So a few weeks ago, someone from Backlash asked whether I'd be willing to speak on their behalf about the Extreme Porn Consultation and how it might affect feminists. After saying yes enthusiastically and leaping around in excitement for a few days, I realised I knew very little about the anti-porn feminist stances and started reading the typical texts (Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Sheila Jeffreys et al). I was actually stunned by the total nonsense they write and that anyone thinks their arguments make enough sense to publish them. Bearing the other 'side' in mind, my talk was incredibly easy to write, but I decided to talk from a more personal perspective as well, because the proposed laws would undoubtedly have an effect on what Tom and I get up to, and because I wanted to keep it informal and avoid using academic language.
We managed to get to SOAS and after running halfway across London looking for an internet café to print my final (though totally unnecessary, as it happened) edit, and another hour of sitting behind the Backlash stall upstairs, it was time for the Sexual Expression
session. I had planned to first explain the technical bits of the law, but to my horror it was totally covered by the first speaker and I started panicking that I'd be repeating everything she said. When it came to my turn, I felt myself going purple and inappropriately stumbled over the word 'consensual' about nine times before I calmed down and got on with it. First ever attempt at public speaking, and it showed.
For anyone arsed, here is a pretty accurate rendition of what I said: ( Feminist Fightback speechCollapse )
After we'd all said our bit, what was said went to the floor in possibly the most heated discussion I've ever been involved in. It was fantastic to see the room filled to the brim with women who had such strong, but generally intelligent views on porn. And there were the two idiots at the back. Sandy told me later that she'd heard one of them keep muttering "THAT'S not feminist!" all the way through my talk. All they really did was confirm to me how far feminists are in denial when they talk about porn and sex as if it's still the 60s, and express opinions using generalisations that were universally uninformed - much like the government's reasons for attempting to put the legislation through in the first place. When they started talking about the 'kind of people' that watch rape porn, I felt myself almost shaking with anger and disbelief, and when DemRed and rosalee
turned around to again dislodge yet another nonsense belief, I joined them and then burst into tears. SO humiliating. I guess it was a kind of adrenaline come-down, but I felt like I ruined the discussion a bit.
I was also amazed so many people came up to me afterwards to tell me how brave they thought I was for 'coming out' as a sexual submissive, as it was the one point in the talk I thought I'd seriously get lynched with. It's made me think a lot about sexual desire. How abitrary it is. How you can't change it with your politics no matter how much you may want to. I felt a kind of closure, that all the shame I've subconsciously harboured as a feminist who likes getting beaten, humiliated and dominated by a man in a sexual context, could go away. There's nothing sinister about enjoying any of those things, I don't think, if they're expressed in a way that brings you joy. It's a million miles from what Vera Baird deems 'abuse'. But it still surprised me that people thought it was brave to admit to enjoying them, and I think there's a real space in the way academics write about SM. People tend to approach it from a queer theory perspective, not a feminist one. Maybe I'll write my MA dissertation on it.
It was also cool to meet realdoll
for the first time, though unfortunately all very briefly, and fantastic to spot familiar faces in the crowd from so many different contexts. I felt sad when they called the discussion to a halt, but encouraged that a few people also came up to me afterwards to ask more about what they could do for Backlash, and that I was asked to speak again elsewhere. Hopefully next time I'll avoid the crying bit, too.