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March 27, 2006

Comments

elizabeth

I know groups of men who regularly talk and organize regarding the dangers and difficulties of pornography and the sex trade; Gay groups regarding explotation, eliminating recruitment in places like Prague, eliminating meth use, and other non-safe practices (I wish I could find the site that had the cartoons on LA TV on veneral diseases - until Bush cut thier funding).

It is true that I know a few guys that seem to have trouble holding a conversation while young women walk by, but then I have had the same problem with women who went to see k.d. lang or Tipping the Velvet.

I agree that some guys seem to be very focused on porn, and no, it doesn't make me love them more - but neither do I want to exist in a sexless world - I still want to live in a world where Angelia Jolie is desirable (for both men and women) and where Johnny Depp is desirable (for both men and women). Is there really no way that guys/girls can seperate "attraction" from "thier only use to me is as a sex object"?

kate.d.

we all wax eloquently (or not so eloquently) about "gazes" and "subjectivities" and "perfomativities" and "agency."

ah, grad school! how i don't miss being up to my neck in these "theoretical" terms at the end of a 90 minute class :)

as much as i'm (often) loathe to admit it now, though, sometimes these theoretical ideas can be useful in trying to get a handle on the practical. for instance, subjectivity. in the prior post, antigone asks why anyone would lust after an object and not a person. to me, the short answer is to assert his own subjectivity. and if this is the model that one follows - asserting your subjectivity by actively objectifying someone else - then it's a process that's going to need to be continually repeated. you need to keep reasserting that you are indeed a subject, not an object. so the cycle of porn viewing/blonde jokes/physical abuse/street harassment/whatever continues.

of course this is reductive, and doesn't take into account biological urges, personal circumstances, etc etc. but it's just one potential way of thinking about why porn consumption can often become and/or be seen as a compulsion.

Mermade

Is it possible to masturbate without lust involved? My boyfriend, who has struggled with porn and masturbation, says that it is impossible to masturbate without using some sort of lustful stimulation (except in the cases of children, which is an entirely different topic). Anyway, we know lusting creates many problems, problems which I have personally witness and been VERY hurt by. Therefore, if it is impossible to masturbate without hurtful lustful thoughts, should masturbation itself be endorsed as healthy if it cannot be done without damaging thoughts?

I have always wondered how feminism views women masturbating to porn depicting naked men (Playgirl, etc.) I am firmly against the sex industry and I wholeheartedly agree that men must give up thier lust after women in order to be pro-feminist. However, I have scarcely heard about how people feel regarding women lusting and masturbating after men and whether or not feminism sees that as wrong. Granted, the porn industy is mostly aimed at men's interest. However, many women lust after porn as well, and I don't believe that's right either. (That kind of fits in with "me too" feminism). I would like to hear yours and other people's thoughts on that.

Hugo

Mermade, we'll be dealing with some of this in your class in the next few weeks -- and of course, in class, I'll take an even-handed (sorry) approach to the topic.

Here on this blog, it may be time for a long post on this very sensitive (sorry again) subject. It does tend to arouse (sorry thrice) people, 'cause folks filter it through their own experience, and they tend to feel strongly. Patience!

Dustin

Hugo, I'll be honest with you, since you asked -- I don't like strip clubs. I don't even like stripper-like come-ons from my own sexual partners. There's something about it all I find incredibly unerotic. Of course, I'm not much into affectation of other sorts, either (see my posts on S/M).

Here's a story: I missed most of the panel I described in my comments on your previous post. I misunderstood the description -- the title was "Stripping for Everyone", and it said there'd be lapdancing, so I assumed it would be about learning how to lapdance; as one of only 2 males in attendance, and as a teacher among students (none of them mine, except the other male) I felt I should be elsewhere. But on top of that, I thought "oh, go[sh], I don't want someone lapdancing at me!" It just makes me very, very uncomfortable -- I don't know how to respond, I'm usually very reserved and am not really willing to express appreciation and/or lust, and I don't like the feeling of disconnection *I* get.

When I was 18, a friend introduced me to a full-nude bar in San Diego. No alcohol = 18+. I went a couple times with him, a few times alone. It was grown-up, transgressive, it promised sexiness (did I mention I was a virgin at the time?), but eventually I realized that it was pretty boring, and it was pretty fake. Here's the funny thing -- I was thinking, "I'm so much more than this pair of eyes, I don't want to be appreciated (or not appreciated) on the basis of my wallet!"

Since then, I've found myself in adult clubs twice. About 10 years ago, my brother and his friend decided it would be fun to take our dads to a strip club for Father's Day. I wasn't much into the idea, but they were set on it, and to be honest, I had a great time. Adult clubs are spaces designed to encourage male homosocial bonding, and what else is Father's Day about? Of course, I didn't have much money, so I didn't have to deal with the pressure to buy dances -- I just sent them to my brother and his friend, who were both much better off than I.

A few years later, my brother got married, and in Vegas there's really no excuse to not have the traditional strib-club bachelor party. Again, I didn't have much money, and I was deeply committed to my now-ex. This time no amount of demonstrated lack of funds was dissuading the dancers from pestering me for dances. I didn't want to be there in the first place, and to be honest, I began to feel a little bit violated -- I'm too nice to say "no" very firmly, so the advances kept coming, and I simply did not want a private dance.

So this isn't something I personally enjoy. But I'm not foolish enough to believe that my particular values and personality quirks are anything like typical of men in our society. And I'm also not willing to dismiss or condemn the motivations of men who might be very, very unlike me. What I do know is that the relationships between dancers and their clients are very conflicted and contradictory -- after all, they're *human * rleationships, and human relationships are a mess.

Last thing: Does it not strike you as odd that the only groups calling for "sexual accountability" and worrying about the ill effect of stripping on the male psyche are the groups that believe stripping *should* have an ill effect on the male psyche? I mean, Christianity is not exactly known for its comfortable relationship with sexuality, especially female sexuality! Is it possible that the same set of beliefs can sustain two opposed arguments -- one that women's sexuality needs to be controlled (and by extension women need to be controlled) and the other that women's sexuality needs to be free (and by extension women can then be free?)

djw

Since you asked: The 15 minutes I spent in a strip club were among the most depressing 15 minutes of my life. I walked out on a good friend's bachelor party, which I felt awful about, but I couldn't take any more of it. The energy on both sides was toxic and just soul-sucking. I had some mild interest in seeing Playboys when I was 13-15, but since then it's been a tough call whether it's more more offensive or unerotic. You've posted on stuff that's challenged my complacencies about my behavior and my feminist commitments before (namely, a willingness to call bullshit on homosocial mildly sexist discourse) but this one's just about the easiest living out of my personal commitments. Frankly, my own disgust makes it hard for my to be sympathetic (let alone empathetic) for those who struggle with it, which is probably unfair of me, but it's my honest reaction.

Random Lurker

Elizabeth essentially made my comment for me- and saved me the trouble of having to compose it.

I do think that it should be possible to have sexy images/movies/thoughts of attractive people without the hate speech. I don't think that male sexuality is *innately* about inflicting pain, hating and destroying.

It seems to me that it's just the way boys and men are socialized. If we could socialize the next generation- and de-program the gentlemen with us right now- to see a nice-looking naked lady without immediately feeling hatred and contempt for her, then we'd end up with sexy entertainment that wasn't about hatred at all. And really, who wouldn't prefer positive material to negative- there would still be just as many naked boobs.

I don't think sex is a bad thing, I don't think looking at pretty people naked is a bad thing. I do think it's the emotional intent behind it that counts.

Actually.. I wonder if all that hatred doesn't just come out of cultural shame about sex and desire.

Antigone

See, I honestly don't think masturbation is unhealthy, but mainly because I don't view "lust" as inheirantly objectifying.

Lust simply denotes arousal. Arousal is not objectifying, it simply is.

I think making strippers into non-humans is more harmful than having been lusted after. But then again, I suppose from that statement one could claim that waiting tables is harmful, because to many patrons you are an object for their convinience.

So I guess I'm back to why stripping is any worse than any other job where you are treated as non-human.

Hugo

Antigone, waitresses at coffee shops may be treated poorly, but we don't see the high correlation between waitressing at coffee shops and drug abuse. There is something about stripping that leaves a great many women feeling alienated and numb in a way that is fundamentally unique.

But let's keep this thread on topic -- why pro-feminist men shouldn't be using the sex industry.

Mr. Bad

Hugo, you speak a great deal about heterosexual men and porn, so I'd like to know if you are consistent across sexuality and/or gender. For instance, what do you think about gay and lesbian porn? Or heterosexual women as consumers of porn? Are all consumers of porn to blame for the sex industry, or do you only blame heterosexual men because it's PC to do so and quite un-PC to come down equally hard on homosexuals and hetero women? And finally, you delve a great deal into how heterosexual men who consume porn exploit women, but what about the undeniable case that women who peddle porn are most certainly exploiting the men who consume it: Where do you stand on the women's responsibility in the business? And finally, you're comment that you're only interested in "reaching one man at a time" sounds like a blantant, shameless cop-out designed to allow you to avoid dealing with your own personal biases and inconsistencies in all this.

To me you sound like the right-wingers who beat their chests re. the so-called "war on drugs" and insist on focusing on the consumers, i.e., busting ordinary people who are simply users instead of going after the pushers and higher-level drug dealers. We've seen what a completer disaster that approach has had. I argue that the porn industry is much the same as the illegal drug industry in this regard, and thus your bottom-up approach is doomed to a similar failure that we see in the 'war on drugs.' Sounds like a waste of time to me.

I'm not convinced that you're consistent about these things, so I invite you to try and prove me wrong.

Mr. Bad

Hugo said: "Antigone, waitresses at coffee shops may be treated poorly, but we don't see the high correlation between waitressing at coffee shops and drug abuse. There is something about stripping that leaves a great many women feeling alienated and numb in a way that is fundamentally unique."

This is a logical fallacy Hugo. Not only does correlation tell us nothing about causation, but it ignores confounding variables (i.e., interacting cofactors) such as poverty, etc. There's no reason to believe that it's just as likely - if not moreso - that instead of drug use being some sort of 'occupational hazard' for female sex workers, women who are prone to use drugs are drawn to work in the sex industry. In other words, those women are using before taking on sex work, and perhaps are in the industry in order to pay for their ongoing habits.

Hugo

Mr. Bad, as far as porn goes, I'm consistent. Changing the sex of the people in the images or the sex of the person masturbating to that image doesn't change the essential nature of the activity, which is to see another human being as existing solely for your own pleasure. I'm not an enemy of pleasure -- I'm an enemy of the notion that pleasure can be divorced from responsibility for another human being's emotional and spiritual well-being.

As for the analogy to the war on drugs, my experience in recovery taught me one thing. You can't solve any social problem by going after "supply"; you only solve it by going after "demand." The "demand" side is where we should focus our energies.

mythago

There is something about stripping that leaves a great many women feeling alienated and numb in a way that is fundamentally unique.

Sure. Waitress aren't assumed to be fallen women and fair game for any abuse you care to heap on them, and clearly prostitutes on the side.

And, much as I don't want to give the old boy a heart attack, Mr. Bad is right. "Lots of them use drugs" is the argument many of your co-religionists hurl at gay men, you're aware.

Hugo

For heaven's sakes, mythago. Being gay is an issue of IDENTITY. Being a stripper is an issue of ACTIVITY.

But let's keep the comments about strippers in the previous post from now on. This thread is about men using strip clubs, porn, and masturbation -- not. Let's try and keep the two threads distinct. (I apologize for my own role in creating the thread drift.)

Antigone

Sorry, didn't mean to do a thread drift.

Mr. Bad

Supply and demand - Ok, I hear you regarding addressing demand, but you still seem to want to give the supply side a pass. No way is that going to work. No way.

As to the issue re. the emotional and mental state of the players in the porn industry, I'd say that all players have a lot of issues. Sure, there are some perfectly normal, healthy strippers - just like there are some perfectly healthy, normal consumers - but IMO for the most part all of the pariticipants have serious issues to deal with, and hopefully work out.

So how come you only want to criticize and otherwise address only the heterosexual male consumers? Seems like a major cop-out and profoundly inconsistent to me.

mythago

Sorry, Hugo, is this thread for men only? That wasn't clear.

Catty

Considering that heterosexual males are the largest market of porn consumers in the US and worldwide (I believe from the last stats I saw, straight male consumers make up over 80% of porn consumed in the US), I can see why Hugo would focus on porn for straight men. Generally speaking, it makes sense to attack the largest porn-watching population if you're an anti-porn crusader, does it not? So, I don't find Hugo's position to be a major cop-out or inconsistent in this case.

I also disagree with you regarding your comment on the industry, Mr. Bad. I've known many people in the porn industry as well as the stripping industry. In fact, I can say I'm more familiar with both industries than your average person. Many of my friends out of film school did what many, many film school students do- work in the porn industry (as grip, editors, anything) while savin money and looking for "real" opportunities. It's a common way to stay active in the industry and not get too rusty. I'm not saying that the industry is mostly chipper and healthy people, but I hate all the stereotypes bandied about, because many of the people in both industries are NOT stereotypes- they're people, they're individuals, and they deserve to seen as such, period.

Catty

"For heaven's sakes, mythago. Being gay is an issue of IDENTITY. Being a stripper is an issue of ACTIVITY."

Actually, many anti-gay crusaders would say otherwise.

Ooops, thread drift again.

Hugo

No, it is not a thread for men only -- but it is a thread to discuss male participation as consumers in the sex industry. That needs to be the only topic here.

Mr. Bad

Catty said: "I also disagree with you regarding your comment on the industry, Mr. Bad. I've known many people in the porn industry as well as the stripping industry. In fact, I can say I'm more familiar with both industries than your average person. Many of my friends out of film school did what many, many film school students do- work in the porn industry (as grip, editors, anything) while savin money and looking for "real" opportunities. It's a common way to stay active in the industry and not get too rusty. I'm not saying that the industry is mostly chipper and healthy people, but I hate all the stereotypes bandied about, because many of the people in both industries are NOT stereotypes- they're people, they're individuals, and they deserve to seen as such, period."

I too have known a number of people in the industry, not just a number of workers but consumers as well, and I agree that the stereotype of the producers and consumers of porn being somehow abnormal is overblown. However, my point has been that there is no evidence that the consumers of porn are any more or less 'troubled' than the producers. Further, focusing solely on the consumers won't solve whatever problems one might percieve from porn.

I personally don't believe that producing or consuming porn is any more problematic than many other commercial ventures, and that we should do nothing to infringe on others' rights to live as they wish; adult porn is legal so that should be the end of it. And just like any other legal commodity, if you don't like it then don't buy it. However, if one does have a problem with pornography then it is disingenuous and inconsistent to focus soley on the consumer when looking to solve perceived problems. Issues re. objectification, exploitation run in both directions and IMO neither producer or consumer is any more or less guilty or guilt-free than the other.

Mr. Bad

Hugo said: "I'm not an enemy of pleasure -- I'm an enemy of the notion that pleasure can be divorced from responsibility for another human being's emotional and spiritual well-being."

This issue of men's responsibility for women's "emotional and spiritual well-being" is a well-honed riff of yours Hugo - you seem to post on it at least once a week - but it's a very slippery slope. At what point does making men responsible for the emotional and spiritual well-being of women become patronizing and infantilizing of those women? In most all these types of posts you seem to be saying that women are so weak and incompetant that they can't be trusted to take care of themselves, so we men must literally walk on eggs at evey turn so that we don't hurt the poor dears' sensibilities, feelings, etc.

I think that women are quite capable of choosing whether or not to engage in the sex industry, and that it's quite Ok for men to consume it. Heck, I believe that in many ways it's a lot safer and wiser for men to hire professionals for this service rather than risk decades of involuntary servitude to a woman who likely is an amateur vis-a-vis the 'product' anyway. IMO it's a more honest and preferable arrangement for everybody, except perhaps the amateur who's been passed-over for a better 'product.'

Women have used their sexuality as currency to buy men's services for millenia - heck, there are references to it in The Bible - so perhaps this is the main reason why many women and feminists don't like the sex industry. Do you think that it could boil down to the simple case that women don't like the competition from other women for men's attention, especially when men get the choice to work with a professional who is willing to honor a contract that allows him to recieve these types of services for a fee agreed upon up-front and without the risk of dealing with an ongoing bad emotional relationship, allegations of and/or unwanted paternity, CS, etc.? It seems quite plausible to me that much of the types of objections you repeatedly raise could be based on resentment due to the fact that the sex industry dilutes a lot of power that women hold over men vis-a-vis sex as currency.

mythago

but it is a thread to discuss male participation as consumers in the sex industry

As Arwen said elsewhere, then we need to encourage men to seek 'cruelty-free' porn, to treat the women they masturbate over as worthy of respect, and to be aware of how porn affects their own behavior and attitudes.

Nik

I don't have the energy to debate about identities and good vs bad porn. But I did want to mention two resources to those for whom this issue really is causing deep pain and is an addiction. Sex Addicts Anonymous exists for those struggling to overcome all kinds of sex addiction, COSA is a partnership group for partners of people in SAA who are struggling to come to terms with their partners' addictions, and both groups have usually have a Healthy Intimate Relationships group where the two groups overlap. Just thought I'd put this out there. While the AA inspired groups do have a spiritual component, they are not specifically Christian.

Hugo

Nik, indeed. SAA, SCA, SLAA -- there are a variety of good "S" programs; COSA is a fine resource as well.

But not all men consider themselves addicts; I'm arguing that even the recreational use of porn is also problematic!

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