Editors' Letter: Issue 10
When we put this question into our reader survey, we expected a wide variety of responses. And we got them.
“I write it/act in it”: 6 percent
“I like to look at it”: 36 percent
“It’s ok for other people, but it’s not my bag”: 30 percent
“I don’t like it, but what other people do is their business”: 20 percent
“I hate it and think it should be stamped out”: 10 percent *
We already knew that a lot of you disagree with our pro-porn stance; in that, we got just what we expected. But a lot of you tried to draw that elusive line between pornography and erotica. “But erotica is a whole other issue,” “But I love erotica,” and “Erotic depictions of consensual sex are fine” are some of the comments made by people who “hate [porn] and think it should be stamped out.”
Hmm. So porn is bad, but erotic depictions of consensual sex are good? Porn has plenty to do with consensual sex, as most of what’s on the shelves at your local smut shack or woman-owned sex emporium will testify. The value judgments imposed by the subjective division between porn and erotica mean, in essence, “What I like is erotica; what you like is porn.” They create a destructive dualism that hinders women in their freedom to find what they like. Yes, there are some bad apples in the porn bushel—some is violent, some has rape scenes. (And a lot of it is just plain bad or doesn’t appeal to specific tastes—which explains responses like “Tasteful or artsy ok” and “If it’s punk-rock-looking people”—but that’s a whole ’nother issue.)
You’ll never find us defending porn that’s violent. But when we use “erotica” as a code word for “nonviolent,” “soft-core,” “woman-produced,” or any other adjective, we reveal that the porn/erotica division is nothing more than personal taste masquerading as absolute judgment—and it only serves to elide the very real and valid reasons that some porn deserves criticism. Instead of tarring all sexually explicit material with the brush that calls it offensive and degrading to women, we should draw connections between stuff that’s offensive for similar reasons (i.e., violent porn and serial killer movies—see page 26). Perpetuating equations like “porn=bad, nonconsensual, only for men” and “erotica=consensual, pretty, only for women” is just as problematic as the perpetuation of any other gender-based assumption.
the porn question wasn’t the only one that provided such eye-openers. (We were comforted to see that some of us here at Bitch are not alone in our love of Martha Stewart Living or Entertainment Weekly, although, unlike us, some of you felt the need to apologize for this vice.) Your responses to “What do you think of those new Special K ‘Reshape your attitude’ ads?” were similarly surprising.
They’re a wonderful attempt to boost women’s self-esteem and body image: 5 percent
They’re a cynical pitch designed to placate consumer criticism of an earlier negative marketing campaign: 33 percent
They’re just ads: 14 percent
The fact that you’re a cynical bunch is not what shocks us. So are we, after all. But another 33 percent of you have never seen the ads; a full 11 percent reported that you either don’t own or rarely watch tv.* More than one-tenth of you not watching tv at all? Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised—after all, when we talk about tv, it’s usually to complain about how the shows and commercials do nothing but advance tired old stereotypes of gender difference so as not to upset the tired old advertisers who bankroll the whole undertaking. It just seems to conflict with our perceptions of who our readers are—we kind of like to assume that you’re as tv-obsessed as we are. Now that we know the truth, well, frankly, we’re impressed with your ability to insulate yourselves so well. At Bitch hq, we recognize that tv is our enemy, yet we still give it our time and energy. Why? Maybe it’s the promise dangled (and in a few cases, fulfilled) by shows with strong women, bad-ass mamas, and complex chicks who manage to break the molds still imposed on actresses and their characters. Maybe it’s the endless potential for outraged critique provided by ads like the one for Special K. (Some of your responses delivered on this potential, our favorites being the succinct “Fuck those flakes” and the astute “The bottom line is ‘If you buy our cereal you will feel ______,’ except this time you will feel good about your body instead of becoming thin, beautiful, etc.”) Or maybe it’s just that we need to know when Dylan hits rock bottom for the nth time in his 90210 tenure. —eds.
Oh yeah, one more thing: With all this ranting, we forgot to say thanks to everyone who answered our survey. So—thanks!
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