Friday, November 4

This horse ain't dead yet

So I'm going to beat it some more.

A.C. Kleinheider raised some interesting points in the comments of my porn post, but there's one I feel the need to refute on this main page:
 
Both (erotica and porn) are unrealistic sexual crutches that are easily stashable under the bed.


Sex toys would seem to exacerbate this. The tendency would be to get toys larger than the average man and no man's tongue or genitals can quite keep the same pace as a vibrator.


How is this all that different than guys getting hooked on masturbating to porn images of young submissives with big artifical boobs and an unrealistically small waists.


A.C., you kind of prove my point here: Commodifying women's sexuality is so flippantly and thoughtlessly and eagerly done that we are often blinded to the obvious implications for real women and our standing in society. I mean, I see a huge difference between supplementing sex with a vibrator and "getting hooked on masturbating to porn images of young submissives with big artifical boobs and an unrealistically small waists." And the difference is in the objectification: objectification of an object versus objectification of a person (albeit a person who might be offering herself up for objectification). And while we all objectify people and like to be objectified sometimes (I think some objectification is an inherent part of sex, sadly enough, and, like I said, porn stars and strippers make their living offering themselves up as objects), where this starts to turn sour is when society decides that the porn brand of women's sexuality is the standard. When that happens, young girls learn that offering themselves up as objects is the best and only way to gain attention and respect and sexual fulfillment (which only comes through the sexual jollies of the men ogling them). Then we get to a point where (and I would argue we're there now) women's sexuality is only acknowledged as important when it gains men's attention. The woman and her desires/needs are removed from the equation. She exists to gratify men.
 
And, after thinking about it incessantly all day, I think it's safe to say that a lot of what drives my aversion to porn is that I'm an art snob. Pure and simple. I don't see any artistic redemption in porn; it exists solely for titillation, and I find it to lack value for the society at large. Where I see beauty and creativity in the wordplay of erotic literature and the careful composition of erotic photography, I see obsessive-compulsive adolescent fetishizing of anatomy and anatomical functions in porn. Not to mention bad acting that can't even be stretched to qualify as camp. This, of course, is on top of how I feel about the issues of representation and disposable, convenient sexuality I discussed before. I don't know if being an art snob strengthens or weakens my argument; my guess is it doesn't much matter. It's just an interesting side note.
 
The obvious question here is why do I devalue things that exist solely for titillation? I mean, I very much value things that exist solely for their comedy. Why do I feel titillation is inherently less valuable? I don't know. Maybe I like not feeling like a horny monkey all the time. Who knows?

And I would be remiss to point out a few things about Playboy and its illustrious founder, the velvet-robed Hugh Hefner. My Playboy history is cribbed from the book that started this whole porn discussion. So if there are any Playboy historians out there who see errors, by all means, let me know.

It's weird — Playboy started out arm in arm with feminists. Hef said his magazine was fighting "our ferocious antisexuality, our dark antieroticism." He donated tons of money to NOW, the ERA movement, Roe, and other feminist causes. His magazine and feminists of the time had something in common: A distaste for repressive laws and rigidly conventional family and domestic arrangements.

But Hefner and the feminist movement split once he began saying stupid shit like, "I do not looks for equality between man and woman. I like innocent, affectionate, faithful girls," referring, presumably, to his brood of blondes on whom he imposes curfews. He has also said that private detectives would find out if his Playmates accepted dates, which would cost them their jobs. Liberation indeed.

But what about when he wants to talk about other things than how the women around him can make his impotent ass feel better about himself? "Socially, mentally, I enjoy more being with men. When I want to speak, to think, I stay with men."

And here's what he said when asked why he chose a bunny as Playboy's symbol:

"I chose it because it's a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping — sexy. First it smells you, then it escapes, then it comes back, and you feel like carressing it, playing with it. A girl resembles a bunny. Joyful, joking. Consider the kind of girl that we made popular: the Playmate of the Month. She is never sophisticated, a girl you cannot really have. She is a young, healthy, simple girl—the girl next door ... we are not interested in the mysterious, difficult woman, the femme fatale, who wears elegant underwear, with lace, and she is sad, and somehow mentally filthy. The Playboy girl has no lace, no underwear, she is naked, well-washed with soap and water, and she is happy."

Sounds to me like maybe Hef should have just started a bunny porn magazine. Or Creepy Metaphor Monthly or something.

Still, Hef doesn't understand why many feminists are uncomfortable with what he says and does. And young girls and grown women alike buy underwear and shirts and necklaces and all sorts of crapola with the Playboy bunny emblazoned all over it. And you know what? Hef's daughter is the CEO of the company. A woman in a powerful position, propagating the legacy of a man who has disingenuously claimed to work toward women's liberation and equality. Talk about complicating the issue. 

But, men, doesn't knowing this history of the man and his magazine taint (pun sort of intended) it just a little bit? Or does the sight of supple young flesh trump all other moral and ethical concerns that might creep into your psyche if you think about it too hard?

Yeah, that's what I thought. Damn.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kleinheider said...

Commodifying women's sexuality is so flippantly and thoughtlessly and eagerly done that we are often blinded to the obvious implications for real women and our standing in society.

Well, I don't know if you meant me, but it was not my intention to be flippant. I am not blind to the effect porn (and it's mentality seeping into maintream culture) has on women. You had pretty much covered all that I was just pointing out something (I thought) related and semi-analogous.

I mean, I see a huge difference between supplementing sex with a vibrator and "getting hooked on masturbating to porn images of young submissives with big artifical boobs and an unrealistically small waists."

There is certainly a difference. I wouldn't call it huge in this respect: the detrimental effects on the party viewing the porn or reading the erotica and using the vibrator are similar. Both are desensitizing to the user -- mentally, emotionally, and physically. Both affect interpersonal sexual relationships btw men and women for the worse.

However, the effect of visual porn on the other sex, women, is more pronounced than the effect of vibes and erotica on men because of the visual nature and its effect on mass culture. I still maintain that on an individual/relationship level both can be hurtful to healthy sex and expectations.

And the difference is in the objectification: objectification of an object versus objectification of a person (albeit a person who might be offering herself up for objectification). And while we all objectify people and like to be objectified sometimes (I think some objectification is an inherent part of sex, sadly enough, and, like I said, porn stars and strippers make their living offering themselves up as objects), where this starts to turn sour is when society decides that the porn brand of women's sexuality is the standard. When that happens, young girls learn that offering themselves up as objects is the best and only way to gain attention and respect and sexual fulfillment (which only comes through the sexual jollies of the men ogling them). Then we get to a point where (and I would argue we're there now) women's sexuality is only acknowledged as important when it gains men's attention. The woman and her desires/needs are removed from the equation. She exists to gratify men.

Absolutely, the difference is greater in this respect as I said. Culturally, objectification of women's bodies causes a myriad of problems for women and young girls.

That is not to say that objectification of men does not exist, however. One, I think outwardly expressed objectification of men's bodies is on the rise (I would also note that I think this was always done to some respect, we men just didn't hear about it).

Two, men and women are different so the objectification is different. We tend objectify "beauty" (or the pornified ideal of beauty). Whereas women tend to objectify men through their money and power. This can be just as undermining.

Women who do not live up to the "ideal" tend to get depressed or debase themselves in order compensate. Men who lack money and power find them in a similar, though not directly analogous position.

Fri Nov 04, 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Yes, men are objectified, but allow me to invoke Aunt B's Rule here. Hopefully she won't mind.

Let's not forget the context in which we're talking about objectification and the role male power plays into this:

Women have traditionally been thought of as property of men, as objects to be traded between fathers and sons-in-law. And women have traditionally, because of institutionalized power imbalances, come to rely on their looks and their sexuality as their main source of power, because that's what society has deemed valuable about women.

Women in our society today still struggle against people who seek to own and control them through imposing restrictions on their bodies and what they do with them.

So ownership of our own bodies is something that women have been struggling to claim for a long time. And we have made a lot of legal and economic gains, but a woman's sexuality still seems to be an area where we're stuck in a rut. There is a lot of stuff women think they're doing that shows they have agency over their bodies (the "raunch" stuff we've been talking about), but I question how that actually works and if it can be considered real progress, since it brings us back to where we started: women's sexuality as a show to curry favor, gain leverage with, or excite men.

Fri Nov 04, 10:54:00 PM  

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