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(DV) Patton: My Ex-Girlfriend Responds to Robert Jensen







My Ex-Girlfriend Responds To Robert Jensen 
by Eric Patton
November 17, 2006

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This is a reply to Robert Jensen’s Dissident Voice article of November 14, “Pornographic Query: Is a DP Inherently Sexist?”  I would like to quickly review what has been said by Jensen and myself up to this point before I proceed.

In his DV article of October 31, “The Consequences of the Death of Empathy,” Jensen wrote two things for which I desired clarification. Jensen first wrote the following regarding a conversation between himself and a young man who liked to watch pornography:

I asked him to tell me more about what he watched. As he talked, it became clear he was describing exactly the kind of material I had discussed, and I could see the realization emerge in him: My assessment of the rough and degrading nature of that pornography was accurate, and he had simply never recognized it. When he mentioned a type of sex he liked to watch in pornography called a DP -- double penetration, in which a woman is penetrated vaginally and anally at the same time -- it really started to dawn on him: In these scenes, the sex was defined by men’s sense of control over, and domination of, women.

This appeared to me to intimate that Jensen believes DP is an inherently sexist act. That is, by writing the above, Jensen seemed to me to be suggesting that any instance of a woman having sex with two men wherein she was being penetrated both vaginally and anally was necessarily an inherently sexist, regardless of any of the circumstances surrounding the sex act in question. 

In the same article, Jensen also wrote that, “I can see that with the young man struggling with his pornography use, I had been able to connect. He was taking his first steps out of his own isolation and illusions about what kind of ‘party’ goes on in pornography, and as my conversation with him ended I told him that I understood how difficult it can be. I gave him my card and encouraged him to contact me if I could help.”  This seemed to me to suggest that Jensen feels that pornography is intrinsically sexist and wrong, and really not all that different from a drug to which one might be addicted.

Thus, I had two questions for Jensen, which I posed to him in e-mail. The first question was the simplest: (1) Is double penetration an inherently sexist act? The second question was perhaps a bit more complicated, as I personally think the only rational way to approach the question is to have an eye on what society might look like in 100 or 200 years (assuming the human race has not caused its extinction by then -- and it’s hardly a foregone conclusion at this time that we won’t).  For purposes of clarity, I like to state this question in two different forms, call them (2a) and (2b). To wit: (2a) Is the videotaping of sex acts for public consumption an inherently sexist act? (2b) In a future society, after capitalism has been overthrown and given way to participatory economics, and after forms of oppression such as sexism, racism, and heterosexism have either been overthrown or largely eliminated -- in such a good and decent society, will pornography still exist?

My own views on both these questions should already be clear simply from context. I first asked Jensen to clarify his views in e-mail. Not being enamored with his answers, however, prompted me to write an essay in response, published by Dissident Voice on November 10, entitled “Thoughts on Sex and Pornography.”

On November 14, Jensen responded with a new piece, the title of which I have already mentioned above. In this new essay, Jensen responded to my first question, but he ignored my second question entirely.

Before I sat down to write my response, I decided to solicit the opinion of a female friend of mine, with whom I was at one time extremely close. I’ll call her Colleen, though that is not her real name (she asked that I not mention her name, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment). Here is how she opened her e-mail to me, after reading Jensen’s latest article for herself:

The first thing I notice is that there seems to be a muddying of concepts  that needs to be clarified. Are we speaking entirely about the sexual act within the boundaries of pornography, or within the confines of interpersonal sexual activity? The distinction is very important, as the man who insists that this is an example of how porn is demeaning to women is trying to be a helpful Leftie guy who confuses a dislike with market capitalism with what may otherwise be an actual problem. The man who insists that the act itself is disgraceful, sexist, and/or demeaning is being patronizing [if he] thinks he knows better than a female about what she should do with her body. After all, patriarchy does not exclude itself from the Left -- plenty of guys on the Left are more than happy to say what is and isn't demeaning to women without actually discussing it with women who enjoy it.

In his piece, Jensen makes the following statement, which he labels Observation #1: “The only people who have ever asked me that question are men. I’m not suggesting that no woman has ever considered the question. But it is the case that in my 18 years of working on this issue, it has been a question raised exclusively by men.”

Colleen’s response to this first observation of Jensen’s was:

Why would a woman ask a man if double penetration is demeaning to her? I have difficulty understanding why this is somehow news to the reader -- I can see concerned men asking other Leftist men who care about respecting and loving women, “I am fantasizing about _____. Am I wrong for doing this? Am I being sexist?” I can NOT see a woman asking a male, “I am fantasizing about _____.  Am I being sexist... umm.. against myself?” It's not going to happen. To make this observation is to hint that women need male input on what is and is not demeaning to them.

Jensen’s Observation #2 was, “In my 48 years, I have never met a woman outside the pornography industry who has acknowledged participating in a DP or having a desire to do so. It’s possible that I have met an unrepresentative group of women, or that some of those women have participated or harbor such desires but remain silent about it. But neither of those possibilities square with my experience, which includes traveling widely for many years to talk in a variety of settings about these issues.”

Colleen responded with:

I may be mistaken, but like tends to surround like. I've known women who are interested in and have enjoyed DP. I myself am interested in it, and have played with the concept with toys when actual men weren't around. Additionally, whether or not a woman acknowledges such a desire does not lead to truth when it comes to whether or not she ACTUALLY desires it -- he truly has met an unrepresentative group of women if he has solely been talking to women who practice full disclosure when it comes to their sex practices and fantasies. There are many women of any sexual orientation who find the practice of having their anus and vagina simultaneously stimulated a very pleasurable thing.

Jensen’s Observation #3: “When I ask women whether they think a DP is degrading and sexist, all have answered yes or refused to answer, suggesting the question is meant to be a diversion from a focus on men’s behavior. I do not claim this is a scientific sample from which generalizations can be made. Again, it could be that I have spoken to an idiosyncratic group of women, but I think there’s a pattern here.”

Colleen’s response: “Again, what types of women is he asking? Are the majority of these women also the ones who think the old school feminists have a point when they say that all heterosexual intercourse is rape?  Who you ask this question is going to determine what kind of answers you get.”

Jensen’s Assumption #3:  “Outside of pornography, very few heterosexuals are participating in DPs. There is no systematic data on this, because surveys of sexual behavior don’t ask specifically about DPs. But the most reasonable assumption is that DPs, while common in pornography, are relatively rare outside of the industry and are not part of the routine sexual practices of the vast majority of people.”

Colleen’s response: “His Assumption #3 is very true. Would you like to know why? For a heterosexual non-porn male to participate in a DP, they have to be willing to get naked with another man, have an erection, and allow their penises and testicles to be touching, or at least within inches of each other. We may be a continually liberating culture, but we are hardly near the point where heterosexual males are regularly willing to touch other aroused heterosexual males while naked.”

Jensen’s Assumption #4:  “Heterosexual men who watch pornographic movies featuring DPs -- whether or not they have a desire to participate in DPs in their lives -- know that the vast majority of women would not find sexual pleasure or emotional fulfillment in a DP and do not desire to participate. Male pornography consumers have told me they think that the women being DPed in pornography like it, and some say that women outside pornography might like it if they tried it. But I’m relatively confident that most men don’t think most women really want to be DPed.”

Colleen’s response: “His assumption #4 is incredibly poor, and I mean INCREDIBLY poor. It's a leap of logic with no basis. As a matter of fact, he admits that he is told A by the guys, but is assuming B because he just doesn't believe them.”

Jensen’s Conclusion #1:

The key to the sexual attraction of DPs for men is the knowledge that women don’t want it. The men who watch DPs in pornography know that the vast majority of women outside pornography do not seek out that sex act, and this knowledge is at the center of the sexual charge. The attraction of a DP in pornography for heterosexual men is not just that it’s a social taboo -- a sexual practice considered by many to be inappropriate or immoral -- but that men know women don’t want it.

So, is a DP inherently degrading and sexist? In the minds of the men who want to watch them, I think the answer is yes. That is, men understand and experience it as a degrading and sexist practice. That’s why it’s sexually exciting, precisely because of men’s assumption that women don’t want it -- because it’s degrading, something that has to be forced on women who don’t want it.

Colleen’s response: “His Conclusion #1 may very well be true -- the attraction may very well be non-consent, and female lack of pleasure. There are ways to test this, as it would be the difference between film that shows a woman enjoying herself heartily and orgasming regularly, and a film of a woman moaning and screaming in pain.”

Colleen goes on to say:

I know he says it's not his part to say whether or not this is ACTUALLY demeaning to women, which is a nice little tale after pages of saying that it IS demeaning to women. His mention of wanting to threaten to have two “of the biggest guys in the room” double-anal rape the boy to see if he likes it is ALSO very telling, for a few reasons: 1. The boy is apparently not gay, so this act would be rape, and therefore not at ALL comparable to consensual  ADP [anal double penetration [1]]; 2. In private, a female participant in a DP would not be taking their clothes off in front of a group -- in pornography, yes, but this is no different than any OTHER type of porn, including lesbian-produced girl on girl porn. It's a cheap shot, totally unnecessary, and betrays his feelings on the matter. If he feels that ALL porn is degrading, he should just say so instead of picking one of the most extreme subjects as a showcase.

I really do find this bullshit from the Left about how porn is demeaning to women tiring and frustrating, especially when it comes from a 48-year-old male. Somewhere in the back of their minds they have an acceptable list of things that can be done to women, and a list of things that cannot be done to women, and IT'S NO FUCKING DIFFERENT than the sexual repression that comes from the Right.  It's the “Oh, these poor women have no choice but to fuck for money, and they're victims of our society and of a sex and humiliation-hungry patriarchy.” . . . I made $200/hour fucking men for money. I chose who and where, and I was absolutely worshipped by most of these men, who were looking for release, comfort, acceptance and kink. For a woman like myself to make a living by offering her body as an altar to men, or for a woman like those in pornography to make a living by acting while fucking is the kind of powerful feeling that you cannot get by conforming to the standards of the Left OR the Right, who both think they have a right to dictate what a woman's sexuality should be.

This is why I have little patience for these kinds of authors, and this kind of essay. It's disingenuous and abhorrent. Hopefully this helps you a little, but really, I cannot and will not participate in discussions with people like this. By the way, it doesn't surprise me that he didn't give you a straight answer regarding porn in a utopia. Of course there will be porn in a utopia, but he will then be forced to consider -- what does that porn look like? Will it involve -- GASP! -- women enjoying DP? Goodness, heavens, gracious! How could that be?

From the above, two things are obvious: The first is why Colleen did not wish for me to use her real name, as you can see that she used to be involved in illegal activities. Perhaps Jensen could help work to ensure that such sex work is not illegal, so that women such as Colleen who might choose to do such work are not penalized for doing so. The second thing that is obvious is that, really, I am no more than a stenographer. The real author of this rebuttal to Jensen’s sexual views is my ex-girlfriend.

It might be interesting to note an e-mail Colleen sent to me a day later, regarding an event seemingly totally unrelated to this discussion of sex and pornography:

On the heels of this conversation, I was listening to NPR today and they were interviewing a school principal who has banned dances because kids were getting, frankly, too sexual during them -- in dress and mannerisms. He told a story about pulling a couple off of the dance floor (“she was almost on all fours, and he was thrusting his bottom”). How did he shame them?

He asked her if her father would approve. Fine. He asked HIM if he'd want to see his sister doing that.

I'm annoyed.

Is this truly unrelated though?

Finally, let me note the last thing I wrote in my November 10 response to Jensen:

[J]ust because porn is being made for public viewing does not, in my view, necessarily mean such porn is sexist. The problem is not that porn is sexist. The problem is that the underlying society is sexist, and often porn is a reflection of that. The solution is not to get rid of erotica, or to go trying to guilt-trip the people who consume it. The solution is to eliminate sexism in society, and to create conditions of empowerment (as in parecon) so that the producers and consumers of porn have a self-managing say over its creation and form. If someone does not believe this is possible, it is the responsibility of that person to say why they hold such a fatalist view.

Compare this now to a comment on her own website from Nina Hartley, who is a gigantic name in the world of adult films:

[T]hanks, all, for keeping up with Jensen's hand wringing.  I'm not saying that he doesn't see things that are real in some porn: i.e., hostile porn. I don't agree, of course, that all porn is degrading to all women who make [it] or dehumanizing [to] all men who watch it. Society dictates the kind of sexual entertainment it gets, and ours is a mirror to our own conflict about sex and desire. [2]

Eric Patton lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached via e-mail at ebpatton@yahoo.com.

Other Articles by Eric Patton

* Thoughts on Sex and Pornography


[1] Just to be clear, anal double penetration (ADP) and double penetration (DP) are quite different acts. The former describes a sex act in which two penises are inside one person’s anus. The latter describes a sex act in which a woman is penetrated vaginally and anally at the same time, generally by a single penis in each opening.

[2] Nina Hartley (www.nina.com)  in the Forum “Porn and Porn Performers,” in the Thread “(*Yawn) Another Robert Jensen Sighting” (thread begun November 15). Hartley’s post is time-stamped November 16, 6:55 p.m.