Monday, January 21, 2008

Pornography and Sex Controlled America


“America continues to be sexually repressed. In the same vein, the media is obsessed with it, and uses it as an extremely powerful selling point, which in turn consumers, viewers become obsessed. They are ashamed of there sexuality, yet curious so they live vicariously through the media”
-- Sasha Grey


Pornography has been charged for being the determining factor for sexual misbehavior and corruption to the human psyche by judgment of conservative propaganda. Through controversy it has spawned a larger audience and is gravitating to mainstream America, while loosing it’s subtleties in it’s conduct; hence, pornography is a multi-billion dollar business on an uphill battle for Civil Rights, and yet, it seems to coast on the earnings achieved through internet, DVD, reality television, and music. Yet the accusation that pornography gets falls in line with standard conduct of conservative America: the call for self-responsibility while placing the blame outside of ourselves. Corruption is blamed on movies, music, and literature, instead of human error -- a scapegoat, in the tradition of gangsta rap, that is used over and over due to worries of eventual exposure.

Self-proclaimed “neo-conservative” Irving Kristol says pornography is cause for alarm in American values with threats of mental damage.

“…if you believe that no one was ever corrupted by a book, you have also to believe that no one was ever improved by a book”
- Kristol


This is to say that pornography is a negative influence that creates misbehavior, impure thoughts and is solely responsible for our oversexed misconducts and reckless lifestyles. In a way Kristol has a point. One may not be able to have one without the other, since belief has to be based in faith and so faith must be accepted in all forms. Some Christians will tell us that if one believes in God, then one must believe in the Devil in order for a faith to be whole. Kristol tells us that pornography is an obscenity that will bring ultimate destruction to an idealistic conservative America. His bold statement leaves little room for argument, and is so convincing it causes one to nod and claim that Kristol might have a point; yet Kristol, amongst many other critics of pornography, fail to see the big picture. Despite belief, fear and resistance, pornography could be working its way into the mainstream; not to mention it could leave one to adopt the type of acceptance that one has for the very nature of religion. However the issue is not so much the nature of sex as it is the exploitation of sex that some call obscene; in most cases obscenity is rooted in the mere presence of pornography and encapsulates an ironic meaning that the courts seem to define with ambiguity:

“…language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
-- FCC’s Enforcement Bureau Web site



Laws of obscenity, seem to, come into play when convient rather than on a consistent level.


“In America only two sex acts are federally illegal: pedophilia and bestiality. Obscenity is based on ‘community standards.’ [What] people don’t mind [in] Los Angeles, will be considered obscene by people in a po’ dunk town in Alabama. It becomes an issue of prejudice; this person feels it’s okay for someone to watch [a] porn scene that is romantic and has a story but if someone watched a movie where a girl performs anal on a man, and she performs anal sex in a movie, that it is wrong. It’s like saying that all homosexuals are bad, and they can’t live near me. Obscenity is an issue of people’s opinions which is why it continues to be an ambiguous topic”
-- Sasha Grey


Like Kristol, Sasha Grey’s point of view – rooted in belief from observation and experience – stands as a perspective that contributes to dividing the issue of pornography. It also proves the point that for a topic to be so much of a fight almost guarantees its entrance into mainstream society; for popular culture relies on pushing the envelope. Emerging as a new force. Seeking controversy for the sake of social relevance. One continues to try and top the other, until finally, what was once “crossing the line” becomes the norm, and soon we are watching soap operas with penetration, and reality shows with live executions.

Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pig: The Rise of Raunch Culture points one of the origins of open sex culture to the Girls Gone Wild videos as well as the Paris Hilton sex tapes.

“Since the avent of the sex tapes, Hilton has become famous enough to warrant a slew of endorsement deals…Hilton [as a result of the sex tapes] isn’t some disgraced exile of our society. On the contrary, she is our mascot”
-- Ariel Levy


One can watch a music video and see scantily dressed women exposing themselves and exuding sexual temptation. Copies of Vogue magazine display, both men and women, in sexually suggestive poses, and in some cases women in see through tops exposing their nipples in a “tasteful manner.” However, even with sexually suggestive material, does this constitute as pornography? According to Random House Webster’s dictionary pornography is defined as:

“…writings, photographs, movies, etc., intended to arouse sexual excitement” (2001).


One could argue that mainstream culture has a mission to encourage sexual excitement since – as the old cliché goes – “sex sells.” It could also be argued that mainstream society is promoting sexual freedom since there is a mass of people who find sex, of any nature, downright offensive.

Nina Hartley is a respected porn actress and sex educator, “with the longest continuous career in the history of the industry” that spans over twenty years. She’s a registered nurse who began her porn career at the age of 24 (whereas most porn actresses began in their late teens) during her junior year of college. She was a dancer, who like most actresses, gravitated into the adult film world, and came out with a strong beginning that elevated her career.

“Nina Hartley is a prime example of an intelligent, sophisticated sex worker. She educates [people in] the business, as well as civilians…she is a huge influence to me personally as a sex positive young woman”
-- Sasha Grey


Hartley’s outspoken views on sex have been a cross between controversial and iconic. She has been the go-to spokesperson in defense for “sex work”:

“If I have the right to choose abortion, then I have the right to choose to have sex for the camera. Sexual freedom is the flip side of the coin of reproductive choice”
-- Nina Hartley

Hartley’s cross-reference to abortion – pro-choice and Civil Rights – is a blaring look at societal conservatism. It’s a tricky topic since porn is deemed as exploitation and – a la Andrea Dworkin – “violence against women”, while abortion is deemed murderous. Hartley questions these ethics and places them underneath the proverbial looking glass in order to find accuracy in her examination.

“It's…easier to characterize all female sex workers as degraded, humiliated and unhappy if you've never talked to any of us”
-- Nina Hartley


These generalizations come from those who have not studied the art form, but mearly came across it, or caught a glance of the most trashy on the market, giving corrupt examples in which to go by. Those who never saw Deep Throat but saw White Trash Sluts miss the pop culture breakthrough Deep Throat made. White Trash Sluts is everything the title suggests. It does not attempt to explore female sexuality, but rather satisfy male misogyny with internal violence, leaving female sexuality as a showpiece. Deep Throat explores feminine desire and deep-seated curiosity in a graphic unapologetic manner. Deep Throat allowed male/female sexual desires to connect in a raw fashion that did not advocate dominance, but sex amongst consenting adults. Despite the allegations by Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace (she states that she was not entirely consenting to the nature of most of the scenes), the film still accomplishes Hartley’s point:


“…the marketplace of sexual entertainment contains products for almost every taste and orientation, including material made by and for heterosexual women and couples, lesbians and gay men. It's not all Bang Bus, and by no means does all of it, or even most of it, conform to the…notions of porn-as-expression-of-misogyny.”
-- Nina Hartley



Hartley’s and Grey’s points are the opposite of Irvine Kristol:

“When sex is a public spectacle, a human relationship has been debased into a mere animal connection”
-- Irvine Kristol


Playwright Edward Albee explored the theme of the connection between humans and animals through a majority of his plays, including The Zoo Story, Seascape, and The Goat: Or Who is Sylvia? The latter explores this theme, literally, as a man betrays his wife by falling in love with…a goat. Albee’s point in his on going theme is that human instincts – despite intelligence and retractable thumbs – is close to that of animal instinct. We hunger, we desire, we hunt, we react, we mate. And during mating season – as around the clock as this might seem – we tune out the consequences and focus on the task at hand. In the case of Kristol, our irresponsible nature when it comes to our sexuality is a topic of concern, since humans, behind closed doors, indulge in the misadventures of sex; therefore, to make it public and available for the human eye to see and bask in voyeurism, puts us – in the opinion of Kristol – one step closer to symbolic bestiality.

The “animal connection” is blamed on the public exposure of sexuality; yet Kristol seems to ignore the natural instinct that humans gain with sexuality. One can find sexual desire without the influence of pornography and still subscribe to inappropriate acts (Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality, Louis Carroll’s pedophilia, Edgar Allen Poe’s incest). Understanding this, and taking into consideration the very sin that is placed on us through sex controlled America, tells us that it is unreasonable for Kristol to assume that we are so out of control because of pornography, when clearly, we are out of control because of our desires.

3 comments:

Ian Anderson said...

I happened to come across this article in a web-crawl: it strung through an article relating to Sasha Grey, then to her myspace, and to your essay that she needed to repost.

I must emphasize now that I only discovered "Sasha" this evening and whether you know her or not is irrelevant. That is, aside from your ability to find a firsthand source for the essay.

I must say, that I am thoroughly impressed. It is so rare that I find a scholarly entry like this, so I am delighted to find it. In fairness, I agree with the argument, but it could be made stronger with sources that are not "firsthand", so to speak. My first instinct was Wendy McElroy, who has been advocating "individualist feminism", as she calls it, for years. If you're interested, I would suggest giving her a glance.

On a whole, your articles are quite interesting and I can't help but try to continue reading them. Keep writing and I wish you the best.

Angelina said...

Why do you always propagate for the most disgusting forms of sexuality, for porn, for perversions? You must surely be aware of the harmful effects of porn?
Also you are promoting one of the most disgusting of all porn stars, Sasha Grey, who for sure has a harmful influence of young people in our country.

Truly gross!

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writer, actor, & producer in training. in 2005, along side my partner in film and best friend since childhood, we produced and executed 3 films. to this day i am still working in "the business" to the best of my abilities and moving forward to the "next level." currently i am producing a film project, co-writing another, awaiting word on a stage play for New York, and pursuing my next one-person show. i'm also in school pursuing my Ph.D in Social Science.