Vivas wrote about an event organized by Let’s Talk Sex, which included a screening of pornography and was being funded by the University. In a March 10 ‘Prince’ article about the event, Shivani Radhakrishnan ’11, president of the Anscombe Society, was quoted objecting to the prospect of University money being used for this purpose. (Radhakrishnan is also a member of the Editorial Board of the ‘Prince.’) In response to Radhakrishnan’s opposition, Vivas protested that not all pornography engages in the mistreatment of women: After all, gay porn doesn’t show women at all, and Vivas proudly observed that most of the executive staff at her own company, Pink Visual, are female. And Vivas said she is a feminist. Radhakrishnan must be mistaken: All these women couldn’t be unwitting participants in the degradation of their sex.
I don’t want to get into the issue of whether graphic depictions of sex are inherently demeaning to the participants. What seems to be abundantly clear is that Vivas speaks from the moral low ground. To begin, there is a slight incongruity in her column: She protests that lesbian pornography (such as that offered by her own company) doesn’t fit Radhakrishnan’s “axiom.” Lesbian porn can’t possibly be about women demeaning themselves for men: “Are [lesbian pornographers] even worse in their exploitative wiles, given that they are targeting fellow females both in their visual exploitation and as the consumer audience for their films?” Whether females are targeted as the consumer audience seems beside the point: Vivas herself admits that “men still greatly outnumber women among our customers.” But don’t worry, she writes: Women are catching up with men in porn consumption.
Vivas also claims that “some of us [women] working in adult entertainment are doing precisely what we want to do — and doing it quite well!” I do not doubt that Vivas is doing well for herself — recall that she unexpectedly won an award for entrepreneurship from Gingrich — but she is absolutely wrong when she implies that the porn available from her company is not “exploitative, ruinous and corrupting.”
Vivas said that it is “ill-informed” to call out the porn industry for degrading women. So I took up her challenge: I visited Vivas’ website. Like any good corporation, Pink Visual is divided into wholesale and retail. The products on offer do not appear to be substantially different. The decor in retail is more overtly Sapphic: not romantic lesbianism in the spirit of the Greeks, but a straightforward backdrop of naked girls licking each other and arching their backs. And Vivas wonders why men are among her best customers?
If you’re still confused about the marketing at Pink Visual, consider that this feminist stuff — the lesbian videos — are titled “Lesbian Fuck Fest” and “Anal Devastation.” Alongside the lesbian material is the barely legal “Teens for Cash,” in which — to quote from the website — “these girls may be in college but that doesn’t make them any less gullible as we flash them some … beer money in exchange for showing us their tits … and then letting us pound their pussies raw!”
The overt commercialism of the website, which is obviously marketed to men, suggests that those women executives at Pink Visual are being paid very well for their product. It is easy to see the motivation. It is nonetheless hard to square this with Vivas’ claim that she is “targeting females … as the consumer audience” for her films. (I did not, by the way, find any examples of her much-vaunted “fem dom” pornography. At any rate, it’s not given star billing.)
Far more disturbing is the “Gangbang Junkies” series, depicting crowds of five or six men having sex with a lone woman. This is prominently advertised with the “Gang Bang Squad” series, which seems to take the same premise. These videos involve women being led around on their hands and knees by chains attached to dog collars. It seems to me impossible for Vivas to call herself a feminist if her company produces and disseminates these videos.
I think it would be an interesting research project to determine whether repeated consumption of these videos leads to an increase in sexual assaults. But what is beyond question is that the videos represent a debased view of sex: something to be taken by violence from a woman treated, literally, like a bitch. Vivas calls out “anti-porn feminists” for claiming to “speak on behalf of all women everywhere.” But Radhakrishnan did not claim to represent the views of all women everywhere: What she asserted was that pornography like that found at Pink Visual is degrading to women everywhere. And there is abundant evidence, available at Vivas’ own website, to support this position.
I don’t doubt that I’ve just increased web traffic to Pink Visual. And I’m sure Vivas would observe that the actresses who work for her company join voluntarily and are well-compensated. I’m not suggesting that the rapes depicted in the gangbang videos were real. But I think it is nonsense to say that whoever produced these videos was a feminist. Dog collars are exploitative. Rape is disgusting. These videos are misogynistic, and the discussion is closed.
Brendan Carroll is a philosophy major from New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.