Sex & The Divine (Not Divine Sex)

The sinfulness of sexual pleasure has always had more than a fair bit to do with the sinfulness of woman.

From an essay by Francine Prose at Lapham’s Quarterly:

The debate over sex with the beautiful versus sex with the ugly had its twisted roots in the belief that there was an almost mathematical ratio between pleasure and sin. The greater the pleasure, the worse the evil. Apparently, too, there also was considerable worry about ejaculation as something that drains and weakens the male, a dangerous process in general and particularly in the presence of the predatory woman who, unlike her mate, doesn’t lose in sex a life-sustaining fluid. The rabbinic admonition to think of a woman as “a pitcher of filth with its mouth full of blood” was echoed in the work of the twelfth-century theologian Petrus Cantor. “Consider that the most lovely woman has come into being from a foul-smelling drop of semen; then consider her midpoint, how she is a container of filth; and after that consider her end, when she will be food for worms.”  [too much more]

Robert George on  heterosexual marital sex and hating anything else:

… the argument for marriage between a man and a woman can require “somewhat technical philosophical analysis.” It is a two-step case that starts with marriage and works its way back to sex. First, he contends that marriage is a uniquely “comprehensive” union, meaning that it is shared at several different levels at once — emotional, spiritual and bodily. “And the really interesting evidence that it is comprehensive is that it is anchored in bodily sharing,” he says.“Ordinary friendships wouldn’t be friendships anymore if they involved bodily sharing,” he explained to me. “If I, despite being a married man, had this female friend of mine and I said, ‘Well, gosh, why don’t we do some bodily sharing,’ and we had straightforward sexual intercourse, well, that wouldn’t be friendship or marriage. It is bodily, O.K., but it is not part of a comprehensive sharing of life. My comprehensive sharing of life is with my wife, which I just now violated.” But just as friendships with sex are not friendships, marriage without sex is not marriage. Sex, George said, is the key to this “comprehensive unity.” He then imagined himself as a man with no interest in sex who proposed to seal a romance by committing to play tennis only with his beloved. Breaking that promise, he said, would not be adultery.

The second step is more complicated, and more graphic. George argues that only vaginal intercourse — “procreative-type” sex acts, as George puts it — can consummate this “multilevel” mind-body union. Only in reproduction, unlike digestion, circulation, respiration or any other bodily function, do two individuals perform a single function and thus become, in effect, “one organism.” Each opposite-sex partner is incomplete for the task; yet together they create a “one-flesh union,” in the language of Scripture. “Their bodies become one (they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together) in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs and other organs form a unity by coordinating for the biological good of the whole,” George writes in a draft of his latest essay on the subject. Unloving sex between married partners does not perform the same multilevel function, he argues, nor does oral or anal sex — even between loving spouses.

Infertile couples, too, are performing this uniquely shared reproductive function, George says, even if they know their sperm and ovum cannot complete it. Marriage is designed in part for procreation in the way a baseball team is designed for winning games, he says, but “people who can practice baseball can be teammates without victories on the field.”  [ewww more]

From Johann Hari at the New Statesman:

After all the arguments for subordinating women have been shown to be self-serving lies, what are misogynists left with? They have only one feeble argument that is still deferred to and shown undeserving respect across the world, even by people who should know better: “God told me to. I have to treat women as lesser beings, because it is inscribed in my Holy Book.”

Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom are the editors of Butterflies and Wheels, the best atheist site on the web. In Does God Hate Women? they forensically dismantle the last respectable misogyny. They argue: “What would otherwise look like stark bullying is very often made respectable and holy by a putative religious law or aphorism or scriptural quotation . . . They worship a God who is a male who gangs up with other males against women. They worship a thug.”

Every major religion’s texts were written at a time when women were regarded as little better than talking cattle. Their words and commands reflect this, plainly and bluntly. This book starts with a panoramic sweep across the world, showing – with archetypal cases – how every religion has groups today thumping women down with its Holy Book.  [the review carries on]

The Question Is The Problem

From Greg Downey at Neuranthropology:

In this week’s The Times Magazine of The NY Times, Daniel Bergner has a piece on women’s sexuality and research that’s already in preprint causing a bit of controversy as well as a convulsion of 1950s era humor in the online response. The title, ‘What do women want?’, that nugget of Freudian wonder, no doubt will raise the readership, as will the pictures of models simulating states of arousal (Greg Mitchell is in a bit of snit about them in, Coming Attraction: Preview of ‘NYT Magazine’ With Semi-Shocking Sex Images on Sunday. ‘Semi-Shocking’? I can imagine how that goes… ‘Are you SHOCKED by these photos?’ ‘Well, I’m at least SEMI-shocked, yes!’).

In particular, Bergner gives us thumbnail portraits of women engaged in sex research: Meredith Chivers of Queens University (Kingston, Ontario), Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah, and Marta Meana from UNLV, although there’s also commentary from Julia Heiman, the Director of the Kinsey Institute, and others. As with so much of contemporary science writing, we get researchers as characters, with quirky personal descriptions and accounts of meeting the author, each one standing in for a particular perspective in current scientific debates.

Chivers is portrayed as arguing that women are existentially divided ‘between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective,’ Diamond is made to stand in for the ‘female desire may be dictated… by intimacy, by emotional connection,’ and Meana stands in for the argument that women are narcissists desiring to submit. Whether or not these are accurate portrayals—and they might be—the model is prevalent in science writing: get characters to represent lines of thinking, even though many of us are not so clearly signed on with a single theoretical team. Here, we know the score: Diamond arguing women want intimacy, Meana that they want a real man to take them, and Chivers that women want it all, even if they don’t realize it and contradict themselves.

The irony is that, with such a tangle, the conclusion is foreordained: women will seem enigmatic, inconsistent, and irremediably opaque. As I’ll suggest in this, I think that the conclusion is built into the way the question is being asked. If a similar question were asked about nearly any group, in nearly any domain of complex human behaviour, and then a simple single answer were demanded, the questioner would face nearly identical frustration.


One can imagine an article with the title, ‘What do diners want?’, which bemoaned the fickleness and impenetrable complexity of culinary preferences: Sometimes they want steak, and sometimes just a salad. Sometimes they put extra salt on the meal, and sometimes they ask for ketchup. One orders fish, another chicken, another ham and eggs. One day a guy ordered tuna fish salad on rye, and the next, the same guy ordered a tandoori chicken wrap, hold the onions! My God, man, they’re insane! Who can ever come up with a unified theory of food preferences?! Food preferences are a giant forest, too complex for comprehension. What do diners want?!
You get my drift. The line of questioning is rhetorically time-tested (can we say clichéd even?) but objectively and empirically nonsensical …
Interesting post.  Read the rest here

UPDATE:  Check out Shorter NYT: Girl-parts are weird, girl-brains are weirder posted by Jill Filipovic at Yes Means Yes

Candle in the Wind

From Carolyn Gage  at Trivia:

Much of what the media portrays as women’s sexuality looks suspiciously like dissociative identity disorder. Marilyn Monroe’s behaviors, for example, bear more resemblance to those of a molested child trying to appease a male authority figure than an adult woman engaging in an empowering and mutually satisfying sexual interaction. And, indeed, why wouldn’t they? Our pop cultural icon for female sexuality spent a fatherless childhood of sexual abuse and poverty in a string of orphanages and foster homes after her mother, who suffered mental illness, was institutionalised. By her own account, she was a survivor of multiple episodes of child sexual abuse. Shortly after her fifteenth birthday, her legal guardian brokered a so-called marriage for her. In other words, Marilyn Monroe was legally prostituted as a teenager. She made three attempts at suicide before she was twenty-five, and several more throughout the rest of her life. Marilyn called her first husband “Daddy,” she called second husband Joe Dimaggio “Pa,” and she called third husband Arthur Miller “Pops.” Apparently it wasn’t just her heart that belonged to daddy.

But this profoundly traumatized woman who died such a tragic, early death has become, not a symbol for a movement against child sexual abuse, but an icon of female sexuality. What does it say about male dominant culture that its sex goddess was a desperately unhappy, suicidal incest survivor who had dissociative identity disorders and who eventually killed herself? Can anyone really believe that Marilyn Monroe’s sexuality was a transcendent phenomenon, somehow existing apart from her history of trauma, developed in a cultural vacuum? It was not. Her sexuality was no different from that of millions of survivors of child sexual abuse all over the world. At a recent auction of her personal affects, a pair of Marilyn’s stiletto-heel pumps was sold for $48,000. A high price to pay for shoes, but the price is much higher for the woman who attempts to walk in them. And maybe that’s the point.

Read the whole thing here

UPDATE:  Antonia Zerbesias wrote about Marilyn Monroe and this article by Carolyn Gage at Broadsides.

Palin Porn

From Cara at AlterNet:

Via Sociological Images — a truly great blog I discovered recently — comes this story about a Sarah Palin lookalike contest held at Vegas strip club (oh, sorry, “gentleman’s club”). Lots of bikinis, sexualized use of guns and sexism abound. You can view more photographs of the event here.

The saddest thing is that it’s not the most offensive display of sexualized misogyny that has been directed a Palin. The sex doll came close, but I’d say that award goes Naylin’ Paylin,” the Larry Flint pornographic film starring yet another Palin lookalike, the existence of which all of us should have seen coming. 

There are two problems with both the porn film and this strip club contest, and neither one of them is about porn and stripping in general. The first issue is consent. Sarah Palin did not consent to having her image used in this way. Portraying her sexually like this without her consent is a violation — and contrary to what many people apparently think, existing as a woman in public is not the same as consenting to use of your body as public property. This isn’t satire or parody; it’s just sexist and degrading. 

Which brings us to the next issue. The entire reason that anyone gets to hide behind the parody and “all in good fun” arguments is precisely because portraying Sarah Palin sexually is intended to be mocking towards her. It’s taking a powerful woman and working to make her non-threatening by turning her into a sexual object. And it’s the very opposite side of the coin as calling Hillary Clinton ugly and denying her sexuality. Both reinforce the ideas that women exist to sexually pleasure men, and that sexuality is the only power we have (or should be allowed). Whether revoking or affirming that “power,” the result is an attempt to render the woman inferior and powerless.

We still live in a world where women seemingly cannot be seen as sexual and at the same time be taken seriously. We still live in a world where sexuality itself is seen as degrading to women. That is the purpose of these types of exercises — to debase Palin by reminding everyone that she (presumably) has a vagina and is therefore only good for fucking. I truly believe that if sex was not still viewed as inherently degrading to women, we wouldn’t be seeing these sorts of displays at all.

Read the whole thing here

Edited to repair a link

Pornography Debates

In this response to Robert Jensen’s recent AlterNet article on pornography, Michael Bader tries to argue that the great porn debate is just a big misunderstanding because pornography is about fantasy, stupid, not reality (my words, not quite Bader’s).  Gee, as if we hadn’t thought of that.  He raises, for the umpteenth time, that a causal link between pornography and violence against women has not been proven and points out that men don’t want women to be hurt as part of a sexual encounter, unconsciously, they want women to be happy:

In porn, everybody is turned on and, therefore, everybody is happy. Sexual arousal is what we call a “marker,” an unconscious symbol, of the fact that the women are not hurt. It reassures the male viewer he can temporarily escape from the worry and guilt about women that typically haunts him and chills his libido. Such worry and guilt are not — as Jensen would have it — a sign of his loving humanity, but his neurotic feelings of obligation. Men grow up in our culture with two special psychic burdens: (1) they feel inordinately responsible for their mothers and later, for women, and (2) they feel especially disconnected and lonely. In regard to the first burden, it’s extremely common for men to talk about their guilt and resentful feelings of responsibility for making women happy, feelings that become exacerbated when they feel that they can’t ever succeed in these efforts. Men primarily want women to be happy, not degraded, but feel that somehow they’re supposed to be omnipotently responsible for making this happen. This isn’t healthy interdependence and responsibility, but an irrational burden generated in nuclear families and patriarchal culture. It lies at the heart of much of the hostility and emotional withdrawal from which women suffer in their dealings with men. The woman involved might see cruelty. But for the man, the hidden logic is: “If I hold you at arms length, if I treat you like a ‘piece of ass,’ if I love you and leave you, then at least I’m not imperiled by the chronic sense of inadequacy, guilty failure, and pressured obligation that I seem to feel is my lot as a man in our culture.”

So, imagine you’re this guy. What’s the appeal of porn? In porn, the women appear to be happy, so happy that they want to have sex all the time. It’s a special fantasy world in which women appear to be in situations that would hurt or degrade them, but — lo’ and behold! — they get turned on instead. It’s a world in which, for a few moments, the man, through identifying with the actors, can be utterly selfish, aggressive, and uncaring and not have to worry about the woman’s happiness. In fact, she only wants more!

That’s the appeal of most porn. It’s a fantasy enacted on the screen in which certain irrational and burdensome feelings of guilt, worry, and rejection get momentarily reversed — just long enough to allow excitement to emerge and climax. There are exceptions to the rule, as well as differences between various sexual modalities currently available, etc. that I discuss in my most recent book but can’t elaborate on here. Suffice it to say that there is very little scientific evidence that porn leads to any actual confusion between fantasy and reality. There is little evidence that men leave their online escapades and then insist that their wives engage in double penetration or face-slapping. The only people who are confused about the difference between fantasy and reality are Jensen and his fellow travelers.

Whew!  Men just want women to be happy so that men can experience a temporary relief from the nagging burden of pleasing their mothers and their wives!  I can’t quite imagine a more twisted, more sexist explanation.  So many questions, so little time.

For one, where is it that women are supposed to find happiness and sexual satisfaction if the entire sexual event is defined according to men’s needs, even assuming that Bader is right about what those needs are (which is assuming a lot)?  The whole territory of sexuality has, once again, been claimed for the fulfillment of male needs.

Also, it’s pure disingenuity on the part of Bader to argue that Jensen thinks there is a proven causal relationship between pornography and violence against women.  This is very difficult to prove and most studies are problemmatic in terms of the definition of terms, the methods of investigation and the framing of the question.  But this doesn’t matter to Jensen and it doesn’t matter (much) to me.  Though studies don’t or can’t prove it, most people find it hard to imagine that there is no relationship between pornography and crimes against women, even if it’s not a directly causal relationship, just as most of us are pretty clear that there is a relationship between increasingly ubiquitous images of violence on television and in video games and rising levels of violence among children, teenagers and others, once again, even if it’s not direct.

But this just isn’t the point that Jensen and others are trying to make, or not the only point.  In addition to the possibility that violent images promote violence, Jensen et al object to the dehumanizing effect that these images have on subject and object and for the effects it has on shaping our conceptions of “body, gender, sexuality and intimacy.” (See Jensen, here)

We seem to be clear about our feelings toward child pornography.  For the life of me, I can’t see the difference.

Bader does admit that the victimization of women in the porn industry makes the debate important in ways that we haven’t even yet understood, and that’s something.  But he also says that he’s “tired” of porn debates because they simplify public discourse about psychology and sexuality.  I think he’s guilty of simplifying the discourse about pornography and sexuality.  And guess what Michael?  I’m fuckin’ tired of the porn debates too.  And of patriarchy.  Very, very tired.

NOTE:  I am not a pro-censorship feminist, primarily because my experience of censorship is that no one knows how to implement regulatory schemes and they end up being used against material that is simply offensive to conservative people or whoever happens to be enforcing the rules.  It remains the most difficult issue in my feminist life, though, and I have plenty of sympathy for anti-porn feminists – just because I’m anti-censorship doesn’t mean I’m pro-porn.  And I think the notion that anti-porn feminists are Victorian era prudes is a diversion.

Edited to correct the spelling of Bader’s name.  Oops!

“Mommy Wars” At A Whole New Level

After months of blatant Hillary-hacking misogyny followed by internecine battles with racist/sexist rantings about Michelle Obama, including the New Yorker cover, which took the woman-hatred to another level, I was exhausted and sad and more than a little depressed; not ready for taking on international sexism again, I thought, for a good long time.  Badly in need of a rest from it all.  I know I wasn’t alone.  It almost seemed as though Michelle had rescued us from it with a carefully calculated, down-home chat to the Dems at their Convention – could anyone really smear a woman who was such a thankful daughter, loving mother, successful careerist and gracious First Lady to be?

Then came Sarah Palin.  So.  Now we are drowning in the mud and mire of mother-blaming carried to the max.  We have Bristol Palin, who is either an irresponsible slut or a child endangered by her mother’s anti-abortion, pro-abstinence beliefs (see comments on this post at Shakesville, for instance).  And then we have Palin herself, whose politics and policies are worthy of serious attention, discussion and critique.  Yet our full attention has been drawn to the nuances of her life as a gestating mother and the guardian of a young woman whose sex life, some think, has been determined absolutely and solely by her “mothering” choices.

The fact that Sarah Palin flew home to Alaska after her labour started means one of two things:  she wasn’t actually pregnant because what mother would take the risk of flying while leaking amniotic fluid (oh help us!) or she was just an irresponsible, bad mother, because what mother would take the risk of flying while leaking amniotic fluid (oh help us!).

Sarah Palin was back at work three days after her son, Trig, was born.  If she had taken longer, she would have been a bad, selfish woman for taking on elected office when she had better things to do.  As it is, she is a bad mother, for we all know that we wouldn’t be back at work three days after giving birth to a premature baby with Downs’ Syndrome.  Of course, we know that because so many of us have given birth to a premature baby with Downs’ Syndrome while we were Governor of Alaska.

If Trig is really Bristol’s baby, then Palin is a liar who can’t be trusted as a politician.  If Palin is really Trig’s mother, she should be at home with him and her slutty daughter who is clearly running wild and can’t be a good Vice President because her mind will be on other things.  Joe Biden won’t be distracted by his son’s service in Iraq, of course.  Oops, Palin’s son is going to Iraq too.  She really really shouldn’t be VP.

As with Hillary Clinton, most of this is coming from the “liberal” blogosphere, including from women, including from more than a few feminists.  I don’t even have to think about why men and non-feminist identified women are engaging in this reactionary conversation.  I do have to think about why feminists who I admire are often on board.  In many ways, I think that’s a useful train of thought and just might lead to a deeper understanding of the depth and power of internalised misogyny.

I was looking around a bit in the land of Google at the issues of mother-blaming and this idea of internalised misogyny and found an article by David Aaronovitch at The Guardian.  He was discussing the fact that mothers driving their kids to school in SUVs were being blamed for the price of gas in the UK.  And he said this:

I think mothers are being picked on, and the question is why? The most obvious explanation is jealousy. The mother and child represent an elemental unit, which it is almost impossible for others to break into. And yet we have all been children ourselves and once been part of that unit. Many marriages and relationships fall apart in the first period of parenthood, when men suddenly discover that it is no longer their turn to be baby, and that it probably never will be again. Within the family, father and kids compete for the mother’s attention, and we all know who bloody well wins.

This was tolerable to men while we were an essential part of any family structure involving children. Now we aren’t. It was tolerable to other women when they all had the expectation of being mothers relatively early in life. Now they don’t. It was tolerable when women went about child-rearing in a self-effacing way, and sequestered themselves in maternity hospitals for the birth, and breast-fed only at home with the curtains drawn. Today it’s bosoms out in the Harvey Nicks tearoom.  [emphasis mine]

If we break up the school run we can punish women for looking after children, and for not looking after us, and yet still pretend that we love motherhood and bonded kids. It is a perfect act of psychological revenge. One in which we can make a good action out of our bad feelings.

But there’s more to it than this.  If we have performed our mothering in self-effacing ways, if we have sacrificed ourselves and/or our careers in any way, it is difficult not to critisize a woman who doesn’t mother in the same way.  It is difficult not to believe that our way of mothering was necessary for the good of our children, else what is the meaning of our self-effacement, our sacrifice?  If we believe that mother’s don’t have absolute control over the sexuality of their daughters, what fears for them must we take on board?  Will our daughters be subject to the corrosive judgment of society for their wild and borderless bodies?  How afraid are we of being judged ourselves when our daughters “transgress”, for are they not reflections of the sexuality and morals of their mothers?

If we have followed the advice of the experts in matters of pregnancy and childbirth, breast feeding because it’s best for the child, giving up coffee and alcohol and pain killers because they’re not, if we have submitted ourselves to totalitarian regulation because we are new age earth mothers, is it tolerable that another woman doesn’t do so as well and expects to be called “good mother”?  If we stay at home with our babies for the first year of their lives, sacrificing career advancement or, for some of us, just boring ourelves to death, can we support women who are so ambitious or “calculating” or simply realistic or restless that they are back at work within days of “dropping” their kids?  Is it our way or the highway?  Have we imposed our own way of regulating motherhood?

Just wondering …

And one more thing, for now.  Most mothers today had mothers who worked outside the home.  In one way or another, to one extent or another, that outside work impinged on our childhoods.  The world is not made for women who have children and paid employment.  Nor is it made for children who have employed mothers.  Daycare is inadequate and often un-regulated.  Provisions for parents of children who have the chicken pox are notoriously poor.  Most adults today have experienced longing for mothers who aren’t so busy and stressed and distracted.  The subject of daycare is a sore point for my son.  He and his wife are having their first child soon.  My grandchild’s mother will stay home to care for him, because you can be sure that no child of my son will have to suffer the abandonment he felt when I left him behind, day after day, to attend to something apparently more important.  Are we punishing today’s mothers for the absences in our own lives?  Mothers, of course, being those miraculous beings who can and should fill up the holes left by a child-hating, woman-hating society.

Check out TGW and American Power for views from progressive feminists and Republicans on the Palin baby talk.  If this crap doesn’t validate the view of PUMAs that the Democratic Party is fatally sexist, I don’t know what does.

Forgive me for concluding that the real problem here is that Sarah Palin is female, and thus, in the reasoning of both Obama supporters and Pakistani tribesmen, she belongs in the red tent/birthing house/women’s quarters with her daughter. They can do breathing exercises together and discuss amniotic fluid. That’s what women are meant for, by God, not commanding troops!

UPDATE:  Reading the comment threads, so you don’t have to.  How’s about this one on an article by Clive Crook at The Atlantic, wherein he critisizes the Dems for their discourse on Palin and the babies:

Palin’s family off-limits? Maybe for Barack Obama, but not for me.

Democrats shoot themselves in both feet every time they try to take the high road, because the Republicans never do. For example, if I were Al Gore, I would still be contesting the 2000 election instead of all that “concede and heal” nonsense.

So… I’ll say what nobody else will. If Sarah Palin can’t keep tabs on her own daughter, arming her with abstinence education and Christian piety, how, someone tell me, how, in God’s name, is she supposed to run a country?

If baby Trig, known to have Down Syndrome, came prematurely by a month to a 44-year-old mother, and that mother, Governor Palin, finished a speech and then flew for 12 hours with her water broken only to pass up two hospitals with NICUs only to give birth in some backwater medical clinic, how, in God’s name, are we to trust her to handle a time-is-of-the-essence international crisis?

If son Track can’t be mentioned in public without noting that he enlisted last year, and, coincidentally is headed to Iraq this year on the same date– September 11th– then I’ll be damned if I’ll keep the kids out of it.

Governor Palin is, plainly and simply, whoring her kids out for political purposes. She’s turning Track into a modern doughboy, Bristol into an anti-choice poster child, and using Trig as testament to her pioneer toughness, bragging that she returned to work just three days after birthing him… like that’s something to be proud of.

She’s a disgrace– a political animal of the first order that could only be the creation of ambition, blind fervency, and Karl Rove.

Posted by Thomas Horton

Shameful.  Just shameful.  And, stupid.

UPDATE II:  Clever Sarah Palin “jokes” from the MSM published at the Big Orange Satan

UPDATE III:  This post is too long already, but I have to add this moving post by Anglachel via Historiann

Great News for Canada

Three cheers for Canadian content:

A Canadian pay-television pornography channel — which is pledging to show least 50 per cent domestic content at night — has been approved by federal regulators this week, but it must now try to convince cable and satellite companies to carry the service.

The digital channel, which is to be called Northern Peaks, was approved Wednesday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, after Alberta-based Real Productions first applied for the licence in October, 2007.

In its application, the company said the proposed service would be “Canada’s first adult video channel offering significant Canadian adult content.” Northern Peaks [charming!] will produce its own movies, in addition to events and series from Canada, the company told the regulator.

“During each broadcast year, the licensee shall devote not less than 50 per cent of the evening broadcast period to Canadian programming,” say CRTC documents outlining the decision.

Before Northern Peaks will be given its licence, though, it must show the CRTC that at least one cable or satellite carrier has agreed to pick up the service. The channel has three years to find an agreement or risk losing the licence.

The channel is a Category 2 pay television service, meaning cable and satellite carriers are not required to pick up the channel and the company must negotiate with each carrier.

The CRTC said it did not receive any interventions at hearings held in May, meaning there were no other broadcasters or interest groups who registered their opposition to the bid.

According to the licence, Northern Peaks is restricted to certain genres, including: drama and comedy, long-form documentary, mini-series, theatrical feature films, game shows and human interest programming. It will not carry any high-definition programming, according to company documents.

Based in Sherwood Park, Alta, Real Productions produces adult content for Starz, Playboy TV and HBO. “Northern Peaks’ broadcast day will start at 6 a.m. and run a full 24-hours,” the company told the CRTC in its application.

If it launches, Northern Peaks will be required to spend a minimum of 25 per cent of its subscriber revenues on Canadian programming, including at least $1-million in its first broadcast year. All programs must be closed captioned, as per CRTC rules.

In approving the licence, the CRTC also issued a reminder to cable and satellite companies that “due to the adult nature of the programming, this service shall only be distributed at the specific request of the subscriber.”

For various reasons that I consider good, I’m not a pro-censorship feminist.  But neither am I pro-porn, as if it isn’t one giant, creepy slur on the bodies of women and girls.  Home grown porn ain’t nothin’ to crow about.  If men weren’t addictive consumers of this misogynist crap there would be no buyers or subscribers.  The fact that so many men can’t or won’t see past their own self-indulgence is. just. so. sad.  But it also makes me angry.  If there are any Canadian men out there who give a shit they might at least take this opportunity to organize a boycott of this slime and take it upon themselves to educate their brothers, our sons, about the harm they do to their sisters and our daughters (and themselves, of course) when they insist on keeping porn in its secure position as a billions of dollars a year profit industry in this country, of which cable porn is actually just a small part:

The pornification of culture is something that we encounter at every turn: it’s in Snoop Dogg and Pussycat Dolls videos; it keeps the Girls Gone Wild franchise going strong; it guides the fashion trends of females six to 60; and it’s behind prime-time reality shows, like the E! Network’s The Girls Next Door chronicling the life of Hugh Hefner. But when it comes to explicit materials, nothing compares to the Wild West of cyberporn. There’s been an explosion of pornographic websites in the last decade, with tens of millions of sites literally a click away, according to Frederick S. Lane, author of Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs of Pornography in the Cyber Age. Lane estimates the North American cyperporn industry brings in about $2 billion dollars a year.

It’s not quite as difficult for parents to regulate the exposure of their children to porn via cable networks, if they’re so inclined.  The same can’t be said for internet porn.  But if we’re not prudes, why should we care?  Or, since many women already do, why should men care:

“Pornography in all its permutations affects developing sexuality,” writes Paul in Pornified. “The younger the age of exposure and the more hard-core the material, the more intense the effects.” These effects can include everything from a skewed sense of sexual norms to difficulty maintaining a healthy, loving relationship; an unrealistic view of women; and potentially, pornography addiction, which can interfere with school work, friendships and family relationships.

Many people scoff at the notion that pornography is harmful and resist with the notion that people who object are Victorian-age prudes.  There are enough of those around to lend this view some credibility.  But surely it strains that same credibility to cling to the belief that the objectification of women and the often violent misogynist characteristics of the overwhelming majority of porn images isn’t harmful to us, grown men and women as well as girls and boys:

Sex therapists, like Toronto-based Robert Burgoyne, have a term for what these young men are up to: cybersexual auto-eroticism. In itself, says Burgoyne, it’s not a problem. The danger with pornography in general is that it encourages users to isolate sexuality from emotional intimacy. “It becomes problematic if it interferes with other aspects of life such as school, work and relationships or if these young men are getting harmful information or locked into objectifying women sexually,” he said.

We are ripping ourselves off and poisoning our children with these severely limited and limiting images of human sexuality and relationships:

David Marcus, a psychologist at the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Center in California, who treats men of all ages struggling with pornography addiction, says one of biggest problems with Internet porn in particular is that people’s tolerance to it becomes accelerated. “What people really, really don’t get is that what was enough yesterday — and exciting yesterday — is not enough today,” he says. In other words, very soon a naked woman is old news, and users are seeking out different, increasingly graphic, and in extreme cases criminal, content — things that will continue to shock and arouse. “They have to keep getting more and more, so it becomes this insatiable thirst for it.”

Marcus says that when the men he sees look back on their own childhoods, there are often two common indicators of future trouble. The first is early exposure to particularly graphic or disturbing sexual images. “As an analogy, it’s like trauma in that people can only tolerate a certain degree of intensity,” says Marcus. Especially for very young or immature children. “Their central nervous system can only take in so much. And so if the experience is so intense or so mind-altering, what happens is it really affects their sense of social norms — what they can expect from a partner and what their own desires are get so flooded that they can’t really make contact with what would be a more ‘normal’ progression of sexual desire.”

The rigidity of male and female gender roles can be seen even in the explanations for what appears to be the acceptance of pornography in the lives of young males:

For Burgoyne, this is all part of growing up male in the digital age: they’re unlikely to talk “love” with each other. “If teenage boys admit to having romantic fantasies it could be social suicide,” he says, “like saying you’re passionate about your stamp collection.”

We haven’t come a long way, baby:

 He does not think parents who discover that their sons are accessing pornographic websites should necessarily panic. “We shouldn’t assume that a teen boy who self-pleasures while looking at erotica on the Internet isn’t, at heart, just a hopeless romantic,” he said.

Holy crap, then it’s okay with us that our young men are forced to translate their longing for self-pleasure and their romantic feelings for others (men or women) into a need to view women being exploited?  Sounds real healthy to me.

What is a Feminist?

While trolling for news this morning, I came across Catherine Townsend’s blog at The Independent/UK.  It seems Ms Townsend is the “sex and dating” columnist for the paper.  She was blogging about a debate she had participated in at Cambridge Union:

Tonight, I’m due to partake in a debate at the Cambridge Union on the motion “This House regards Jordan as a Feminist Icon” along with, among others, Edwina Currie and Abi Titmuss. Depending on whom you ask, she’s either an evil, amoral slapper who corrupts children and is bringing on the downfall of civilisation, or a modern-day heroine.

Sadly, women can often be the most vicious misogynists. Men are historically brutal and competitive, but at least they are honest about it.  [emphasis mine]

more here

I didn’t have any idea who “Jordan” was so I went looking.  It turns out that Jordan is an alter-ego for the very high-priced and successful model, Katie Price.  On her website, Katie describes herself thus:

I’m well known for my frank, direct views and bold statements on issues that concern me. My no-nonsense approach has earned me the status of ‘thinking man’s crumpet’ as well as making me a strong, realistic female icon for many ordinary girls and women. [my emphasis again]

Townsend lost the debate.  But she loved participating and concluded that

For the record, I do think that Jordan is a feminist icon. Everyone may not agree with her choices, but she’s done everything on her own, and feminism is about the right to choose one’s own path. Besides, icons can be both loved and loathed, and this debate about women who use their sexuality to advance their careers is nothing new: we were having the same argument about Madonna in 1991.

Since Townsend believes she is in a position to decide who is a feminist and who isn’t, I guess she would stake that territory for herself as well.  I guess her definition of “feminist” would be something along these lines: a woman who does whatever she wants, including valorizing men for “brutality and competitiveness” and insulting women, painting them as [universally?] dishonest, vicious, manipulative.  Also, someone who elevates another woman to the status of “feminist”, that woman being someone who takes primary pleasure from being “the thinking man’s crumpet” and thus an excellent role model for girls and women.

Townsend claims to be a “sexual adventuress” and delights in publicizing her exploits:

Until I met James, my injuries during sex were pretty much limited to carpet burns, the odd bite-mark, and, since my skin is pale and tends to blacken on impact like an overripened banana, no small amount of bruising. 

But on our last date, right after several martinis and a very energetic session between the sheets, I felt intense pleasure – followed by a shooting pain in my right eye.

“Baby, the room is spinning,” I said, panicked. 

“Yeah, I know, that felt totally amazing to me, too,” he said, taking my hand in his.

“No… everything is out of focus. I can’t see!” 

So our romantic evening ended in casualty, where I was wedged between a guy with a hacking cough and a woman with three feral children trying to choke each other. I read an out-of-date magazine with my good eye and tried not to freak out. 

Finally, it was my turn, and after a brief chat with the nurse I was sent to see a young, fit doctor. After asking what medication I was on, he got to the, “So, do you have any idea what caused this?” question. 

I blushed, before blurting out that it happened when I had an orgasm. “What I think you have here is a popped blood vessel,” he said, “it’s not that uncommon, so you shouldn’t be embarrassed.” 

Even in my humiliated state, I found it seriously hot that this man was taking charge.

more here if you can stand it

There’s an awful lot of embarassment and humiliation going on here for someone so sexually liberated.  The whole scenario could be a scene from a trashy Victorian porn novel – blushing woman in a compromised position swooning [almost] in the arms of virile but sensitive rescuer.

I thought that, perhaps, there was some cultural thing going on here that I had failed to understand.  Till a little more digging revealed that Townsend was born in Arkansas and lately wrote for New York Magazine.

If being a feminist means caving to the power of the male gaze and the objectification of women as sex objects, then I’ve gotten too old.  If women were defining their sexual behaviour in ways that somehow fell radically outside those parameters, and some women I know do, then I might understand …

But then I don’t think this is what feminism means to most feminists.  My day is saved.  Time to strap on my Birkenstocks and get some air.