Liberal Feminism chose porn over me: Review of Melinda Tankard Reist’s ‘Women Harmed By Men Who Use Porn’

Caroline Norma

https://www.spinifexpress.com.au/shop/p/9781925950588

‘All for one and one for all’ does not seem to guide feminism’s approach to prostitution. The suggestion, made by Andrea Dworkin and Margaret Baldwin, that all women are prostitutes while even one of us is, has not much influenced feminist thinking in either its second or third waves. On the contrary, liberal feminists have mostly promoted ‘sex work’ for (lower class, sexually abused) women while objecting to rape, ‘revenge pornography,’ and workplace sexual harassment for those not sexually traded. Rather than making rape, ‘revenge pornography,’ and sexual harassment worse, prostitution transforms them into ‘sex work’, porn stardom, and stripping, at least for poor and abused women. For these women, sexual exploitation is seen to deliver empowerment.

 As a result, two different legal codes effectively operate in countries like Australia for women in prostitution and those outside. For women not in the sex industry, there is a plethora of laws banning everything from grooming to coercive control to catcalling, even if these are not often enforced. For women in the sex industry, on the other hand, all manner of sex acts, degrading language, filming, and groping are permitted upon payment, even by criminals, addicts, and strangers old enough to be their grandfathers.

 Inexplicably, feminists do not see this degraded human rights environment for some women as threatening the citizenship of all. They don’t imagine this environment setting a floor, down to which all women will be lowered. Perhaps they can’t conceive of how, in real terms, the circumstances of women in prostitution and pornography could come to set a human rights standard for, say, women in marital homes.

 How it happens is described in a collection of 25 personal testimonies edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and published by Spinifex Press in 2022. The testimonies, written mostly by Australian wives, describe the horrors of living in households with men using pornography. These husbands and fathers are nearly all employed, connected to friends and family, and involved in community activities, but at home act in ways indistinguishable from sex offenders and violent abusers. From the women’s testimonies, it is clear they are learning from the pornography that they watch, and their behaviours are being fuelled by it. They turn the atrocities endured by women in online pornography into the lot of wives in marital homes.

 In shocking terms, the testimonies show women outside of prostitution coming to share in treatment deemed normal for women in the sex industry, and, tellingly, some contributors express sadness and sympathy for the women in the films their husbands masturbate to. The solidarity is not misplaced: the testimonies further show wives being dismissed and derided when they try to reach out for help. In other words, Women Harmed By Men Who Use Porn shows wives coming to share in not only the inhuman treatment of women in the sex industry but also their social deaths. The degraded social status of the group of women whose unprotected rights allow pornography to be made in the first place expands to envelop wives and mothers.

 A 47-year-old contributor with three children who endured marriages to two pornography users reflects on the fact she is ‘horrified at society and its failure to speak up about the problem [of pornography]’, and that she wasn’t able to comprehend how family and friends could fail to understand her anti-pornography views. ‘I had many say that I had the problem, that I was jealous, insecure, and controlling. Not one person expressed sympathy for me or how I have felt. Pornography was seen by many of them as acceptable. Even my mother-in-law said, “boys will be boys”‘.

 Another contributor who told her pornography-using husband to leave the house received a visit from his mother the next day to tell her she was overreacting, and that her own husband, too, was a pornography user and harmless. This kind of cover provided for men’s anti-social sexual behaviour is everyday fare for women in the sex industry (lonely and disabled men need intimacy!), and its application to wives is seen to have the same isolating and alienating effects.

 Commercial forms of assistance prove similarly unhelpful for women reaching outside the home to solve problems of pornography within it. Women searching for support on the internet found little more than sex industry propaganda. ‘I went online and tried to find sources that would assure me that what he wanted to do to me was unacceptable and maybe even dangerous. Guess what I found? Tips on how to do anal sex for beginners.’ Another contributor, stumbling upon her boyfriend’s favourite website, ‘couldn’t understand how there seemed to be no regulation’ of videos that ‘all seemed to be about injuring women intimately’. When women went beyond digital self-help and sought out therapists, they effectively paid to hear professionals defend the pornography habits of household heads. One woman was told by a life coach that the reason she was ‘jealous of the women in porn’ was because she was ‘lacking self-love and self-acceptance,’ and another got the feeling her counselor and her husband had ‘formed an alliance’ in blaming her. A third woman, desperate, rang a legal advice line, but was told that ‘looking at porn was actually very normal, unless it was of children.’

 The institutions to which women belong, and which might reasonably be expected to offer support, respond in ways similarly disregarding of their rights. Consulting a church pastor with her abusive husband, one woman recalled that ‘the session turned to focus on me and how I was the problem.’ Later, after leaving this husband and ‘being stalked, harassed and abused via social media,’ she was told by church leaders that ‘it was my fault because I wasn’t responding to him and giving him what he wanted.’ Even fellow community members closed ranks, and when she eventually found ‘the courage to go to church,’ ‘not a single person’ met her gaze. ‘I felt invisible, unwelcome. I received nothing, not even a text to see how my children were coping with the separation.’ Another contributor from a faith background married to a similarly abusive pornography-using husband noted that ‘[t]he advice from the “save your marriage” industry put all the responsibility onto the betrayed partner and next to none onto the porn-using partner. It was all about how fragile they were and all the support they needed.’

 Pornography showing women and girls subject to the worst possible human rights violations is now streamed into households all over the world. Liberal feminists nonetheless continue to champion the ‘sex worker’ who individually profits from sexual capital. The poor, abused, and disconsolate women of the world’s sex industries were never so empowered, but cover given their degraded status allows men to enjoy lawless sex with unprotected, insecure victims. These women have long been socially ignored and abandoned, but now other groups of women are being dragged down to their lowly state. Women in domestic partnerships with men are seeing their human rights dissipate as the problem of pornography in households is left unaddressed by feminists, Western governments, and liberal social justice activists. Melinda Tankard Reist’s Women Harmed By Men Who Use Porn is the first-ever challenge to this situation, and any future broad-based movement against pornography that includes survivors, wives, mothers, and feminists will trace its origins to its publication.

投稿者: appjp

ポルノ・買春問題研究会(APP研)の国際情報サイトの作成と更新を担当しています。

Liberal Feminism chose porn over me: Review of Melinda Tankard Reist’s ‘Women Harmed By Men Who Use Porn’」への1件のフィードバック

コメントを残す

以下に詳細を記入するか、アイコンをクリックしてログインしてください。

WordPress.com ロゴ

WordPress.com アカウントを使ってコメントしています。 ログアウト /  変更 )

Twitter 画像

Twitter アカウントを使ってコメントしています。 ログアウト /  変更 )

Facebook の写真

Facebook アカウントを使ってコメントしています。 ログアウト /  変更 )

%s と連携中

%d人のブロガーが「いいね」をつけました。