I was sadly disappointed by one of your comments in a recent response. You were replying to a woman whose husband was addicted to Internet porn and whose sex life was dwindling into oblivion.
You advised her to “assure him that you’re fine with him consuming porn–and if you aren’t fine, get fine (you did marry a man, after all).” This would all be well and good if her husband were spending his time viewing something benign or positive. But pornography is neither. At best, it objectifies women; at worst, it abuses, mutilates, and rapes them.
Pornography has nothing to do with women’s sexuality, and it distorts and limits men’s sexuality. Your statement implied that women should not oppose these degrading and at times misogynist images, but should accept them as part of a healthy marriage. Some women aren’t bothered by pornography, but this woman clearly was and has every right to be.
–Not About to “Get Fine”
I’m not the first person to use the following retort to your arguments, but you’re not the first person to trot the porn-oppresses-women pony ’round the track, either. What about gay porn, pictures of delighted boys drilling away at each other’s derrieres–does it oppress women? And porn produced by women, featuring women, for women–does lesbian porn oppress women in general, or just lesbians? And what about straight women who want to do porn or look at porn–are they oppressing themselves? Please.
Porn does not abuse, mutilate, or rape women. Faux-feminist Dworky overstatement, on the other hand, discredits actual feminism, thereby harming women. Postproduction, porn is inert; porn does not have agency–it just sits there until some horny guy or gal comes along and “consumes” it. Some porn is produced under far from ideal, even abusive circumstances; women and men have been harmed by the porn industry. But the same can be said about any industry, from athletic shoes (Nike) to haute couture (Kathie Lee). The issue isn’t what’s produced but how it’s produced, and by whom.
This porn-is-rape argument raged in the late 80s–and you know what? Your side lost the argument. Don’t believe me? Read what some of the sisters have to say on the subject: XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography by Wendy McElroy, St. Martin’s Press, 1995; Defending Pornography by Nadine Strossen, Scribner, 1995; and Debating Sexual Correctness, edited by Adele M. Stan, Delta, 1995. No one really cares whether you ever get fine with benign and positive pornography, but you might want to join us here in the 90s–they’re almost over.
Your column is not worth shit, and shit is not worth a lot. There is nothing worse than reading a column in which the writer is desperately trying to shock and failing miserably. Do you write letters to yourself? Do you make up sick stories so you can sit in cafes just to watch the faces of people who read it, and then go home and jerk off in front of your television while watching Baywatch? –Saving the World From Savage
Well, here’s your letter, just to prove to you and you alone that no, I don’t write my own letters. Not this one, at least. And I don’t masturbate to TV shows–well, not since the very early 80s anyway (CHiPS, Charles in Charge, Fantasy Island).
Or maybe I did write this letter. Maybe I made your letter up. Maybe I made you up. Maybe you’re just some masturbatory fantasy I’m having. Even if you do exist, which I challenge you to prove, you can still be drafted into the service of my insatiable masturbatory appetite. Hmm, let me see: You get home from work after a hard day of watching that darned bay. You’re wearing nothing but your skintight orange regulation Speedo. You sit down at your kitchen table to eat a PowerBar and crack a Zima. You open the Venice Voice, and there’s my column. Outraged, you reach for pen and paper.
Your abs crunch as you lean forward to begin writing a profanity-laced letter in which you accuse me of writing my own letters–a rather contradictory gesture on your part. But you’re angry, you’re not thinking clearly–Zima has that effect on you. Your triceps clench as, with passionate indignation, you grind pen into paper. Since it’s my fantasy, I am your Speedo, that thin layer of bright orange Lycra pressed between your twin globes of ass meat and the sticky vinyl of your kitchen chair.
I am the man-made fiber cradling your balls; I am the white tag that itches you in that special place as you shift in your seat, struggling with the big words. You rise to walk to the corner and mail me your letter–still unaware of the wildly existential pointlessness of your futile gesture! As you walk, I work myself into your crack, causing you slight discomfort. You would like to yank me from your crack, but you cannot: the streets of Venice, California, are crowded with people, too many people for you to risk “picking your seat.” I remain in your crack. I am in heaven. I am your Speedo. Ahhhh.
Sometimes, to be funny, anyone might accidentally give an important issue short shrift. For example, your response to Wild Side, the man who wants a long-term relationship with a woman who is attracted to transvestites. As a hetero TV myself, I can relate to that. You had two suggestions. You gave top billing to the idea of meeting his soul mate through TV organizations or the personal ads. Hard to believe this was the best you could offer.
Your second suggestion for Wild Side was to hide his TV lifestyle until after he and his beloved are married. That is no recipe for happiness. Offering these two options was worse than not answering the question at all. How about this? Date women normally. When Wild Side finds that a relationship is really working and starts to believe that she may be the one, then break the news. If the two are meant to be together, she will accept it. On the other hand, maybe she won’t be able to handle it. Then they’ll break up and both will have to start all over again–just like all sorts of people do all the time.
–Soul Mate Searcher
Your advice isn’t all that different from mine: I suggested he wait until after the wedding to break the news, and you think he should wait until “the relationship is really working.” Where’s the diff–we both want him to wait. I stand by my original advice: seriously kinked people have two dating-and-mating options. Tell ’em right away (and the best way to do that is by meeting via personal ads or through a kink social club) or wait and tell ’em once they’ve made too large an emotional investment to pull out of the relationship without thinking things over (marriage/when things are “really working”). The former is more respectful, but lots of kinky folks wind up happily mated with partners who, had they been told up front about the cross-dressing or the spanking or the Speedos, would have bailed out immediately.
Confidential to KV:
Actually, me and the boyfriend had been looking into adoption, but we’ve decided to start looking into Dumpsters instead. After watching Hard Copy, we realized we could get a kid a whole lot faster–and cheaper–that way.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago, IL 60611.