An interesting article, over a ZNet, by our old friend Robert Jensen and his fellow left-wing anti-porn crusader Gail Dines. It's about AbbyWinters.com, which is an all-female, semi-amateur porn site that's promoting itself as a kind of au naturel, quasi-feminist alternative to your run of the mill phallocentric porn. It describes itself like this:
We feature happy, healthy, regular girls in their normal environments like their own bedrooms having fun and being themselves. There’s no makeup, no fake boobs, no airbrushing. Just Australian beauties getting naked in their own sexy and carefree ways!
This means you get real people in all their splendour. A true taste of each girl’s sexuality and personality, a genuine look at her own way of masturbating or experimenting with another girl. Why? Because real experience is at the heart of what is sexy.
Righteous, guilt-free porn? Yes!
As you might have guessed, if you've been following our ongoing engagement with the Robert Jensen ouevre (sp?), Jensen and Dines don't agree that the site is righteous or that it should be consumed guilt-free. They write:
...in the end, pornography is in the business of presenting women’s bodies to men for masturbation.
The many different women who engage in sex in front of a camera make that choice to be used in pornography under a wide range of psychological, social and economic conditions. The choices women make to reduce themselves to sexual objects for men’s masturbation are complex, and we should be cautious about generalizations and judgments[oh, c'mon, we know you're judging, just own up to it --Dan].
The men who make up the vast majority of the industry’s customers also make choices, about which kind of objectified women are most sexually stimulating to them. Such choices that men make are considerably simpler, and generalizations are easier to make. Political judgments also are not only possible but necessary -- if we are to resist male supremacy, reject the subordination of women in all its forms, and replace that corrosive conception of gender and sex with a vision of human integrity and community that can be the basis for a just and sustainable society.
I remain unsettled by some of Jensen's characterizations of the pornography industry as woman-hating, and about the idea that consuming porn, because it helps such an industry, is ethically problematic even if your consumption isn't driven by misogyny (ie even if you're not hating on women while getting off), but on the basic point of this article, that it's wrong to objectify women when you're masturbating to them, I'm totally unconvinced and un-unsettled (settled?).
I just don't see how I'm subordinating anyone when I'm pleasuring myself. It's just me in the room, and even if my fantasy woman is someone I know, as it usually is, I don't find myself subordinating them when next I see them. Maybe, sometimes, there's a little frisson in the air when I'm around a woman I've fantasized about, but so what? And it would probably be there anyway, even if I left un-virtually sexed-up the objectified, non-bodily version of them which I sex up in my fantasies.
I don't know what Dines is in it for, but after a while, with Jensen, I can't help but think that he's a guy who's incapable of interacting with, and experiencing, women in a natural way if he's also indulging his attraction to them in some other compartment of his mind. It all bleeds together. And I can understand why someone like that (and we'll just assume, for the sake of argument, that I'm right about Jensen, though I'm probably not) would feel it necessary to police his own thoughts and fantasies so rigidly.
But we're not all like that.