Required Reading: Avert Your Eyes
"Anti-porn feminism is back", says Julia Long, author of the forthcoming Anti-Porn: the Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism.
Now, I don't know if that's true. Not only because feminist activists are still doing politics through pinup calendars, but also because even the most radical of my friends find it hard to be anti-porn without sinking into an endless bog of Art and Literature and censorship and choice. After all, there's a lot of nudity out there, and much of it is deeply venerated and hangs in places like the Musée d'Orsay (see above). What is porn, anyway?
As I mentioned in my last post, it can be a surprise to learn what qualifies as obscene and what doesn't: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret often does. Nabokov's Lolita often doesn't. Some will say that there are technical considerations—the quality of rendering, the beauty of the language, or the composition of the scene make a difference between obscene and not, porn and art.
In my personal obscene-o-meter, the creator's identity makes a big difference. Judy Blume describing the pubescent female body? Fine. Valdimir Nabokov describing the pubescent female body? A little creepy. Whether it's prize-winning literature, a cheesy film, or a fashion spread, you don't want your vision of the world hijacked by just anyone, even for a moment or an hour or a few hundred pages. Do you?
In Ways of Seeing, John Berger describes cinema like this:"Men act and women appear. Men look at women." It's the male gaze. A classic example of this dynamic is the scene in Titanic where Leonardo DiCaprio draws Kate Winslett, and we all get to see her naked. The scene and the way of filming force viewers into the perspective of the male onlooker, as do most of the past centuries' cultural products.
Luckily, this is the age of Pink and White Productions. You can find the female gaze if you want it. So when there's the choice, what do you keep, what do you put back on the bookshelf, and what do you throw out for good? Previously: Banned Books and Black Ink, Disgrace
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