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The Power of Pornography: The Sexist Agenda of the Moving Image

The most famous example of the “art-form” termed pornography was a pin-up of a woman being penetrated from the back with a gun pointed to her head, saying “don’t worry, I’m using protection.”

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Pornography is undoubtedly a highly problematic term. It almost sounds like photography, or ethnography, or lithography. I don’t need to get into the roots of the word, and intellectually discuss the suffix. But, why is it so legitimate? People should express sexuality as they please, and banning porn is not going to be a thing of the future; however without analysing it’s repercussions and being aware of it’s detrimental affects and rolling your eyes, we’re getting nowhere.

First, perhaps it’s apt to discuss the social construction of the word “woman.” What does that mean? Because that word relates not just to gender and sex, but fetishization, subordination: an almost delicious pent-up expression of hatred consequentially becomes porn.

Let’s study the black female category, for feminism is undoubtedly a segregated battlefield: black feminism does not par with white feminism and vice versa. This relates to porn in the understanding that subordination is a multi-faceted task, and simply stating that the male gaze is what makes porn is too simplistic. It’s pertinent to remember that a black woman saxophone player is more vulnerable than any saxophone player. Not because she doesn’t know how to play, but because as a woman of the most subordinated category of “woman” she is a rape-able body, a crime punishable and garnering impunity.

So what is pornography and what does the self have to do with it? A self may be a socially constructed narrative, fundamentally relational, and brought into existence only through interactions. Others provide instruction and people give birth to multiple selves.Hence after trauma, the biggest task is to reconstruct the self via intrusive somatic memory. One may have to abandon all notions of past selves. This is a difficult process, which requires a lot of highly empathetic listeners without which there can be no rehabilitation.

Those suffering PTSD have difficulty creating bonds of trust with others, and develop neurological constraints, and linguistic barriers to try to make sense of their experience. Next time you get “raped” on Facebook – think about a daughter being raped by her father. The word is not funny.

These victims also have representational constraints, cultural limitations imposed on trauma survivors by the State making their re-assertion or mainstreaming into society monumentally more morose and difficult. Are we in control of our self-definitions? Neurochemistry of a rape-survivor reveals that they are weakened beyond all trust, and ability, to truly feel that they have worth in society.

Therefore, is it not a social responsibility to create and promote alternative definitions of woman? Are we just floating bodies waiting for a penis? To plead philosophy once again, bare particulars are simply entities without properties. It would be a futile exercise in metaphysics to suggest we exist without bodies. So what can be done to prevent State and social violence against the “female” body? Sticks and stones may break our bones but they don’t damage us intrinsically – words and images damage us tremendously.

Again, lived experience of the self is entirely socially constructed, but selves are embodied. Therefore, it is urgent to be acutely aware of how women are viewed: philosophical definitions perpetuate behaviours towards women, which must be taken into consideration.

The categories of people who watch gang-rape porn are not healthily expressing sexuality and freedom of expression. They are sick, shattered egos, who are a danger to society. I do not believe violence is inevitable. Evolutionary psychology does not deem rape as a natural reaction for men, despite civilisations and cultural/religious practices which tolerate polygamy, sexual freedom and otherwise. Violence is violence, a deliberate act of debilitating and forcefully removing the respect of another individual by diminishing their safety, and whatever else.

Physical denominations of self, which are imposed and have visual significance are highly relevant, as the anatomy of the self and self-expression are daily practices. However, how much agency do we have over anatomy? The way in which a character is formed once being thrown into the social nexus is chaotic. Babies and children don’t decide which clothes they want to wear and what colour their room should be.

There is a lot to be said about language policing across the universities in the world. It’s not going to help much when 10 hours are spent deciding whether a white guy’s statement is politically correct. That is not the kind of politics, which achieves anything aside from academia, and if that’s your thing, do that. Don’t be a social activist and stand there going, hey you, you’re white cis male! Get out of here. Because that will do nothing for you, and it’s stupid.

Pornography is not art. It cannot be banned. India tried, and it came back so fast it was a joke. Porn is relevant. And probably that’s exactly why it needs re-evaluation, like all sexual attitudes. What’s not OK is allowing the female body to be treated like a tissue paper you used that one time you sneezed.

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Tanisha is an undergraduate student studying MA Honours in Social Policy & Sociology
Edited by Manisha

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