Fri Jul 28 2006 07:31 AM
Re: The Pornography Division


Porn that is degrading to the women involved isn't inherently bad.

This comment really doesn't sit well with me, BDSM context or no. I'm not terribly well read on the politics of BDSM (another topic that in itself is incredibly divisive in the feminist community), but from the little reading I have done, plus from talking to friends who engage in it, my understanding is that many BDSM practitioners believe that there is a difference between "submission" and "degradation" when consenting BDSM is practiced-- consent being operative here in forming that distinction. Now, I know that some people would argue that there is no difference between the two, which forms the basis of a feminist critique of the practice, but as I said, I haven't read deeply into the topic, so I can't elaborate much more there. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I could continue on that point.

However, I don't have any problem myself with equating "degradation" to "inherently bad." It is true that some people might find degrading things arousing, and I don't intend to go around telling people what they should or should not do in their private consenting bedrooms (or kitchens, laundries and lounge rooms ), but at the same time, I do think that it is responsible for any and all of us to interrogate our own practices, including our sexual practices, from a feminist perspective (or a variety of feminist perspectives as it more often is), to make us more aware of how things like degradation can be implicitly accepted within our own lives as "normal" when it's really quite harmful. (And this is only really something that I've just started doing myself).

Beyond that, I don't think BDSM is exactly what was being discussed here as per pornography. The type of degradation that is often seen in porn-- very much as a general rule-- is the sort that posits the object of desire (usually a woman) as, well, an object rather than a human being, who is there solely for the sexual gratification of a largely male audience. There are many different ways in which this could manifest itself, but, the suggestion that a woman's body exists only to let a man do whatever he wants to it is always at least implicit and often explicit, whether the context is a BDSM scenario or not.

(Also, just editing to note that just because someone is into BDSM doesn't necessarily mean that they will be a fan of pornography-- it is possible to be critical of porn while still believing that private consenting BDSM is fine and dandy.)

I have to say, on a personal note, I'm also incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of any depiction of BDSM that doesn't make explicit use of safewords to indicate consent-- as far as I'm concerned, unless there is indication of consent, then it's depicting outright rape and/or abuse. Whether the actual rape/abuse scenario is fictitious or not, I find the suggestion that consent is irrelevant degrading, full stop.

I'm feeling quite strongly about this at the moment on another level too, because I have just read a number of accounts of women who were forced into appearing in porn, including in BDSM scenarios (which of course, when not consensual, adds numerous other abuses to the rape itself). This very clearly goes beyond issues of whether or not one's private kink-- or indeed one's private desire to view vanilla porn-- is okay.

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