A not-very-thought-provoking read on Al Jazeera (to their credit–in the Opinions section–by Naomi Wolf: “Is pornography driving men crazy?” An interesting title, actually, because she doesn’t really talk about what she means by “crazy” in the first place. I think “crazy” here might be retranslated to “those who willingly watches pornography.” I’m frankly hoping someone else titled the article to make it sound more provocative than just yet another ho-hum “porn will poison your mind” piece. Goodness knows we haven’t had enough of those yet. *eye roll* But I doubt that’s the case. It seems far more likely that Wolf just wanted to trap as many people as possible into reading her predictable, uninspired, and unhelpful article about how men are silly, simple creatures easily taken in by their own brain chemistry when confronted with the monolithic evil that is modern porn. I think she wanted as many men as possible to read her rant and say, “Well that must be what’s wrong with me! It’s not MY fault I act like a bit of an idiot–it’s PORN’S fault!” And I think she wanted equally as many women to read it and say, “This must be what’s wrong with my husband/boyfriend/son/male friend! It’s all PORN’S fault!” Porn, of course, and the frail and obtuse psychology of the male brain.
The fact that this article is blazingly, unrepetently sexist is only the beginning of its problems, though. Wolf, like many other “feminist” writers like her, seems to miss the fact that by adopting fundamentally anti-sex and anti-porn views when they sit down to write without examining them first, she is helping exactly nobody. She’s so eager to upset some mythical apple cart in which the rest of us are supposedly sitting, twiddling our thumbs and assuming that everything is hunky dory with the way we all relate to sex, that she fails to realize that none of this finger-pointing or irresponsible wielding of scientific information they are not qualified to apply helps anything. When I read articles like this, which feint toward taking arms against a sea of smut that hurting all of us (apparently) without actually picking up a single spear, I want to write in the comments: “…so? What are you going to do about it?” I usually don’t, though, because, what’s the point? Here’s what I’m up against: thousands of years of patriarchal assumptions about sex and gender being turned neatly upside-down in an unimaginative and unproductive way. Opposing something isn’t difficult, Ms. Wolf. Coming up with with a whole new way to approach gravity is.
There’s nothing new in what Wolf says here. The assumptions she’s going on are almost too numerous to bear listing, but here are a few I took away from the article:
1) men are rather simple creatures with very little in the way of defenses against compulsion,
2) porn is bad and feeds right into the male sex’s reprehensible sexual compulsions,
3) sending people naked pictures of oneself is inherently a bad thing,
4) there’s not really anything we can do about it, because porn in unchangeable,
5) so let’s bitch.
Well, I see a few major problems with each one of these assumptions. Actually, many. But let’s pretend for a moment that “feminism” is a blanket one can throw over blatant sexism. (Or, for that matter, the parenthetical statement: “There is some new evidence, uncovered by Jim Pfaus at Concordia University in Canada, that desensitisation may be affecting women consumers of pornography as well.” Well by golly, I didn’t know women had compulsions, too! Good thing you put that in there!) Let’s pretend that it’s only men who are affected by all of this horrendous porn-related degeneracy, shall we?
So… then what? So you think that hardcore pornography and the fact that it is easily available for free on the internet to feed these poor, sad male creatures’ compulsions is a negative thing? So you wish there was less free porn online to fan the fire? You wish men would stop watching so much of it? So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to single-handedly shut down the porn industry, like Shelley Lubben wants to do? Good luck turning the entire history of the human species on its head and denying us our sexual imagery. Not gonna happen.
So then what? Are you going to spend some time making serious inquiries into what can be done to make this situation better? Are you going to talk to pornographers about how you’d be more likely to assure their bottom line by purchasing their products if they would make more responsible, less shocking material that feeds into “porn addiction”? (This question stands upon a pyramid of other assumptions about why shocking material is popular and whether it’s “good” or “bad,” but I don’t have time to get into that at the moment… maybe more to come on that later.) Are you going to work with the porn industry to help curtail the piracy of their video content, thereby making free pirated porn less available to the sadly semen-besotted masses? Are you going to help in any way to make this situation better?
Or are you, like Gail Dines and Shelley Lubben and a whole lot of other small-minded people who would rather rely on an entirely unrevolutionary set of assumptions about sex, gender relations, morality, and sexual imagery to make a boring pseudo-point that helps you wag your finger in the face of a multi-billion dollar industry and click your tongue about how naughty it is? Are you going to actually face the music and try to affect real, positive change in the way we talk and think about sex, thereby helping do away with the attitudes that make viewing porn such a compulsive, addictive, surreptitious behavior in the first place and diminishing the shame that surrounds it so we can have healthy, honest, open discussions about sex? Or are you going to throw up your hands like so many, declare that porn is just too terrible to get involved in, and bitch?