Slides below are from a talk given at Temporary Art Center for Pecha Kucha Eindhoven on 7 Dec. 2017.
How does gender and sexual desire get produced through current forms of pornography?
The nuclear familial configuration is a really good systematic way to ensure the maintenance of political gender norms, and continue a sort-of state-sponsored domination of those who are supposed to perform the role of women.
Women have lesser social value, which is still attached to the production of offspring. From within the heteronormative regime, there remains a strong incentive to pair up with a (male) partner in order to cement a sense of social value and relieve economic disparity.
Anti-women & femme sexual oppression is normalized through the state-sanctioned pardoning of violence against women, girls, and black and brown bodies. As per the comparison between Brock Turner’s rape case outcome vs. the outcome of Cyntoia Brown’s self-defense against serial rape.
There are 100,000s of untested rape kits collecting dust on police storage shelves for years in the United States. The systematic neglect to fund the testing of rape kits, and allow rapists to go free, is by design, not like a “whoops” accident of bureaucracy.
About gender categories, the philosopher Paul B. Preciado said “These two states of being, male and female, only exist as ‘biopolitical fictions’.” So he’s talking about a constructed reality that serves to maintain imbalanced power dynamics, and it’s super sneaky and insidious.
Let’s imagine each biopolitical fiction called gender is a basket. 2 little baskets. And each culture has agreements on which personality qualities should belong in which “gender basket”.
Qualities like Tenderness, Willfullness, Accomodation, Lack of emotions. These are personality elements that become gendered by cultural agreement. Those who perform their assigned gender most effectively, with correct qualities, gain more social approval.
Pornography plays a key role in the production of gendered structural power dynamics. In 1993 porn producer Bill Marigold said “I’d like to show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that.”
and “The most violent we can get is the cumshot in the face. Men get off behind that, because they get even with the women they can’t have”
Porn categories and search terms focus on the fetishization of oppressed groups, and it’s no surprise that those whose labor and bodies are economically exploited, are also exploited for white men’s sexual pleasure. In the US south, the most popular category viewed on Pornhub in 2016 was “Ebony”.
If you are wondering whether these Ebony videos are made by black people for black people, that is NOT the case, these videos are speaking directly to white men as per this video called “Overpowered by Big Black Cock 2”.
Besides the problem of racialization, there’s also an issue of patterned sexual positions that tend to cater towards constructed hetero male excitation in the form of a typical action script: blowjob to start, doggie style in the middle, blowjob to end, cum shot on face / in mouth (with piss-poor or no training in cunnilingus).
There is NOTHING inherently wrong with individual elements of that script, the problem lies in the fact that people are trained to see these as THE core components of sexual pleasure, when 1) don’t typically help people with vaginas have an orgasm and 2) are more dehumanizing activities.
Additionally, current pornography often glorifies consent violations, fueling this old, worn-out exhausting narrative that those who are assigned Female are actually wanting rape and harassment.
I am NOT anti-porn. Porn is a necessary form of expressing and learning about pleasure. But most mainstream porn really is shit - it takes quite a lot of work to deprogram from it, and although we have a few alternatives we need a lot more.
Prohibition is ineffective– young adults WILL find loopholes to accessing pornography. But there are major steps we can take to mitigate the negative effects of gender production and sexualized oppression in current forms of porn.
Instead of ignoring it, or leaving the dirty business of porn to shitty American white dudes, we could encourage the critical study and analysis of pre-existing pornography, and encourage participation by non-whites and non-males if we REDUCE the stigma placed onto porn stars and other sex workers.
We should also teach porn in schools - there’s a super interesting Basque country online platform called Porno Eskola that teaches young teenagers about sex and feminist pornography, which is super cool, and could be used as the start of a global teaching model. [EDIT: As of 29 Dec. 2017, Porno Eskola has been taken to court by a religious group, so has had to take down their website until the case is complete. It is a REALLY excellent project and I hope they make it past the lawsuit]
Dissolving gender myths within sexual culture and familial structures is a core part of redistributing power.