Print Story A response to 'Porn corporations: stop selling rape fantasies'
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Mar 02, 2012 at 12:05:10 PM EST) (all tags)
This a response to this article

This was originally a comment there, but the spam filter keeps eating it.

First, most of what I wanted to say is covered by Neil Gaiman's
"Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech":

He points out that it's very difficult to draw dividing lines. He's mostly interested in comics, but there are movies like "The Baby of Macon" and "A Clockwork Orange" which contain graphic rape scenes. Some people might find these movies pornographic, some artistic. But you need to be very careful who you give authority to to draw these lines

Another point is that some people strongly object to things like homosexuality. If companies easily stop distributing content based on protests, maybe movies like "Brokeback Mountain" would be the victim of fundamentalist protest.

Free speech isn't just an excuse: it's an important principle. If you believe in free speech as a principle, you can't just defend speech you like, you also have to defend speech you find objectionable.

Second, it's strange that the word "profit" keeps appearing here. We live in a capitalist economy. Most production, most services, most distribution takes place with profit involved. Why should profit make things more or less offensive?

Suppose two S&M fans make a rape porn video themselves, and upload it to the Internet entirely for free, with no profit involved. It's hard to see why this video is better or worse than a for-profit video.

One curious thing about mainstream economics is that there is very little discussion of companies/firms/corporations. Most economic models prefer to deal with a large number of individuals instead. In theory, this should be the most efficient kind of market.

Yet in the real world, most economic activity is carried out by firms, especially very large corporations.

One effect of this is that these large corporations have a hegemonic power. The effect of decisions by a few senior managers of large corporations can have a vast impact on society.

If we look at how censorship has taken place in the real world, it's very often implemented by the hegemonic power of corporations, not by government.

The "Hays Code" that notoriously censored the US film industry with its often arbitrary rules (including  odd-shaped swimsuits that had to conceal the apparently-obscene female navel) was an industry standard, created in response to (mostly Christian) pressure groups:

The Comics Code that censored comics, and the British Board of Film Classification, are also corporate/industry bodies, not implemented by the government:

The Internet Watch Foundation, which censors the Internet in the UK, is a similar body, a registered charity funded by corporations, not a part of the government:

This has controversially censored Wikipedia pages as well as actual porn sites:

It's not a radical new idea to use the hegemonic power of corporations to implement censorship: it's common practice today and has been in the past. But is it a good idea?

Based on history, it doesn't seem that it works terribly well. In practice, it often results in bland, homogenous art; where anything that is offensive to any loud group is banned: homosexuality and navels as well as rape.

It doesn't seem to me to be very democratic either, to give corporations such power. If free expression is so important, why leave it to pressure groups exerting power on corporations? It's hard to see why this more democratic or accountable than official government censorship, which at least comes from an elected body.

Third, it's not at all clear that rape porn actually does any harm. Actual rape is a bad thing: it's an act done to someone without their consent, which violates their right to control their body. Simulated rape, as in porn, takes place between consenting adults, for a viewer who consents to watch it.

You're extremely vague on who this porn harms, and how it harms them.  You talk about "sexting", but it's hard to see a link there. Why should rape porn in particular increase "sexting"? Why not non-rape porn? Should that be banned too?

You talk vaguely about a "fear / hatred of women", but does porn really encourage this? Do cultures with a lot of restrictions on porn, such as Victorian England or modern-day Saudi Arabia, really have a better attitude to women?

In summary then, this is a bad idea for the following reasons:

  1. It impairs the right to free speech
  2. It provides a mechanism for censorship that historically has been abused and overused.
  3. It puts the power of censorship into unaccountable, undemocratic hands.
  4. It attempts to forbid something which has not been demonstrated to be harmful.
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A response to 'Porn corporations: stop selling rape fantasies' | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)
Anecdotally by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri Mar 02, 2012 at 12:35:50 PM EST
Some women like rape fantasies. Maybe because it's a fantasy, because of eroticization of fear, because they're in control too much and want to be controlled, because it's a safe way to deal with past trauma, or because they want to fantasize about a man who wants them so much they violate social norms.

The CCA is defunct. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri Mar 02, 2012 at 08:03:19 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Having done some research by Herring (2.00 / 0) #3 Sun Mar 04, 2012 at 01:16:07 PM EST
the sites he's referring to, at least based upon the adverts, seem pretty nasty (enough to put you off your stroke). But the disturbing thing is surely not that people are producing this stuff but that it's so popular.

But censorship is dodgy and impractical. And then there is the question: if you can't represent something icky in porn then why is it OK to represent it in "mainstream" drama?

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

There is currently a dust-up in the US by lm (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 08:30:55 AM EST
A popular talk radio show host called a young woman a slut and a prostitute, asserting that she has so much sex that she can't afford all the contraception.

In response, many advertisers have pulled their ads.

So, my question is, how does this differ from what is being advocated over at the Politics of Well Being?

If it doesn't differ, does that mean the advertiser pulling their ads over the distasteful speech of the talk show host are ill advised and sending down the path to censorship?

If it does differ, on what basis? It seems that these companies are doing exactly what the linked article advocates, bringing social and economic pressure to bear on the talk show host so that he will modify the content of his show.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
I'm pretty uneasy about that case too by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 01:48:55 PM EST
It's hard to sympathize with Rush Limbaugh. But I seem to recall at least one NPR person being fired after a bout of semi-orchestrated outrage.

In that case, I think there's a collective action problem at work. It would be better if neither left or right got presenters fired through outrage-storms and corporate hegemony. But if one side stops and the other side doesn't, then that other side has gained an undue level of control over the media.

Also, I think the libertarian right find it particularly hard to deal with this kind of advertiser pressure, because of the difference between capitalism as they idealize it, and capitalism as it exists. They tend to have a utopian vision of a perfect capitalism consisting of a huge number of small firms and individuals. But in reality small firms are unproductive so actual capitalism tends towards a few large corporations. So when corporate hegemony is deployed against them, as in this case, the right are often at a loss as to how to protest it. So perhaps the defence of Rush Limbaugh this way is down to me. Unfortunately, I think I lack the motivation to keep defending him through a long thread.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure EIB is comparable to NPR by lm (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 06:47:29 PM EST
In cases like Juan Williams (the NPR correspondant fired for admitting that he gets nervous when he's on the same airplane as observant Muslims) there is a very unequal distribution of power between the agency doing the firing and the person doing the firing.

In the Limbaugh case, he's the one in a position of power. No single advertiser wields as much influence with Limbaugh's employer (if you're going to call ClearChannel an employer, which is questionable with regards to Limbaugh) as Limbaugh himself wields with ClearChannel. Moreover, pretty much every high profile Republican leader has paid hommage to Limbaugh. I was almost stunned to see Ron Paul question Limbaugh's apology.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Hard to judge who's more powerful by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 03:05:49 AM EST
Rush Limbaugh certainly has political power through his personal influence. But Clear Channel makes $7bn a year in revenue, has 18,000 employees, owns 850 radio stations. It's not clear to me that Rush Limbaugh is more powerful than a medium-sized corporation.

If you had a test of wills, where Rush Limbaugh strongly supported political candidate A, and Clear Channel used donations, lobbying and airtime to strongly support political candidate B, I'm not convinced A would have the greatest benefit.

Also, Rush Limbaugh's power seems to me very limited in scope. He mostly influences people who already largely agree with his positions. He can nudge them a little way within a narrow band of the political spectrum: e.g. he can make some Republican primary voters decide between Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. But money, because it's fungible, gives you a much broader power.

So, I would say Clear Channel is considerably more powerful than Rush Limbaugh, though it's not possible to prove such a thing.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Rush Limbaugh is also a corporation by lm (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 07:24:37 AM EST
With Clear Channel being privately owned, we have no way of knowing how much of their revenue comes from Limbaugh's show. But I think it safe to say that he is a cash cow for them and that if it came to a divorce, Limbaugh would have little problem returning his corporation to being an independent studio while Clear Channel would have a large problem finding any show with the same sort of built in audience.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
A response to 'Porn corporations: stop selling rape fantasies' | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)