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kroika's essay: Pornography and Sexual Health
August 29, 2006
1:46 pm
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Response from a friend who I emailed my paper to:

Just read your paper. Brilliant and much needed. Pornography,
exploitation, subjugation of others, girls women or boys is the
elephant in the living room that doesn't get mentioned.

Respect, compassion, sensitivity, sensualtiy and joy create a totally
different kind of sexuality from pornograhy but then, ofcourse, these
qualities and values create a totally different kind of society too.

August 29, 2006
3:42 pm
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sleepless in uk
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Hey prof!

Of course I echo your friend's sentiments; great paper and really well researched.

You know Kroik I struggle a bit with this one. Everything inside me balks at the idea of censorship or other people deciding what I can and cant watch/enjoy/drink/smoke etc.

But on the other hand I strongly feel that as a society we have a duty to protect our vulnerable members, in this case predominantly women and children.

And I do kind of like some erotica, but hate anything degrading or subjugating. And I am a bit unclear about where the boundaries get blurred..I know where they do for me but find it hard to be prescriptive.

However, I am now much more aware of the impact porn can have on the intimate relations between a couple. That knowledge has come mostly from discussions on this site and the paper you have been researching. And I am sorry to admit more recently from my own experiences. I never linked my husbands lack of interest in me with a use of porn. I tended to think such use fuelled sexual desire rather than diminished it. Of course now it seems to me it just redirects it..And I have read of the great distress and harm that has been caused to many women on this site by porn use.

I really like the definitions of sexual health and like many others could talk ad infinitum on the subject of body image. Having 3 teenage daughters that is particularly close to my heart.

Your paper informed me in an interesting way and made me curious to find out more. It also made me question my own views and feelings..

hey what more can any reade ask!!

An 'A' Miss K

August 29, 2006
8:06 pm
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August 29, 2006
9:18 pm
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sleepless,

Thanks for your thoughts, and for relating your own personal experience to what I try to grapple with in the paper. As my other friend said, this is an "elephant in the living room" that up until recently most 'polite people' have tended to maintain an embarrassed silence about.

I can only try to imagine what it might be like to be the parent of teenage children in this culture. You folks have a very tough job!

Glad you found the paper to be thought-provoking, and the definitions of sexual health to be useful. I have to wonder how many people have ever run across those definitions, and yet they were produced by national, government-funded bodies on both sides of the 49th parallel. Hmmm.

Now you're provoking my thoughts!

take care, kroika

August 29, 2006
9:25 pm
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WD,

I read that review you posted the link to. I think the author detracts from his arguments by making numerous sweeping generalizations about "feminists" that are, well, practically libelous. Maybe that's your point?

Anyone who thinks that "feminists" are a monolithic group with one, strictly enforced, "party line" either doesn't know much about feminism, or has some agenda which is not suited by admitting of complexity.

Just for the heck of it, I may make the effort to cut and paste his over-the-top statements just to look at them all together. If I go to the trouble of doing that and it's at all amusing, I may post it here.

I have the book in question on reserve at the library, so will make my own evaluation of it when I get a chance to read it.

cheerio, kroika

August 29, 2006
9:54 pm
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Hi Kroika,

I think the authour was referring not to all feminists but merely to "anti-porn feminists," who are, after all, pretty uniform in their tone, complaints and arguments, at least on this subject.

August 30, 2006
12:06 am
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Here's a review of "Pornified" by a woman.

http://www.slate.com/id/212657.....y/2126575/

August 30, 2006
7:15 am
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This sentence from that review stands out, "Paul seems weirdly surprised to discover that so many religious types—clergy members and conservative Christians—have sex-addiction issues"

This points to something Susan Griffin writes in a much earlier book, "Pornography and Silence" (1980 or 1982, I think) in which she makes a case for the "pornographic mind" being behind both the 'profane' form of sexual subjugation of women found in what we commonly think of as pornography, and the 'sacred' form of sexual subjugation of women found in Christianity. So Paul may be unaware of Griffin's earlier analysis which may be more scholarly or certainly at least more literary.

Again, I'll have to read the book myself and see what I think of it.

August 30, 2006
7:23 am
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sleepless in uk
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You know, I would like to get hold of that bumper sticker :0)

August 30, 2006
10:59 am
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sleepless.....

:0)

August 30, 2006
11:03 am
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Hey youre there

hi buddy

August 30, 2006
11:52 am
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see you on the other side (that sounds rather spooky, doesn't it)

September 4, 2006
3:47 am
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Bevdee...

Hiya, long time no speak. Missed you.

Ok, so you said: "Most of the designers are gay, and they are projecting their sexual fantasy onto the fashions. So - the women's clothing is designed to fit a 14 year old boy's body."

Man, that's like saying it is every gay mans fantacy to have sex with a 14 year old boy. That they are all a big bunck of pedophiles.

That's not cool at all!

Plus, it's truly stereotypical to say that the majority of fashion designers are gay men. Look at Donatella Versace, Donna Karen, Vera Wang, etc.

Or are they Pedophiles too????

The truth is, Thin is In, and Fat is gross...at least according to our society. We fat folks are discriminated against EVERYDAY. I am stereotyped and discriminated agaist for my weight as much as I am for my sexuality.

Free

September 4, 2006
3:50 am
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Kroika...

Loved the paper. Was thiniking of doing the same topic for a Persuasive Speech in one of my classes. After all the debating here, I figured I might as well put it all to good use.

Keep up the good fight!!! I'm behind you all the way!!!

Missed you!

Erica

September 4, 2006
1:57 pm
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Hi Erica

Nice to hear from you, and glad you liked my paper. I am still waiting to get the mark back from the prof...

Just yesterday I discovered that the current newsstand edition of the Utne magazine has on their cover a feature entitled: "Porn Culture: What It's Doing To Us". Inside are 5 articles from various viewpoints, including a Q & A with Candida Royalle, the female porn producer. Over on my support thread, sleepless said there was recently a program on Channel 4 in England about the porn industry; who makes profits and who gets hurt.

My sense is that people are starting to notice there are some real cultural changes happening, many of which feel instinctively unhealthy. More people need to speak up in an intelligent way, and I hope you *will* do your Persuasive Speech on this topic. Let me know how it goes! (And feel free to use my reference list for sources if you need more than what you've got.)

Missed you too, and hope you are well. Take care (((Erica)))

September 6, 2006
2:49 am
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Candida...does she know her name is a yeast??? (Well almost)

Yeast and Porn....

Ughhh, sounds like a BAD combination if you ask me....!!!

LOL

Thanks for the lis, I will look it all over!

September 6, 2006
4:08 am
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{Candida...does she know her name is a yeast???}

Hah!

Somebody could put together an A to Z of femmes fatales through the ages and call it.... Yeast Meets West(as in Mae West)

Sorry, couldn't resist :-p

Good luck & success with your Persuasive Speech. I'd love to see it if you'd consider posting it when it's done.

all the best, k.

September 7, 2006
3:00 pm
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YEAST MEETS WEST...OMG, that was freakin hilarious!!!!

Kroika, u are one sharp tack, girl!

I'll think about posting the speech, if that is what I decide to do it on.

September 10, 2006
12:09 pm
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Hey, Erica...

from one sharp tack to another! Glad you enjoyed my little pun. I can so rarely resist them 🙂

Just this minute received my marked paper back via the school email. I did get academic credit after all - the prof judged my paper worth an A (90-94%) and wrote the following comment, which I also can't resist sharing. Cause I'm proud of the work I did and all the stuff I read in such a short period and tried to synthesize.

I wish you academic success and personal satisfaction too, if you decide to go with this topic for your Persuasive Speech. Take care, kroika

Prof's remarks: [kroika] you have written a thought provoking and well thought out paper that reads in an organized and coherent way with clear links from one paragraph and section to the next. You consistently engage in critical analysis to explain your thinking and explicate assumptions, values and beliefs of your own and what you are learning about in your research on this topic. You provide excellent support for your ideas with use of the literature and course material. My comments in the text of your paper are just suggestions for how you could strengthen your writing in a couple or so places. Well done!

September 13, 2006
1:08 pm
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So, WD..... in case you're still reading this thread

I want to tell you that it's bugging me that the only comment you made on this thread was to ask me what level nursing course I wrote this paper for, and whether I had turned the paper in already.

I answered those questions, expecting then to hear more from you. After all the heated exchanges on the earlier porn thread in June..... and your incendiary remark on that thread to the effect of "do some research, guys" ... I thought you would come back with something a little more substantive.

I wonder what the purpose was of asking me what level course the paper was for and whether I had turned it in? Did you have something to say in followup that just got lost in the further turn of events in your life or elsewhere on this board?

I feel that you left me hanging, so here I am asking for a bit more "closure" on that exchange. Thanks, kroika

September 13, 2006
7:16 pm
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Worried_Dad
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Hi Kroika,

Sorry about the leaving you hanging.

The truth is that I had my own comments on the paper and was in the process of grading it, so I wanted to know what level to judge it at.

September 13, 2006
7:27 pm
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Are you a university professor, WD? My own instructor has provided comments and a grade which will go on my academic record.

I didn't really post it here to get another opinion on the academic grade. However, I'm interested in any comments or responses you wish to share as an AAC peer.

September 13, 2006
11:47 pm
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Hi Kroika,

Ummm...how to do this without compromising anonymity? And without seeming mean?

No, although I do teach graduate and post graduate biochemisty and pathology and writing with emphasis on persuasive elements, and do correct and edit papers, etc., I am not a faculty person. Mostly I teach graduate students and doctors. Sometimes undergraduates. (It is amazing how badly some doctors write.)

I am a merely nurse turned research scientist.

So take my opinion with as much salt as you need. Salt to taste. How to really, really check my work? Submit to AJN.

Hey, I'm glad you got a good grade.

Really, I want good writers to write good papers--and you are a good writer.

But I wouldn't have even graded it--I would have made you re-write it.

I think you can still make a good paper out of it, but as it stands, it's not a good paper in my opinion. It's not that it is a bad paper--it is just not even a paper yet.

I can give you the detailed criticism if you like. There is so much to criticize that I've only written about one-third of the deconstruction, and have barely gotten started on the constructive-criticism-re-write suggestions.

There is enough material and scholarship and...good stuff, that it seems like a shame to waste it.

If I were you, I'd work it and re-work it. Anyway, I'll just give you the summary material now.

Informal Summary of Criticism:

The paper doesn't really succeed as description, as analysis, as persuasion, or as a nursing paper. It is hard to do all of those things in one paper, and I'm not sure it even makes sense to try.

The nursing implications section seems almost like an afterthought, is not well-connected to the main body of the paper; as a nurse, that really bugs me.

The paper reads to me as flopsy and flabby, and a little helter-skeltery, with lots of personal bias and emotionally slanted, politically correct popular appeal. Definitions and descriptions are weak, incomplete, or sometimes completely innaccurate, and arg. tech. is sloppy.

Summary of strengths of paper:

Your facility with English is really good--it is easy to read your prose, and easy to follow you. Very accessible writing.

It is great that you raise the issue of sexual health as a nursing and public health issue. Your referencing work of SIECUS and SIECCAN is great. Nurses have a special opportunity, power and duty in working with people's sexual health and I say more power to you for being brave enough to just put it out there.

And it is great that you have done so much reading and put together such an extensive list of references.

Summary of Summary: Good Scholarship and good writing, combined smooshed together with emotionality, bias, and fallacious reasoning to make a flopsy mess.

Summary of re-write suggestions to date:

Break into

1) a persuasive paper for a general audience about the effects of pornography--use accurate defintions, descriptions and strong arg. tech. this time.

2) A paper aimed at a nursing audience, with emphasis on sexual health, with pornography being a a much smaller part of the whole paper.

September 14, 2006
1:12 am
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thanks for your efforts, WD. Will take your suggestions into consideration when I finish current course and have time to think about doing a re-write.

I wrote the paper to kill two birds with one stone - meet school requirements and clarify my own thinking on a topic that as you know, has strong emotional resonance for me. Obviously my prof disagrees with you about whether it was worth marking. And her opinion is the one that counts on my academic record 🙂

kroika

September 14, 2006
3:51 pm
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Hi Kroika,

Alright, I've been dreading this, but I want to get it out of the way to make room for the thread addressing deeper issues underlying discussions about pornography.

The definition of sexual health does not mention the ability to enjoy sex or the capacity for orgasm either alone or with a partner. There is also no mention of sexual health involving feeling good about sexual identity, style, or mode of sexual expression. You mention being able to set limits, but you don’t mention a woman being able to ask for what she wants as part of sexual health.

In other words, it is not clear that a woman who is incapable of achieving orgasm, who feels disgusted at the thought of masturbation and ashamed of her own sexual desires and fantasies might not still be considered to be in good sexual health by the definition given in the paper.

The definition of pornography as “sexual material that mediates and helps maintain the sexual subordination of women” is not only incorrect, it is just plain bizarre. And it creates a kind of circular reasoning—look what happens when you substitute that definition for the word “pornography” in the title:

“Considering the Effects of Material that Mediates and Helps Maintain the Sexual Subordination of Women on Women’s Sexual Health.”

I think a more realistic definition for pornography would be “works in any media describing, depicting, or referring to the human body or sexuality which might evoke a pleasurable emotional response in the viewer.”

A 20,000 year old terra cotta Venus figurine, a copy of National Geographic, or the underwear section of a Sears Catalog can all function as pornography, depending on the viewer. For some people, photographs of shoes do the trick.

The section on “benefits” mentions that pornography can be “profoundly liberating,” and act as a kind of antidote to the “secrecy and shame many women have grown up feeling about their sexuality.” Alright, that’s a powerful benefit alright. You seem to discount the experiences of women who describe benefits for themselves.

Hey, if a woman says something makes her feel empowered and liberated, who gets to tell her she is wrong? Isn’t that patronizing or maybe even misogynistic?

You also did not mention that women can benefit and report benefiting by seeing depictions of activities that reflect, affirm and support their own sexual identity, fantasies or desires. And you left out the very simple, immediate, and undeniable benefit that pornography can and does help women achieve sexual arousal and orgasm, either with or without a partner.

The paper seems to claim that “the vast bulk of heterosexual pornography” depicts coercive, non-consensual sexual situations where limits are not respected, but no support is offered to support that claim.

My experience and that of men I’ve spoken to is that the vast bulk of heterosexual pornography depicts sexual situations that are non-coercive, that are consensual, that are mutually enjoyable, and where limits are respected. If most heterosexual pornography is made for men, that would make sense, because the fantasy and preference of the vast majority of men is to participate in sexual situations that are consensual, mutually enjoyable and where limits are respected.

The biggest omission is that the paper does not actually describe any ways in which pornography particularly might cause any harm to women!

The closest it comes is in the assertion: “Direct psychological and emotional harm can also result when women are exposed to material in which females are objectified and subordinated in violently sexualized ways, as well as subjected to contemptuous and degrading language.” It is an interesting proposition that a person might be harmed by viewing a movie, or harmed by a work of fiction, but no evidence or reasoning is offered in support of that proposition.

I suppose there are small populations of people who might experience “harm” by exposure to media of one kind or another—like the kids who have seizures when they watch certain video games or maybe Vietnam Veterans who are triggered into psychotic episodes by war movies. Any person who has been traumatized could be triggered by something they read or see.

I guess personally I have been upset, shocked or disgusted by seeing films in which women were subordinated in violently sexual ways, and subjected to contemptuous and degrading language—but all of those films have been mainstream movies. I’ve never seen any of that in a sexually explicit film—which makes sense because most men do not find that kind of thing to be arousing, which is supposedly the point of pornography.

But I am not sure that being upset, shocked, disgusted, or triggered counts as being “harmed.”

The paper makes the point that a woman involved in making a pornographic movie might be contract an STI or conceive an unwanted pregnancy. But STIs and unwanted pregnancies are risks inherent in having sex, and not specifically associated with pornography. The paper does not offer any evidence that rates of STI or unwanted pregnancy are higher for pornographic actresses than for the general population of women.

Given the high rate of STIs and unwanted pregnancy in the general population, and given the special degree of vigilance against those problems reported for the pornographic industry, it seems more likely that being a pornographic actress offers an extra level of protection from STIs and unwanted pregnancy.

The paper then asserts that women making pornography may be harmed by “coercion, brutality, rape and other exploitation,” but again no evidence is offered to support the assertion. There is no question that workplace violence is a real problem in the world, but no evidence or reasoning is offered to support the idea that women involved in making pornography are at higher risk than women in other workplace settings.

The paper then describes that women might be harmed when they try to do things that they or their partners have seen in a movie. Never mind that I have never seen a sex act depicted in a film that would result in harm, or even heard of a movie where a woman was harmed while being filmed (except in mainstream, non-pornographic films, of course.) The real problem is that the harm described is done by the women and their partners, not by the movie.

People are not infrequently harmed when they do foolish things inspired by movies or television. The number of young people who are injured at school while attempting to imitate a popular televised game is shocking. But I don’t think it is reasonable to argue that “Monday Night Football” has caused harm to those young men and boys. Let’s not even get into Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle related casualties. The point is, it was boys with sticks doing themselves harm—not the turtles. Leave the turtles alone.

In the case of consensual sexual behavior, the locus of control lies within the individual woman, who has a personal responsibility to exercise good judgment and common sense.

The paper then, bizarrely, describes the bloody results of a woman being raped by her husband. In the case of nonconsensual sexual behavior, the responsibility for and cause of harm is the rapist.

Probably the strongest argument for “harm” is the paper’s discussion of the effects of pornography addiction. There seems little doubt that there is such a thing as pornography addiction, and of course any addiction can impact a relationship.

But that problem affects such a vanishingly small minority of men that pornography would seem to be much, much less addictive and much less harmful than tobacco, alcohol, food, or prime-time television. And again, the women are suffering as a result of poor relationships—can that be directly blamed on pornography?

It is also possible to misuse the terms “addiction” and “harm” when speaking of pornography or masturbation. Some men, like some women, may simply discover or decide that they prefer masturbation, either with or without pornography, to actual sex with a partner, especially if their current relationship is unsatisfactory. That is a matter of personal choice and that has to be ok.

Many men have experienced having their marriages affected or ended when their wives decide or discover they were lesbians. I don’t think those men can claim that “lesbianism is harmful to men.”

The weakest “argument” in the paper tries to equate pornography with tobacco smoke. That is a bizarre analogy.

Tobacco does not merely “contribute” in a probabilistic manner to harm for people. Tobacco definitely kills people. It kills lots and lots of people. Tobacco has distinct and more or less instantaneous effects on the human body. Lung cancer is only one effect of tobacco.

To equate the definite, severe, grave effects of tobacco to the “harms” that are supposedly “probabilistically” caused by pornography seems like deliberate sensationalism.

Putting aside the strange tobacco analogy, no support is offered for even a probabilistic causality between pornography and the harms described.

Misogyny is listed as a possible harm caused by pornography, but no description of misogyny is offered—is it actually a significant problem? What is the scope of the problem? What evidence causally links pornography to that problem?

Tobacco has not been claimed to have any benefit whatsoever. The benefits claimed by users of pornography are immediate, undeniable with easily understood mechanisms, and don’t require any discussion of “probabilistic causality.”

So we have a claim of poorly described "harm" with probabilistic causation by vague mechamisms, versus clear, immediate benefits mediated by obvious mechanisms.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the paper is the imposition of what seems to be Kroika’s own prejudice about what constitutes “proper” sexual behavior. Anal sex, use of sex toys, external ejaculation, multiple penetrations, sadomasochism and bondage are all referred to with a sense of disgust or moral outrage, as if they are all male-centered behaviors that no proper woman would ever enjoy.

That attitude is oppressive, demeaning and degrading, even sexually abusive towards women (and men) who consider those activities to be an integral part of their sexual identity and happiness. A nurse who expresses that kind of judgmental tone is not going to be easily approachable by people who need to speak frankly about their sexual health.

The most fundamental problem is that the paper seems to view pornography as something that ought to be educational, or provide role models, when the producers and consumers of pornography consider it to be entertainment. The idea that pornography ought to only depict safe sex is one example.

Like many people, I watch movies specifically for the purpose of seeing unrealistic depictions of…well, everything. Back when I watched romantic movies, the relationships portrayed were all incredibly unrealistic—and that’s what I liked.

The comedies I watch all involves outrageous and unlikely situations.

When I watch a sci-fi action film about a woman wielding machine guns and flame throwers while wiping out hordes of carnivorous alien monsters, I am not at all looking for a realistic depiction of women, or flame throwers, or aliens.
I certainly wouldn’t consider any person I ever saw on television or in a movie to be any kind of model for how real people should look or behave.

I just watched the third X-Men movie. I really don’t expect women to fly around in leather jumpsuits shooting lightning out of their fingers.

It’s just a movie.

And I don’t have any expectation of being compared to all the gorgeous, hunky supermodel men that appear on television or in films. What, I should feel threatened by Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis or whatever hot guy is currently on American Idol?

And I don’t feel like I need to protect those men from the women who objectify them. That’s what acting and modeling are mainly about.

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