Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam
magicmarmot

Are Women Human?

I'm trying to figure out whether Katherine MacKinnon is a shrewd genius, or batshit insane.

BTW, this includes a discussion of pornography and gender roles. No pictures or obscenity, but if you are squicked by concepts, best to skip.


Are you suggesting that rape law enshrines rapists' points of view, I ask MacKinnon? "Yes, in a couple of senses. The most obvious sense is that most rapists are men and most legislators are men and most judges are men and the law of rape was created when women weren't even allowed to vote. So that means not that all the people who wrote it were rapists, but that they are a member of the group who do [rape] and who do for reasons that they share in common even with those who don't, namely masculinity and their identification with masculine norms and in particular being the people who initiate sex and being the people who socially experience themselves as being affirmed by aggressive initiation of sexual interaction."


Wow. Talk about guilt by association.


"Pornography affects people's belief in rape myths. So for example if a woman says 'I didn't consent' and people have been viewing pornography, they believe rape myths and believe the woman did consent no matter what she said. That when she said no, she meant yes. When she said she didn't want to, that meant more beer. When she said she would prefer to go home, that means she's a lesbian who needs to be given a good corrective experience. Pornography promotes these rape myths and desensitises people to violence against women so that you need more violence to become sexually aroused if you're a pornography consumer. This is very well documented."


Okay. I am a pornography consumer. I do not condone or appreciate sexual violence (though I appreciate that my concept of "violence" may not be the same as Ms. MacKinnon, who seems likely to consider me violent just because I am a member of the group who do [rape]). I do not believe the "rape myth", and I consider a no to mean no, at any time.

"If you actually think about it," she says, "what is sexual between people is, up close, not particularly visible. Therefore you have to do things to it to make it acceptable by a camera. So already there's an intrusion. Most people, when they are having an intimate experience, don't have someone hanging out with a camera there. And if there is someone hanging out with a camera, what is most intimate about that experience and most equal between the people is not accessible to that camera.
"If you've got that material being sold, there are people who are not intimate to the experience who are experiencing it. How equal is that? Your sex is being bought by somebody over there. You're now a thing in relation to people experiencing you sexually. How equal is that?"


This is a bit out of context, in that the concept of sexual equality is being raised here, except that her larger context is that there can be no sexual equality when the sex is being observed.

But surely lesbian and gay porn at least eludes such criticisms? MacKinnon disagrees. "There's a good book by Christopher Kendal which studies the real content of gay male pornography and the children who are violated to make it as well as the men who are used in the industry. I recommend it." How about lesbian pornography - made for, by and about lesbians? MacKinnon says most of it is "sold in liquor stores and mostly it is men who are its consumers".
"Some of it is about a real aspiration to recapture women's sexuality for women, no doubt," she concedes. "The fact is that the materials themselves in general are about the use of women for sex and when women are being used for sex that is about a male-dominant model of sex, whether men are doing it or not. It's not biological. It's about sex roles. Anyone can play them."


Okay first of all, where the hell does the violation of children to make gay porn come from? I'm not exactly an avid consumer of gay porn, but I've always kind of assumed that it wasn't all that much different than straight porn, aside from the plumbing. Do they perhaps need a special camera that needs the juices of a freshly-violated child to operate?

"When women are being used for sex, that is about a male-dominant model of sex whether men are doing it or not".

This still comes back to that very first generalization that I find flawed, that because the group of people who rape is exclusively male, all males belong to the group and therefore the term [male] is synonymous with sexual violence, dominance, and objectification.

First of all, the group of people who commit rape is not exclusively male. It is predominately male, and it is certainly aggressive. Ms. MacKinnon would argue that those rare female-gendered individuals who do rape are simply fulfilling a male sex role and are therefore considerable as males; this is circular reasoning, and a logical fallacy.

Second, the definition of the group is too broad. The significant majority of men are not rapists, so defining all men as members of the rapist class is a disservice to dealing with the actual problem. Many vertebrates are predators, therefore all vertebrates are killers is an obvious fallacy, yet this is the same logic used here.

I don't disagree with her on many things. There is a problem worldwide with the objectification propertization of women. Sexual violence is an issue far more for women than it is for men. But blanket statements painted with a brush as broad as Lake Michigan do not serve to identify or correct the true problems.

Okay, let me throw out some stalking points here:

All porn is not bad.
No, I'm not talking about the quality of acting or the lame writing or the production quality that can be bested by cable access. I'm talking about social ills, the ethics of pornography. Not all porn is violent or abusive or nonconsensual. Some of it is, but most of it is not. (I am not counting illegal porn here.)

Lets talk about ethics for a minute. To me, something is sexually ethical if all parties concerned consent to the activity and nobody gets harmed (as opposed to hurt; I am not opposed to S&M porn but I am opposed to permanent disfigurement in the pursuit of arousal).
The two key concepts here are consent and harm.

Consent has already been pretty well-defined in the legal sense. It basically means that the consenting party accepts the personal responsibility for their actions, at least to a point. For the terms of what I'm talking about, let's call it informed consent, which allows that the people consenting have a reasonable idea as to what they are getting into.

The concept of harm may be more difficult to grasp; for example, Cameron Diaz once posed for nude photographs when she was a struggling actress and model. At the time, she consented and signed a release, she was paid for her work and justly compensated. After she became famous, the photographer tried to sell the pictures (for a considerable sum of money), and Diaz sued the photographer for custody of the pictures, citing the harm it could do to her career.

Okay, not a whole lot of sympathy for Cameron Diaz who makes millions of dollars per movie, but it serves as an illustration of the point. Maybe something more down-to-earth is the woman who goes to work in a strip club while she's in college because it's a great way to make a lot of money to pay for the rather exorbitant tuition and books and general college costs, but then finds upon graduation that some businesses won't hire her because of her "shady" past. Is there harm? Yes. Was it something that a reasoning adult should consider before giving consent? Likely, but sometimes circumstances change over time and a changing political climate.

All Objectification is not bad.
We objectify people on a pretty damn regular basis. When someone asks "what do you do?" our most common response is to tell them our job title: I'm a plumber/carpenter/electrician/lawyer/doctor/whatever. That is objectification. It is rather closely tied to exploitation, which is using you (and your talents) for an exchange which is disproportionate to its value: for instance, when you are working in a job that pays you $24,000 a year in which you invent a product that makes the CEO a $3.5 million bonus and you get a coffee cup. Not that I'm bitter.
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