Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

(trans)gender, sex, pornography, feminism, etc. (third in series?)

I read Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook. Notes as i read:

  • Doing the quizzes at the beginning it felt like the best way to be was a brash genderfucker. What if someone is happy being normatively gendered but recognizes that other people prefer a more fluid gender experience and think everyone should have the freedom to experience/perform their own gender as they desire?
  • I like the idea that identities help us feel secure, but like a crab’s shell they also restrict our growth.
  • Anyone know if Martine Rothblatt’s The Apartheid of Sex is worth reading? Also, the whole overlapping tricolor scheme sounds begging for an online quiz. :)
  • Kate talks a lot about identities, and i think of political identities -- about how i’m assumed to have a certain political affiliation (or at least certain political beliefs) depending on who i’m around (basically, people assume i share their politics). Gender tends to just not enter my thinking about myself or my environment most of the time.
  • “Once we move into any of these or other established identities, we know what do to, who we’re supposed to be. And more importantly, we make it easy for the person we want to attract to relate to us.” -p. 94
  • Is it bad that Kate’s discussion of the dynamics of attraction made me think of fanfiction and reminded me to keep in mind while writing that people are not (necessarily) always going to react to situations as they have done in canon prior since people are always changing.
  • page 109: Gary Bowen relates this story:
    When I first introduced my small daughter to A..., a transsexual, I explained to her that A... was a special person, that sometimes he was a man and his name was D..., and sometimes she was a woman, and her name was A.... My daughter looked at me in amazement and asked, “How is this accomplished?” She thought it was the most wonderful magic. Ever since, she’s called transsexuals ‘magic people.’
    Another person relates the story of a three and a half year old girl saying, “I know the difference between boys and girls. Girls have vulva and wear shoes that make noise, and boys have peanuts and wear shoes that DON’T make noise.”
  • The idea of getting forms to not require gender reminds me of this article in other magazine. My tiny rebellion against the system is not checking off gender on the library card applications i process. But then this gets me thinking about how we record gender for the summer reading program so that we can have stats about how many girls and how many boys participate (and how many reach their goals) and how gendered statistics can be useful, but then i start being troubled by that because of course the binary is problematic and there are plenty of other factors that would be interesting to note for statistics (we record the kids’ schools, from which one could likely extrapolate good guesses about things like class, but of course we can’t actually ask things like “What is your income?” “How many books are in your house?”) and i get back to wondering whether gendering everything isn’t more bad than good after all.
    And then of course, if you don’t gender-identify people, you erase women’s only safe spaces and all. (This is why i need to write about transgender and women’s-only spaces and Title IX and affirmative action and the politics of exclusion and anything else that relates.)
    I appreciate that a few pages later she acknowledges that for better or worse, people often find it important to know the gender identity of other people.
  • An exercise i would actually be interested in doing:
    Make a list of ten things you need to know about a new person coming into your life. Then arrange your list in order of importance with the most important factor at the top and the least important factor at the bottom.

    Now make a list of ten things you want others to know about you as you’re first getting to know them. Take care to name these as qualities rather than identities. Then arrange your list in order of importance with the most important factor at the top and the least important factor at the bottom.

    Now compare the two lists. Write a summary of your observations and conclusions on a separate piece of paper.

This interesting. As my father says, "It all depends on what's important to the regulators."
In June of 2003, New Zealand decriminalized prostitution. As a result, the industry fell under the aegis of the NZ Occupational Safety and Health Service who have produced a guide. The guide is an odd mix of the bureaucratic and suggestive. Here's a sample:
In situations where more than one worker is providing service to a client (e.g. threesomes) it is necessary to ensure that equipment such as vibrators and dildos is not used by one person and then another without being cleaned, disinfected and having a new condom put on first. Ideally each worker should have her/his own toys and equipment, which are not used by other workers. Each worker may choose to use a condom of a different colour in order to identify who has used the dildo last.
Excellent advice! Can you imagine a US bureaucracy producing a similar guide? Do you recall what happened to Jocelyn Elders? Alas, the New Zealanders are not so liberal with regard to other policies - you can go to a brothel, for example, but don't try lighting up after sex or you will be in contravention of the law.

I also read Bound and Gagged: Pornograph and the Politics of Fantasy in America (Laura Kipnis, 1996), which reminds me: ladyvivien, you owe me a discussion about Katie Roiphe and The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism, though i gather you’ve been rather busy.

Anyway, i was for the most part underwhelmed by the Kipnis book (and she is very much on the Left, which sometimes made me wince), though it has some good parts.

She devotes the first 60 or so pages of the book to detailing the entrapment of “a man convicted in the first nationwide computer bulletin board entrapment case” (as the jacket flap puts it). Rather dreadful. I wonder if anti-porn folk who despise the entrapment scenarios used to arrest, say, non-hetero folk, approve of the same actions to catch supposed pedophiles.

I hadn’t really thought much about entrapment schemes before. She points out that it is basically encouraging a person to commit a crime ze might well not have otherwise committed, and then arresting hir -- before ze actually commits the crime, of course.

I was troubled by the fact that Kipnis talks a great deal about the man’s involvement in BDSM being a result of his bad childhood. It sounds like that may be quite true for him, but it’s problematic to imply that that is why all BDSMers are into it. Though at the end of the chapter she does try to talk about the BDSM lifestyle as being perfectly valid etc., and throughout she emphasizes the consensual nature etc. And she’s very fat-positive in Chapter Three, which made me happy.

I learned a lot about Hustler. (And got the distinct impression that Andrea Dworkin is absolutely insane.)

Kipnis mentions the national outrage over Hustler cartoons about Betty Ford’s mastectomy and wonders about which topics are taboo to joke about, pointing out that after the Challenger explosion people made jokes about scattered body parts, and that jokes about amputees and paraplegics occur even on broadcast television. She writes, “apparently a man without a limb is considered less tragic by the culture at large, less mutilated, and less of a cultural problem than a woman without a breast. A mastectomy more of a tragedy than the deaths of the seven astronauts. This offers some clues about the deep structure of a cultural psyche, as does out deeply felt outrage at Hustler’s transgression. After all, what is a woman without a breast in a culture that measures breasts as the measure of the woman?” (142)

Kipnis talks a lot about the class issues inherent in the debates over pornography, which is something i hadn’t thought about before. She points out that people are quick to argue that not only is pornography inherently violent to women but that watching pornography causes men to inflict violence upon women, but that no one makes similar arguments about, say, The Taming of the Shrew. (It occurs to me that this high/low culture divide also functions with people arguing that watching TV/movies/videogames makes teenagers violent, but when’s the last time anyone argued that reading true crime books made someone a killer?) The separation of fantasy and reality is a recurrent theme throughout the book, and Kipnis asks, “why presume that pornography alone, among the vast range of cultural forms, works as indoctrination, whereas every other popular genre is understood as inhabiting the realm of fiction, entertainment, even ideas, NOT as having megalomaniacal ambitions to transform the world into itself? We don’t spend a lot of time worry that viewers of pro wrestling will suddenly be seized with some all-consuming impulse to wrestle innocent passerby to the ground” (201).
A propensity to violence is in opposition to traits like rationality, contemplation, and intelligence, which tend to have higher-class connotations: the attributes associated with the audience of higher cultural forms like theater or opera. The argument that pornography causes violent behavior in male consumes relies on a theory of the porn consumer as devoid of rationality, contemplation, or intelligence, prone instead to witless brainwashing, to monkey-see/monkey-do reenactments of the pornographic scene, This would be a porn spectator who inherently has a propensity to become violence (not presumably the members of the Meese Commission, who spent years viewing pornography without violent consequences). [...] The fantasy pornography consumer is a walking projection of upper-class fears about lower-class men: brutish, animal-like, sexually voracious.

“Keeping things to yourself,” the stiff upper lip, the suppression of emotions, maintenance of propriety, and the very concept of “bad taste” are all associated historically with the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie and their invention of behaviors that would separate themselves from the noisy lower orders. All of our impulses (and snobbery) about what should be private or what shouldn’t be public are enormously complex, historically laden cultural machinery.

The classic Freudian example of a reaction-formation is a housewife whose obsession with cleanliness stems from a repressed interested in what’s not”clean” (that is, sex), an obsession that actually allows her to focus all her attention on dust and dirt, thus affecting virtue and purity while coming close to satisfying the opposing, unacceptable instinct. An antipornography crusader might be another such example: waging a fight against pornography means, in effect, spending most of your time looking at it and talking about it, while projecting the dirty interest onto others.

The male fantasy if female sexual willingness is perceived by some women as doing violence to their very beings. But the violence here is that of being misidentified, of having one’s desires misfigured as “male desire.” I can easily feel offended at (my fantasy of) some disgusting, hairy, belching Hustler male imagining me or some other hapless woman panting lustfully after his bloated body, and imagining that our greatest goal in life is to play geisha girl to his kinky and bizarre pleasures. On the other hand, maybe if men read more Harlequin Romances, they’d be similarly offended to find their desires so misfigured—romance novels having been aptly referred to as “pornography for women.”
Additional excerpts:
The same year [that Larry Flynt was gagged by his own lawyer in a 1986 Los Angeles trial] the FCC was compelled to issue an opinion on Flynt’s threat to force television stations to show his X-rated presidential campaign commercials. In a new bid for the nation’s love and attention, he was running for president, as a Republican, with Native American activist Russell Means as his vice-presidential candidate. Or because, as he eloquently put it, “I am wealthy, white, pornographic, and, like the nuclear-mad cowboy Ronnie Reagan, I have been shot for what I believe in.” Flynt’s new compulsion was to find loopholes in the nation’s obscenity laws, and with typical monomania he vowed to use his presidential campaign to test those laws by insisting TV stations show campaign commercials featuring heard-core sex acts. (The equal time provision of Federal Communications Act prohibits censorship of any ad in which a candidate’s voice or picture appears.)

Hustler’s influence on the genre has been such that by 1991, Playboy was willing to scandalize its somewhat less adventuresome readers by running a photo spread of a beautiful postoperative transssexual, unintentionally reminding readers that the requirements to become a Playboy centerfold is, as usual, simply vast amounts of cosmetic surgery and silicone, whether you’re born male or female.

The world of pornography is mythological and hyperbolic, peopled by characters. It doesn’t and never will exist, but it does—and this is part of its politics—insist on a sanctioned space for fantasy.

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