Recently in Question 10: 4/13-4/15 Category

DE #10

After reading, I have notice that the difference between the erotic and pornographic.
It seem to me the same. The Author said Erotic is derived from the Greek words eros, which is the personification of love in all of its aspects and creative power and harmony"
Another author Lord said Pornography "is a direct denial of the power of erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling" (570).

Mobius Strip

After reading the Mobius Strip, I was interested in thinking about if eroticism is empowering or demeaning to them. Barton spent a large amount of time and effort into interviewing and understanding people who work in the erotic dancing industry. She details the oppressive methods of management, the insults women receive from the customers and the entitlement that the patrons feel to harass and grope as they see fit. She arrives at the conclusion that early on in the work; women enjoy the work, and enjoy making the amount of money that can be made. There is a feeling of empowerment early on. However, as the work goes on, they feel demeaned and disillusioned with their work. This reminds of me any profession, early on there is excitement over making money and enjoying the work. Eventually, mostly everyone feels disillusioned with their work. I think the larger issue here, is not that erotic dancing is demeaning, it is the shady system and where it operates in our society. If the government and society stopped pushing erotic dancing to the fringe, men would not feel it is acceptable to abuse emotionally and physically the workers. I think this is an issue of capitalism, not out of sexism or an issue of the work itself. This area of society does not need to be destroyed or pushed further out of our view, but brought in and elucidated. Unionizing and ending the reign of shady managers and owners who abuse their workers should be the goal, not ending the work that can be empowering for so many and a good source of income for many.

Direct Engagement

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One aspect that I found incredibly provoking was in the Barton Mobius Strip article. On pages 589-590, April, a premed student, talked about one of her experiences while dancing.

"I was single and everything, and I was kind of depressed, and he comes in and we go up to the VIP room. We're up there 20 minutes and he has to leave because he's having a New Year's Eve party and he gives me $500. So that was pretty cool. Because that doesn't happen as much as people think. I mean that was 20 minutes of work--$500. And I didn't do anything. I was dancing for him. I was a neurology major at the time and we were talking about the structure of the brain while Iwas dancing for him and it was really weird. It was actually the least sexual dance I'd ever done. We were sitting there talking about serotonin levels and dopamine levels and neurons and all this stuff, the limbic system, the temporal lobe, the parietal lobe, all this stuff. I'm sitting here dancing for him and he just gives me $500 and leaves."

This idea of receiving payment for one's entire being is intriguing for me. While obviously the $500 was for her physical appearance and whatnot, it was also compensation for her mind. He appreciated, or at least seemed to appreciate, her as a whole entity. Does this reflect on what the occupation could one day become? Or does this more so reflect on the man himself and his personality?

Also, another interesting aspect of all of this arises: what is the reason for which the occupation of dancing arises? Barton says in her conclusion that "interviews suggested that women do begin stripping for the financial benefits." She also mentions "The fact that stripping is such a lucrative occupation, relative to other low-skill jobs, traps many women in the industry, a consequence of our capitalist patriarchy." Thus, comparing bell hooks' stance to end the capitalist patriarchy to the reasons for which stripping exists raises interesting parallels. If Barton is indeed correct in her statement that a majority of women go into the industry for the monetary gains, then would bell hooks' solution of deconstructing capitalism bring about an end to a majority of dancing?

Direct Engagement 10

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The only experience I have with this topic is a memoir I read previously this year on my long car ride back to Minneapolis from my home town after winter break called Candy Girl by Diablo Cody. She discusses her experiences of moving from a Chicago suburb to Minneapolis and becoming a stripper. The findings of the reading Dancing on the Mobius Strip reflected my perception of stripping as I read this book surprisingly well. At first, strippers seem to feel like they hold all of the power and on nights they make a lot of money they feel like goddesses. However as time goes on, these women generally experience a decline in self-confidence as found in the reading. As I read Candy Girl this feeling of power and then a decline from it was very apparent. To be honest, when first reading the book I was wondering to myself why aren't more women strippers. The life sounded great. Cody had day job she went to and stripped a few nights a week. It began like a hobby to her; a fun little secret to get her through the monotony of life. Then as she began to take her stripping more seriously and devote more and more of her time to it, that power trip started to go away, as did my awe of the life. She went to more clubs to experience all the diversity the industry had to offer. Each new club seemed more and more disgusting to me by the end. Upon finishing the book I felt like I had some sort of perspective into the industry however narrow it may have been, and I was surprised at how much more there is to it than I had ever known, and a bit grossed out by all of it.

This weeks readings as well as the book I had read (which I would recommend to anyone interested in this topic) have all led me to the same conclusion about the sex industry. Looking into this industry from the feminist perspective I try to ask myself whether this industry can be empowering for women or whether it is demeaning. While all of this literature has shown that the industry can be a double-edged sword, I have still personally come to the conclusion that it is not a positive thing. Even when the women feel empowered, this feeling is attained from making men subordinates who view the women as goddesses making the women feel superior. It seems as though the women go straight from feeling superior to feeling inferior. There is no level ground in this industry. Somebody is always dominating over another in order to feel power. Feminism is about equality form everybody and this industry does not seem like a place that allows any room for equality. The only way to feel empowered is by thinking somebody else is beneath you. While it is good for women to feel powerful and good about themselves in a sexual way, I do not believe stripping is the healthiest outlet for these feelings simply because the way they are attained is no better than the men who are demeaning towards women.

Erotic vs. Pornographic

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In Audre Lorde's Uses of the Erotic, she explains why erotic and pornographic are opposites. Erotic is derived from the Greek words eros, which is the personification of love in all of its aspects and creative power and harmony. Lorde describes the erotic as, "an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves" (570). Pornography, on the other hand, as described by Lorde, "is a direct denial of the power of erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling" (570). Lorde writes that erotic gives us the opportunity to have the power by sharing deep feelings with others, while pornography, as Andrea Dworkin explains in Against the Male Flood, through sexual subordination, and more specifically the hierarchy of it, allows males to have power over women (30). The erotic is to feel and embrace one's emotions, while the pornographic suppresses these feelings. To conclude, Audre Lorde says, "To refuse to be conscious of what we are feeling at any time, however comfortable that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the absurd" (574).

Direct Engagement 10

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Having delved into this topic knowing near to nothing, Audre Lorde's perspective on the erotic in her article "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" sparked my curiosity in many ways. Firstly, she made the distinction between "erotic" and "pornographic"... basically, they are opposites; "pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic for it represents the suppression of true feeling (570)". The erotic is "a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings (570)". Is it just me, or is the term "erotic" sometimes used in a context that deems it negative, particularly in the media? Lorde elaborates on how the erotic underlies the "capacity for joy (572)" and how it empowers us through showing us all how satisfaction is possible.

By being raised to fear this within ourselves, Lorde believes it has hindered our motivation and empowerment in all spheres of our life. This was very interesting to me; by having society frown upon the embracement of the erotic, oppression is created. This leaves many women feel as though their growth is limited.

By recognizing our deepest feelings, "our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered within (573)". What do you think? Do you believe embracing the power of the erotic would have a significant effect on women, therefore revolutionizing the feminist movement and creating more empowered women? Or do you think there are other factors or ways to reach this "empowerment"?

Direct Engagement: On the Mobius Strip

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I appreciated this reading for a number of reasons. First of all, it recognized a polarization within feminism, and attempted to do a study that would balance rather than perpetuate this divide between radical feminists and sex radical feminists. And, second, Barton seemed to sincerely want to gather information from her informants without preconceptions of what it would tell her. She did not seem to have the intention of supporting a side with her evidence, but she did seem to be listening to her informants, then seeing what their information would tell her.
That said, even though she would like her study to be balanced and show both sides that they are right in their own way, and give them a reason to listen to each other, I don't think her research supported that. We can recognize how the position of each side is applicable for a time in the life of the sex industry worker, but it seemed as though her research overwhelmingly came out on the side of radical feminism. The empowerment phase of sex industry work had less than a 3 year life span, before the negatives greatly outweighed the positives, and the work even became emotionally harmful to the woman. All the women agreed that they were not getting paid enough, they all lost their ability more and more to be less affected by their work, and the negative experiences built up. The relatively short span of individual empowerment at the beginning of a sex industry career (which is ultimately lost), seems to be shaky ground to fight on for sex radical feminists promoting women's empowerment,( and ultimately the well-being of women).
Also, though the reading mentioned radical feminist's other concern that these industries enable men to continue in sexist attitudes that ultimately harm women as a group, it did not really address this issue. Individual empowerment is at odds with a patriarchal system which values women based on their youth, beauty, and grants power only on the basis of their sexuality. The individual woman may have power for a time, but she is ultimately doing something which exacerbates this problem, and continues to give men sexual power over women. These industries communicate to men that a woman's body is a commodity for purchase, an object.

Uses of the Erotic

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What makes me curious in the latest reading was Audre Lorde's essay on "The Use of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power." I have always been interested in understanding what stimulates people to find their passions in life. Up until this point I had credited it to a lot of things, innate gifts and talents, the people in our lives, our personal backgrounds and experiences, education, spirituality, and connections to causes, being a few of these. Lorde, however, believes that ultimately it is our experience and understanding of the erotic, which she defined as being "a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings" that allows us to experience "an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire,"(Lorde570) that defines our inspiration in everything else that we do. This idea that experiencing and understanding the satisfaction and completion that comes with the full expression of our sexuality has everything to do with our lives outside the bedroom is important in looking more deeply at how the suppression of homosexuality effects individuals and society. If the non-expression of or sexuality can be directly connected to our ability to function in the world, which includes everything from the work we do to how we treat people, then it would only be logical for us to embrace all sexual preferences as a means to a happy, healthy, and fruitful society. It is, however, unfortunate that it takes talking about our productive lives to argue that things like homophobia are unquestionably wrong. Just another capitalist dilemma I suppose...

Question 10: 4/13-4/15

OPTION 1: How do the readings (Dworkin, Lorde, Rubin) make you curious? You can engage with this question in any way that you wish as long as you follow these basic rules:

* Your direct engagement must address at least one of the readings
* Your direct engagement should be aimed at making us curious and demonstrate a respectful and critical engagement with the ideas/readings
* You may include your own opinions about the readings, but those opinions must be explained and supported by examples (from the readings, your experiences)
* You should include some sort of question that you pose to your readers

In discussing how the readings make you curious, you could think about these questions--Were there terms or concepts that didn't make sense or that you weren't familiar with? Are there certain issues that you would like to know more about? Were any aspects of the readings confusing? Are there certain claims that you strongly agree/disagree with and that you would like to read how others feel/think about them?

OPTION TWO: Several of the readings for Tuesday (Dworkin, Lorde, Rubin) aim to distinguish between the erotic and the pornographic. Using specific passages/ideas from the readings, answer some of the following questions:

  • Are there differences between the pornographic and the erotic?
  • If so, what are they?
  • What is at stake for feminists in attempting to link a politics of sex with the erotic or the pornographic?
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