Introduction to Porn Part 10: The Rutting Dogs of Capitalism

12 Feb

The porn series needs an update, does it not? I’ve struggled a bit with what part ten should be about, assuming it ought to be the capstone to an anti-porn decalogue, but I’ve realized that this series will never actually end and hence post number ten need not be some kind of revelatory culmination. So I’ll just return to adding posts to the series as topics occur to me. Today’s topic, as it seems so timely these days, will be capitalism.

The title of this post at The Activists, “Pornography Is One of the Most Powerful Weapons in the Hands of the State and the Ruling Elites,” though it is a little reminiscent of a Rolcats caption, held enough promise that I decided to read it. Read the post if you must (especially if you are a dude who fancies himself a political radical but can’t be convinced by women that you should eschew porn because it’s one of the chief obstacles to the ending of women’s oppression), but it’s really not much other than a fairly ridiculous “what about the men” argument against porn use in which men are urged to give up pornography because it is a tool designed to control men. Reading that post shortly after this one from Valerie M at We Won’t Submit reinforced something I confront quite often: surely, the post was written by a man, and the responses I’ve seen to it thus far indicate that, while denigrating or ignoring decades of toil by anti-porn feminists, everyone is going to fall all over themselves for a chance to fellate any dude who makes an anti-porn argument, no matter how incapable he might be of identifying the real (or at least most harmed) victims of the pornography industry.

Well, everyone is going to have to fellate me instead, because I have a better understanding of the relationship between pornography and capitalism than The Activists do, and because I can express that understanding without resorting to jargon-laden, propagandistic language that would make even Komsomol alumni scoff at its lack of style and subtlety.

The problem with most radical anti-capitalist literature aimed at mass audiences is the inherent assumption that the reader is too dumb to understand the complexities of political and economic power. This leads propagandists to make reference to “capitalists,” “capital,” or “capitalism” as if referring to an individual or an entity made up of a small number of people who coordinate and direct the workings of vast social, political, and economic systems. There is a reason that Marxist/communist/anti-capitalist propaganda has essentially failed as a lasting means to directing the consciousness of large numbers of people: its simplistic formulas are easily undermined by complicated realities, and by the fragmented nature of capitalism as a world system lacking in a single identifiable center of power. When “the masses” try to understand the impact capitalism has on their lives, unless they’re anti-semitic fruitcakes who adore Alex Jones and believe the world is run by shape-shifting lizard descendants of the Knights Templar who present as Jewish bankers, they don’t envision their bosses sitting in a room with the CEOs of Anheuser-Busch and Countrywide hatching a plot to keep them in servitude.

Which is why telling men that “the ruling elite” and “the state” sap their vitality and “milk” them of their “essence” via the “pornographic machine” is unlikely to convince them to stop using porn. I know most men don’t need any convincing that they ought to conceive of jizz as their essence and the supreme indicator of their vitality, but the idea that “the state” seeks to enslave the male population by encouraging them to expend all of their semen is a bit much. Even with a firm grip on the interlocking relationship between capital and governance, no one is likely to believe that a cabal of employers and government officials sit around rubbing their hands together in maniacal glee at the genius of their evil plot to addict the populace to wanking to gang bangs. And everyone knows that most people will write off the entirety of a system of ideas once they detect deception or a perceived logical flaw in a facet of that system of ideas that requires that they do anything other than what they want to do at a given moment. Self-justification is the most formidable foe any activist movement faces.

Those who oppose capitalism need to develop new strategies that take account of the proclivities of the contemporary audience and are not proven failures (as is the case with propaganda tactics derived from the mid-twentieth century) to direct people’s attention to the underlying factor that allows the capitalist world system to operate as it does: capitalist ideology. The historical moment at which the long-term endurance of capitalism was cemented was the moment at which people came to believe that every facet of human reality could be quantified and reduced to a mathematical expression. And I do mean “believe,” in the sense that those responsible for capitalism’s development trusted that, despite the fact that abstract concepts such as labor resisted being reduced to numerical tallies, all it would take to tame the world and bring everything under their mental, and hence material, control was for someone to devise the appropriate means to quantify the as yet unquantifiable. Figuring out how to “count” and assign monetary value to labor opened the door to the commodification of nearly every aspect of human existence.

Just how the idea that it was not only acceptable, but desirable, to assign a monetary value to aspects of existence previously deemed uncountable spread across time and space to bring us to the present situation is extremely interesting to me, but I’ll spare everyone my history dorkery. For the purpose of this discussion, it doesn’t matter how everyone came under the spell of capitalist ideology. What matters is that we understand capitalist ideology and how it operates to perpetuate capitalism on a global scale despite the absence of a directing force.

The porn industry happens to serve as an excellent illustrative example of capitalist ideology in action and the extent to which it has come to direct our thinking. Over the course of the last few decades capitalist ideology has expanded, with the aid of the marketing industry, to dominate the totality of human existence in the US and most other developed nations and to encroach upon it nearly everywhere else.  As disposable income increased over the course of the twentieth century, the marketing industry expanded and its attempts to impress capitalist ideology on the populace in the form of consumerism gained a foothold. Marketers discovered that they could literally sell people a sense of self in the form of marketing lifestyles and the idea of individualism, which made it apparent that anyone who could contrive a new means by which to commodify some theretofore private aspect of human life and create a new “product” out of thin air and people’s desire for self-actualization (whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean) stood to make a lot of money. Sex, due to the misogyny and penchant for literal and metaphorical self-flagellation that characterize the Judeo-Christian ideological heritage the US struggles under, was one of the last frontiers in the commodification of human existence. Sure, women have been bought and sold for sex throughout human history, but American (and, to a lesser extent, European) society was too ashamed of the fact that people have genitalia to deal with sex being sold openly.

Until the sexual “revolution” and the Women’s Liberation Movement and the reaction to them, that is.

To be continued…

19 Responses to “Introduction to Porn Part 10: The Rutting Dogs of Capitalism”

  1. Immir February 13, 2012 at 1:27 AM #

    Thanks for another excellent post. Can’t wait for the next part.

  2. RadFemPornBasher February 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM #

    I’m not well educated on that particular history dorkery. Could you suggest a reading list? I love history, but lately I’ve been thinking more about capitalism, and while I identify as a socialist, most of those beliefs are based on my own experience.

    I’d love to learn more about the beginnings of capitalist, etc.

  3. liz February 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM #

    nom nom nom gimme more

  4. Hecate February 13, 2012 at 1:40 PM #

    Something that was always depressing to me personally, was that it was a woman who came up with the most harsh and nauseating propaganda in the making of capitalist ideology. That would be Ayn Rand, of course, who rattled off such pleasant thoughts as, for example “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”

    It’s not that I think women should be held solely responsible for demonstrating qualities like human warmth and altruism. Just that occasionally, you get those females who buy into male value systems so thoroughly (militant hierarchies, etc.), they tend to morph into ultra-male x 1000 type creatures. I am also aware that women are often criticized by men for trying to bring anything like ethics up when it comes to financial systems/ social structure. But it seems to me we could sure use a lot more of that thinking if we are to save ourselves, whether inspecting one’s conscience is seen as a ‘female’ quality or not.

  5. Nine Deuce February 13, 2012 at 9:41 PM #

    Ayn Rand is just the worst. As if her ideology weren’t bad enough, Atlas Shrugged might be the worst book ever written as far as style and story go. It literally could have been a pamphlet, but instead she repeats the living shit out of herself to the point that the book ends up about as repetitive and interesting as a collection of excerpts from shampoo instructions.

  6. lizor February 14, 2012 at 8:17 AM #

    Re: Atlas Shrugged, Isn’t repeating the message ad nauseum one of the primary techniques of propaganda?

    Now, too, we have a raft of biopics on Thatcher (two in Britain besides the Streep one) which generally recast her as a plucky proto-feminist with a vision. It’s creepy.

  7. Hecate February 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM #

    ‘Tis true, ND! She’s as dead as money itself. I know, lizor, I was about to mention Thatcher, but I think I made a comment somewhere about the irony of a Monroe film and the ‘Iron Lady’ coming out at the same time. But I don’t want to ‘repeat’ myself :D

    I think the problem is that so much in our world remains male-defined, especially the notion of femininity. I don’t know if there has ever been a time in history when women have been able to completely break away from male ideology and ideas of what power should look like. To me, feminism is very much about a deep need to start afresh, and clear the patriarchal cobwebs in the personal and collective psyche. For my part, I have never wanted to be a Marilyn or a Thatcher. Neither have ever appealed and hopefully do not appeal to other women who dare to think outside the box.

  8. satyrwilder February 14, 2012 at 10:41 PM #

    [Permit me a FANGIRL moment.]

    You know I make men read this shit out loud to me, right? Have I ever told you that?

    I brought your other recent work to other activist communities, actually local to my area. Doors of dialogue have opened. An old friendship has been restored. Progress is happening.

    I spoke about your porn series with a mutual friend – about the dozens of men who you have gotten through to. And in that, right there, you have contributed more to the good of womanity than any amount of that vitriolic nonsense combined.

    <3 you. For still fighting the good fight. This makes the world better. <3

  9. isme February 15, 2012 at 4:42 AM #

    “I don’t know if there has ever been a time in history when women have been able to completely break away from male ideology and ideas of what power should look like. To me, feminism is very much about a deep need to start afresh, and clear the patriarchal cobwebs in the personal and collective psyche.”

    I’d agree with that. The way many people chose to “oppose” the system they’ve been brought up in, but only in ways acceptable to that system, of course…it’d be tragically hilarious if it wasn’t so serious. Passionately fighting The Man for the Right to be whatever the Man was telling them to be in the first place, but maybe with Shiny Badges this time and being totally unable to see it.

  10. Hecate February 15, 2012 at 3:05 PM #

    Really good way to put it, isme :) I’d say that men have used that ‘Shiny Badge’ very much to their advantage. They know that women are not used to having real power, so they will say things like “You know, it was really powerful how vulnerable Marilyn was.” Why do so many women fail to see the insidious agenda behind such a statement? Not only that, they internalize these dangerous messages. If she had power, then I am Master of the Universe. Similarly with Margaret, men likely have few criticisms of her because she wore that ‘badge’ particularly well. Madge wearing the badge! Well, now I’m being silly :D

    There are other well-known women we could use as examples of course. The sad thing is that the truly fearless, renegade and subversive females of the past and present live on in relative obscurity. One of the aims of feminism should definitely be to put them in the spotlight, so that the Madges and Marilyns of the world are the ones left in the dark.

  11. isme February 16, 2012 at 3:13 AM #

    “There are other well-known women we could use as examples of course. The sad thing is that the truly fearless, renegade and subversive females of the past and present live on in relative obscurity. One of the aims of feminism should definitely be to put them in the spotlight, so that the Madges and Marilyns of the world are the ones left in the dark.”

    I’d definitely agree with that, with the proviso that they are depicted properly. Occasionally you get a depiction of someone that should be more interesting, but it has to be sanitised. That film about Nancy Wake in which she’s shown cooking meals for the (male) soldiers, for example. The latest Thatcher movie has the tragedy of her not being able to be a perfect mother because she has a job thing going on.

    As for power of being objectified, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that women believe that, as it does seem that many/most men passionately believe in that, that they are being victimised by women because they’ve chosen to see them as commodities. Assuming that was the case, there’d be a really, really obvious solution for the problem facing those poor men, of course, assuming they were able/willing to look beyond the confines of the system they are recreationally condemning.

  12. lizor February 16, 2012 at 8:21 AM #

    Recently I read that when “Marilyn” – Norma Jean – was a kid, she was shifted from foster home to foster home and sustained both sexual and other forms of abuse at that time. She attempted suicide more than once in her teen years. After getting facial plastic surgery, bleaching her hair blonde and publicly saying dumb things in a baby voice, the public deemed her a “Goddess”. She finally found an exit (or was offed for her inconvenience to men of power) at age 36.

    If this is being a Goddess, call me Satan.

    Thatcher found power by embodying the sadistic self-interested alpha male that is still so enshrined in our collective (un)conscious. So much misery and painful unnecessary deaths thanks to her “empowerment”.

    Hecate, I am with you all the way. Spotlight the truly brave women who are subverting this noxious madonna/whorism.

    I am so grateful for this blog.

  13. Hecate February 16, 2012 at 12:29 PM #

    I’m with you on all of those points, isme and lizor. Though it angers me that so many women have allowed themselves to be absorbed and annihilated by working within the patriarchal paradigm, I do understand their stories to be more complex than simple victimhood.

    It is such a waste, isn’t it? It’s a bit like personal relationships. Unlike most men, I’d never want partners who were submissive to me in any way, because I would want them to contribute both to our relationship and to society at large as the very valuable people they are. Isme’s point about men seeing women as commodities is important in that sense and more. The systems of capitalism/ patriarchy may delude themselves that they thrive on using up and abusing commodities (animate or inanimate), but you just can’t do that to a system as dynamic and changeable as life. Sadly, my mother has taken on the masculine quality of believing she can control people, for example. She’s never had a decent relationship because of this, and is pretty much blind to what she’s doing wrong. In my experience, even the most humble and meek individuals do not want their lives manipulated in such a manner. Both sides lose when these types of games are played.

  14. Nine Deuce February 23, 2012 at 2:33 AM #

    RadFemPornBasher – I’d start with The Essential Wallerstein by Immanuel Wallerstein. I think he’s the best historian of world capitalism, and that collection will pretty much lay down his ideas for you without you having to wade through excessive detail in longer-form works.

  15. Aileen Wuornos March 21, 2012 at 5:56 AM #

    Another fantastic post Nine.

  16. survivorthriver May 13, 2012 at 9:23 AM #

    Excellent post, so sorry to get here late.

    I favor the use of an epidemiological model to talk about male violence, too.!

    In my theory, males are not the Virus.

    Males are the Vectors, the Carriers of disease.

    Males as Vectors carry the Patriarchy Virus, which is the root cause of Patriarchy.

    The routes of transmission of this P Virus are through x, y, z systems (porno etc, name them), and are intergenerationally transmitted.

    Females get infected by the P Virus and also become Carriers and Parasytized Hosts of this disease by the sick male systems of domination.

    Infected women can both prevent the Vector from infecting them through avoiding or destroying the Routes of Transmission for P Virus in our communities, and also make sure everybody has received the Vaccine or Gamma Globulin equivalent of Radical Feminism to prevent, treat and stamp out P Virus!

  17. lizor May 13, 2012 at 2:24 PM #

    “Infected women can both prevent the Vector from infecting them through avoiding or destroying the Routes of Transmission for P Virus in our communities, and also make sure everybody has received the Vaccine or Gamma Globulin equivalent of Radical Feminism to prevent, treat and stamp out P Virus!”

    Nicely put.

  18. Abi April 6, 2013 at 4:38 AM #

    What happened to “Keep your laws off my body”? If I want to photograph myself and sell those photos, should I be allowed to? By what right should you or anyone else prevent me from using my body as I see fit? It’s mine. How it is photographed, represented, recorded etc. is up to me, not the State.

    It seems to me that this is a rant against male sexuality. Which of course is a worthy subject of a rant, but if the byproduct of that rant is a limitation of female freedom of expression, then you have solved the problem in what must be termed a “muslim” fashion of concealment and control.

    There are many dimensions to pornography. To prejudge any of the myriad facets of pornographic creativity as “male oppression” is deeply concerning from a civil rights perspective. I love porn. I love making porn. What does it have to do with you?

    • Nine Deuce April 6, 2013 at 8:50 AM #

      First of all, you are misrepresenting me. Find a quote in which I argue for banning anything. As for what you making porn has to do with me, I have to live in a world in which men believe I exist to service their sexuality. Porn helps cement that belief.

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