To all the people to whom I have said today “Yes, I am a feminist, but I really don’t care” I would like to offer this longer explanation…
I care a great deal about how politicians behave in the roles, and how they spend public money â€“ what they do with their credit cards and their appropriations. I also care a great deal about the exploitation of women, men and children. But I don’t care that Shane Jones watched porn, I really don’t.
There are many terrible things about so much of the porn industry, about the ways it exploits the women and men on film, the way it perpetuates damaging stereotypes about sex and gender.
Before you judge Shane Jones for viewing the products of that exploitation, however, look down at yourself for a moment â€“ where were those clothes made? Any sweatshop labour in there? Any women, men and children exploited for your convenience?
The media and commentator focus on the porn films are because it’s “naughty” or “dirty”; after all it’s about sex and that is something we must never admit wanting or enjoying, and that we must never ever talk about.
And you know what? That there, that exact taboo â€“ strengthened today in all the prurient chatter â€“ does far more damage to New Zealand women than all the porn watching put together. That taboo is responsible for many teen pregnancies, for much sexual abuse being hidden, and for a lot of STD transmission. It also results in (and this matters too) many people having a far less joy from sex than they could.
So, when you express outrage about Shane Jones watching porn and expect me to back you up because I’m a feminist you can expect me to check your clothing labels, and make sure that you know it’s ok to talk about sex, and even to want and enjoy it.
Anita, welcome back, as temporary as it may be :)
I was going to post on this, but to say that inasmuch as the electorate thinks this speaks to character and values, it’s a legitimate political ground for criticism.
But those casting stones ought to be careful they are in fact without sin — something the left wasn’t recently. I’m beginning to wonder whether Labour got rope-a-doped by the Heatley and Brownlee mini-scandals of a month or
twofour ago, played into taking the high moral ground and now having to abandon it in the most shameful manner.
There’s no doubt that this is critically damaging to those involved and Jones in particular, but if he can weather the immediate fallout, his “red-blooded man” position will go some way to exorcising the illusion of a Labour party dominated by grim, joyless lesbians which persists across some segments of the electorate. Like Key’s vasectomy comment, there’s a fair bunch of people out there who will be quietly happy their MPs are as flawed as they are, even if they are outwardly furious that taxpayers are funding those vices.
Nice to have you back. I agree that the issue should not be the porn watching per se (although there is plenty that could be said to that effect). The issue is the use of a ministerial credit card to pay for the viewings. I am amazed that Jones, Carter (who appears to have a very cavalier approach to spending public money), et.al. would not think of the (however remote) possibility that their ministerial credit card expenses might at some point be audited or the subject of opposition scrutiny. To my mind, that speaks to the hubris that infected the 5th Labour govt in its last term–it simply lost touch with common sense, or in this instance, self-preservation. Either that, or some of its senior figures are just plain stupid.
I have no doubt that National has its fair share of porn-watchers, some of whom may have done so on the public dime. They should therefore tread carefully on this one. Whoever is doing the watching, the point is that if they paid for it out of their own pockets it is not a violation of public trust but instead a private matter.
But there is an issue about porn viewing above and beyond the use of the ministerial credit card, and that has to do with the nature of Labour’s ideology. To wit, whether paid for with public or private funds, it is one thing for a conservative misogynist politician to view porn without regard to the chain of exploitation that underpins the porn industry (and it should be noted that the hotels that feature hard core are complicit in that industry).
But it is very much an issue when the viewer is a senior member of an ostensibly progressive party that has as one of its ideological tenets gender equality and opposition to the degradation and exploitation of wimin in particular. The contradiction between that public stance and Jones’ private actions will be politically exploitable not only by opponents across the aisle, but those within his own Party as well.
Not to be crude about it, but clearly the smaller rather than larger head was doing the thinking in this case.
I’m a figment of your imagination, back in the flesh in July sometime I hope
You should write that post!
I agree that the issue is that many in the electorate believe that watching porn speaks to character and value, and thus it damages Jones and Labour.
My issue is that there is a deep seated streak of hypocrisy in that attitude, not to mention a thread of puritanism which is damaging in and of itself.
I’m kinda amazed too.
On the other hand I’ve stood in many hotel receptions with two different cards having long struggles to get these things put on this card and those things put on that card. Usually it has worked, sometimes it hasn’t and it’s been sorted out in the wash-up of post trip expense claims.
There’s never been anything I’ve been embarrassed by on any of the bills, but if you dug back through my past you’d find times I’ve used a corporate card for personal expenses and paid it back.
I agree and I disagree :) I agree that your analysis is right, but it don’t think it should be right.
I don’t think that porn is where one would start a serious campaign against the degradation and exploitation of women if one really wanted to make a difference. I also note that Labour has never said it wants to do anything about porn.
It also bugs me the progressive politics seems, so often, associated with deeply sexually conservative views, and those views themselves degrade, trap and exploit women.
But yes, you’re right, in many people’s eyes there is a significant contradiction, or at least the appearance of one which can be used for political ends.
Worse must then be Chris Carter’s crime exploiting cheap labour at Raffles in Cambodia to get a rub down.
Wonder if he thought about how much s/he was paid to do such dirty work?
Cactus Kate writes,
Or the impoverished labour on the sugar plantations that produce the sugar for the rum, or the child labour in the cocoa plantations for the chocolate, or â€¦
You’re right, those credit card receipts document many of the worst exploitations of labour by capital.
I don’t think so. There’s nothing so far that even comes close to rivalling Heatley’s egregious example, and he’s still in Cabinet. There’s also nothing to stop Goff turning up on TV and saying that if Jones and Carter were still Ministers, they couldn’t possibly remain so – thus leaving it to Key to explain why Heatley, Brownlee and Groser still are Ministers.
Uh, yeah. Now, you see, if there really was a God, Cactus Kate wouldn’t be able to type that without being struck by lightning. I’ve never seen a clearer proof of the atheist position.
Yes, I have to agree. This is largely why I stay away from THM these days, there’s too much of that about.
All that needs to happen is that Ministerial Services get the power to confiscate peoples cards and require them to use their own and seek reimbursment for legitimate ministerial spending. A spell in that bin would sharpen their minds a little.
As to the issue of porn and women and the wider
issue of exploitation of labour in general. Capitalism requires the exploitation of labour and seeks to obtain it at the gross level.
Progressive political forces can only keep open alternatives for women to work in the porn industry and ensure labour exploitation by capitalism is only at the net (fair working conditions, fair wages and
Anita: Correct perspective, and well put.
However, I will have to beg your indulgence: prurience is a character-flaw of mine, and I very much doubt that I’ll be able to restrain myself from making jokes.
Sexual freedom as practiced has opened up women to a vast increase in sexual exploitation. I have always found it odd that so many women are advocates for social mores that are nothing more than ringing the dinner bell for sexual predators.
Camille Paglia pointed this out and was pilloried for it by other feminists. But she was right.
My thinking tends to be libertarian. That is, I oppose intrusions of the state into the private realm – as in abortion, sodomy, prostitution, pornography, drug use, or suicide, all of which I would strongly defend as matters of free choice in a representative democracy.
When anything goes, it’s women who lose.
A little nuanced, for free choice, but accepting that women can set their personal boundaries in accord with their own interest.
All that needs to happen is that Ministerial Services get the power to confiscate peoples cards and require them to use their own and seek reimbursment for legitimate ministerial spending. A spell in that bin would sharpen their minds a little.
A better idea is just to make sure they know they’re being watched, by proactively releasing their receipts every six months. That should quickly clean up the problem.
@ Idiot/Savant – isn’t that kind of transparency what John Key has advocated? Personally, I agree heartily with that proposal. The fact that Chris Carter was telling the media that he WOULD (future tense) reimburse the DIA for expenditure going back as far as six years suggests that the system is dysfunctional. Would Carter have been so generous had his “ministerial” spending become public knowledge? I doubt it.
Congratulations, Anita, on your courageous posting.
The production of pornography, like the production of any other kind of commodity, can take place in circumstances of relative freedom and fairness, or it can be produced in an environment of extreme brutality and exploitation.
As with most capitalist enterprises, it comes down to a question of scale and intent.
Many of the “adult movies” of the 1970s were created by small-scale film-makers whose intentions were – at least in part – political. They wanted to, as Anita says, free sex from its prurient and condemnatory contexts. The men and women involved in these productions were willing participants and many shared the film-maker’s vision.
The entry of organised crime – facilitated by technological developments like the cheap and reliable video equipment that supplanted the more complex and expensive technology of cinematography – changed the whole “culture” of the pornography industry.
These new producers of porn videos, far from wishing to emancipate people from their hang-ups about sex, crudely exploited the growing level of male resentment against the women’s movement. Their depictions of sex became increasingly violent and the emphasis shifted from a celebration of pleasure to showing women being dominated, hurt and humiliated.
Of this sort of pornography the feminist slogan: “Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice” is entirely justified.
The participants in this sort of pornography, in order to function (both physically and psychologically) usually require a dangerous amount of chemical assistance. Many become drug addicts.
What’s worse, the economic and social disintegration of the Eastern Bloc has seen an influx of brutally coerced “sex workers” from Russia and Eastern Europe into the porno trade. The industry has become a very dark and sinister phenomenon.
So, getting back to Mr Jones, whether or not he did “wrong” by watching porno in his hotel room depends very much on what sort of movies he watched.
If they were celebrations of sexual freedom and pleasure – where was the harm?
If, on the other hand, they were depictions of pain and humiliation, what in the name of all that is emancipatory and progressive was he thinking?
However… (you knew that was coming, right? ;-) )
The media needs to be responsible in their coverage and start to respect people’s personal lives. I’d hate this to become a regular opportunity for the media to dig into the personal lives of politicians and plaster their moral judgements all over the place.
I think I’ll respond in two parts so I can keep my thoughts straight. So firstly… :)
I think you have confused the content of the porn with the way it’s made, and mixed your value judgements about what is good/moral sex and what isn’t with your value judgements about what is good labour/capital structures.
There are plenty of examples of vanilla porn (the kind you seem to approve of) which are made in exploitative ways, and plenty of examples of BDSM porn (even hard BDSM porn) made in collaborative and non-exploitative ways.
If you’re interested I can find you some links to sex workers talking about their (happy and unexploited) experiences making BDSM porn.
Who would’ve thunk it–Chris Trotter is an expert on porn. From what he writes I gather than 1970s porn was of a touchy-feely hippy type with overt political content, whereas later porn is nasty weirdness fueled by the breakup of the Soviet bloc.
Dang. Here I thought it was mostly about catering to the basest instincts of (mostly) males. It might be worth looking up old interviews with Linda Lovelace of Deep Throat fame, the much acclaimed “Savannah” or John Holmes about their experiences (since all died in ways directly related to their participation in the “industry” well before Chris’s timeframe for its deterioration). There was very little political or progressive in their “art.” What there was a whole lot of exploitation from the get-go, hippy appearances notwithstanding. Like I said–just look these names up to get a real idea of the 1970s scene and the true nature of this industry. Anita may reference the minority of films made in a consensual manner (as is much amateur porn), to which I have no objection. However, the hard fact is that hardcore porn is based on human degradation willing or not. When you add the exploitative element involved in the commercial porn industry, it raises questions of judgement for the “progressive” politicians who enjoy such films. That is the added layer of burden Jones has to deal with above and beyond the use of official credit cards to pay for his sexual enjoyment.
Whatever the case, I see a Marsden Grant in Chris’s future if he wants to further research this heretofore unknown area of (his) expertise. After all, there is a precedent for such funding.
I am really surprised by your history of the porn industry; I’ve never seen any evidence of a golden age of emancipated unexploitative porn. Nor of a time when porn was all vanilla.
From what I know of the history of erotica there has always been BDSM woven in with the kind of sex you approve of. And from what I know of the porn industry there has always been exploitation.
I don’t know why you are looking back on the 70s with such rose coloured classes â€“Â the misogyny and exploitation was all there. Sure there were people at the margins doing good for women and sexual freedom, but they were at the margins, just as the people doing the same good work today are at the margins.
That said, and setting aside a history I struggle to imagine you have evidence for, much of your critique of the interplay between the backlash against feminism and the images of porn is very well put. I guess once someone’s crossed our conservative sexual taboos a whole bunch of unedited self starts to show.
This whole business is absurd. Rodney Hide apparently spent $20 of taxpayers’ money at Briscoes on a mirror for his office, the unscrupulous bastard.
I wonder why I bother watching the “news”. I now know that Shane Jones enjoys a wank now and then. I feel informed.
Everybody is pre-occupied with sex … I guess that is par for the course … but I would comment about slave child labour. This as such is the extreme end of a balance of which the current lack of a child wage is the other end here in New Zealand. Depriving young people of the opportunity to learn to work and ready themselves for life. That is unless their parents happen to be in some form of self employment such as a farm or dairy etc.
It is really amazing that we have such a relatively well ordered society with the high un-employment levels of the young and young adults.
Anita, never underestimate the appeal of an ‘it was better in the old days’ narrative.
No real expertise required to comment on the history of the modern pornography industry, Pablo, just the experience of watching one or two good documentaries on the subject and reading a slew of articles in the mainstream press.
My references to Eastern Europe were drawn from my encounter with the Italian leftist writer Loretta Napoleoni at Readers & Writers ’07. She has written extensively on the restoration of capitalism in the countries of the old Warsaw Pact and its catastrophic effects on the lives of thousands of young Eastern European women.
There really is no call to be quite so snide – it’s a serious subject.
Which documentaries? I should track them down and watch them if I haven’t already seen them.
Did Loretta Napoleoni offer an opinion about whether the exploitation of Eastern European women was worse than the prior and continuing exploitation of South and Southeast Asian women?
I’m confused Anita, what do you really want for men to stop watching porn and go back to a repressive victorian mindset?
BTW if you hadn’t noticed sex in and of itself is an exploitive act in that we use others for our single minded pleasure.
Um… I’m confused by your comment too. What do you think my position on porn is?
What I’m so confused about is how something can be “a serious subject”, but yet “no real expertise” is required to expound upon it.
I also wonder whether Ms Napoleoni had looked at the situation for women before the ‘restoration of capitalism’. I’m pretty certain prostitution existed in the USSR prior to 1991 and Poland before 1989. I’d be surprised if it was much different elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc.
Lew: Apparently gratuitous name-dropping and watching a couple of docos is enough to pontificate authoritatively on serious subjects.
To be fair I have “no real expertise” in the subject of porn; a little study, a little professional contact, but fundamentally I write on the basis of wide reading and talking and thinking about it.
My problem is not that Chris doesn’t have a relevant qualification, it’s that he’s wrong about the history of porn as I understand it, and he’s conflated the type of content with the method of production.
From what little I know about Loretta Napoleoni’s work I think her argument is that when the iron curtain came down and capitalism arrived hard and fast, it allowed the rich countries of western europe to exploit the poor women of eastern europe, and that organised crime (and its associated government allies) got rich by trafficking eastern european sex slaves for the rich western european consumer.
She doesn’t deny that prostitution existed before then, just that it was contained within the boundaries of the eastern european nations, and that the extreme imbalances of wealth between west and east did not fuel it in quite the same way.
That said, I haven’t actually read her book so I may well be completely wrong, I’m inferring from interviews and articles.
In most jobs if anyone used their emlpoyer’s resources to access porn that would result in being sacked.
It’s the credit card use that’s the issue.
Plus the fact that he lied about it and I’m guessing he also lied to Goff. Goff would have no doubt asked all his senior MPs if there was going to be any surprises with the credit card bills. Clearly Jones didn’t put his hand up.
I don’t actually believe that. In most cases there would be some kind of action taken, but it is extraordinarily unlikely someone would be sacked on the first time it was picked up unless the material was actually illegal (i.e. objectionable).
If there was action taken it would be for breach of policy not because of the use of resources, in terms of resources the analogy would be someone using their work computer to check football scores, or their work phone to ring their friend in Sydney (of course if the material was illegal that’s a whole different issue).
I have difficulty believing that there was a policy preventing politicians from viewing porn in their own time in their hotel room, so there is no breech. In fact I suspect such a policy would be quite unreasonable, and possibly unenforceable. Thinking back through my employers I can’t think of one which had a policy which would prevent me viewing porn in my own hotel room while travelling for work, while all of them had no porn at work policies.
As I said in my first comment, I agree that it is the credit card use, not the porn viewing that is the issue. But from what I understand Jones reimbursed the state for the movie costs and some other things, so this is, in fact, an ex post beat-up by the media and National along the lines Anita mentioned in her post (as in “sexual desire is evil, etc.”). Then we were derailed by Trotter’s silliness.
The real crime–and I do think that there is an element of fraud involved–is that Chris Carter and a number of other MPs on both sides of the aisle playing loose with the facts such as Clayton Cosgrove’s claims about his repeatedly disappearing designer business suits and Mr. Double Dipton (to say nothing of Len Brown) waited until the news became public before paying back the ill-charged funds, and in Carter’s case, still deny any impropriety. I hate to use the rightist’s word for this since it is yet another case of conceptual stretching, but that sense of “entitlement” by politicians needs to be stopped in its tracks. There is no entitlement in public service–the opportunity to make a difference in policy is all that suffices.
Carter needs to go, but there are several others who should join him as well. Jones needs a rebuke, nothing more. The question is, what will National do to the troughers in its ranks? From what we have seen so far the answer is little or nothing.
I think most employers have fairly clear guidlines about accessing porn.
But again, he used a govt credit card. That’s the issue.
I doubt very many (if any) have policies which cover accessing porn in the employee’s own time while not on the employer’s premises and not using the employer’s network.
The card was used as another perk – providing free credit for personal spending (as ministerial services would later require reimbursement). That is the issue.
The problem for some was probably the convenience of paying their hotel bill off one card when some of the spending was of a personal use kind.
The problem for others was that they confused the ministeraial services card with the greater latitude applying for MP expenses. One wonders how they operate/operated when in opposition?
In an attempt to deflect the impending conversation about normal practice when travelling with a corporate credit card and get it back to the actual point of the post…
You are quite right, the issue is the credit card use not the porn. Why then did the media lead with the porn? And how damaging is that kind of prurient judgemental crap to our society?
P.S. If anyone really wants to debate the use of corporate credit card practices when travelling for work could they please email us and I’ll write a post and start a separate thread, it is something I have over a decade of experience with so I can write about it with some certainty if anyone really wants to be bored to tears.
I am sure you already know the answer, the media thinks it made for a better story – it got the publics attention. Conveniently it was certainly a clear example of where some of the spending was not on the minister’s work.
The issue is I suppose, why this gets the publics attention – a culture in which the personal/sex lives of public figures/celebrities is a media story?
Perchance, Pablo, do you suffer from gout?
I’m trying to determine what could possibly have caused you to suddenly abandon your usual trenchancy in favour of snide and unpleasant personal abuse.
I never had you pegged for an intellectual snob – so I’m assuming something else must be contributing to your nastiness.
If it is gout – the best advice I can give you is: stay away from sugars.
And, Lew, I think Anita would agree that there are all kinds of pornographers – some coercive and exploitative; others entirely voluntaristic and polemical.
If I erred in overstating the influence of the latter in the 1970s, my apologies. But I hope you will agree that such film-makers did exist 40 years ago – just as they exist today – and that their objectives were, and are, as I said, “at least in part” political and (however tenuously) “progressive”.
Chris: You complaining about me being snide and nasty is a bit rich. Apparently you can dish out insults but cannot take take even gently ribbing. Be honest–your first comment was an invitation to having the mickey taken out of it, and then you kept on digging with your subsequent attempts at “clarification.” You deservedly were called out on those as well. Nothing mean in that.
I strongly suggest you get someone to take a look at your “mean” dial, Pablo, it’s clearly under-registering.
“Racist jokes legitimise racism
Sexist jokes legitimise sexism
Homophobic jokes legitimise homophobia”
so said you early this year. . .
what does pornography legitimise then, Anita?
Monkey Boy, I won’t answer for Anita, but I’d say: sex.
Of course, then it breaks down to an assessment of the type of pornography and the conditions of its creation. Which I think was the point.
Monkey Boy writes,
What Lew said: sex or perhaps sexual desire.