In June this year Hugh Hefner opened a new Playboy Club in London. When asked about the feminist demonstrators outside, Hefner said: “Playboy and the Playboy Clubs were the end of sexism.”
The sad thing about this statement is that Hefner probably believes it. Hefner is at one with those postmodern radicals who believe girls are empowered through the exploitation of their sexuality and that participating in the making and consuming of porn is a valid part of that. Clive Hamilton.
These are the opening paragraphs of ethicist Clive Hamilton’s essay “Rescuing sex from porn,” published in ABC Drum’s Religion and Ethics section last week.
The sad thing about Hamilton’s statements is that he apparently really believes anyone who disagrees with his understanding and definition of pornography and female sexual empowerment is automatically Hugh Hefner’s best buddy. In making sweeping (and many may feel insulting) assumptions such as that one, Hamilton signals his intention to frame the debate as a “George Bush: you’re with us or against us” battle between the forces of good (Hamilton and his buddies Gail Dines, Melinda Tankard Reist, Abigail Bray, et al) and evil (Hugh Hefner and everybody on the planet who disagrees with Hamilton and his buddies, even if we aren’t wild about Hefner either.)
Anyone who believes girls are “empowered” through what Hamilton considers “exploitation of their sexuality” is a “postmodern radical,” whatever that might be, clearly nothing good as far as Clive is concerned, and someone too ignorant to know there’s a difference between empowerment and exploitation to boot.
The “postmodern radical” also believes that the production and consumption of porn is a valid part of female sexual empowerment. Really?
How does Clive get himself to these conclusions? Oh, silly me, it’s not difficult when all “postmodern radicals” share the same sensibilities as Hugh Hefner.
So, let me get this straight. A postmodern radical is someone who thinks that Playboy was the end of sexism?
A postmodern radical is someone who can’t tell the difference between empowerment and exploitation?
A postmodern radical confuses sex with pornography and needs Clive, MTR, Gail and Abigail to rescue him or her from that cesspool of confusion and filth?
A postmodern radical is a really, really bad thing to be?
If you don’t agree with Clive Hamilton you’re a postmodern radical and therefore probably really, really bad?
Excuse me while I get some air, I’m totally overcome by the ethical elegance of Hamilton’s arguments.
I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m getting seriously irritated by Hamilton’s codswallop disguised as ethics. I’d like to know what exactly is ethical about stereotyping other human beings because they disagree with you? I’d like to know what is ethical about reductionism?
I’d like to know what is ethical about an argument that lumps every dissenter in with every other dissenter and concedes no variation in their dissent, rather condemns the whole lot solely because it does not accord with your point of view?
Sweeping generalizations are the hallmark of many anti porn arguments, and their fatal weakness. Sweeping generalizations are intellectually lazy, and dehumanizing. They are the antithesis of ethical debate.
There are many decent, ethical, and generous people who have profound concerns about certain types of pornography and its possible effects, and many people who have serious concerns about the treatment and well-being of actors who participate in its production. It is disgraceful that Clive Hamilton should contemptuously dismiss such people because they may disagree with him on the definitions and understandings of pornography put forward by him and his fellow activists.
Nobody owns the rights to moral and ethical concerns about the production, consumption and effects of pornography. Mr Hamilton and his fellow activists do not determine for the rest of us what those concerns are or should be by high handedly assuming an imaginary right to legitimize and validate them, according to their own beliefs and values.
If Mr Hamilton and his fellow activists are to continue to complain about being described as “anti-sex wowsers” perhaps they need to consider that their own acts of reductionist stereotyping are equally alienating, and serve equally little purpose.
If the attitude of anti porn activists continues to be one of “you’re with us or against us” they will achieve nothing lasting. Nobody will listen to them, except those who are already in agreement. They need to remind themselves that they are merely a part of society, not the whole, and that there is a wide range of opinion on this topic from people equally, and sometimes more, intelligent and informed as themselves.
That’s if they want to be ethical.
And if they don’t, then where do they get off, bagging Hugh Hefner?