Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Pornography Stereotype

It occurs to me that when I make arguments about pornography, I'm usually thinking about the term in a way that is probably different than how most people think when they talk about pornography. In the popular lexicon, especially "informed" by certain branches of feminist thought, pornography is a highly profitable industry wherein perverted men force women to humiliate themselves for the gratification of other perverted men. This is not what I mean, at all, when I refer to pornography. I have never been involved in "commercial" or big industry pornography. I don't particularly have any desire to. And as a consumer, it doesn't even interest me very much, compared to the aesthetic discipline that concerns itself with erotic beauty. But when I think about pornography, I think about sexually explicit speech (since much, though not all, erotic art is not sexually explicit), usually in the context of a person celebrating their sexual agency in a way that, unlike private sex acts, can be shared with a mass of people. It's not about women being coerced and degraded, but about women (and men) celebrating their sexuality.

See, the difference is between looking at porn from the sex negative mindset - that porn is a tool of sex, which is a vice, that harms everyone that comes in contact with it - and looking at porn from a sex positive mindset - that it is a celebration of life and the sharing of pleasure, engaged in consensually and with positive feelings. Unfortunately, the pervasive nature of the sex negative mindset throughout society informs the way we think about these issues, and porn (and sex in general) is far more commonly associated with the "evils" that sex may bring, than with the good that it can inspire. It's hard to argue about the positive effects of porn, when the popular discourse is concerned with how porn degrades women, how most women are forced into it, probably at dangerously young ages, and how people in the sex industry are stigmatized and at risk for any number of other vices - particularly drugs and disease.

But what it also does is marginalize positive sexual expression - which, I'll admit, may be in the minority. But what do we accomplish my marginalizing that minority, and repressing it in an attempt to stamp out the more common (arguably) negative sexual expression? The approach of most anti-porn crusaders is full-on sexual repression, not a replacement of negative sexual expression with more positive sexual expression. Supporters of the latter are your pro-porn crusaders, whom the anti-porn camp would love to fool you into believing are actually apologists, defending negative sexual expression for selfish reasons. It's the same way the pro-life camp would love to smear the pro-choice as anti-life activists. It's all propaganda. No reasonable person would argue that coercing and degrading women for a profit and the sexual gratification of perverts is a good thing for society. But when people argue in favor of porn and sexual expression, it's the good kind they're arguing for. And I caution you about the danger of total sexual repression. Stamping out the good in an attempt to eliminate the bad (even if there is more bad than good) doesn't end well. The best approach is to focus on the good, identify what makes it good, and then promote it above and beyond the bad stuff. If you think a lot of porn is bad for society, then start advocating for people to produce more positive sexual expression - the kind of sexual expression I talk about when I use the term "pornography", the kind of sexual expression people use to express themselves to the world, with a positive sexual mindset that encourages pleasure and more happiness in the world, not more suffering.

No comments:

Post a Comment