Archive for May, 2009

Why Porn Critics Got It All Wrong

Posted in Posthuman Perversion with tags , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by Bonni Rambatan

Porn critics love to say that pornography speaks so much about the misogynistic society we really live in. What they do not know is that by saying this they are masturbating harder (plus-de-jouir) than the simple innocent guys who fap (jouir) in front of their computer screens at home. Is not this “misogyny of the Other” — not the sexual act in porn itself — the ultimate fantasy offered by pornography today?

For whom is this violence staged?

For whom is sexual violence staged?

I get tired of all the sex-negative, porn-negative views that my intellectual colleagues like to prattle on, about society’s true misogyny, and so on. Frankly speaking, I have not met a single person who both watches porn and is a misogyny. All the porn consumers I know (myself included), respect women, supports feminism, is more open to the various ways women think and feel, and so on, while all the misogynists I know hates porn and constantly complains about the degradation of our society. What is going on here?

I remember telling a couple of friends a while ago that I do not believe a single bit the thesis that “porn is the theory, rape is the practice,” telling them that it is essentially a bad name that comes out of the mouths of irresponsible assaulters who are so chicken they need to put the blame on other objects for their actions that the conservative media are only too keen to appropriate for their anti-porn propaganda. Being good young adults, they argued otherwise, although they do watch porn themselves. I asked them whether they have had a single intention at all to rape a women after watching porn, and of course their answer was no.

“Then why do you still believe the theory?” I asked. One gave a perfect answer: “Well, of course, if it is us educated, well brought-up people, it is OK. But imagine how those uneducated people who have never known about sex! No doubt they would go on a raping spree!” It was an a-ha! moment for me. I realized it was not about misogyny after all. The ultimate fantasy in porn turns out to be not a sexual fantasy, but that of class struggle. It was that ancient notion of civilized people versus barbarians all over again.

(A disclaimer before we go on: first, I acknowledge the existence of cases where people gang rape young teens after watching porn, but only as much as I acknowledge young teens go on school shooting sprees after watching war movies. They are exceptional cases and I perceive the excuses as retroactive constructions. Second, I am not talking about extreme fetishes of the long tail market variation.)

Case example. So we watch a porn video of this young girl being degraded, humiliated, violated, and so on. And, to a certain extent, even female-respecting guys enjoy it — why? Precisely because we know perfectly that it is just an act, because the porn stars are getting paid well, and so on. If that fact is obvious, to whom, then, is the drama staged? To none other than he who the porn stars are looking at when they stare straight at the camera — not you or I miserable, individual guys, but the abstraction of our collective being, the Imaginary Other.

The porn critics are wrong when they criticize violence as though it is staged for the enjoyment of the empirical audience. Violence in porn is instead staged for the Other to act as an empty fantasy screen in which the audience can project their true surplus-enjoyment beyond sex (that there exists someone out there who degrades women, is a racist, and so on). This is why, even when we know a “reality porn” is fake, scripted, etc, we not only tolerate but expect the producers to claim authenticity. Appearance is all the more crucial, because when we are no longer allowed to engage ourselves in sexist, racist, etc enjoyments, we need an Other to enjoy for us.

We need an Other to enjoy, like the snowman

We need an Other to enjoy, like the snowman

We come to a paradoxical conclusion: the existence of the (staged) degradation of women in pornography reduces the degradation of women in real life. The libido is already invested out there, in pornography and all its fantasmatic space, so that we can in turn, in real life, be more open towards women.

Thus, the porn critics actually did not get it all wrong: there indeed is a repressed sexism in society (along with racism), of which pornography is a symptom in which it returns. However, precisely qua symptom, its function is to keep at bay its true, traumatic form — raw, unrepressed hatred for the Other. I would even go as far to say that violent pornography is the price we have to pay for political correctness, as the true violence that sustains it. (This is also why it is absurdly easy to find racial stereotypes in pornography, such as “monster black cocks” and “submissive asian sluts”.) To say it in another way: when we have political correctness, we face a longing for violence at its purest.

Then, my obscene advice to countries with high misogyny rates that we think ought to have a better sense of political correctness would be: make more violent porn!

Facebook between Anti-Semitism and Breastfeeding

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , on May 11, 2009 by Bonni Rambatan

The Real of Facebook

The Real of Facebook

Recently Mike Arrington of TechCrunch posted a polemic of Facebook’s policies. So it turns out that Facebook does not ban denials of Holocaust and yet they ban pictures of breastfeeding women. This predictably disturbs many people, and has lead to paranoiac suggestions that Facebook is actually anti-Semite, anti-feminist, and so on.

Especially interesting here is the juxtaposition of the two taboos, positioning them from the start as a case of mispositioned censorship — one that should be but isn’t censored, and another that should not be but is in fact censored. This proves to be more problematic the closer one looks at it: of course, people would still get angry even if Facebook does not censor breastfeeding (both not censored), while probably they would be content if Facebook censors both. However, this problematic only rises when there is a displacement of censorship, as is the case at the moment.

Which leads us to a more interesting perspective: what do Jews and tits have in common? As Žižek noted, Jews are the anti-Semites’ embodiment of the malignant object-cause of desire, while breasts are of course one of the forms in which the object-cause of desire appears, according to Lacan. The appearance of anti-Semitic comments on Facebook discussions brings into obscene light this object-cause of desire, while breastfeeding, supposedly through its context, arguably does the opposite: it desexualizes the breasts into  a non-sexual, family-friendly object.

The excuse for the latter’s censorship is of course the usual one: “We knowthere is nothing sexual about breastfeeding, but nonetheless people have warped fetishes,” while the excuse for having no ban of Holocaust denial is, presumably, that all opinions are allowed and must be respected. Of course, the hate speech shown on TechCrunch’s screen-caps are already against Facebook’s TOS (which obviously leads to the rash conclusion that everyone who denies the Holocaust are anti-Semites), but it seems that the core problem is not so much the hate speech as the space for denying the Holocaust whatsoever.

It is here (and not only on 4chan!) that one encounters the Real of the Internet. We start off wanting to promote “safe content” and end up censoring arguably trivial things such as breastfeeding, which recalls the proverbial paranoia that nothing is safe on the Internet (how about pictures of feet and socks, or of children at all, should Facebook allow them when after all people can just as easily take them off of facebook with a few simple clicks and use them as a means of warped public masturbation on another site?). The obverse is also true: we start off wanting to encourage discussions from all perspectives, and end up encountering the hard limit of our so-called postmodern tolerance (every historical account is relative and its truth is questionable, except the Holocaust, the truth of which must be maintained at all costs to keep ourselves from the resurgence of anti-Semitism!).

Youd think it was really easy to moderate a group

You'd think it was really easy to moderate a group

Mike Arrington ends his article with a comment, “Yes, Facebook, this is the side of the line you’ve chosen to stand on,” and posted an obscene image of child victims. I would say that Facebook, being the “sixth largest country,” is fated to continue to find itself in dangerous situations on the other side of the line (remember Facebook’s privacy polemic several months back?) — why? Because Facebook is becoming more and more like a government rather than a system (like Wikipedia, Twitter, or 4chan, which are really more public places than a governed home). And the obscene image, what is it but a symptom dedicated to an innocent Other’s gaze for which the truth of the Holocaust must be maintained?

Accommodating society with their own postmodern paranoia and micropractical ethics is a tough, if not impossible, job. There is a line, a primordial split constitutive of society, which looks different from different sides. In some ways 4chan (especially /b/) is luckier, since it embodies nothing but this split itself. Facebook tried to be careful as it always does, but it looks like once again they got back their message in an inverted true form.