Post in evidenza

Raped by the System: the Wadakancherry Rape Case

The prime accused in the case is a corporation councillor belonging to the CPM that is ruling the state

domenica 29 maggio 2016

PORN: A CULTURE OF VIOLENCE

It is crucial to understand pornography as a form of violence against women. Dr. Julia Long teaches Sociology at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. She is a feminist activist and campaigner, and the author of “Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism.”

In March 2016, the U.K. government published its second National Strategy to End Volence Against Women and Girls. This is an extremely important lever for U.K. campaigners against pornography and its harms, as it recognizes that young people in particular have unprecedented access to online content and that some of that content may of course be harmful. A current government inquiry into sexual harassment in schools and a new cross-party campaign to tackle misogynist abuse online have all highlighted the ways in which pornography contributes to and legitimizes negative attitudes with very real impacts on the lives of women and girls.
It is crucial to understand pornography as a form of violence against women. Overwhelmingly, content is produced and consumed by men, with strikingly consistent themes. The content categories of two of the most popular tube sites — XHamster and Pornhub — reveal a dismal pattern of endless scenarios of male dominance and female subordination, categorized by specific acts, female body parts, race and age.
It doesn’t take a great awareness of cultural theory to grasp the social meaning of images of women being repeatedly penetrated in every orifice to a chorus of “slut,” “bitch” and “whore.” It does, however, require a willingness to think beyond the rhetoric of “choice,” “empowerment” and “free speech” that is invariably used by industry representatives to justify such content. This rhetoric attempts to distract attention from the nature of mainstream pornography and to frame those who object to its harms as censorious, illiberal and, of course, the old favorite — “prudish.” However, an examination of mainstream content reveals these arguments as little more than a defense of vested economic interests.
First and foremost, mainstream pornography consists of socially sanctioned acts of direct violence against women. What would be seen as sexual violence and brutality in other contexts is par for the course in pornography, as female survivors will confirm. However, pornography does not simply function as an arena in which direct violence is sanctioned and routinized. It also functions as a form of what sociologist Johan Galtung terms ”cultural violence.” Exercised in the stories a culture tells itself — its texts, its images — it is “an aspect of the symbolic sphere that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence.” One of the things that pornography does extremely efficiently is provide an endless flow of narratives of women being treated as objects, violated or “done to.”
There is a growing body of evidence implicating the consumption of extreme pornography in some of the most heinous cases of sexual violence, rape and murder. But the cultural violence of pornography is usually far more mundane. Porn narratives are not simply those accessed by users; they also find their way into mainstream cultural images: the jeans advertisement that replicates a gang bang scenario; the perfume advertisement mimicking the penetration of a woman’s shaved vulva; the underwear advertisement that utilizes an “up-skirting” image. What these kinds of images do — and there is certainly no shortage of them, on billboards, in magazines, online — is cumulatively to tell us what women are about: that the defining feature of women’s bodies is that they are available and violable. Not only does pornography entail very direct forms of violence in its production; it also, in a world where violence against women is endemic, serves to naturalize and normalize such violence. As Galtung says, “Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel, right — or at least not wrong.”
Those who claim that pornography is simply “fantasy” with no bearing on reality will have a hard time explaining the prevalence of pubic hair removal among young women in Western cultures; the dramatic increase in the demand for labiaplasty; or the fact that anal sex has increasingly become part of the heterosexual repertoire, despite both young men and women expecting it to be painful and unpleasant for the woman. It is singularly unconvincing to argue that pornography is not influencing current sexual norms, and that those sexual norms do not primarily involve the objectification and violation of women’s bodies. Given the prevalence of pornography and pornified images in our image-saturated culture, one may as soon argue that being raised in an English-speaking country has no bearing on whether or not one grows up speaking English.
So, what do we do about it? In the U.K., it is vital that we use current anti-female violence policy approaches to lobby for far more action on pornography’s prevalence and accessibility. The National Strategy is an important start, but its current proposals are far from adequate: For example, they only aim to build “resilience” among young people through improving sex and relationships education in schools, rather than to curtail or regulate the industry in any serious way. And they do not address the porn consumption of adult men as problematic. Campaign groups need to participate in consultations on sexual violence and highlight the ways in which the cultural violence of pornography is harming all women and girls.
In the end though, policy approaches and technical solutions can only go so far. Fascinatingly, there is evidence here in the U.K. of a growing, revitalized radical feminist movement and distinctly more revolutionary responses to porn culture. A small but discernible minority of young women are now fed up with negotiating sexual harassment, “lad culture” and relationships with men who see nothing wrong with masturbating to images of women’s degradation. They are, in fact, beginning to reject relationships with men altogether, in favor of relationships with women. Perhaps the re-ignition of a lesbian feminist movement will prove to be the pathway to liberation from porn culture for a new generation of women.

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