Susie Bright on MacKinnon

[Excerpted from Susie Bright's SexWise]

``Unfortunately, when it comes to pornography, few Americans, especially women, know a damn thing about it, except it's "bad", and MacKinnon can get away with making statements that are right out of War of the Worlds... MacKinnon draws a picture of pornographic filmmaking as a montage of concentration-camp documentary, high-fashion fascism, and draconian male conspiracy.

Sometimes I wonder if MacKinnon has simply been driven mad by all the sick things that people do to one another. I too, recoil in pain and incomprehension whenever I hear about the latest psychopath who has shot his mother, machine-gunned his coworkers, raped his daughter, or slashed a prostitute. I notice that such men are more likely to have read the Bible than pornography, but I do not hold either script responsible for their actions.

It's a far different criticism to note that porn is sexist. So are all commercial media. That's like tasting several glasses of salt water and insisting only one of them is salty. The difference with porn is that it is people fucking, and we live in a world that cannot tolerate that image in public.

MacKinnon has picked up a drum to beat that is already as American as apple pie, the devil-made-me-do-it bandwagon, where every erection is a threat, where sex is men's domain and women's suffering. It's puzzling why she thinks this is radical or iconoclastic. Her work has dovetailed nicely with the work of most right-wing fanatics in the country. Her influence on legislation as important as the Canadian obscenity statue has resulted in thousands of books and magazines being banned, including authors like myself, Kathy Acker, David Leavitt, and even her dear comrade, Andrea Dworkin. (A Canadian customs official took one look at Dworkin's title, Woman Hating and stupidly using the MacKinnon criterion of banning anything that "degrades women," refused the book entry.)

...she posed for a lovey-dovey pictorial with her paramour Jeffrey Masson on the cover of New York magazine in such fawning poses that, even if you didn't know who she and Masson were, you might find your feminist aesthetics turning a little green around the gills.

...she has plenty of company among those who are offended by sex, and who believe that what they are offended by should be legislated against. It's the easiest thing in the world to be disgusted by sexuality -- we've been raised to do it automatically. It's quite a different matter to embrace sexual diversity or, as a woman, to say that female orgasm is crucial to female power. MacKinnon has never liberated masturbation. She indicts sexuality like a traditionalist, stating boldly that "Pornography is masturbation material. Men know this."

But what about women? MacKinnon apparently finds the idea that women masturbate, perhaps even using sexy words and pictures, altogether unbelievable -- or yet another symptom of a pimp's brain-washing. It's this arrogance and condescension that make women, not men, MacKinnon's fiercest critics and bitterest enemies.

Virtually all men feel slandered by Mackinnon's descriptions of their gender, including a number of the judges she's been up against. But many of them also feel guilty about porn and sex; and when they see the evidence of men who have gone off the deep end, they often privately think to themselves, "There but for the grace of God go I." Such is the nature of the American Puritan mind: men feel that if they could have the pleasure they wanted, they would all go to hell in a hand basket.

...if I believed that her cause was simply to make the world a safer, egalitarian place for women, I would take her aside and whisper, "I think you've overlooked a few things."

But she's already been asked to listen to other women's idea of sexual equality and liberation, and she has rejected them. Her declarations are so wild and her righteousness so dense, you can't help but wonder, "What else is at stake here?" ... why is it so important to her not only to stop men from masturbating, but to shut women up? Why do we have to keep our legs crossed for her?

I could criticize pornography until the cows come home, but I will not criticize the power of pictures and words to arouse me: to arouse passion or ideas, erections or damp panties, fears, curiosities, unarticulated yearnings, and odd realizations. Sexual speech, not MacKinnon's speech, is the most repressed and disdained kind of expression in our world, and MacKinnon is no rebel or radical to attack it.''