Wednesday, 12 November 2008

"She made me do it!"

It has been a lot longer than I intended since I last posted. Part of that has been due to having had a very busy and exhausting first weekend with the new intake on the Priest/ess training. Tiring it was indeed, but also very wonderful and rewarding. I am really looking forward to the year ahead.

I have also been feeling the effects of what seems to be a very low grade cold - just feeling a little under the weather and not very creative. Which is perhaps why I was especially shattered at the beginning of the week.

Anyway, I am still feeling a bit off - but will post nevertheless. Because, although I have not been feeling particularly creative, I have been doing a fair bit of reading and a lot of thinking. It will be no surprise to any that have read my earlier postings that much of this thinking has centred on sexuality and gender. One of the major things that has struck me over recent weeks is how difficult I find it to come to any sort of firm conclusion about any of it. For example, I cannot help but agree with the anti-porn activists about the deeply misogynist nature of much that is available. I will not go into details here except to say that much of the representation is of the degradation of women . I accept that this judgement is highly subjective and also that the acts are fantasy and that the women involved have given consent and have been paid for it. But I do worry about the fact that there is a market for this type of material.

I realise that my reactions are not evidence and I do not cite them as such. However distasteful I may find some of this material, moreover, I do not see it as having any causal effect - it is simply reflecting and serving a spectrum of desires and attitudes that are already present within the human species. There are numerous assertions made by campaigners that there are links between the "pornification" of society and the prevalence of violence against women. I do not necessarily accept them. For example, the same time period that they are talking about has also seen an increase, albeit not large enough yet, in women taking leading positions in all forms of human endeavour from science to politics. Porn is not a cause of this either. I could also point to the relatively more servile position of women in societies that have stricter control of porn, such as, say, Saudi Arabia, and assert that porn could have a positive effect on women's position. It would, however, have little validity.

Much of the anti-porn rhetoric implies that porn is responsible for creating a moral justification for negative attitudes about and violence directed at women. It is not. These attitudes and violence were rampant long before the internet was invented and the first blue movie shot- all that porn has done has been to make money from something that already existed. Rape has been seen as a normal part of life for millennia - in fact marital rape was only made a crime in Britain by the government of Margaret Thatcher. The rise of the awareness of domestic violence has, similarly, only come about during recent times - previously it had been accepted as something between the couple concerned and certainly no business of the police or the courts.

The problem is not porn. The problem is misogyny. Ren posted a story recently about an "honour" killing in Pakistan. This cannot be laid at the door of porn. Neither can the genital mutilation of young girls in many parts of the world nor the excesses of the churches who locked up "fallen" women and used then as slaves. It cannot be blamed for the rape of millions of women by soldiers from all armies. It cannot be blamed for the slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson, who raped - for what else can it be as property cannot refuse? - the women they owned.

A few years ago there was a call from politicians for a return to the "Victorian values" of family and morality and away from the permissiveness of the 60s generation which was leading, they asserted, to the decline of western civilisation. However, even a cursory glance at that history will reveal that the morality was nothing more than show. Estimates of the number of prostitutes in London would put it at around 3% of the entire population. These were by no means all women but many were young girls. To quote from F Rush The best kept secret- sexual abuse of children
"There were never enough 'voluntary prostitutes' to meet the voracious Victorian demand. Consequently, enterprising entrepreneurs established a system of obtaining 'involuntary prostitutes' Men who wanted sex with little girls were prepared to pay a good price, and a standard pricing system brought about twenty pounds for a healthy working-class girl between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, a hundred pounds for a middle-class girl of the same age; and as much as four hundred pounds for a child from the upper class under age twelve... " (Rush 1980, p.64).

All this before the internet. Long before Hugh Heffner or Larry Flint were even born. In fact, for most of the history of western civilisation the primary ethos has been the subjugation of women and the denial of their rights to assert their autonomy. Mythologically, it dates from a curse in a garden after Adam had made that original, classic, claim. "She made me do it!"

There are many men out there who hate and fear and want to harm women. They do not need porn to give them permission. Anything will do. The bible, for example, has been very effective in this regard for centuries. Which is one of the many reasons that I am uneasy and suspicious when feminists make common cause with the bible belt preachers as some have in the porn debate. For the enemy's enemy, far from being a friend, may prove equally or even more murderous. Think Hitler and Stalin.

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