Read this article. Read it right now. I’ll wait.
Done? Awesome. I know that it pained you to have to follow a link through the internets and all, but I made you do that because that particular article is important. It’s an attempt to say something that has been sadly missing from the whole bullshit contraception kerfuffle and it does it very well.
As such, it’s a good jumping-off point.
The thing that struck me when I first got news of the whole Issa-Fluke catastrophe was the reason Issa gave for Fluke not being allowed to testify about women’s reproductive needs so that five old, sometimes celibate men could. When Issa refused to allow women to testify his reasoning was that the hearing was not about women, but about religious freedom.
The implications of that line of thought are staggering. They are also, sadly, mundane.
Claiming that the hearings were about religious freedom and not about anything having to do with women clearly states several things about religion and women in America. First, and most obviously, it declares that woman have no place to speak in society. Second, it somehow puts “women” and “religion” on opposite ends of some sort of spectrum and in a zero-sum argument against one another. Third, it takes away the notion of “religious freedom” from the class of “women.” To wit: women can have all the religious freedom they want as long as they choose to use the religious freedom dictated to them by old, sometimes celibate men.
Now, let’s bracket off the big question of utility here, as there was a place where an argument could be made and that was as an issue of cost. Providing contraception, after all, is not going to be free. It is, however, more cost-effective for insurance companies than paying for even the cheapest birth. Contraception, then, can be considered a form of preventive health care. And, of course, there are all the women who need it for non-sex reasons. This also can’t be part of a larger personal responsibility crusade. I could eat greasy cheeseburgers three meals a day and still end up with a subscription for Lipitor covered by my insurance without having anyone say, “We’re thinking of not giving you these drugs because gluttony is against our religion.”
Moreover, all you have to do is run across this ABC News article entitled “Erections Get Insurance, Why Not the Pill?” to realize that Viagra – which has significantly lower non-directly-sex-related use in America – has been covered by insurance pretty much since it came on the market. As such, any argument about not covering the Pill is officially a load of horseshit. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, 28 states have had laws about covering the Pill on the books for years. There hasn’t been a public outcry about this until now.
Then, of course, there’s this notion that religious institutions should be allowed to regulate what kind of medical care their employees can get. This is, in a word, wrong. Health coverage is a form of compensation in America. As such, it is no different from the dollars in my paycheck.
Judging by the number of pastors that get caught with hookers or blow or snorting blow off the asses of hookers, I’m pretty sure that religious institutions don’t meticulously track where their employees spend their paychecks. Sure, they can say, “We’d prefer you not blow this money on hookers and blow,” but they can’t really pre-emptively stop it. Moreover, no one is really talking about the scandal of churches allowing their employees the freedom to use their hard-earned dollars on hookers, or blow, or cigarettes, or alcohol, or pornographic videos, or to pay back their credit cards with those totally-not-usurious 21% interest rates. I’m also pretty sure that churches aren’t demanding that their employees immediately turn their paychecks over to charity, even though Jesus did command the rich man to sell off all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.
Take that all away, though. What is the central point of the kerfuffle? It’s that men get to talk and women get to be talked about. Men get to make decisions and women get to be decided for. This goes back to the whole idea that the conversation was about religious freedom and, as such, it was preposterous that anyone would even bother to think that a woman would have anything of value to say. Take away the bit where it was about women and contraception. Just take the reply at face value. “The menfolk are having a conversation here,” Issa basically said, “Women have no place here.”
Conservative religious leaders don’t give a shit about women.
This takes me to an interesting place: porn.
It’s an interesting place since I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of people who are less capable of speaking authoritatively than I am on the subject of sex are in grade school. But, hey, what are ya gonna do?
Ever since I created my Tumblr account I’ve realized that there are few things in this world more fun than just fucking around on Tumblr and seeing what all there is to see. The other day I discovered that porn stars seem to put up Tumblrs. It should come as no surprise that said Tumblr accounts are filled with pictures of naked or nearly naked people and that in some of those pictures the people are having sex with each other.
Now, as best I can tell, the purpose of this exercise is to titillate and, in doing so, sell further titillation to people like, well, like me. At no point in this journey was I particularly titillated. I certainly did not become aroused. I found the whole thing fascinating on an anthropological/sociological level.
See, I’ve never really understood porn. I get it on an intellectual level. Its purpose is pretty self-evident, really. When I was growing up in the church I was also told it was one of the most dangerous things ever. I’d hear about the dangers of porn. I’d occasionally hear a testimony from someone who had discovered porn and subsequently became addicted. So I avoided the stuff, which, really, wasn’t so hard in a world without Tumblr. In fact, it’s still pretty easy now, even in a world with Tumblr. The trick is to not really give a flying crap. But that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, after I stopped worrying about making baby Jesus cry I eventually figured out, “Hey, it’s okay to watch porn. I also realized that, holy shit, lots of people do it and most people aren’t exactly ashamed about it. So I ended up tracking some down. My response was pretty much, “Wait, this is it?”
I didn’t care. I couldn’t figure out why, though. Mostly I just had a sense that there was no real point to it or, if there was a point, it certainly wasn’t one I was noticing. It didn’t help that even I, a guy who knows fuck-all about actual sex, managed to watch about five seconds of the stuff before I realized, “This is totally unrealistic. How the hell could anything I’m seeing here possibly seem like a good idea?”
So, yeah. Porn. I don’t get it.
I was on Tumblr, as I was saying, and ended up on a porn star’s Tumblr. I do not know who it was. I was too busy at first trying to figure out why this person was putting up lots of pictures of herself sitting naked in a bathtub and also why she didn’t eat a sandwich from time to time before I finally realized, “Oh, hey, porn star. Now I understand.” I mean, I still don’t get the obsession with bathtub-related self-photography, but I totally get why naked pictures would be a thing.
Tumblr, dude. Tumblr.
Interspersed with said bathtub-related self-photography were pictures that would best be described as “on set” or possibly “promotional.” Tumblr being what it is, pictures were also often accompanied by links to other Tumblr accounts maintained by other porn people. I spent about 20 minutes wandering around because I was fascinated by the whole thing. In doing so, I finally figured out one of the major reasons I’ve never understood porn and probably never will and also why I have no urge to do so.
Any picture I saw of a woman having sex in a porn pretty much came across as a picture of a woman having absolutely no fun. I suppose this is probably the partially Lawrence Weschler-trained, self-taught art aficionado in me, but I found myself looking more at the composition of the scenes and the various similarities rather than, y’know, genitals. I quickly realized that every woman in a picture with a man wherein sex was happening was on a lower plane, in what appeared to be a really uncomfortable position, looking up at the dude, and always wearing the exact same facial expression.
The facial expression was not one of someone who was enjoying herself, either. It also wasn’t the look of someone who wasn’t enjoying herself. It was, instead, a look designed to communicate exactly one thing that I can really only describe as a combination of worship and appeasement. It’s…it’s weird. It’s hard to explain, but it’s basically the look that I imagine is on the face of any woman who’s telling a guy with whom she has just had extremely dissatisfying sex that, yes, he’s the best she’s ever had and trying to sell it really hard.
I can’t help but think that this facial expression kept repeating because, for some reason, people who buy porn want to see it on the women upon whom the sex is happening. And that set composition of the man above, and the woman below and looking upwards with that, “Oh, god, yes, this is the best thing I’ve ever done, don’t you believe me…tiger?” can’t possibly be an accident.
It also occurred to me that in all the times I was warned about the evils of porn it never actually came up that porn was depicting an extremely unrealistic, reductionist view of sex. The idea of objectification of women might have come up, but certainly the idea that having sex porn-style wouldn’t actually do much to help the woman enjoy herself didn’t enter any conversation I remember. The idea that sex as depicted in porn is really just meat slapping together while no one actually seems to be enjoying themselves never entered the conversation. And, believe you me, I heard from enough people who had watched enough porn that there should have been that body of knowledge available, even in my restricted Christian circles.
So Rush Limbaugh spent three days calling Sandra Fluke a slut. Some other jackass broke out the cost of contraceptives and decided that meant she spent an average of $3 on condoms a day for three straight years. Darrell Issa didn’t allow a woman to provide testimony at a hearing about women’s reproductive rights because those rights are non-existent compared to old men discussing their religious freedom to deny reproductive health care to women.
I wonder how much time all those guys spend watching porn.
Quite frankly, I would only be able to accept the religious freedom for pharmacists bullshit if it also included an opt-out for pharmacists who don’t want to give out drugs for high cholesterol to obvious gluttons, don’t want to prescribe expensive, brand name drugs due to corporate greed, and don’t want to accept credit cards due to a religious injunction against usurious lending practices. Until that happens, though, it’s all a game of slut shaming disguised with piety.
Come to think of it, that pretty much explains all of religion, which is odd, considering that whole bit in the Gospels where Jesus treated women as people and made it a point to not slut shame. It’s almost like the buffoons who represent Christianity in this country are a bunch of small-minded, misogynistic dickheads who have co-opted Jesus and re-made him in their own image for cynical, self-serving gain. But, really, who would do that?
Which is yet another in the long line of arguments in favor of universal health coverage. It’s this thing that’s supposedly a terrible idea because it will cost more in taxes. The fact of the matter is that right now I pay hundreds of dollars a year and my employer pays thousands of dollars a year for my health coverage. The fact that the money goes to Blue Cross Blue Shield apparently makes it good money to spend, whereas if it went to the government it would be bad use of money.
My argument is that I’m having money taken out of my paycheck either way and I’m pretty sure that I don’t have much of a voice with Blue Cross Blue Shield, so that sounds a lot like taxation without representation. And they’re more likely to drop me because of some pre-existing condition than Medicare is to drop my 91 year-old grandmother. Also, if I lose my job tomorrow I also lose my insurance coverage, while my grandmother will not be losing her Medicare any time soon. So, really, what’s so fucking great about private health insurance again?
The rest conveniently gathered together the other day for a group picture:
This might sound like one of those, “The gentleman doth protest too much,” sort of things. But, really, why the fuck would I lie about something like that?
Also, the thing that porn people do with their tongues, where they, like, flap them around in each other’s general direction as if they have a hyperactive, meth-addled hummingbird trying to escape from their mouths sideways. WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THAT? WHO DOES THAT?
Other than porn stars, obviously.
Yeah. I’m tossing Lawrence Weschler references in the middle of a discourse on porn. Eat it.
And those were pictures intending to promote the videos. It’s not like it was a photo essay of reasons why porn is anti-woman on Feministe or something. They were put up by the actual porn stars to say, “Hey, look at this awesome thing. You know you want to buy it.”