Monday, February 25, 2008

Yale Sex Week Shows What Porn Is - Organizers Surprised

So, Yale University had itself a sex week.

There was a presentation by Dr. Ruth, natch.

There were three presentations on "What Do Girls Want" day. First was a talk about female orgasm (no talk about male orgasm though; presumably it's only women's orgasm that requires special trainin' and all). Second was "Pure Romance" givin' away some free sex toys (personally, I have always found cold plastic to be oh-so romantic!). Third was a "Girls' Night Out," with an open bar, and the first 100 women in line could get freebies from the sex toy company. Wow, so that's what Yale women want? Orgasms, sex toys, and getting drunk? I smell a rat - and it has a penis. This sounds to me like what men want women to want.

Then, on "Seduction" day, there were two events. The first was "Seduction: How to Get the Girl You've Always Wanted" and the second was "Mystery: the Mystery Method, Ladies Want Him, Guys Want to be Him," both from VH-1's "The Pick-up Artist" (which I've never seen, but I assume doesn't have anything to do with pinstriping the quad-cab). Of course, both events promising to instruct in the fine art of seduction were about teaching men how to get women. As careful long-time observers of the mating habits of humans within the patriarchy already know, heterosexual sex is something which the male of the species gets from the female. "Seduction" is, therefore, mission accomplished, the male getting from the female.

Friday night was a lingerie show, which I assume involved gawking at wimmenz in sheer, skimpy lingerie, but no male gawkees. Attendees were asked to wear "business attire," which makes sense because we've known for a long time that women belong half-naked while men are fully clothed.


Well, at least the lingerie show was for a good cause, as the proceeds went to AIDS prevention (translation: no need to feel guilty about a cheap display of women hypersexualized and pornified for the male gaze, since it's all for a good cause). No cheap patriarchal objectification here, cranky feminists; move along.

One day a "group product manager" from Trojan condoms was there, giving out condoms and also "vibrating rings" (I don't know what the rings are, frankly, but I'm definitely not gonna dis' free condoms).

There was a "skull and boned" party, which I assume, like ladies' night (above) was another exciting event at which young women were to be served copious amounts of alcohol (that's the "skull" part, as in "out of your") and then possibly fucked while they were too inebriated to give meaningful consent (that's the "boned" part, if you're a sex poz cool kid, and the "rape" part if you're a drag of a radical feminist like I am). Oh, and at the "skull and boned" party, Vivid pornography company was handing out free DVDs. Yeah! Freebies. Porn star and apologist Jenna Jameson tells us most women who start making porn are already victims of abuse, and once they are in the industry, they will likely experience pain, abuse, disrespect, disease, physical and emotional damage, disassociation from their own bodies and sexuality, degradation, greedy and abusive pimps/managers, substance abuse, groping and sexual demands from complete strangers, painful breast implants, plus the knowledge that the electronic records of their treatment are out there for the public's viewing pleasure in perpetuity. Step right up everybody, free samples right here! Don't worry about the ill effects on viewers either. Free DVDs, right here!

There was also a chance to meet the girls from Vivid. There was a contest to see which female Yale academics looked most like possible Vivid girls (presumably that would be in case the whole Ivy League thing doesn't work out).

Oh, yeah, and there was a debate about pornography itself. I know you're relieved to hear it. In the blue corner were Ron Jeremy and a Vivid "girl." In the red corner were...um...well, it looks like two church dudes. Oh, and one lawyer. Yeah! Was it a feminist lawyer like Catherine MacKinnon, who might discuss the civil rights ordinance idea in which women harmed by pornography could sue its manufacturers? Damn. Nope. It was just some "First Amendment" dude, obviously pro-porn.

Where were the feminist voices? Well, I've read over the schedule multiple times, but I just can't find any (geez, it's almost as if radical feminists are completely silenced; oh wait, that is because we are). So, I'm guessing the debate was something like "porn: liberative sex education tool for the masses or Jesus is disappointed when you use your seed for any purposes other than to make a baby within the context of heterosexual marriage." Who asked about women, about how the industry treats the actresses, about what pornography teaches men about women (that "no" means "yes," that all women really want it - hard penis-in-vagina thrust-thrust-thrusting - from all men all the time, that women enjoy pain, that women are stupid and objects and "cum buckets" and whores and here for amusement and to facilitate men's orgasms), and about what that means when men who've watched that stuff then interact with real women at work and at school and in the home and on the street? Who spoke for prostitutes and girlfriends and daughters and wives who have been pressured or even forced to act out what men see in these films? Who spoke for men who have realized too late that pornography has put a thick wall of inhumanity between themselves and the women they have loved, or at least tried to love? Nobody, it would seem. And that was billed as "the great porn debate." Great, eh? Doesn't sound so great to me.

Wait, there is this by Gain Dines. She wasn't at any events though, just got an editorial in the Hartford Courant the week before.

Okay, so, anyway, here's the punchline: Yale was going to show that porn is sex poz and cool, right? A porno flick, right there in the Yale Law School auditorium. It's so mainstream. It's so harmless. It's so...holy shit! The film started running and guess what? It was so hideous, the organizers of the event had to turn it off. Cinemus interruptus, right there in the Yale auditorium! Reports Yale Daily News:

...partway through the showing, graphic rape fantasies began to play onscreen. Rape fantasies, bondage, the piercing of a woman’s nipples and the labeling of a woman as a “slut” who “deserved” violent sexual degradation — this was some of the footage played at one of Sex Week’s final events.

No kidding. That's what pornography is like? It's as if those cranky feminists actually know what they're talking about (okay, please pardon me while I gloat just a bit; I feel I deserve it, and Gail definitely deserves it, especially because after her editorial ran, she was, predictably enough, called a "fascist," "hypocrit," and "pseudo-feminist" (because real feminists know that "Three in the Seat," "Gag on my Cock" (complete with actual vomiting), "Grudge Fuck," "Use 'em, Abuse 'em, and Lose 'em," "Vivian's Painful Examination," and anything involving Max Hardcore is empowerfulizing and healthy).

As the Yale Daily News article linked above points out, and this is exactly what I was going to say, the event's organizers have apologized for their failure to advance screen the material, but that completely misses the point. The point is that this is what pornography is like. This is what people are watching. And if you're going to be all pro-porn and promote the stuff, this is exactly what you're promoting.

Could it be that other examples of misogyny experienced by the bright young women of Yale about which I've read are in any way related to pornography and its objectification of women - and that all of the above are related to patriarchy and misogyny?

How about this story of a photo circulated of frat pledges standing in front of the Women's Center holding up a sign that said "We Love Yale Sluts."

How about this story about female Yale law graduates finding themselves unemployable because of male classmates posting things about them online - like their alleged participation in gang bangs and things about the men wanting to "grudge fuck" or rape them.

Connect the dots, anyone?

9 comments:

buriedalive said...

"Orgasms, sex toys, and getting drunk?"

Yep that about covers it.
Thank you Generation X&Y for being MTV's official Echooooo...

"Rape fantasies, bondage, the piercing of a woman’s nipples and the labeling of a woman as a “slut” who “deserved” violent sexual degradation"

Oh golly--look at all those *choices*!
Having a hard time coming up with which one I *want*!
Having multiple patriarchal options sure is swell...

Victoria Marinelli said...

Oh I don't know, I think maybe that gloating is... totally justified.

Harper Jean Tobin said...

As I've commented elsewhere:

As someone who was very active in sex education and sex-positive activism in my own college days, I'm cringing at the clumsy and at times undeniably sexist approach of the Yale Sex Week organizers. But my complaints have nothing to do with the inclusion of sex toys and porn on the itenerary, as such.

As to the porn screening in particular, they at least should have a) warned attendees that the extremes, and b) ensured that their presentation did not over-represent the more kinky and faux-violent niches of porn, so as to feed gross over-generalizations like, well, this blog's. There is a great deal not to like about the porn industry, but none of it will be changed by attacking the explicit (and sometimes, inevitably, commercialized) depiction of sex as such.

At the same time, one should keep in mind that the extreme practices cited here from the Yale porn screening are also ways that some mature, consenting women and men - straight, gay, lesbian and bi - sometimes do sex in real life. I'm a woman, a lesbian and a feminist, and some of them definitely do it for me.

NOLA radfem said...

The things that Yale showed in their selection of pornography are not atypical. It is such a dodge for people to claim that the horrific stuff is well outside the mainstream; this is demonstrably untrue. In fact, if you read, for example, Robert Jensen's analysis of pornography, he simply goes into video stores and asks the clerks to show him the best renters and best sellers. In no way does he seek out the worst of the worst just for shock value. And when he checks out those best renters and best sellers, what he is finding is still horrific. Porn that says women are bitches who deserve to be forced - because, deep down inside, they just love it - is not "niche" porn. It is mainstream. Look at the trade publications for porn; see what's selling.

Please read Robert Jensen's analysis and methodology:
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/pornography&cruelty.htm

See also this study:
A number of porn defenders claim that anti-porn activists harp on unusual, violent, women-hating examples of porn, and unfairly downplay the existence of 'artistic' porn on sites like Suicide Girls. anthonyjk_6319 believes that porn sites like "Gag on My Cock" and "Anal Suffering" are the "exception", and that the "overwhelming majority of porn (something like 99.8%) deals only in consenting nonviolent sex acts."

To clear up confusion about what porn is generally about, academic researchers Robert Wosnitzer, Ana Bridges, and Erica Scharrer, together with coders like Michelle Chang, analyzed 50 recent top selling porn films selected from lists compiled by Adult Video News, the leading trade journal of the porn industry. Their 71-minute presentation to the Pornography and Pop Culture conference in March is available as a Google Video. The conference agenda summarized the intent of their study, "Analyzing the Pornographic Text: Charting and Mapping Pornography Through Content Analysis":

http://nopornnorthampton.org/2007/05/13/presentation-content-analysis-bestselling-porn-films.aspx

Even leading producers in the industry admit in trade publication interviews that they are SHOCKED by how "these days, audiences just want more and more. They want it harder, faster, rougher. Double penetration used to be enough, now they want double and triple anal." In the same interview, talking about anal pain, pink-eyeing, swirlies, and facials, the same producer says, "I think what people really want to see is one of the actors actually hit a woman. That's the only thing we can't show. But they'll take a facial or a DP as the next best thing, for all the bitches they couldn't get in high school."

You should also know that Max Hardcore is a pornography megastar, EXTREMELY popular. One of the things he specializes in is getting an actress' manager to set up a filming with him. The young actress has never done anal, says she won't do it. But if she does, she gets a bonus, which means her pimp stands to get a bonus too. And Hardcore's specialty is FORCING WOMEN INTO ACTS DURING FILMING THAT THEY HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE - basically, he's celebrated for rape on film. If she said NO ANAL, her manager will book her with Max Hardcore and he will force her. Others in the industry are uncomfortable with him, worried he will bring the law down on them (he's been charged before). He also specializes in seducing what appear to be little girls - you know, pigtails, he gives her a lollipop, says this will be our little secret. He also pioneered the use of specula on the actresses. He will insert a speculum into an actress' anus, ask his assistant for some hose, urinate into the open anus, then get the girl to drink his urine through the hose. And I say AGAIN that this is some of the best-selling porn out there. This lunatic is a mega-star. THIS IS MAINSTREAM PORN.

This material is not designed to be an aid in loving sexual relationships. Producers are very honest about the typical viewer being a masturbating male who wants to ejaculate quickly. And then they present a quick, formulaic version of sexuality that also depends on cruelty for its "rush."

That isn't to say that women don't watch. But they are not the intended audience nor are they the primary audience.

It's the "mainstream" stuff - eighties and maybe nineties style though - that used to sit right on the top shelf of my husband's closet - stuff showing women wanting to be "fifty-five guy cream pies" while men put their hands around the woman's throat and call her degrading names while she begs for more because she just needs it - the stuff my husband finally, realizing on his own that this stuff had totally warped his sex life, recently ran DVD by DVD through the paper shredder. He is in a 12-step program for sex addicts.

I used to be a cool, sex-pos party girl too. I watched porn as part of my "love life" for twenty years before I realized what a load of garbage I was being sold and decided to focus on my own dignity instead. All of it depicts women as objects (notice that the camera angles are all about giving men the best possible view of women's sexual parts, even as actresses complain of severe cramps and achiness following hours of such contortionism; women don't enjoy having sex in those ridiculous positions. It's all for the male's viewing pleasure). All of it teaches men that all women want it from all the men they meet all the time (a good number of men in our oh-so pornified culture now report that they have indeed learned this from pornography and are enraged when in real life they discover a woman is, in fact, NOT interested). Most of it teaches that women enjoy masochism. Most of it teaches that although women might say no, they, in fact, NEED it, that since it's a woman's true nature to be fucked, a little pressure will show her what she's really made for, how much she needs it and loves it. In other words, by teaching that no means yes, porn teaches rape (no, not every scene leads to a rape, but there is a mindset, a way of thinking about women and about sex).

Pornography also creates unreasonable expectations in men because real women can't measure up. They get tired, cranky. They menstruate and get tender breasts that they don't want to have touched. They age, wrinkle, gain weight, get stretch marks. But porn teaches the most ordinary of men to demand perfect, pornalicious hotness in women. Did you know that many studies have shown that if the same men are asked to rate the appearance of the same everday women both before watching porn and after watching, the men rate the women as much less attractive after having watched pornography? They also tend to rate the specific body parts of the woman independently in a way that they did not just an hour before, before watching porn.

Did you know that study after study after study has shown that, in groups of male college subjects CHOSEN for their sensitivity, exposure to pornography leads men to be less sensitive to what degree of coercion constitutes rape and to be less disturbed by outright violence than they were before having watched pornography? The researchers will show men the same film, the same photos before watching pornography and then after - and the men's reaction to what is happening in the non-pornographic materials changes from empathy and concern to indifference and rationalizations. And that is in study after study.

If you didn't know this stuff, may I suggest Robert Jensen's book "Getting Off."

If porn just had to do with bodies doing their thing, why would there be the endless insults of women? Why is she called "bitch," "slut," and "cunt?" Why is she constantly asked to reaffirm that, yes, she loves being treated like this because she's a nasty little whore who can't get enough of some ugly, fat dude like Ron Jeremy?

In fact, in trade publications in the pornography industry, insiders admit that their primary audience is assumed to a white male and that he "wants to get even with all the bitches who rejected him by watching her suffer on film." Cross my heart, hope to die, read their own trade publication, because they admit that is what they are selling and to whom.

So, I say again that Yale's mistake was not in failing to prescreen the most offensive material but rather in showing material that is routinely offensive.

As for what you or others enjoy sexually, I will never tell you what you should think in that department, or that you don't think what you believe you do. I will, however, throw out two points from my own life.

First, I have learned that about 80% of the actresses in pornography were sexually abused before they were eighteen. They come to this line of work with a warped sense of self-worth - "my value is in my sexuality." Abuse, disease, substance abuse, disassociation - all of these things are common.

In fact, Jenna Jameson's book "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" is meant to be the tale with the happy ending, but even she is clear about how awful it is:
http://antipornographyactivist.blogspot.com/2007/07/jenna-jamesons-twenty-five-good-reasons.html
(Did you know Jenna Jameson was abused, ran away, tried to get a job in a strip club, was turned away because she was too young, and went into the bathroom at the club where she removed her orthodontic braces with pliers??)

Sierra Sinn leaves the business:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpQ91r4_BHU&feature=PlayList&p=BD64E14F832B99DC&index=2

Shelly Lubben quits:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzDSAgOqFU0&feature=related

Jersey Jaxin quits:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yACLK5ccKfM&feature=related

Other porn stars have gotten out of the business and report rampant abuse. At one time, if an actress was in pain and asked for filming to stop, it stopped. These days, however, as the industry has gotten more and more hardcore, the woman's request for a break is often ignored and her pain remains part of the final product (see Jersey link, supra.

The material out there documents a simple fact: This industry hurts the women who work in it. Although, as I said above, I watched pornography with men for many years, I have come to understand that to patronize that industry is to facilitate the exploitation of vulnerable women. I won't do that anymore. It is not in keeping with the ethics by which I try to live. I try to shop at places that pay living wages. I boycotted Taco Bell when their tomato pickers were being kept as slaves. I won't cross a union picket line. I only buy poultry and eggs where the animals are kept in humane conditions. I don't always get it right, but where I know the facts, I try to do better. When it comes to porn, I now know better; viewing it hurts women. Feel free to draw your own conclusions without any further lecturing from me. Your ethics are you own.

Second, my experience was that although I believed I was fully participating in and enjoying these things, I was actually trying to please my partner. The line between what he wanted and what I wanted was very fuzzy, because what I wanted was for him to be happy. I thought his turnon was my turnon and it's taken me forty years on this earth to be able to separate those things - women are raised to be the people pleasers. Many, many women spend years watching pornography with a partner, thinking they're so down with it, and later realize it wasn't really for themselves.

And, as someone said at an anti-pornography conference I recently attended, it is not unreasonable to suggest that maybe people are influenced by what they've seen, by culture. As he said, "My kid thinks he wants McDonald's, and sure, he really does, but we could also have a conversation about WHY he believes he wants McDonald's."

That is my approach to women who say they enjoy porn. Maybe you do - I'm sure as hell not going to tell you your own mind. But it might be helpful for us women to ask ourselves WHERE we got our ideas about what turns us on (especially when those things involve in any way restraining or forcing us) because I think we've bought into a commercialized, commodified version of sex that multi-million dollar industry has sold us. And just asking the question, "Hey, where did I get the idea that someone tying me up would be hawt," is, I believe, something to think about.

As my friend said, think about who is marketing this particular version of sex to you (men, all men). Pornography: sex :: McDonald's : food

Chiroptera said...

Thank you for this post and for your comments after. I used to enjoy porn--well, select porn. There is some non-violent porn out there and that was what I enjoyed. No, it was not just to please some man. I usually watched it in private!

But after I learned more about the porn industry, I realized that what appears on film to be two or more people enjoying themselves may actually be forced upon the porn actors (m/f).

I try to buy clothes and other goods not made by slave labor so why would I get off watching slave sex labor?

NOLA radfem said...

Yes, I think that is an ethical problem even when people do enjoy watching - even when women genuinely do enjoy watching, which I don't deny is sometimes the case. There isn't any way of knowing the circumstances in which the product was made - is the woman a survivor of child molestation, is she supporting a substance addiction, is she coered in any way. We don't know.

Hmmm. What if people made videos of themselves strictly for their own use? They could watch - and know that the people involved were okay.

NOLA radfem said...

Nothing glib or grossly generalized about this:

Shelley (Lubbin): “You told me some pretty scary things about the porn industry.”

Jersey (Jaxin): “Guys punching you in the face. You have semen… Twenty or thirty guys all over your face, in your eyes. You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you. It’s never ending. You're viewed as an object not as a human with a spirit. People don’t care. People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they’re being treated.”

Shelley: “What percentage of porn people use drugs?”

Jersey: “Seventy five percent and rising. Have to numb themselves… There are specific doctors in this industry if you go in for a common cold, they’ll give you vicodin, viagra, anything you want because all they care about is money. You are a number. You’re bruised. You have black eyes. You’re ripped. You’re torn. You have your insides coming out of you. It’s not pretty and foofoo on set. You get hurt.”

“The main thing going around now is crystal meth, cocaine and heroin. …You have to numb yourself to go on set. The more you work, the more you have to numb yourself. The more you become addicted, the more your personal life is nothing but drugs… Your whole life becomes nothing but porn.”

“I was a drinker. I drank a lot. Vodka was my drug. Vodka was my numbing toy. Before sets, after sets, and if it was a set where people didn’t care, they’d have it there waiting.”

Shelley: “Do pornographers provide drugs?”

Jersey: “Some of them do. Some of them do it in front of you. I used to have a problem with cocaine that I overcame. It’s hard when they’re putting it in front of you and saying, ‘Do this.’”

Shelley: “Talk about some of the degradation the women have to go through.”

Jersey: “You may see a 45-minute set that took us 13 hours. …We’re ripped, we’re tired, we’re sored, we’re bleeding, we’re cut up, we have dried semen all over our faces from numerous guys and we can’t wash it off because they want to take pictures. You have this stuff all over you and they’re telling you, ‘Hold it!’”

“You can say anything you want [stop or pain etc] and they don’t listen. There’s the ultimate thing where you squeeze their leg to ease up and most of them don’t care. They have another scene to go to. It’s all about the money. They’ve forgotten who they are and they don’t care who they’re hurting.”

“I’m on the road right now heading to a different life. I’m going to try to make it as a normal person because I’m done.”

“You have no soul in the porn industry.”

-- Jersey Jaxin, former porn performer.

at www.againstpornography.org/jerseyjaxin.html
(includes youtube videos of interview)

beyondfeminism said...

I just found you through the Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution. I have to say this post is AWESOME. JUST AWESOME. And on top of being awesome and completely right it's funny.

What do I get from what happened at Yale? This quote from Andrea Dworkin "If you are going to defend pornography, know what you are defending".

Keep up the excellent work!

(Oh, and how DARE anyone say such nasty things about my idol Gail Dines!)

beyondfeminism said...

I just found you through the Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution. I have to say this post is AWESOME. JUST AWESOME. And on top of being awesome and completely right it's funny.

What do I get from what happened at Yale? This quote from Andrea Dworkin "If you are going to defend pornography, know what you are defending".

Keep up the excellent work!

(Oh, and how DARE anyone say such nasty things about my idol Gail Dines!)