I found this old post and thought it deserved another outing. Not least because, in the week that governments and other are claiming that mass murder is justified, it’s time again to re-state our fundamental position – morality and responsibility are personal issues.
According to Marx (and I paraphrase, deliberately) man makes his story, but not in circumstances of his own choice.
Marx probably also meant that woman makes her story, but not in circumstances of her own choice, but that wouldn’t let me pun on the word history, and it’s a fairly traditional feminist meme that history is called that because it’s made by men and conditioned by their view of the world.
The point is that, contrary to what lots of people believed, Marx didn’t believe socialism was inevitable. How could it be, if it depended on men making history? By opening the door to free will, to people making choices and decisions, Marx was accepting that socialism might not be inevitable, even as, in propaganda, he argued that the conflicts of living in the world made it inevitable.
I know, I know, this is a sex blog, not a politics blog.
Sex and politics have a lot in common. Free will for instance. One of the terrors of our modern day society is the idea that people will, if they countenance the unspeakable, automatically desire to do it. Rape fantasies for instance. Is that true though? It’s sometimes referred to as the Ted Bundy defence. Bundy was a murderer. He enjoyed killing people, and was very good at it. What proponents of the Bundy argument (that his pathology was caused or related to early consumption of pornography) never explain is why, if the proposition is to stand, more people are serial killers? Ultimately, serial killers like Bundy are a rare breed. So are rapists. So if porn causes serial killers or provokes rapists, why aren’t there more of them?
We in the UK have some of the strictest laws in the world about violent porn. The Girls Aloud case notwithstanding, in the UK it’s illegal to own certain types of images, and even discussing extreme violence can put one outside the pale.The evidence for a causal link between violent porn and violent crime is thin, and self serving, but bad laws and absolute offences have been created on the basis of it. It also precludes any questioning about the attitudes of people who consume such porn from the perspective of the victim. here’s an example. Decades ago I was discussing with a girlfriend an article in Mayfair magazine about Elizabeth Bathory. The article made much of the bathing in blood and sexual deviancy that later legends ascribed to Bathory, but it was undoubtedly an article that verged on the edge of current British legislation about violent porn. The thing that made me change my thinking was that my friend confessed to masturbating over that article, and to to similar fantasies about horror novels and thrillers featuring rapes. She didn’t want to be murdered or raped, but in her head the thought of those things happening was deeply and intimately connected to desire.
I happen to think each man makes his story. If a man reads about rape, then commits a rape, it’s because he chose to. The story is irrelevant. I remember, back in my childhood, buying from a second hand bookstall in Clacton an American potboiler of a novel about a man who becomes sexually obsessed with a teenage foster child, to the point where he begins an affair with the child. It was a hugely shocking thing to read (I was about 14 myself); not because of its explicit content or the sub-tabloid style it was written in, but because even at the age of 14 I recognized that the moralistic nonsense about a good man being led astray by the trailer trash foster child was simply untrue. I wanted the novel to say ‘He did it because he wanted to, and was willing to take the risk.’ It didn’t. It said he did it because he was led astray, and his passion overtook him, and a hundred other cliches that left me as a fourteen year old incoherently aware of a moral vacuum.
James Elroy, in Silent Terror, provides a convincing description of the mind and thought processes of a serial killer as someone overwhelmed by the pathologies of deep seated personality disorder. It’s a description that is rooted in Ted Bundy, and men like him, and in Elroy’s obsessive studies of serial killers. The root of that pathology, is a certain moral defect that means Bundy and his ilk have no process by which they can identify that something is attractive but would be wrong to act out.
Another teenage observation. The press in the UK, both top shelf and tabloid, used to rush to publish pictures of girls of 16. I can remember Mayfair doing a set of pics of a 16 yr old. I can remember with real clarity the day topless pictures of Sam Fox appeared in the Sun. Those pictures are illegal now in the UK; they are child pornography. Does that mean all the builders who had a quick one off the wrist over Sam Fox are paedophiles? Somehow, I doubt it, but that’s what the proponents of our current level of legal restriction in the UK would have you believe.
It’s an odd thing to say, but as a socialist and libertarian I feel as if I am more of a guardian of moral responsibility than those who would argue that porn has to be suppressed to prevent rape. And that’s a scary position, but if you accept Marx’s dictum that man makes his story, what else can you believe?