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WAR ON PORNOGRAPHY: The End of Patriarchy with Robert Jensen On the Radar

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Book Review: Readings

DA: Steamy chat distracted officer into killing man in home. Acclaimed French chef is suing over a lost Michelin star. Are the Niners for real? Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book. And pornography forces men to face up to what we have become. We allow women and children to be raped at a rate that can lead to no other conclusion except that we place a lesser value on their lives.

One might think some type of grappling with third-wave feminism and I have to add my standard disclaimer whenever I use the wave metaphor that feminist theorizing and activism is a constant process that can't really be cut up into discreet waves as if nothing happened in between them might be called for. Indeed, the back of the book even manages to promise something of the sort and the same text appears on the Amazon page when it notes that "Anti-pornography arguments are frequently dismissed as patently 'anti-sex'--and ultimately 'anti-feminist'. But I don't think he's really interested in arguing with me, or any other feminist.

Let's talk about Porn: Addiction, Recovery, Relationships, Masculinity (part 2)

The things he doesn't seem to be interested in arguing about are legion, probably. That's okay; the people who write book copy frequently miss the point. Just look at the back of Heinlein's Time Enough for Love. At the end of the day, people on both sides of that discussion can be united at being against bad porn.

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But who in his since I think we're assuming it'd be a he right mind would be for bad porn? Okay, I'm probably being naive, but I find it hard to believe than any of those people are going to actually bother to read Jensen's book. So what's the point? Part of the disconnect might be that Jensen and I simply different understandings of the relationship between theory and activism, and how and even if apologetics should be done.

Prostitution and Pornography: ‘Sex Work’ or Sexual Exploitation?

For Jensen, all the side roads of definitions and such are distractions from his main project of showing men the damage of pornography. But my mind doesn't work that way. I could engage in a theoretical debate with another femnist, for example exposing heteronormative assumptions in their work, because I know there's a set of shared assumptions. But to argue against Jensen's quintessential porn user? For me, that would require showing all one's work, not less of it. I know I'm not up to the task.

I've been wanting to make a post in my journal for years at this point on the "anti-sex is anti-woman" thing. There are objections I don't know how to answer. The most I could possibly do right now and probably ever is try to sketch out my worldview with the hope that an interlocutor could at least understand if not adopt it: "this is what I believe, and why I believe it" but not "this is why you should believe this.

First and foremost, it's about masculinity, and I think recognizing that explains why he doesn't address some of the things he doesn't. I've seen a lot I like, too. His insistence that what is needed is an abolition of masculinity, and not just redefine it I'm not sure whether he thinks an end of masculinity would usher in an end to maleness, or not. That men must join women in women-led causes as their primary mode of activism And so forth. I do think it's possible to step outside my maleness without stepping outside my heterosexuality--a project that, yes, I think would end up looking a lot like Jensen's.

Indeed, it almost seems to me that any reconstruction of masculinity which starts on Dworkinist premises is going to end up in this trap, which is ironic because of course Dworkin was a lesbian, and her partner and eventual husband John Stoltenberg, who is someone I have read and is the main person I'm thinking of here other than Jensen, was a gay man.

And I see that Jensen's not a Kinsey zero either. I'm not quite sure why I should even feel this should be so. Is it that they are just so deeply seeped in a 's second-wave aesthetic? Is it a result of positioning this reconceptualization as a primarily feminist move--which is to say making the moral criterion an essentially gynocentric one? Or is it even that any constructive project is by its nature opposed to the very project of critical, and thus queer, theory?

Now, as noted above, Jensen discusses the move to abolish masculinity versus the move to redefine it, arguing for, as would I, the former. This puts forward a possibility: any attempt to reconstruct masculinity is essentially an attempt to keep it intact, to re-inscribe separate gender roles, and since all sexism is ultimately heterosexist and vice versa , this is heteronormative. I don't think this is the whole story, though--especially since the premise of my original question assumed the project was being or at least, could be heteronormative while still being feminist which would presumably be to say, not sexist.

It does raise the question, though: the two male feminists I know of who think that masculinity is something worthy of being discussed instead of simply stipulating it as undesirable and then getting on with the feminist projects of radical critique and liberal activism are both Dworkinists. Is this significant?

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Similarly I think it is possible to step outside of one's heterosexuality without examining one's maleness. But these are probably unstable positions, and once one is used to the theoretical move of examining one's privilege, it does get easier with time. I think the question needs to be asked whether specific instances of sexual objectification can be broken off from its support of gendered patterns of oppression. That at least some such instances can be such seems clear--it can be used to satirize, to deconstruct, or expose those patterns, for example.

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But writ large? Objectification would need to be something that people do to each other--like kiss or make love--but which like kissing and making love they don't do all the time, something which can be turned off instead of being embedded in a persistent gaze of one gender towards the other. There is little in the way of analysis that goes beyond personal anecdotes and descriptions of the content of hardcore films, which always end with a variation on the imperative to put yourself in the picture - imagine she was your daughter, or how would you feel in the same situation, etc. His critique is lacking in the wide ranging analysis of consumer culture which he admits pornography is situated within, and yet he instead focuses on a man-negating hysteria which resorts to quasi-religious rhetoric to escape its dead end. In the first few chapters Jensen - like Ariel Levy in her recent Raunch Culture book - emphasises the links between the porn industry and consumer capitalism in general, and highlights the need for the questions addressed to pornography to also be addressed to society as a whole, yet at the end point he resorts to a discussion of "sex as an unfathomable mystery to honour", and a bizarre description of "people touching with light".

There is none of the cutting psychoanalytic or sociological analysis that would open doors to a genuinely far reaching critique of porn and gender roles. The book suffers from an emphasis on personal "journey" material and anecdotal evidence, from which the conclusions drawn are difficult to describe as anything other than self-hating, and at time quite laughable. It is at its heart a particularist work that predicates itself on a negative essentialist view of sexuality. This manifests itself most frequently in the text as an exclusion of radical emancipatory feminism in favour of new-age sounding obscurantism.

It is extremely difficult to take this as a serious work and does little but highlight the dead ends that resulted from the second wave feminist critique of pornography in the s.