Pornography: White Women’s Liberation

Now, us white women have always been really slow at picking up the intersections of race and gender-many of the most prominent feminist works focus only the white heterosexual middle-class woman’s perspective (i.e. The Feminine Mystique, any critique of beauty standards, suffragettes, burlesque).  Mainstream and academic feminists have begun to “pay attention to” nonwhite women* only after numerous criticisms, and now at least feature them occasionally as commentators on race as another layer of oppression.  They couldn’t possibly still be racist, as the coverage proves they care. (Pffft.)

Pro-sex industry feminists, on the other hand…wow, they haven’t even gotten to the “I-need-to-talk-about-race-issues-sometimes-so-I-can’t-be-called-racist” stage. Maybe because they hang out with white liberal dudes? But seriously.  Look ’em up, if you don’t believe me (or just check out the examples): they’re invariably white, even though most data gathered on the sex industry says that “sex” workers are disproportionately nonwhite women or formally colonized peoples. I always try and look at the source of a perspective and the privileges they benefit from, because I don’t want to be blissfully unaware of my privileges (although I have that ability) and be a self-centered douche.  All of us have a responsibility to do this with each of our privileges before we speak, since we benefit from the systems of oppression and were raised to see our privilege as natural and our experiences as universal.

When reading debates on the empowerment of pornography, many of the pro-sex industry feminists would cite “feminist pornographers” such as Susie Bright, Annie Sprinkle, Nina Hartley, and others as examples of “good” pornography.  Because I always have that lingering doubt that I could be wrong (thanks gender conditioning), I generally will at least consider that whatever the person says could be true, no matter how much it goes against my reasoning, my instinct or common sense. This doubt of my reality is the same kind that was invoked when someone would tell me I “consented” with my ex-boyfriends, glenn and david, or I was only “imagining” the problem.  I feel out of my body, confused and stupid, so I try to look at their argument and their references in depth, to see how I was/could be wrong.

So, taking them at their word, I researched these pro-pornography “feminists,” and (not surprisingly) it confirmed many of the ideas I had about the “sex-positive” school of thought: the perspective of “sex” work, pornography, and promiscuity as liberation depends upon the patriarchy-imposed expectation of virginity and chastity given to middle-to-upper class white girls.  Black men and women are considered exotic and animalistic; they always want sex.  Latina women are also considered exotic and perpetually aroused; they always want sex.  Asian women are exotic and always willing to please.  Only white (and some Asian) women can qualify for the virgin/purity, side of the patriarchy’s dichotomy, because nonwhite skin itself is seen as a sign of sexual deviance; and thus, declaring that you want sex or have a high sex drive can only seem liberating when the chastity and purity are assumed, expected, or valued.  The construction of nonwhite women as always wanting sex, or at least having a high desire for it, is what makes them “unrapeable” in our culture.  To say that promiscuity, “sex” work, and enjoying all of the above is liberating for women, then, would ignore the reality of most of womankind.**

And as always, history is being repeated.  When white women decided the “solution” to their oppression would be entry into the workforce and self-reliance, nonwhite women had been in the workforce already and were still not free.  They complained about the exclusion of their experience from the women’s movement, but were ignored.   Even earlier, when white women were complaining about being seen as delicate, being patronized and wanting the vote, Black women were forced to plow, plant, do housework and make it on their own. (see Sojourner Truth)   White women insisting that “sex” work is empowering or will make us free is repeating that same damn mistake.  We throw any women under the bus, and the patriarchy wins.  We commodify ourselves and capitalism smiles.  There will be no women’s liberation if it does not free the most hated of us.  And as we should know, the most hated of us is going to be the darkest, poorest, and least employable of us.

Note that these examples are only some examples from what I came across in searches of the “feminist pornographers” sites or their links, not references to some distant financial or political associations with other “more” blatantly racist and sexist pornographers***, though I will discuss that in some time.  All information was gathered from their sites and/or links.

(Canadian-based) Commercial Sex Information Service, Whore Heroines and Heros
According to government reports, however, Aboriginal  women are disproportionately represented in all estimates of the  racial distribution of prostitutes…yet all the whore heroines/heros are white. (Link)  This site also hosts several “sex worker” organizations, such as PONY and COYOTE.

Candida Royalle, according to her site,

“[leads] the way in women’s seuxal empowerment and pleasure” and created the idea of “couples erotica.  “Royalle recently created a new line of “ethnic erotica for couples” called Femme Chocolat in order to provide high quality intelligent erotica for the largely underserved market of ethnic women and couples.”

She reinforces the racist paradigm of white as default by describing this line that includes nonwhite women as “ethnic,” while proclaiming a progressive idea.  ‘Cause white people don’t “have” an ethnicity.  And to top it off, it’s called Femme Chocolat?  You’ve gotta be shitting me.

BIG FUCKING TRIGGER WARNING: Notable “Feminist” Nina Hartley in Little Red Rides The Hood #4.  No link here, just google it if you doubt it exists.    Because white ladies = innocent who are going to get fucked by Scary Black People.

* I use this term, because I found this post on the idea of “women of color” and Black women very enlightening. So I’m now going to use the term for women who aren’t white that was used by its author/the commentators since their obviously more knowledgeable about the subject than I would be.   And their argument makes a fuckton of sense.

**Most women are not white, and I hope you knew that.  The fact that I have to say that disgusts me, but it was pointed out in a post on AROOO (which one, I cannot recall) that when people hear “women” or “woman,” especially in a feminist context, they think “white ladies.”

*** The quotes are necessary, as many of these examples are so incredibly racist I can’t help but gag and wonder how the fuck anyone “progressive” could tolerate, defend, or let alone publish these.

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3 responses to “Pornography: White Women’s Liberation

  1. Click Click

    Thanks for this. Middle-of-the-night enlightenment.

  2. Thanks for this msc. Its as plain as day isnt it? And yet, I don’t think I ever thought about it this way before. Just more western privileged middle class bullshit. These fun fems need to check themselves, and badly. Around the world, women need to be liberated from piv. Not by it.

  3. It’s really quite sad because it doesn’t help white middle class women at all, and most of them can’t see it because all they notice is conservatism and the religious right. It doesn’t even decrease our chances of being raped. Honestly, I think it just makes us feel *more* guilty once we actually feel comfortable having sex of some kind, since we aren’t sexual in the right way; you have to be “open-minded.” Somehow, you can even be a prude despite having lots of sex.

    I couldn’t believe how ironic is was when I came to this realization. Radical feminists are always described as white and middle-class, which is true in a lot of cases, but most radfems I have seen at least attempt to look at things from international/class/race perspectives. I have not seen a SINGLE “sex work” blog or activist ever bring up class or race; except to lecture on how not all prostitutes come from poverty blahdeblah.

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