Of all the speeches in the Pornography & Pop Culture Conference (see previous post), I found Gail Dines’s speech to be the most interesting of all, clear, smart and funny. I went to her webpage, Gail Dines, and read her article titled “Pornography is a Left Issue”.
This is a quick summary of it:
We are anti-pornography precisely because we are leftists as well as feminists. (…). As leftists, we reject the sexism and racism that saturates contemporary mass-marketed pornography. As leftists, we reject the capitalist commodification of one of the most basic aspects of our humanity. As leftists, we reject corporate domination of media and culture.
Leftists examine mass media as one site where the dominant class attempts to create and impose definitions and explanations of the world.
The feminist critique of pornography is consistent with — and, for many of us, grows out of — a widely accepted analysis on the left of ideology, hegemony, and media, leading to the observation that pornography is to patriarchy what commercial television is to capitalism.
Because of the structure of the system, it’s a given that these corporations create programming that meets the needs of advertisers and elites, not ordinary people.
The production companies act predictably as corporations in capitalism, seeking to maximize market-share and profit. They do not consider the needs of people or the effects of their products, any more than other capitalists. Do we want profit-hungry corporative executives constructing our culture?.
It’s long been understood on the left that one of the most insidious aspects of capitalism is the commodification of everything. There is nothing that can’t be sold in the capitalist game of endless accumulation. In pornography, the stakes are even higher; what is being commodified is crucial to our sense of self.
Pro-pornography leftists often rush to explain that the women in pornography have chosen that work
by pointing out workers consented to do their jobs. But no one on the left defends capitalist media — or any other capitalist enterprise — by pointing out workers consented to do their jobs. The critique is not of the workers, but of the owners and structure. The focus isn’t on individual decisions about how to survive in a system that commodifies everything and takes from us meaningful opportunities to control our lives.
Pornography’s central ideological message is not hard to discern: Women exist for the sexual pleasure of men, in whatever form men want that pleasure, no matter what the consequences for women. It’s not just that women exist for sex, but that they exist for the sex that men want.
Despite claims about pornography as a vehicle for women’s sexual liberation, the bulk of mass-marketed pornography is incredibly sexist. From the ugly language used to describe women, to the positions of subordination, to the actual sexual practices themselves — pornography is relentlessly misogynistic. A major theme in pornography is that women are different from men and enjoy pain, humiliation, degradation; they don’t deserve the same humanity as men because they are a different kind of creature. In pornography, it’s not just that women want to get fucked in degrading fashion, but that they need it.
We contend that leftists who take feminism seriously must come to see that pornography, along with other forms of sexualized exploitation
in capitalism is inconsistent with a world in which ordinary people can take control of their own destinies.