Get Off My Clit!

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There is nothing inherently wrong with pornography. There is however, a lot, wrong with society. Like all cultural objects, the conditions under which they are produced: the labor involved, the exchange, exploitation and alienation have to be accorded. These conditions cannot be ignored, and rightfully should be questioned, but not at the expense of the humanity of those doing the producing. Not all cultural producers are working under the same conditions- some are actively challenging the systems of oppression in place that alienate ourselves from our own bodies, our desires and operate without our enthusiastic consent. Feminist porn does exist. Sex positivity is alive and well — and sex workers (contrary to popular belief) live out a myriad of experiences and do not need some sort of bullshit deus ex machina to swoop in and save us  we need to be trusted and our struggle respected.

There are some "feminists" who coincidentally are predominantly male-identifying that want us to associate shame, and terror with our labor as cultural workers who produce porn, erotica or participate in the sex trade. I feel like a broken record, but it bears repeating, stop telling women what we can and cannot do with our own bodies. I say women specifically here, because these men identifying ‘feminists’ practice total erasure when it comes to talking about the spectrum of identities that are affected by their criminalizing analysis.

I am referring to Chris Hedges and Robert Jensen, however the anti-sex worker ideas that they harbor reach far beyond these two individuals.

I wonder, when Jensen writes this (and Hedges quotes this), “Porn, like global capitalism, is where human beings are sent to die.” if they actually considered the real people that statements like these impact? Porn doesn’t make itself. Pornography is produced by people. People who are workers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons. It does bear mentioning that Jensen himself as an unapologetic transphobic bigot might have some difficulty grasping the concept that those who differ from himself deserve respect and justice. Still, it is expected by this author and cultural worker, that he do just that.

Hedges ejaculates in his recent piece, “A new wave of feminists, who have betrayed the iconic work of radicals such as Andrea Dworkin, defends porn as a form of sexual liberation and self-empowerment. These 'feminists,' grounded in Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, are stunted products of neoliberalism and postmodernism. Feminism, for them, is no longer about the liberation of women who are oppressed; it is defined by a handful of women who are successful, powerful and wealthy — or, as in the case of 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' able to snag a rich and powerful man. A woman wrote the 'Fifty Shades' book, as well as the screenplay. A woman directed the film. A woman studio head bought the movie. This collusion by women is part of the internalization of oppression and sexual violence that have their roots in porn. Dworkin understood. She wrote that 'the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.'”

“…its whores...too.” That phrase encapsulates why it was essential to abandon Dworkin as a feminist theorist. The hateful drek, that she constantly evangelized against sex workers and those engaged in the sex trade, that passed as feminist theory has long since needed debunking. Taking agency away from women (and I should be clear, I use ‘women’ to encapsulate the many forms of that identity), prescribing a path to empowerment and healthy consensual sexual desires is in fact NOT how you fight for equality and win liberation. You recognize and support agency, comprehensive sexual education and health care, living wages and radical enthusiastic consent practices.

  "Anatomy of a Pin-Up," photo by Annie Sprinkle

"Anatomy of a Pin-Up," photo by Annie Sprinkle

Then there’s Gail Dines, who Hedges also lauds for her Sex Negative perspectives. She writes, “Porn is woven into the corporate destruction of intimacy and connectedness, and this includes connectedness to the earth. If we were a society where we were whole, connected human beings in real communities, then we would not be able to look at porn. We would not be able to watch another human being tortured.”

Hedges further jizzes, “And with porn mainstreamed — some porn video participants are treated like film celebrities by talk show hosts such as Oprah and Howard Stern — the behavior promoted by porn, including stripping, promiscuity, S&M and exhibitionism, has become chic. Porn also sets the standard for female beauty and female comportment. And this has had terrifying consequences for girls.”

HEAVEN FORBID WE GET ANY ACKNOWLEDGMENT OR APPRECIATION FOR OUR WORK. HEAVEN FORBID WE ACTUALLY ENJOY OUR SEXUALITY AND MAKE A LIVING.

Now we see what he is really concerned with  it seems that pornography is a red herring. In fact Hedges just wants to perpetuate the male chauvinist monogamist ideal of woman as property. Not her own person, and certainly not sexually active with multiple partners. How have we moved from the problem of pornography, to stripping, to promiscuity? What is shared across these subjects is the perception of women acting out of turn.

Also considering that in this article they haven’t mentioned their definition of ‘women’ as radically inclusive (as I am using) I can only imagine that their analysis of sex workers is equally limited and without consideration for our trans* sisters and brothers, and genderqueer folks who should have equal job protection and be able to work without fear of criminalization.

        "Sexiest Writer in America," photo by Veronica Vera

 "Sexiest Writer in America," photo by Veronica Vera

To those like Hedges, Jensen and Dines, there is Nothing Scarier Than A Black Trans Woman With A Degree (and I would add: “who is also sex worker”). To see those who work in the sex trade as competent, intelligent, and capable is beyond them. I wonder if they would have the gall to say any of this shit to her face, to any of our faces. Something tells me it would feel like facing down those right-wing anti-choice bigots outside of an abortion clinic- all hell fire and brimstone, all white supremacist and anti-poor.

It does beg the question(s): Why are none of these conversations about decriminalizing our work so we can unionize? Why do none of these conversations center our voices? Why do none of these conversations appreciate our work as cultural work, or artistic performance? Answered: Because then what we do would have to be acknowledged as labor. Our work, and our lives would have to be valued. Our art and talents accepted. We would be outside of the shadow economy.

On this International Working Women’s Day, with International Sex Worker Rights Day just behind us, consider ditching the would-be feminists with the not-so-hidden conservative agenda. Respect sex workers. Join the fight to decriminalize our work. Adopt a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of what pornography can be- and champion safe, enthusiastic consensual sexual practices.

"The Hour Glass" is the blog of Red Wedge editor Brit Schulte: grass-roots organizing, burlesque dancin', comic book reading, punk rock listening, not-taking-shit, queer, Marxist-feminist. Follow: @britschulte