Category Archives: Politics

Free-range porn: Shades of grey in the sex-on-film debate

sex1-380x505Recently, two articles regarding the by-now popularised debate over pornography and its social effects, particularly in the Internet and smart phone age, gave me some hope that a measure of complexity is beginning to replace the previously black-and-white, sensationalised and often misleading treatment of this discussion by some anti-porn activists.


The first was a piece in The Age entitled The problem with porn

It prompted me to write a one thousand word Facebook comment, which I’ve included below – largely because I feel that such a long essay rant, composed spur of the moment when I should have been doing more constructive things, deserves at least a blog airing.

Now, this piece features observations from Marree Crabbe, “an expert on young people and sexuality.” In many ways, it continues some of the more simplistic approaches to discussing and critiquing porn’s role in society. For example, as I discuss below, it repeats the oft-cited reference to statistically prevalent violence in today’s pornography, without discussing what is actually defined as violent or degrading behaviour when compiling such data.

Nevertheless, it does at least gesture toward the idea that pornography itself – the depiction of sexually explicit activities for pleasure and entertainment – is not inherently bad. Rather, as Crabbe says:

The point is not whether anal sex is good or bad, or that it’s no good to get ejaculate on your face or parts of your body. It’s that the script of pornography is normalising and misrepresenting the experiences of pleasure of lots of people, particularly women, and shaping a sense of what is expected as part of the sexual experience for many young people when that is not actually what a lot of people want to engage in.”

The second piece, refreshingly, makes this gesture more explicit. Heh.

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The Imperfect President (plus Comedy in Politics and the Deficit of Trust)

Often, the politically informed get particularly cynical about casual hero-worship directed at figures like Barack Obama. While I agree with their sentiments, it’s also undeniable that Obama is one of the most intelligent and progressively minded Presidents in American history (yes, I know, he’s still behind Carter – but this baby just won a second term!)

Criticisms about foreign policy and the exercise of American power are legitimate and important, but the fact is that whoever holds the reigns of U.S. government will likely be implicated in drone strikes, civilian deaths, direct or tacit support for unsavoury regimes and/or a variety of other international law breaches that, as I’ve recently been reminded by one Facebook post, would see Obama (along with every other post-war President) hanged by the standards of Nuremberg.

The fact is, American Presidents, along with all leaders and those who participate in any form of position-taking, must be judged by their actions in the context of choices, which are constrained by political reality, institutional power and systemic inertia. Obama’s re-election is of course the better result when compared to a Romney Presidency, beholden to lunatic Tea Party fanatics. But Obama can surely be judged a genuinely good President in numerous ways, not least of which are the symbolic and practical support he’s given to socially progressive causes in the United States like health care, gay rights, women’s issues and, in a combination of domestic and foreign relevance (remember that Cairo speech), not-hating-on-Muslims-quite-so-much in the wake of 9/11 and Bush’s “War on Terror”. While it’s not everything, of course, rhetoric and symbolism do actually matter.

The reality of Obama’s presidency has been disappointing, but we should judge him as U.S. President, with all the constraints, hypocrisies and compromises that inevitably entails. We should judge him as a man who wanted to run for high office with the best of liberal intentions, as somebody who obviously has the insight to know exactly how complicated things really are, but whose position often blunts the better and more precise angels of intention. We should not judge him as Noam Chomsky.

Anyway, well done Mr. President and, in the spirit of examining just how fucked up the current state of politics is and, perhaps, some of the ways it might gradually move in a better direction, please check out this piece on comedy, politics and public discourse I recently penned for EMMI, a great new online home for creative works and social commentary. While you’re at it, be sure to read some of the other features and “stranger profiles” too. It’s a veritable cosmopolitan digital wonderland over there!

4 more years!

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