Sunflower Skins

August 13, 2011

The Myth of Pornography: An Open Letter Regarding Statements Made by Megan Walker

Filed under: editorials, News — Tags: , , , , — Sunflower Skins @ 11:55 pm

Censorship of any kind concerns me, in particular when relied upon as a blanket argument: “Mainstream pornography sexualizes and normalizes incest, sexual violence against children, and the rape and torture of women” (Megan Walker, The Truth About Pornography).

I do not know Megan Walker, so please do not misunderstand this as a personal attack. I am writing this because, as an artist, her remarks of late worry me very much. By overstating the obvious (“pornography sexualizes… incest”) and using the same arguments against pornography as could be said for any middle-of-the-afternoon television commercial (“Although the women in these pornographic videos are indeed over the age of 18, they are presented in childlike ways: petite, with small breasts, childish expressions, and hair in braids or pony tails”), Walker suggests that all pornography is violence-related and only for men: “While pornography is often discussed as a women’s issue, it is largely about men. It is made primarily by men for men. Men profit from selling it to the men who masturbate to it. Pornography is, at its core, an issue for men.” I believe that Walker’s six-page array of sensational descriptions and accounts from “porn users” as a means to ban any type of pornography is the wrong message to send to our youth, to our artists, to visitors of London—and to all the women and men who live here. As a recent graduate trying to establish myself in the London community and getting to know my peers, my focus is on censorship because that is what affects my friends, my family, and me the most. I am saddened Walker’s recent anti-pornography calls amongst the community, as well as the recent ban of the Everything To Do With Sex Show at the Western Fair District; it is strangely disarming to discover how conservative a city this truly is, especially one that prides itself on being neighbours with arts-oriented Stratford.

Not all pornography is violent, perverted, paedophiliac, non-consensual, or in some way bad. That is the myth about pornography. True, there is that which crosses the line, whether legally, emotionally, physically, or morally (incest, pedophilia, non-consensual, trafficking), but what I really wish to stress is that pornography cannot all be described by, and therefore judged by, one set of standards. If we blanket-censor pornography and access to it, we will begin censoring a lot of sexually-related texts and works of art or media that aren’t actually pornographic. Censoring all pornography sends the message that sex is bad and that we shouldn’t discuss it in any safe, public situation, like in a demonstration or in a library.

There are many things throughout Walker’s letter that worry me—not just the suggested prohibition of “any directly or indirectly city funded boards, commissions and departments from leasing or renting space to any pornography industry sponsored events” or the recommended “immediate filter [of] all London Public Library computers against access to pornography;” not just these newly-proposed policies but the “facts,” statistics, and often far-fetched conclusions Walker uses to defend them. Briefly I want to mention some of the absurd points in her anti-porn statement:

Firstly Walker blatantly ignores the female sex workers who willingly participate in and even enjoy the violent aspects of sex and pornography; they aren’t all sexual deviants who were abused as children. In fact, there are probably many sex workers who would be quite offended by the idea that their work supports “rape-culture” and pedophilia; what they do is for consenting, legal adults, and whether their work is misconstrued and misused is not by their choice or in their control.

Secondly accusing the average healthy adult male who enjoys pornography of supporting rape culture is an awfully lot of guilt to assign to an individual who is, more often than not, far from the original source of said “rape culture”; aren’t these men becoming a little bit like victims themselves? I understand that Walker is trying to explain that not all sex is consensual and that a lot of women are taken advantage of by men, however I feel that she is taking advantage of men in general as a scapegoat for larger problems, specifically, as Jon Stewart says, the mass media’s “bias towards sensationalism and laziness” (Fox News Sunday). Mainstream pop culture uses scare tactics and phrases to overtly focus on deviancy in easy targets rather than actually attempting to build a better social structure though more effective means such as education.

Lastly, “In the world of pornography, women do not exist as human beings with a sense of privacy, boundaries or authentic desire. No part of the female body is off limits to male inspection, evaluation, use and abuse. In this world, women are f**k objects.” In other words, no woman could ever appreciate, enjoy, create, or support pornography. I and my friends prove otherwise. I view pornography—certain types, of course—as art, as do many of my fellow artists, academics, and, I believe, fellow Londoners. And even if it isn’t high art, I should still have access to it and the right to partake in it if I so choose.

Walker writes, “No one claims that all men who use pornography become rapists, or that rape would disappear if there were no pornography,” however the rest of her letter, the Conference on Pornography that took place in June, and the growing anti-pornography mob screams otherwise; the movement to ban all city-funded access to pornography and its industry suggests that censorship is where we begin to “cure” sexual abuse. As a concerned citizen I hope that my city doesn’t fall for the old censorship trick: that all is either good or bad, and that everything will be better if we ban what’s taboo. Let us not require another sexual revolution in 30 years because we’ve gone too far in the wrong direction.

Read Megan Walker’s full anti-porn letter here.

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