Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Ouch.

So. Yesterday, I discovered that my dear, darling husband, hereafter referred to as "Sweetie," had been looking at pornography online.

Yipes.

He and I had never really discussed porn, and after a long, tearful, and exhausting talk last night, he sees where I'm coming from. He really is very sweet, though he's one of those who doesn't see his entitlement and its attending innocence. I gave him this article to read, which is a pretty good porn primer for the radfem-curious. Anyway, I thought I might share some of my talking points for any of y'all who have to school their friends and neighbors on the evils of porn:

* This is a picture of a real person, who exists for her own purposes. Her decision to pose nude had nothing to do with you. She did not do it to please you, or because she likes you, or to turn you on. She did it for her own reasons, which probably include paying the rent, feeding her children, and/or not having the crap beaten out of her.

* Even if she thinks she wants to pose nude, why does she think that this is an appropriate way for her to display herself? Why does she see herself as a sex object?

* When this woman poses as a sex object, she is reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class. When you look at pictures of her posed as a sex object, you are reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class.

* Most women who work in the sex trade do so because it's the only way they can make enough money to support themselves. This raises the question: Why should this be the only way she can make enough money to support herself?

* What makes you think you have the right to look at these women when they don't have any clothes on? Before you say, "They volunteered," imagine this scenario: You and I are walking down the street. You say you are tired, so I get down on my hands and knees and offer to carry you on my back. I tell you I am pleased to do it. Is it right for you to sit on my back and let me carry you? Just because someone invites you to degrade them doesn't make it alright to do it.

There was more, but that's the gist. All this was before my big discussion of the socially constructed nature of gender, around which he's still trying to wrap his mind. He's coming along, though.

6 comments:

witchy-woo said...

Bearing in mind the brain numbing fury and heartbreak a discovery such as yours can induce Bitey, I think this post is a fab idea. It's an excellent marshalling of some of the arguments that can be so hard to articulate at the time when they'd be most appropriate. As such, it'll be a valuable resourse for others who find themselves faced with a similar discovery.

I shall be pointing such people in this direction. Thank you :)

Bitey said...

Yeah, I was really mad. Fortunately, Sweetie was at work at the time, so I had a few hours to get my thoughts together. Even so, it was a good three days before I could look him in the eye.

pisaquari said...

Oh yes have I been through this before with multiple relationships. Some guys will change the behavior and some don't. For what it's worth, it sounds like he handled himself well in the confrontation--but a small suggestion (not to scare you): I'd keep an eye on the computer for a while. I've had to catch the lie at least twice with each of my past bf's before anything would change.
Thanks for sharing your story!

James said...

Hi Bitey. Thanks for the heads-up on your blog. Some comments:

You wrote:
"When this woman poses as a sex object, she is reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class. When you look at pictures of her posed as a sex object, you are reinforcing the conception of women as members of the sex class."

So, a theoretical Q for you: if Sweetie balances out his viewing of female-subject porn with male-subject porn (and why don't we throw some tranny stuff in there too, just to be fair), does that make it okay? I mean, then he's not really reinforcing the idea of women specifically as members of a sex class, right? Right?

Also, one might object (if one were so inclined) to your conflation of the "sex trade" with online pornography. Such a conflation elides important differences between, say, a crack whore forced to physically engage in sexual acts, and a woman who sells access to her image without actually engaging in any physical contact. Not that I am necessarily defending either practice here; I merely wish to point out that, to the extent that some of your arguments rely on equating Internet pornography with a sex trade that involves actual physical sex acts, they might be seen as logically flawed or untenable.

Finally, you wrote:
"Even if she thinks she wants to pose nude, why does she think that this is an appropriate way for her to display herself? Why does she see herself as a sex object?"

What makes you think that it is not an appropriate way to display herself? What makes you think that we're not all sex objects (though not necessarily merely or only sex objects)?

Anyway, great blog--especially for a girl. (Okay, I'm just kidding with that last bit. Really.)

Bitey said...

Hey, James! Nice to hear from you. :-)

"So, a theoretical Q for you: if Sweetie balances out his viewing of female-subject porn with male-subject porn (and why don't we throw some tranny stuff in there too, just to be fair), does that make it okay? I mean, then he's not really reinforcing the idea of women specifically as members of a sex class, right? Right?"

I see the point of your question, but I think your theoretical situation is a little too theoretical, and I'm not sure how to address it. I suppose that in order for things to balance out, balance would have to be possible. Our culture is utterly saturated with images and conceptions of women as sex objects. There are certainly some depictions of men as sex objects, but even those reinforce gender stereotypes. "Ooh, baby," we're meant to say, "I'd like to submit to him." Now, if you're talking about gay porn, I have to admit that I don't know much about it, and I certainly don't understand the dynamics well enough to discuss it.

Besides, you're using the word "subject" differently from how I would use it. You're using it the way it's used in art, where the subject is the person or thing portrayed. In this case, I would use "subject" in terms of a subject-object relationship, in which those in the audience are the subjects and those portrayed are the objects. I think we can agree that the understood subject of pornography is male. Whether the objects are male or female, they are still being objectified by men. If men are conditioned to view sex as a subject-object relationship, and additionally to view themselves as subjects, and if most men are heterosexual, they will view women as objects.

Did you read the article I linked to? It addresses this issue better than I can here.

"Also, one might object (if one were so inclined) to your conflation of the 'sex trade' with online pornography. Such a conflation elides important differences between, say, a crack whore forced to physically engage in sexual acts, and a woman who sells access to her image without actually engaging in any physical contact."

Yes, it does, but it also points up the similarities. The differences in the situations you mention are a matter of degree.

"What makes you think that it is not an appropriate way to display herself?"

No, you're not going to get out of that question just by turning it around on me. Think of my question another way: Why do so many women feel like they can't leave the house without at least a little makeup? Seriously. I don't want an answer to this question. I just want you to think really hard about it.

"What makes you think that we're not all sex objects (though not necessarily merely or only sex objects)?"

What I'm saying is that women are primarily sex objects. Any other aspect of our identity is secondary.

"Anyway, great blog--especially for a girl."

Ass.

James said...

Bitey wrote:
"What I'm saying is that women are primarily sex objects. Any other aspect of our identity is secondary."

Oh, okay--I can agree with you there.

Oh, wait -- are you saying this is a bad thing?

Sorry, couldn't resist. More (serious) stuff later.