wyeth

wyeth

Friday, August 15, 2014

Questioning Porn



Kelly Houck contributed to this post.

***Trigger warning: This article analyzes violence against women and references a description of abuse. It also features descriptions of porn videos.

Earlier this week, porn star Christy Mack released a statement describing a brutal attack she suffered at the hands of ex-boyfriend Jon Koppenhaver in a home invasion last Friday. She tweeted pictures of herself in the hospital bed, showing swollen eyes, a broken nose, and missing teeth. The assailant is currently on the run, with $15,000 being offered for information leading to his arrest. Sex toy company Fleshlight contributed a third of the reward.

It is in the interest of companies involved in the porn industry to distance themselves from culpability in this case. Singling out Koppenhaver's behavior as an isolated incident helps obscure the porn industry's connections to violence against women.

Those who underline Mack's complicity in this case also seek to distract attention from the systemic causes of her injuries. Although she and other female porn stars profit from the industry, the composition of pornographic fantasies emerges from the market relationship between the producers of these videos and their consumers, both groups predominantly heterosexual men.

Consuming the pornographic simulation of women creates patterns of thinking about women in real life that extend beyond the seclusion of masturbation. Most heterosexual men believe that indulging in the pornographic imagination ends when they orgasm, but in fact this habitual gratification at the expense of women's human identities manipulates their attitudes towards women in general.

Based on Koppenhaver and Mack's testimonies of the assault, it appears that Koppenhaver cannot distinguish Christy Mack the person from Christy Mack the pornographic fantasy.

It is important to note that in the following analysis Mack's pornographic roles are being referenced, not her actual person. As previously mentioned, regardless of Mack's involvement in the creative process of these videos, her pornographic persona is dictated by the desires of a heterosexual male authority and audience.

Koppenhaver claims to have caught Mack being intimate with a male friend when he arrived (unwelcome) at her home last Friday. Mack dismisses this claim as entirely false. Koppenhaver's conviction that Mack was being unfaithful is the first example of how his violent reaction to the situation is validated by a patriarchal world view perpetuated by pornography.

Mack's most popular video on Pornhub.com is titled “Sexy Slutty Babe Christy Mack Fucks her Ex-BF's Best Friend.” The video starts with Mack welcoming a man at the front door in her underwear. Mack refers to her fictional ex as a “fucking coward,” adding “I'm so glad we broke up.” As the plot quickly escalates with Mack removing her clothes (unprompted), the ex's best-friend squeaks out a final hesitation, saying that what is happening is wrong. Mack replies, “Who cares?”

Mack is presented as an object to be attained the moment she opens the door. In real life introductions, one assumes the other is a person with friends, dreams, problems, etc. In this porn and in many others, the woman is instead immediately defined as a thing to be fucked, nothing more. In fact, in the pornographic imagination, women impose sex on men. Their presence demands it from men. The only premise needed to initiate sex in heterosexual pornography is that a man and a woman are together. Likewise, the only premise needed for heterosexual men to use porn is being alone with a computer.

As Koppenhaver opened the door early Friday morning, it can be assumed that he expected Mack to greet him as her character welcomes the man in the video – as an object ready to be used. When she answered fully clothed with another man in the house, he concluded that since she was not offering herself sexually as an object to him - she must be the other man's object instead.

When a woman doesn't fulfill the pornographic narrative conceived by a man, he infers that she is fulfilling it with someone else. The pornographic imagination, having robbed women of personal complexity, leaves no explanation for their “not putting out” except infidelity. The ease with which a virtual woman can be loaded up on a computer imbues men with a sense of power and control over their sexual urges, but it also engenders insecurity when a woman does not respond as instantaneously in real life.

According to Mack, after Koppenhaver had assaulted and kicked out her friend, he then made her undress and shower in front of him, recreating a porn-like scenario. This strange demand suggests that to Koppenhaver, there is no difference between watching porn and torturing a woman.

In another video entitled “Rebellious Daughter,” Mack plays the eponymous role, who has aggravated her mother by getting tattoos, piercing her ears, and shaving the sides of her head. The father (also the cameraman) goes in the bathroom to take a shower, and Mack is sitting on the toilet naked, waiting for him. She pleads for her fictional father not to tell the mother about how many tattoos she has, adding, “I'll do anything.” The father asks, “Why are you naked in my bathroom?” She responds, “I just wanted to show you that I would do anything,” and goes on to say, “I'm over 18, it's okay.”

Once again, Mack is reduced to a sexual object being imposed on a man. She is already naked, insists sex is the only outcome of the situation, and eliminates all other possible considerations by evoking her legal age. The line “I'll do anything” confirms that her body is at the man's complete disposal. Last Friday, Koppenhaver took this idea of total submission to its natural conclusion, by administering unrestrained violence on Mack's body.

In another tweet sent while on the run, Koppenhaver writes, “I only wish that man hadn't been there and that Christy & I would behappily engaged.I don't know y I'm so cursed.One day truth will come out.” His obliviousness to Mack's suffering also derives from pornography's presentation of women.

In another video titled “Christy Mack Swallows,” two men begin the scene by repeatedly complementing Mack's body, especially her breasts. One man asks, “You're more than just a pair of tits, right?” Mack answers, “Not at all,” but the other man contends, “Actually she's got a great ass.” Mack sadly jokes, “I'm nothing more than tits and ass.” The men ignore her and ask her to turn around.

The pornographic simulation of a woman, as an object, does not need to be treated or thought of as a person. Her words do not beckon a response if they detract from the sexual narrative, and her personality is an uncomplicated caricature. She is not entitled to free speech, to having emotions that are not sexual, or to not wanting to have sex. She is more than objectified - she is dehumanized.

Koppenhaver's tweet demonstrates his inability to empathize with Mack. He makes no mention of the serious injuries caused or the psychological trauma inflicted. His only concern is himself, who he views as a person, unlike Mack.

The majority of heterosexual men who watch porn do not physically abuse women, but all heterosexual men who watch porn are nurturing a corrupted concept of women. A mind routinely exposed to and rewarded by the pornographic simulation of women cannot prevent the characteristics of that simulation from overlapping with the authentic qualities of women experienced in real life. Heterosexual men who identify as feminist and also watch porn must recognize this inevitable collusion and its regressive consequences.

The ultimate goal of feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Pornography repudiates this idea; it insinuates that women are not as human as men are. In the process, it alienates men from half the population and furthers the oppression of women.

Porn producers and tycoons have no incentive to stop what they're doing. The Internet porn industry is the fastest growing online industry in the world, and the U.S. porn industry's revenue exceeds that of professional sports and live music combined.

The only way to reverse this growth is for heterosexual men to stop using porn. Of course, lifelong users are not going to just drop the habit spontaneously, so a more practical recommendation may be for heterosexual men to reflect on their use of porn and to talk about it. Porn has the luxury of being unexamined. The shame surrounding porn use normalizes it but also makes it inappropriate to scrutinize in-depth. In casual conversation, one risks embarrassment by talking at length about porn or by proposing it as a subject of study. If committed to advancing feminism, however, heterosexual men must not put their personal reputations before the rights of women as a group. A cooperative questioning of porn must be undertaken. 

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