Clive Hamilton needs a lesson in ethics and manners.

26 Sep

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?

6 Responses to “Clive Hamilton needs a lesson in ethics and manners.”

  1. paul walter September 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Clive Hamilton has been good value for money over the years, but like Jennifer I think of this self-righteous, priggish, authoritarian streak of his as a trait that is ruining his objectivity and value as a social commentor.
    The moment you start calling opponents “pomo”, you know there is actually a bit of right wing Tparty type guff under way. His time involved in enviro ought to be a reminder to him of what rightist labelling is about, yet Jennifer identifies an ugly misrepresentative smear, with the lead in comment, that predicates the rest. The sentence reveals the extent to which he has become a mouthpeice for social conservative forces within Labor.
    Heff as pomo, down on the Left Bank discussing Saussure or Heideggar in the company of Barthes, Irrigaray and Derrida (sunglasses optional), is a whimsical, Picaresque vision that has me defeated in the end, altho I can see him gleefully cackling as he stacks more bundles of greenbacks into his large sack.
    For his part, he was smart enough to perceive the dying moments of nineteenth century puritanism and in that death, an opportunity for some experimentation of his own at the interstice, but I dont think he ever reached the stage of conscious critique, to some extent he remained a creation of the zeitgeist of his times and an object of study for economists, social scientists and pol economists, nowadays. Shrewd tho and it looks like he’ll go smiling to his grave.


  2. Matthew September 27, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Particularly liked this comment on the ABC site; “’Equally unspeakable is Playboy, a magazine which now features ‘graphic close-ups of … well, I don’t know what’’. You do know what, Clive. It’s called a vagina. Is it so grotesque that, like Lord Voldemort, you cannot speak its name?”

    Brilliant. However I think Hamilton’s descriptions of Playboy magazine highlight how dishonest this entire debate is. Hamilton’s descriptions of the magazine and its website;

    “And while the first ten years of the original stick mag (which Hefner originally wanted the title Stag Party) were tame, the last ten years are anything but. Would Dymocks stock a boxed set with the last ten years of the magazine? Complete with graphic close-ups of … well, I don’t know what.

    But if Playboy has to compete with the internet, then inside its covers the term “explicit” has been redefined. And the Playboy empire’s online material is more graphic again”.

    Unfortunately for Clive and thanks to file sharing of copyrighted material, anyone with a spare 15 minutes can confirm that his descriptions don’t exactly match his very active imagination of what Playboy looks like in 2011. It’s still an incredibly tame magazine, even by the standards of men’s magazines of 20 or even 30 years ago. First, the only “graphic close-ups” are of women’s faces. If Hamilton can’t recognise a face, well he needs help. Second, if you relied on the magazine or the additional images or videos from its website for an understanding of the human female anatomy, you would have no idea that female genitalia existed. Looking at images for the foreign editions of the magazine (for research purposes only!) it’s all pretty much the same (kinda dull really).

    The lying and gross distortions in this debate shits me to be honest. Those against it lie about everything. They conflate illegal material with legitimate industries. This is why anyone with any sense doesn’t listen to their crap. It most certainly is a moral panic.


  3. Dan September 30, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    There goes our Clive, puts another foot in the mouth:
    I still like his work on environmentalism, but he should just stay away from sex and gender.


    • Jennifer Wilson October 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      “Women’s morality is different from men’s” ???? Says Clive.
      OMG, just need to unpack my bags and have a cup of tea, and I’m on it.


  4. Spinifex Dreaming October 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Alan Jones move aside…Clive is job hunting & his mind is in his jocks


    • Jennifer Wilson October 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

      I think Clive ought to mosey on back to climate change and leave feminism and pornography alone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: