Pervasive Private Porn

My radical feminism and pornography post generated a lot of commentary, some critical, some adulatory. But one of the frequent criticisms I received is partially my own fault, for not being clear about my argument and the argument made by radical feminists.

Though I'm no expert, and have only recently become interested in the radical feminist project, it seems to me that radical feminists do not object to sexually explicit material per se, but only to sexually explicit material that is degrading towards women. They call this misogynistic material "pornography," while they refer to sexually explicit but non-degrading material as "erotica." I think this is a bad choice of terminology, for it doesn't jibe with the way most people use these terms, and it forces radical feminists to waste time clarifying that they do not in fact hate sex, pleasure, men, etc. etc. ad nauseam, instead of focusing on the more substantive issues. So I think a radical feminist can and should be in favor of "pornography" in the common sense or "erotica" in the radical feminist sense, while at the same time remain strongly critical of misogyny.

I'm reminded of this by Scott, we turns our attention to a 2001 Reason article by Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie about the pervasiveness of porn in modern society, in contrast to the way things were only a few decades ago. Gillespie writes,

During the 1970s and ’80s, battles over the spread and the effects of porn were the stuff of headlines. By the end of the ’90s, porn had become less a perennial controversy than a big business, grossing between $5 billion and $8 billion annually. Paradoxically, porn is more available than ever, yet less of a public issue.

Yet far from paradoxical, this is just as libertarians would expect things to be. For if social liberals are right, and pornography does not mark the end of civilization as conservatives would have us believe, then once pornography is released into popular culture, there are far fewer persuasive arguments conservatives can make about how pornography is the bane of us all. More importantly, though, this is true for lots of other areas besides porn; for example, so long as education remains largely provided by a government monopoly, otherwise reasonable people cannot even begin to imagine what a free market in education would look like. "What if everyone decides to send their children to private schools that teach Wahhabism or Satan worship?", skeptics worry. "Well, are you or your friends the kind of people who would send your children to these schools?" "Of course not," they reply, "but lots of other people aren't as wise as me and my friends."

Once established, though, these sorts of fears sound like nonsense. We all would look strangely at a person living under a communist government who does not understand how food could be produced or distributed by private means. "What if all of the farmers decide to grow the wrong types of food? Who will provide? We'd all end up starving to death. It simply cannot be done."

Or take the current squabble over gay marriage. "If gays are allowed to marry, heterosexual marriage will lose all of its meaning. People will stop getting married and existing families will all of a sudden start falling apart. Gay marriage must be stopped, with a constitutional amendment if need be."

Explaining why porn is less of a public issue even though it is more available than ever, Gillespie writes,

With regards to erotica, the result might be called John Stuart Mill’s wet dream, combining the philosopher’s penchant for “experiments in living” with his defense of a maximized private sphere in which consenting adults are mostly free to do as they please.

When real freedom is actually available, conservative worries about the culture and leftist worries about the market are soon forgotten, and we all get along just fine. The previously contentious public issues, once they are taken from the political sphere of government control, become no longer contentious. Statism as the status quo creates its own controversy.

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Micha, "Degrading towards

Micha,

"Degrading towards women" is a phrase that can mean most anything. Degrading is in the eyes of the degraded.

John, Reasonable people can

John,

Reasonable people can disagree about the borderline cases. But the same is true with material that some people consider degrading towards Jews and degrading towards blacks and degrading towards Hispanics. That doesn't mean that there is no such thing as bigoted material of this kind, nor that it isn't pervasive in many cases; only that some cases are notoriously difficult to determine.

I always thought that these

I always thought that these definitions proved useful:

Pornography: Stuff that guys generally like and chicks generally don't

Erotica: The reverse, except that guys like it too.

Micha, It might amuse you

Micha,

It might amuse you to note that That Woman made a point along the lines of "The fact that there is grey doesn't mean that black and white don't exist".

John, Even Karl Marx was

John,

Even Karl Marx was right every now and then. :razz:

Bookmarked: Micha Ghertner

Bookmarked: Micha Ghertner endorses the concept of objective fact.