Comment 64406

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted June 01, 2011 at 15:14:04

Thanks, highwater. I'm glad you moved this discussion along this path because I've been thinking an awful lot about the issue of re-appropriation/disempowering the word.

I'll stand accused of getting hung up on this (allegedly minor) aspect of the whole SW phenomenon, but in my defense, it's because of a book I recently read called Pornland, by anti-porn activist/feminist Gail Dines.

The whole re-appropriation of slut didn't really make an impression on me one way or another until I read Dines' book, which contains some pretty graphic descriptions of gonzo porn, which is generally the most hardcore and common form of porn available on the web. I'm wouldn't call myself anti-porn, but to me, gonzo isn't even sex on film--it's thinly veiled sexual cruelty.

The frequent use of the word slut to describe the female subjects in these clips (calling them 'movies' gives the concept too much credit) as they are subjected to body-punishing debasement is what makes me very skeptical about the potential to re-claim the term.

As Dines describes in detail that made me queasy, the labeling of the subjects as 'sluts' (among other cruel and violent terms) is part of a larger program of objectifying and dehumanizing these women in order to make palatable their emotional and physical degradation on camera.

Its posited that the audience for this porn is a fairly standard group of porn viewers who would probably blanch at the thought of these acts being perpetrated on their wife, mother or daughter. But when a woman is framed a sex-loving slut who "is begging for it" or "getting what she deserves", it allows the viewer to justify the sexual cruelty enacted on them.

Slut, in these clips, is shorthand for desiring of sex, any kind of sex the male performer wants. This is a powerful message that inevitably has an impact on viewers, especially young men.

So, the mixing of the anti-sexual assault, anti-victim blaming messages of SlutWalks with the sex-positive branding and messages that some groups promote (see this interesting discussion of the Brisbane, Australia SlutWalk) give me further pause because it is exactly this version of "slut" (i.e. desiring of sex) that hardcore pornographers rely upon to justify what is (arguably) sexual violence on women.

Not to cede pornographers too much power, but I just don't see how the word can be stripped of its power simply by repeating it or saturating the cultural landscape with it.

Psychologically speaking, young men are being exposed to very salient, vivid, and powerful images of female sexual debasement under the slut frame, and this will inevitably influence their future relationships with women. It doesn't seem that ironically adopting the moniker will incite men affected by this framing to treat women any better, is all I'm thinking...

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