Sunday, 27 January 2008

Then and Now

There used to be a time when I did not know about pornography's harms, when I wasn't aware of how much pornography and prostitution harm women and children. It was then.

Then, I did not use to care much about other people's lives or, more exactly, I wasn't very much aware of what really happened in their lives, women's lives in particular.

Then, whatever happened in my life, however much male cruelty or male indifference I had to put up with, I thought these experiences were only parts of my life, not of someone else's. I mean that there was probably nothing in common between my life and other women's lives. Whenever I suffered male cruelty or indifference, whenever I was hurt by a man, I sometimes (during the times I was feeling the most depressed) thought that it was probably my fault, that I had done something wrong at some point, that I deserved it, plain and simple. Other times, when I was feeling a bit better, I thought that it was just probably men's fault, they were the bad people. They hated me because they hurt me.

Then, for a few years of my life when I was single, I thought that I might be a little more appreciated by men by looking sexy. I was hoping that they would at least like me a little more if I conformed to their male culture. I wore a lot of make-up; I dressed in short skirts, tight tops, stockings and I wore high heeled knee high black boots. And I went dancing. And I remember them saying to me: "You are very sexy" or "You're gorgeous", etc. And I liked it. I craved male approval of me because it was giving me a way of feeling a form of empowerment somehow, albeit illusory.

Then, I had also female friends. Women who were telling me that men were taking advantage of them sexually sometimes; women who were telling me that they sometimes were hurt by men too. But, somehow, I did not relate their stories to mine, I mean, not as much as I perhaps should have done. Something was probably irrelevant somewhere, or men were just mean, plain and simple. Or, simply, there were just bad people out there, and you just had to be careful who you hang out with. At that time, I often noticed the very popular social trend of females blaming other females. I often heard women say: "Oh, if this or that happened to her, that's her fault! She shouldn't have trusted that guy. If she's so stupid, that's her fault!" or something similar. When this kind of woman blaming wasn't aimed at me, it's sad for me to say but I usually agreed with it and shrugged. When this kind of woman blaming was aimed at me, I also agreed with it and hated myself on top of that. Woman blaming is one of the many vile poisons of patriarchy, but I did not know that at that time.

One day, I was online and I was introduced to an anti-pornography article which led me to radical feminism. I found out about the harms of pornography and prostitution. I then ordered and read books to instruct me on what was really going on around me and on the fact that I was living in patriarchy and had always been.

Since that day, nothing has ever been the same for me. Since that day, I became a feminist. I genuinely cared about women's lives and what was happening to them. Since that day, I became a lot more conscious about the world I was living in; I became a lot more aware of what was happening around me. Since that day, I never turned my back on women.

The way I viewed men also drastically changed between then and now.

Then, I either sometimes thought men were inherently bad or inherently cruel, or I sometimes thought that there were “good guys” and “bad guys”.

Now, on the one hand, I do know that many men are socialized or culturally trained to be the way they are, to become what they have become. On the other hand, there is not the sham of “good guys” and “bad guys” anymore. I don't believe in it anymore.

Now, I do know that most men have been culturally trained to seek power, domination and control over and against women.

Now, I do know that most men use pornography for those reasons: to get off on power, domination and control over and against women. They are the demand that feeds this ever-expanding woman-hating pornography industry, what keeps it alive, what makes it richer.

Now, I know that as long as the demand for pornography exists, as long as the pornography use increases, we, as women, will be kept in a subordinate status; we will sustain abuse in the hands of men; we will be asked endlessly to imitate pornographic scenarios in order to please men, whether we want it or not, no matter how degrading those scenarios are. Is this freedom? Obviously not.

Now, I know that I would definitely not condone woman blaming anymore. I know that I was socialized to do so. Whenever I hear somebody bring up the same usual woman blaming, I try my best to explain to that person that it is not a good thing to say and why. I also know that however much male cruelty or male indifference I had to put up with, in my life, it wasn't my fault.

Now, I also know that as long as the demand for pornography exists, women who are in pornography will suffer in the making of it and as long as the pornography use increases, more women will be hurt in order to make it. Despite all the pornography industry's and its defenders' propaganda, I do know that these women, who are in the porn industry, suffer. I've read enough about them to know that this is the truth, the truth hidden behind all the porn industry's public relations' image, perpetuated by the mainstream (i.e. “malestream”) media. The truth is that women in pornography suffer severe PTSD, abject bodily injuries (due to being forced to perform extreme sex acts), and an emotional pain which comes from an awful experience which has wounded them for a lifetime. These women are worth nothing in the eyes of the viewer who masturbates to their degradation. Many of them, after being used, are eventually discarded, due to the fact that they're “overexposed” and their brief shelf life is over. Is this freedom? Obviously not.

Now, I also know that men should stop using pornography. Because it hurts us. And they pretend not to see it, but, deep down, they know that there is nothing liberating about reducing another human being to a sexual object. They don't think about that when they use pornography though, of course, because there is that rush, that thing that makes it pleasurable for them, that thing that makes them addicted to porn. That sense of control, domination and power. In order to use pornography, so many men have to live in a society that does not (or not fully) recognize women as human beings, in the first place. Sometimes, when I go to college, when I go to work, I can hear them the boys, the men joking: “Oh, you scream like a girl”, “Oh, it's only women who watch/read that shit”, etc. In male culture, the terms “woman” or “girl” are used as derogatory terms. This is one of the many proofs that men do not see us as real human beings in the first place.

Now, I know that therefore, the pornography use makes perfect sense: “I'm not jerking off to the degradation of a human being; I'm jerking off to the degradation of a thing, an object that has no dignity whatsoever; she even says she likes it.” Us feminists, we know that she doesn't like it; we know that the pimps who run the industry, who write the script, who film, have trained her to say that she likes it, that she seeks that kind of treatment. We know the circumstances within which she made the “choice” to enter the 'sex' industry. We can see the pain in her eyes, the agony behind the mask, things that you, the porn users, refuse to see!

Now, I remember, once, not long after I had discovered the harms of pornography, a female friend of mine had told me, “Stop reading about pornography. It's depressing”. I can fully understand what she meant, but doing such a thing would mean that I would not be a feminist anymore, that I had decided to turn my back on women. And I refuse to turn my back on women. I refuse to turn my back on the screams and cries of rage and pain, all those screams and cries of women raped, beaten, abused, or prostituted, all those screams and cries that I now know that I can hear, but which are largely silenced in the name of so-called “freedom of speech”. Is this freedom? Obviously not.

Now, I'm absolutely not interested in “looking sexy” to men anymore. I have no more interest in conforming to their male culture. Fuck conformity! I gave up on the make-up, the short skirts, the tight tops, the stockings, the high heeled knee high black boots and the dancing. I gave up on illusory “empowerment”. It's all a big lie, given the fact that this culture conditions young girls and women to be sexually available for the pleasure of men.

Now, whenever I speak to a man during the course of the day, I have some sort of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I act as if I did not know anything that radical feminism has taught me, that is I do know that my college or my workplace are not places for starting political debates (most of the time), so I usually talk about whatever is relevant to my work or studies. On the other hand, inside, I perfectly know that whichever man I speak to, during the course of the day, probably masturbates to the degradation and torture of my own kind (the female) once a month? Twice a week? Once a day, perhaps? Such thoughts usually lead to me not speaking to men for too long, i.e. speaking to men whenever it is necessary for my work or studies, for the course of my day. Whenever a man tries to speak to me any longer I then bring up the fact that I am in a relationship to make him go away. But, more exactly, I make him go away because, in my heart, I know that there is a great probability that this guy masturbates to the degradation and torture of my own kind (the female) once a month? Twice a week? Once a day, perhaps? Gosh, I wish I lived in a world where I wouldn't have to think that way. And each time I hear a porn joke being laughed about by a group of men somewhere, fuck, I wanna scream!

Now, with all the things that I know about pornography, prostitution, gender socialization and sexual brainwashing, there is no way to turn back. I'm here to stay!

Now, you get that, porn users? I'm here to stay! I'm asking you seriously to put down the porn, to stop this atrocious and widespread crime against women! Do you really think it's freedom to reduce another human being to a sexual object to be degraded and hurt? It may feel like freedom to you because you experience power within the experience. But, deep down, if you only listened to your inner voice, you would know that it is not freedom to abuse other human beings. You would know that you are completely ignoring one of life's most beautiful experiences: the capacity to connect to another person (instead of rejecting her as “other”), the capacity to recognize that she is a human being (just as much as you are) and love her, genuinely love her, communicate with her and respect her. You should know: men and women are not that “different”; they have just merely been socialized differently.

Now, I'd like to let you know that instead of experiencing a sexuality which is based on humanity, connection and equality, you choose a plasticized, mindless, and disconnected form of sexuality which offers you the same scenarios over and over again (only crueler each time) and which is not fantasy because an industry which relies on the suffering of half the population in order to keep catering to its ever-expanding demand is not fantasy! And it is an industry which relies on your demand in order to survive and thus keep exploiting and hurting women (half the population of human beings). Is this freedom? Obviously not.

7 comments:

rmott62 said...

Wow, Maggie, what a fantastic piece of writing.
It is very hard to remember or see the person you were in the past. But, it made your present, and give you the insight and anger that makes you so good at highlighting and campaigning the harms of porn.

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks Rebecca.

allecto said...

Beautiful writing, Maggie. So honest and heart felt. Thank you for sharing some of your past and feminist Be-coming with us.

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks Allecto.

sparklematrix said...

Yes Maggie, indeed 'heart felt' you've just articulated how I feel so often.

I know that there is a great probability that this guy masturbates to the degradation and torture of my own kind (the female) once a month? Twice a week? Once a day, perhaps?

Worth repeating.

JENNIFE DREW said...

What can I say except this is a genuine and heartfelt piece on how misogyny and pornography reinforce each other to the detriment of women. Who we must never forget contrary to claims do comprise more than half the human race and are not simply add-on's to men.

mark said...

very nice Maggie..thanks for pointing me to this post. I can't pretend to understand the female POV, but I am trying my best. Perhaps it's not even the female POV but the HUMAN POV that is needed in order to be outraged. I worry a bit about blanket labels on all men "most the men you meet look at porn" but i guess when you don't know about a person, and the statistics are what they are, then... who can say?

Anyway, great piece and i am happy to be on this path to freedom from porn. I've seen some great changes already but its day by day. thanks for your blog and support!