Thursday, April 05, 2007


Recently I've been commenting on blogs about some of the main disagreements within the feminist community.

And I have to admit something. To a large extent, my experiences are far removed from the lives of the feminists I read.

For many women, the pressure to confirm to a female ideal is extreme. Decisions about what to wear and how to present oneself are difficult, frustrating and infuriating for many women.

For me, this isn't an issue. Part of that is privilege: I can get away without wearing makeup or fashionable clothing because our society can accept plainness in older white women.

Part of this is trade privilege: if you have a valuable skill that affects the bottom line, you're odd habits are acceptable. Think of all those cartoons showing scruffy tech support people who are treated like Goddesses.

For a lot of women, pornography is a big issue. For me, not so much. I have a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, almost none of whom are interested or participate in pornography. I find it difficult to identify with women who think all men enjoy pornography and all women suffer from its effects.

The vast majority of people I know have no interest in or are repelled by most pornography. It's difficult to explain this, but I'll try.

For me, pornography is performance. It is individuals using tools: their bodies and their technologies to perform an idea of sexuality. We both enter into the transaction realizing its unreality, but appreciating its ability to represent something compelling.

It's the difference between watching a shoot-out in a TV drama and watching news coverage of a battle in Iraq.One is fake, one is real.

For me and my friends, real trumps fake every time. Some anti-porn feminists don't seem to understand this. They tell me that fake (pornography) leads directly to reality (abuse).

I disagree.

But.... this discussion has brought up an important memory for me.

I've spoken before about living with my father, a sociopath who hated women. One of the effects of that upbringing has been insomnia. From a very young age (8 or 9), I discovered that a surefire treatment for insomina was to imagine myself being tortured.

Pretty weird, right? But, you do what you need to do.

Over the years I developed an elaborate fantasy that involved being strapped down on an assembly line and being transported through several levels of abuse. This was genuinely comforting for me. After a half hour of fantasized pain, I could put aside my worries and fall into a deep sleep.

I could look at that and be appalled or disgusted. Or I could look at that and see a child adapting tools to handle difficult circumstances.

I guess I'll stop here.


Trinity said...

"It's the difference between watching a shoot-out in a TV drama and watching news coverage of a battle in Iraq.One is fake, one is real."

I totally agree with you as far as any violence or power differential depicted. But I think part of what confuses the issue here is that the people in pornography are actually having sex. They're not pretending to, as for example actors in Hollywood movies would be. I think that's where people get the "Really played out on women's bodies" critique.

That doesn't actually bother me, because I don't think that sex is inherently violent or has some sort of inherent value that makes it bad to sell, or bad to have simply because filming it will make you a profit.

Sage said...

Ravenmn, I feel similarly wrt not feeling forced to dress or wear make-up or do anything a certain way. I've been chastised by people, but comments never bothered me. I've always been a bit baffled by the idea that if someone looks down on you for not shaving, or whatever, then it actually feels like you're forced to shave. I've never felt that. So I tend to chalk it up to personality rather than privilege, but it could be a bit of both.

As a child, and even now, when sleep escapes me, I capture it by imagining renovating houses. As a child, it was always the house from the show My Three Sons. Now I have a plethora to choose from. Not only do I renovate them, but I walk my friends through, giving tours of my handiwork. Zzzzzzz.

Bint Alshamsa said...

If that is what it takes for you to be able to get through the night, then I see no reason for you to feel bad about. It doesn't hurt anyone. I agree that pornography is performance. I had an acquaintance who was also a fellow poet. She had a particular poem where she would eventually strip down to the point of being completely naked. It was just as much a part of the poem as were the words that went with it. I say we should give all of the wannabe censors the brooklyn salute.