Losing beauty in our porn culture.

This is the second installment of Harriet Long‘s reflections. It’s worth remembering that sexuality is something so deeply personal, so defined for each of us in terms of our unique experiences, so much an ongoing conversation we have only with ourselves and those we allow close to us; that statements about what it should or should not be like will always be tenuous and contested. The language one person uses to express this may jar with some and resonate with others.We need to challenge our culture’s sexual practices and boundaries where they oppress or exploit but beyond that, we are all simply contributing ideas. This is what Harriet has done in these two posts and she invites you to do the same. If your ideas are different to her’s they are equally as welcome at soisaystoher.

 

On dance, porn and beauty…Part 2

And so to discuss pornography, something in my view that has become an industry as well as a culture; exploitative, manipulative and one sided. Pornography whether in magazines, films or on the internet is mainly sold to men, whether heterosexual or homosexual. It breaks down the expression of human sexuality into body parts, coarse language, sexual positions, sexual acts and sexual boundaries. As well as an industry and culture that objectifies, exploits and abuses women, it objectifies, exploits and abuses sex. It is also associated with infidelity, shame, deceit, secrecy and obscenity. I would like to suggest that there is huge potential for what I prefer to call erotica; paintings, films, photography and writing all hold hidden and not so hidden glimpses into a world that draws out the beauty of bodies, the sexual act, the relationships between the sexes, arousal, orgasm and intimacy. I think sex and sexuality should be celebrated in culture and society, but it should be classy, respectful, beautiful, honest, open and equal.


Finally, a few thoughts on beauty. I always come away from a changing room experience in the gym or the leisure centre, thinking about the huge distortion in our culture between real beauty and created and imagined beauty. My sister who works in fashion, always feels sad for celebrities and models who only ever view themselves on a computer screen in photoshop and then post airbrushing in magazines etc – they never see what they really look like. The other day I was disgusted to see in a magazine that three celebrities had been photographed from behind and then commented on as their body shape had changed over a year. Women, far more than men, are judged, measured and criticised in terms of beauty. Much of their beauty is directly correlated to their sexuality and their sexual availability and horribly, their sexual rating. Despite my views on equality and mutuality, and my underlying belief that women’s interest in beauty is a gendered condition, I was recently challenged to wonder if our differences as men and women, and our abilities to deal with, approach and respond to beauty in different ways has something to do with attraction and arousal in the first place. Jack Holland in his book “A Brief History of Misogyny” proposes that somewhere in the evolutionary process the female species suppressed the oestrus cycle, meaning that unlike in other species it is never possible to know when a female might be interested in, aroused by or attracted to the male, the consequences being the male has to work a lot harder for the female’s interest and attention. Beauty, is about showing outside what might be going on inside. Therefore, misogyny that forbids beauty is about fear and a lack of control, and industry that distorts beauty and criticises diversity has missed the point. I would suggest that the ugliness of human nature led to men bulldozing over this wonderful subtle mystery in our species and used rape, prostitution, marriage and pornography to control the relationships between men and women. Despite advances made for women’s freedom and autonomy, in contemporary Western society we are caught up in even more despairing dereliction left by the patriarchal bulldozers. On one hand we find ourselves living in a culture where many women have no concept of their mystery and subtlety as a sexual being. The potential for gentle, suggestive, provocative engagement with other sexual beings whether male or female is ignored in favour of the patriarchal legacy of power, control, monetary value and industry. On the other hand, we observe the patriarchal bulldozers leaving room for developments of abuse, exploitation, objectification, simplification, distortion, violence, ignorance, industry, sexual consumerism and consumption. We may well despair for future generations of men and women who, whilst relishing the freedom for sexual expression, after throwing off moral and religious shackles, find they have no concept of the sensitivity, the beauty, the subtlety of attraction, arousal, intimacy and relationship between men and women. I find as a feminist I am not only speaking up for women, but for sexuality, for beauty and for humanity as we wrestle with body parts, sex acts, coarse language and description and sexual boundaries being scattered across our culture with no honour, respect or mutuality for men or women or the wonderful relationships we have the potential to have with each other.

Howard looked at Kiki. In her face, his life. Kiki looked up suddenly at Howard – not, he thought, unkindly. Howard said nothing. Another silent minute passed. The audience began to mutter perplexedly. Howard made the picture larger on the wall, as Smith had explained to him how to do. The woman’s fleshiness filled the wall. He looked out into the audience once more and saw Kiki only. He smiled at her. She smiled. She looked away, but she smiled. Howard looked back at the woman on the wall, Rembrandt’s love Hendrickje. Though her hands were imprecise blurs, paint heaped on paint and roiled with the brush, the rest of her skin had been expertly rendered in all its variety – chalky whites and lively pinks, the underlying blue of her veins and the ever present human hint of yellow, intimation of what is to come.”

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

I am a gendered woman, conditioned by Western predominantly White/English society and by the fortune I had to grow up safely and free from abuse and exploitation and to be in a mutual, respectful and sexy relationship. I am confident that I know nothing, I have ideals, hopes, prejudice and bias. This is my disclaimer, please discuss.

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1 Response to “Losing beauty in our porn culture.”


  1. 1 Trah December 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you, I really liked it. Sure you check to see you again.


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