Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Intercourse, Last Part

Whenever I read a nonfiction book about some problem, I always want it to end with solutions. Perferably in a list with bullet points and at least a few items that I can really go and do after I put the book down. But no matter how brilliant the author is, solutions remain scarce. In college, I was lucky to be able to attend a lot of lectures by people like bell hooks and Cornel West. As impressed as I was by their insights on important issues, I always felt some frustration towards the lack of solutions offered. Maybe it's just my personal obsession-- I'm focused on solutions and problem-solving to a fault (a quality which an employer has yet to take advantage of). The fault is that such a mindset is a recipe for frustration, since most problems are multi-pronged and overwhelming, leaving me with no idea where to start. (Global warming? Yeah...not there yet.)

This is the long way of saying that I finished Intercourse and it offers a depressing lack of solutions to all the problems it discusses. As much as I'd like solutions fed to me, I guess I'm going to have to dig them out myself. As far as I can tell, here are two of Dworkin's solutions to the invasion of sex by male dominance:

One: Have sex in ways that don't conform to gender roles.

When I wrote this, I was all, "Goodness gracious! Finally a concrete solution to a social problem and I can't do it!" Well, I guess I could, technically, and it does sound better than "regular" sex, but there is the whole asexuality thing...

Two: End rape, prostitution, and pornography.

This solution could definitely make you run off screaming into the sunset to have gender-nonconforming sex rather than deal with this stuff. And I totally get that. As far as rape is concerned, we all agree that people jumping out of hedges to rape strangers is bad. However, a lot of us still seem to be confused over whether various types of acquaintance or spousal rape are really rape (ie, if a woman was too drunk to consent, was it rape? Durrr...), and I don't know how it can end if this remains the case. It seems like the more rape happens, the more resigned to it people get. I can't remember the last time someone in the public eye aside from Eve Ensler even identified rape as a problem. If you want some harrowing information, check out these statistics from RAINN. No, I don't even pretend to know how to stop rape.

For Dworkin, rape seems connected to her arch-nemesis, pornography. Dworkin spent most of her career fighting porn and co-wrote legislation to get porn recognized as sexual discrimination. But as Ariel Levy writes in the foreword to Intercourse:

With the possible exception of the Shakers, it is difficult to think of an American movement that has failed more spectacularly than antipornography feminism. In the late 1970s [when feminists started to fight porn]...porn was still something marginalized, as opposed to what it is now: a source of inspiration to all of popular culture. (Consider Jenna Jameson, implants, almost any reality television show, Brazilian bikini waxes, thong underwear, and go from there.) (xx)

I found this really interesting because this blog is supposed to be about pop culture. I never actually thought about pop culture being influenced by porn, but I guess it's been that way for most, if not all, of my life. I think ALL pop culture might be an overstatement, but I would definitely give Levy "a great deal". I don't know much about porn from experience, so it's hard for me to tell what's based on it or not. However, it seems to me like many advertisements are based on it, and we see 3,000 ads a day. Honestly, I find that fact 100% more disturbing than real porn, which I can easily ignore. (If you have any question about this, check out the "50 Sluttiest American Apparel Ads of All Time"). To me, it's the fact that you're forced to see ads involuntarily that makes them worse than porn. I don't care if they're for cars or crotches...oh wait, did I say crotches? I meant neon shiny leggings...hee hee...


Raymo.E-J said...

I had a friend who worked at American Apparel and was simultaneously interested in subversive and feminist ideas. And fashion. It really blew my mind how she accomplished such a feat. But then one day I finally articulated the ways in which American Apparel perpetuates sexual oppression, and she was dumbfounded and in disbelief--she was just sort of speechless. (After that day, to this day we no longer share a friendship.) And I have no idea what that means. Perhaps Levy is right, pornography is a source of inspiration to popular culture.

It's also interesting, yesterday I listened to this podcast about Marketing and Mad Men. A lot of your ideas seem to agree with the hosts' discussion.

Anonymous said...

The title of the article reads "50 Sluttiest . . . Ads," but the title in the URL is "50 Hottest . . ." My question, who's responsible for the discrepancy? Was it the webmaster, trying to drum up more hits by sneaking the phrase "hottest" into the metadata? Although, judging from the text of the article, it doesn't appear that the author sees any distinction between adjectives like slutty and hot.

Ily said...

I noticed that too. I don't like when girls get called slutty because there's a really fine line between what we see as "hot" (which we are all encouraged to go for) and what we see as slutty. And sometimes it's in the eye of the beholder.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great posts about this book. I've been meaning to read it forever, because I've known for years that I would agree with a lot of what she says in it, but at the same time I think I've put off reading it because I also knew that I would disagree with some things and that it therefore wouldn't be the perfect book I hoped it would be--one that actually talked about sex in a way that made total sense to me.

As you said in your other post, as a feminist, I have always been disturbed by the inherent inequality of heterosexual sex. In fact, before I knew about asexuality, that was my only explanation for my lack of interest in sex.