Monday, July 5, 2010

Jeffrey G. Sherman's "Love Speech: The Social Utility of Pornography."

Jeffrey G. Sherman's "Love Speech: The Social Utility of Pornography" is probably one of my favorite articles of all time.  It was published in Stanford Law Review in 1995, and it's so relevant today.  One of my big pet peeves when it comes to scholarship on pornography is that it works from a monolithic definition of pornography.  Those who then condemn pornography for damaging women's lives ignore pornography that does not have any women in it but still believe their arguments apply to pornography without women.  Sherman's argument attempts to combat that by explaining how gay pornography actually improves the lives of gay men.  He goes beyond the free speech argument that says pornography should exist because we should not attempt to constrict the marketplace of ideas even if those ideas are harmful ones to say that gay male pornography actually has benefits to it.  I agree with much of what he says on a gut level as well as an intellectual one.  He articulates something I have been feeling but unable to put into words.  I was taking some notes on this article today; here are a few quotations from it.
"In this article, I shall argue not that pornography is to be 'tolerated,' the traditional liberal attitude, but that pornography--at least gay male pornography--is to be valued as serving a social good: it enables its consumers to realize satisfying, nurturing sexual lives" (Sherman 662).

"Unlike liberalism's tolerance-based 'defense,' my argument embraces feminism's assumption that pornography has behavioral and psychological effects" (Sherman 667).

"[S]exuality and sexual response are so personal and idiosyncratic, and the sexual responses of men and women are so demonstrably different, that each sex may be peculiarly ill-suited to make assertions about the other's sexuality" (Sherman 668).

"Sexual exhilaration in the context of a mutually desired sexual connection may present the only circumstance in which one can achieve a complete submersion of self in another's being, transcending the leaden constraints of political obligation and rational discourse" (Sherman 670).

"If government is to foster its citizens' flourishing, and if an integrated sexuality is part of that flourishing, it follows that political regimes must be conducive to sexual integrity" (Sherman 671).

"The silencing and subordination of gay men on account of their sexuality denies gay men the self-acknowledgment and self-definition that every group needs to participate fully in civic life" (Sherman 671).

"It is a sensibility, a culture, a community from which the heterosexual world has much to learn and which is entitled to equal weight and deference" (Sherman 675).

"[B]ecause of our culture's presumption of heterosexuality, we speak of gayness, rather than sexual orientation, as being the invisible quality" (Sherman 676).

"Heterocentrism may disaffirm gay men, but it does not demonize them. Homophobia does that" (Sherman 676).

"A gay adolescent encounters many examples of male-male 'affection,' but they fail to provide the validation he needs if they do not explicitly acknowledge male-male sex" (Sherman 683).

"The men in the gay pornographic films were not being treated like women; they were being treated like gay men" (Sherman 691).

"Sadly, these critics fail to extend that insight to male-male penetration; instead, their comments suggest the erroneous view that penetration is penetration and that two gay men having sex with each other must necessarily be aping the sexist heterosexual norm" (Sherman 693).

"The gay pornography market 'has become a guarantee, at least until legal equality is won, that the existence of sexual minorities and their struggle for sexual rights remain in the realm of public visibility'" (Sherman 694, quoting Andrew Ross in No Respect).

"Second, and perhaps more important, the feminists' argument sets forth a rigid model of what constitutes 'correct' and 'incorrect' sexual interactions. If society accepts that model and restricts permissible sexual images according to that vision, gays and lesbians are likely to feel the lash disproportionately" (Sherman 695).

"The relative importance of pornography in the gay male imagination results from the suppression of other forms of gay expression: not only artistic expression but lived interpersonal expression" (Sherman 703).

"The eradication of homophobia will not occur in isolation. Rather, it will coincide with the eradication of misogyny, for the two are simply different aspects of the same hatred: hatred of femininity" (Sherman 703).

"Enduring gay coupled relationships particularly threaten the hierarchy by offering an example of committed, stable loving that requires neither procreation nor gender-based subordination" (Sherman 704).

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