Friday, July 23, 2010

Why brutal rape porn probably isn't sexist

Violent pornography, where it depicts women being victimised and abused by men, is sexist. It degrades women, demoting them from individuals to slaves, existing only as objects to pleasure the observing male.

So it's sexist.

And violent homosexual pornography, depicting men being victimised by other men is... also sexist? Because it also degrades men, rendering them mere objects of desire to other men. Hang on. Somehow it becomes more difficult to call this sexist.

Perhaps this is because neither example is necessarily sexist, and the assumptions that inspire this charge of sexism are faulty. Violent heterosexual porn is not about men degrading women, it's about men degrading those they find sexually attractive. Women may have nothing to do with it, this is all about men.

Male violence and domination
Some men like dominating other individuals. Often the victims of this domineering instinct are other men, perhaps because they are seen as rivals for prestige and mates. Australia's 2009 Recorded Crime statistics show that victims of murder were overwhelmingly male: 71%. Attempted murder victims were 74% male. Robbery victims were 75% male. Women were victims of sexual assault far more often, making up 84% of all victims, as well as 55% of kidnapping victims.

In South Carolina a survey from 1977-2000 showed that men made up 73.3% of murder victims, 69% of robbery victims and 59.5% of aggravated assault victims. Men made up only 35% of simple assault (an unarmed unlawful attack not causing serious injury) and only 0.4% of rape victims.

In both cases males are far more likely to be killed than females so male violence against other males is relatively common (and presumably not sexist). Even war is mainly violence perpetrated by men on other men: in Iraq males made up the vast majority of violent deaths, Johns Hopkins University putting the violent death male-to-female ratio in Iraq at 10:1 in 2006.

A high proportion of men behave violently, relative to the proportion of women who do. The victims of sexual violence are mostly women, but considering the extent of male-on-male violence can we take for granted that male sexual violence against women is indicative of some exclusively anti-female aggression? There is another, simpler way to explain it: most men are heterosexual, most male sexual activity is with women, so naturally most male sexual violence is also against women.

A homosexual world
This turns the debate upside down. Imagine a world where all men are exclusively homosexual. Most or all sexual violence would then, presumably, be targetted at other men.

Aside from violence, the sexual objectification of women in advertising and popular culture would also be reversed in this homosexual world. Lots of men like looking at objects of their sexual desire; in the homosexualised world this would mean pictures of men. Men in skimpy clothing, men posing and pouting and objectified. Men's magazines, today full of big-boobed blondes, would instead show mindless muscular Rambos.

Because none of this is to do with women at all, but rather is about men and their desires. If all men liked beastiality, expect sheep suggestively slugging cola in Pepsi ads. If men preferred children, expect music videos with gyrating 7-year-olds. But most men prefer young adult women, and that is why women feature in sexualised advertising, women are degraded in brutal pornography and women are victims of rape.

Looking at women
This post was inspired by an incident on an international relations discussion forum where a female member chastised some males for discussing the attractiveness of female politicians, as well as Iranian president Ahmajinedad's wife:

It is about discussing the "ugliness" and "hotness" of women who are not in the business of entrainment, who aren't even public figures of their own. It is about sexism, about a totally out-of-context concern with the attractiveness of women.

The male members were more disgruntled than chastened at this, denying that any sexism was involved. I suggested that if the male forum members were all gay they would be discussing Putin and Sarkozy's attractiveness (or otherwise) instead of that of female politcians. Their amused debate on the attractiveness of these women had nothing to do with their views of women in politics, and everything to do with their inclination to discuss the attractiveness of the sex they happen to desire.

One of the moderators posted a picture of the muscle-bound Vladimir Putin fishing with his shirt off, with the comment:

Here you go. We're even now. Let's have peace.

He's right. And if the recently controversial Hunky Dory ads featuring women in bikinis had been aimed at gay men it might have looked less like this:


And more like this:



Just think, that man is somebody's brother: how sexist!

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. And of course where does the feminist argument lie when we watch ads targeting a heterosexual female audience? Here's Jason Lewis in the Aero Bubbles ad form several years ago:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brz8jjXuKyg

    Where was the uproar when this ad came out a few years ago? But you put some hot women in a poster advertising crisps and all we hear is sexist this and exploitation that.

    Interestingly, and going back to an article you posted several months ago Shane (on Glee, beauty and lies), this Hunky Dory's ad is quite an improvement as far as "sexism" goes. Look at how healthy this woman is. All the women employed in this campaign are very athletic. Not so skinny as your usual model eh? They certainly don't eat much of the product they are selling that's for sure! But they do eat regularly by the looks of it. More exercise and less Bacardi Breezer is their secret.

    At last, a woman that all women should strive to be ;)

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  3. Thanks for the comment David. Actually I recently asked in a comment on a feminist blog why it was apparently alright to sexually objectify Robert Pattinson (from "Twilight") as one of the blog writers had, yet not alright for men to sexually objectify women.

    One blogger explained that women are sexualised and "otherised" very often in society, so the objectification of a few men (perhaps including that Aero ad) is not as harmful or offensive as the objectification of women. She might have a point - I bet a lot of guys would LOVE to be objectified! Still, it seemed odd to me that the solution to societal sexism is a sexist double standard.

    Regarding things like the Hunky Dory ads, page 3 girls, sexualised female pop stars and so on: it's not that I find all of this pleasing and positive. It often seems quite messed up. But sexist? Rarely.

    Many men, for whatever reason, like looking at sexually explicit images. Most men are heterosexual, so most of those images are female. It seems that much of this is about sex, not sexism.

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