Meghan Murphy is angry. Mind you, she’s a feminist so she’s perpetually angry. I can understand. If I were in a constant war with the unstoppable might of hetero-capitalist patriarchy, I’d be pretty angry too.
I can also relate to her recent article criticizing her fellow progressives’ response to Pamela Anderson’s recent anti-porn op-ed. Sandwiched within her invective against patriarchy, racism, misogyny, and other feminist spooks, there are some choice cuts of anti-porn vitriol.
Are you really going to tell me that watching a grown man jack off onto the face of a supposed teenage girl has no impact on men’s sexualities and the way they treat women?
Whether or not you wish or believe that in some alternate universe there could exist some form of something called “pornography” that could maaaaybe “occupy a space in healthy sexuality” (and I’d argue that a thing that literally means “the graphic depiction of vile whores” cannot, in fact, be redeemed), the reality is that it does not.
I’d say those are the only two points on which I could agree with anti-porn feminists like Murphy. The left can call porn sexist, misogynist, or racist, but we on the right have our own word for porn: degenerate. Indeed, how could anything defined as “the graphic depiction of vile whores,” be anything but degenerate?
So Meghan Murphy is angry. Rightly so. She has to listen to her fellow progressives dole out sex positive feminist platitudes defending a man’s right to jack off to whores. She rightly takes issue with “the graphic depiction of vile whores,” being pushed as an acceptable source of entertainment. It’s worth noting though that Murphy’s point of contention is that she is against the treatment of women as if they were whores, without considering the fact that female porn stars are by definition whores.
What is a whore? A prostitute. What is a prostitute? Someone who engages in sexual activity for money. What does a porn star do? I think we can connect the dots here.
Sex has a function, a telos, and that function is both unitive and procreative. It’s purpose is to unite a man and a woman for the sake of building a family and contributing to their community. The pimp, the whore, the pornographer, and others one might sportively refer to as “sex workers” violate this function by reducing sex to a base transaction. As such, they have taken something sacred and made it profane. You would be hard-pressed to find a feminist, even one stridently opposed to pornography, willing to defend this conception of sex.
Meghan Murphy and other anti-porn feminists have their hearts in the right place in the sense that they see how profane porn is and refuse to tolerate it. However, they lack the language to describe porn as profane, or degenerate, and can only call it misogynistic. Anti-porn feminists betray this tendency by emphasizing how women are exploited and objectified by men instead of emphasizing how porn sullies the act of sex itself.
Granted, I’m not disputing that women in porn or prostitution are exploited or objectified. Many women around the world are forced into sex slavery. Many women who go into porn wind up doing things that they didn’t explicitly agree to do before the cameras started rolling. And I relish the thought of sentencing to firing squad the pimps and pornographers who force women into these situations. That said, is it really so hard to believe that there are women who freely choose to be whores? Are they blameless for choosing to be whores?
Where Meghan Murphy sees sex-positive feminists enabling men to exploit women, I see whores enabling other women to be whores. Sex-positive feminism seeks to de-stigmatize features of sex that include porn and prostitution. They want the freedom to be whores without the stigma of being called whores. Sex-positive feminism is the quintessential byproduct of neoliberalism where all problems are solved through free exchange in the marketplace and everyone is equal in the democratic process. No wonder they fetishize consent.
Homage to Pan – Felicien Rops
Where does this leave Meghan Murphy? Angry, to say the least. She closes with the following words:
My interest, with regard to rejecting pornography, is rooted in a desire to restore women’s humanity and to end male power and violence. I have no interest in protecting the feelings of men who are opposed to that project.
The restoration of women’s humanity. We all know what she means by this; women are exploited and objectified by men thereby denying their humanity. She wants to create a world where pornography, which is inherently exploitative in her view, is no longer tolerable. Sex-positive feminists don’t share her vision of the future of pornography and try to maintain a more optimistic view: making porn less exploitative thereby allowing women to freely choose a degrading practice. To the anti-porn feminist, this is truly a nightmare.
But this is the neoliberal world in which we live. Where sex can be so easily commodified, words like “exploitation” and “objectification” no longer hold the same weight that they used to. All it takes is a little regulation to make something less exploitative. Pass some laws, raise awareness, sprinkle a little Enlightenment empiricism around and voila! No more exploitation. Ladies, you’re free to swallow seven loads at once another day. Sex is no longer procreative, unitive, exploitative, or anything for that matter. Feminism set you free.