There appears to be fire in my belly.
I was in a distracted state all through Tai Chi yesterday (extra long session) and didn’t feel settled or improved afterwards. I think my head was in an angry state yesterday (I did all the washing up, cleaned the bedroom, though you wouldn’t be able to guess, and generally angsted about the house).
Anyway, that’s needless preamble. Basically a couple of discussions with Fanny about certain people and certain forms of feminism got me thinking about men’s part in things.
Essentially, this revolves around an invitation I’ve had to take part in a Q&A at after an anti-porn film showing at a local cinema, organised by someone close to me. I turned it down, on the basic of a lack of confidence in public speaking (still an issue) and not being certain of having a strong enough point of view to be the male representative at what I expected to be a potentially aggressive crowd (I know, I know, I’m stereotyping feminists as being man hating, which I don’t think is true, but I am aware of how quickly I can turn people against me, what with my ability to place my foot in my mouth and confrontational way of phrasing things. That or I’d sit there terrified and add nothing, being completely overwhelmed by strength of feeling and the quality of thought, perhaps more likely).
Anyway, that’s a pointless aside.
Well not really, because yesterday I got worked up, and changed my mind entirely.
Now I want to do it. And I know why.
It’s because of one of the only ways we’re going to change the world, make the goals of feminism achieved.
We need to look at the other side of the coin.
When we had the proto male feminist group meet, Arnar was talking about how important it is to get men talking about rape, and I agreed. But the importance has only just really sunk in.
Let’s think about porn.
Now, apparently, most men use it, if not pretty much all men. It is a standard method of ‘getting off’ and improving the mastubatory experience, or perhaps it is the masturbatory experience, just mediated and celebrated.
Now, to me, as I’ve mentioned before, it occurs now, that that experience is alienating, dehumanising and objectifying. The images involved are not people, they are simply images of people, simulacra if you will (and I will), and that means that it builds up a relationship with sex whereby the source of arousal, is an object, a static, passive thing.
It’s a short hop to treating women like that, which is what happens, throughout society. It seeps out of the porn and into the media in general (or perhaps the other way round, it’s hard to tell), this objectification of femininity, the creation of it as something passive and weak, compared to the male gaze, the masturbator, the owner and destroyer. The source of power is the man, in these binary structures, imitated and reinforced by the use of pornography.
Now, with a little push here and there, a lot of reading, a hell of a lot of thinking, and people to discuss this openly with, I have come to these conclusions. What I never had was something telling me I was wrong, it was evil and it was doing these things. It just took time to analyse and think about.
This is what is needed. To campaign vehemently against porn and the structures it creates, is important, but it is only one part of it.
What we need to engage with is men. The men who use porn, often hidden away in silent, dark corners, or occasionally talking about it with that mascu-centric competitive attitude.
Men don’t talk about sex properly. Well, most don’t. Men have to talk about it as conquest, competition and dominance. Over each other, and other women. That’s the language used, much more often than not.
Men need to find spaces where they don’t feel threatened, and where competition over masculinity is not crucial. I don’t know how to create that, but it needs to be done. And it’s not going to happen because of a huge load of women protesting something that they’ve become addicted to.
Cognitive dissonance will make it so that those people who simply tell them to stop, will be disregarded.
Dialogue is needed, dialogue between men, and with men. I think most men would actually come to similar conclusions to me, given the vocabulary and the space to express how they relate to porn and sexuality in general.
More freedom to communicate would mean more open and honest assessment of the power structures that men live with in. I think it could only lead to a greater realisation of what gender is, of how it makes us act in certain ways.
Personally, and I take this as an act of faith, I think an open and healthy approach to sexuality throughout society, would lead to a world where degrading porn would be entirely unnecessary and undesired, but where ‘healthy’ porn could be freely available. I don’t know what that would look like, as it would be impossible in our society, because the whole attitude towards sex, gender relations, and power in general is so entirely fucked (if you’ll excuse the not quite a pun).
Let’s think about rape.
We live in a society where rape happens all the time.
There’s a spectrum of behaviour, effectively condoned by the media and most peer groups, whereby male dominance, through aggression and invasion, is the norm. Men assert their ownership over women by gripping them, holding them to them, and ‘protecting’ them from others. Territory, ownership, power, dominance. This is all part of how it works, according to the standard structures.
Its no wonder it leads to rape.
Now, there’s a lot of great work being done. Raising awareness, ensuring that victims are supported, that rapists punished, and warning potential victims of the dangers. Don’t get unlicensed cabs, look after your drinks, don’t walk around alone at night.
It’s all important, and hopefully this kind of education will, over time, increase awareness, reduce incidents, and increase prosecution rates.
But that’s only one side of the coin.
What we really need to do is get men, all men, everywhere, to ask themselves about how their behaviour, in relation to women, could lead to rape. Could make someone else consider rape to be fine. Men do this, men like me, men like my brothers, men like my friends. And it happens, by all reports, alot.
Do we discuss it?
No. We discuss sex as conquest, congratulating each other on landing particularly fine specimens. Dehumanising even the one’s we love and care about. It happens, it’s disgusting, and it needs to change.
And it can only change by getting men talking about it. Not defensively, but openly.
I’ll open up, and tell you something I’m ashamed of, and part of my history, and something that I think informs the way porn, and the media shape our view of sex, and particularly the role of power in sex. (A lot of this may be unpleasant for the more sensitive among my readers, so you may not want to continue).
When I was young, early teens, masturbating vigorously constantly, fantasising, looking, furtively, under the cover of darkness, and the weird and upsettingly commodifed world of sex, particularly as bought to me via late night covert use of my parents internet connection. I guess I quickly grew a taste for some of the more unusual things, but just because of the need for more variety, something to make it constantly change. Hundreds of images one after another, a torrent of flesh, bodies, pretty much detached from any real sex, per se, just flesh, willing and available at a click of the button.
So that’s the fuel. And in the mornings, and once I was in bed. More of the same, but my imagination this time placing people into the same positions, imagining, long before I’d had any experience of sex, all manner of weird and unusual practices, anything I could find a name for I could read about and a lot of it was being advertised to me. So I plugged in the people I saw in the world, using my imagination, they’d be in the position of the people in the images, and take part in these elaborate yet fleeting fantasies.
I only remembered this this morning, but I used to be in the habit of fantasising about having anal sex with, particularly, the girls at school I didn’t like. The ones who made me feel like a weirdo and an outcast (until at least the age of sixteen, I was a geeky bookish type, unwanted by the in group of people, I was weird and introverted and an easy target, though this eased up as I became more confident and loud). They’d be enjoying it, but it would hurt.
They had power over me, in the real world, because they had the friends, and they would make me feel like shit, so, in my fantasies, I would take that power away from them.
And that was how I got myself off. Fed by porn, and loneliness, and hate, and an inability to interact with people.
Thank the universe, and myself, for growing up enough to realise that this was wrong, for learning to treat women as humans before I actually went out and lived out those fantasies.
I guess I never thought about it until today, but was I on a road to becoming a rapist? I have no doubt in my mind that I was thinking the same thoughts.
And I think a lot of men have these thoughts, and most, hopefully, realise they are entirely inappropriate. I never lived out anything, in fact, as with my porn addiction, I was disgusted by the whole thing when I wasn’t engaged in it. But for those moments, I’d be lost in it. And that would, undoubtedly, seep out into my day to day thoughts.
Men, and boys, need to be able to open up about these things to each other. And not start competing and fighting over who’s watched the most extreme porn, or wanked the most times in a day, but actually talk about the feelings this material, these thoughts, what they express and represent. Why do they feel the need to engage sexually with these images, with these static and passive beings? Why do they let that seep into their lives?
And how does it affect them? Us?
I still, today, know that my mind has been scarred and shaped by the the porn I have seen. Certain images, still exciting to my minds eye, remain burnt in, unforgettable. I wonder whether they still have a hold on me. I wonder how much my sexuality is still bound up with those forays into the extreme while my mind was still young and new.
Through communication, honesty, and openness, I think I have overcome. I can have a healthy relationship, I can have sex, interesting and unusual, but still open and honest. Never forced, always, without doubt, consensual. Always with love, care, and feeling. Mutual, joining and whole. With awareness and communication this is possible.
It’s all the better for it. Sex without porn, without thought of porn, can be spiritual and communicative. A sharing of something incredible.
I’m glad I grew up, but I can’t help think what I could’ve become.
And we need everyone, all men (and all women for that matter, I just take it for granted that feminism is already fighting to ensure that) to become open enough to talk about and engage with these realities, and start humanising everybody again.
In order for society to grow up, it is the men who must make the next move, and it can’t be forced, it must be willingly made.
Men need to open up, and I want to start campaigning to make that happen.
Now playing: Turin Brakes – [The Optimist LP #02] Underdog (Save Me) [foobar2000 v0.9.4.3]