A Letter

We received this letter yesterday from Linn V and with her full permission reproduce it here for our feminist friends and supporters. It is a powerful, thought provoking piece which appears as we got it, raw and full of emotion. We haven’t edited or changed anything. Comments will be moderated and only those that are respectful to the writer will remain.

“Dear Jen and Linda,

I am writing this to you because I don’t really know where else to send it. Due to following Cork Feminista on Twitter I watched today the video on the Feminist Summer School. I then looked up the anti men porn project that was mentioned in the video, and have spent most of the evening reading and watching related material.

I feel it is time for me to come out, as anti porn. I need to admit to myself that I do not agree with it and I do not think it is harmless adult fun, where people are willing and well paid.

I am so angry at a world which has co-opted my sexuality, my desires and my body, and told me to shut the fuck up about it all. As a young woman I am sad that it is likely that the men I have relationships with will have had their first sexual experiences through printed or online pornographic material, and that I feel I have little choice but to accept their use of porn as a fact of life. Porn is everywhere. I am lucky that I grew up with very little exposure to any explicit pornographic material (I am leaving the endless stream of objectified women in advertising, with their pornified orgasm faces and their idealised bodies out of it for now). So how is it, that I have somehow absorbed the messages from society about what it is I find sexy and what it is that I exist for? How is it, that during intimate moments I think or say things which feel like implanted thoughts and words, which are removed from any authentic personal erotic experience? I am angry that the world condones men’s use of porn as inevitable. I am angry that we are lied to and told that this industry is empowering and in fact feminist. I am angry that this view of women bleeds into how we are treated and judged daily, how the men in our lives see us. I am angry that men say they can compartmentalise it, ‘it’s just fantasy’, its not real. I am disgusted and frightened when I am intimate with men and I hear them say things that I’m pretty sure are empty repetitions of things they have come to think they find sexy, because they should, because these bitches like to get choked, because I want you to fuck me harder.

How are my fantasies not my own? How is it that they conform to the most mundane, bland, predictable scenes from what I imagine are bad pornos. How can this be, when I have never actively watched or sought out this material. Yet we all know what the fantasies are, the school girl, the gang bang, anal, being ejaculated on, and on and on to depths of plain abuse that I don’t even want to begin to fathom.

I used to think that the best approach to my intimate life was ‘no politics in the bedroom’. I figured you like what you like and that’s ok. Human sexuality is a complicated and wonderful thing. What saddens me now is that I cannot shake the feeling that a lot of what I enjoy has been insidiously implanted in my brain by a society that tells me it is hot to be ‘a dirty slut’ or a ‘daddy’s girl’, that it is empowering to have empty sex and that I do not deserve to ask for love and respect, because I am a pretty object here for consumption. The validation and approval that comes from being a sex object is empty, but its hard to shake the conditioning that tells me that as a woman that is all I am good for. I want to be valued for so much more than my body, and yet I sometimes ‘jokingly’ think that if worst came to worst, I could always turn to sex work. I am a very privileged and educated young woman, and yet I often cant but think that in terms of economic value my body is the best thing I have to offer. This is awful, and if I could think these things in my position, it is no surprise that so many women feel the need to turn to sex work. I am angry that I live in a society that masquerades all this as totally ok. That sells the notion that women are at their most valuable as objects, and better still they enjoy it.

I hope that you do not object to me sending this to you. This desire to come out as anti porn is one that throws up massive internal struggle. It seems crazy, but I am only now admitting to myself that I am ANTI PORN. Full stop. It seems so simple, and yet it is a hugely emotional and difficult issue. I fear being called anti-sex, or prudish, or a crazed fun ruining feminist. A humourless, unlovable sour woman. Because if you are not with the female chauvinist pigs, you sure as hell are a crap modern woman. I feel like this realisation is almost a dirty little secret, that I must keep my fun ruining, prudish ways to myself. Which is why I am writing to you first, to make my declaration here and now in a safe space where I hope I will not be looked at with ridicule and awe.

I think porn is wrong. I think it is damaging for society, for relationships, for all human beings and most especially women. I think it is dangerous, exploitative, and a vast web of utter fabrication. I want women to stand up and know they deserve better. Porn is not funny, and its not ok. I want men (and women) to learn that their real erotic power lies beyond being blindly fed manufactured images, that their imagination is sexy.

I have made a decision not to lie to myself any more, not to brush away my feelings of discomfort around porn without fully examining them.

I really appreciate and admire what you guys are doing with Cork Feminista. I unfortunately am not based in Cork, but it means so much to have the email come in on a Friday and remind me that there are people out there who are passionate, motivated, and doing something. It reminds me I am not alone.

I hope that me sending you this email is ok.

Best wishes and love,

In sisterhood!!

Linn”

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11 Responses to A Letter

  1. Diane says:

    You are not alone. I broke up with my Fiancé last year because I simply refused to turn a blind eye to him watching/reading porn. Of course he never admitted to doing it, and lied throughout our entire relationship about it, saying how it objectify s women, how it is wrong.
    I explained to him that I would break up with him if i ever found him to be lying about watching porn, i explained that it would make me feel cheated and degraded.
    I later found out he had been lying to me the whole time and I asked him was it worth our relationship.
    I am tired how it is “normal” for men to watch porn. I would rather be alone forever than be with someone who watches porn.

  2. Here is a link to the Feminist Summer School video referenced in the letter: http://vimeo.com/22890199

  3. Colette says:

    Wow, this is a wonderfully brave piece of writing. I myself feel so conflicted about porn, and this has captured many things which I feel but could not begin to express. More of this.

  4. Frances says:

    An amazing, articulate, passionate letter. You are NOT alone. I am older than you and even though the porn & related ‘industries’ have exploded so much within the last decade, I recognise myself and other women in your words. Thanks for writing this amd agreeing to have it published. I am passing it on to my teenaged daughter. I hope others who see it will do similar.

  5. Kate Mc Carthy says:

    Hi Linn, as a founding member of the Freedom from Pornography Campaign, I can identify with many of your feelings. For years I struggled with the problems I had having to view sexualised images on women everywhere while at the same time I resisted beingseen as prudish, anti sex or censorial. After much soul searching and study I believe that challenging pornography is fundamenal to my feminism. Until it is challenged in the context of human rights, profit and exploitation it will continue to be a major barrier to women achieving authentic human rights. The campaign has done good work in trying to raise awareness, think it is now timely to take action. 4th December is ‘Freedom from Pornography Day’ as part of the 16 Days. Would love to hear from people willing to take part in some constructive action. Well done on your letter
    Kate

  6. Pingback: A Letter (via Cork Feminista) « The Pretty Serpent

  7. thelifetherapist says:

    Well done for speaking out. I have never felt comfortable about it as someone who considers herself a feminist, but it is as you say something so accepted in our society, and in the current social climate you absolutely are made to feel that as a modern “liberated” woman you should enjoy it yourself! I don’t like it. I am against it. More than angry it just makes me sad – and we have a long way to go to eradicate it. I feel that men need to understand that it is damaging, and take a stance against it. I guess spreading awareness of this perspective is the first step. I will start questioning people’s attitudes towards it (both female and male) and see what comes out..
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Steph

  8. Sarah says:

    I hate porn…I think its disgusting…I never felt ashamed or embarrassed to say so openly and I’ve never been called a prude. The people I have relationships with and am friends with all respect women.

    It makes me angry to see objectified women on billboards and advertising in general and most recently the highly offensive window display in the window of Jack & Jones on Patrick Street.

    Article about a campaign to remove said window display from a shop in Derby….
    http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/wvon/2011/04/westfield-derby-remove-jack-jones-advertising-cause-for-celebration/

  9. Eoin says:

    I very much enjoyed reading this letter. Just as Linn doesn’t want to be considered an anti-sex, fun-ruining feminist for being against porn, I likewise don’t want to be considered a chauvinist pig for defending it. I simply don’t believe that porn is the enemy.

    These feelings she describes of having to conform to male expectations, of being objectified, of being valued only in terms of the gratification given to a man—these feelings have been present in female experience throughout the ages. In contrast, the modern proliferation and ubiquity of porn is just that: modern. I’m not sure there’s any point in the history of western society when women have been viewed more as people and less as second-class beings. There’s lots of work still to be done for a truly equal society, but it doesn’t seem at all clear to me that the availability of porn is a significant factor in the continued oppression of women. It is, however, a convenient scapegoat for these problems, being an almost exclusively male enterprise and excluding as it does traditionally female ideas about sexual interaction. Of course *some* men will be unable to separate fantasy from reality—some men will persist in believing professional wrestling is real. While I accept Linn’s feelings of anger and frustration, porn has not *compelled* her to behave a certain way in bed (I would find that hard to accept, even if she had ever watched porn). She has the freedom to reject (and has now rejected) what she has described as “empty sex”.

    I think there are legitimate concerns about the brutalisation of women in the industry, and particularly in certain violent kinds of porn. But I don’t believe porn itself is the enemy. Even if you don’t like it, banning or censoring it isn’t a solution; as someone once put it much better than me, ‘such efforts divert attention from the substantive causes of social ills and offer a cosmetic, dangerous “quick fix.”‘ (http://www.ffeusa.org/html/mission/index.php)

    But as I said, I very much enjoyed reading your perspective on things, if for nothing else than for making me reevaluate my own attitudes!

  10. Linn says:

    Its been really amazing to read all the responses. This was not something I wrote originally with a view to public consumption per se, but I am so touched by the positive responses and a huge thanks to Cork Feminista for facilitating my ‘coming out!’.

    Diane, you are so strong to stand by what you believe in and make it clear to men that you will not tolerate porn watching. I find this so so strong and inspiring, when I have struggled to even admit to myself that I am against it.

    Kate, I would be very interested in participating in the Freedom from Pornography campaign, where are you based?

    I am so grateful for all the positive support and the knowledge that I am not alone. Frances I am honoured that you would show this to your teen daughter. Colette, Sarah and thelifetherapist, thank you for your comments and views.

    Eoin, very interesting to read your perspectives and to hear a man’s voice in this. I appreciate what you are saying that porn has not compelled me to behave certain ways sexually. However, this is the point I am trying to make, I almost feel it is so insidious and ubiquitous that it influences us whether we like it or not. That is just my personal opinion and experience of course. I would urge you to watch this http://stoppornculture.org/watch/ as it explains in far more concrete and eloquent ways some of the issues I have. I also don’t think that banning or censoring are useful ways of tackling the issue. Open dialogue is key.

    I would also raise the point that porn may be a ‘fantasy’, but to make those images, a real woman is having sex, with real men. For those involved in the production of porn, it is very real, and they have to deal with the consequences of enacting ‘fantasies’, which, from what I can tell, are often very disrespectful, and involve using women as fuck objects.

  11. Dianne says:

    I agree with Eoin about the ‘quick fix’. We have a tendency to put band aids on various issues and challenge them through polarisation. Putting an ‘anti’ before the idea we so detest, in doing so we can become an aspect of the problem rather than a signpost to the solution.

    We can talk about how culture is insidious. It’s true. Though it is a misperception to say culture itself is insidious. It is we that are hardwired to adopt the behaviours and beliefs of those around us, of what we see in the TV and Internet.
    It is a subtle distinction, yet when we see this misperception, we see that despising ourselves or others for being the cultural sponges that we are is fruitless and damaging. We can even distinguish ourselves from ‘the others’ because we are concious of culture and care enough to oppose it. Yet look at the subcultures borne in opposition of. They often tend to dress and speak the same. Was that concious?

    Going back to the idea of band aids, let us look at the root of the problem. What spurs producers to create pornography? It would be a lie to say it was for their pleasure, though I’m sure many in the industry might frequently say so. I don’t doubt some enjoy producing porn, but if there were no other incentives, I’d imagine most would rather participate in a more authentic version of the activity than sell copies of others pretending to be enjoying it.

    We can dislike culture, we can oppose it. We can also ask, who and what is responsible for shaping our culture? What spurs our culture to sexualise, airbrush and photoshop reality? I think it begins with an ‘M’ and ends with ‘oney’. The very system of capitalism which can be laid to blame.

    Expert profiteer manipulators, capitalising on our innate nature to adopt culture from our surroundings. Using techniques once known as propaganda and, in a deliberate act to hide its true intent, is today known as PR. Preying on our hard wiring, shaping us in to objects. Consumers. Sex, fashion, beauty. Women are not alone in this regard. Man should be tough, alpha, unfeeling, penis on legs. The males in your life didn’t get to choose their role any more than that females did.

    Look at all the cultures borne in rejection of.
    Anti-globalisation, anti-war, anti, anti. They are failing to make true change. Follow each movement to its cause and you will see it’s the same problem at the root. But we get sidetracked, and instead of making change we fall in to our new-found safety: our subculture. Where everyone agrees with us and we all dress the same.

    I say tackle the problem, but always at its root. And be pro-something. We need a new system, not more opposition to the old.

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