on pornography and submission to bullies

After conservative Ross Douthat called for a porn ban, feminist Christina Cauterucci issued a rebuttal. I’ll be commenting on what she said, but first I want to quote some satire from Reductress.

After nearly four decades of extensive research, scientists made a shocking discovery. Contrary to previous direction from medical professionals around the world, researchers have now concluded that men who are critical of women’s bodies actually do not deserve to be fucked in any way, shape, or form.

“At first, it was assumed that fucking these men was acceptable,” explains Dr. Rita Salmon, who began the prospective observational study at Columbia University in 1971. “But after further investigation, it turns out that nahhh. Nope. No way. Not even a little bit.”

According to the study, any man that comments on a woman’s shape, negs a woman at a bar, or catcalls her and then takes it back when he gets rejected actually does not deserve sex. In fact, the study made it clear that no one should suck on any part of them right now, or ever again if they continue saying things like, “You’d be exactly my type if you were smaller.”

“No, the data says these guys should not receive any good fucks,” continued Dr. Salmon. “Or bad ones honestly. BJs, HJs, butthole stuff. Scientifically, the only thing they deserve is a scoff, a sneer, and a lecture.”

This is satire because people are still fucking those guys.

It shouldn’t be necessary to ban porn. If women decided that misogyny disqualified men from sex, how could there be porn?

Christina Cauterucci disagrees.

Every few months, some public figure comes up with the brilliant idea that porn is bad for women. They worry that teens will never have normal, pleasurable sex if all they watch is gang-bangs, that porn allows misogyny to sustain and replicate itself, and that women learn to be aroused by their own degradation when they see ejaculatory “facials” onscreen.

None of these arguments are exactly wrong. All things considered, the porn industry as it currently exists probably makes real-life sex worse than, say, a porn landscape that only models loving, gentle relationships would. But every time a porn pushback—and the attendant pushback-to-the-pushback—begins, actual facts about the industry and teenage sexual behavior get lost in the ahistorical wailing of activists who aren’t concerned about women’s well-being or sexual fulfillment at all.

None of those arguments are wrong, and Cauterucci doesn’t give a shit. If she’s not against things like “replicating misogyny” and training teenage girls to expect and ask for degradation, what is feminism even about?

I’ve explained elsewhere that sex-negative sex is better. Notice that she’s conflating “women’s wellbeing or sexual fulfillment” with supporting pornography.

This is not a holier-than-though purity contest. It’s a question of ideals that we try to approach asymptotically. That’s the point of a utopia. In the world we really want, where love happens regularly, would people be lonely enough to need porn? Would people have traumas to act out in BDSM? Would people relate to each other as objects?

Andrea Dworkin noted that the First Amendment was written by slave traders.

Both Habib and Douthat are wrong to believe that the U.S. could or would ever ban, or even heavily restrict, pornography. U.S. free-speech law gives adult-media makers a wide berth to create and disseminate to consenting adults nearly any pornographic content they can dream up. Even so far as the Supreme Court leans conservative, its justices are unlikely to allow regulations passed to curb personal and commercial expression that causes no easily traceable public harm.

This is one reason why the only movements against porn in U.S. have been marginal and quickly quashed. Consider one of the most famous feminist anti-porn activists, Andrea Dworkin, whose legislative efforts in the ‘80s fell flat when her law declaring pornography a civil rights violation against women was deemed unconstitutional before it could spread beyond the city limits of Indianapolis. Most other anti-porn crusades have been religiously motivated, but have still failed where other pet causes of the Christian right—abortion and LGBTQ rights, for instance—have succeeded. In Utah, one of the most conservative and religious states in the union, the best the legislature has been able to do on pornography is to issue a nonbinding resolution declaring it a “public health crisis” that makes men more likely to cheat and less likely to want to marry, a concern Douthat echoes in his op-ed.

If a government agency can record the whole internet, do you think they could filter it, too?

No, making porn illegal wouldn’t eradicate it from the universe. Neither does making murder illegal. Everyone agrees it’s better that murder is illegal, yes? It’s something that we officially wish to discourage. When it suits the government, cultivating a cannabis plant in your own home in order to consume it yourself is an example of “interstate commerce.” Law is a means of exercising power. Does anybody believe “rule of law” describes our system of government? So why can’t people with feminist views have power and make the country suck less?

The other reason why the U.S. will never ban porn is that many, many, many people watch it. The people making laws, the people voting for people who make laws, even the people arguing for anti-porn laws—most of these people probably watch porn. It’s hard to get accurate data on porn viewership, for obvious reasons, but surveys have found that one in three women watch porn at least once a week, and that nearly two-thirds of men watch porn at least once a month. It would be impractical and unpopular to try to ban something that so many people want and use, uneventfully, on a regular basis.

Because that stopped the US from banning alcohol and cannabis and cocaine and LSD and…the list of scheduled substances is very long. As a result, advocating those substances puts you under scrutiny in a way that voting for Hillary Clinton doesn’t. The idea is to impose similar burdens on the porn industry.

Ending porn is not the end goal. Changing social conditions at a deep level is the end goal. Even Cauterucci concedes that it “replicates misogyny.” On a tactical level, we should oppose it for that reason alone. Feminism has a desire to win, yes?

The idea of being critical in general is to question “uneventful” things. Most people agree that the status quo of gender relations sucks, so “uneventful” is actually an indictment. They no longer have any way of knowing that any loveless touch is a violation.

More importantly, the arguments for banning pornography seem to be confused about the actual problem. Porn itself isn’t a social ill; misogyny is. Men don’t foist unlubricated anal sex on semi-willing women in porn in a vacuum. If porn narratives sublimate female desires and feature more choking than communication, it’s because they are a product of a culture that devalues women at every stage of their lives. Porn is not the only venue, or even the principal venue, in which men learn to demean women and women learn to accept mistreatment. Look to the White House, where multiple sitting and recently departed men, including the president, have been accused by multiple women of sexual and physical abuse, but continue to enjoy the privileges and powers of an administration beloved by rank-and-file Republicans.

Porn is not even the primary media disseminator of female degradation. Women’s subjectivity is lost in many mainstream films and television shows, which depict women through the eyes of male writers and directors, drop all interest in women once they turn 30, and only put a beautiful woman onscreen if she’s a love interest. One teen interviewed by Jones in her New York Times magazine piece cited Fifty Shades of Grey, a film in wide release, as an example of where he learned that women like to be dominated. Another mentioned a porn whose female protagonist “was bored by a man who approached sex gently but became ecstatic with a far more aggressive guy.” That tiresome trope is at least as old as Hollywood itself.

Another way of looking at it is that porn is the epitome of our culture, and it bleeds into everything to various degrees. “Pornification of culture.” If it more or less defines sexuality for everyone from a young age, that’ll be reflected in the culture’s entire sexuality. Sex-negative feminism would argue that this can and should be prevented.

The larger problem is twofold: Young women don’t have the confidence to demand what they want or the resources to help them learn about their own bodies, and young men don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable or exploring ways of feeling good that aren’t tied to humiliating women or submitting to hegemonic notions of masculinity. The solution to this problem begins with more discussions about sex, not less, and certainly not censorship. Affirmative consent, that crazy concept that asks sexual partners to discuss what sexual things they want to do before they do them, would seem to be a natural cause for Douthat and his ilk to pick up.

It’s a bit, dare I say, passive and feminine to note “hegemonic masculinity” and not try to do something about it. If women are being trained to get turned on by their own degradation, which she freely acknowledges, why would any man be dumb enough to respect her in bed like some kind of pussy? If only there were some way of intervening in the situation, so everyone wasn’t brainwashed to behave in this terrible way by pairing it with orgasm…

The whole idea of structural analysis is to develop insights that allow one to change behavior by changing social conditions, sort of like what the other side spends billions of dollars to do.

Ted Rall understands about fighting back.

On November 28, 2017, Trump tweeted: “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi canceled their scheduled meeting with Trump. “Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell and (House Speaker Paul) Ryan to meet this afternoon.”


Schumer and Pelosi were right to cancel — but not because of Trump’s stated pessimism about arriving at an agreement. They should have canceled because Trump insulted them. “Chuck and Nancy”? Really?

As Frederick Douglass said, people naturally have contempt for a person who won’t stand up for himself. Schumer and Pelosi should have fought back. They should have refused to let Trump big-dog them.

They could have taken the high road: “Until the President learns to address us politely, like an adult, using our proper titles and names — Senator Schumer, Representative Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader Pelosi — we Democrats will have no communications with him whatsoever.”

Or they could have gone the Ted Rall route: “We’re sorry, silly fat Orange Donald, that your mother didn’t raise you properly. Until you delete your Twitter account, apologize on TV and sign a contract agreeing to never darken social media again — oh, and no pussy grabbing either — you can go f— yourself.

Either way, they’d have to mean it. That would mean no more meetings, no more tolerating the president’s wanton rudeness. Total obstruction.

I know. It ain’t gonna happen. Democratic leaders obviously believe that they risk debasing themselves if they lower themselves to Trump’s rhetorical level. What they don’t get is that Trump is a bully. The only way to deal with a bully is with shock-and-awe brutality.

The debasement follows the insult. Your decision not to climb into the gutter with the bullying idiot may seem admirable — “when they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama said — but it allows your tormentor to cast you as a coward. When you allow the bully to insult you over and over and over, as Trump does to his enemies, you tacitly endorse their insults. Why, otherwise, do you tolerate disrespect?

Do you think the patriarchy became hegemonic by insisting it’s alright to film it getting fucked up the ass? Hell no.

On January 26, 2018, Trump was back at it — not that he ever took a break. “DACA has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!” Trump tweeted.

Imagine you were Chuck Schumer. You’re a U.S. senator. He’s been in Congress since 1974, when Trump was still making his name refusing to rent apartments to black people. Why, you might ask yourself, should I put with this patak who dares to give me a ridiculous nickname?

Four days later, here was Schumer, calling him “President Trump” and “the President.” WTF?

Why don’t feminists oppose porn on the grounds that it makes the patriarchy’s dick hard and the patriarchy can go DIAF? Why not do it out of spite? What is this chickenshit First Amendment deference to conservative justices or whatever? The idea of an enemy is to remove everything that gives it joy and sustains its positive sense of identity.