"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Watching sex : how men really respond to pornography (7/10)

"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

***

Watching sex : how men really respond to pornography / David Loftus


The 75% Problem: Child Sex Abuse and the Porn Industry

'Feminist critics of porography assert that as many as 75 percent of the women who are filmed or pictured in pornography have been victims of child sexual abuse or incest, and conclude that the purchase of porn supports and encourages an industry that thrives on the sexual abuse of women and children'...

A 25-year-old software engineer wrote:

'My first response is that when I was a women’s studies minor at college, I did a lot of checking up on feminist statistics when studying for class or working on reports. I found that an alarming percentage of them were totally wrong, and most of the rest were deceptive. So when I see “as many as 75%” were “victims of child sexual abuse or incest,” I read that “as few as 5% saw a copy of Playboy before they were 18” and ignore it. Feminist statistics have lost all credibility with me.'...

A 35-year-old bisexual, married two years and working on a masters, said it was “An impossible observation to comment on without sort of contexting, some sort of comparative curve. I’d be interested to know what the sample group is and how it might compare to, say, fast-food workers as a control.”...

“Conservative estimates currently state that three out of four women—across societal stratification—have been sexually abused at one or more periods in their life. Given this, the statistical correlate between women being survivors of sexual abuse and pornograhy is ludicrous.”...

“I see no causal relationship,” wrote an assistant professor of computer science:

'I’m not sure it even makes sense on some level. Does the recycling industry thrive on waste? Yes, but does the recycling industry cause the waste? No. The people employed by the porn industry should be informed con senting adults. It is not the business of the pornographers to examine the past life and childhood of their employees.'...

'The industry may attract abused women. Other industries probably do also. I would expect that the women who work in rape help lines, psychology, social work, and the police all have disproportionately high numbers of women who have been abused. Do these industries “thrive” on the abuse of women? I think not. Everyone has a cross they bear. For some it is child sexual abuse. Our crosses lead each of us in various directions in efforts to solve the issue involved. The differences are only in the details.'...

A chemistry teacher offered another analogy: 'By the logic of Dworkin and MacKinnon, people who watch Richard Pryor movies and listen to his tapes are encouraging the racism that gave rise to his anger, and, by extension, his comedy. By their logic, the cure for racism in America would be to no longer watch Richard Pryor.'...

The sex publishing employee also suggested that far from being only an isolated option for downtrodden women, sex work might be a way they find their way back to self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth and attractiveness (to say nothing of economic independence)...

Candida Royalle, a former porn actress who became a director and producer with Femme Productions, a woman-owned company that makes couples-oriented pornographic films, recalls an incident that supports this theory:

'Three Daughters, for example, became a very cathartic experience for the actress, Siobhan Hunter. She was one of the Mayflower Madam girls, who had worked as an escort to put herself through medical school. The scene we were shooting was supposed to be a very tender portrayal of her first time and we were shooting in a green room, and the actor had a moustache. All of a sudden, Siobhan started freaking out. She said, “This is reminding me of my actual first sexual experience. It was a green room, with a man with a moustache, and it was a horrendous experience, and I’m starting to freak.” So I sat her down and I talked to her, and I told her that my first experience was done with someone I loved, but that it was also a dreadful experience. I told her that I use the movies as a form of catharsis—as a way of redoing it, in a way, and making it better. I thought she could try to use this the same way. The man she was working with had so much genuine feeling for her, that is exactly what happened. They did the scene together and at the very end, while the cameras were still rolling, she sat up, they were hugging, and she started crying. If you see the scene, you’ll see tears on her face. It was such a release for her.'...

'Actors and actresses in pornography are adults who are fully able to give or refuse consent. They are responsible for themselves and their actions. It seems curious to me that feminists are claiming that the actresses in pornography are poor helpless weaklings who are unable to speak for themselves. This is exactly the kind of patriarchalism they pretend to detest.'...

As the man who made the marijuana harvesting and analogy put it:

'I think the best solution, for someone who truly wants to eliminate victim’ from any line of work, is to insure that any line of work in which women (and children and men) are employed is made completely legal, with thy responsibilities and rights thereunto, and held in the public’s mind being as honorable as any other.'...

“Many great artists were dysfunctional and they have created great beauty.” Whether
anything in pornography could be called “great beauty” is certainly open to dispute, but this man’s reference to Van Gogh implied that if we accept the feminist reasoning with regard to abused women in porn, we should forgo the purchase, enjoyment, and reproduction of the work of individual such as Van Gogh or Dostoevsky...

*Explanation of how Dworkin distorted a study by the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco which found that 73% of SF street prostitutes had been raped, with nearly a quarter of rapists making reference to porn, where the conclusion was 'It is very difficult to establish conclusively the causal relationship between pornography and sexual abuse of women'*

Dworkin not only exaggerated the numbers in the study but asserted that they proved something its own authors would not claim. She seems to care less about truth than stirring her listeners to action, even if that means unleashing unproven claims supported by slipshod methodology It is not hard to see what prompted the more
vitriolic and contemptuous remarks that some men in my survey directed toward feminist arguments and their use of statistics."


The Public Debate: What Did Everyone Get Wrong About Men Who Use Pornography?

"Men Cannot Separate Fact from Fantasy
Several commentators have tried to argue that enjoyment of pornography is somehow different from pleasure with any other form of entertainment. Susan Cole writes, “there are real women in the pictures, and . . . an erection, any way you look at it, is not a fantasy.” Well, no, it is not. An erection is a physical response to a fantasy, like sweaty palms and a racing pulse during a horror movie. When we perspire and our heartbeat accelerates, an observer might say that physically we are on the verge of fight or flight, but this is not what we intend or actually do when we watch a movie like Psycho. MacKinnon argues that the physical response of an erection means that pornography an incitement to act, like racist literature or telling a trained attack dog to “kill”; but if she knew how many erections the average man has in his lifetime and never acts on (morning erections, hard-ons at the movies or when a woman smiles and pays one a compliment at work, or those embarrassing and unbidden erections in adolescence due to fluctuating testosterone), she would admit how ridiculous her attack dog analogy is.

Diana Russell is certain that “the argument that consumers of pornography realize that such portrayals [of rape myths] are false is totally unconvincing.” As proof, she cites three books or articles by women (including herself), as well as studies of college and high school students that suggested they were more inclined to believe rape myths after watching erotica. Of course, no one talked to men who customarily use pornography; no one consulted older, mature men for their perspective; and no one seems to have addressed the role of “experimenter bias” in these studies—the extent to which students might have guessed what the researchers expected to hear.

Taking sides appears to be more valuable to some theorists than obtaining hard, fair, and objective evidence. MacKinnon approvingly quotes researcher Edward Donnerstein’s reputed comment that “We just quantify the obvious”—a disturbing admission of bias—while Russell castigates him for “copping out” because he objected to the way work had been used by antiporn feminists.

In Susan Griffin’s formulation, “the pornographer. . . never admits to his hatred and fear of eros. . . . The traces of the chauvinist’s feelings come to us, therefore, oniy by inference and allegory.” In other words, it would do no good to ask men about pornography, because they can’t be honest. So Griffin accords greater weight to her own fantasies about what goes on in men’s minds than to whatever men might have to say for themselves. She smoothly concludes that “the pornographic mind is identical both in form and in ultimate content to the Nazi mind,” whatever that means...

This tension or interplay between realism and fantasy hardly sets pornography and its users apart from other forms of entertainment. Readers of romance novels want lovely plots and perfect bodies, but enough humanity and not too much perfection that the story becomes totally unbelievable. Action movies feature “real” heroes who have personal problems and make mistakes within the “perfection” of split-timed capers and escapes. “Realistic” stories by Dostoevsky or Hemingway still depend on rare events in people’s lives (like war or murder), helpful coincidences, heroes and heroines of uncommon virtue and vice, to hold our interest. Green, red, and yellow kryptonite hments of reality that kept the stories of otherwise invincible Superman interesting... Are we attracted by the realism or the fantasy? The answer, of course, is both...

To Men, Women in Pornography Represent All Women
Since some women are already on record to say they aren’t humiliated by such depictions, the situation obviously is more complicated than MacKinnon, Cole, and Griffin believe. The truth is, men know only too well that not all women are like the ones in pornography. That is one of the things that makes it appealing: that the women in porn do not behave like most of the women the viewer knows. As Nancy Friday explains... 'A fantasy woman does not reproach her man for letting other men peep at her, for wanting to ‘lie her with another guy, for dreaming of her having sex with a dildo or a dog. Fantasy gives men the love of women they want, with none of the inhibiting feminine rules they hate.'

What Friday also found was that male fantasies tended to be built on reality, not vice versa. They were not divorced from real life like the faceless males who ravished women in the fantasies they recounted to Friday. 'Most of the fantasies in this book are built upon memories of real women'... Friday recognizes what this suggests about men’s interest in pornography. Whereas women told her they fantasized about a demon lover who “is never seen with photographic clarity,” men reacted in the opposite way: “hence the great popularity of the nude in girlie magazines. The more a man can see, the closer the dream is to reality, the more specific, the more real the woman—the more exciting.”

In other words, the male viewer is not using pornography to create reality; it’s the other way around. He loves pornography for how closely it emulates reality at its best—although it obviously is not real... That is the great secret Nancy Friday discovered when she quizzed men about their sexual fantasies—the great secret that has thoroughly eluded all the antiporn commentators—and this is why she titled her book about male sexual fantasies Men in Love.

“In pornographic books, magazines, and films, women are represented as passive and slavishly dependent upon men,” declares Helen Longino, thereby demonstrating her ignorance of the common pornographic scenario where women take initiative and control. The threat from “mysterious female sexuality and capability” means that “pornography asserts that women have neither, that women are (often literally) castrated, helpless, incapable,” Susan Lurie assures us. She is clearly unaware that pornography celebrates women’s pleasure, and that the S/M sub-genre often depicts a female punishing a man, binding him, or whipping him for being “bad”—perhaps for not satisfying her, or for having lustful thoughts in the first place. (Lurie also does not explain what “literal” castration of a woman might be, or whether anyone’s seen it in pornography.)

You would think if there were nothing but humiliation, degradation, and violence in pornography, no self-respecting woman would have any thing to do with it. Yet critics of pornography paradoxically complain that self-respecting women routinely force themselves to resemble the models in porn.

“Ordinary women wear makeup,” Griffin observes. “Ordinary women attempt to change our bodies to resemble a pornographic ideal.” But Griffin compares these ordinary women to... mainstream cultural ideals, not specifically pornographic ones. Griffin also does not explain why the use of cosmetics predates the widespread availability of pornography by centuries. She does not explain how pornography could play a greater role in women’s lives than the magazines they buy for themselves—Vogue, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan... Cosmo “teaches women, step-by-step, how to become sex objects,” Lisa Steele observes, and 'Vogue and Bazaar... offer in-depth instruction in the narcissistic pastime of turning oneself into a living sculpture. . .'

... “No one has shamed my body like women have,” a woman told Naomi Wolf. Another
recalled her teen classmates saying “I was on the Itty-bitty Titty Committee” and teasing her with “You’re a sailor’s dream: a sunken chest.” She concluded, “Boys would never say that. Just girls.”

... Where women’s attitudes and self-image are concerned, research seems to implicate women’s fashion magazines more than pornography. Alison King reports a study by C.L. Krafka that suggested that female subjects who viewed pornography the researchers thought dehumanizing and degrading did not report greater sex-role stereotyping, lower self-esteem, or inferiority about their looks. A study led by T.F. Cash. however, found “women had lower self-esteem after viewing models in mainstream magazine advertisements.”

This should not be surprising, since the variety of women’s sizes, shapes, and ages in women’s fashion magazines may arguably be far more limited than in pornography. A commentator who has only seen a few copies of Playboy or Penthouse would not know this, but Laura Kipnis, who surveyed some of the less well-known publications, describes them in her book, Bound and Gagged. Dimensions is a magazine for “fat admirers,” and features “quite fat lingeried models... Full nudity is not a factor, but the magazine’s transgressive quality may be read from the fact that, according to Kipnis, it can be found oniy in hard-core porn stores. Over 50 offers “vistas of antediluvian flesh.” With the advent of amateur sex videos, a greater variety of ages and forms have naturally become available in action, as well.

As they so often do, women presume to speak for men in this area; “Readers feel short-changed when a woman does not look and act the part of the Playboy model. It is an insult to their masculine capacity to get what they want,” declares Judith Bat-Ada, although she doesn’t say how she knows this. She contends that this process leads to child molesting: “It makes him hate her. And it makes him turn to the younger female daughters in the family.” Perhaps it might in those rare cases where it happens, but can we impute this process to all users of pornography? What inspired men to molest their daughters before there was Playboy?...

(This chapter continued in a following post)
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