Pornography: Men Possessing Women  

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The word pornography, derived from the ancient Greek porne and graphos, means “writing about whores.” Pome means “whore,” specifically and exclusively the lowest class of whore, which in ancient Greece was the brothel slut available to all male citizens.

The porne was the cheapest (in the literal sense), least regarded, least protected of all women, including slaves. She was, simply and clearly and absolutely, a sexual slave. Graphos means “writing, etching, or drawing.”

The word pornography does not mean “writing about sex” or “depictions of the erotic” or “depictions of sexual acts” or “depictions of nude bodies” or “sexual representations” or any other such euphemism. It means the graphic depiction of women as vile whores. In ancient Greece, not all prostitutes were considered vile: only the porneia.

Contemporary pornography strictly and literally conforms to the word’s root meaning: the graphic depiction of vile whores, or, in our language, sluts, cows (as in: sexual cattle, sexual chattel), cunts. The word has not changed its meaning and the genre is not misnamed. The only change in the meaning of the word is with respect to its second part, graphos: now there are cameras — there is still photography, film, video. The methods of graphic depiction have increased in number and in kind: the content is the same; the meaning is the same; the purpose is the same; the status of the women depicted is the same; the sexuality of the women depicted is the same; the value of the women depicted is the same. With the technologically advanced methods of graphic depiction, real women are required for the depiction as such to exist." --Pornography: Men Possessing Women, p. 199-200, 1981, Andrea Dworkin, extending her definition from porn from "writing about whores" to "writing about vile whores" because porne was the lowest class whore in Ancient Greece. It is not because someone is low class that someone is vile nor a slut.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Pornography: Men Possessing Women is a 1981 book about pornography by the anti-pornography radical feminist author and activist Andrea Dworkin.

Full text[1]

Summary

Dworkin analyzes (and extensively cites examples drawn from) contemporary and historical pornography as an industry that hates and dehumanizes women. Dworkin argues that the industry is implicated in violence against women, both in its production (through the abuse of the women that are used to star in it) and in the social consequences of its consumption by encouraging men to eroticize the domination, humiliation and abuse of women.

She outlines the power of men as: 1) a metaphysical assertion of self; 2) physical strength; 3) the capacity to terrorize; 4) the power of naming; 5) the power owning, 6) the power of money; and 7) the power of sex. The "metaphysical assertion of self" is described as a subject position. Dworkin suggests that men occupy a powerful subject position that is protected by laws and customs, art and literature, documented in history, and upheld in the distribution of wealth. Men have this self (an “unselfconscious parasitism”) and women must, by definition, lack it. The first sign of his parasitism is in his relationship to his mother. He then transfers this to other women in his life and uses women to enlarge himself. Men also have the power of physical Strength. This is not the same as being muscular or strong, but it is the right to physical strength. The capacity to terrorize is the metaphysical assertion of self plus strength which creates fear in a whole class of people (men over women). This happens through rape, battery sexual abuse, and the use of prostitutes. This behavior is idolized in movies about heroism, war, and glory. In TV, literature, books, drama this story plays out. Men’s acts are huge and awesome even when villainous and women become the prize. The power of naming means that men have the ability to define experiences and this is upheld by force. As an example, men name women as “weak” and then further weaken them with preferences and standards of beauty that leave women mutilated and stunted. The power of owning refers to husbands' ownership of wives and fathers' ownership of daughters. This ownership is natural as he is the “one who takes.” Once he has had, it is his. Men also have the power of money. In the hands of women, money buys things, it stays literal. Money in the hands of a woman is sometimes evidence of something foul: unwomanly ambition and greed. For men, money buys women, sex, status, dignity, esteem, loyalty, and all manner of possibility; it brings qualities, achievements, and respect. Money in the hands of a man signifies worth and accomplishment. Wealth of any kind is an expression of male sexual power. Lastly, Dworkin suggests that men have the power of sex although they assert the opposite. The carnality of women is said to be the defining characteristic of women. Women have sexual power because the erection is involuntary and a woman is always the presumed cause, therefore the man is helpless and the woman powerful. The male reacts to a stimulus for which he is not responsible. Whatever he does, he does out of a provocation from a female – she is the temptress. According to Dworkin, men force women to become that thing that causes erection and then holds himself helpless when he is aroused by her. His fury when she is not that thing is intense and powerful.

Reception

Terry Baum has written that the book is a "revelation" and that Dworkin "spoke with the urgency and eloquence of the Biblical prophets."



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