Porn again

By ANITA DIAMANT  |  May 31, 2006

If women are Sex, if emotion -- like vulnerability, passion, and need -- are called up only by woman and are somehow possessed by her, she becomes an object of fear. She threatens the "masculine" coolness and control that are fundamentally opposed to the erotic, which demands some kind of surrender, some kind of risk. "But now we are beginning to know why a woman's body is so hated and feared," Griffin writes. "And why this body must be humiliated. For a woman's body, by inspiring desire in a man, must recall him to his own body. When he wants a woman, his body and his natural existence begin to take control of his mind. The pornographer protests that he is compelled by desire. That he cannot control himself. And this lack of control must recall to him all that is in nature and in his own nature that he has chosen to forget.

"For nature can make him want. Nature can cause him to cry in loneliness, to feel a terrible hunger, or a thirst. Nature can even cause him to die.

"That is why wherever in his fantasy he pictures the natural, and especially the natural in the body of a woman, he also imagines himself in control. When there is a horse, there is a rider." The woman in the centerfold is looking out at her rider.

Pornography, says Griffin, rests on the cultural assumption that the body is evil. "Indeed, culture is basically a hypocritical and dishonest attempt to make a pragmatic peace among beings whose basic natures are rapacious and hateful . . . it is the bias of our culture to find human instinct evil. In our civilization, humankind is described as 'fallen,' and flesh is described as the province of the devil."

Pornography, which has long claimed its end as the "liberation" of sexuality from the constraint of a prudish culture (the worst "prudes" being women), merely reflects the culture's distrust of the body. According to Griffin, it is anti-erotic in its denial of feeling which, she says, resides in the body. Pornography is a lie about women, about sexuality, about the nature of reality.

***

What is to be done?

Books of theory seem to beg for answers to the problems they dissect. They also elicit anger when simple answers are not forthcoming.

Andrea Dworkin and Susan Griffin have opened a new phase of feminist, cultural criticism for the ’80s. Their work is self-consciously indebted to others: Blake, Freud, Jung, Rilke, Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, Adrienne Rich, Dorothy Dinnerstein, Tillie Olsen, and many others who have raised unanswerable questions.

As both women point out, rape and battering were not considered crimes of violence or social outrages until feminists redefined them as such. Pornography is in the process of being redefined by women who say they are its victims. Their redefinition will, in turn, demand a response not only from the producers of pornography but from its consumers and defenders, a category that includes all kinds of men. It poses a special challenge to men who align themselves with movements for liberation and human rights.

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Related: Saluting the enemy, Parody flunks out, Flashbacks: June 2, 2006, More more >
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