I’ve been arguing with feminists lately. I am a feminist, so it is an odd position to be in. When I say I am a feminist I mean that I support, in thought and action, equality in every way, shape and form for women. Professionally, personally, with my friends, family, strangers, I completely acknowledge the equality of women and the patriarchy of our society that has stacked the deck against them for the last several millennia.
There is one way in which I am not a feminist — I am a man. By that specifically I mean that part of the problem that feminists have with men is based on the way we are wired, deep in some genetic code. We can all argue about the relative effects of nurture vs. nature but the nature of men has been evident across all cultures. In the context of sexual relations, men are, at least to some extent, animals. (Women are too but someone else can write that blog post.) The reason that the porn and prostitution industries exist is because of this particular nature of men. Both of these industries relate to men’s desire (and, believe me, I don’t mean all men nor all men all of the time) to have sex without attachment, negotiation or compromise. I would say virtually all men, even if they don’t use porn or prostitution, understand the desire to have sex on demand, without attachment, negotiation or compromise.
This is kind of an ugly reality, I admit. It is one of the baser drives in men. It absolutely treats women as sex objects. The only real defense I make for this is that men truly wish for consensual, willing female partners in this. Men like being objectified, too. The drive is not to degrade or demean women, it is to live out fantasies with them.
Now again, I admit, that the way the porn and prostitution industries operate, they are hellish and prey upon vulnerable and abused people. They are industries of despair and addiction, in many cases. It is not my aim to defend these industries whatsoever. Yet I believe they are indicative of a reality of the nature of men, one that men can try to control but they cannot change. I think feminists look at these qualities in men and assume they are the result of a brainwashing by society and/or an intense selfishness. In a way, they think these impulses in men to focus on women as sexual objects should be eliminated. They see it as a direct assault on the feminist movement.
I think they are correct to a large extent. Where I draw the line, and I hope they agree, is that consenting adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want. I can’t explain why some women freely engage in porn or prostitution. Men in similar desperate situations may not have those options and probably turn to equally degrading professions, such as crime. Is that so much better? Can there be any expectation that men will change and lose their desire to treat women as sexual objects? I think not, anymore that we can expect people will stop smoking, drinking or eating at McDonalds. Things that prey to the most base impulses of people are hard to change.
What is important in my opinion is that the treating of women as sexual objects, if it happens at all, is happening to women who want it to happen, whether personally or professionally, or better yet, in the privacy of our own homes where consenting adults have all sort of consensual fun in ways that is not our business. It should not happen in the work place, in school or in the other many areas where women have historically been treated as second class citizens. Women have no duty whatsoever to play to men’s baser desires. But they always have and they always will. This is not a double-standard, as men are pretty damn willing to play to any base desire of women whatsoever.
Because the bottom line on all of this is that porn and prostitution are simply the extremes of what happens in magazines, movies and TV all day every day — the general worship of female beauty and portrayal of women as sex objects. I’d guess that a majority of the time, this portrayal is by women for women. Porn and prostitution are the tail of the bell curve in the systematic exploitation of women. The center is big media that caters largely to women.