Today in Gender Role Marketing

Today in Gender Role Marketing

Reader Tash alerted us to this fine example of a children’s toy reinforcing gender roles. As sexist toys go, it’s par for the course, and I’m only highlighting it because of how horribly obvious it is and because it is also marketed as an educational toy. Here are the images and copy:

These CHUNKY magnets make learning Fun and encourage reading through Play. Complement your National Literacy range with these favourite Boys [Girls] [sic] words. Ideal for at home or school. Chunky Wipe Clean Magnets. Ideal for little fingers to grasp. Use on Magnetic Board, Fridge etc.

“National Literacy” refers to a UK-based effort (though other regions do this as well) to help children become proficient in high-frequency words. (Obviously this campaign came far too late for whoever wrote the copy for these magnet sets, because that barely qualifies as English.) Many educational organizations provide teachers and parents with word lists and games based on those word lists in order to keep kids on track. Here are some examples.

This company, however, has taken what they must think are high-frequency words and gendered them so that there are two separate sets of magnetic words. One set is for boys to learn and the other set is for girls to learn. Here they are:

magnetic words for boys

magnetic words for girls

The “boy” words are boots, glue, monster, scary, bones, racing, moon, helicopter, aeroplane, tractor, money, lorry, wizard, conkers, frogs, sticks, mud, dirt, spiders, snails, stones, bubbles, sweets, flags, magic, pond, string, grass, rugby, bug, dogs, caterpillar, cobweb, worms, dinosaur, dragon, bike, scooter, forest, treasure, climbing, swinging, skeleton, running, ghost, trees, swimming, lawnmower, treehouse, blue, football, chocolate, and car.

The “girl” words are clothes, hairband, heart, love, sparkle, perfume, beads, necklace, furry, lipstick, ribbon, handbag, wand, glitter, fairies, fluff, candy, flowers, wings, sherbet, bubbles, sweets, pink, make-up, skipping, magic, dancing, ballet, bunnies, rainbow, ladybird, lemonade, stars, sky, shoes, chocolate, doll, party, secret, diary, hair, jewels, princess, queen, tiara, ice-cream, teddy, music, sunshine, birds, butterfly, sugar, angel, diamond, cooking, and friends.

Appearance words: 15 for girls; 1 for boys (boots).
Action words: 3 for girls (skipping, dancing, cooking); 5 for boys (racing, climbing, running, swinging, swimming)
Things you buy: 23 for girls (like lipstick, tiara, diamond) ; 15 for boys (like helicopter, aeroplane, bike)
Nature words: 10 for girls; 18 for boys

Anyway, you get the idea. Boys learn that they are adventurous explorers. Girls learn that they are pretty, inanimate consumers. [EDIT: As pointed out in the comments, boys AND girls can learn to be skeptical badasses with our Word Magnets for Skeptics set which is waaay better.]

This tip from Tash (that has a nice ring to it) happened to arrive at about the same time as @drawingbusiness tweeted this (NSFW) link for my . . . what’s the opposite of enjoyment? Horror? Let’s go with horror.

For those who don’t want to click the link (and I don’t blame you), these are high-quality print ads for the .XXX pornography web domain suffix that play on the idea that internet porn is “moving” to .XXX. They show moving men holding topless and nearly-naked women who are in frozen, sexualized poses – one is bent over with her ass up against the man’s crotch; one is on all fours with her mouth on one man’s crotch and her ass up against another man’s crotch; and the other is held by the ankles with her ass pressed up against, yes, an obese moving man’s crotch.

Apparently these were created by the London branch of M&C Saatchi, a very large, international ad agency. Despite the quality of the ads, I was initially skeptical that this wasn’t just an idiotic college kid doing spec work, but apparently Saatchi really is the agency of choice for .XXX. Here are the credits:

Art Director: Dan McCormack
Copywriter: Luke Boggin
Photographer: Sean de Sparengo
Chief Fluffer: Sara Cummins

Sara is the only one who doesn’t have a link on “her” name, so I guess that’s just a super clever joke. It’s not just the agency that thinks they’re being clever – check out how popular these ads are over in the comments section on Ads of the World (again NSFW). Even Copyranter, who usually recognizes sexist bullshit when he sees it, thought these are great.

Since not everyone seems to grasp even this super obvious example, allow me to spell it out: these ads show “real” men, with objects. There are no actual women in these ads – only props that are used for the sexual gratification of men. This is the very literal example of objectification.

It’s not always so literal, of course, but it is exceedingly common. Check out some of the examples over on GenderAds:

These show dehumanized women as scissors, watches, beer, liquor, dinner, and even a keyboard, for fuck’s sake.

Anyway, I post these ads together with the magnets because they’re all very obvious examples of a problem that is more often much too subtle for many people to understand: the way we behave, the way we express ourselves, and the way we see ourselves as men and as women are influenced by the messages we receive from the moment we’re born, and a shocking number of those messages are coming from advertisers selling us products. And those advertisers are, by and large, complete assholes.

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

57 Comments

  1. I don’t care what the magnets say… the Grommit is not allowed to buy a helicopter…not until he’s 16 at least.

  2. They magnets are horrible. I have no doubt it was a ploy to sell more. If you have a boy and a girl, you have to buy two sets, not just one…. But the messages are horrible to say the least.

  3. I can’t believe you didn’t use this to shamelessly plug the skeptical word magnets as the better choice.. ;-)

  4. The word choices are so horribly stereotyped that you could almost think it was an intentional attempt to go overboard to make a point about how bad this kind of stuff is. I think the word magnets would have looked better with these pictures on the top.

    http://sadieamanda.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/gender.gif

  5. Maybe I’m just a dumb yank, but looking at these supposed “high-frequency” words… “conkers”?

    • Conkers are chestnuts (the shiny kind, not the kind you eat at Xmas). Little girls and boys somehow drill a hole in one, tie a string to it, and set it swinging to bang against someone else’s conker. The winner is the one whose conker smashes the other conker.
      I played it as a child, but can’t at all remember how we drilled holes in them, or why they would smash that easily.
      I think boys played conkers too, but I know the girls did.

  6. Fucking really? The magnet thing feels like a parody of a real product. I mean, porn douchenozzles I expect to act like porn douchenozzles. Terrible but not at all surprising. I keep thinking that it is 2012, not 1950… I guess I’m wrong.

    • But, but, but… Porn Empowers Women!

      (Didn’t you get the memo?)

      • Yeah–there are few things that annoy me more than the attitude that just because it is hypothetically possible for people having graphic sex on camera to be doing so in a sex-positive, empowering way, then it totally must follow that the people who currently ARE having graphic sex on camera are clearly sex-positive and empowered, regardless of what is marketed and consumed, or what ideas are embraced! Then, if you add in the fact that to whomever you criticize this line of thinking, they will invariably claim your problem is with the sex.

        Oh, and, of course, the fact that someone identifying as feminist chose something TOTALLY means it is divorced from all its prior patriarchal connotations, and while cultural influences and cognitive biases and misguided self perception are well-established psychological phenomena everywhere else, they somehow cease to apply when a self-identified feminist characterizes her sex life.

        • Those hypothetical people are far less hypothetical than you like to imagine…

          Examples: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/04/23/sex-workers-an-invitation-to-tell-your-stories/

          Surely those people are all unable to overcome their biases and cultural influences while your views on porn are somehow entirely free from the influences of a sex negative puritan culture.

          I enjoy the “Self-identified feminist” qualifier as well, since people who’s sex lives you don’t approve of couldn’t possible be REAL feminists. It’s almost like they think they have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies and sexuality, the nerve of them…

          • Didn’t I already say that I consider it deeply dishonest when someone tries to make this argument about the sex, instead of how women are treated and presented in commercial mainstream sex work?

            Yeah, and the fact that you have the right to do something in no way insulates you from criticism. Moreover, what you do with your body and how you present yourself and whose power you uphold in a very public forum AFFECTS OTHER PEOPLE and we have a right to speak up about it when your idea of “self-empowerment” tells the rest of us that we are obligated to shave every square inch of ourselves to be considered sexy, we had damn well better fit into a certain standard of physical appearance, we should totally and without question be really, really satisfied by doing whatever the man wants to do anyway, and it’s totally un-fun and not sexy to care about whether you’re being treated well. Moreover the consumeristic attitudes presented in the vast majority of mainstream porn and prostitution strongly reinforce the attitude that women’s sexuality should be centered around performing for men, that the “ideal” woman is a commodity, that men’s sexual pleasure should be paramount, etc., etc., etc.

            Yeah, you probably know of a few cases where these attitudes are not in play. Congratulations. That does not change the fact that the vast majority of the way the adult industry operates in this society privileges male desires and commodifies women. If individual women think they can get ahead in that environment, that is their right, but it is not actually empowering in terms of the actual status of women and our sexual fulfillment. Now, to be clear, I think they should have the legal right to do what they want, but I am NOT going to pretend that they’re not contributing to some very misogynistic norms, like lots of mainstream movie stars, models, singers, comedians, and in fact the very women posing for these ads.

        • There are plenty of examples of positive porn online. It actually DOES exist, you know, and it’s not that hard to find if you have an internet connection. Although, of course, I’m not sure you and I would necessarily fully agree on what makes positive porn, either.

          Anyway, mainstream porn has a lot of problems. Trust me, I know. I actually have random connections to the porn industry. Not that I’m in porn or anything. But I know some people who are, in various forms. This does include a very awesome woman that does actual graphic sex in front of a camera. I don’t really feel the need to list why she’s awesome, but she is indeed awesome. I do wonder what judgements you automatically place on her, only knowing that she has graphic sex on camera?

          Anyway, your last paragraph is annoying. Aren’t you so self-righteous.

          It’s not really up to YOU to determine why someone is or is not a real feminist. Not to mention that it somehow implies that you are completely immune to the patriarchy, which is just bullshit. Why is it that you get to lecture the choices women make because it involves having sex on camera?

          Can you now please let us explain to us what makes you the most amazing feminist in the whole world, so much so that you get to be the decider one who isn’t a real feminist?

          • And I want to clarify that I don’t necessarily disagree with you that in large part, mainstream porn has problems with the way it portrays women, and how it treats women, and there is of course a connection to society’s treatment of women, and blah blah we all know that and I think agree on that.

            There is a lot of sexist, terrible bullshit that goes on. I know. I’ve been around it. It’s there on the IT/tech side of it, too.

            But there are a lot of good people in the business as well, trying to change things. And that’s awesome.

            People like porn. People will ALWAYS like porn. You are never, ever, ever going to get rid of it. IT IS NOT GOING AWAY. Ever. Never. No, seriously, stop even considering that people will just stop consuming porn because IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

            So what do we do? You’re honestly speaking to the choir a bit here, because we are all very aware of the problems of porn, and how sexist our society continues to be, and how that is in some ways connected.

            And, do you know what REALLY bothers me about you? The fact that you keep talking about how awful it is that the woman has made the choice to be in porn, and how you have a right to criticize that woman, and how you will not ignore it.

            You’re main focus is the WOMAN. The individual woman who made the choice, for who knows what reason. You’ve not even once considered why she may have made that choice.

            You seem to think you’re such an awesome feminist, but why are you so focused on the women making these choices? And why such little talk about why women make these choices?

            So, so, so much talk about the particular choice made (in this case, porn), and why that choice is bad, but NO TALK of why that choice was made. And that’s important.

            It’s like you’re trying to blame the patriarchy on women making these individual choices without even realizing you’re doing it!

          • There are plenty of examples of positive porn online.

            I never said there weren’t. If you read carefully, I very clearly addressed my objections to mainstream porn. And, the fact that positive porn exists does not change the fact that the majority of dudes I might date are seriously influenced by mainstream porn, and our culture’s attitudes toward women and their sexiness is influenced by mainstream porn. Moreover, I’m noticing a very worrying trend to pretend that porn must be seen as empowering, no matter what’s in it–this leads us down vortexes like Hugo “Facials Are Empowering” Schwyzer among other things. The fact that some porn might be empowering means that people are all to happy to slap the label “sex-positive” onto just about anything and pretend that they respect everyone, but when it comes down to it, LOTS of the people consuming porn see sexual women as mindless fucking objects that don’t even notice when they’re picked up and moved.

            Although, of course, I’m not sure you and I would necessarily fully agree on what makes positive porn, either.

            I think the discussion is really important, especially because a lot of patriarchal bullshit is really insidious. However, this gets really difficult to do when people try to shut down the discussion with “I choose my choice!” rhetoric and trying to twist complaints about sexualization into complaints about sexuality.

            I do wonder what judgements you automatically place on her, only knowing that she has graphic sex on camera?

            I want you to carefully re-read what I wrote: regardless of what is marketed and consumed, or what ideas are embraced! I would think it is extremely clear to anyone with a rudimentary grasp of written communication that I am complaining about the sexist attitudes and actions in porn, NOT the sex!

            But, here you go again, directly fulfilling my prediction:

            Then, if you add in the fact that to whomever you criticize this line of thinking, they will invariably claim your problem is with the sex.

            How much clearer could I make this that the problem with porn IS NOT THE SEX. It’s all the other bullshit that devalues women that we’re being conditioned to see as inextricable from the sex. And then people try to use niche porn to claim that porn isn’t dehumanizing, all the while TONS of people (and, in my experience, most definitely including the privileged liberal dude who is the one telling me that of course porn isn’t dehumanizing) are actually watching the sexist shit in droves.

            Anyway, your last paragraph is annoying. Aren’t you so self-righteous.

            You know, for someone who’s so quick to jump on someone for being “judgmental,” you’re awfully good at it.

            It’s not really up to YOU to determine why someone is or is not a real feminist.

            Not at all. I also don’t think feminist is something you can simply be or not be. Furthermore, I don’t think “real feminist” needs to imply “perfect feminist.” The former I consider useful only for excluding extreme cases like Sarah Palin, but the latter is something I don’t think anyone can possibly be. HOWEVER, I think there’s a really important difference between acknowledging that not everyone is perfect versus saying that we can’t ever criticize an action or attitude. The later actually tries to fit into a model of being “perfect” by rationalizing and embracing every possible action and refusing to look critically at flaws, instead of saying “yeah, this thing I do upholds the patriarchy, I can’t get over it, and I do a lot of great things in other ways, so, at the end of the day, I’m okay with it.”

            Not to mention that it somehow implies that you are completely immune to the patriarchy, which is just bullshit.

            I never said this–not even close. In fact, a lot of my extreme wariness with all these “empowerful” attitudes comes from the many, many ways I realize my perceptions and my choices are shaped by patriarchal expectations. For instance, I simply cannot conceive of not shaving–if I don’t I just don’t feel comfortable in my own skin if I don’t, and I couldn’t deal with the social condemnation if I were to make a radical statement with fuzzy legs and underarms. However, what I am NOT going to do is try to silence someone’s criticism of women’s grooming standards by saying “but I CHOOSE to shave!!!” Rather, I’m going to just acknowledge that I’m not perfect and say “OK, patriarchy, you win this round, and I’m saving my mental energy for what’s more important.”

            Another more pressing concern, especially now that I’ve put myself on a rather severe diet for the last few months, is that I know I’ve internalized a lot of bullshit about body image issues, and I know that I feel better about myself when I’m thinner. Yes, I know this is a socially-constructed patriarchal expectation, but the fact is that it’s *completely* indistinguishable from my own thoughts, not to mention the fact that sometimes it can be damned hard to stop all the guilt when I give in and have lunch. And, I’ve caught myself more times than I care to admit rationalizing my dieting episodes (including ones more severe than the current one, which is at least nutritionally sound) with “it’s my body! I’m choosing what I want to do with it!” and “I feel so good about my body now!! This is sooo empowering!” So, yeah, I know whereof I speak when I’m skeptical of empowerment claims that happen to be just what the patriarchy expects…

            Why is it that you get to lecture the choices women make because it involves having sex on camera?

            Again, for the umpteenth time–NOT THE SEX. The objectification. The performance of satisfying masculinity over all else. The portrayal of unbelievable stupidity. The impossible beauty standards. Pretending to delight in sex acts that are awkward and uncomfortable but designed to get as much pussy and boobs into a frame as possible. The unquestioned assumption that sexual women should be degraded (if not outright punished).

          • But there are a lot of good people in the business as well, trying to change things. And that’s awesome.

            I’m sincerely not disputing that. HOWEVER, I am noticing a very worrying trend that people who are *barely* producing anything better expect to be considered totally great and don’t look at all the other stereotypes they’re still perpetuating, and I’m also seeing a veneer of empowerment slapped on the same patriarchal bullshit and then we’re all supposed to pretend the problem is solved and if you don’t like all the facials that are still in porn I guess you’re just not sex-positive enough.

            People like porn. People will ALWAYS like porn.

            I don’t think I claimed anything different. My problem is that the “People like porn” thing is almost always trotted out when people try to address the very, very common misogyny and criticisms of the misogyny seem to get judo-flipped into criticisms of sex. I don’t think we should stop people (or even persuade people out of) watching porn, but I do think we should try to make it less socially acceptable to consume misogynistic, sex-negative porn.

            No, seriously, stop even considering that people will just stop consuming porn because IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

            Where, exactly, did I even START considering this?!

            And, do you know what REALLY bothers me about you? The fact that you keep talking about how awful it is that the woman has made the choice to be in porn, and how you have a right to criticize that woman, and how you will not ignore it.

            In other contexts, I’d address my criticism at society in general, the expectations of the porn industry, airbrushing in magazines, body policing, discrimination in pay and opportunity in the rest of the workforce, sexism, an incredible self-esteem mindfuck that seems to make planting one’s flag on the latter side of the virgin-whore dichotomy seem like the only way to feel comfortable with one’s body and sexuality, fetishization of any body or attitude not already subsumed in the mainstream plastic porn world, general-audience entertainment, the treatment of women as the sex class, the lack of inclusion of women’s desires in porn by writers and directors, and so on and so on.

            HOWEVER, this particular discussion started with the canard about porn empowering women, and therefore my point of contention is going to be specifically on those who claim their (or others’) participation in porn is an empowering, positive, feminist thing…REGARDLESS of whether their work and its effects actually furthers those values.

            There are those who insist that they consider themselves empowered by the adult industry and are adamant that they made a free choice to participate and how dare we question why they did that. For THOSE people, who specifically say that they perceive that choice as theirs and who actively advocate similar choices, THEN I say, yeah, and you’re responsible for your freely-made choices, just like everybody else.

            You’ve not even once considered why she may have made that choice.

            Because if I did, an all-too-large segment of the debate would skewer me for denying her “agency.”

            In my experience, people get really uncomfortable with acknowledging that they’re not perfect and that they’re not all-powerful, so they embrace what they’re stuck with. However, this really, really entrenches the privilege of those who are limiting those choices in the first place.

            Amanda Marcotte has been great about this recently:

            http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/the-wage-gap-and-the-problem-of-choice-feminism

            It’s like you’re trying to blame the patriarchy on women making these individual choices without even realizing you’re doing it!

            No, it’s more of a long-simmering frustration with women who keep *insisting* that their patriarchal behavior is their individual choice, without realizing they’re doing it.

  7. Just combine these two ideas to get million dollar idea: chunky boy and girl magnets that show the proper way boys and girls fit together. Just manufacture them with magnets on the right bits and *snap* instant moral lesson. This would not only instruct children on the missionary position from an early age, but also clearly demonstrate that boys don’t fit with boys and girls don’t fit with girls. If I didn’t have a conscience I could be so rich!

    • Wait a minute, Dave. Just wait one minute.

      Are you really trying to be cute and funny and pretend you get this post, when only just a couple of days ago, you pulled out the “pretty girls are so dumb and vain and boring!” trope and told us that women who appear to care about their appearance are vain and shallow (your words, exactly), and instantly not worth your time because of that?

      You have got to be shitting me.

      I thought your *snap* instant moral lesson was that women who care (or at least appear to care) about their appearance are shallow.

      According to you, a certain sort of girl (or rather, what you perceive to be a certain sort of girl) doesn’t fit with you, or in your world. You can’t even bring yourself to say hello to them at a party!

      I can’t take you seriously anymore, Dave. At all.

      • Unless I’m misunderstanding something, which is entirely likely, it sounds like you’re mad that I expressed an opinion that you agreed with shortly after expressing one you didn’t. I honestly don’t know what to take from this.

        • Yeah, you REALLY don’t get it, do you? Just like you don’t get that you don’t get to be blatantly sexist and then act innocent.

          The points in this article are not at all unrelated to the makeup article posted the other day, where you left your sexist bullshit. Neither is your complete obliviousness all around.

  8. So what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Did you ever stop to think that marketing follows biology? This old school sociology/chicago school of ideas is passé imo. Children are drawn towards different toys just months after birth.

    • Yeah, that’s right. Marketing follows biology, that’s why pink was a boy’s color and blue a girl’s color until that famous reversal of biology that happened in the 50s after which blue=boy/pink=girl. /sarcasm

      Of course biology matters some but marketing is rarely about that. Marketing is all about emotion, just take your pick as to which one at which time.

    • “Children are drawn towards different toys just months after birth.”

      You mean after they’ve been surrounded by stereotyped toys for those months? Really?

      If you’re going to make assertions that toy selection is biologically based, you had better provide some solid* evidence.

      *”Solid” in this case excludes the horribly bad studies on rhesus monkeys and chimps that have made the rounds recently–those studies have major methodological problems. It also means cross-cultural.

      • OMG, the studies that showed monkeys liked “boy” toys better? And the researchers decided that trucks are “boy” toys? Without bothering to figure out how a monkey would associate a toy truck with a real truck and what that means about being a “man” and understanding mechanical engineering? That study was hilarious.

  9. This might make you feel better… the crossfit community is getting pretty excited about WOD toys! I think they’re adorable.
    http://www.wodtoys.com/

    They are marketed to girls and boys. Crossfit tries to be really inclusive and support everyone, regardless of gender or ability. At least, that’s been my impression at gyms and competitions so far. I almost want to have kids just so I can buy them those toys. Ha!

  10. “Yeah, and the fact that you have the right to do something in no way insulates you from criticism”

    That really just means “I like to judge people!”

    Because damn. At least you’re honest, I guess, but you don’t seem like a very nice person.

    • Well, you know all porn is bad because some porn is bad, and all movies are bad because some movies promote syereotypes, and all music is bad because some music is Justin Beiber.

      Where have you been?

      • Hahahaha.

        I’m not sayin’ all porn is great, because it certainly is not.

        What I’m sayin’ is that there is some good porn out there, and maybe we should put some focus on that as well, because porn is not going to go away (EVER), and it is important to make sure that the good stuff gets out there. The internet actually makes that much easier! Especially in this recent web entertainment boom, which some people ARE trying to take advantage of.

        What I’m also sayin’ is that it is seriously not cool to try and put the entire weight of the patriarchy on women who choose to do porn, especially when you don’t even discuss the reasons women make these choices. It’s a pretty complex issue and “Porn is evil and women who do porn are supporting evil and therefore they must not be feminists because I say so” is seriously not going to fly.

        • I’m actually agreeing with you, I failed to add a sarcasm tag.

          The whole “baby with the bathwater” thing bugs me. If you find some aspects of a thing troubling work to fix what troubles you, or better yet work to fix the underlying societal problems that led to those things that trouble you, or even better the social and religious mores that have lead to the societal problems that have led to… you get the point.

          Trying to quash something that is not going away leads down roads I know I don’t want to head down, or am I the only one who has read Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley? (That is sarcasm, I know the crowd here is overflowing with readers.)

          • The whole “baby with the bathwater” thing bugs me.

            But I never advocated anything like this. If anything, my criticism would be more along the lines of people “sneaking the bathwater in with the baby”…the whole yay sexual fulfillment is great! is preventing us from looking at what we’re allowing to parasitize that sexual fulfillment, and here we are so convinced with ourselves that our porn culture is sex-positive, and yet–surprise!–sexually active women are treated like mindless fucking moving crates.

            Trying to quash something that is not going away leads down roads I know I don’t want to head down, or am I the only one who has read Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley?

            Since I specifically argued for people to have the legal right to do what they want (and reading over my post, in case it wasn’t clear I meant in regards to porn AND prostitution, and other forms of sex work as well), so I don’t see why exactly you feel the need to say this.

        • What I’m also sayin’ is that it is seriously not cool to try and put the entire weight of the patriarchy on women who choose to do porn, especially when you don’t even discuss the reasons women make these choices.

          But what about when those women specifically declare that their choice to do porn is empowering? What if they try to shut down any discussion about the role of the patriarchy in porn itself or their choices? What if their idea of “empowerment” is actually trading on a whole lot of white, thin, pretty, able-bodied privilege?

          It’s a pretty complex issue and “Porn is evil and women who do porn are supporting evil and therefore they must not be feminists because I say so” is seriously not going to fly.

          1) Not all porn is evil, but strawmanning my criticism like that is a really major barrier to addressing the evil (I dunno, I think a more accurate term might be “douchebaggery”) that is in a lot of porn.

          2) Not that *they* must not be feminist, but rather that the *choice* is probably not feminist. People are complicated, and can be really enlightened in some ways and still very stuck in their culture in others. Also, essentializing criticisms of the choice into criticisms of the person and then taking offense is a rather annoying bait-and-switch.

      • Where, exactly did I say anything even close to resembling “all porn is bad”?

        I very clearly said: “the vast majority of mainstream porn…”

        Vast majority =/= all

        Mainstream porn =/= all porn

        The vast majority of mainstream porn is a subset of mainstream porn which is itself a subset of all porn.

        Stop strawmanning.

    • That really just means “I like to judge people!”

      Because damn. At least you’re honest, I guess, but you don’t seem like a very nice person.

      This is really ASTOUNDINGLY hypocritical. Yes, human beings are social creatures. We judge people ALL THE TIME. You fucking judge people all the time–YOU’RE JUDGING ME RIGHT NOW. (In fact, you’ve even gone farther–I’ve been criticizing problematic choices and attitudes, whereas YOU have escalated this to judging me as a person.)

      And you know what? When human beings see something we don’t like, that we think is harmful or misguided, WE CRITICIZE IT. Yeah, we judge the hell out of poor behavior *and we should.* I am being honest that when I see something that I perceive to be wrong, I think it is important to say so. Greta Christina even has a post up right now on how important it is to criticize religion and how people are wrong to be so evasive about that criticism.

      And let’s also point out: you do it too. You see something posted here that you disagree with, that you think is perpetuating harmful attitudes, and what’s the first fucking thing you do? You criticize the hell out of it! You try to make it very socially uncomfortable for the person saying those things–BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT HUMAN BEINGS DO.

      Furthermore, I want to make clear: I am NOT responding to your criticism with “But don’t judge me!! I’m just stating my opinions! Why can’t you be supporting of my choices?!?!?” Since part of your criticism seems to be “you shouldn’t judge people” I’m pointing out that you’re judging people to show that’s bullshit, BUT as for the rest I’m going to support my arguments and say that in most of your reply you either misunderstood a lot, or twisted my words unconscionably.

      Note the difference: “Don’t criticize me!!!” versus “Your criticism is unfounded, and this is why…”

      • I have to agree that commenters should criticize arguments and not insult the person. Gracias.

  11. I’d definately take the Word Magnets for Skeptics over the Chunky ones.

    Also, one could make their own versions.
    Maybe one that’s astronomy based. Or Doctor Who based…..

  12. To be absolutely clear, I feel that what passes for mainstream (whatever that amounts to nowadays) porn is not only appalling but downright disgusting (ATM, choking, reliance on hairlessness, pretend (I hope) rape, etc.). If we are to progress however we need to realize that different people have different fantasies (and what is porn beyond fantasy) and that, while some of those fantasies are abhorrent to us, they are based in a larger society where the criticism should rightfully be focused.

    Are sex-workers exploited? Sure, sometimes they are but not always. Are hourly wage workers exploited? Sure, but to a greater extent that sex workers? I’m not so sure. The thing that is sure is that (despite your insistence that we leave it out of the equation) sex is always a part of the porn equation. We can argue all day long that it shouldn’t be, but it won’t change the facts of the matter. When people think porn they think sex, and in this formerly-Puritan nation we are very hung-up on the fact that we are naked and “up to stuff” during porn and that makes our brains go all oogie.

    I can’t draw the line of where respectful fulfillment of desires and the exploitation of sex-workers lies, I’m not sure anyone can. But I do know that telling others where their line should be drawn tends to be, at the very least parochial.

    Working toward changing the ridiculous patriarchal society that leads to exploitation of anything that moves would have more effect on porn that poo-pooing the existent of said phenomena.

    In plain words, porn is bad if the people in it don’t want to be, otherwise butt out.

    • I think you’re neglecting the way that porn feeds back on the culture at large. Yes, the culture has a lot of misogynistic tendencies that shape people’s fantasies that porn then caters to, but porn also sets a lot of norms for how people view sex, what they’re taught to want out of sex, and porn fantasies get mingled in with people’s genuine fantasies and shape them to a great degree. Are you honestly trying to tell me that the huge proportion of guys in their late teens and early 20s who are obsessed with M-F-F threesomes and facials just *happened* out of the blue?!

      But it just fascinates me how you keep trying to change the subject to the sex, and brush off all the really problematic stuff that goes with the sex…really, all that about how awful mainstream porn is just gets brushed aside as a “fantasy”–look, those are some pretty damn weird fantasies and yet apparently they’re *mainstream*. If there was just one dark corner of the internet that loved hairlessness and choking or whatnot, I wouldn’t quibble quite so much…but these are what millions of people are learning to wank off to. These are expectations that my boyfriends have brought into the bedroom like it was perfectly fucking normal and even acted surprised that I wasn’t thrilled by it (and some things that I had accepted as normal for quite some time before I realized, “Hey–I’m not actually enjoying this!”).

      Again, we’re not ONLY talking about whether or not porn workers themselves are exploited (and there’s a whole other can of worms as to whether or not our society’s attitudes toward women make them want to volunteer to be exploited and/or internalize exploitive attitudes), but it also matters what message porn sends to our general culture, and things like this ad campaign and the “I’m on a whore” from a few days ago really show that we have–and porn enables and perpetuates–a huge problem in our society with women’s sexuality, and making scads of young men feel like they’re entitled to eager, beautiful, compliant, non-individuated women’s bodies sure as hell isn’t helping.

      • Yes, porn feeds back into how people view sex in society but if we want to change that we need to start from sooner in the process. Criticizing the current state is helpful in pointing out the targets we need to change but what is the best way to do that?

        We can try to change the current state of porn, I’m not sure what good it will do or even how you would go about starting to get that change, but it is worth a try.
        We can support the good that does exist and show that it can get a market.
        We can push to get prostitution legalized so that it can be regulated and more accepted.
        We can push to get real and effective sex education that emphasizes the importance of the partnership that must exist for sex to be fulfilling for all involved as well as the logistics involved.

        I feel the latter ways would do more to fix the problem in a more substantial way than the former ways.

        • Yes, porn feeds back into how people view sex in society but if we want to change that we need to start from sooner in the process.

          I agree, but I don’t think it needs to be an either-or thing–I think pointing out and combating harmful tropes in porn can be useful as an integrated part of criticizing the perpetuation of those harmful stereotypes in the culture at large. Because it’s really made up of a million little things, and any one of them is too small and not going to change anything, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

          We can try to change the current state of porn, I’m not sure what good it will do or even how you would go about starting to get that change, but it is worth a try.

          I generally look at it from a demand-side. Right now, there exists an all-too-common defense mechanism that makes people yell “but porn is just a fantasy!!” as if that negates all its implications, and I think we need to set a social norm that sexist porn is actually real sexism, and that part of thinking yourself an enlightened person means caring about what you wank to.

          We need to see sexually explicit stuff as a totally normal & embraced part of people’s enjoyment, but that the weird thing to do is to get off on the mean-spirited stuff (and kinks are great, but let’s not call misogyny a “kink”). And just a little bit of contempt would be nice toward those who are so insistently simple-minded about refusing to see all the harmful stereotypes they indulge in.

          There is also a lot of pressure on women not to feel uncomfortable with their partners’ porn tastes, as though this is “shrill” and “castrating” and “puritan,” and critics always paint her concerns as paranoia about fidelity rather than real concerns about how her partner is objectifying women (and the bleedthrough that happens with her), what expectations are being set, to what extent her needs are minimized or ignored, and so on. So I think it’s important to make it more socially acceptable for women to voice their concerns about porn (including–why is it so damned hard to find something that actually turns ME on, not just him?!?!).

          We can support the good that does exist and show that it can get a market.

          Absolutely, but that does mean (see my epic kink.com rant) that we have to think seriously about what is actually good, and we have to make it less socially acceptable to be a consumer of the bad–such that, hopefully, those people will internalize the social values of actually *caring* whether their sexual goals/fantasies/norms/behavior are really embracing of sexuality for everyone concerned, and move to patronize the good stuff.

          A good place to start, I suppose, would be to have regular porn-reviews by major sex writers, and promote the stuff that is actually appealing to men AND women (and non-binary-identified folks), that finds lots of people attractive, that makes pleasure appealing and convincing, that is creative and inspiring, etc. etc. For one thing, it would start a discussion, and for another, people actually producing the good stuff wouldn’t be pushed to the fringes.

          We can push to get prostitution legalized so that it can be regulated and more accepted.

          I completely agree with legalization as a human rights issue, and accepting is important as far as not stigmatizing sex workers for being sexual, but I will add a little caveat that “accepting” prostitution as it is currently coded carries a lot of baggage in terms of entrenching the idea that of course women’s sexuality is commodified in terms of how it serves men, and the more “ideal” and “valuable” a woman is the more she pleases and performs for men. So, while I’m completely in favor of legalization, I do think we need more discussion about the problematic aspects of prostitution as it predominantly is right now.

          We can push to get real and effective sex education that emphasizes the importance of the partnership that must exist for sex to be fulfilling for all involved as well as the logistics involved.

          Couldn’t agree more. And I’d like abstinence-only to go fuck itself.

          I feel the latter ways would do more to fix the problem in a more substantial way than the former ways.

          Again, I don’t think it’s either-or: patriarchy is a really tight-woven and interconnected system and it can be paralyzing to try to figure out the best way to unravel it, so if you see something that’s a problem you’ve just got to grab that thread and start pulling.

          • First of all, I’d like to say that I absolutely hate mainstream porn. We’re a very puritanical society, so much so that it’s invisible to us. Mainstream pornography is very much an expression of that puritanism. It’s also so absurdly inaccurate. I would swear that none of these people have ever had sex before if that weren’t at least technically not true.

            There is nothing that makes me more infuriated than the assertion that porn is fantasy. What fantasy is this garbage? Everything good about sex with a partner that you can’t get from sex alone is missing. Where is the joy of discovering your partner’s erogenous zones? Who would want a partner that doesn’t bring and desires of their own? Who wants to sleep with lots of women but hates variety? It’s like they palette swapped the same woman over and over. And when did anyone ever answer the question “What’s your type” with “bland”?

            It’s like if aliens came to earth and tried to make porn with no knowledge of sex but our anatomy and how we use curse words.

            It’s like if you were a philandering jerk and you ended up in that episode of the Twilight Zone with the casino where you never lose. It’s a nightmarish hell of sex without surprises, women whose only wants, needs, and desires are pleasing you, and for some reason, all lesbians have long fingernails.

            People don’t like this crap, they just don’t know enough about sex and their own desires to demand better. Young boys don’t brag about how horrible and incompetent they are in bed, so it a safe bet that all things being equal, they’d prefer real sex to the fantasy stuff.

            But what are you going to do about it? Fighting the patriarchy is the first thing you should do. The second is to have sex. Do it right. Say what you mean, really learn what you like, be selfish and help your partner be selfish, too. If everybody had a basic understanding of sex for pleasure, there would be no market for mainstream porn. The third thing, which not everybody can do, is to do porn right.

            There is good porn out there, although no, it’s not easy to find. Pornography made specifically for women is the only kind of pornography that is even capable of being any good. Most of it isn’t. Mine is, and that’s the most I can do about it. I’m not actually sure if that counts as disagreeing with you or not.

            I don’t know why anyone would suggest Kink.com as an empowering site. I would appreciate it if those who do visit that site would take the time to complain about the use of the word “sluts” on their main page. While there are plenty of women that like being called “slut”, pretty sure that not every woman in that gallery would appreciate that. Even if they did, we don’t know that, and the appropriate response to that sort of behavior is to get offended and put a stop to it. If you didn’t say anything, you are the problem.

    • “To be absolutely clear, I feel that what passes for mainstream (whatever that amounts to nowadays) porn is not only appalling but downright disgusting (ATM, choking, reliance on hairlessness, pretend (I hope) rape, etc.). ”

      Call me ignorant, but…what is ATM in this context?

      • ATM – ass to mouth, specifically refers to a man going from one to the other without pause. Kinda revolting. I did an unsafe google search for “atm screenshot” looking for a screen from an automatic teller machine and my eyes nearly burned out.

        • I suppose after that, you realized to spell out ATM for the correct context!

          From your description, I get a picture of a sort of Mobius Loop of sex. Is that the idea?

  13. Am I the only one who would love to see Marilove’s examples of really positive pron?

    (Is that electric fence turned on?)

    • I used to have bookmarks but then a motherboard fried and they were lost. Alas I am too lazy now and not as into porn as I was when I was younger.

      I actuality like Kink.com. This is what I mean when I say we may not all agree on what is positive porn. I am not even really into kink at all, but they are known to be awesome to all their talent. I personally know several woman who only work within their network because they are so great. I enjoy their videos even tho I’m not really into kink because it’s clear the women are having a fucking blast (pun intended).

      Btw, Siph, we agree more than we disagree here, I think, but you still seem hell bent on blaming individual woman than the actually patriarchy. It’s your entire focus. And honestly, what gives you the right to decide when a woman is empowered? You are not the Queen Feminist. Get off your high horse, please.

      Today I am oft to Colorado Springs, for a week. So I appologize fir vanishing. Thanks for the discussion.

      • but you still seem hell bent on blaming individual woman than the actually patriarchy. It’s your entire focus.

        I have already said exactly why this is the case, and why this is relevant to the particulars of this discussion. You have not addressed any of the points I made AT ALL, much less described why they are inadequate or inaccurate. You have just repeated your first statement again and ignored my response. This is lazy.

        And honestly, what gives you the right to decide when a woman is empowered?

        Who said I was “deciding”? Why can’t I just be expressing some concerns and analyzing, interpreting, and considering consequences like commenters and social animals in general do ALL THE TIME?! What, exactly, is the point of discussing social mores and attitudes if we don’t consider how they affect other people, and consider how society makes us rationalize things that might not actually be best? Gee, I can’t think of any literature, art, music, social commentary, etc., that doesn’t delve into one’s own and others’ motivations for their behavior, after all…

        Empowerment is not a wholly subjective experience. There are some fairly evident criteria observable to third parties about whether or not something is actually empowering–freedom of choice, availability of alternatives, effects (real or potential) on well-being of that individual, values perpetuated, etc., etc. etc.

        Are you seriously saying that if someone declared they were perfectly empowered being a Mormon housewife (or a Catholic nun), you wouldn’t say that there are some serious contradictions there? Wouldn’t you consider it prudent to mention that there are some major structural and political forces related to that choice that could end up biting that person in the ass later?!

        Do you really look at the “We are the 53%” and think those people are empowered when they declare “I don’t blame Wall Street for my debt and lost job!”?

        Again, internalization and cognitive dissonance are natural human phenomena EVERYWHERE–why should feminists be an *exception*?? Why should we just pretend it doesn’t exist or get offended at the mere suggestion?

        Moreover, the casting of something as empowering encourages others to do the same, so it really is a necessary topic of public discussion and critical analysis.

        Indeed, even the first few people on Greta Christina’s post (linked above) have pointed out the less-than-empowering aspects of sex work, even for people who felt empowered at the time:

        I felt wanted and desirable. At the time, I had an eating disorder and extremely low self-esteem, and believed that most of my value came from being wanted. I liked seeing that my attractiveness could be quantified in money.

        At the time, I felt very empowered by the work. Now I just kind of roll my eyes at my own naivite. I know it’s not empowering or some sort of bold feminist statement to let strangers beat me for money.

        there were things that I didn’t really think about being a problem until much later, at the time I was naive enough to ignore them.

        I put up with a lot of horrible things because I felt really desperate for the money. I used to really think this thing I’d heard, that “if strippers had any more self-confidence, they’d smell bad” was completely true – but then looking back, I had very little, and it was easily shaken by one asshole one bad night. Like one thing, I always sexually liked having my breasts and nipples played with, until I worked at clubs that allowed it, and I felt like if I told guys not to I wouldn’t sell any dances and make no money (because they told me so), so for a long time I really HATED it when partners outside of work did it, because I associated it with those clubs. It took a long time to recognize that and unlearn it.

        I only read the first few, so I don’t know if these are representative, but the fact remains that there is at least a documented *risk* of people getting their self-esteem fucked with under the guise of being “empowered” and I think that at least makes it important to talk about it…and another thing–if people are so sure they’re empowered, why are they so damn quick to shut down discussion when people question it?

        (btw, here is a really interesting article from an IPV survivor about how taking “empowerment” at people’s word can get dangerous…yes, I know that has nothing to do with porn or sex work, per se, but I do think it’s really relevant to the “You can’t question anyone’s claim of empowerment!!!!” meme.)

        You are not the Queen Feminist. Get off your high horse, please.

        This is a blatant silencing tactic and it is totally intellectually dishonest. When you try to twist any discussion about why someone has a concern or frustration with a social attitude into being “the Queen” and being on a “high horse” instead of just having something that they feel is important to contribute to the discussion like everybody else, you are basically saying that they can’t possibly express themselves or be forthright with their feelings. What, pray tell, is this magical middle ground I’m supposed to inhabit where I can say I have a problem with something, and explain my reasons for it, but not apparently have appointed myself as the sole arbiter of this issue?

        I might also point out that your “Queen” accusation is pretty much stock-in-trade of silencing a woman (in a very gendered way) about having an outspoken opinion as way too full of herself, and that is just not acceptable.

        Moreover, I have already been very honest and discussed in fairly great detail a lot of my personal struggles with patriarchal expectations and self-esteem, so for you to continue to go around hurling insults like “Queen Feminist” after I’ve already opened up about some rather personal stuff is callous in the extreme.

  14. Wow, I didn’t realize “porn douchenozzles” was going to stir up so much shit… sorry! I’m not saying all porn is produced by and for douchenozzles. That’s the stereotype, and although there’s surely some sex-positive non-exploitative porn out there, there’s still plenty of the bad kind. More obviously based on the advertising, there’s plenty of pride in producing exploitative, dehumanizing porn.

  15. Actually, I’ve got to nominate Kink.com as Exhibit A in same-old-shit-with-a-progressive-label-on-it. And, really, I tried to like Kink.com–I went through a phase about a year ago where I really, really tried to see the sex-positivity everyone seems to ascribe to them, and at least the lighting quality is better and the orgasms are marginally more convincing…

    BUT–the fact remains that the vast, VAST majority of their material is about hurting, humiliating, and objectifying women. There are about a dozen variations of “let’s hurt and humiliate this woman!” and TWO, yes *two*, venues for submissive men, and even in those the women are presented for the male gaze first and foremost (yes, this man is tied up and “surrendering” to this woman, but how convenient that she’s posed in the least assertive way imaginable so you, the viewer, can see her pussy being licked and her tits!!) Over half of them “femdom” section is women dominating *other women.* Not to mention the fact that the women are meticulously within standard beauty expectations (and I’ve got to say the real boobs are more of a “fashion” now than actual respect for women’s bodies), and clearly do A LOT of beauty work.

    That and frankly I still think it’s pretty formulaic…I finally had to give up on trying (and I *was* trying) to find their stuff a turn-on after the upteenth “may I come, sir?” with exactly the same inflection from every single actress, every time–yawn.

    The thing is, I think it’s disingenuous and tiresome to take all the patriarchal, misogynistic, violent bullshit that’s saturating our culture, call it a “kink,” and then act like it’s magically this bastion of progressive sexuality. (While SOME people have sex fantasies that are random, unexplainable, and totally at odds with who they are, it does not then follow that ALL fantasies are similarly disengaged from people’s attitudes.) So, we have a bunch of people (male and female) who revel in sex play based on submission of women, using sex as a punishment for women, punishing women for having sexual desires, hurting women and reveling in them suffering, in a culture that relentlessly judges women, shames them for their sexuality, blames them for rape, appropriates their bodies and denies them their agency…well, gee, I wonder how THAT happened?!?!?!?

    And, yeah, putting a pert little interview at the end where the girl bubbles about how it was such a “great experience”–gag me with a fucking spoon. Maybe she really liked it. Maybe it’s just her job and she really doesn’t care either way–but seriously, what’s she gonna say?! (e.g., “Well, the titty fucking was great, but there was a part during the hanging from the meat hook where the energy kinda lagged, and then the bit with the flogger was a little too sharp so I couldn’t enjoy the blowjob afterwards, but the bit with the dildo was totally the highlight of the shoot.”) So, maybe it’s trying to be a nod toward sexual fulfillment, but it really just comes off as the same old shit and now we’re supposed to really love it, too!

    I totally respect the idea that people should feel comfortable expressing their unorthodox desires and not be shamed for it (I will, however, question to what extent the material marketed by kink.com is actually “unorthodox” instead of just extrapolated), and that people can have complicated responses to their gender/social roles and sexuality…but somehow this crosses over from “you can be empowered exploring your submissive desires” to glorifying submission *itself* and saying “this is what empowerment looks like!!” (and then there’s a lot of pressure if you *don’t* like that sort of thing that well, you’re just too straight-laced and you’re not enlightened enough…) And I still find it interesting that somehow while everyone’s really encouraged to pursue their deepest desires the ones we seem to be advertising, and filming, and buying the most are the ones that comport almost exactly to classic patriarchal expectations…funny, that.

    And amazingly, the comments after every video are all about evaluating the woman’s body and her performance (it’s the exception the guy even gets *noticed* and even then it’s about how he handles the woman), and then there are a bunch of entitled wankers whining about how there isn’t more anal. Clearly, there’s something about “sex-positive” that is just not quite adding up here.

    Not to mention, even though they’re supposedly so enlightened, they do occasionally slip up and display attitudes toward women exactly like the sex-workers-as-movable-inventory above.

    Notice that all of this is a completely *separate* question from how they treat their talent–they may be a really great place to work for if you’re into that sort of thing, they may do everything right behind the scenes, but that doesn’t change the fact that the values and the social attitudes they’re perpetuating are really, REALLY problematic.

    • Whoa! I just visited the kink.com website. The images for me personally cross the line. But it raises the question as to whether a line can be drawn that everyone agrees on.

      Pornographic films have essentially 4 components:
      a. the performers
      b. the sex act(s)
      c. the viewers
      d. the patriachyometer (0=none, 10=total misogyny)

      Most would agree that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a, b or c. We all have pleasure regions that were hardwired by evolution. There is good reason we all have lust and historically, sexual repression from religion has manifested with disasterous results.

      It’s d that’s the problem that influences a,b and c. The question is can you have porn with d being zero. Is it possible to show a blow job scene stripped of any patriarchical influence? Beats me. Indeed with thousands of years of ingrained patriarchy, many would argue that d will always be 10.

      But here’s the dilemma Sphino. You and 99% of human beings (with the remaining 1% lying) are filled with sexual desires that need an outlet. It is very unrealistic to confine such desires to solely a “loving, committed relationship.” And even in those situations, people roleplay fucked up shit like “me Nazi commanding officer and you submissive Jewish concentration camp victim”. Women who have rape fantasies is another example.

      So there we have it, Sphino. How would you make d zero?

      • Well, to start with I don’t think restricting the totality of human sexuality to “loving, committed relationship” is actually a worthy goal at all. For one thing, that’s simply not what everyone wants, and I actually think it’s very patriarchal and sex-negative to think that the only “right” way to have sex is within the “right” relationship. (I also think this expectation leads people to persuade themselves they’re in love with people they’re actually just hot for, and that leads to disillusionment and broken hearts and all sorts of bad stuff…)

        So, for me the more pressing concern is are the people portrayed as having autonomous, interesting, and self-actualized desires? Do the people fucking respect each other? Is it out of the question to have some fucking that actually looks FUN–like people laughing, smiling, enjoying each other’s company (and other things too!)? Is it spontaneous and exciting? Are the parties in the sex equals? Do they seem like people who actually have lives outside of fucking? Is the fucking creative and do the participants actually react to each other?

        The other thing is I have a sneaky suspicion that a lot of the fucked up shit in roleplay is influenced by our fucked up culture. Now, this is not to say that consenting adults shouldn’t roleplay, but rather we as a culture can’t just say, “Well, we’ve eroticized this so it’s okay now!!” I mean just enough awareness that these kind of things could be (although are not necessarily for everyone) indicative of some sexual guilt and need to distance oneself from one’s sex life, which may affect their potential for pleasure and self-fulfillment in lots of ways.

        Rape fantasies are a classic example–there is SO MUCH sexual guilt for women and we’re told our desires are evil, and that our worth lies in being desired, and we are also told that rape victims somehow bring it on themselves by being too desirable, so is it any wonder that a decent proportion of women are attracted to the idea of hot, vigorous sex for which they don’t have to feel morally responsible and which is supposed to mean that they’re intensely desirable?? My greater point is these fantasies can lead to insecurities in other aspects of life, so it’s at least worth reflecting on where these desires come from, instead of acting like eroticization *must* have solved any problematic components.

        So, instead of just saying “it’s sexy, so let’s go with it!!” maybe we should discuss finding the erotic potential in more humanized games/attitudes and see what we might be missing out on (after all, in real life–people in feminist-identified relationships report much better sex…maybe it could make much better porn!).

        Also, porn isn’t just sex fantasy between a private couple (or trio…or…)–it’s marketing and perpetuating tropes and archetypes to a wide audience, and setting social norms and sexual expectations. So the dynamic, cultural impact (and therefore the need for critique) is much, much more salient than for people just acting out whatever they want in private.

        At the moment, I don’t think we need to make d=0, but I think we should at least be engaged in creative ideas to lower it as much as possible (simple first step: design porn for both women *and* men, without men being the presumptive audience), and not just announce that a 9.5 instead of a 10 is empowered and therefore all discussion stops.

        • Man, I logged in thinking I’d just type a *short* reply…fuck!

  16. The porn ad is not objectifying women anymore than pornography itself is. It rather plays with the prejudice that all porn necessarily objectifies women. Also ad no. 3 does not objectify women.

    • Ad #3 doesn’t objectify women?!?!?! It’s a fucking blow-up doll, for chrissakes!!! Literally, making women into an actual inanimate object = objectify.

      Holy shit, how blind to blatant pervasive sexism ARE you???

      And the fact that the ad objectifies women the way porn does IS THE PROBLEM. It shows very clearly that what we like to think of as innocent fun and “embracing sexuality,” blahblahblah actually has tons of undercurrents about devaluing women.

      WHERE, exactly do the ads “play with the prejudice”? Is there ANY contextual indication that they’re undercutting or subverting the stereotype? No, they’re catering to those who like to objectify women in order to sell more objectification of women.

  17. I need to correct my last post. I think the porn ad is not objectionable because the objectification is so hyperbolic.

    • What utter codswallop. Yeah, because no one has ever said something horrible while being self-consciously outrageous and then blamed their victim with “jeez, why can’t you take a joke?!”

      Look, that excuse has been tried, and it fails:

      Just because it’s (ahem) “funny” in how extreme it is DOES NOT give a free pass for the attitudes presented, especially because the *goal* of this advertising is to get their target audience to think, “yeah, it’s funny ’cause it’s true!” and patronize those businesses precisely BECAUSE they’re emphasizing the objectification angle.

  18. OK I tend to agree with Sphino – and nobody else so far seems to think Kink.com. is positive.

    How about this Aussie one: abbywinters.com?

    I am tending to think if positive porn exists at all it may be more likely to be in the lesbian and/or amateur genre.

    While we are at it and totally off topic, and since that time of year has come around again, for the last year I have been dying to see a shrink’s analysis of Bin Laden’s stash.

  19. Damn. Thread dies just as it gets interesting, as usual!

    But, it was a great debate between you and Sphino, I learned a a lot, but am left as always with more questions than answers.

    Thanks for sharing.

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