Armchair analysis vs SWERF vs Ethical Porn

(Please note, while serious in some respects the attitude towards the writing is light-hearted. Armchair analysis is NOT a valid academic discipline! I just wanted to let off some steam and maybe make a point as well)

Today’s Guardian features a piece on ethical, or “fair trade”, porn, featuring interviews with the ever-wonderful and intelligent Pandora Blake and Nimue Allen, among others, who work in the medium. This makes it a Good Thing.

In the interests, one assumes, of “balance”, there are references to anti-sexwork feminists (SWERFs) Gail Dines and Julie Bindel. The quote from Bindel is curious and worthy of some armchair psychology analysis.

When confronted with the sex-positive belief that (as expressed in the Guardian article), “you can have a violent fantasy, of any kind, and that can be a legitimate part of your sexual identity, one that you have a right to explore… all fantasy is legitimate, and almost all of it can be legitimately met by porn.”

Bindel retorts:

Put it this way, if I had a fantasy about having a black woman on her hands and knees scrubbing my kitchen floor and saying, ‘Yes madam, no madam’, yes, I would quash it.

I would be overreaching the scope of effective armchair analysis if I were to speculate that perhaps Bindel mentions this fantasy because it is one she has experienced before. But I’ve put the suggestion out there anyway because it’s a tempting thought and I am weak.

The analysis I want to bring, is not about Bindel per se, but rather, looking at the type of thinking the remark betrays. “What would have to be true for that remark to make sense?”

There is a certain lack of clarity to the remark as quoted. Bindel has not made clear whether she is talking about a specifically sexual fantasy, one that turns her on and makes her feel sexually aroused and perhaps aids her masturbation; or a fantasy that is a non-sexual daydream of some idealised life.

I suspect, based on what I have seen of Bindel (and Dines, and other SWERF/anti-porn feminists) attacking sex work(ers), that Bindel doesn’t understand or accept any distinction between the two. The language they tend to use implies that they believe that sexual fantasy is a daydreaming wishlist of fuckfest. But I haven’t got any evidence of that from this particular piece and I’m currently too lazy to go looking for corroborating evidence from elsewhere (there’s only so much SWERFery hate I can be arsed to trawl through) so I’m not going to take that as proven. I’ll just note that sexual fantasy is well-documented as NOT being (in general) a wishlist of stuff that should actually happen.

Since the article is discussing pornography and sexual fantasy, let’s assume that Bindel is talking about a specifically sexual fantasy of racial power and servitude. Race play is a thorny subject within BDSM circles, exacerbated because in the Scene there tend to be far fewer POC than would be proportionate. We’re not talking here about play, though: we’re talking about fantasy.

Since we’re in the scope of armchair psychology, I’m going to link to Doctor Nerdlove’s recent article on Secret Sexual Desires in which he discusses the relevance of Jung’s conception of the Shadow Self:

The shadow self is the unconscious parts of one’s personality that the conscious side does not acknowledge as part of one’s identity. It’s easy to see our shadow self as “dark” or negative; after all, it’s the parts of us that we’ve deemed unacceptable. However, in many ways it’s more accurate to say it’s our primitive or unenlightened side; it’s the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected or find unreasonable. Our uncontrolled lusts, unleavened by restraint or morality, or uncontrolled impulses like anger or greed or selfishness are all part of our shadow-selves.

While I don’t think the Shadow Self is the sole explanation of dark sexual fantasies, I think there is a lot of evidence that for some people anyway, it is a powerful way of engaging with and rehabilitating the shadow self and sexual fantasies and desires are influenced by the negated or rejected elements of our own psyches.

There’s a lot in Doctor Nerdlove’s article that seems to resonate powerfully with the assumptions that seem to underlie Bindel’s remark. It brings out, in fact, precisely the analysis I was hoping to present, “It’s a belief in society that’s become so ingrained that it’s become a trope: good people have good sex.” Bindel’s remark belies a similar belief: “Good people do not have dark thoughts” and “If I accept I have a darker side, I cannot be a good person”. And, similarly, “If you have those thoughts or sexual fantasies, then you cannot be a good person.”

I’m reluctant to try to engage too much with the racial politics of Bindel’s remark (one might be tempted to suggest it’s not her place, as a White middle-class woman, to use that as her particular example, either). Suffice to say, I’ve read some Black women who are into BDSM and it seems from their views that it is possible to produce that porn in an ethical/fair trade way, too.

Why would one need to quash an erotic fantasy? If accepting one’s fantasies were to give them power, and in particular, power over you, then perhaps it would be dangerous. But this is another myth. Most people are not governed by uncontrollable thoughts that inexorably lead to acting them out in real life. In fact, the whole ethos of consensual BDSM, and of ethical porn, is to find safe and controlled ways of engaging with them. We can meet with what we fear, and find that it need not destroy us.

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About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
This entry was posted in Kink, Politics, Sex and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Armchair analysis vs SWERF vs Ethical Porn

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