This is our truth, tell us yours
It was with a familiar sense of dismay that I saw Grace Dent blaming pornography for sexual assault yesterday. Setting aside the fact only some children’s lives seem to matter to Dent (white middle class ones) the false correlation is one feminists like Dent seem to love. Ally Fogg expertly does the number crunching Dent was too lazy, or unwilling, to bother with. As he shows, there is no increase, since there are no previous stats to compare with. There is also little evidence to indicate a correlation between porn and sexual assaults.
When Chrissie Hynde said women must carry responsibility for being raped (or share in the responsibility) she was, quite rightly criticised by feminists of all stripes. One does not have to be a feminist to understand victim blaming and rape apologism are wrong. It always strikes me as odd then that mainstream feminism is willing to give men a huge blank cheque when it comes to their engagement with sex work.This is not just the “sex work is rape” extremists, who do tend to merge with the all PiV sex is rape extremists. Many women who would consider themselves vaguely intersectional seem to have swallowed the porn causes abuse kool aid.
The problem with “porn made them do it” is that as an argument it is no different from the drink, the short skirt or the high heels made me do it. It is a transference of blame from where it belongs, on the rapist, to an external object. This transference is called rape apologism and should surely apply to the excuse of porn as much as the excuse of drink or clothing? The idea that young men ignore consent and sexual boundaries because of something they have seen in porn seems to have become embedded in our culture, with no one challenging it.
Picture this; someone asks a young man why he thinks a consent violation was acceptable. He replies with the excuse that allows him to duck moral culpability, “I saw it in porn.”
Feminists like Dent are actually providing people who chose to abuse (and ignoring consent is always a choice) with a ready-made excuse. “It;s not my fault, the porn made me” and we all nod and say its very terrible and the abuser needs not change in any way.
Or, as I put it on twitter
So, why are feminists doing this? Why are they participating in rape culture and providing abusive men with an excuse for rape?
Handmaidens gotta handmaiden.
Patriarchy, as we all know dislikes women who are in control of their sexual agency. It really dislikes women who demand payment for something historically men have demanded (often by force) for free. Sex workers are othered, excluded shamed and stigmatised because if women were allowed to be in control of their own bodies, they might all start denying access to those who abuse, who use, and who wont pay. Without women to produce the next generation of workers capitalist patriarchy would fail. Blaming sex workers, be they workers in porn, clubs or brothels for the behaviors of abusive men is firstly a warning. It is a warning to the “good women” that if they step outside the sheltering arms of patriarchy they too will be fair game. It’s a dialectical moment of such tension, those women who have sought full control of their own bodies under capitalist patriarchy (and under CP control and autonomy are only recognised if one can commodify something) are the women who must have that control and autonomy removed, often by the state or its instruments.*
Into this movement, of women pulling away, and women being pulled under the jack heel of whorephobic laws and state structures, come mainstream feminists like Dent. They see how women who challenge patriarchies control are treated. Is it then any surprise that they tailour their “feminism” to be palatable to those with power? Just as PG Woodehouse spoke from Berlin in WW2, they are allowed into the rooms of their masters, allowed to pause, to cling to a pretended safety and even allowed to pretend they have a seat at the table.
By attacking porn, or sex work, or women of colour, or trans women, or whatever their patriarchal masters point them at this week, feminists like Dent are hoping that by being good little handmaidens they will be safe within the patriarchy. They are of course the women that patriarchy promotes, in symbiotic relationship where one can claim see, how can we be anti women when women agree with us, and the other receives their 30 pieces of silver dripping with the blood of lesser women.
Of course this is only a pretended safety, limited in time and content. Part of the reason that the media is always chasing after the next young feminist icon is that patriarchy prefers its women virginail (the cult of youth is in itself a purity cult). Anyone remember Vagenda? A career based on pleasing the patriarchy, polishing the masters tools for him can only go two ways. You will be either dropped when the next bright young thing comes along, or you will have to conform ever closer to patriarchies beliefs, leading to the twisted brand of feminism that people like Bindel espouse. Judging by her racism Dent has chosen the second path, she isn’t the first, and she most certainly will not be the last.
Why do feminists make false claims about porn, and all other forms of patriarchy? Because it gets them head pats, choice treats from the Masters table, and a false hope that if someone is raped tonight, at least it wont be them.