Sunday, 7 November 2010

Anti-Porn Is The Theory, Repression is the Practise


With rare exceptions, feminists have concentrated on attacking attitudes, not power relations of which attitudes are a part. The view of 'Women Against Violence Against Women' (WAVAW), 'Porn is Violence Against Women' (PIVAW) and every other anti-porn group which was accepted as the voice of feminism during the Reagan/Thatcher decade, is that pornography is the "central and binding issue for feminism".
In 1980 the United Nations said that women do 2/3 of the world's work for 10% of the income - the International Labour Organisation says 5%-and 1% of the assets. This was the first international quantification of our exploitation, the basic violence against women from which flows all other violence against us by both institutions and individuals.
By studiously ignoring this violence, the anti-porn/pro-censorship lobby avoids a confrontation with the economic, political and physical violence against women perpetuated or endorsed by the State. Feminists who concentrate on condemning sexist images of women in the name of condemning women's exploitation, and the politicians who back them, turn their backs while the issue of our economic and social power is pushed down the political agenda. Not money, not housing, not even non-sexist, non-racist, non-violent policing, but an end to "dirty pictures" becomes the key to our welfare.
Not unconnected, divisions of race, class, nationality, income, age, disability and occupation have been purposefully censored by feminist advocates of censorship. Anti-porn feminists ask us to do what men have always asked us to do: set aside the divisions among us and submit to their priorities. "We must reunite throughout the nation [sic] on this one basic issue [pornography] . . . Disagreements on other issues can be dealt with when fewer of us are being murdered, beaten, tortured and raped." And therefore, the struggles and priorities of Black and other working class women who are at the bottom of the economic and social hierarchy get watered down or mislaid somewhere along the way to many feminist agendas. A rape survey conducted by two feminists in Leeds chose to investigate streets which "had a mixed population of white single and married people" because " was important to focus on the problem of the dominant cultural group in order to avoid our results being used in a racist way." To "avoid racism" by excluding Black women is a strategy that a politician like Enoch Powell might wholeheartedly support.
Like any other movement for change, the women's movement has to choose whether or not to focus on breaking down these divisions. In our experience, this cannot be done without challenging "all the economic power relations in the working class from the bottom up, beginning with those of us who have the lease power . . . Black women who are the poorest of the poor . . ." To ignore the priorities of women who are Black, immigrant, Third World, prostitute, single mothers, housewives, lesbian, who have disabilities, or who are any combination of these, is to choose to focus instead on the priorities of the most powerful sectors - careerists in metropolitan countries. The choice of images (naked or not) must also begin from the bottom up; otherwise the image of the "successful" (usually white) careerist passes as a picture of every woman's reality, or at least the reality to which we can all achieve. This image embodies the predominantly (mainly white) Establishment perspective of Feminism.
Many feminists have refused to deal with the fact that increasing the power of the State to decide what is "acceptable sex and sexuality" can only lead to greater power in the hands of the police and more State violence against women, starting with those of us who are labelled "ignorant" or "immoral" because we are poor and working class. One clear example of this refusal is the way in which the anti-porn lobby has consistently discussed and proposed legislation promoting censorship without discussing the ways such legislation is likely to be enforced. Those of us at the bottom who go on the game, shoplift, commit Social Security "fraud" or other crimes of poverty in order to support ourselves and our children, can't afford the luxury of treating legislation as an abstraction rather than a power shaping our lives. For us the political is personal. It is women at the bottom, and our sons, brothers, husbands and friends, who are at the receiving end of police brutality, illegality and racism. We don't have the right style, accent, background, colour, passport, connections and or careers to protect us from the law, the police and the courts.
Increasing the power of the State to control sexual expression is of a piece with more generalised economic and political oppression. By trying to control which relationships and forms of contact are to be promoted and which discouraged and even criminalized, the State tries to claw back our victories, particularly those won by the women's and gay movements and the movement for welfare, which have concentrated on establishing our right to do what we want with our own bodies, and our right to economic, legal and social independence from the family. The anti-porn lobby has consistently said that "pornography is the theory, rape is the practice." On the contrary: anti-porn is the theory; economic, political and sexual repression - and that can only mean universal rape - is the practice.
All images, no matter how partial or distorted, are reflections of the real power relations among us. We are dependent on images to find out about other people and the world we live in. Information we get in this way may help or hinder us in our pursuit of a better understanding of ourselves and our possibilities: what we can/want to do with our lives as opposed to what we are supposed to do: to mould ourselves on stereotypes. We therefore want images to inform us about what we need to know and to express clearly the reality we experience; as well as to be stimulating, exiting and beautiful; and we want to replace images which are not working for us in these ways. Images are often the lies through which people with more power impose on those who have less power their version of events, and indicate what we should desire and what they will approve. Anti-porn feminists only skim the surface. They attack the images instead of attacking the reality - the power relations - which the images reflect. Rather than acknowledging the images as an integral part of reality, images are blamed for the violence of reality; visual violence against women is disconnected from the violence of poverty and economic dependence which are mirrored in pornography, violent or not. Anti-pornographers may agree that women are exploited but they refuse to attack that exploitation.
Even their attack on the images is partial. What is most degrading about images of women is that our struggle to refuse all forms of violence and degradation is almost always absent: women are portrayed not only doing the jobs that we do, whether with our clothes on or off, but as consenting, even happy, slaves. If the models are dressed, anti-porn lobbyists seem oblivious of the ways in which this distorted image of us attacks us.
"Lukewarm" sex - lesbian women who are into S&M call it "vanilla sex" . . . whatever sex each of us may like, if it is consensual we have a right to it, and to see reflections of it in pornographic or other images. The stereotypical sex-images anti-porn feminists want to impose on others could not express the variety of the sexual reality and would instead deny the experiences of the millions of women and men who are not only, or at all, into "vanilla sex". So-called "perverted sex" is a form of escapism not that different from Gothic novels or horror films: fantasies in which the power relations are transformed and the subtleties of reality with its demands of decision temporarily forgotten (or are being worked out on another level). The effect of anti-porn is to push sexual choices back to a dark corner and isolate sexual feelings and activity from the rest of life. Any sex, from "vanilla" to S&M, can be a vehicle for violence when it is cut off from compassion (which itself is repressed and splintered into various segregated parts). Sex then becomes an area of darkness in which to give vent to our most secret fears and emotions. (A great attraction of David Lynch's films is that they are based on how people relate when all the characters, not only the hero/Heroine, emerge from that dark corner.)
Anti-pornographers seem to understand the attractions of S&M better than anyone. Some even seem to revel in gory descriptions and interpretations of porn. Why would anyone spend so much time watching and commenting on something they found so repulsive unless the rewards - financial, sexual or both - made it worth while? Opposing porn provides a socially acceptable and even profitable opportunity to indulge one's sexual pleasure while blaming others for one's own taste. (Not surprisingly, Andrea Dworkin's novels Ice and Fire and Mercy have been accused of being pornographic.)
But unlike sado-masochists who confine themselves to consenting sexual acts, anti-pornographers get their satisfaction from forcing themselves - and the State - on everyone - denying, banning, censoring, admonishing, punishing. Punishing - a strong urge which seems to provide sexual pleasure for many, from anti-pornographers to judges.
The anti-porn lobby fails to distinguish between the workers, the bosses and the products. The porn industry is exploitative like any other industry. Should commercial food, clothes, cars, TVs, etc., be banned because their respective industries exploit the workers who produce these goods, or should we support workers' demands for better working conditions? The coal industry is polluting, and working conditions are horrendous. Should we not have supported the 1984-5 strike of mining communities against the closure of pits on which their livelihood depended? In campaigning for prostitutes we underline the distinction between sex workers and the work they do. We know from experience that campaigning for the abolition of the prostitution laws which criminalize women for refusing poverty and financial dependence on men, is inseparable from campaigning for economic alternatives to prostitution: higher benefits, grants and wages so that no woman is forced by poverty into sex with anyone, for money or for "free". Campaigning for abolition is for us inseparable from campaigning to get all women's work - including sex work waged and unwaged, recognised and counted as work so that we can get back the wealth we have helped produce: the resources we need to refuse all exploitation, all prostitution... including what Virginia Woolf called "intellectual harlotry".

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Very Major Differences and Distinctions and the very Slight and Very Partial Similarity Between Self-harm and Masochism

The biggest mistake and set of very inaccurate and very false misconceptions about masochism by and within both psychotherapy, psychiatry, and psychiatric mental health, is that the psychological and social causes of both these very separate things, are seen and misunderstood by psychotherapy, psychiatry, and psychiatric mental health as being exactly the same, although there is one very slight but very partial similarity between the two.

Whilst all forms of sexuality and sexual-orientations have elements of both attraction, attractiveness, repulsion and disgust, masochism can only really be understood by realising and understanding the ways that attraction and repulsion and disgust are linked and related within and by masochists, the ways that the two things alternate, differentiate, separate, change into each other and then re-differentiate - how this all operates and applies in very different ways both within and between masochists, switches (people who are both sexually dominant, submissive, sadistic, and masochistic) and sadists - and how all of these different factors and different sexual-orientations and people connect, interrelate, relate and interact, work together and find a consensus and a common ground, agree to differ, and then part ways.

However, to reveal and explain about all of this about masochists, switches, and sadists, is not the purpose of this article, as it is to explain the major differences, distinctions, and the slight and very partial similarity between self-harm and masochism, although again, even these slight similarities are very different in their details, very basic elements, and in their entireties.

Also, whilst masochism and self-harm are very, very different things, revealing, realising, and understanding about all of this in great details and entirety about masochism, switches, and sadism - by using and applying a most highly ingenious contrast and a pluralistic contextual and detailed association and set of both contrasted and related associations - all sheds light in a totally new and greater understanding of and about self-harm and self-harmers, but this is also not the purpose of this article, as I will only refer to and mention in this article the very limited, partial, pre-existing and very incomplete social and psychological explanations of self-harm and self-harmers.

Self-harm by self-harmers, is basically about emotional numbness, mental and emotional distress and pain, anxiety, and/or depression, and it is about how self-harmers harm themselves physically in order to override these things and their experiences of and with them, and because they either do this because they are dissociating from the mental and emotional distress and pain, anxiety, or depression, or because they are trying to diminish and counteract the dissociation and/or depersonalisation they feel by self-harming, in order to wake up and feel more real.

Many self-harmers also self-harm, because many of them have been abused and traumatised in their pasts, and they are wanting to make different associations with mental and emotional pain and distress, and sometimes they trick themselves into believing that the physical pain of their self-harm, is actually the emotional pain and distress, because their feelings of mental and emotional pain and distress have been suppressed and repressed by more unjust punishment and abuse in their pasts, and this is their way of feeling and believing that they now have some control over the mental and emotional pain and distress by hurting themselves physically by self-harming.

All of these social and psychological causes and factors of and about self-harm, have absolutely no connection or relation, to or with the very partial social and psychological causes of masochism, except the fact that both self-harmers and masochists both seek to make and do actually make some different associations between mental and emotional pain and distress, and physical pain, but the ways that each do this, are very, very different.

Another very major difference and distinction, is that the types of associations that masochists use and make, are very different from the types of associations that self-harmers use and make, and what's more these associations that masochists use and make, unlike self-harmers, have absolutely nothing to do with any kind of dissociation or depersonalisation in any ways whatsoever.

What's more, self-harmers do not get pleasure from either emotional and mental pain or distress, and neither do they get pleasure from physical pain, whilst many aspects of masochism have absolutely nothing to do with either emotional and mental or physical pain, as the humiliation by the opposite sex that masochists enjoy is neither emotional nor physical pain (although being humiliated can cause of lead to emotional pain) but being humiliated is actually psychological discomfort and both a reduction, a moderation, and an expansion of personal and social identity and self-esteme.

What's more, the sexual and affection submissiveness that masochists love and enjoy towards the opposite sex, is neither mental and emotional nor physical pain, nor is it any kind of psychological or identity changing or discomfort, as submissive love and desire is to do with feelings and desires of fondness, pleasantness, happiness, positive emotions and desires, and attraction.

Peter H. Donnelly