Oppressed Minority

This well-made short film has been doing the rounds and while it makes a few good points the interpretation is very one sided in a lot of ways. Simply reversing the genders doesn’t entirely work and the film also underlines prejudices and preconceptions about men as much as it does about women. These comments are not meant to undermine anyone’s personal experience but to comment on this ‘funhouse mirror’ version of reality from a man’s perspective.

00:47: A man pushing a pushchair is likely to be pitied and harassed by other men, or at least looked down on. Men are not seen as caregivers and it is seen as unmanning to do so. While some young mothers might coo over the baby and the man pushing the pushchair other men are likely to see it as negative. Not being seen as caregivers men are often denied the possibility of even playing the role a lot of the time, something that I know hurts a lot of men and sees them playing the role of ‘distant breadwinner’ instead.. This comes up a lot through this film, this theme.

01:10: “Oh, I should really be talking to your wife,” is not much different to the way things currently are. Women are seen as the guardians of the home so things relating to the home and serious business around it are seen as the woman’s task. It is the man’s place to get nagged, bullied and tormented into doing the work and the woman’s place to tell him what needs doing. Men are seen as forgetful, stupid and not to be trusted to get things done. This outlook is now being reinforced by ‘Sitcom Dad’ stereotyping.

01:23: Bare chests on women are a much stronger sexual signal – at least in our culture – than bare chests on men. This is why the exposure/modesty laws differ (in part). The comparison is false. This little sequence with the jogger also illustrates, via the point of view of the film maker, how men are seemingly also perceived as sexually threatening. Which is an unfair stereotype. We are to take these pleasantries and compliments as somehow threatening but, as a men, starved of any such attentions, it might be nice to be on the receiving end of such.

01:52: In our world, rather than this parallel, men are severely under-represented in childcare and in teaching overall, until secondary/post secondary education. There are very few male role models and very little exposure to grown men for children until they have already reached their teen years but this under-representation does not get the same attention as the lack of women in STEM education etc. In the UK only 12% of primary school teachers are male and only 38% of secondary school teachers. In the last survey I could find only 48 men were to be found working in state nursery education in the entire United Kingdom. Education as a whole appears to be ill-serving boys with university admissions down, scores and grades lower and it has been suggested that part of this may be down to the feminine workspace to be found in schools. Why are less men doing these jobs? Poorer prospects, pressure to succeed and – at primary and nursery level – implicit and sometimes explicit suspicion of being a paedophile leading to much more invasive checks and suspicion of men who want to work with kids.

03:10: Shouted abuse by the severely mentally ill is not something faced by women alone and while it may be uncomfortable, men are far more likely to face violence (3-4 times as likely to be murdered for example) and have much more reason to be wary – yet aren’t. In a lot of areas men’s mental health issues are far worse than womens. Men are much more likely to end up homeless (76% male in a recent US survey) and while homeless are much more likely to end up on the street. Men are 3-4 more times more likely to take their own lives and there are stigmas attached to seeking help or admitting weakness. Meanwhile there is a lot more help and money available to help women, especially women with children. Being aggressively propositioned by junkies in need of money is also more of a male problem than a female problem. You don’t want to be hanging around King’s Cross late at night! Nor are men immune to having their appearance criticised or even having women cross the road to avoid them if they’re dressed a certain way.

03:50: Pissing in the street? Now you’re just jealous. More of the presumed sexual aggression.

04:40: And again with the presumed sexual aggression. I’ll refer you above. Men are far more likely to get into a violent altercation than women, often because of women if chucking out time in town centres is anything to go by. Violence against women is societally deemed unacceptable. Violence against men, especially by women, is not seen as serious.

05:20: Imagine a man trying to report that he was raped and, bad as things are for women, you’ll see a problem. Rape of men isn’t even defined as rape, it’s redefined as ‘made to penetrate’. Men’s reporting of sexual assault and rape is even lower than that of women – which some feminists estimate to be 90% under-reported (though this is disputed). It is even thought by many that men can’t be raped. Drunken sex of women can be considered coercive or rape while if the man is drunk it is not considered in the same light. For more information, this is informative.

06:00: A point here is trying to be made about office harassment, mixed in with the assault part of the film. However, again, in a ‘grass is always greener’ examination it would be nice to receive positive reinforcement about one’s looks. While I am sure it gets annoying and intrusive after a time men rarely, if ever, get this positive reinforcement day in, day out.

06:20: While the questions are intrusive it is always the job of law enforcement, and the courts, to ensure that there is a case to answer and that time and public money is not being spent frivolously. The truth is that we have absolutely no idea how many accusations of sexual assault and rape are false or how many claims are genuine. It is fantastically difficult to get decent statistics on sexual crime because it is so contentious and challenging accepted statistics from feminist sources is seen not as good science but as dismissal. The video linked above goes a little into this as well. The criminal justice system is not especially gentle with alleged victims of sexual assault, no, but then it is concerned with truth more than comfort. There are dangerous drives in some quarters to change the legal culture, but only around allegations of sexual assault against women. The presumption of innocence is threatened and the standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ has been lessened in some US campuses to ‘preponderance of evidence’. That is, the necessary threshold for expulsion (legal wrangles being separate) is greater than 50% now, rather than greater than 75%. This campus activism may yet leak out into the wider world and meanwhile makes campus life very dangerous for men.

07:00: His wife is meant to illustrate male insensitivity and wrongful priorities but what it does illustrate is the pressure men feel to be breadwinners, to not risk their careers for anything. Something which adds a huge amount of stress to a lot of men’s lives when they would rather have a better work/life balance than they do. In an economy stripped of many traditional male occupations this is an increasingly tender spot with a lot of men, unable to work in the kind of arenas they would prefer and within a male atmosphere, unable to feel worthy of their partners. She’s also meant to seem selfish, turning the conversation about herself, but this too reflects problems that men have expressing emotion and wanting to fix things for their partners, to distract them from pain and hurt, to make them feel better. The guy here is also being looked after, taken care of. Something that a lot of men have to abandon once they leave childhood, being expected to be a lot more self reliant and not to show the weakness of needing others.

08:55: The man in the piece turns, he blames society for the actions of a very few. It is an emotional lashing out that – outside this film – need not be present in the wider society. This alienates his wife who is doing her best and trying to look after him. This part, at least, feels more accurate as a direct gender swap.

 

 

 

Trying to Critique Gender Studies

team-stray-gender-studiesI give up.

Between work I’ve been trying to write a more substantive critique of the issues with Gender Studies. The problem is that so much of it is without substance and that criticism of that lack of substance, or the existing bias, is met with a ferocity and fervour unrivalled since the Spanish Inquisition. This environment appears to have made substantive criticism or even scientific studies into gender – and its potential differences – virtually impossible.

Trying to get a handle on what much of the studies say is like trying to hack through jungle undergrowth with a penknife. The jargon is impenetrable and the majority of the work reads like the Sokal affair. Post-modern nonsense with only the loosest of affiliations with science or decent research standards. I even found a lengthy paper trying to justify an existing ideological viewpoint (feminism) as empiricist. Science isn’t aligned with ideology, it is what it is and if it supports an ideology you discover that after the fact – not before. Entering a study with an existing, strong, ideological viewpoint is to invite cognitive bias. Something that should be so obvious as to not need explaining.

Criticism or ideas that are counter to the existing dogma – and let us not forget this is at best a soft science, not a hard science – meet with such vociferous opposition that careers are ruined and the harshest of personal and professional consequences are meted out to those who do dare to take a contrary point of view. One need only look to the treatment of Nyborg, Farrell or Bailey to see this in practice.

Another case in point would be Tom Martin’s case against the London School of Economics, which you may remember from more recent issues of Muslim gender segregated lectures and censorship of Jesus and Mo T-shirts, amongst other issues. Tom entered into their gender studies course and found it to be rife with intolerable gender bias against men, so much so he brought a suit. This suit was dismissed not so much because it didn’t have grounds, but because it wasn’t thought it would succeed by the judge – who also denied appeal. Saying:

 “What Mr Armstrong would have me say, and I use his words, is that this is a hopeless claim. This claim has in my opinion no chance of success at all.”

Which seems reflective, again, of bias against men. Women’s suits have been brought on similar – or lesser – grounds without being dismissed so readily.

So, this turns out to be an article, expanded from a handful of tweets, on why I’m not going to. The bias and sexism is so endemic that criticism is rare and suppressed. That it is virtually impossible to get purchase, that male representation within a field that is supposedly gender studies these days, and not women’s studies, is tiny. Even the newer addition of men’s studies is there primarily as a criticism and a heading off of a potential basis for examining things from a different point of view.

This article by Yiftach Shiloni covers most of the same concerns I have and from another man, like Farrell, who has come through the existing system and emerged with serious misgivings. His most telling point is, in my opinion:

It is hard to imagine a department for Middle Eastern studies without Arab students and lecturers. It is impossible to imagine a conference on the situation of Ethiopian immigrants without a sizable representation of them. Only one thing is indeed possible – totally feminist and female gender studies.

One need only consider the objections to male domination in other fields, or men making political and health decisions about women’s bodies to see how a virtually gender exclusive field cannot help but have an inherent bias, not that this is surprising given Gender Studies is really Women’s Studies and developed from it.

So yeah, this is a longer article, derived from tweets, on why I haven’t been able – or at least haven’t had the energy to – really get into it. It’s just so utterly biased it’s virtually impossible to get a handle on it and it’s simply not worth the fight, though I feel like it should be. From the initial concept of gender as purely a social construct, the entire edifice is shaky and promulgating bad data. Practice that can only harm the cause of equality, not aid it.

Racism, Feminism, Eroticism & Porntellectualism.

HERE‘s a link to a really interesting podcast by We Are Respectable Negroes (WARN) which is a prolonged interview with Nica Noelle. It ranges about a lot of interesting issues about the interface between erotic and mainstream culture and issues of feminism, stereotyping, shaming and race which are all topics that interest me as a writer and a game designer of some small notoriety within my niche.

This blog is about atheism and reason but also about the application of rational thought to contentious subjects. So I think it best fits here.

I have come to know Nica Noelle via my friend and colleague Satine Phoenix who is working on the art for Machinations of the Space Princess. Nica is a porn actress, former stripper and current director who is trying to take porn in a different direction with plots, stories, emotions and integrity. What you might call ‘visual erotica’ as opposed to porn per se. She is “beautiful, charming, devastatingly intelligent” and well worth following on Twitter so long as you can stand the occasional naked selfie along with self-deprecation, dog pictures and intelligent meanderings.

This is going to be a long blog post as there’s lots to talk about from this podcast, which lasts over an hour. So it’s going to be a long read. No apologies, but I’ll try to break it up with the occasional picture and I’ll reference the point on the podcast timeline I’m talking about as I go along. I found the whole thing quite thought provoking and drew parallels to culture-wars in nerd culture, games, the trials and tribulations of erotica writers and so forth. I hope you find it as thought provoking and if you can carve out the time, listen and read along with me:

***

keyhole-742659[4.00] Chauncey brings up the fact that going into interviews and appearances, most of the time anyone who works in the sex industry at any level – pornography or otherwise – is usually facing judgement and stereotyping. Immediately the interviewee is placed on the assumed defensive because of the prurient interest or agenda of the interviewer. Nica’s fascination with the sex industry mirrors my own fascination with it. People have such mixed feelings about it, it has such a powerful effect on people, there are such contradictions and paradoxes in people’s consumption/condemnation/views on it.

The stereotype which they talk about [5:50] is that of the ‘broken toys’, that something must have gone wrong, that someone must be damaged to get engaged in the industry. As Nica points out this may have once been more true – though never universally true – but it’s becoming less true over time. Like everything else – it seems – porn and erotica are going somewhat mainstream and people don’t have to be broken or fucked up to get involved. It is gaining some small amount of acceptance.

I’ve known people involved in the sex industry in some manner or another for getting on for 15 years and yes, a lot of them are damaged and as Nica points out, being damaged in some way allows some people to break boundaries in a way those with more conventional backgrounds may not. In my experience though many get involved as a way of defining and controlling the sexual aspect of themselves that they didn’t have in their past. Commodifying and selling their sexuality brings it back under their control. Agency, as Chauncey puts it. There’s weight to what Nica says as well though, owning your stigma gives you power and identity – something that’s also very true of the nerd/geek culture. This is what you identify as, it becomes you. You are a ‘Star Wars fan’, or ‘A stripper’ or ‘A porn diva’.

[9:50] The idea of a ‘porn intellectual’ seems funny or amusing and I suppose, in a way, it is. We’re used to seeing people approach erotica and pornography from the view of literary or cultural analysis, from a feminist perspective particularly but an actual ‘porn intellectual’ seems somehow comedic. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. It’s a medium – and a powerful one – that deserves genuine academic study that doesn’t come from axe-grinding or distancing but from a genuine desire to understand, analyse and improve. The argument that ‘it’s just porn’ is the same as ‘its just a game’ or ‘they’re just comics’. One shouldn’t lose sight of the fun aspects or the purpose, but an intellectual examination of any medium can throw up useful ideas and methodologies to improve that form.

masks_by_morgan[10:40] Chauncey talks about his experience with meeting the porn star Sierra. He overheard a conversation she was having about having both a ‘porn me’ and a ‘real me’. This is, perhaps, something that people might not have been able to identify with particularly in the past but now we all have an ‘internet persona’ and a ‘real life persona’ to some extent. Is this distancing oneself from what one does? Not necessarily. Porn is a performance as is writing, painting etc even at a remove. Our performance personalities are part of our work – an important part. Meeting an author, artist or game designer can often be a surreal experience because we form a mental image of that person before we meet them, via their work. The ‘real them’ can be completely at odds. The horror writer might be a quietly-spoken butterball of a person, all affection and gentleness in person, despite the image their work creates. I know that I come across very differently in person.

With a porn star, camgirl or whatever else the experience is reversed. We may be intimately aware of their physicality but the ‘real them’ that we must adjust to is their real personality and mind and that – I think – can be even more jarring, possibly because it takes work to figure someone out and trust for them to let their guard down. Certainly I know that once you get past that shell adult workers are some of the most genuine and bullshit-free people it has ever been my pleasure to know. Perhaps this is because those who survive and thrive there or have the strength to get ‘out’ when they want to have to be resilient and genuine and to ‘own their shit’ to work there in the first place.

The other side is that the construction of an ‘alter-ego’  [12:20] allows one to disassociate one’s ‘true self’ from what you do. That’s an aspect of shame or in better-case-scenarios modesty. Its a reason for pen names in erotica (or even in Science Fiction! Look at Ian M Banks Vs Ian Banks) and for ‘porn names’. I’m not entirely sure that’s healthy though I can understand the desire to shield yourself from the condemnation and judgement of others in any way you can. It can be harsh.

[15:10] It’s interesting to hear Nica talk about how devastating the tube sites and piracy have been to the adult industry and it’s interesting to compare that with how it has impacted other industries. Porn is disposable. People pirate or free-view porn with fewer – if any – moral quandries than they would about anything else. Porn is shameful, using porn is shameful, buying porn is something you have to justify and explain to yourself – and potentially your partner. The porn industries have a public image as being exploitative and ‘evil’ which makes it easier to justify ‘stealing’ from them. A subscription to a porn-site on your account is something that will make you red faced. If you can get your smut hassle free and without having to break anonymity in any way you’re going to take the path of least resistance. So this means porn is particularly hard hit by piracy in a way music, books etc are not.

Nica’s mode for tackling this, consciously or unconsciously is to tap into fandom and, in a way, the distributed patronage model. This chimes with the zeitgeist formed from Kickstarter/IndieGoGo and Amanda Palmer’s TED talk. The quotable Nica here is: “People like to be fans of things” and they do! If you have a strong personality, a strong product, if you do things in a way that stands out in some fashion you will attract fans and the 1,000 True Fan model – while not new any more – still seems to be the way things are going.

Nica puts a lot of effort into engaging with and talking to her fans. She spends a lot of time on Social Media, she reveals her true self, she is almost endlessly nice to people and available. She is a living defiance of so many of the stereotypes about adult workers. She’s doing well on the back of that and on the back of taking a risk in having a product that differs from what else is available by going emotional and romantic, by having story rather than – necessarily – going full on hardcore.

What is frustrating, terribly frustrating to me, is that Nica could go so much further if the tools were available for her to do so. Since crowdfunding took off I’ve been looking at it and thinking that it could be an incredible boon for the adult industry in the wake of the problems it is having with piracy. People do seem to form strong attachments to particular studios, particular porn stars, particular directors in much the same way as they do in the mainstream for particular writers (look at Warren Ellis or Alan Moore for examples from the comics/literary world) and they will go out of their way to support people they care about.

400censorshipUnfortunately for adult work it is often banned from these crowdfunding sites, even IndieGoGo which has an otherwise much more liberal political slant than Kickstarter does. There is – as yet – no platform I’m aware of that provides the necessary crowdfunding tools for adult workers in that it has security, accessibility, credibility and a high enough profile for it to work. Just imagine, though, if the money to make adult films and pay those involved could be raised from the fans, freeing those involved much more to choose who they work with, what they do and to meet the expressed needs and desires of their fans. Exploitation would no longer stick, financing would be in place with no up-front risk and there would be the capacity for Nica and others like her to experiment and push the boundaries more.

Part of the reason this hasn’t happened yet is the desire of these sites to maintain a ‘positive brand image’ but part of it is also the shaming and shunning of sex in our culture. Even with erotica we had this – and campaigned against it at Bannedwriters. Payment services, credit card processing, all of them seem to deem it acceptable to slap on extra surcharges and additional hoops to jump through if you’re doing something ‘naughty’, supposedly on the basis of increased risk to them. Are you more likely to return a sex toy or an adult video? I don’t know. We’d have to study that. Our reticence to argue and expose our peccadilloes allows the companies, meanwhile, to screw adult workers, writers and content providers over.

[26:00] The idea of ‘being yourself with the volume turned up’ resonated and I think that’s true for creators and performers across the spectrum. Interesting that the idea apparently came from wrestling!

[26:30] Nica and Chauncey go into a bit more detail about the different eroticism of The Random Encounter versus the Emotional Context and how each have their own appeal. Nice produces material with emotional context while most other pornographers seem to produce mechanical fucking but, as they both point out even a random encounter has some connection, even if its pure animal lust, which is most often missing from adult material. The nuances that make it work. There’s a fallacy, I think, that men are purely visual/physical and don’t crave intimacy in the way that a woman does and while that main contain a kernel of truth men absolutely do crave intimacy it’s just that acknowledging that is ‘unmanly’ and a ‘sign of weakness’ and – thus – to be avoided. That isn’t to say the purely physical or lusty can’t be great, but it doesn’t meet EVERY need. Many men who hire prostitutes do so as much for female company and conversation as physical relief and the same is often true of women who hire male escorts.

[27:20] This section talks about how porn people are funny. About how they’re hilarious and always joking around. This seems frivolous but I think it’s a hugely important point. We all know about the porn parodies and their (often) silly names which are funny, but not necessarily that sexy. Certainly from my experience in writing ‘adult’ game material it is much easier to sell the idea if you sell it as comedy. Humour is another distancing tactic, like euphemism or persona-creation that somehow makes it more acceptable to talk about sex (or death, or drugs, or cancer or whatever else makes people uncomfortable). This is a shame. I know I was terribly frustrated working on some of the stuff I did for Mongoose because I wanted to examine the material in a more serious vein but there just wasn’t the option. The later work suffered because it ended up confused between ‘Lol’ and ‘Hmm’.

[33:00] Nica and Chauncey start to talk about the impact of pornography for couples but also on teens and kids growing up today where porn is much more accessible and only a Google search away from satisfying your curiosity. I think it’s a bit arse-backwards to say porn creates fetishes and behaviours when it is more about fulfilling people’s desire to see certain things and exaggeration of those already extant desires. It’s hard to convince people they need a product they don’t want, it takes a lot of effort and the only example I can think of, off hand, is the invention of halitosis as a term by Listerine and the promulgation of the paranoia over it that they brought about. In other words, people are turned on by cumshots so they seek pornography that includes it, rather than pornography creating the desire to see cumshots. There are all sorts of complex psychological and evolutionary reasons why such a thing might turn us on despite seeming counter intuitive and for that I’ll refer you to the excellent book A Billion Wicked Thoughts.

[35:00] They touch on the idea of exploitation and the exploitation of women in porn when talking about the hardcore ‘gonzo’ material. This is where I part ways with Nica a little in that I still see such material as being non-exploitative because its fantasy and because everyone involved is paid and consenting and that there are people, men and women, who genuinely enjoy such acts. The lack of connection and meaningful power-exchange makes this material less engaging, interesting and causes it to part ways with such behaviour between consenting adults in real life and that’s where there’s a ‘problem’ with it but really this stuff is scratching a similar itch to BDSM.

I’m glad that Nica goes on to point out the shaming that goes on. That women aren’t supposed to enjoy certain kinds of sex and that this pressure most often comes from other women, telling them that they’re being exploited and used for something that they have agency over. I agree with Nica that such judgement is a way to oppress women and to try and enforce a party line. Certainly for me, growing up, it was a revelatory experience in and of itself that I – as a man – could be desired and pursued rather than the other way around and that a woman might want and desire sex rather than it being some sort of ghastly male imposition. This seems, to me, to be an extension of that.

[37:00] ‘Different strokes for different folks’ is something that needs to be understood across all entertainment genres. Something weird happens in education that you don’t normally see elsewhere, say in food. If someone doesn’t like the taste of coriander or (in my case) courgette then they happily go about their lives pushing it to the side of their plate or avoiding it altogether. When it comes to entertainment though, whether it be porn, games, books, comics, whatever else they seem to want to dictate their personal taste upon others and to justify their dislike beyond ‘this isn’t for me’ by turning it into some moral or social issue.

Historically one found this behaviour on the right-hand side of the political spectrum, generally stemming from religious beliefs. A personal distaste (or shame) would dictate that someone would condemn something on religious or moral grounds. This still goes on but increasingly one sees it from the political left as well. A personal distaste for something will be dressed up in the clothing of feminism, sexuality or other activism in order to justify that personal distaste and to portray the thing being targeted as societally harmful. Whatever side of the political spectrum this comes from it is harmful and shaming and needs to step back and think a little more.

tumblr_mairczhrc01rf10qjo1_500[38:00] Inevitably the discussion gets around to 50 Shades of Grey and how BDSM and erotica has abruptly and suddenly (yet again) popped up into the mainstream. Is 50 Shades giving women ‘permission’ to explore their kinkier or more submissive side? That goes back to the shaming culture that surrounds women who enjoy sex, particularly politically incorrect sex and the necessity of having a means to bypass or avoid the judgement of others. 50 Shades is, of course, awfully written and portrays the BDSM community in an appalling light and a manner in which it has reacted to very badly. This happens to every subculture that gets dragged into the mainstream glare whether it’s punk rock, roleplayers, comic fans or Trekkers and its going to be no different for kinksters. Awful or not, it does raise consciousness and does get people to experiment and explore which – in my opinion – is a net plus. Even if it creates some weird ideas in some people.

[39:00] I self-identify as being sexually dominant (don’t laugh) and briefly flirted with the BDSM scene for a while back in the day, in secret, ashamed of myself and terrified of both my own desires and of being ‘found out’. I still identify that way even if I’m not a ‘practising dom’ in much the same way as Stephen Fry used to identify himself as a celibate homosexual. I still find erotica and pornography along these themes the most intriguing in every sense, including artistry and what Nica says at this point about your sexual proclivity and identity not having to carry over into the rest of your life almost made me applaud the computer.

There are way, way, way too many doms (and dommes) who confuse being sexually dominant with being a jerk or a bully. That domination requires one to be an arsehole. That the power exchange is one-sided. That’s simplistic, stupid and ruins people for the BDSM scene much as it did me. Equally on the other side there are plenty of submissives who think that they have to be meek and useless all the time, to have no spine or desire of their own whatsoever, to defer on everything. There are those subs who forget that there’s no small amount of joy in ‘resistance’ before surrender – for all parties concerned and again, equally, this can be massively off-putting. Reconciling a respect and concern for women with the desire to dominate and control a partner sexually was – and is – incredibly shaming and difficult to process. Especially when people are telling you constantly how monstrous it is to have these desires and that, even as pure fantasy, they are somehow dangerous.

[45:00] Back to 50 Shades again and again about how the writing is awful. Nica and Remittance Girl seriously need to be friends and trade notes as they’re both intellectuals in similar arenas striving to better the craft.

Picture_1[46:00] The discussion gets into race in pornography and honestly this is something that has always really confused me and made my brain itch. I think that’s because I don’t have quite the same cultural cues and history as Americans do. That’s not to say race isn’t a big issue in the UK its just not as big an issue and not as woven into the warp and weft of British society as it is in America. Americans are seriously fucked up about race and this has one of its most open expressions in pornography to a degree that you don’t see elsewhere, perhaps because porn is already seen as problematic and shameful and so racial issues on top of that don’t seem like a big deal.

Part of me sees this issue as just another aspect of taste and fantasy. There are evolutionary reasons for us to be drawn to (and repulsed by) the different and the exotic and there are racial archetypes and cultural trends as well as physical aspects that do tie in – however loosely – to things that attract us. There’s nothing inherently wrong in being attracted to black women, Caucasian women, Hispanic women, Asian women, South Asian women or Arab women (or men) though you may find some of these itches harder to scratch than others, again for cultural reasons.

On the other hand, as Nica points out, often the person is there – at least in the adult film – to be nothing but ‘the black guy’ or ‘the Japanese schoolgirl’ and that is their entire and total character. At the same time I wonder why minority actors and actresses go along with it and that’s where I think it gets even more complicated, especially with African Americans and especially with African American men. The ‘thug’ stereotype seems, to me, to be as much a defensive stereotype, one of pride and masculinity, of threat and power as it is an offensive stereotype. The rapper, the pimp, the gang banger, these are shitty, two-dimensional things but they can be a source of strength. If you scare and threaten someone you have power of some sort over them that you may not, otherwise, have. The other stereotype being the super-hung black, the ‘mule’ (Is twoo is twoo!) which is simultaneously insulting but also affirming of dangerous, powerful masculine agency.

The dynamic in the states is such that many people are threatened by these black stereotypes and cultures and are simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by it. There’s an element of humiliation and despoiling in the interracial pornography, especially when it’s a black man (or men) and a white woman. Its a weird, charged mix and one that porn doesn’t shy away from while in other media this is pretty much unacceptable.

It is still a fantasy though and as Nica talks about there are those actresses who refuse to work with black men in movies, but who date black men in their ‘real lives’. They cannot, then, really be called racist but they know (or at least believe) that such a performance might damage their prospects or change their image with their fans. Equally those who make the films are exploiting a fantasy and a fetish that pre-exists.

Its the kind of problem that really bakes your noodle and needs discussion, discussion which doesn’t happen enough. My visceral reaction is disgust and its definitely ‘problematic’ but at the same time it is still fantasy, at a remove from reality, as much as BDSM fantasies are removed from ‘patriarchy’. To me, I think, after consideration it acts to illuminate just how messed up Americans are about race in the wider culture.

[48:00] As a grumbling old left-anarchist I think that a lot of these problems of white, male, middle class dominance are down to economics rather than race and that makes me realise why, in part, what passes for the American Left is so vitriolic and why it turns to blaming privilege in terms of race/gender etc so much. The argument on socialism versus capitalism is 99% lost in the US. It is not really part of the political conversation. The inability of immigrant and racial minority groups to climb the social ladder to the middle classes and nouveau riche on anything like an equal basis cannot be down to economic failure because freemarket, laissez-faire capitalism and trickle-down economics go virtually unquestioned in the American political conversation. If you work from that assumption then the issue must be down to black indolence (if you’re a conservative) or entrenched racism (if you’re white) and nothing to do with money at all.

From my perspective as a European and a leftist, that is (almost but not entirely) bollocks.

[50:00] Nica has proven her point and increased diversity in pornographic representation not by attacking or trying to eliminate the things she doesn’t like but by creating the things that she does. She has ‘made good art‘.

african-metalheads-in-botswan-pics-3047-1304170176-22[56:00] Chauncey brings up V.M. Johnson and, obliquely, the problems and surprise that racial minorities can encounter in the kink scene. This echoes what one finds in the gaming, science fiction and fantasy scenes where the problem is not necessarily the people who are already part of that tribe but rather those around the atypical person who finds themselves liking, loving, adoring something that is seen as ‘white boy stuff’. Certainly the goth and metal scenes have very few members of racial minorities in them and that’s not so much to do with racism within those scenes but rather the pressures upon minority kids to conform to the community into which they’re born. Owning and identifying with their stigma in a way similar to that Nica described for porn stars.

[57:30] Quoting V Chauncey says – to paraphrase – “That’s the politics of it, but whatever gets you off”. This resonates with my with regard to fan/geek culture, despite being focused on race, in that the assumption is so often that if you like cheesecake art in your fantasy games or comics, if you like to rescue the princess in a computer game that this necessarily says something about your feelings towards women. Merely not condemning such material sufficiently for those who hate it is also grounds for you to be branded a misogynist or whatever else. Sexuality is far more primal and powerful and yet V can make the distinction, even when it comes to so bitter an issue as black slavery, that the one thing is fantasy, the other is reality and the two don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other.

[58:00] Alongside the brain-itch from out and out racial issues in porn there’s also issues that come up with playing into the idea of ‘Americas enemies’. Mexicans crossing the border being caught and sexually used and humiliated or Arab (or Arab) women being the target of gonzo porn in the wake of 9/11 (fascination/revulsion at play again). This is no different to how wrestling brings in a ‘heel’ who is Iraqi – or whatever – when there’s a war on.

[60:00] Nica again reiterates about not judging people for their personal kinks and desires, however dark you might think they are or how harmful you might think they are. As she says, people can be exploring these things in a safe environment. I have known more than one woman who, as a victim of rape, sought out rough sex and rape play as a way to play out, process, deal with and work through their issues after the fact. A way of having a safe harbour where control was there if needed. Where they were reclaiming their own sexual autonomy through exploring these things.

From [64:00] to the end is important and valuable, I think, for challenging people’s stereotypes about adult workers and certainly meshes with my experiences and friendships with people who have worked across the spectrum of adult entertainment.

I found this whole ‘cast interesting, intelligent and it provoked the thoughts I’ve set out above. I think its worth listening to and I think people like Nica are worth supporting. I hope you’ve found it – and my thoughts – the same way. I’m going to end with a link to the brilliant Alyssa Royse talking about sexual shame and how its a load of bullshit.

Do as I say (on Twitter). Not as I do.

men_vs_women_6The last few days have been an aggravating time on Twitter with a couple of hashtag wars on the following topics:

#INeedMasculinismBecause

and

#ThankAFeminist

Both of them have rubbed in the point that while there are reasonable people that call themselves feminist and reasonable people that call themselves Men’s Rights Activists the majority of noticeable and loud people on either side are a bunch of fucking clowns.

It’s my considered opinion that both men’s and women’s rights issues need to be replaced with human rights issues. Egalitarianism – equal treatment – rather than dividing it up by gender.

There are injustices and inequalities that women face. There are injustices and inequalities that men face. Both need to be tackled.

The hypocrisy displayed by the Twitter feminists is painful to see though and undermines the legitimacy and regard of the cause that they claim to be championing as well as scuppering the claim that feminism stands for equality, rather than purely women’s issues.

#INeedMasculinismBecause raised more than a few legitimate issues around problems and inequalities for men from military service and the draft to child custody and support, circumcision, cancer research, lack of reproductive choice and many others.

The whole thing was met with stereotyping, dismissal, mockery, the very things deemed unacceptable when directed against feminism but by people who – apparently – consider themselves progressive and egalitarian.

For example:

@Toffer #INeedMasculismBecause white privilege and middle class privilege are just not enough privileges for me. Really, I need more privilege.

Privilege is a ghastly, stupid and usually misapplied term but let’s play for a moment. Women and men (and people of all kinds) have different arenas in which they’re privileged and in which they’re underprivileged. Pointing out women’s exemption or privilege in certain areas wouldn’t be tolerated as a means to excuse their lack elsewhere, but apparently not vice versa.

@xiombarg #INeedMasculismBecause something one women did to me once that hurt my feelings is totally something all women do.

The idea that feminists are only feminists because they’re bitter man haters is not a stereotype that could or would be tolerated so why is the reverse perfectly fine?

@crushingbort #INeedMasculismBecause I took my annoyance at the wife always being smarter in sitcoms and fashioned it into an actual political philosophy

I doubt that people saying this think that negative portrayals of women in media are ‘harmless’ and should go unchallenged simply because there are worse things going on.
@a_girl_irl #INeedMasculismBecause i am a mentally ill child who wants everything to be as easy for him as it was for an antebellum plantation owner.
That has to be the narrowest avoidance of argumentum ad Hitlerum I’ve ever seen while, at the same time being equally offensive.
None of this is, of course, to say that anyone covered themselves with glory in the #ThankAFeminist tag but there is an important and fundamental difference in that that tag attracted a great deal of the typical, provocative trolling (and much handwringing about it) while the Men’s Rights tag attracted trolling from people who publicly and genuinely hold to progressive viewpoints yet can’t seem to process their own hypocrisy here.
It’s all rather sad.
#INeedEgalitarianismBecause