actually no, consensual feminist porn is a conceptually incoherent waste of time

If feminists tried half as hard to do something about porn as they do defending it, social norms might’ve started shifting by now. A recent example of someone being perniciously wrong is Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff’s defense of porn here: Why feminists should be the first to praise ethical porn.

Feminists should be the first to admit that it’s sad when porn substitutes for human affection, every single time.

Sex is a hard thing to describe well. It’s why each year since 1993, the Bad Sex in Fiction Award has strived to recognise the cringeworthy sex scenes that dominate the pages of otherwise fine literary works. It’s why the descriptions in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy have been so widely mocked (“‘I like your kinky fuckery,’ I whisper”).

Porn, meanwhile, the stigmatised sister of your everyday sexual encounter, seems yet to have received the regular literary treatment it deserves. Anti-porn activists are intent on portraying the industry as brutal and exploitative. Which ultimately does more harm than good.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, another vocal feminist completely unfamiliar with the contents of Andrea Dworkin’s writing. All of Intercourse consists of literary criticism. Pornography has the following passage about Sade:

Donatie-Alphonse-Francois de Sade–known as the Marquis de Sade, known to his ardent admirers who are legion as The Divine Marquis–is the world’s foremost pornographer. As such he both embodies and defines male sexual values. In him, one finds rapist and writer twisted into one scurvy knot. His life and writing were of a piece, a whole cloth soaked in the blood of women imagined and real. In his life he tortured and raped women. He was batterer, rapist, kidnapper, and child abuser. In his work he relentlessly celebrated brutality as the essence of eroticism; fucking, torture, and killing were fused; violence and sex, synonymous. His work and legend have survived nearly two centuries because literary, artistic, and intellectual men adore him and political thinkers on the Left claim him as an avatar of freedom. Sainte-Beuve named Sade and Byron as the two most significant sources of inspiration for the original and great male writers who followed them. Baudelaire, Flaubert, Swinburne, Lautreamont, Dostoevsky, Cocteau, and Apollinaire among others found in Sade what Paul Tillich, another devotee of pornography, might have called “the courage to be.” Simone de Beauvoir published a long apologia for Sade. Camus, who unlike Sade had an aversion to murder, romanticized Sade as one who had mounted “the great offense against a hostile heaven” and was possibly “the first theoretician of absolute rebellion.” Roland Barthes wallowed in the tiniest details of Sade’s crimes, those committed in life as well as on paper. Sade is a precursor to Artaud’s theater of cruelty, Nietzsche’s will to power, and the rapist frenzy of William Burroughs…Sade’s cultural influence on all levels is pervasive. His ethic–the absolute right of men to rape and brutalize “any object of desire” at will–resonates in every sphere.

Calling porn the “stigmatized sister of your everyday sexual encounter” is totally disingenuous.

The word pornography, derived from the ancient Greek porne and graphos, means “writing about whores.” Porne means “whore,” specifically and exclusively the lowest class of whore, which in ancient Greece was the brothel slut available to all male citizens. The porne was the cheapest (in the literal sense), least regarded, least protected of all women, including slaves. She was, simply and clearly and absolutely, a sexual slave. Graphos means “writing, etching, or drawing.”

The word pornography does not mean “writing about sex” or “depictions of the erotic” or “depictions of sexual acts” or “depictions of nude bodies” or “sexual representations” or any other such euphemism. It means the graphic depiction of women as vile whores. In ancient Greece, not all prostitutes were considered vile: only the porneia.

Contemporary pornography strictly and literally conforms to the word’s root meaning: the graphic depiction of vile whores, or, in our language, sluts, cows (as in: sexual cattle, sexual chattel), cunts. The word has not changed its meaning and the genre is not misnamed. The only change in the meaning of the word is with respect to its second part, graphos: now there are cameras–there is still photography, film, video…

The word pornography does not have any other meaning than the one cited here, the graphic depiction of the lowest whores. Whores exist to serve men sexually. Whores exist only within a framework of male sexual domination. Indeed, outside that framework the notion of whores would be absurd and the usage of women as whores would be impossible. The word whore is incomprehensible unless one is immersed in the lexicon of male domination. Men have created the group, the type, the concept, the epithet, the insult, the industry, the trade, the commodity, the reality of woman as whore. Women as whores exist within the objective and real system of male sexual domination. The pornography itself is objective and real and central to the male sexual system…

The fact that pornography is widely believed to be “sexual representations” or “depictions of sex” emphasizes only that the valuation of women as low whores is widespread and that the sexuality of women is perceived as low and whorish in itself. The fact that pornography is widely believed to be “depictions of the erotic” means only that the debasing of women is held to be the real pleasure of sex. As Kate Millet wrote, women’s sexuality is reduced to the one essential: “cunt…our essence, our offense.” The idea that pornography is “dirty” originates in the conviction that the sexuality of women is dirty and is actually portrayed in pornography; that women’s bodies (especially women’s genitals) are dirty and lewd in themselves. Pornography does not, as some claim, refute the idea that female sexuality is dirty: instead, pornography embodies and exploits this idea; pornography sells and promotes it.

This is absurd:

In view of the recent deaths of five female porn performers in three months, the language that some of these activists use is profoundly dehumanising. “You get up, you’re covered in five men’s semen, every single orifice is sore and red-raw, and the next day you have to get up and do the same thing again, and you have to pretend you like it, and you know that men are jerking off to that image,” writes Gail Dines, an anti-porn feminist and the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, describing the aftermath of a sex scene. “It’s an unbearable emotional experience.”

It’s just as stupid as the idea that being accused of racism is worse than being racist. What Gail Dines wrote there is the truth and everybody knows it.

Dines has never filmed a sex scene and, she concedes, struggles to speak to female porn performers. Her approach is calculated. Yet one understands why such language is used by anti-porn feminists: it’s shocking and visceral. For many women, after reading it, support for the industry is unthinkable.

“Surely you should try something before you say that it’s bad.”

Brinkhurst-Cuff’s problem with Dines is precisel that honest descriptions turn people off of her pro-porn bullshit.

Yet these descriptions are deceptive: they deny agency to the women involved. At a debate at the University of Cambridge in 2011, the US sex academic Jessi Fischer pointed out that during the event, Dines spoke of “gagging… ejaculate covering their hair… fuckholes… cumdumpsters… sluts… whores”.

She went on: “If there was an award that night for the most profanity-laced speech, Dines would have won in a landslide. The award for most angry would have also been hers for the taking.”

There is nothing wrong with being an angry feminist. But by using such language, anti-porn feminists infantilise and degrade the women working in an already maligned industry. One walks away not with greater empathy for the performers themselves, but with the idea that there must be something “wrong” or “broken” about them.

Yet performers in porn are not “damaged goods”: this hypothesis has been repeatedly exposed as false. Performers themselves state that the pressure they face from those outside the industry is often a greater concern than how they are treated within it.

LOL she’s offended that Gail Dines basically said porn titles out loud. She can’t actually look at what she’s defending.

The lie behind this rhetoric is the idea that niche porn for people in denial, made by women in denial, will change “whore” from an epithet to a positive identity. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

There are serious issues in relation to consent and the treatment of women in porn (including abuse and coercion, child abuse and trafficking). But having researched the topic while investigating the deaths of porn performers Olivia Lua, Olivia Nova, Shyla Stylez, August Ames and Yuri Luv, I fall firmly on the side of pro-sex feminists who oppose the banning of pornography.

For me, what we need is ethical, consensual feminist porn. It can and does exist – and we need to see more of it.

It’s very revealing that this isn’t an argument. Also, I’m gonna need to see this “feminist” porn myself, because I highly doubt it’s as uplifting to the human condition as advertised.

This can be achieved only if women are empowered and supported within the industry, rather than being made to feel ashamed about their jobs. And language plays a crucial role. We should be seeking out books such as Coming Out like a Porn Star by Jiz Lee, A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography by Mireille Miller-Young and The Feminist Porn Book, which includes writing from scholars and those in the industry.

We should be seeking out books by Andrea Dworkin that explained all this a million years ago.

This is the specific sexual value of the black woman in pornography in the United States, a race-bound societ fanatically committed to the sexual devaluing of black skin perceived as a sex organ and a sexual nature. No woman of any other race bears this specific burden in this country. In no other woman is skin sex, cunt in and of itself–her essence, her offense. This meaning of the black woman’s skin is revealed in the historical usage of her, even as it developed from the historical usage of her. This valuation of the black woman is real, especially vivid in urban areas where she is used as a street whore extravagantly and without conscience. Poverty forces her; but it is the sexual valuation of her skin that predetermines her poverty and permits the simple, righteous use of her as a whore.

How, then, does one fight racism and jer off to it at the same time? The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too. The imperial United States cannot maintain its racist system without its black whores, its bottom, the carnal underclass. The sexualization of race within a racist system is a prime purpose and consequence of pornography. In using the black woman, pornography depicts the whore by depicting her skin; in using the pornography, men spit on her sex and her skin. Here the relationship of sex and death could not be clearer: this sexual use of the black woman is the death of freedom, the death of justice, the death of equality.

Why is Brinkhurst-Cuff, a black woman, so invested in defending this shit?

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