Paul at The Fundy Post has a 50/50 post up on a teacher barred from teaching for life because she posed for Penthouse. The good 50 is where Paul dissects the pretty dubious nature of the complaint (i.e. that it was made by the President of the Teachers’ Council, vs a member of the public or other member of the profession, among other things) and the bad 50 is where he agrees with Michael fucking Lhaws:
And where, as Michael Laws asks, are the feminists, the liberals? Looking the other way, it seems. This feminist liberal cannot help but think that if Ms Whitwell had done something pervy – some BDSM erotica or whatever – then there would have been hordes of other liberals complaining about vanilla privilege, the latest opportunity for overprivileged people to claim they are oppressed. But because she posed in an old-fashioned way in an old-fashioned dirty mag, the liberals won’t touch her. If she had done erotica (the name for middle-class porn), she would have been defended as someone who was celebrating her sexuality; but appearing in a magazine like Penthouse is simply participating in the kyriarchy, allowing oneself to be objectified into male stereotypes of female heterosexuality.
Um, fuck you, Paul. Maybe we’re “looking the other way” because we don’t read Michael fucking Lhaws’ columns, since they’re 99% guaranteed to piss us off royally and there’s far higher-quality wank in the world to get our delicate feminist knickers in a twist over. There could also be this tiny thing about Feminism not being an actual hivemind and not actually anointing Official Spokesbitches, hence why Chris fucking Trotter ends up valiantly fending off attackers with his glorious moustache on our behalfs (and we aren’t even grateful, bitches that we are).
But since you’ve brought up the topic: no. I don’t draw a magical fucking line between porn and erotica (cf. terrorist and freedom fighter) and no I don’t fucking write off a woman because she chooses to engage in a form of sex work while being employed in a profession which people like to ascribe all kinds of pure/noble/selfless values to.
Which is not to say I assume she was “celebrating her sexuality” either because I don’t think a woman (or other adult) has to be a sex-positive goddess of clitoral worship and soul-affirming breast massage in order to “justifiably” engage in sex work. She could, and this might shock you, have just wanted to make some extra money and counter-exploited patriarchy’s commodification of her body to do so, and may ascribe no more emotional/spiritual weight to it than selling off some old shoes on Trademe.*
Sure, Paul, maybe there wasn’t much pickup of this story on the feminist blogs. But you could probably point that out without slapping a big ol’ cliched “hates mainstream porn but loves kinky erotica, the double-standard-having flip-floppers” label on them. And I’m not even touching the whole “you just want to be oppressed so you invent new forms of privilege just to feel like martyrs!” thing.
TLDR? When you find yourself saying “Michael Laws has a point, feminists are stupid” you’re probably just a douche in need of some fresh air.
*This is obvs a really, really complex topic which I’m not fully exploring here for the sake of getting to bed at a semi-reasonable hour.
Caroline Ferguson has a guest post on the continuing and fascinating porn debate happening at The Hand Mirror. And boy oh boy do I have two big throbbing issues with it.
Following this battle, I was extremely dismayed to find this pro-porn post on THM…. I thought post-“Female Chauvinist Pigs”, sex-positive ‘liberating’ ‘stripping-is-empowering type feminism had been pretty clearly debunked – pornography has not ‘benefited’ women, and is no triumph of feminism (as Hugh Hefner argues). How is it that this argument is still continuing among feminists? It leaves us open to being viewed as an incoherent, vitriolic movement, undeserving of respect.
First issue – “has been pretty clearly debunked”. Either Caroline Ferguson is completely ignorant of the number of feminists and non-feminist-identified women* who are anything but done with the porn/prostitution/BDSM debate, or she knows they exist, but doesn’t give a fuck about their opinions and doesn’t rate their voices. Talk about a quick-and-easy silencing tool – if you think stripping can be a liberating experience, well, aren’t you a little moron? That’s been debunked, precious, now go play with your toys until the growed-up feminists finish talking.
ETA: Second issue: And as noted by Psycho Milt in the first comment at THM, you know what’s really fucking offensive? Acting like the real problem here is that, oh noes, feminists might be seen to disagree with each other,** which gives us a Bad Image – and that the fucking solution is, “so the other side needs to shut up already because they’re making us look bad”.
Then the thing that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise after that intro:
When we look at the issue of pornography, why not accept the distinction made by Dworkin and MacKinnon between porn and erotica.
Um … because it’s a tad one-sided?
I mean, as we approach a referendum hugely decried for using the circular-logical phrase, “a smack as part of good parental correction“, it shouldn’t need explaining that it’s frankly bullshit to insist your opponents (when you acknowledge they exist) only operate within parameters entirely designed to prove your point.***
“the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and words, that also includes women presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities; or women presented as sexual objects who enjoy humiliation or pain; or women presented as sexual objects experiencing sexual pleasure in rape, incest or other sexual assault; or women are presented as sexual objects tied up, cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or women presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility, or display; or women’s body parts — including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks — exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or women presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or women presented in scenarios of degradation, humiliation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual.” (Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 176.)
What about women presented as people who get off on pain? What about women presented as people who are tied up? Or women’s body parts presented as part of a woman who is a sexual person?
There’s a whole other argument to be had about BDSM, but my point is this: if I walked up to Caroline Ferguson and said,
Hey, what’s wrong with taking the distinction:
“the graphic, sexually explicit depiction of women perceived through a female gaze enjoying themselves sexually in a liberated and enthusiastically-consenting manner possibly including sex toys which leave both hands free to give a double thumbs-up to the camera”
I would not be playing fair. And neither is she. Personally, I’m not sure about thedifference, semantic or otherwise, between “porn” and “erotica” – probably because I’ve most often seen it used in situations like this, where “porn” gets defined as Sexy Stuff What Is Bad For Women, and “erotica” is Sexy Stuff What Is Good. Now when those are your starting assumptions, who can blame you for assume the argument’s already over and done?