April 21, 2009


I appreciate Dworkin’s outrage about pornography and believe her arguments are powerful and well founded—that said, I think her assessment of, and subsequent solution to the ‘oppression’ of pornography is too narrow. She does not adequately differentiate between porn and the erotic, nor does she acknowledge their connection.
In an emotional passage, Dworkin states: “As words alone, or words and pictures, moving or still, it [pornography] creates systematic harm to women…It creates harm inevitably by its nature because of what it is and what it does” (27).
Pornography, as 'entertainment' if you will, is bound up in multiple social issues; it is one representation of the very very complicated social and psychological relationship humans have with sexuality. If we accept Dworkin’s assumption, that porn has no positive utility, what message is that sending? Would it be received as an assertion of women’s empowerment? or yet another stifling attack on our erotic nature? Will an all-out condemnation of porn add another layer of disgrace to our battered and beleaguered sexuality—a continuation of centuries of shame?
Pornography is not exclusively an issue of gender, or of women’s rights, though both are fundamental components—it truly is a manifestation of elements of human sexuality; granted, some of those elements are cause for SERIOUS outrage, but analyzing this issue from only one lens will not enlighten us to the complexity of the problem, and thus will not bring us to the most comprehensive and progressive course of action.

Blog 9

After reading through the articles, I do believe that there is a difference between pornographic and erotic. As Andrea Dworkin points out in her writing, “pornography is a discrete, identifiable system of sexual exploitation that hurts women as a class by creating inequality and abuse” (CP 278). I find this statement to accurately portray the majority of pornographic media, including videos and magazines. Erotic, on the other hand, should be viewed as the opposite of pornography despite the confusion that the two terms have a tendency to create. As Audre Lorde explains, the source of power and information from erotic has become a type of confused, psychotic sensation that is used against women (CP 294). Regardless of this misunderstanding, erotic should not be used in place of the term pornographic. Pornography is seen as “the power men have over women turned into sexual acts men do to women” whereas erotic should be depicted as the “physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us” (CP 278, 294).
Feminists need to understand the differences between two terms that have so badly overlapped, resulting in a world of confusion. Pornographic is opposing the views of feminism by allowing men and women to stay on unequal ground. Although it is difficult to acknowledge such a power, particularly in our society, erotic has the potential to “give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world” (CP 296).

Blog 9

Andrea Dworkin defines pornography in "Against the Male Flood" as "a broader, more comprehensive act, because it crushes a whole class of people through violence and subjugation." Before defining it as thus, she explained the history of obscenity in law. Obscenity has historically been determined by male arousal; male judges and law makers decided that if something caused erection, it had to be obscene. Pornography is more than just arousal, it is a source of sexual exploitation of women, the "male dominance that sexualizes hierarchy, objectification, submission, and violance." Pornography, as defined by Dworkin, undermines the principles of feminism. Dworkin implies that the erotic is the sexual aspect of pornography without the dominance. So the difference is that pornography belittles women, while the erotic is expression of sharing sexual pleasure. For feminists to link a politics of sex with pornography is good for the movement because it upholds the rights of women, however it is difficult to educate the general public on the difference between the erotic and pornography. Definitely, the erotic does not pose a threat, but pornography does. While it is a good move to make the politics of sex part of their agenda, it would be difficult to make a distinction of what it appropriate and what is not appropriate.

April 20, 2009

Differences? Maybe, maybe not

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pornographic and erotic, defined?

After going through the readings, I understood erotic and pornographic to be very different, but influenced by one another. As Audre Lorde pointed out, erotic is rooted in passion, that it functions "in the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person." (572) Her explanation as to why this is empowering, in that it creates a standard for your own lived experiences, definitely connects with the politics of sex as discussed in feminist issues. Being conscious of human erotic connection is not on the same plane as pornography, however.
I thought Andrea Dworkin's piece was particularly powerful. While i set out reading it pretty critically, her section specific to pornography was really, really moving. By reading this section, i felt, rather than just understood as i previously have, that the pornography industry institutionalizes and normalizes sadistic treatment of women. She explained, of pornography, "It sexualizes inequality and in doing so creates discrimination as a sex-based practice." (26) Whereas erotic interaction might be a pivot of empowerment, pornography actually creates a realm of deterioration around human passion. And its clearly not this sect of media that is only consumed by those few people that make the choice. There are more X-rated bookstores in the United States than there are McDonalds. Furthermore, the influence of pornography is saturated in popular media, not secluded to specific moments in people's lives. Through our readings, I could believe that there is indeed a line between conscious-raising of erotic connection and the violent influence porn industry. Although, where does that line occur?

Parallels of Content

While looking over the blog, trying to think about different avenues that I could go to discuss this reading a highlight from a dateline story came across the television. This dateline article was focusing upon media influences on adolescents and adults. As the story progressed about some horrible circumstances of people imitating media influences like Jackass and Grand Theft Auto, I was thinking "well, what is the difference between this media relationship of violence and destruction and the pornography debate?"

I am not justifying by any means what, predominately, men do and treat women like (i.e. rape and sexual abuse), however I would like to make some parallels to a political argument that gets a bit more air-time. Adolescent's and adults are undeniably affected by violence whether they are desensitized to it, or try to imitate it, and this is no difference from the pornography debate. Violent video games have a mature rating just like pornography does, but does that stop adolescents from viewing it, hell no! The same problems that cause politics to get involved with the violent media scandal should be enough for them it get involved with the pornography issues. Adolescents and adults may see pornography as being "real", just like seeing Grand Theft Auto as "real", this desensitizes them to it and might cause them to imitate it just as much as pornography does to the way men treat women.

So the question is should adolescents be the only ones not able to play the violent video games or watch the pornography, or is it affecting society enough so that it should be banned totally. I don't care how much it might make someone money if it is degrading our society, it is wrong. To me these parallels make complete sense. What do you think?

Response to Shak0024

I think that Andrea Dworkin makes it quite clear what she defines as pornography. I think she sees the erotic as a wide range of possible sexual expression but she takes issue with the portion of this expression that fits the examples she gives on page 26 of "Against the Male Flood." On page 29 she gives the definition she used when writing the Minneapolis ordinance "graphic, sexually explicit subordination of women..." I think pornography can be banned under the guidelines of choice for the same reason that child pornography or hate speech is banned. The argument about choice has always pivoted on the harm of another individual -- choice groups arguing that the woman is harmed, pro-life groups that the embryo/fetus is harmed. In the case of pornography vs. erotic, who benefits from pornography. It is not the woman. Therefore, doesn't the woman's harm have to be regulated over the free choice of the pornographer or pornography viewer? She says "One reason that stopping pornographers and pornography is not censorship is that pornographers are more like the police in police states than they are like the writers in police states. They are the instruments of terror, not its victims [...] What pornographers do to women is more like what police do to political prisoners than it is like anything else: except for the fact that it is watched with so much pleasure by so many." (28-29). This is a radical argument and there are certain stances that can be taken against it, but as with much of radical feminist theory there is a great deal of truth in it, just truth that the world doesn't really want to admit. Women are harmed by pornography. Does that we should ban it all? Dworkin believes so. I don't know. But we should at least admit that it is not innocent in its treatment and its effect on women. Just because something brings a person errotic pleasure does not mean that it is inherently good.

Pronography vs. Erotic - Is there a line?

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April 17, 2009

Week 9: April 20

Several of the readings for this week 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?