There is a sort of simple narrative propagated about anti-pornography advocates which states that they fight against pornography because they’ve been offended by some pornography they’ve seen in the past. And now they want to impose censorship on the rest of society just because they are offended. Well, that just sounds so silly and selfish, doesn’t it?
If you’ve followed my blog, then you know that’s a lie. No reasoning I’ve presented against pornography has anything to do with being offended about anything. I have yet to hear from any radfem that their reason for fighting against pornography is because they’re offended (although some pornography should rightly offend them, as it should offend anyone who doesn’t hate women). It’s a pathetic strawwomyn.
Here’s an instance of such strawwomyn, from a so-called “Anarchist Defense of Pornography” (what an oxymoron):
Just because I like porn doesn’t mean that you should. But, if one finds something offensive, they should simply avoid it, and thereby avoid the offense. However anti-porners are not content with this strategy when it comes to porn. They feel that if it offends them, it must offend others, primarily women, and they take it upon themselves to protect others from it.
So there seems to be a major issue here with the notion of something being “offensive.” This whole argument thrown about, that you should simply avoid things you find offensive and that somehow magically solves the problem, is inherently subjectivist; it portrays “offensiveness” as being solely a product of personal evaluation, and chides people who fight against it, basically demanding that they shut up and keep their eyes down.
If that’s all “offensiveness” was, a personal evaluation like how good chocolate ice cream is or what is the best movie ever made, then that might be a valid point. After all, I don’t think people should be “protected” from believing that The Dark Knight is the best movie ever made or from thinking that vanilla ice cream is superior to chocolate ice cream. I still don’t think that’s a good reason to tell people to shut up and “simply avoid” any discussion on these topics: after all, isn’t people debating stupid topics an integral part of the Internet?
But the problem is that “offensiveness” is not subjective, at least not in this particular discussion. When radfem say that pornography is “offensive,” they mean very specific, observable facts about it: that it harms women, that it reproduces hierarchies, and that is a threat against women, amongst other things.
Offensive things aren’t offensive merely because they hurt feelings – they’re offensive because they contribute to the societal harm of marginalized groups. The end goal isn’t to get everyone to love each other, it’s to destroy power imbalances.
Talking about hierarchies, I am picking specifically on these Anarchists because they should know better (although Anarchist groups, like most leftist movements, tend to ignore feminism and belittle women because they are macho movements at their core). Anarchism, being against hierarchies, should not be associated with what is the biggest and most profitable reproduction of misogyny, racism, verbal and physical abuse against women, and the defining of sex as a power relation.
These people are fools of the highest degree. I mean, an Anarchist in defense of pornography is like an environmentalist in defense of Monsanto. They deserve all the criticism I give them and more, and so does any other Anarchist who thinks this shit flies.
They betray their political error in the following statement:
Pornography is simply a depiction, in words or pictures, of sexual activity.
No, pornography is the product of a mass (capitalist, for-profit) production of representations of what is supposed, assumed, to be sexual activity. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry around the world (according to some numbers, around 3 billion dollars), so we’re not talking about people taping themselves in the bedroom for their own entertainment purposes, okay?
It is not “simply a depiction,” it is a mass production, a capitalist production, subject to capitalist principles. Like any other successful industry, it exists to generate obscene profits by exploiting workers and consumers whenever possible: by making an addictive product, by treating workers as disposable resources, by lowering safety standards (in what other industry is it considered normal to contract STDs and HIV?). This is capitalism as usual, so it should not be surprising: but anyone who is anti-capitalist has no grounds to defend it.
Right, so back to “offensiveness.” When I say something offends me, I don’t mean it in the sense of “this hurts my feelings.” It’s very, very difficult to hurt my feelings, and most personal attacks make me laugh or think rather than offend me. When I say I find something offensive, I mean “this is a very harmful thing.” I am talking about something observable and verifiable.
Men as a class are not harmed by pornography, so they can’t understand how anyone would be. Therefore they think any discussion of the “offensiveness” of pornography must be about hurt feelings, about subjectivity.
But when I read this quote and the underlying thinking behind it, it seems to me that this plays into the dichotomy of men being “rational” and women being “emotional.” According to this “argument,” men argue and try to resolve issues by talking, while women are hysterical and get offended at the drop of a hat, which motivates their political positions. Not only that, but anti-pornography advocates irrationally believe that their feelings must apply to everyone else, because that’s just how women are, always trying to make their feelings matter as much as “rationality” (the belief that “political correctness,” feminism, anti-rape and anti-pornography are all about soothing women’s hurt feelings).
It’s not an argument, it’s an insult. But because woman-hating is so mainstream, we actually see it as a serious argument. Thinking about it reveals how vacuous the accusation is, but a lot of people know too little about the pornography debate to really judge that.
We observe that the arguments for pornography revolve around vulgar individualism, that they are all about the individual. This is not seen as emotional because it’s a mainstream way of thinking and there’s no reason for anyone to notice it: it’s just what “rational” discourse is supposed to be like. We observe this, again, in the article defending pornography:
While those who rely on argument and protest to influence others to avoid porn are preferable to the censors, their ideas about people should be problematic for those with an anarchist perspective. People are free agents who make choices and decisions based on what they observe, hear, and otherwise experience, and are responsible for the outcome of these choices.
I’ve already debunked the concepts of “choice” and “agency,” and they have no place in substantive discourse. But again, because this nonsense talk is so widespread, it doesn’t seem abnormal to most people. It is therefore the perfect way to dismiss any position which one does not like.
But there is great irony in the fact that Anarchism, as an ideology, is not afraid to state the perpetrators in capitalism, imperialism, environmental disaster and racism, but these Anarchists are so deathly afraid of pointing to men as the perpetrators of pornography and instead falling back to “agency” as their alternative. Pathetic.