During a talk at Stockholm Pride this summer, we where listening to a talk about the possibilities or rather apparently the inpossibilities of feminist pornography. Now, I don’t view a lot of pr0n, simply because I’m not very interested in the expressions and most of the time find hot things in other places, even if they are not intended to be anything erotic. I’m sorry but I guess that is how I am wired. What I am interested in is different erotic expressions amongst people, and with that comes certain discussions that I do know are reoccurring and sometimes really frustrating.
There is doublebind and a difficulty when it comes to porn and feminist theory. Not because there is something inherently problematic about porn itself, but because it has been made in to being so problematic. It does not matter if you come from a rightwing nutplace like the one below
or if it is a rethoric coming from what is framed as a feminist, because they can both frame pornography as something pwetti evööööööl. It turns men into murderers, women into wanton sluts or depraved victims and wrecks families, lives and it is also the ultimate expression of the patriarchal society in which we live. I.E porn, according to some, is the blueprint of the oppression of women in our society. Etc. Etc. I could go on forever and ever on the massive effects that pornography is supposed to have on mankind. Yeah, that is MANkind, because it is the man who can never separate fantasy from reality, who can’t control himself, who turns into broken rapists and sadists (the bad kind).
I can’t say I’m totally positive towards the sex industries, but that is in the same way as I am not totally positive towards many other industries. We are not perfect human beings, we can’t really claim that everything is alright, fine and dandy, because hey, I make a choice and if I make a choice that must automatically be good, right? Not really, but my point here is to discuss the implications of a possible feminist pornography. The project ‘Dirty Diaries’ from Sweden was filmed with mobile cameras, and with another approach than what porn production usually has. Furthermore, it was also given funding from the Swedish State (which many saw as proof of how twisted the Swedish society had become, funny enough…). Now, I’ve seen bits and bobs and for me it did not do anything, sexually, but I found the approach being interesting. With a mobile camera filming and the participants being a very active part of the creation, the lines between the viewer and the viewed became blurred. By turning voyeurism and exhibitionism on it’s head, I think there is a lot that can be done, especially if it is for someone else than the viewer. This is already in full throttle with the masses of amateur porn that is produced each and every day by people shagging away in front of the camera.
The thing then is, for whom is pornography produced and why? Usually, the answer is something like, “People who want to get off on watching other peeps shag”. Now, I can fully understand that it is how it is defined, because definitions are important to us, especially in the West with our obsessions of taxonomy here and there and everywhere. But is not definition to narrow? Does it not exclude all of those who do amateur pornography for themselves, for their own private pleasure? Or those who view it with other perspectives than the hands-down-pants intention? There is of course a question of art here, if art is a part of all of this, and also a question of value.
I think many people would say that ‘The Swing’ is different from the picture from the CCTV with the creep who is harassing women. And I would agree.
The Swing, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
I’m going to touch on the issue of consent first actually, just because it is a simple but still important bit. The painting depict a playing couple, whereas the CCTV image is, as far as I know, a man who clearly don’t respect women’s boundaries. A sexist pig indeed.
Second of all, I think I’m far more impressed by the work of Fragonard, simply because it is such a beautiful painting. I’m talking workmanship here now, the craft of an artist versus the developed technology which enables the act of the Peeping Tom to be caught on camera. The intention of one of these images is that it is an object d’art and the other is a candid image never meant be put on show or hung up in a gallery.
But to get back on track, or back to the pornography. There is also a thing about what the intention behind an image is. What reactions does The Swing conjure, and how do you feel when looking at the Peeping Tom?
First of all, the reaction to the Swing and Peeping Tom are contextual and situational. They depend on what society we live in, what kind of norms we have, so once in a time, the painting was erotic. It showed skirts, it showed nature and people enjoying themselves, it showed stockings, legs and hints of something more. And yes, the Peeping Tom-idiot can also be seen as erotic, although I personally have a problem with sexualizing images like the above.
In what I am going to say now, is not that we should not take responsibility, but that it is possible to shift the focus of struggles. Feminist pornography is used as a way of escaping the problem, by phrasing it slightly differently, it is supposed to be something completely else. In the discussion at Pride, a member of the panel started to connect art and feminist porn, like they are interchangeable and that pornography has to be art in order to be (feminist) pornography. I don’t know how many turns this logic can take, but it does certainly create a scary binary, where pornography has to show something special, something specific, as if it would be responsible for for what the viewer might see.
Here is some news: you can’t control the viewer. You can adapt and work with different ways of influencing the viewer, in the same way as Fragonard works with his composition or in the same way as a CCTV erotic image can make us feel a bit uneasy, but I repeat, it is not possible to control the viewer. Just about anyone can pick up any kind of pornographic movie and it would not matter what the intentions were of the producer. What is possible to control is the conditions that the people on the set work are subjected to, to push for safe sex practices whenever possible. And this is where the focus needs to be.
I am a sex-positive feminist and don’t see anything inherently bad in connecting sex and money, but my beef is where the focus is and who holds positions of power. This connected with us living in a patriarchal society that does not help young people to shape their lust as well or learning how to take responsibility for ones fellows, in the same time as people choose to pinpoint blame on pornography, creates a really toxic situation. And is really, really irresponsible and stupid. It is like bombarding someone with images, impressions, values, language, norms and feelings but not giving them the tool to interpret and relate to them.
As a fan of queer pr0n, on many different levels, I believe that there is more to pr0n than exploitation and misery and I don’t really believe in feminist pr0n, but I don’t want to put the ones who are shagging on pedestal either.
But it is time to stop blaming the pr0n for everything, and turn the attention wider.