SPC Series Part I: Introduction to Stop Porn Culture! Conference

(When you’re done reading this, check out SPC Series Part II: Purpose & Rules of Engagement)

As some of you may already know, this past weekend I attended the Stop Porn Culture! Conference held at Wheelock College. I wonder if any outsiders (or even insiders) made a kerfuffle about semantics like they did to us Brown University students and organizers when we held KinkForAll Providence, Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown (feat. Reid Mihalko and Megan Andelloux), or Sex Week 2010 (held AT vs. sponsored BY vs. happening on X campus–oh my goodness, you’re affiliating the name of a university with sex-related activism!)…but that’s another matter entirely.

Anyway. Get excited because I’m going to be blogging at LENGTH about this conference and my experiences there as a means to foster dialogue, inform people, state my views, and provide a more elaborate summary of the conference (since I was live-tweeting like crazy *AND* taking notes during the time I was there). I might also be appearing on “the smart sexuality netcast” Kink On Tap next Sunday to discuss these matters, so stay tuned to that as well. Heck, stay tuned to Kink On Tap regardless; it’s a good resource of sexuality-related current events and overall fascinating stuff.

Before I start talking about my impressions, thoughts, and all that good stuff, let’s get some basic information out there. I like my readers (and everyone) to have all the information they need to make educated opinions, so here we go.

For information about Stop Porn Culture!, the organization behind the conference, you should check out their own website AND also check out this article by VioletBlue, where she provides some information about the organization, points out SPC’s awkward religious affiliations, and highlights some of their main anti-porn tenets. As a general rule, never just look at one side of the coin. 🙂 Be critical and analytical in your consumption of information! /PSA

I’m not going to go in-depth regarding the organization’s position just yet, since it is clearly written about already on the websites I’ve linked, but I’d like to quickly debunk some of the things in their FAQ:

  • It’s inaccurate in the EXTREME to talk about “pornography” as if it were an entirely monolithic concept and “the industry” as if it were in the hands of people with just ONE agenda (to degrade and exploit women, of course), who are all solely perpetuating just ONE type of image. We can SORT OF talk in generalizations about the “mainstream porn” that’s available, but even then we have to tread a bit carefully. It’s INACCURATE and MISLEADING to talk about pornography using a definition that tries to imply things that are NOT in the actual definition of pornography, which is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”
  • To say that pornography as a whole “offers the same progression of sexual acts, ending in the same sexual act – ejaculation onto a woman’s body or face, over and over again” is to ignore, y’know, the entire existence of gay-male porn. It’s to ignore the existence of SO many different genres of pornography that it’s personally sickening to me how reductionist many anti-porn folks can sometimes be. There are folks who are CONSTANTLY reducing the entire realm of pornography into these specific boxes, specific acts, and almost 100% ignoring anything else that’s out there as if they were wearing blinders. Furthermore, the use of this specific example of male-ejaculating-onto-woman clearly shows us that there is a need for EDUCATION (surprise, surprise). As long as we continue to assume that men ejaculating on women is inherently about power and inherently degrading to women, we’re gonna have fucked up relationships to our sexual expressions. 
  • Their Q: “Don’t feminists focus on the worst kind of pornography, the most brutal images? Isn’t most pornography just people having sex?” and A: “StopPornCulture! focuses on the “mainstream” of the pornography industry. A tour through any pornography shop or internet sites will demonstrate that. If anything, we have avoided the worst of what’s available” = NOT TRUE. They have certainly not avoided the worst of what’s available, and many big names in the anti-porn community often do resort to highlighting some of the most “hardcore” porn over and over to try and drive their anti-porn points home. Want examples? How about Donna M. Hughes citing cases of bestiality, illegal + NON-CONSENSUAL BDSM, and criminal activity as “examples” and “case-studies” of sexual fetishism and BDSM as a whole in widespread bulletins through organizations like CAT? How about the continued talk of humantoiletbowls.com during the 1st day of the SPC conference? That’s like trying to represent an entire country by going to its prisons and picking the maximum security offenders to be the poster-children. It’s inaccurate and just plain stupid. More importantly, it’s DISINGENUOUS and dishonest.
  • “While it’s true that ‘scientific proof’ establishing a direct connection between pornography use and rape doesn’t exist, research has made it clear that the use of pornography is a factor in shaping the attitude and behaviors in some men who use it and that it is a factor in some men’s sexual aggression.” – Okay, fantastic. Now let’s actually investigate what other factors shape their aggression and how we can fix that. Furthermore, let’s talk about HOW it shapes their attitudes and behaviors. Let’s talk about education and empowerment and social change. We can “fix” pornography and “fix” society, but it won’t happen by eradicating pornography.
  • “Q: Can there be feminist pornography? A: No doubt there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality. And, it’s not surprising that there would be interest in countering sexist and racist images with healthier depictions of sexuality. The rush to imagine “good” pornography can be a way to avoid contemplating the nature of the actual pornography we live with. Perhaps a more constructive first step would be to talk honestly about the sex/gender crisis we face.” – Notice how they didn’t even answer the question AND how they avoided endorsing or acknowledging the term/concept “feminist pornography” by couching a yes-like answer under verboseness (“there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality”). Also, it’s silly to imply that a) we should first contemplate the porn we have before we try to imagine “better porn” as if we couldn’t do both simultaneously and b) those who are trying to articulate a sex-positive, feminist, non-oppressive pornography haven’t taken the time to analyze the “current system.” I do agree that we need to first analyze what’s going on before we can TRULY provide good alternatives to what’s currently out there, but I just take issue with the implication that we can’t even start to imagine the possibilities.

Also, please take a look at the conference’s schedule, and if you can, check out the information about the speakers. Don’t just stop at what they’re linking (or even what I’m linking) though. Google some of those names (e.g. Donna M. Hughes). Do your research.

Saturday, June 12

8:00-9:00         Registration
9:00-9:15         Housekeeping  (Lierre Keith)
9:15-9:30         Welcome and introductory remarks  (Dr. Gail Dines)
9:30-10:15       “A Power Paradox: The Online Commercial Pornography Industry Network” (Jennifer Johnson)
10:15-11:15     Making Hate: Porn, Sex and the Destruction of Intimacy (Dr. Gail Dines)
11:15 -11:30    Break
11:30-12:30 Self Exploitation:  The Slippery Slope of Self-Made Porn  (Dr. Sharon Cooper)
12:30-1:30       Lunch: There will be sandwiches for sale on site, and there are plenty of lunch spots close to the college.
1:30-2:30         “Hip Hop Honeys, Nappy Headed Hoes, and Hustlaz: The Pornofication of Hip Hop Music and Videos” (Dr. Carolyn West)
2:30-3:30         “The Personal Hazards of Porn” (Wendy Maltz, LCSW, DST)
3:30-4:00         Break
4:00-5:00         “From Jekyll to Hyde: The Grooming of Male Pornography Consumers”  (Dr. Rebecca Whisnant)
5:00-5:45         Reconvene for discussion
(Break for dinner)
7:30-9:30         Dessert party and (optional) films
The Price of Pleasure” (with director Chyng Sun)

Sunday, June 13

9:30-11:00             Pornography and the Law: New Approaches

Diane Rosenfeld  (Harvard University Law School)
Clare McGlynn (Durham University School of Law)
Donna Hughes  (University of Rhode Island)

11:30-12:45          First Workshop
Anti-Pornography Organizing on the Internet
Samantha Berg (Genderberg) and Jill  (One Angry Girl)
Working with Men
Matthew Ezzell (James Madison University)
Cameron Murphey (Western Washington University)
Robert Jensen (University of Texas)
12:45-2:00       Lunch

2:00-3:15 Second Workshop

International Anti-Pornography Organizing
Linda Thompson  (Women’s Support Project, Glasgow)
Natalie Nenadic (University of Kentucky)
Donna Hughes (Dignity)
College Students, Hook-up Culture and Pornography:  A Discussion
Denise McGoldrick (Director of Health Education, Amherst College)
Gretchen Krull (Assistant Director of Health Education / Sexual Harassment Specialist, Amherst College)

3:15-3:45         Break
3:45-4:30         Final wrap-up and discussion

3 thoughts on “SPC Series Part I: Introduction to Stop Porn Culture! Conference

  1. makomk says:

    lovesickrobot, maymay: that's quite common, yes. It's a lot nastier an ideology than it looks. For example, the idea that sex-positive women can't be raped, that by identifying as such they lose all rights to decide whether or not to consent to sex, is frighteningly common. Perhaps not so much spoken of at conferences like this – more by new hot-headed radicals who haven't learned what not to say – but there's no real controversy over it as far as I can tell. (Would add some links, but I don't appear to be able to find them.)

  2. maymay says:

    They seem to conflate the existence of porn with the notion that women should be completely sexual all the time in every area of life whether they want to or not.They don't merely seem to conflate these things, they intend to, and they do so to everyone's peril. See also Fear of the Geeky Teen.

  3. lovesickrobot says:

    A lot of what they object to isn't even porn, it's sexualization and degradation of women in other contexts (such as advertising and rap videos). Objecting to the "pornification of society" (i.e. using sexuality to sell non-sex-related goods and ideas) is not the same thing as objecting to actual pornography. They seem to conflate the existence of porn with the notion that women should be completely sexual all the time in every area of life whether they want to or not. In doing so, they're targeting for demolition the one industry in which society's obsession with sex and sexualisation is actually expressed appropriately.

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