Everyone’s got an opinion on Andrea Dworkin and it’s frequently one based in myth. I love Dworkin’s writing. I don’t always agree with her (and she’s sometime historically inaccurate) but she was an utterly brilliant polemicist. Her gift was amazing. She was a truly brilliant woman.
Karen Boyle’s Everyday Pornography is an inter-disciplinary collection of 13 essays which are situated within the anti-pornography movement. Its focus is on the pornification of mainstream culture but also on the mainstream of pornography; that is to say the heterosexual male audience and the materials created specifically that audience. This is the praxis of the “everyday” of pornography and this is what makes Boyle’s book so powerful: it destroys the myth that porn is an isolated part of our culture that we can refrain from being exposed to. Karen Boyle’s personal contribution to the book “Porn Consumers’ public faces: Mainstream media, address and representation” demonstrates the ubiquity of porn within popular culture through films like American Pie, Showtime’s Porn: A Family Business and the extremely tedious program Friends. Sarah Neely examines how pornography and other parts of the commercial sex industry are reflected and constructed within the virtual online reality game Second Life. Meagan Tyler’s research focuses on how the porn industry defines itself. Tyler’s findings demonstrate that degradation, abuse, and violence are not only common in pornography but that the industry actively promotes it. Lisa Jean Moore and Juliana Weissbein’s is a fascinating study of the fetishisation of semen.
The academic language of the text can make it easier to disassociate from the violence within. In many ways, Everyday Pornography is the perfect companion to Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray’s Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry. Big Porn Inc. written by a collection of activists and radical feminists. I had a more immediate visceral reactions to the violence committed during the making of pornography in the text Big Porn Inc. Everyday Pornography was easier to process despite the fact that it is equally distressing.
Everyday Pornography is a necessary read. It is hard but we can not destroy the capitalist-patriarchy unless we understand just how just how it functions: Jennifer Johnson’s analysis of porn’s use social networking is essential to this understanding.
Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry, edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray, is a collection of articles from radical feminists, activists, and academics who all believe that pornography is not about “pleasure, self-empowerment and freedom of choice”; rather that pornography represents the systemic subjugation of women as a sex class. Therefore pornography is not about sex, it is a form of violence against women. I am an anti-porn, anti-sex industry feminist so it’s fairly clear that I agree with the basic premise of this book.
I wasn’t prepared for what I read. I had already read Gail Dines’ Pornland and Robert Jensen’s Getting Off. I even attended the Challenging Porn Conference in London in 2011. I already knew the links between pornography and the pharmaceutical/ medical business. I knew how the pornography industry uses “free sites” to suck people into payed-for porn. I knew the violence perpetrated on women’s bodies. I knew how porn was predicated on racist constructions of the human body. I thought I understood just how mainstream violent and child pornography actually is. I had seen images I never wanted to see in the first place. I still wasn’t prepared for this book.
I wasn’t prepared for the soul-destroying mundanity of it all; of realising just well pornography is integrated into the capitalist economy; how horrifically common-place extreme violence is. I wasn’t prepared for just how normal porn involving children and teenagers is. I wasn’t prepared to read what men do to the bodies of women and children. I wasn’t prepared to realise just how many men hate women.
I have storified some of the quotes I tweeted out over the weekend whilst I was reading here. Allecto from Liberation Collective has written an excellent review here. It includes a graphic description of child rape so please take care before opening this link.
Big Porn Inc is an incredibly powerful book and I’m going to recommend it to every single person who tries to convince that porn is just a laugh and women like being brutally assaulted.
I love the Woman and the Holocaust: A Cyberspace of Their Own site. This is what woman’s history is: academic scholarship, personal testimonies, poetry, literature and art. It is the multiplicity of representation that allow us to find the history of women which is elided, ignored and erased from mainstream history. The experience of women Holocaust survivors has demonstrated this over and over again; notably in the work of Lawrence Langer who claimed that women’s experiences weren’t substantially different to men. This fails to consider the very real biological differences between men and women which did result in their experiences being gendered. After all, although a few men were also victims, sexualised violence was predominantly an experience of women and children; as was caring for children, elderly and disabled family members.
The dedication of Women and the Holocaust: A Cyberspace of Their Own reads:
Who were murdered while pregnant. Holding little hands of children or carrying infants in their arms on the way to be gassed. In hiding. To the mothers who gave their children to be hidden, many never to find them again. To the righteous gentile mothers and the nuns in convents, who were hiding and protecting the children in their care.
Or as fighters in the resistance: in ghettos, forests, partisan units.
And to the lives of those few who survived and bravely carried on.
This site is an amazing resource and one which I highly recommend.
A friend sent me a link to these images because they know I’m a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Apparently, they are from the Russian version of Vogue and are supposed to be a fashion shoot. You know, if you think soft porn constitutes a fashion shoot; as most of the fashion industry seems to believe. Normally, I’d ignore the images and wonder about whether or not Anthony’s considered therapy for his quite serious inability to date a woman over the age of 21 but these images are just, well, creepy.
Angela Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary is a social history of the use of fairies and other myths to control people’s behaviour in Ireland in the 19th century. She traces the history of these myths to contextualise the brutal torture and murder of Bridget Cleary by her husband and kinsmen. It is very powerful but equally horrifying. What impressed me the most is that Bourke places the murder of Bridget firmly within a narrative of domestic violence. There are no excuses for male violence so, whilst the murder is contextualised with a history of faeries, changelings, power struggles, and jealousy Bourke holds the murderers accountable. Bourke then situates the trial of Bridget’s murderers within the political context of British Home Rule of Ireland and the British construction of Irish people as savages.
The Burning of Bridget Cleary is one of the most fascinating and well-researched books I have ever read. Bourke traces multiple layers of history and myth to tell the story of the murder of Bridget Cleary. It’s rather like Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher* but from a feminist perspective rather than a comprehensive social history.
I honestly can not recommend this book enough. It is brilliant, insightful, frightening and, above all, a true picture of the complicated processes required to tell the history of women.
*The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is worth a read too as it contextualises the origins of detectives in British society within the literature of the day particularly in relation to the work of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens.