little doubt that a double-standard of sorts exists in the left with regards to the sexual, and more importantly, in some respects, the commercial exploitation of people who “willingly” participate in pornography. While one would be hard pressed to find someone in left circles who would seek to justify the exploitation of minimum wage workers on the grounds that they “freely chose” to take these terrible dead-end jobs, there remains a legion of them who will, to one degree or another, do so for the desperate women (and men) who end up selling themselves for the sexual gratification of others.

Let us be clear. Like all capitalist transactions involving the primarily poor or desperate this is a profoundly unequal transaction. This is not art, and it is not erotica. The idea that one should view the transaction differently as a result of the fact that the commodity is sex is at best wishful thinking. In reality, in almost all cases the physical, emotional and personal exploitation of people in this “industry” is far worse than that of workers in standard industries. This is not a reflection on the individual morality of the people in question; it is a reflection of the morality of the producers and consumers of this material.

To excuse its vile symbolism on the grounds that the participants willingly degraded themselves is as absurd as saying that workers willingly buy into their own exploitation by working. It may heal the consciences of those who find sexual self-gratification in these depictions, but it does not change the reality of the social transaction.

20 thoughts on “Pornography is part of the patriarchy.

  1. timwallace July 14, 2012 at 07:34

    Pornography existed well before patriarchy,you can find porno pictures drawn on cave walls supposedly drawn during matriarchal period

    pornography,much likely prostitution,is basically inevitable in a free society

    I agree that the vast majority of “sexual workers” are exploited but not because they are “sexual” but because they are “workers”.

    • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 14:20

      “Pornography existed well before patriarchy,you can find porno pictures drawn on cave walls supposedly drawn during matriarchal period”

      Yea, what’s your point? Do you not understand that institutions support each other, even if they originated at very different times?

      And no, pornography is not any more inevitable than taxes.

  2. Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 11:31

    Is there a difference in your mind between pornographic and eroticism, between exploitation and artistic? Is it possible that the real issue is the level of freedom, input and non-hierarchical relationships enjoyed between both the women and men engaged in a certain type of sexual enterprise? I have definitely come across degrading humiliating pornography that made my skin crawl. I’ve also come across pornography/eroticism produced and distributed by women in which collaboration and celebration of the sensual and feminine erotic were core values to all participants.

    I am certain that within the porn industry there is abysmal exploitation of women. But I am also certain that just because “all collies are dogs” does not mean that “all dogs are collies.” One of my favorite stars is Stoya – she maintains a blog and writes about art, travel, sex, the porn industry, and everything in between. She’s even written about the debate about pornography and the feminist. When I read her words, see her photos, and even view her sex, I feel none of the things that are so stereotypically assumed. I see someone of independence and power, confident and assertive in the full free expression of every dimension of herself she chooses. I don’t see a disposable object, or fantasize about demeaning or dehumanizing people.

    http://stoya.tumblr.com/

    Again, I acknowledge that there is pornography out there that does exactly the latter, and I definitely acknowledge that the largely unregulated and unprotected working conditions of the sex industry lead to serious abuses, exploitations and humiliations. And that makes me very angry and sad. But to be frank, that is more an endictment on capitalism and power than on anything else. In the end, making a blanket judgement against all pornography is obtuse – just like defending all pornography or the business industry of porn as a whole would be equally obtuse. Reality is, as always, much more complicated.

    • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 14:22

      Yea, I understand. I have an entry on pornography which will address this point, amongst a lot of others. My basic response is that yes there is such a thing as “artistic” sexual depictions, and that I would exclude them from criticism as exceptions, but that even in these cases it’s hard to tell whether the women have been exploited or not.

      • Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 14:56

        As was said above, “I agree that the vast majority of “sexual workers” are exploited but not because they are “sexual” but because they are “workers”.” If you acknowledge that it is not the sex, sexual depictions, eroticism or consensual sexual expression that is the root issue alone (by conceding that yes, there is such a thing as “artistic” sexual depictions) then you are forced to concede that the root issue is not consensual sex as entertainment or expression (or whatever else) but the exploitation of workers – a problem that goes far beyond sex work, though thanks to our prudish culture conditions for sex workers are about 100 times behind the unacceptable conditions for every other kind of worker.

        • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 16:51

          “If you acknowledge that it is not the sex, sexual depictions, eroticism or consensual sexual expression that is the root issue alone (by conceding that yes, there is such a thing as “artistic” sexual depictions)”
          False. My “concession” (which is not a concession but an acknowledgement of facts) does not prove that sexual depiction is not a root issue.

          “then you are forced to concede that the root issue is not consensual sex as entertainment or expression (or whatever else) but the exploitation of workers – a problem that goes far beyond sex work, though thanks to our prudish culture conditions for sex workers are about 100 times behind the unacceptable conditions for every other kind of worker.”

          No, I don’t think the only root issue about pornography is the issue of work, although it is one of them. I do not call pornography sex work because pornography, on the whole, is not about sex. But that being said, pornography made under participatory (socialist) labor would still be wrong.

          • Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 19:21

            I’m confused. You wrote: “My basic response is that yes there is such a thing as “artistic” sexual depictions, and that I would exclude them from criticism”

            If you concede that there is some circumstance in which sexual depictions can be “excluded from criticism” then by definition you are conceding that it is not sexual depiction itself that is the issue. But when I pointed this out, you said false. This is a contradiction.

          • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 19:34

            Whether it exploits women. The End.
            I don’t care about your porn, honestly. You can watch it all you want. No reason to act defensive.

        • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 19:28

          “If you concede that there is some circumstance in which sexual depictions can be “excluded from criticism” then by definition you are conceding that it is not sexual depiction itself that is the issue. But when I pointed this out, you said false. This is a contradiction.”
          No… there is no contradiction here. I already told you that I am excluding the tiny minority of sexual depictions which do not exploit women. When I talk about pornography, I am talking about everything else. I have excluded such depictions by definition because they are not important to the topic.

          • Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 19:32

            Once you make an exception and say that certain sexual depiction – no matter how large or small – is okay, then it is no longer true that all sexual depiction is the problem. Which means we now need for you to clarify the difference between sexual depictions that do not exploit women and those that do, and why you are the appropriate person to judge that – what criteria do you apply?

  3. Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 20:05

    You wrote: “When it exploits women.” There’s nothing defensive, in my mind, about asking clarifying questions. So how do you define exploitation? You’ve already indicated, I think, that its not as simple to you as asking individual women to define for themselves what is exploitative. There is a community standard or cultural criteria you seem to imply. So what is it? Make makes on sexual depiction exploitative while another – regardless of whether it is rare or not – is not? This is not a loaded or trick question – I too recognize the reality of exploitation. But its not enough just to recognize that “it happens.” If we don’t wrestle hard with the concrete specifics of what makes something exploitative, we will never get to root issues and will instead just be stuck with vague moralizing that accomplishes nothing, however cathartic it might be. So to me, this seems like a really important tasks, even if its difficult and frustrating at times.

    • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 20:12

      I define exploitation as using people’s limited resources or freedom to make them do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.
      Obviously in the case of pornography this is harder to say. I draw the line at the depiction of anything lower than enthusiastic consent done in an egalitarian setting (e.g. Abby Winters type stuff).

      • Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 20:46

        I like that. “Enthusiastic consent in an egalitarian setting.” Very good, I agree fully. The issue of limited resources or freedom leading persons to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do again brings the issue back to hierarchy, inequality and wage-slavery, not whether or not two people enthusiastically, freely want to engage in S&M (just an example) and offer it to the public. Another way to remember what what issue is really at hand is to remove women completely from the equation and discover we still have the same problem. Gay pornography between two or more men is just as open to exploitation and abuse. Why? Because the same root issues are present – the imbalance of power, a hierarchical system based on profit over people, the inequality that perpetuates exploitation and subservience, etc. The potential for and reality of exploitation when it comes to sexuality is so vastly increased by our ridiculously backward cultural attitudes about sex and sexuality in general.

        • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 20:54

          Well, pornography itself generates a lot of that ignorance.

          • Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 23:08

            It most certainly can and often does, I agree. But is that because of something innate in sex acts depicted for others or is that because there is something about the socio-economic system which breeds exploitation and depersonalization? What if all “pornography” was only produced in worker-owned collectives in which the participants were not only freely associating, the the truest sense of the phrase, but also had choice and control over their labor and the output of that labor – what would be produced, how it would be disseminated, if at all, what criteria and conditions there would be on mutually agreed upon and mutually desired performances, etc. What if the only people there fully wanted to be there *and* had complete control over what they did and what happened with the output of their endeavors? How would we discuss it then? That’s obviously not the world we live in right now. We live in a world where people of all genders, colors and dispositions are routinely exploited and dominated by the capitalist machine. Where few workers freely chose their work and where the environment in which that work happens is anything but egalitarian. I will very eagerly grant you that there is a special subset of injustice that especially effects woman because of a culture in which sexism and patriarchy still reign. But the same root that effects women effects us all and the same values which will erradicate sexism society will emancipate laborers of every race, sex and creed.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/10/kyriarchy-and-patriarchy

        • Francois Tremblay July 14, 2012 at 23:24

          No, I don’t think socialism in itself will eliminate the Patriarchy, since it has existed millenia before capitalism. But it would be a good first step.

          • Grey Coast Heretic July 15, 2012 at 01:29

            The issue is not capitalism, it is power and domination. So the fact that patriachy has, in many but not all places, existed long before modern capitalism doesn’t mean much. Also I didn’t say socialism, as depending on the definition I may or may not accept that term. There are certain principles of anarchist tradition that I take as core values – namely, nondomination, the dissemination of power and the protection of individual liberty.

            The potential for people to seek power to dominate others will never be absent. That means sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, ageism, ablism and every other kind of way human beings can set up dominating relationships will always be a danger. Having said that, cultural values that honor individual liberty and non-heirarchical, non-coercive relations between free peoples can go a long way to diminishing kyriarchy, including sexism. These are the root values that unify anarchist principles across many different traditions.

            • Francois Tremblay July 15, 2012 at 01:33

              Well you asked me, what if sexual depiction was produced in a participatory manner? My answer is, it wouldn’t solve the issue of pornography, because pornography is a patriarchal issue and patriarchal issues predate and are more fundamental than the capitalist work structure. You can’t just change the work environment and somehow hope that the rest of society will not influence it. Currently, participatory businesses run into problems such as competition (the capitalist work hierarchy is optimized for a capitalist society, obviously, while a socialist group is not) and pre-existing economic and social inequality between members.

      • Pooh Huffy July 16, 2012 at 08:13

        Abby Winters picture make mr. hand want to touch mr. pee pee. Me fantasize about PIV make mr. pee pee gloop. Me gloop and feel like big man.

  4. Grey Coast Heretic July 14, 2012 at 20:06

    Wow I apologize for the typos. I hope its still basically clear.

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