No More Page 3

A campaign is calling for The Sun to stop running photos of topless models.

Earlier this summer, Lucy-Anne Holmes was in a hurry, off on a short train journey, when she picked up a copy of The Sun. The country was gripped by Olympic fever, and as Holmes opened the paper, she was glad to see there was no topless woman on page 3, just stories of victorious athletes, such as Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis. She leafed through the sports coverage contentedly, until she reached page 13. There she found “a massive picture of a girl in her pants”, she says. The typical image had just been moved back. “It made me really sad. It was the biggest female image in that issue, and I think pretty much every issue of [The Sun] for 42 years.” At a time when women’s strength was being celebrated with medals, on podiums, this image, in the country’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, seemed starker than ever. Since Page 3 began, in November 1970, the most prominent daily newspaper image of a woman has been smiling, and topless. . . Three weeks ago, Holmes started the campaign No More Page Three. She set up a Twitter account, Facebook page, and a petition on, which has 2,000 signatures and counting.

There’s a really wonderful spoken word performance of a poem written in support of  the campaign by Sabrina Mahfouz:


You can sign the petition, here.

The Awesome, the Funny, and the Heartwarming

Three things stood out in my feed today:

1) “the Washington DC Office of Human Rights decided in reaction to the string of ugly anti-trans incidents and murders in the District to launch a first of a kind anti-trans discrimination campaign.”  You can read Monica at TransGriot discuss it further here   The posters seem really well executed and well thought out.  It’s a bit mind-boggling that we have the need for such posters that are basically, “Hey, I’m a person! I do person things! Please treat me as such.”  But we do have that need and this seems a great way to address both general issues of visibility and the recent increase in anti-trans violence in DC.

(two more after the jump)

Read More »

When is a sex act degrading?

Jezebel has an interesting article on whether facials are degrading (it’s here – but be warned, it’s probably NSFW. Unless your workplace is a lot more interesting than mine.)

I suspect there’s no person- and context-independent answer to the question of whether something like a facial is degrading. But I thought a particularly problematic part of the article was this:

A lot more straight porn features women happily accepting facials than reacting with disgust and evident humiliation. That acceptance may be feigned, but it suggests that the primary turn-on about facials for men isn’t the desire to degrade women.

Porn routinely features women ultimately enjoying all sorts of things – including rape. That doesn’t mean that such depictions aren’t misogynistic.

“Watching Porn– that’s sort of where you get your grasp of what’s normal”

A quote from a teenager in a recent study. And many more say similar things. So the idea that porn has a kind of authority due to its education role isn’t just a wacky thought from Catharine MacKinnon. Interestingly, though, the study’s authors argue that this shows “pupils should be taught how to evaluate porn in sex education lessons.” They continue,

To be unable to critique imagery is equivalent to being illiterate in the modern world…We need to help young people to resist peer-group pressure to consume porn or to respond to partners’ requests for sex they’ve seen in porn.

(Thanks, S!)

Vegetarian porn

The always-surprising folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have announced some details about their latest public awareness campaign: porn! Yes, that’s right. Porn. For the ethical treatment of animals. So obvious I’m sure the people over at the ASPCA are wondering why they didn’t think of it first.

By way of explanation, PETA – no stranger to racy ad campaigns, including those “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” photos – claims that their sexually charged publicity material has often been their most successful. So they thought it would make good sense to step things up a notch, and produce actual porn. For the animals, you see.

While there’s porn out there that’s made with specific ethical principles in mind, this is the only case I know of – though I’m not exactly a porn scholar – in which the porn itself is intended as a way of communicating an ethical or political message. One wonders how exactly they plan to accomplish this. How do you make porn that evokes thoughts other than “hey, check it out – porn!” (etc.)?

You can read more about PETA’s porn adventures (and see some. . .interesting pictures from PETA’s previous campaigns) here.

Pornography and Objectifiction: Aesthetics and the Erotic

What a fabulous idea for a workshop!

The Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group is hosting a workshop titled
“Pornography and Objectification; Aesthetics and the Erotic”.

Workshop date and time: Monday, the 30th of May 2011, from 10.30am – 5pm.

Workshop Location: University of Edinburgh Philosophy Department,
Dugald Stewart Building, room 1.17.

Speakers include: Rae Langton (keynote, Professor, MIT), Mahlet Zimeta
(Lecturer, Roehampton, UK), Hans Maes (Lecturer, Kent, UK)

Workshop proposal:

The workshop will bring together scholars in aesthetics, ethics and
feminism to explore the nature of the relationship between
pornography, eroticism and sexuality, and objectivity, aesthetics and
ethics. The workshop will build on debates in aesthetics related to
art and pornography, sexuality and eroticism and feminist concerns
about these issues. It will develop discussion addressing the
complexity of human sexuality and the erotic as it relates to art,
pornography and the objectification of the human person, in
particular, the female person. It will encourage interest in how
feminist concerns fit into these issues and takes place at a time when
discussions on art and pornography have come to the fore in, for
example, the 2009 conference at the University of Kent, “Art,
Aesthetics and the Sexual” and the upcoming conference at the
Institute of Philosophy in London titled “Aesthetics, Art and
Pornography”. The Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group wishes not only
to shed feminist light on these issues, but to bring the discussion to
Scotland, where we hope to attract feminist theorists, philosophers,
sociologists and art historians.

Here is the link to find out more about the event.

And here is the link to register.

A modest registration fee of £15 or £5 concession is being charged to cover
administration and catering costs.

The workshop has been generously supported by the University of
Edinburgh Philosophy Department and the Scots Philosophical Association.

Some men getting worried about porn

Interesting article from the Guardian about a group of men who have set up a website “grounded in feminist principles” to press the case that there is something wrong with pornography, something about which men should be concerned. The article mentions or discusses a wide range of arguments against pornography — that it degrades women, that it leads to sexual violence, that it shapes how men think about women, that the industry is abusive, and so on. As a self-contained summary of the issues and arguments, it’s very neatly done. Some of the discussion below the line is also worth wading through (some of it, naturally, is bilge).

The website itself, The AntiPornMenProject, seems thus far to consist in a mixture of porn-related news, anecdotal articles about the adverse effects of porn on men and their behaviour, and useful summaries of links to further discussions on the subject. I should think that, as it grows, it will become quite a useful resource for people teaching the topic, particularly to classes with a high proportion of men. It’s also, of course, something that seems worthwhile in its own right, and I’m glad it’s getting press attention.

On the subject of teaching about pornography, and going back to the Guardian article, I found two things particularly interesting. First, there was this quotation from Michael Kimmel:

What also strikes me is that young men seem utterly unapologetic about their porn use. It’s like it’s so ubiquitous – what’s the problem? And they expect a similarly casual approach from their female friends.

Second, there was this passage concerning the pseudonymous subject of an interview by Gail Dines for her book “Pornland“:

Dan… is worried about his sexual performance with women, and tells [Dines]: “I can’t get the pictures of anal sex out of my head when having sex, and I am not really focusing on the girl but on the last anal scene I watched”.

I recently covered pornography in a second-year class on feminist philosophy. The class has a healthy proportion of men. The Kimmel quotation sums up the attitude of not just the men, but the entire class, to the issue, and hence to most of the arguments we discussed. Both men and women were unimpressed with Mckinnon-style arguments (“silly”), empirical arguments about links to sexual violence (“exaggerated”), and arguments about the industry (“circumstantial”).

The one suggestion that really seemed to engage them was the idea that pornography could be bad for their own sex lives. Now on this, there was a gender divide in the class. The women were very ready to agree with the idea that pornography normalises a range of sexual behaviour which should perhaps be the subject of explicit negotiation rather than of assumed consent. But the men were less willing to accept this, on the basis that they (if not other men) were too enlightened to assume consent to slapping and facial ejaculation and all that. The second quotation above provides a slightly different tack on this argument. OK boys, perhaps you’re too smart to actually do these things; but the more porn you watch, the more they’ll be on your mind; the more they’ll be on your mind, the worse your sex life will be; so the more porn you watch, the worse your sex life will become. QED.

I don’t mean to suggest that the other arguments against pornography aren’t good, or worth discussing; but this is certainly a tactical move I’ll bear in mind for when I next teach the issue to a class of sceptics about the other arguments.

Porn on the NHS?

There’s been some recent attention directed to the news that the NHS provides pornography to men at IVF clinics when they’re required to produce some sperm. I say “news” — I thought this had been happening for ages. But a recent report has highlighted the practice, and the Sun and Telegraph have both published stories following up.

The two newspapers concentrate on the waste-of-public-money angle. The original report uses this argument, and also briefly gives some general anti-porn arguments, and a couple concerning how the NHS particularly is morally obliged to refrain from exposing its staff and patients to pornography (the “report” is a short and easy read).

Against this, Ben Goldacre points out in the Guardian that the average amount spent on porn is £21.32 a year per NHS trust. More seriously, he argues that there’s a reasonable amount of evidence suggesting that providing porn increases the quality of sperm produced, and thus the chances of successful IVF, and that this might be more important than moral scruples.

And against Goldacre, Kat Banyard writes to the Guardian to argue that all pornography is harmful — indeed, “a public health crisis” — and shouldn’t be provided in clinics, no matter what the benefits. She cites a Ministry of Justice report as evidence. I’m not sure which MoJ report she’s referring to, but I’m guessing it’s this one (direct link to pdf — not a short and easy read), which is concerned with extreme pornography. So it’s not clear to me that it or the meta-analyses it contains can support her general conclusion about all pornography (though I can only identify two of the three meta-analyses she mentions; is there a different report that I’ve missed?).

Anyway, some engaging to-and-fro, and some interesting issues — I’d never considered a possible increase in the motibilty of sperm as an argument in favour of pornography.

Stuff that needs to be said

Frank Herbert on the Republican candidate for governor of NY:

One of the things that can happen in the news business is that some portion of a story becomes so vile, so offensive, it is virtually impossible to effectively recount or describe. Reporters keep their distance. Editors lunge for the delete button.

Such is the case with the images and videos forwarded by Mr. Paladino to a wide variety of people. The public should know about these mailings, and Mr. Paladino should give a full, thoughtful explanation of why he trafficked in such filth.

Example: A photo showing a group of black men trying to get out of the way of an airplane that is apparently moving across a field. The caption reads: “Run niggers, run.”

Example: A doctored photo of President and Mrs. Obama showing the president in a stereotypical pimp’s costume holding the hand of the first lady, who is dressed as a prostitute in a grotesquely revealing outfit…