23 April 2007


NPR's Morning Edition is doing a series called "The Long View" and since I missed the intro to the piece I'm going to talk about, I'm not sure yet if it is specifically about sex and sexuality, but that's part of what Renee Montagne and Hugh Hefner talked about in the interview that aired this morning. Tomorrow they're talking to Dr. Ruth (Westhenimer), so perhaps I'm correct that it is a series about sexuality. Or maybe it is about folks who have reached a certain age. Whichever, I listened with interest as they talked about the bad relationship between the women's movement and Playboy.

Hef said that when the women's movement first started squalling about him and Playboy, he was astonished, that he thought Playboy was all about women's rights. Which is soooooo typical male bewildered behavior that I'm not even going to comment on it. But he went on to say that he thought the women's movement had partially grown out of the sexual revolution that Playboy was a big part of, and guess what, he's not wrong.

Mainstream availability of blue magazines and films allowed women to speak up and speak out about things that had long been taboo. A more open society allows debate of a wider range of issues, leading to public conversations about topics that were once the subject of whispers, out there on the edge.

Pornography has always been a tricky subject for me. On the one hand, you have freedom of speech, of expressing yourself, that everyone has the right to produce whatever they like, say whatever they like. A sacred right, one that I hold very dear. You must protect the speech that you don't like as vociferously, or more so, than the speech that you do like, lest the evil persons unknown censor anything. Censorship is wrong, plain and simple. On the other hand, you have the fact that porn IS degrading to women, most of it catering to ridiculous male fantasies, perpetuating the myth that to be sexy you must be blonde, tall, leggy, white, and have huge, basketball sized breasts.

Please note that when I'm saying pornography, I am referring to what could be called 'mainstream porn', not child pornography, not snuff films. I'm talking about the things that can easily be purchased at any newsstand, or rented from the back room of your neighborhood video store.

I've heard the argument that getting rid of porn would solve many of the world's evils. I don't buy it. If you make it illegal, you simply force it to the further edges of society. Or, rather, out even further than it currently is, which would make it more dangerous. Porn is always going to be there. Even the Greeks and Romans had their own versions of pornography, you can easily find examples of Grecian urns with pornographic imagery. I first heard about that aspect of porn's long history in a college class, where Reign of the Phallus; Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens was required reading. So outlawing it isn't the answer, because there will always be a market for it, and there will always be those that produce it for the pull of the money.

Does pornography offend me? Not really. Am I fan? No. So what do I do about it? I don't purchase it, for one. Remember Salt-n-Pepa? Some of the first female rappers? They had a song in the early 90s called "Let's Talk About Sex" which caused a huge stir when it was released. The song is really about safer sex, talking with your potential partners ahead of time about using protection, keeping the lines of communication about sex open. But there's a line in that song that I'll point to as what I think is a good way to think about pornography.

Those who think its dirty have a choice;

Pick up the needle

Press pause

Or turn the radio off

Will that stop us, Pep?

I doubt it.

If it offends you, don't buy it. Don't look at it. But know that someone, somewhere is going to produce it and someone else is going to buy it. Live and let live, essentially. Lobby to keep it out of your kid's face, absolutely. However, what happens between consenting adults shouldn't be the subject of the debate.

When I posted a diatribe a few weeks ago about rude public behavior, a comment from another blogger got me thinking about the rise of female raunch culture, which is a topic far afield from where I started today. While I agree with the premise that women who star in pornographic publications are objectifying themselves, allowing the objectification of women to continue, I also think that it certainly is within each woman's rights to choose to be in a porn film or racy magazine.

And then turn it around to another angle; women are certainly no less guilty of objectifying men, but that's a much more recent development. Not until long after the sexual revolution did you find PlayGIRL. There's a much, much smaller segment of the porn industry that produces porn for women. I don't purchase that, either. My non-support of the industry extends over the whole of the industry.

I'd like to say that when men are objectified that they ought to be flattered, but realize how incredibly chauvinist that is of me. How horrified I would be if a man suggested that to me. I don't know if men could ever understand why being objectified is such a problem for women. Why we aren't flattered. Being looked at as purely a sexual object can indeed be a thrill, but you can also end up feeling like you're worthless, because no one cares about who you are outside the fantastic body. I think that's the piece that's missing from Hef's brain when he talks about how crazy he thinks the feminists are.

I don't think that Hugh Hefner is the devil incarnate. I think he's a pretty clever fella who figured out how to make millions off of taking pictures of naked people. And I know about 3 million men who wish they were in his shoes. He's going to be 81 soon. Should I live that long (and I'm not at all certain that I wish to), I hope that I'm as healthy and active as he is at that age. He certainly is proof that there's some truth to the saying that growing older is inevitable, growing UP is optional.

Listening to: Anna Molly, Incubus

1 comment:

Alexis said...

its nice to always hear about dr. ruth.. glad shes still with us :)