I traveled to New York anticipating an enriching experience. I expected to learn about how best to confront the horrors facing women across the planet, but I did not expect to actually confront them in the bold manner that we did. And it wasn’t enriching…it was fucking life altering and earth rattling for everybody we reached (even those who opposed our message). Before I went, I hated rape culture, I was opposed to pornography’s image of women, and I was definitely vocal about a woman’s right to abortion. However, I was careful about how I expressed this so as not to make people uncomfortable. Women experience constant discomfort at the hands of this patriarchal system and all the institutions that reinforce that. After 10 days, I recognize that nobody should be allowed the luxury of comfort when we can’t even walk down the streets comfortably!
When I got to New York I knew why I was opposed to pornography, but I wasn’t able to articulate that in a convincing manner to others. Honestly, I didn’t want to violate anyone’s comfort zone. This changed on day 5 when I viewed Chyng Sun’s The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality & Relationships. The film would prove traumatic for any viewer, but it was especially traumatic for me. It tore something open inside of me. I sat next to a friend who held me and covered my eyes at particularly graphic scenes, but despite this reassurance, I found myself shaking from the beginning of the film. I have no choice but to talk about pornography now. It’s not about anybody’s “comfort”; it’s about the real human beings and their lives destroyed by pornography.
What’s wrong with porn? WHAT’S NOT WRONG WITH PORN? It’s a portrayal of sexual violence and degradation that is accepted and upheld as acceptable and liberating by “sex positive” feminists. It reduces human beings to mere body parts to be used and abused. It serves as a “how to” for abusers. It shapes peoples sexuality. It harms real human beings in the making and viewing of films. It’s not harmless, and it’s certainly not limited to fantasy. Porn culture enables rape culture. There is nothing fucking liberating about that for women. I challenge you to watch that film, and to search for a liberating quality porn harvests for women. Stop watching porn and start fighting patriarchy. You can bite our signs (yes, some asshole literally took a bite out of my sign one day), you can lock the doors on us(as one porn store did when they saw our protest approaching), you can spray us with a garden hose (as that same porn store did when they saw us celebrate their having shut down for the moment because of us), but we are just getting started! This industry that capitalizes on the degradation of women will not go unopposed for one more second. I was so uncomfortable watching that film. You should not be allowed to feel comfortable selling or buying porn.
On Saturday we went in to Hooters and made people uncomfortable. They were simply trying to eat lunch and objectify women in peace, that’s ok right? NO. You can’t do this unchallenged anymore. At one point, I heard a man yell “Get outta here!” I straight up replied “YOU GET OUTTA HERE.” It was very simple, very short, but it was the first time I had vocally challenged this shit in almost a year. I found my voice in Hooters! As Sunsara later said “there was no place you could be on that day that was more liberating for women than where we were (calling out the crimes at different sites of women’s oppression.)” When women are objectified, we feel uncomfortable. You should not be allowed to feel comfortable while objectifying women.
As I sit here and reflect on all we accomplished, I am reminded of the dire need for this movement to really take off. In a day where gender studies holds up porn as liberating, women are interrogated about their own rapes, and the rights to abortion and birth control are being viciously attacked—- there is far too much silence. I’m sitting here, thinking about the stories I learned… Everywhere we went, women were sharing their stories of rape, sexual abuse, and the terrors they encountered in the sex industry with us. They were opening up to complete strangers because there is no other outlet for this pain and anger. We’re taught from a young age to suffer in silence because talking about it makes other people uncomfortable. The fact is—- PEOPLE SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE CONDITIONS HALF OF HUMANITY IS FORCED TO LIVE IN but we should never get used to these conditions. The conditions we face are intolerable, and must be opposed in very bold ways! A lot of people don’t even believe it’s possible to stand up against this, and for a long time I felt that same way. Let me tell you though (what various volunteers agreed on), there is nothing more liberating than fighting back. New York was a great start, but it was just the beginning. From the porn stores to the strip clubs to the church to all the other institutions that systematically enslave women, the days when you can carry out your crimes in comfort, those days are over. It’s about damn time you feel some of the shame and discomfort that’s been misplaced on women for ages.
Posted on Thursday, 23 August 2012
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