Thursday, June 14, 2007

For Post 300

I was going to post about basketball, but then I got inspired from reading another post. A guest blogger at Feministe was questioning his own stance on pornography after reading a story coming from CNN about a new anti-porn bill passed in Iran. The bill stems from the controversy caused by a sex tape involving a popular Iranian celebrity engaging in intercourse with a man. The celebrity says that it was not her, but the damage had already been done.

The bill will, essentially, outlaw all forms of pornography and all people who are involved in pornography. From CNN:

With a 148-5 vote in favor and four abstentions, lawmakers present at the Wednesday session of the 290-seat parliament approved that "producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corrupter of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corrupter of the world."

The term, "corrupter of the world" is taken from the Quran, the Muslims' holy book, and ranks among the highest on the scale of an individual's criminal offenses. Under Iran's Islamic Penal Code, it carries a death penalty.

The "main elements" referred to in the draft include producers, directors, cameramen and actors involved in making a pornographic video.

The bill also envisages convictions ranging from one year imprisonment to a death sentence for the main distributors of the movies and also producers of Web sites in which the pornographic works appear.

Besides videos, the bill covers all electronic visual material, such as DVDs and CDs. Other material, such as porn magazines and books, are already banned under Iranian law.

In liberal America, this wouldn't stand. Pornography has been defended successfully on First Amendment grounds in the Supreme Court. Regardless of that, this law is completely unreasonable. But, for me to explain this, I have to explain my own relationship with pornography.

I do not think that there is a delineation between erotica and pornography. Both involve sex and the human form. The question becomes how is this presented to the viewer. Erotica tends to be of higher quality with better camera work and very possibly a plot. A lot of pornography is done very quickly (like a day) with a handheld camera which is either shaky or overly involved in the scene, fracturing the gentle nature and eliminating the innate intimacy of human sexuality.

Even with this distinction, I think that both forms are beneficial to men and women. I think that a lot of the arguments about the objectification of women in porn are specious. I won't suggest that it doesn't exist because it does. A lot of pornography does have women who are in situations where they are only there to serve the male interest, but, as I think most people believe, I find this sort of pornography to be very unappealing. It is more appealing to have both the women and men aroused and fully invested in the sex, and this is not an idea that is left to the high-brow erotica makers; low-brow pornographers can focus on the passion of the woman as well.

With all of this said, pornography is a useful tool to explore our own sexuality and to explore our relationships with others. I believe that it serves as an important role in the relationships between consenting adults as well as a sexual release for single persons. I think that such explorations serve a very great purpose in society. Additionally, erotica/porn is meant to express a sexual fantasy with regards to the relationships between humans and their sexuality. People who decide to explore the nature of human sexuality as a profession should not be punished for making such a decision, as they would in Iran. There will always be men who feel that is their right to degrade women, and those men should be rightfully decried and shunned. But, to write off an entire genre of work positive to the understanding of one's self for the representation given by a few misogynists is ridiculous. There is a violence to sexuality, but that violence should not be one that puts either the man or the woman in a situation that makes them uncomfortable or submissive to the needs of other.*

*submissiveness is, for some people, a turn on. I am fully behind that. But, there is a modicum of consent that is involved in passing into a S&M situation, which is completely acceptable. The problem arises when male actors force women into situations that they do not enjoy or agree with. A substantial amount of porn does this. I do not support this ideal. I'm aware that this will draw a lot of fire, but that's ok. I'll back it up.