Social Justice Conference Uses Police and Threat of Arrest to Suppress Anti-Porn Views
by Sunsara Taylor
On April 12, 2013, eight members of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org) were evicted, under threat of arrest, from the annual conference "From Abortion Rights to Social Justice, Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom," sponsored by Hampshire College's program for Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP).
Our “crime”? Peacefully advocating anti-pornography and anti-sex-industry views at our own officially registered organizational table.
According to Mia Sullivan, Director of CLPP, our political opposition to the sex industry had made a few pro-porn conference-goers feel that the conference was no longer a “safe space.”
However, just this single, uninvestigated complaint is all it took for Ms. Sullivan to bring police and insist that we leave immediately or be arrested for trespassing. And, to be very clear, the police were with Ms. Sullivan from the very first time she or anyone else from CLPP approached us.
This act of political suppression is a dangerous escalation in an overall growing trend towards a pro-porn, pro-“sex work” hegemony within academia, as well as large sections of the so-called “women's movement.” Not only is there an increasing embrace of pornography and the sex industry, but critiques focusing on the violence and degradation, the dehumanization and commodification of women's bodies and the destruction of millions upon millions of real women’s and young girls’ lives through these industries, are being shut down as “beyond the pale” – and in this case, even as criminal.
It is always wrong to call in agents of the highly oppression and reactionary state to suppress the political views of fighters for liberation. But this is especially dangerous to women everywhere at a moment when debate over, and opposition to, the truly monstrous crimes against women in the global sex industry deepen and spread.
What Exactly Happened At Our Table that Merited the Police?
A group of vociferous pro-porn people approached our table to argue in favor of porn and the sex industry, citing their personal experiences with the "sex industry," with sexual violence, and with bondage, domination, and sado-masochism (BDSM). As we are not in favor of intruding into people's consensual sexual behavior, we argued the larger point: sexuality is not formed for anyone in a vacuum. In a world that is saturated with violence against women, a world that sexualizes degradation and humiliation, it is not surprising that those ideas get reflected in people's genuinely felt sexual desires, including by victims of sexual violence.
But, the "right" to market yourself as a sexual commodity has no meaning outside of a world that gives rise to the idea of women's bodies as commodities, as things to be used, tortured, degraded and hurt for the sexual pleasure of men. And in that kind of world, this real world is littered with the bodies of millions of women and very young girls who have been kidnapped, pimped, beaten, tortured, sold by starving families, drugged and tricked, and repeatedly raped and sold and then discarded as nothing more than unthinking flesh.
While this debate was passionate, we were calm, substantive and principled. We repeatedly refocused things on the need to look at all these phenomena from the vantage of the liberation of women, not from one's own narrow experience. And on the possibility and necessity of opening up space for truly liberating personal and sexual relations, based on equality, mutual respect and a shared desire. We also drew attention to our Call to Action which explicitly states that we are not seeking to enact laws to ban pornography and that we oppose the criminalization of women in the sex industry; rather, we are challenging people themselves to reject and oppose this culture of degradation and commodification of women.
For this, the police were called and we were escorted off campus grounds under threat of arrest!
A little background
Stop Patriarchy attended the CLPP conference due to our opposition to the war on women, especially by the extreme escalation of attacks on abortion rights across the country. Today, abortion is more difficult to access, more stigmatized, and more dangerous to provide than at any time since Roe v. Wade. StopPatriarchy.org sees this as the "mirror opposite" of the increasingly degrading, cruel, brutal, humiliating and mainstream nature of pornography and was eager to get into all this with conference participants. Within this, some members were bringing the view of all-the-way revolution and communism as it has been re-envisioned by Bob Avakian.
It came as no surprise people had strong reactions – positive and negative – to our politics. Some loved that we challenged feelings of shame and guilt that many women are made to feel about their abortions, others claimed it was wrong to “tell women how to feel.” Some appreciated that we called out Obama for conciliating with restrictions on abortion, for his drone program, for assassinating U.S. citizens, and for continuing torture at Guantanamo. Others insisted that Obama is “our friend.” Some loved our opposition to porn and began wearing our stickers (“If you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked!”), others got into thoughtful discussion, and still others strongly disagreed.
We welcomed this. Isn’t one of the purposes of a conference on social justice the opportunity for people to hear different approaches as they are put forward by people who share a commitment to defending the lives and rights of oppressed people?
However, we cannot dismiss that these political differences may have played a role in the CLPP organizers' eagerness to seize on the opportunity to remove us from their conference.
One Final Irony
As we put it in our open letter to the CLPP organizers and Hampshire community:
"Finally, it is a bitter irony that your conference included numerous workshops on 'state violence,' 'racial justice,' and the 'prison industrial complex' yet one of the people you called the police on is a young Black man who has been Stopped & Frisked growing up in Brooklyn more times than he can remember. This young man decided to put his body on the line and face up to a year in jail when he joined in the campaign of mass civil disobedience against Stop & Frisk last year together with Carl Dix, Cornel West, and dozens of others. It is a further bitter irony that your conference held workshops and gave voice extensively to concerns about making the conference welcoming and safe for LGBT people, yet one of the people you called the police on is a transgender person who has (owing to the obvious dangers which face transgender people particularly at the hands of police and in jail) has judiciously calculated which political activities to take part in specifically to avoid the risk of arrest. Neither of these people imagined that a conference on 'Abortion Rights' and 'Social Justice' would be the place where they faced the greatest threat of being imprisoned!"
Join in Protesting This Outrageous Action By CLPP
Messages of opposition to this use of police by Hampshire College's program for Civil Liberties and Public Policy can be sent through our website at: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/oppose-suppression.html.
Sara posted: 2013-06-17 11:43:12
I think End Pornography and Patriarchy is doing a dangerous thing--conflating "pro-porn" & "pro-sex industry" with actively working against the shaming and stigmatization of people that are sex workers. While I too oppose the way that porn and informal economies like sex work are mostly oriented to cater to the male gaze/consumption and feed into the power dynamic that creates, I know that taking a black & white stance against porn and sex work in fact harms the women that are sex workers. Why? Because it further invisibalizes their work and thus creates policies (informal cultural AND legal) that undermine services and protection for them. Taking a strict anti-porn and anti-sex work stance misses the point by shaming women's sexuality and the way they use and express it. Porn and sex work don't exist in isolation--they are part of a complex web of industries and cultural norms that largely do work in conjunction with the patriarchy, but I know that policing women's choices and sexuality (even if we do know they are in part making these choices because they have internalized patriarchy) is not the way to go about the work of ending patriarchy. In fact, it's just using the patriarchy's very own most precious weapons--shame and stigma. (Systems of oppression are so good at creating cycles for us to re-create...) I know I never ever want to shame, victimize, & other a group of women in the name of feminism and ending patriarchy.
Sam Berg posted: 2013-06-17 11:43:26
As an anti-prostitution activist, I have often been stunned by the silencing efforts taken by persons purporting to be believe in absolute freedom of speech. Witnessing them defend Larry Flynt's right to profitably pornographic speech while denying me and my sisters a political platform from which to diasgree with sexual capitalism has been one of the most despiriting experiences of my feminist life. Thank you for allowing Sunsara Taylor the opportunity to protest her mistreatment by pro-pornstitution industry persons and their bully tactic sympathizers.
Randie posted: 2013-09-11 17:08:52
Below is a recent email I wtrote to sexuality,gender and women's studies professor Jane Caputi who is the author of a great important book about sadistic,violent woman-hating typical serial sex kilers of girls and women,who many have said Christian Grey is exactly like,some have said Ted Bundy on amazon.com and some just said like serial killer without mentioning any names.A social worker who works with women domestic violence victims said in her bad review of the horrendous Fifty Shades of Grey,that Christian is like the next Green River serial killer and he's just how serial kilers started out! Dear Jane, I recently read an online old PBS interview with you, from No Safe Place Violence Against Women and I read good reviews of your important book,The Age Of Sex Crime. Also anti-sexist,anti-violence,anti-pornography pro-feminist author and educator Jackson Katz says in his notes section in his important great book The Macho Paradox How Some Men Hurt Women And How All Men Can Help ,For a study of the phenomenon of serial murder that locates this gruesome crime in systems of gender and power,and particularly in cultural constructs of masculinity and the deep misogyny in Western cultures see The Age of Sec Crime by J.Caputi 1987. I'm very concerned about this sexualized,eroticized and normalized extremely sexist,violent,woman-hating S&M book series Fifty Shades Of Grey that is very depressingly and disturbingly huge best selling novels with mostly women and the media calls it mommy porn.It's written by a sick,woman-hating pornography influenced British woman,E. L. James and it's now going to be unfortunately normalized and glamorized even more by being made into a Hollywood movie! The very biased sexist media has glamorized,normalized and promoted it everwhere! In one of the many Amazon.com reviews ,one of the reviewers said that in her first" spanking" Christian hits Ana 18 times in her own room and she's crying. Another reviewer said that he hits her so hard that he left marks on her body,but she lies to her friend and says she fell down the stairs,and the reviewer says in (Red Flag!). Another reviewer on Amazon.com UK who reviewed all 3 books,in this review of the last book,Fifty Shades Of Freed,she says that Christian hits her when she's pregnant and she says that this author has a lot to answer for and that her mind is a dark place and she never should have spewed it's contents with the world.She also said that she hopes she never writes another book,and that she needs help. Several other reviewers said that he rapes her too. I read quotes from the book of Ana saying she's a virgin,(another amazon.com reviewer who is a writer herself says that every time they had sex it was like Ana is being raped,and she too mentions him slamming into her as a virgin,and said she wanted to slap him)and that he says to her I'm going to f*ck you hard,(of course just like in the porn videos and Christian has a huge penis too just like in the porn videos,which makes it even more painful and violent,and women in porn videos are portrayed as loving it too!) and she says he slams into her and rips out her virginity and she feels a pinching pain! And another amazon.com reviewer said that every sex scene begins with Ana saying he slams into me. He beats her with whips,belts,chains,his hands,stalks her and is sexually sadistic,and physically and psychologically abuses her too and she's portrayed as an unimportant insecure,submissive masochist who loves him and learns to like being dominated and brutalized by him!And Ana of course is portrayed as an insecure,immature childlike inexperienced,submissive masochist,who loves this sadistic,violent,woman-hating,man,and learns to like and accept him sexually,physically,and psychologically abusing her!
Join the conversation. Leave a comment.
All comments will be reviewed before being published. This is a space for thoughtful and critical commentary; any personal attacks, abusive or offensive language, off-topic comments or comments that may be harmful to the conversation or to readers will not be published. *All fields required.*
What’s concerning us, feminists and progressives? From the front lines to the back burners, our angle on vital matters on our minds and popping up in the news.
ENTER HOT TOPICS
The Love of Strangers by Merle Hoffman
"She Had a Heartbeat Too" The Tragic Death of Savita Halappanavar in an Irish Hospital by Ann Rossiter
First Irish Abortion Clinic Opens Amid Controversy, Threats and Confusion by Caelainn Hogan
Forty Years After Roe V Wade, Getting an Abortion is Still a Major Challenge by Eleanor J. Bader
It's Up to Us to Defend Abortion Rights by Mary Lou Greenberg
Back and Forth by Judith Arcana
The Poet's Eye: Curated by Judith Arcana
Suggested Reading by Anna Platt and the Feminist Press
Related Articles, January 2013