Seems I’ve failed the sisterhood again – in Spanish, no less. Today I got a pingback from a Spanish blog called Girls Who Like Porno, commenting on this Erika Lust post. Judging from the garbled Babelfish translation, the post is not complimentary.
I had a look at their “about porno” page which features an English translation of their philosophy:
“[We are] Girls who don’t like some kind of porno, a porno restricted by sexism, racism, capitalism, patriarchy, gender boundaries and that leaves your compuer full with viruses.
“We enjoy creating and cosuming the porno we like: intelligent, queer, open, free and plural.”
Now, that’s a noble philosophy, one with which I can sympathise (although I’m not sure that fighting against computer viruses and the patriarchy is something that should be done concurrently). I believe mainstream porn needs to break out of a lot of the cliches and stop perpetuating things like racism and hatred towards women.
The thing about “gender boundaries” is probably where they’ve got their knickers in a knot with me (although I am something of a capitalist, so who knows). I am, after all, one of these evil pornographers who insists on showing hetero male-female sex, sometimes with a little bit of old-fashioned romance thrown in. I like the idea that sex should also involve love, at least occasionally. My porn features a few fantasies that involve the men having the power. Oh, and sin of sins, I label my erotica as “porn for women.”
Apparently this is “stereotypical” and should not be condoned. Ask some feminists and they’ll say it perpetuates the patriarchal male-female paradigm of sex where the man holds the power and helps to maintain a society where women are exploited and abused.
It’s an interesting political argument (and sounds very intellectual too, don’t you think?), but one issue that is often ignored in these sorts of debates is what happens when a woman is aroused by the very stereotypes that offend some feminists.
What happens when you’re a sucker for that romance novel situation where the big hunky hero carries you off for lusty sex after rescuing you from the bad guys? What happens if the sexual fantasies you use to get off involve being dominated by your husband? What happens if you get wet thinking about being deflowered and “taught” by an older, more knowledgeable man? Or if you like the idea of being “objectified” by a man, or an audience of men?
I’m certain that many women have sexual fantasies that involve a male-female power paradigm forged by the patriarchal society, ones that rely on “gender boundaries” for their spark of heat. Our sexualities aren’t forged in a vacuum. Society teaches us what is sexy; it plants numerous seeds in our subconscious as children that may grow into individual preferences and desires as adulthood dawns. Fantasies and sexual urges are notorious for being politically incorrect.
The question is, are women who have “stereotypical” sexual fantasies wrong? Especially if they’re self aware and know that such fantasies may be “un-feminist” or politically incorrect? Should they deny that aspect of their sexuality? Can they be “re-educated” to be turned on by gender-neutral porn?
And can porn ever be gender neutral, considering it is all about sex and sexuality?
And just what is this perfect female sexuality that is free from the patriarchy? What does it look like? What does it feel like? How do you define it? How do you achieve it?
The recent conference about women and porn in Norway discussed this issue. I don’t think they found an answer.
I think I’d like those women who come here to attack me for being “stereotypical” to give the issue a little more thought. Yes, it’s a good thing to wave the flags in the air and demand a better kind of pornography, and I’m all for that. But replacing one sort of dogma with another is not necessarily a change for the better.
I think the last word should go to a young contributor to the book A Piece of Cake, commenting on the issue of the “male gaze” and subject/object politics in porn:
â€œAccording to one kind of feminist sensibility, we must demand we be subjects and avoid identification as sexual objects. Fine. However, women are brought up with our sexuality tied to our experience as objects. Our ability to feel sexy in many ways is rooted in our ability to be desirable i.e. to play the object role. It is important for us feminists not to condemn women for enjoying this role, because doing so stands in the way of women’s sexual fulfillment.â€ – Erin, 22