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C-Realm Radio 021

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crr021_coverKMO and Silas talk with Jerry Barnett, the author of Porn Panic! Sex and Censorship in the UK. According to Jerry, the war against female sexual expression used to be headed by people on the religious Right. Today, it is self-identified feminists who are leading the charge.

8 comments to C-Realm Radio 021

  • Vincent

    Hi,
    the discours of the guest is quite interesting.
    I liked it. I think he has a point.
    Except on gmo.
    I’m sorry, but people listening to this should know that here in Europe,
    left criticism of gmo is not so much about science.
    In fact, it is much more about corporate power on food, and legitimate worries about
    public health.
    I know it wasn’t the main topic, but it’s a terrible simplification whithout real arguments.
    Personally, i’m not against gmo, i’m against a wide unregulated, systematic, implementation of this technology for profit.

  • L33tminion

    I was going to criticize Barnett for describing the portion of the feminist movement critical of pornography as “anti-sex feminism”, since that’s a pretty significant bit of equivocation. But then he said “feminism began as a very tightly-focused movement in the late 1960s”, which was kind of astounding (I had to back up a few seconds in the podcast to be sure I hadn’t misheard it). Charitably, I assume he means second-wave feminism? I’m not sure I’d describe that as “tightly-focused”, either, though it’s obviously true that second-wave feminism was more focused than third-wave feminism. But even that difference might be exaggerated by survivor bias, the historical perspective on second-wave feminism is more focused on the issues that second-wave feminism was successful in raising to prominence and addressing.

    Oversimplification aside, I think that Barnett is right about the danger in alliances of convenience between censorious left-wingers and censorious right-wingers.

    • KMO

      I’m still reading his book, which is a testament to it, as the interview is over and I would be well served to move on to the book of a future guest. In the book, I don’t get the impression that Jerry is claiming that traditional, religiously conservative right-wingers are allied with censorious millennial feminists. The two groups aren’t working together. They just use the same tactics, and they do so because those tactics work. Anti-sex feminists (and I do think it’s fair to call the people Jerry has been struggling against anti-sex and not just anti-porn) adopted the strategy of propagating moral panics because that strategy is effective. Right-wingers now talk about the “sexualization” and “pornification” of society, using terms and tactics pioneered by anti-sex feminists, not because they have formed an alliance with them, but just because those rhetorical tactics have shown themselves to be effective.

      A larger theme in Jerry’s book which we really didn’t get to in the radio interview is that pornography (or anything that facilitates satisfying masturbatory experiences for men) diminishes the male drive to have sex, and that this diminishes the ability of women to exercise power over men by withholding sex and providing it very selectively. If men have ready access to porn, they’re just not as motivated to do whatever it takes to secure sexual release with a woman, either by force or by doing things for her or giving things to her. Women understand this and have repeatedly waged war on images of female sexuality. This is also the primal motivation for slut-shaming. Jerry works in the porn industry, and he reports that most of the harassment that women in that industry have to put up with comes in the form of viscous slut-shaming from feminist activists. That’s also why it’s fair to call these activists anti-sex feminists. They want sex to be a scarce resource. Women who are openly sexual or have sex, for pleasure or for money, with multiple partners and without any requirement of marriage or ongoing support, undermine the power that sexual scarcity provides.

      • L33tminion

        That first paragraph makes a good point. The second seems, at the very least, flimsy.

        In my experience, feminist critiques of sex work (including pornography) often involve specific arguments about coercion and labor conditions, or are based in specific things in the content of the work beyond “it’s arousing”, or discuss specific things about the relation of that work to other things in society other than what degree men want to be in long-term relationships with women.

        I feel like that explanation might be a bit overly-tempting to people who’d like to boil down complex social issues to free-market economic theory (or the sort of evolutionary biology explanations that are a bit too identical to free-market economic theory). But also a bit overly tempting to misogynists, since it smears feminists specifically (well, anti-pornography feminists specifically, but Barnett equivocates between them and feminists in general) as liars and women as irrational. And it’s quite the double-standard to assume that feminist critiques of pornography are covertly motivated by (the ev-bio version of) economic factors while assuming that Barnett’s arguments are not. After all, it’s not unreasonable to assume that many of his thoughts on the issue were formulated while he was a commercial distributor (and producer?) of pornography.

        I’m not saying there’s no element of truth to that perspective; to the extent that attitudes towards promiscuity are heritable, people in a population will end up more likely to have the sort of attitude that resulted in their ancestors having more grandchildren. Emotions of disgust can obviously bias arguments about social issues. But it’s one thing to acknowledge that people have feelings, and another to treat that as the be-all-and-end-all of only your ideological opponents’ perspective.

  • […] podcast contains an interview of Jerry Barnett of the Sex & Censorship campaign, by KMO of C-Realm radio in Vermont. The discussion looks at the history of porn, anti-sex feminism, illiberal liberals, […]

  • Paul

    A few thoughts about this episode: whilst I agree with the discussion on a purely moralistic grounds (ie. there is nothing amoral about pornography) I would have liked to hear Jerry Barnett’s thoughts on pornography addiction. It is a real and troublesome problem where (mostly) men are turning away from real relationships and sex with real people to a world of ever-increasing need for heightened stimulation. There is another side to pornography. This is not to ignore the potential dangers for those inside the porn industry, but there is a danger for the minds of people who have access to a limitless stream of infinite fetishes and fantasies. In liberal societies, we are taught that porn is part of sexuality but this Internet world of high-speed access needs to take into account our human propensity to become addicted to the dopamine rush.

    • KMO

      I share your concerns on that front, Pual. I’ll forward your comments to Jerry, and if he responds, I’ll post that here.

      • KMO

        Jerry responded with:

        Hi KMO,

        Unfortunately, this is mythology, not science: “It is a real and troublesome problem”.

        Porn/sex addiction doesn’t exist. The cures for sex addiction are modelled on the “cures” for homosexuality. These cures are useful insofar as they propagate Christian propaganda, and make money for people who sell them.

        Porn addiction has been repeatedly debunked in recent years, but has become real in the public psyche. It’s pushed by the religious right, and by snake-oil peddlers like yourbrainonporn.com (which looks like science, but isn’t). Also the idea of “dopamine rush” being addictive appears to be junk science. We don’t get addicted to things just because they’re enjoyable. We enjoy sex and masturbation for the same reason we “enjoy” breathing: our bodies are made for these purposes. Some people do use porn compulsively – but then some people shop or use Facebook compulsively. These are indications of underlying problems, rather than the harmfulness of shopping or Facebook.

        AASECT has recently come to a determination that sex addiction doesn’t exist. https://www.aasect.org/position-sex-addiction

        I’d recommend the work of Dr David J Ley. He’s written about this for my blog, as well as regularly for Psychology Today. And he’s written a book on the subject: http://sexandcensorship.org/2013/11/sex-porn-addictive-david-ley/

        David’s book “The Myth of Sex Addiction”: https://www.amazon.com/Addiction-forthcoming-Ethical-Responsible-Pleasure/dp/1442213051/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1483458241&sr=8-4&keywords=david+j+ley

        As I cover in my own book, the mass effect of porn availability is generally beneficial, including steep declines in sexual violence: http://sexandcensorship.org/porn-panic-the-book/

        Regards,
        Jerry

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