Saturday, 10 March 2007

Quick Thoughts- MacKinnon

Following Catherine MacKinnon talk at Cambrdige University Gender Studies annual symposium, "Gender: The Future."

On pornography:
-she works in a very practical sphere and thus understand her complete opposition to pornography as an exploitative tool
-but, worried that this model doesn't work long-term on a theoretical level

-complete focus on pornography involving women (i.e. heterosexual or lesbian for heterosexual male eyes); what of gay pornography? are the men in these exploited?
-absolutist judgments on those who are involved in pornography: what about white, upper-middle-class students at ivy league/top tier schools who are creating their own pornography of their own will. and who is this for? just men or men/women? (the same might be said of young women who create blogs documenting their hookups/etc. I think the sentiment may derive from a similar place: begin with sex and the city, then embrace your sexuality, then write a blog about it, eventually it turns to free love and free sexuality (perhaps also a bit of nostalgia for the 60s/70s?) and next thing you know you have an ivy league porno
-MacKinnon made it very clear that her focus is on the effects, she's not basing her arguments on some sort of misguided morality (thus her issues with Muslim/Christian anti-pornography/prostitution arguments; and thus her work with the Swedish government to criminalize the johns and decriminalize the prostitutes/victims). But then where does this leave us in terms of non-real-life pornography: erotic fiction and cartoons.
-Why is this an issue? Because MacKinnon still argues that pornography desensitizes people (i.e. men) to real compansionship and intimate sexual encounters. Wouldn't erotic fiction essentially do the same? But doesn't this argument constrain the realm of sexual possibilites? Doesn't this argument in the end lead her to a moralist judgment on what type of sexuality is 'right' sexuality? What of people who enjoy BDSM--are they always those who were sexually abused as youth, is this sexual relationship abnormal/non-intimate and therefore illegitimate, or would she consider it a viable means of sexual expression. And what of femdommes? And let's be fair, power relations are constructed into sexual relationships, and while it is vital that they not result from misogynistic/abusive relations, to attempt to take all power out of all relationships would be to make sex always lovemaking. I.e. wouldn't we be losing a few possibilities for added excitement?

In conclusion: I fully support what MacKinnon is doing. On a practical level most of the women involved in pornography and prostitution (and in an ideal world I would absolutely love to see prostitution abolished as I think this industry in particular is driven by economic/race exploitation) are exploited, and she has made amazing strides in changing laws, preventing rape, defending the exploited. And I appreciate that she is aware herself that her actions are contingent on what the outcomes of these industries are. However, I think we also need to be aware that on a greater theoretical level, absolutely condemning pornography in particular is a moralistic argument.

To be cont'd (in a more coherent, articulate version)

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