Not liberal at all

From Matthew Yglesias:

The end of the latest G-file:

“A liberal,” Irving Kristol once observed, “is one who says that it’s all right for an 18-year-old girl to perform in a pornographic movie as long as she gets paid the minimum wage.” I guess Kristol’s dictum needs to be updated. Today, a liberal is one who says it’s all right for an 18-year-old girl to perform in a pornographic movie as long as the cast “looks like America.”

That Kristol quote is actually pretty smart, though it obviously fails to take into consideration that (in my opinion, rather illiberal) anti-porn faction of feminism. A libertarian is someone who says that it’s all right for an 18-year-old girl to perform in a pornographic at whatever wage, and a conservative says it’s all wrong.

I’m not sure why the quote should take into account the anti-porn faction of feminism. That faction has been more-or-less led by Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, both of whom would, I think, passionately deny being liberal. In her writings, MacKinnon is as bitterly anti-liberal as any conservative.

MacKinnon and Dworkin’s leadership was unfortunate, in my view. As brilliant as both women are, they nonetheless led radical feminism into a futile fight for anti-porn legislation that split feminism. The result was to sabatoge what had been, up to that point, an effective radical feminist movement with many great accomplishments. (Susan Brownmiller makes a similar argument in her memoir In Our Time). I don’t think radical feminism has yet recovered from the wrong turn it took in the 80s.

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42 Responses to Not liberal at all

  1. 1
    PDM says:

    The interesting thing is that Brownmiller is decidedly NOT a “sex-positive feminist.”

  2. 2
    Elayne Riggs says:

    Can’t one be sex-positive and anti-porn at the same time?

  3. 3
    kim says:

    I think you can be sex-positive and anti-porn at the same time. I dislike porn (although I am not in favor of censorship), primarily because it reduces sexuality to the visual sense. I think of it as sort of an addiction…I don’t find people who spend a lot of time with porn attractive in the same way I don’t find an alcoholic or meth addict attractive. They’ve, sort of, sold their soul for a cheap high. I also think it perverts people’s attitudes towards young, pretty women.

    This “sex-positive” terminology is just used to bully people who don’t like porn.

  4. 4
    JRC says:

    I wrote a somewhat extended post on what I believe it means to be “sex-positive” several comment threads ago.

    According to my definition, someone who is sex-positive:

    1) Accepts that sex exists for him/herself and everyone else, and respects everyone’s right to express his/her sexuality as he/she sees
    fit, whether that be through abstinence,promiscuity, or anything in between, as long as everyone involved is emotionally comfortable with
    whatever they may or may not be doing.

    2) Believes that there is significant and pervasive anti-sex/sex-is-bad-and-dirty influence on our society.

    3) Opposes this influence by advocating for a more sexually open, accepting society.

    I absolutely think it’s possible to be both anti-porn and sex-positive at the same time, I just find that it’s rare in practice, as a significant portion of those who oppose porn do so because “sex is bad and dirty and sinful” and “the human body is bad and dirty and sinful.”

    I don’t feel that opposing porn on feminist grounds makes anyone sex-negative, but I also don’t feel that just saying “Well, I like sex, so I’m sex-positive” is accurate either. Like claiming membership in any other movement, it takes more than a set of opinions, it takes concrete decisions and actions.

    Think of it this way: just “liking women” doesn’t make one a feminist. . .conscious action is required. And, just as it’s possible to be anti-porn and sex-positive, it’s certainly possible to be anti-abortion and feminist, or anti-affirmitive-action and feminist, but it’s similarly rare in practice.

    Sure, “sex-positive” can be used to bully people who don’t like porn. . .and “feminist” can be used to bully people who don’t like abortions. . .but to assume that that’s the whole of the meaning of either is wholly inaccurate.

    —JRC

  5. 5
    Paul says:

    I would make the following modifications:

    A libertarian is someone who says that it’s all right for a girl of ANY AGE to perform in a pornographic movie at whatever wage.

    A conservative says it’s all wrong and partakes in porn and even worse — in secret.

  6. 6
    Janis says:

    Note that every single goddamned one of them talks only about GIRLS performing on porn. Not one of them even acknowledges the possibility that women mighty like to look at men, or that men’s clothes aren’t welded on.

    When one of the various chumps involved in this schlock-contest masquerading as “debate” actually achieves the stunning realization that a couple 18 year old boys might not be out of place, or that women might like to look at them — to wit, that PORN != NEKKID CHICKS — I’ll pay attention. Until then, I’ll stay happily in my little slash universe where the tastes of women matter and naked, pliant, willing men exist for OUR delectation.

    Funny how neither the anti-porn left wing, the right wing, or the bouncy fuck-me feminists of the new left even seem to see that as a possibility, isn’t it? As far as they’re concerned, porn == what men want. In that much, they are entirely in lockstep with one another, no matter how much they pretend to differ.

  7. 7
    Dan J says:

    Well, in all fairness, the porn industry seems to be under the impression that it’s all about what men want too. There are a comparative handful of companies making pornography “for women,” but I don’t recall having ever atually seen it. Cue “The Ballad of the Legend of Women’s Porn.”

  8. 8
    Morphienne says:

    Janis– Where is your slash universe? May I partake of it?

  9. 9
    Pro-woman Anti-porn says:

    PDM, indeed she is not “sex-positive” in the sense that it is often used meaning pro-porn:

    Let’s Put Pornography Back in the Closet by Susan Brownmiller

    “No, the feminist objection to pornography is based on our belief that pornography represents hatred of women, that pornography’s intent is to humiliate, degrade and dehumanize the female body for the purpose of erotic stimulation and pleasure. We are unalterably opposed to the presentation of the female body being stripped, bound, raped, tortured, mutilated and murdered in the name of commercial entertainment and free speech.

    These images, which are standard pornographic fare, hive nothing to do with the hallowed right of political dissent. They have everything to do with the creation of a cultural climate in which a rapist feels he is merely giving in to a normal urge and a woman is encouraged to believe that sexual masochism is healthy, liberated fun. “

  10. 10
    Pro-woman Anti-porn says:

    Another feminist perspective:

    Pornography As a Cause of Rape

    Russell makes an important distinction between pornography and erotica, a distinction which pornographers are all too eager to blur:

    “I define heterosexual pornography as material created for heterosexual males that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with the abuse or degradation of females in a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such behavior.

    Erotica refers to sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and respectful of all human beings and animals portrayed. This definition takes into account that humans are not the only subject matter of erotica. …

    The definiton’s requirement of non-sexism means that the following types of material qualify as pornography rather than erotica: sexually arousing images in which women are consistently shown naked while men are clothed or in which women’s genitals are displayed but men’s are not; or in which men are always portrayed in the initiating, dominant role. An example of sexualized racism which pervades pornography entails depictions of women that are confined to young, white bodies fitting many white men’s narrow concept of beauty, i.e., very thin, large-breasted, and blonde. …

    What is objectionable about pornography, then, is its abusive and degrading portrayal of females and female sexuality, not its sexual content or explicitness.”

    Those who claim that feminists who are anti-porn are anti-sex obviously don’t appreciate the difference between porn and erotica.

  11. 11
    mythago says:

    This “sex-positive”? terminology is just used to bully people who don’t like porn.

    And we all know that bullying is only properly directed toward people who like “porn”, whatever that term encompasses, by means of calling them addicts, soulless, etc. ad nauseum.

    We all know the real distinction between porn and erotica: I enjoy erotica, you watch sexually-explicit material, s/he consumes pornography. (Note that definitions of the abusive nature of porn only refer to women as subjects–is there no porn portraying men? Is it impossible to produce such porn that is degrading?)

    I find it very interesting that many of the self labelled ‘sex-positive’ pro-porn feminists are queer–Susie Bright, Patrick Califia-Rice, Nina Hartley. And there’s more than a little of the ‘yuck, pussy’ heterophobia of some straight women in the anti-porn wing.

    I am more concerned about the actual exploitation of real women in porn. I don’t give a rat’s ass if an “erotica” magazine presents “respectful, non-racist, suggestive” photos that were actually taken in Eastern Europe using women sold into sex slavery.

  12. Maybe the following is why radical feminists are “bitterly anti-liberal.” And anti-pornography. And anti-male-centered Left as well as Right as well as Libertarian and in between. Maybe anti-pornography feminists saw something decades ago that most have yet to see. Maybe they also foresaw what this amazingly gracious woman has written about — with amazing restraint — in the article I’ve excerpted below, from Z-Net, published yesterday.

    Hustling the Left
    by Aura Bogado
    June 05, 2005

    In August of last year, just days before the Republican National Convention in New York, I received an email from a local (Los Angeles) chapter of Not In Our Name (NION). The group, which I have never been a member of, had been organizing a letter-writing campaign with hopes of pressuring Mayor Michael Bloomberg to grant permits to protest on the streets of New York against the Convention. NION’s email proclaimed enthusiastically how Larry Flynt had endorsed their letter-writing campaign. As a woman of color who opposes the type of violence that Hustler Magazine* *celebrates in their publication, I was dismayed that NION chose to align themselves with Flynt. For that reason, I sent a personal email back to NION, asking to be removed from the list. Los Angeles NION organizer Robert Corsini not only responded to me, but also forwarded his response, along with my original personal email, to both of my bosses at the local community radio station I work with, and to Larry Flynt Publishing. Because he violated my trust and attempted to ridicule me, I responded to Robert Corsini and the entire email list to explain my disgust with Hustler. A flame war quickly erupted, with people on all sides of the issue exchanging emails. What has followed is an interesting example of power politics, the most recent round ending in Hustler publishing several extremely offensive articles and cartoons condemning me as a ‘femi fascist’ for having the courage to speak out against their brand of pornography as a form of institutionalized gender and racial violence. The experience has led me to examine the greater umbrella of the so-called ‘left’, and to scrutinize the conditions under which a Goliath like Flynt is sanctioned by it.

    … As a woman of color, it remains difficult to locate the voices and actions that may motivate me, and others like me, to connect with what remains a heterosexist, white male dominated popular left. From protests and rallies in Boston and New York, to lectures and readings in my hometown of Los Angeles, I find that, not unlike 95% of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention who, according to the Boston Globe, opposed the war and still supported a pro-war candidate, we have moved to a rudimentary center and made silent the theories and practices that could flourish by incorporating the voices and actions of those on the margins. The cost of what is in effect the intellectual segregation of the voices of radical women of color is immeasurable: by somewhat unconsciously choosing an easy center, we stifle the dialogue and critique which could meaningfully question what it is we stand for.

    Instead, we tacitly support pornographers like Larry Flynt of Hustler Magazine. Flynt has gained credit for squeezing the work of progressive authors between images of violent degradation. By hiding behind this fact, Flynt is able to repel criticisms about the racist and misogynistic culture he perpetuates. Hustler Magazine now publishes articles of popular left icons such as Greg Palast and Christian Parenti. …

    For 25 years, B Dwaine Tinsley was Hustler Magazine’s cartoon editor and creator of ‘Chester the Molester’, a cartoon which depicted Tinsley’s character, Chester, sexually abusing prepubescent girls. In 1989, Tinsley’s own daughter testified that he molested and forced her take birth control pills from age 13 through 18. He was convicted of sexually abusing his daughter as well as having sexual contact with another 13-year-old girl, whose accusations originally led to his arrest. Tinsley served a nearly two-year sentence, all the while continuing to contribute to Hustler Magazine. Although his conviction was eventually overturned due to a legal technicality, Hustler continued to publish his degrading images, even as he spent time in prison for sexual abuse. Although Tinsley died in 1990, Hustler continues to honor his legacy by publishing heterosexist, and racist work through its magazine. Even while declaring that he is against child pornography, another one of Flynt’s many publications includes Barely Legal which uses images of the youngest girls who are allowed to pose nude by law. If such laws did not exist, or were altered to allow the degradation of even younger girls, one can guess that Flynt would print those as well.

    …In a full hour interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, which aired on hundreds of stations throughout the country several months ago, Larry Flynt was briefly questioned about the exploitation of women in his work. Flynt’s response was that, ‘most of the criticism comes from the radical feminist movement, who really [sic] only claim to fame is to urge a bunch of ugly women to march behind.’ This is the same group of women who screamed in the margins in the days leading to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, yet on hundreds of popular left stations, Flynt’s words went unchallenged. Goodman did not include another guest to confront Flynt. Instead, she read a dated quote in which Gloria Steinem voiced her opposition to Flynt and compared his use of the First Amendment to racist and fascist publications that similarly serve to degrade people. Flynt’s response was short and easy: that Steinem’s work was useful in the 1960s, that she is out of touch today, and that if she is offended by his magazine, she should not read it. Goodman’s questions quickly moved on to another topic….

    …In the days that followed, the program was flooded with comments condemning Flynt and the broadcast. Democracy Now’s response was to have two feminists, Susie Bright and Susan Brison, debate the merits of pornography, centered around the Flynt interview. ..

    Perhaps taking its lead from Democracy Now, the February issue of Hustler featured an interview with Susie Bright. Besides several incorrect assumptions she makes about me, I was surprised to learn that Bright believes that Hustler is a ‘deliberately proletariat’ publication, with a ‘working-class Southern flavor’. A white feminist who conveniently avoids the issues of racism in Hustler raised by women of color, Bright attempts to rely on an inconsistent class analysis and connects what are ‘disgusting’ and ‘icky’ images with that which she deems to be ‘working-class’, claiming that it makes the publication easier to attack. Rather than aligning herself with the real struggles of working women, Bright has chosen to align herself to millionaire Larry Flynt. … When I first read the Bright interview, I was hurt but only slightly surprised that a white feminist would allow Hustler to use her for their own ends…

    In the same issue, Hustler attempts to enlist another white woman, Amy Alkon, to attack me. Alkon questions my commitment to free speech, yet fails to realize that it was Hustler Editors Mark Cromer and Bruce David who first attacked me for using free speech in my simple request to be removed from an email list. Alkon unsuccessfully attempts to compare me to white supremacist David Duke making no genuine connection for her comparison. In a separate yet similarly incoherent argument, Alkon asks, ‘Aura, what’s the answer? Should we all go around in burkhas? Isn’t that the oppression you’re professing to want to prevent ‘ in between your position to work out your jealous rage against rich old Larry Flynt?’ …

    In another edition of Hustler, the magazine goes far beyond words and uses caricatures of me in a desperate attempt to further speak vilify me. I have not made any public statements regarding Hustler or anyone related to its publication since August 2004, yet after half-a-year of me remaining silent on the issue, Hustler continues to attack me, featuring horrific images of me: in some, I read a poem a Valentine’s Day poem, ‘Roses are red, Violets are blue, If you’re a white male, I’m gonna kill you’; another has me smashing a microphone because, in the cartoon, a caller into the station I work at sends an email suggesting that I like ‘having [my] mouth near a microphone because it reminds [me] of a white male’s cock.’; yet another cartoon includes a line of ‘Aura Bogado Jewelry’- in it, I have a penis pierced through my tongue.

    While attempting to position his magazine as a progressive publication, Flynt is using the tactics of reactionary conservatives such as Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh to attack women who stand against violence degradation. In a recent book, Savage complains that the New York Times is contaminated by ‘femi-fascists, the Commu-Nazis’. I wouold argue that it’s no coincidence that in the February issue of Hustler, the editors refer to me as a ‘femi-fascist’ and a ‘Stalinist’, and commissioned a caricature of me as some type of Nazi/fascist. These unfounded characterizations are so similar to conservative attacks on other feminists that it’s difficult to distinguish them in print. …

    Aura Bogado works with KPFK Radio and Free Speech Radio News (FSRN). The opinions stated herein reflect the views of the author alone and are not those of KPFK or FSRN management or staff, nor do they reflect the editorial positions of KPFK or FSRN.

    http://www.zmag.org/content/show…temID=8012

    Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff
    Heart
    http://www.gentlespirit.com/margins

    Heart

  13. 13
    ginmar says:

    This “sex-positive”? terminology is just used to bully people who don’t like porn

    And we all know that bullying is only properly directed toward people who like “porn”?, whatever that term encompasses, by means of calling them addicts, soulless, etc. ad nauseum.

    And we all know that quoting something that does nothing of the sort neatly sidesteps the issue.

    Sorry, but the bullying by the pro-porn people does in fact get very tedious. Criticize their beloved porn, and you get called anti-sex, anti-women, anti-everything, because limiting the issue to pro/con doesn’t permit much else. And they’re so very very pro that they see anything but total pro as being viciously con. It’s very Bush like. It’s interesting how they attack, though. If they’re so very feminist why do they use such conservative white male stereotypes of women who supposedly are other feminists? And why does the pro-sex crowd always seem to be the sort who focus on pro sex that caters to men, men’s sexuality, and so forth? It’s all about stripping and heteroporn devoted to male fantasies and that. Honestly, it’s not pro porn at all: that would be a different animals. It’s pro porn as it exists now, and as it exists now it’s pretty much just the stuff that appeals to male sexual fantasies, not anybody else’s. So call it what it is: pro-sexist society porn. If it’s so damned honorable, why are they so determined to silence anybody with cries of repression and antisexuality, then?

    If you look at somebody’s attitude toward feminists, and it’s no different from Michael Savage’s—and they even use the same words and tactics—why, exactly, do they deserve the benefit of the doubt? Remind me again?

  14. Word, Ginmar.

    It was Not In Our Name, or one leader of NION, who sought the support of Larry Flynt and Hustler. One thing that comes to mind that we could do is let Not In Our Name know we will not support its work so long as it seeks the support of pornographers, because that is NOT in OUR names.

    Here is Aura Bogado’s letter to NION which caused her to be called a hater, David Duke, a Nazi, a Stalinist, a Fascist, and a racist and “heterophobe” (against white male pornographers).

    ***

    I am outraged that NION LA would use an endorsement from a misogynist like Larry Flynt to garner attention to what may very well be one of the biggest demonstrations in recent history. I will be in New York because as a woman of color, I want to stand against oppression and domination in all its forms. Sexism and racism are a flagrant part of Flynt’s capitalist exploitation. I visited larryflynt.com and linked to an interesting article titled, “The Rape Shield Law: It’s Just Wrong”. In it, Flynt essentializes feminists as “anti-men”, and says that Rape Shield laws create an “uneven playing field” for rape victims. It’s very easy to kill Iraqis when we de-humanize them. By de-humanizing women through pornography it’s similarly easy to rape them and say laws are created that give these women and unfair advantage.

    For these reasons and more, remove me from NION LA’s list, and take a minute to consider who “Our” stands for “Not In Our Name”. To me, “our” stands for the People, not the Pigs like Flynt. I want to create alliances, but not when they threaten the core of my liberation.

    Aura Bogado
    Producer/Host
    KPFK 90.7 FM, Los Angeles
    ***

    Heart

  15. 15
    Samantha says:

    Amp, I think you’re dead wrong about blaming two radical feminists for what you claim is a “split” in feminism that you mistakenly accuse of setting the enitire struggle for women’s rights in America back. Looking over the past 20 years of American politics and civil rights movements I’d say pointing the finger at feminists of any sort for failing to win victories in two decades where labor, environmentalism, immigration, welfare, healthcare, and just about every other progressive movement has been run into the ground is victim blaming. It smacks of conservative thinking that insists if oppressed people can’t pull themselves up by the bootstrap and just refuse to be oppressed anymore then it must be their fault for failing in the face of overwhelming opposition.

    The ERA didn’t fail because of Phyllis Schlafly no matter h0w many articles say so because she didn’t cast the votes rejecting it, hundreds of men in government did. The US didn’t withdraw from Kyoto because environmentalists are ineffectual organizers, NAFTA wasn’t passed because the labor movement doesn’t know how to get its collective shit together, welfare deform wasn’t the fault of community activists and social workers, and the steady chipping away of the freedoms radical feminists won in earlier decades isn’t to be blamed on two feminist women. That other countries are not suffering the same losses of human rights protections we in America have been facing these years tells me it’s not that progressive movements like radical feminism have been ineffectual, it’s our fucked up pay-to-play political structure that squashes grassroots movements if they don’t work in favor of Big Business.

    Selling women to men is Big Business.

    Conservatives want women to be private property, liberals want women to be public property, and feminists don’t want women to be property at all.

  16. 16
    Ampersand says:

    Amp, I think you’re dead wrong about blaming two radical feminists for what you claim is a “split”? in feminism that you mistakenly accuse of setting the enitire struggle for women’s rights in America back.

    First of all, there was indeed a split in feminism over the issue of porn, and specifically over the issue of the proposed MacKinnon/Dworkin ordinance. It’s not just something I “claim” happens; it’s something that literally hundreds of feminists who were there in the 80s have written about, from both sides of the split.

    You’re right, of course, that the “porn wars” wasn’t entirely responsible for the loss of effectiveness of feminism in the 80s; the backlash against feminism, and the general swing of the country to the right, were more significant problems. I didn’t intend to claim that the “porn wars” in feminism were the sole problem. Nonetheless, I maintain that a split in feminism – and a decade-long committment to a piece of legislation that was obviously unconstitutional from the start – was a mistake.

    I disagree with you about Phyllis Schlafly. Representatives in congress aren’t independant actors; they act in response to political pressures. Phyllis Schlafly, whatever you think of her, was smart and skillful, and ran a great campaign against the ERA. She deserves credit for that.

    Are you willing to say that the suffragettes had nothing to do with getting women the right to vote? By your logic, they don’t deserve credit; after all, they weren’t the ones casting the votes. But I don’t think that view of politics, which assumes that activists never have any effect or deserve any credit/blame, is accurate.

  17. 17
    Samantha says:

    Phyllis Schlafly is one woman, the suffragettes were millions. I suppose I just think these things are bigger than any two (or three or four) people and I question the coincidence of prostitution and porn flourishing madly with the decline of labor rights and triumph of militarism and far-right ideology.

    I disagree that giving women the right to make their cases in court about the harms done to them by pimps/pornographers and pornography is unconstitutional. If you really believe that then you’ll be hopping over what’s going down in Chicago.

    Snippet from the Chicago Tribune April 6, 2005

    “Prostitutes would be able to sue their pimps for emotional anguish and other damages under a measure that the Illinois House overwhelmingly passed Tuesday.

    Rep. Constance Howard (D-Chicago), the bill’s sponsor, said her intent is to empower men, women and children trapped in desperate situations. “This is for someone who says, I cannot take this any longer. I’ve been used and abused. I’m ready to try and get some help,” Howard said.

    Under the measure, which now goes to the Senate, the prostitute would have to prove in court that the pimp profited from the sex trade, recruited prostitutes or trafficked and maintained them. The pimp could be held accountable for his victim’s financial losses, personal injuries, diseases and mental and emotional anguish.”

    Pornographers, like many other grotesquely wealthy businessmen, know very well they’d be out of business if they had to cover all the costs of the damage they do to people, mostly young women. This is what the the ordinance was addressing and I post the following recap of it because I don’t think the precepts for sexual autonomy expressed by the ordinance are as outrageously wasteful as you suggest.

    1. The Statement of Policy summarizes evidence of the harm pornography does to the legal and social status of women and to society as a whole. When assessing constitutionality, courts measure laws against legislative findings.

    2. The Definition is a concrete description of the materials the pornography industry makes and sells: graphic sexually explicit materials that subordinate women and others. It is not a description of any ideas pornography expresses. By contrast with the Indianapolis version of the ordinance, this definition is not restricted to violent material. This is because the violence of pornography is not limited to materials that show violence. Women are coerced into materials that show no violence. Rapists use materials showing what appears to be consenting sex to stimulate their rapes and to select their targets. Children are abused to make pornography that shows no violence. Pornography showing no violence is violently forced on women and children.

    3. The Coercion provision permits anyone coerced into sex acts so pornography can be made of them to stop the pornography and to get damages for their abuse. It only addresses materials made through aggression that is proven to be done against individual human beings. There is no First Amendment protection for coercion.

    4. The ordinance prohibits forcing pornography on others against their will. Already illegal in the workplace under sexual harassment laws, these acts are not protected speech. This provision reaches only those who do the force, not those who publish the materials. The First Amendment protects unwilling viewers, not perpetrators of forced viewing.

    5. Legal experts are clear that it will be very difficult to prove that particular assaults are directly caused by specific pornography. It should be difficult. Pornography which contains only words sometimes causes assaults. When it can be proven to do so, the victims should be allowed to sue the pornographers.

    6. Being in pornography can destroy a person’s reputation. The defamation provision allows recovery for unauthorized use of a person in pornography in ways that take into account the existing laws of libel.

    7. The trafficking provision addresses a slave trade, covering only materials made through the sexual use of living or dead humans or animals. Materials must, in addition, be graphic, sexually explicit and subordinate women or others in the place of women. Literature is not covered. Because isolated parts are excluded, most of Playboy and Hollywood movies would not be covered either.

  18. I think you’re wrong, Amp, that the split in feminism was over the MacKinnon-Dworkin ordinance or commitment to legislation that was “unconstitutional from the start,” in the way that you are meaningt (as a swipe at MacKinnon and Dworkin who crafted it, and the many feminists who supported it.) The legislation was found to be unconstitutional because the U.S. Constitution still counts women’s violated bodies as men’s free speech. The lives and realities and freedoms and civil and human rights of women were of little concern to the framers and drafters of the Constitution — as they are of little concern to most men today — and so any legislation which actually might serve to free us can usually be counted upon to be found “unconstitutional. ”

    The actual shot across the bow with respect to the so-called Sex Wars was lobbed by self-identified feminists who objected to radical feminist critiques of sadomasochism. Issues around pornography and prostitution came later. Having said that, I don’t think the Sex Wars rendered feminism “ineffective” at all. I think feminism continued to be effective throughout the Sex Wars. I think feminism has public relations problems for one reason and one reason only: because men don’t like feminism, especially anti-pornography feminism, and that includes men on the Right, on the Left, anarchists, Christians, Libertarian and/or none of the above. Men don’t want anyone coming between them and the women whose bodies they intend to violate, whether in real life or via their use of porn. And so men set about to discredit radical feminists and radical feminism and any feminism which sets about to make those violations difficult, sadly, with the help of women whose loyalties are divided and who have thrown in their lot with men.

    That’s how that went down. That’s how it’s still going down.

    In the meantime, I would like to see thousands of us writing letters of the type that Aura Bogado wrote, withdrawing our support from Not in Our Name, because those who would approach the likes of Larry Flynt for support do not for one moment speak for women, in any way, shape or form, whatever their politics.

    Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff
    Heart
    http://www.gentlespirit.com/margins

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    In the meantime, I would like to see thousands of us writing letters of the type that Aura Bogado wrote, withdrawing our support from Not in Our Name, because those who would approach the likes of Larry Flynt for support do not for one moment speak for women, in any way, shape or form, whatever their politics.

    This, at least, I fully agree with.

  20. 20
    mythago says:

    or the bouncy fuck-me feminists of the new left even seem to see that as a possibility, isn’t it?

    Which ‘bouncy fuck-me feminists’ are you talking about?

    The legislation was found to be unconstitutional because the U.S. Constitution still counts women’s violated bodies as men’s free speech.

    Gosh, if that were true, then we women wouldn’t be allowed to make documentaries about pornography or illegal abortion, because such images would only be “men’s” free speech.

    You do realize that obscenity is not protected under the First Amendment, whereas political speech is, right? That means that if porn is merely jack-off material, you can restrict it. If, on the other hand, it is a statement about the proper place of women, then it’s a political statement–and protected speech.

    Insert rant about “my sexually explicit material is nice erotica, yours is smutty porn” here.

  21. I think women are free to make all the documentaries they want about pornography, just so long as men are still able to have it, use it, buy it, and sell it. So long as men may freely violate the bodies of women, in real life, in pornography, however, women remain free make any documentaries we like about it. What we can’t do without being made into porn ourselves — as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin and Susan Brownmiller and Aura Bogoda have been– is publicly denounce pornography as hate speech against women in a way that really poses a threat to the men who use it and want it and make it and buy it.

    As to pornography being “restricted” if it is purely jack-off material, where? What kind of restrictions are you talking about? In the U.S. I know about Canada’s obscenity laws.

    As to pornography being protected when it’s a statement about the proper place of women– you’re right. The constitution indeed protects men’s freedom to openly state that , via pornography, that women are an oppressed and subugated class and ought to be– because we are women.

    Heart

  22. 22
    Q Grrl says:

    Amp, I think the Mormon church had a great hand in defeating the ERA. Schlafly was a puppet.

    … and I think the preferred term is suffragists. :)

  23. 23
    Samantha says:

    mythago, your non-rant about the very real distinctions between sexually explicit material and sexually explicit hate speech was preempted by posts #9 and #10.

    I have to say that while I’ve heard, “The problem with people like you is you are dykes” a few times because of my anti-pornstitution activism, today was the first day I encountered, “The problem with people like you is you are not dykes.” A bizarre reversal but refreshing in its own weird way.

  24. 24
    Amanda says:

    I’m a non-bouncy fuck you feminist, but I think I might qualify as a bad one.

  25. 25
    Radfem says:

    “Conservatives want women to be private property, liberals want women to be public property, and feminists don’t want women to be property at all. ———-

    True.

    Heart, thanks for posting that. I received an email on that article yesterday.

    Q, Sonia Johnson, an excommunicted Mormon, wrote a lot on the ERA defeat. I think the conflicts involving several feminist organizations on strategy which Johnson wrote about in her book, Going Out of Our Minds, took its toll as well. I think Schafly was as you put it, the woman needed by the main opponants of the ERA, to sell the package that the ERA was *bad* for women, and that’s how she spun it.

  26. 26
    Brian Vaughan says:

    But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

    The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

    He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

    Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party

  27. 27
    Radfem says:

    Sexism is a hard skin to shed, even for a communist, if it’s how you’ve been raised, socialized by the society you live in…even if you reject it on the surface. Beneath, we all have behaviors we hold onto, even if its subconscious or unconscious, especially if they grant us a privilaged position in society. Men benefit from capitalism, more so than women, as a gender, they hold a higher tier than women do. Are they really willing to give up their “superiority” or will they bring that with them into another political philosophy?

    I fear the latter. For one thing, you can’t change a behavior without acknowleging it, which by itself is a major stumbling block.

    Feminism might oppose racism and believe it’s wrong, and blame it on the patriarchy even, but can white feminists eradicate racism from the mainstream feminist movements, which are called mainstream b/c the majority of members, leadership positions are held by White women? Of course not. Even if racism is acknowleged, too often it’s simply written off as another evil of patriarchy. It might be at some point, but then it becomes your responsibility especially if you claim to belong to a movement that opposes and works against it.

  28. 28
    Brian Vaughan says:

    It might be at some point, but then it becomes your responsibility especially if you claim to belong to a movement that opposes and works against it.

    I agree.

    One of the things on my mind, lately, is sexism among Leftists. There was this thread recently on Pandagon, in which one poster chastised Amanda for mocking a sexist article about dating instead of writing about what he considered the real issues: women’s pay inequality, lack of unionization in industries dominated by women, and so on. I criticized his argument there (I post on Pandagon as FoolishOwl), but to restate what I said there more or less, important as the economic base of sexism is, you can’t simply write off the superstructure of sexism as unimportant. And doing so reflected sexism on the part of that poster.

    I believe the socialist group I’m part is quite good on issues of sexism, and I think that this is largely because we have at least as many women as men in the organization and in the organization’s leadership. I’m worried that, when we have formal discussions of sexism, we tend to focus on the big, obvious manifestations of it without clearly linking it to the ubiquitous daily experiences of it, and I’m trying to think how to discuss that — though I know my comrades are very quick to quash sexist behavior within the group.

    Activists are only human, and we live in a world that constantly pushes us to accept injustice as natural and inevitable. Consistency in thought and practice is a goal, not something easily obtained. This is why social revolution is necessary: without it, even the best, most consistent opponents of oppression will be worn down and silenced, and any social gains won will be lost and forgotten. Being radical means going to the roots of the problem — until you’ve done that, the problem will keep growing back.

    The important thing, in the meanwhile, is to try to bring the unconscious to the light of consciousness, to criticize and to confront bigotry wherever it appears. I can’t claim to be perfect — I was taken to task pretty hard for a blunder of mine a few months ago, and while I didn’t enjoy the process, I believe it helped.

  29. Actually, Sonia Johnson was excommunicated from the Mormon church for her support of the ERA. As a feminist, she criss-crossed the country with other feminists staging all sorts of pro-ERA actions and organizing and participating in hunger strikes (which several times resulted in Johnson and others being hospitalized for exhaustion and dehydration). She writes in one book of coming home after the defeat of the ERA and being barely able to crawl up the steps to her home, she was so weak, exhausted, and had lost so much weight (and she is and always was a very small woman anyway).

    Phyllis Shlafly was a figurehead and a token. She was only able to do what she did because she had the support of huge, heteropatriarchal, conservative Christian organizations like Focus on the Family, Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles, the LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America, Christian radio and Christian television (huge forces to be reckoned with, talking about the then-flourishing TBN, CBN, and so on). Anti-ERA information could be promulgated by way of these highly sophisticated networks quickly, extremely efficiently, and at almost no cost to throngs of the faithful who, at the time, especially, hung on every word.

    Despite all of that, it should be remembered that the ERA failed by only two votes in Illinois, which was an important loss. 90,000 people showed up to support its passage. In the next year or two, it was three states short of passage.

    Which is all to say that the failure of the ERA to pass shouldn’t be understood as some huge victory for the Right or for Shlafly and it doesn’t mean it did not have tremendous support, both from feminists and from those who did not consider themselves to be feminists. Shlafly’s influence was not all that.

    Heart

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    You’re talking about Schlafly’s use of the churches as if it were an old, established technique at the time. It wasn’t – one of the things some political scientists admire Schlafly for is that she was very innovative in showing that the churches could be mobalized and used for right-wing political organization. Arguably, the techniques she helped innovate were essential to the entire rise of the right-wing fundimentalists as a political force since that time.

    Organizing a nationwide political campaign is not easy, and not something an idiot can do. Schlafly was innovative, and she understood the small-state strategy before her counterparts leading the pro-ERA movement did. I don’t like her, nor do I think she’s one of the great woman of the ages, but she was an effective and smart political strategist.

    (She was also pretty scummy, and she didn’t hesitate to appeal to anti-Semitism and homophobia to make her case. I’m not trying to start a fan club for her, honest.)

    On the other hand, it’s certainly true that Schlafly had a much easier goal to accomplish than the pro-ERA forces did; it’s easier to block a Constitutional amendment than to pass one.

  31. 31
    Samantha says:

    I wanted to add this about so-called “sex positive radicals” because ever since reading it I have thought of it when the name Suzie Bright is pulled out as a source of “pro sex” feminism.

    It’s from an essay written by porn & prostitution survivor Christine Stark of American Indian heritage titled, “Girls to boyz: Sex radical women promoting protitution, pornography, and sadomasochism”. For those who don’t know, the Meese Commission is the collected testimonies of dozens of women’s rapes and sexual violations through and by pornography. She quotes from pro-pimp Carol Quuen’s 1997 book Real Live Nude Girl.

    “Self-proclaimed ‘sexpert’ Suzie Bright ‘has said that the best jerk-off book she ever found was the compiled evidence of the Meese Commission’, which ‘focused on the most hard to obtain stuff…the extra kinky’ (Queen 1997). In other words, Suzie Bright masterbates to women’s testimony about the degradation and harm they suffered in pornography and prostitution.

    Just cause it’s on the same page and pro-NAMBLA Pat Califa’s name was mentioned earlier: “In an article published in Paidika, a Dutch pedophile magazine, Califa wrote, ‘I support Paidika and enjoy working with the editors of this special issue’ (Califa 1994). Sixty-odd pages later he wrote, ‘The bottom can be shaved. A razor removes the pelt that warms and conceals. My lover/slave has her cunt shaved. It reminds her that I own her genitals and reinforces her role as my child and property’ (Califa 1994). In 1993, Patrick Califa carved a swastika into a woman’s arm.”

    This is “pro-sex” and “positive sexuality”, two of the biggest names in the business (and it is a business, not a civil rights movement) gloating about masterbating to women’s tellings of their rapes, childfucking, infantilizing adult women and carving anything into a woman’s arm? This is what misguided feminists who think they’re being sexily openminded promote without even truly knowing what they’re aligning themselves with when they say Bright and Califa offer alternatives to the dominant model of masculine sexuality. Looks like the same old, same old to me, but don’t color me shocked these darlings of the porn pimps find violent sex the most gratifying kind.

  32. 32
    Sheena says:

    Ampersand:

    “First of all, there was indeed a split in feminism over the issue of porn, and specifically over the issue of the proposed MacKinnon/Dworkin ordinance. It’s not just something I “claim”? happens; it’s something that literally hundreds of feminists who were there in the 80s have written about, from both sides of the split.”

    But if the split happened, why are the anti-porn people most likely to be blamed for it? Why not the non-anti-porn people?

  33. 33
    alsis38.9 says:

    mythago wrote:

    “…I find it very interesting that many of the self labelled ‘sex-positive’ pro-porn feminists are queer”“Susie Bright, Patrick Califia-Rice, Nina Hartley. And there’s more than a little of the ‘yuck, pussy’ heterophobia of some straight women in the anti-porn wing…”

    [raises eyebrow]

    http://www.thebody.com/kaiser/2004/jun7_04/porn_industry_hiv.html

    “…Adult film actress Nina Hartley said that a mandatory condom use policy would be “unenforceable” and performers who wish to use condoms can turn down films requiring unprotected sex…”

    [rolleyes]

    Others can correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the gay porn industry has successfully enforced a condom-only policy for years now. We live in a strange world indeed when a woman who makes millions off “pussy” can be hailed as a champion for trashing policies that would help other “pussies” stay free of AIDS.

    One feminist I know called Hartley porn’s answer to Dick Cheney, and that sounds pretty on the mark to me. What a rancid stew of social-Darwinist horseshit and pathetic, backward stereotypes so much of this “pro-sex” shit is. But, what the hell– Samantha is right: What mythago’s acusation of homophobia lacks in coherency it more than makes up for in novelty. Usually, women who don’t like the porn industry just get acused of being fronts for bible-thumpers. Whoop-de-fucking-doo !!

  34. [b]Amp: You’re talking about Schlafly’s use of the churches as if it were an old, established technique at the time. It wasn’t – one of the things some political scientists admire Schlafly for is that she was very innovative in showing that the churches could be mobalized and used for right-wing political organization. Arguably, the techniques she helped innovate were essential to the entire rise of the right-wing fundimentalists as a political force since that time.[/b]

    Amp, you and whatever political scientists you’re reading are wrong, and you’re all wrong in the way the Right hoped you would be.

    It was conservative Richard Viguerie who, in the 60s, pioneered the concept of direct mailings, PACs and conservative coalition-building and who was hence either “responsible” or “to blame”, depending on your perspective, for the turn the country took to the Right. In his own words, Viguerie says:

    “Without direct mail, we might have no National Review, no Human Events, no Conservative Digest, no conservative PACs, no effective organizations in Right to Work, Right to Life, pro-gun, anti-busing, national defense, pro-family, no large national conservative organizations and youth training.

    You can think of direct mail as our TV, radio, daily newspaper and weekly magazine.”

    Phyllis Shlafly was a useful cog in the machine that Richard Viguerie (and a few others) built, available in the right place at the right time. They needed a woman to head up the opposition to feminism and the ERA, that suited their purposes *much* better than any man would have, and Schlafly was simply the perfect shill: six kids. Not unattractive. An attorney, yet happily deferential to the good ol’ boys. Not overly ambitious. Content to stay in her place and to urge all women to stay in their rightful places.

    [b] she was the Organizing a nationwide political campaign is not easy, and not something an idiot can do.[/b]

    It’s not at all difficult, when everything is in place, and all you have to do is step up to the plate when it’s your turn and let those with the money, the influence, and the power promote you and support you and “coalition” with you. Viguerie and his cohorts, by way of direct mail, mostly, coalition building, and PACs created the right-wing behemoth that has swallowed this country. Don’t blame that on Schlafly. That’s what they want you to do, you know? Which is what I mean when I say you and the political scientists you read are wrong in the way the Right hoped you would be.

    Heart

  35. And there’s more than a little of the ‘yuck, pussy’ heterophobia of some straight women in the anti-porn wing…”?

    This is novel, huh. Heh heh. Someone who hasn’t yet figured out that we are all man-hating lesbians.

    As to “yuck, p****,” some of us recall the committed pronster who called himself a feminist because he possessed a NOW membership card, kinda like calling yourself a car because you are sitting in the garage, and who thought a good and convincing argument for porn was that it enabled him to overcome his lifelong revulsion towards women’s genitalia.

    Heart

  36. 36
    Julian Elson says:

    Amazing how these threads come back from the dead. Well, that’s one of the joys of Alas.

    I’m just curious how y’all feel about works created without living actors: for example, erotic stories, hentai cartoons, and furry porn. What about if these don’t just portray consensual sex, but, for instance, pederastry? Also, how do you feel if money is taken out of the equation? For example, if a woman makes a film of herself masturbating, and distributes it across file-sharing networks without charging any money for it.

    I think one underpersued angle in this debate is what pornography consumers can do to hold the industry responsible for better work conditions. Most people seem to think that pornography is intrinsically bad, that it’s all protected free speech, or that it’s a matter of work conditions but responsibility for improving work conditions lies with either the workers, who should organize better, or the government, which should regulate better. Thinking about other industries though, consumers do have some power, if not to force the entire industry to conform to their standards, at least to create a niche of the industry which reliably has good conditions (not exactly sweep aspirations, I know).

    For example, when poultry consumers insist that chickens be treated better than they are at confined-feeding operations, free-range operations can sell to poultry consumers. When consumers are concerned about use of forced labor in Chinese textile operations, business can create textile suppliers which don’t produce their products with Chinese force labor. I wonder if there could be a parallel here for pornography, or possibly even other types of sex work.

    I’ve been thinking that someone should put together a guide on what customers who enjoy pornography, strip clubs, and possibly prostitution can do to avoid supporting abuse, etc, along the lines of “how to be an ethical pornfiend/john.” Perhaps someone’s done it already and I just didn’t know.

  37. For those who are interested, I’ve posted more back and forth between Aura Bogado and Susie Bright as well as the entire, unedited interview of Susie Bright by Mark Cromer of Hustler and more interesting discussion culled from various places. The publishing of the unedited transcript evidences what happens to women who shill for the pornography industry, for patriarchy, period. Susie Bright did the rough equivalent of a tap dance in black face on the table, a la Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, in that interview for Hustler, then later suggested, when the shit hit the fan, that they had misrepresented her in the edited version. Which bought her nothing, because Hustler didn’t, in fact, misrepresent her. The unedited version is more pathetic than the edited version.

    Honesty. Dignity. Integrity. Discuss.

    http://www.gentlespirit.com/margins/Feminism1/434.html

    Not In Our Name has apologized to Aura Bogado. That apology is also posted to the above thread.

    Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff
    Heart
    The Margins
    http://www.gentlespirit.com/margins

  38. 38
    ginmar says:

    I think it’s interesting who apologizes and who doesn’t; some people, like Susie Bright, just get defensive. If, after all, your freedom depends on the continued commercialization of other womens’ bodies, how can that be freedom?

  39. 39
    BritGirlSF says:

    Anyone who thinks that it’s a good idea for the left to make alliaces with pron producers might want to take note of the comments made by one of the editors at Hustler
    “When Hustler recently interviewed Bogado’s compatriot Prof. Robert Jensen,
    he too went to great lengths to disavow government censorship. Yet parsing
    his carefully crafted comments, it was revealed that he opposes government
    censorship largely because it doesn’t work. Bogado makes the same statement,
    noting ‘porn’ would go underground if attacked…hardly a ringing endorsement
    of free speech. Jensen supports new legislation, in fact, that would codify a causality
    (never clinically established) between depictions of explicit sex (heterosexual sex
    only, of course) and RAPE!, legislation that would allow alleged victims to sue
    manufacturers of porn for damages. Jensen, Dworkin and (I am sure) Bogado
    want to subject movie-makers and magazine publishers and Internet content
    providers to the same death-by-litigation tactic that has been used against Big
    Tobacco and gun manufacturers. ”
    Even for those who are not concerned by the fact that this guy appears to consider rape to be a joke/absurdity, does anyone one the left really want to be associate with people who feel sorry for Big Tobacco and gun manufacturers? Intersting that he makes the connection between his own business and those other charming industries all by himself (no one else brought either of them up).
    These people are not our friends. Even if you have no problem with the idea of porn per se, most of the people who make and distribute it right now are pond scum, and hyper-capitalist pond scum at that. I bear no resemblance to the anti-male, sex-hating strawman that Flynt and co. like to conjure up (hey, I used to hang out in S&M clubs), but I don’t want to be part of any group that would have Larry Flynt or Max Hardcore as members.

  40. 40
    mythago says:

    As to “yuck, p****,”? some of us recall the committed pronster who called himself a feminist because he possessed a NOW membership card, kinda like calling yourself a car because you are sitting in the garage, and who thought a good and convincing argument for porn was that it enabled him to overcome his lifelong revulsion towards women’s genitalia.

    You know, I’ve read this twice now, and I still don’t get it as a counterpoint. “Being a member of NOW doesn’t mean you’re a feminist”–duh. What this has to do with straight women not wanting to look at other women’s bodies, I dunno.

    “…Adult film actress Nina Hartley said that a mandatory condom use policy would be “unenforceable”? and performers who wish to use condoms can turn down films requiring unprotected sex…”?

    What does this have to do with her being queer? Oh, right–any feminist who isn’t 100% anti-porn is either stupid or a sellout. I forgot.

  41. 41
    alsis39 says:

    Errr… I spent five years in art school, mythago. It really would have been a hell of a lot harder if I hadn’t been able to stand the sight of females without clothes. It would have put quite a crimp in some of my relationships with other women as well.

    My sampling about the charming social-Darwinist blatherings of Hartley was meant to point out that it’s rather weird for you to speculate about het women who don’t dig porn not liking pussy– even as one of the poster children for the “rah-rah-porno” movement makes millions by coldly dismissing the right of other women to protect their own pussies from AIDS. So who despises females and their genitals more ? Hartley, or this mythical pussy-hating anti-porn hetero straw-woman you felt compelled to trot out ?

    I never acused you of being stupid or a sell-out, mythago. I just don’t care for the implication that I hate women’s bodies and genitals just because I don’t want to throw more $$$ into an amoral business’es already-overflowing coffers. It’s not women’s bodies that are immoral. It’s the way the industry sneers at them, uses them up and throws them away that’s immoral.

  42. 42
    g says:

    “Note that every single goddamned one of them talks only about GIRLS performing on porn. Not one of them even acknowledges the possibility that women mighty like to look at men, or that men’s clothes aren’t welded on.”

    Finally, someone else who’s noticed that. There’s so many idiots like Susan Brison (the one who compared porn to the Abu Ghraib Tortures) who seem to display absolutely no understanding of how fetishes or kinks work, and that fail to acknowledge that adults who enjoy harder stuff like rape kinks can distinguish between the fantasy element from reality. It’s like gay porn doesn’t exist to them, or heaven forbid someone with an exhibitionism fetish produce porn, or (gasp) women might enjoy porn.