A Defense Of Porn/Free Sexual Expression From The Left (Or…Why Gail Dines Can’t Wear Nina Hartley’s Garter Belt)

For just about the past 10 years or so, this humble, working-class, middle-aged, seriously hairline receded African American male Leftist blogger has been working the Internet on his off-the-clock hours, trying to do the best to make sense out of this crazaa world that I have inhabited for the past 48 years, 2 months, and 7 days. I’m not going to say that I am something of an expert with degrees or ample experience in the things I write and blog about; but I’ve expressed an opinion or two or a thousand in my time in defense of some basic and essential principles of human equality and mutual aid and respect for individual autonomy balanced with mutual respect and mutual consent. Those would be the values that are usually attacked in this country by some of our more reactionary folk as “Leftist”, “socialist”, “communist”, even “anarchist”, because those values tend to get in the way of their mission to gain and retain economic and social privilege.

Now, granted, my own personal ideological POV would probably be best described as a democratic socialist (and that would be a small “d”, since I pretty much have abandoned the Democratic Party since my college days due to what I see as their profound inability to actually stand up for even the “liberal” values they claim to be so dear, rather than simply abandon them at the first whiff of corporate cash), with a small whiff of libertarianism on the social and civil and sexual level. I tend to think that the State, for all its faults and failings, is the only means to which people can hold corporate power accountable for its actions, but I also believe just as strongly that there are certain realms of personal society where the State (and the Church, and the Media) needs to just back the hell off and mind their own Goddess damn business.

Sexuality and the sexual expression of consenting adults just so happens to be one of those realms. My fundamental principle regarding sexual speech and expression and activity is pretty much based on the triad of mutual respect, mutual informed consent, and mutual pleasure. If it feels good to all, everyone gets off, and everyone gets out of there alive and the same, if not better, than when they came in, then there should be no issue for the State, or the Church, or the Media, or anyone else. The second that someone is hurt physically or emotionally, coerced/deceived/drugged into doing something (s)he doesn’t want to do, or is otherwise denied his or her (all respect and love to the transgendered, of course) right to back out of the deal at any time in order to protect themselves, then we can rely on the proper authorities to intervene for the safety and protection of all.

As you can see, this is not a “do whatever the hell you want, and screw everyone else” mentality that simply casts a blind eye to the pitfalls and human frailties and genuine risks and hazards of free adult consensual sexual expression….as much as neo-Puritans and fundamentalists of various religions would love to dismiss it as such in their drive to reimpose the old conservative regime of “modesty” and “innocence”. But, it does allow for the basic fundamental truth that human beings are, at their core, sexual beings with working sexual equipment and very dirty and vivid fantasies who will ultimately seek out and explore media that reinforces those fantasies…and, if they happen to get lucky, even find fellow sentinent beings that will explore those fantasies with them.

The main objective of what I call a “sex-positive” Leftist, then, is to provide and defend safe, sane, legal, and non-threatening spaces where people of like mind can get together and hash out their fantasies in  non-coercive and mutually pleasurable settings and venues, as well as develop media in which they can freely express their fantasies with other consenting and willing adults.

That media, of course, is what we so densely label as “pornography”. While porn has historically been seen as merely first an entertainment option for the wealthy elite and those with the time to visit the downtown “grindhouses” or private public baths, the combination of technology and the democratization of our society has now enabled even the most modestly waged to have full access to all the naked breasts, buttocks, and vaginas (and also plenty of erect penii) that (s)he can handle…and then some. Not to mention the fact that the decentralization of mass communication through 3G/4G phone technology, the explosion of cheap data storage, and the development of social media cheap enough for anyone with a laptop or iPad or desktop PC to log onto, has moved the production of adult sexual media far, far away from the time when it was merely the work of a few horny, trenchcoat-wearing perverts hiding in 35mm darkrooms, or young men hiding copies of Playboy or Penthouse or even HUSTLER under their beds.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any real issues or problems with how sex and sexual expression is hashed out in our truly obsessive and schzophenic culture. People will bring all of their own neuroses and assumptions into the sexual fantasies they create and promote on screen, and that will include all the usual untapped idioms of racism, homophobia, misogyny, misandry, sadism, dominace/submission, class warfare, and countless other conflicts. The byproducts that emerge can become quite nasty, sometimes very much brutal in appearence, and in som extreme cases, outright frightful and dangerous.

And this is where a person like Gail Dines comes into the picture to appear to be a beacon of rescue, a voice of passion defending the victims of The Evil Capitalist Porn Patriarchy, an avenger of hope and change and restoring the beautiful essence of a sexuality once born of true feminine….ahhhh, I mean, feminist innocence, and tapping into the purity of essential womanhood stolen and bastardized by capitalism and “the pornographers” for the profits of the few rich men and the degraded fantasies of the rest of manhood.

And, unlike the traditional conservative fundamentalist religionist arguments against porn and free sexual expression emphasizing “deviance from God/Allah” and “sin” and “perversion”, the Gail Dines school of “radical feminism”– developed under the crucible of activists before her such as Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, Shelia Jefferys, Kathleen Barry, Mary Daly, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, among others — eshews more classical methods of outright censorship based on sheer brute force “obscenity”. Rather, they prefer a more subtle, more indirect approach to repression, relying on parlor trick arguments about porn being a gateway to rape, murder, and the “debasement’ and “degradation” of women by dehumanizing women though reducing them to “sex objects”, “cumdumpsters”, “sperm receptacles”…anything but free human beings able to make informed choices about their lives. And, of course, the men who use porn for their own personal entertainment and pleasure are nothing more than potential, if not actual, abusers and rapists who put their own sperm above the well being of humanity as a whole, and who must be psychologically, if not physically, castrated and reeducated with the proper radical feminist ideology so that they can share in the superior modesty of “egalitarian feminist sexuality”.

Only problem is, though…..Dines’ “egalitarian feminist sexuality” is neither egalitarian nor even feminist….and it sure as all hell isn’t anything close to legitimate Leftist, either.

For starters….even if you happen to be one who is squicked out over the direct, in-your-face display of wanton sex that most porn provides, the one constant that anyone worthy of calling himself or herself  “progressive” or a Leftist is that you respect and acknowledge the spoken or written experiences of workers. ALL workers, that is….not just those who happen to agree with your particular ideology, not just those you can choose to cherry-pick because of arbitrary criteria you choose. It’s your right not to like what they do, but if they say that they are there of their own free will, and that they actually enjoy what they do, it is your responsibility to respect their voice and not dismiss them as “shills”, paternalize them as “liars” or ignorant “sluts”, or, even worse, slander them as “house ni–ers siding with their masters”.

And no, Professor Dines, just because porn performers, adult models, and other sex workers (as well as women who aren’t so employed but who simply choose to turn on their cams and play around) happen to make a decent amount of money, doesn’t mean that they are duly disqualified to be part of the mass working class. You just don’t get to pick and choose which portions of labor get the Marxist treatment of analysis and who doesn’t…especially if you are so blatantly boneheaded ignorant about Marxist theory to begin with.

The collorary to that is Dines’ attempt to regurgitate classic anticapitalist theory of how corporate media shape public opinion and define dominant culture in order to sell her alchemy of universal mass degradation by “gonzo” porn. To her, the fact that major social media corporations allow the transmission of pornography on their tubes is the ‘smoking gun” that proes that porn is the centerpiece of modern capitalism, and that Larry Flynt rules the economic roost just as much as Mitt Romney does. Really….like HUSTLER could even come close to the financial assets of Bain Capital or Walmart or Goldman Sachs. Or, the fact that the amount of actual profits that, say, Time Warner recieves from porn probably wouldn’t even approach one week’s take from the blockbuster movie The Avengers, or even the gross profits from the viewing of the opening ceremonies of the London Olympic Games. Yes, porn has been one of the most guaranteed profit makers — or at least, it had been before technology, tube sites, and oversaturation, combined with the recession knocked it flat on its back — but that’s not because of any advertising miracle or secret plot to flood America TV with boobs and vulvas; it’s because people are wired to react to other people having sex, or beautiful people who aren’t afraid to show themselves off playing with themselves…or others. Only a sex-hating fundamentalist — or a sex-hating radical feminist — bent on imposing their myopic repression on others would say that the media is only bent on forcing everyone to engage in sex….especially when there are so many far more powerful pressures and media institutions promoting the exact opposite. And, they make plenty of money on their own, too.

Another thing that does not improve your image as a Leftist — or an actual sentent human being, for that matter — is making wiild, totally or-the-top presumptions about the very people whom you wish to “save” and “rescue” based on what can only be seen as jerry-rigged and cooked statistics. Gail Dines just loves to quote her some Adult Video News rankings or some out-of-context press release for an isolated video site as proof positive of the inevitable direction of porn towards the kind of degrading, dehumanizing, “body punishing” sex that she says destroys women’s soul. But, approach her with the fact that the overwhelming majority of sexual media consists of merely single women masturbating, or women playing with each other, or married couples engaging in consensual sex with each other, and she goes pure apoplexic about how that’s just “niche marketing” by the big Porn Bosses that’s used to mask the really profitable “gonzo” stuff that really does its damage to womanhood. Or, you’re just an “adolescent male” who’s too busy jacking off to see the real harm of porn. Or…you’re just a “paid shill” of the porn industry. Or, a “priviliged neoliberal” who diddles while real women are raped and murdered and debauched by all the present and future Ted Bundys reared by reading too many episodes of Gag My Cock 4 or Shaddup AndTake It Bitch 44.

Notice who is actually absent and who is totally silenced in all of Dines’ rants: actual porn performers, producers, and consumers, especially those of the distaff gender. (Of course, Dines glosses over gay male porn and all of its impact, too, but that’s another story.) Once again, you’d think that someone calling herself a feminist would actually give even the least bit of credit to women within the porn industry who fight the daily battle to humanize it and make it a more livable profession, or that said feminist would actually respect average women’s right to challenge and establish their own boundaries and establish safe spaces for women to explore their sexual beings. Nope, not Gail Dines….to her, you are either her kind of radical feminist, or you are a traitor, a slave, or a “cumdumpster”. No middle ground or shade of gray allowed.

And woe be you if you happen to cross her by actually holding her accountable for her actions and policies. Think I’m kidding??  Just ask Leslie Cannold, or Sarah Ditum, or Maura Kelly, or Melissa Harris-Perry about what happens when you attempt to balance her “beliefs” with actual critics armed with true facts?  Or, for that matter, just mention these two word phrases to her face: “Tristan Taormino” and “Nina Hartley”…and then step back and watch her melt down like Mount St. Helens.

The obsession with Tristan Taormino is especially galling for so many reasons. For starters, Dines for whatever reason has a special place in her bile-filled liver for anal sex; she becomes especially vivid about all the nasty, filthy, disgusting diseases that she says ultimately results from the contact with a woman’s anal spincter and a man’s penis. Witness this passage from a post she did for CounterPunch last week, in the process of maligning MSNBC hostess Melissa Harris-Perry for not inviting her to freely rant about the dangers of porn:

The producer is horrified to hear that women in porn suffer repeatedly from rectal prolapse (because of pounding anal sex), and get diseases such as clamidia of the eye, gonorrhea of the throat, and fecal throat infections (because of the ATM act in which the penis goes from the anus to the mouth without washing).

Aside from the stunning disclosure that a tenured professor from a distinguished private college who claims to be an expert on porn can’t even find the means to spell “chlamydia” correctly, surely she isn’t that ignorant not to know that most porn performers do in fact prepare for anal and ATM scenes by proper hygenics (edemas, lube, not eating before scenes, etc.) since infections of the throat or the eye or the mouth probably would not only make for bad filmaking, but would cost them real money. Can’t do scenes, can’t get paid, can’t pay the rent. Not quite rocket science, isn’t it??

The greatest irony of Dines’ histrionics, though?? She wails on Taormino for her association with porn producer John “Buttman” Stagliano, whom she describes as “a well known producer of very violent porn”. Do you know what that “association” actually produced??  A video titled The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women, which Taormino starred in and produced, and Stagliano and Ernest Greene (aka Ira Levine) co-directed, which basically was an introduction to and instrutional and educational video on…..safer anal sex.

Of course, she’s also maligned Ernest Greene as well for his special interest in BDSM kink, calling him “a committed sadistic torturer of women”; and, needless to say, she has no love lost for his wife, who happens to be….yup, Nina Hartley.

And here is where I get to the main point of all this, and why any genuine progressiveor leftist worthy of his/her name who takes his/her principles seriously should dismiss Gail Dines and her antipornography “radical feminist” ideology for the fools gold it is. There are people like Dines whom passes herself off as a Marxist and an anticapitalist activist…and then there is Nina Hartley who born and raised as a “Red Diaper Baby” by actual Leftists, and who has lived and walked the talk of her principles. There is Gail Dines, whom thinks that because she reads porn message boards she is an expert…and then there is Nina Hartley, who has only spent the past 28 years of her life making and starring in porn movies. There is Gail Dines, who pretends to be an expert in “interracial porn” merely because she can roll off suggestive titles of “racist” videos off the cuff…and then there is Nina Hartley, who has pioneered interracial films and whom has actually done scenes with Black and Latino performers. There is Gail Dines, who pretends to pronounce herself the spokesperson for all women in porn (or at least defends the likes of Shelley Lubben, who explicitly declares herself to be the Guardian Angel of Porn)….and then there is Nina Hartley, whom has actually done more through her work and her activism as a sex-positive feminist within the porn industry to improve the lives and conditions of women both inside and out of porn.

I will simply leave it to you, dear reader, to decide for yourself who is closest to the actual ideals and principles of the Left. And…who really deserves to represent a genuine antiauthoritarian, liberatory, and sane Left policy on pornography and sexual expression.


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