Why I Probably Won’t Do Porn Again: Sexism and Being a Woman on the Internet


I’m probably never going to do porn again.

This makes me sad. It kind of ticks me off.

I want to talk a little about why.

Last weekend, I was at HUMP!, the totally awesome amateur- and- locally- produced porn festival founded by Dan Savage. Naturally, one of the topics of conversation that came up afterwards was, “If you were going to make a movie for HUMP!, what would it be?”

And I realized: I’m probably never going to make a movie for HUMP!. I’m probably never going to publish erotic photos that are any more revealing than the pin-up shots I did for the upcoming Skepticon calendar. I used to do this sort of thing fairly often (eight hundred thousand years ago in the pre-Internet days), and I got a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction out of it… but I’m probably never going to do it again.

I think it would be career suicide.

A lot of women — women atheists, and other women — have been writing lately about misogyny, and what it’s like to be a woman writer on the Internet. They’ve been writing about the fact that, if you’re a woman writer on the Internet, you’re going to be targeted with a huge amount of sexual and gender-based abuse. At best, you’ll be called ugly and fat: criticizing women’s ideas by insulting their appearance is a tradition that goes back for centuries, and it’s alive and well today. You’ll definitely get tons of gender-specific insults, like “cunt” or “bitch.” And at worst, you’ll be threatened with sexual violence and rape — often in very explicit, detailed, gruesome language.

I will acknowledge: I personally haven’t dealt with as much of this as many other women. I’ve gotten a couple of rape threats, and I’ve gotten quite a few “You’re ugly, who cares what you think” insults, both in public comments and private emails. And yes, of course, I’ve been called a bitch and a cunt and so on. But I haven’t gotten nearly as much of this as other women have. (I’m not sure why: maybe because, while I write about feminism a certain amount, it isn’t the main focus of my writing. Or maybe because I’m just not famous enough yet. Something to look forward to.)

But I’ve gotten enough of this kind of sexist abuse — and I know enough about the sexist abuse other women writers get — to know what would happen if I started doing porn again. Even occasionally. Even just once.

I strongly suspect that, if I did porn again, it would become the one thing anyone ever remembered about me.

Forget about the “You ugly bitch, who wants to look at you naked” comments. Forget about the “Now that you’ve done porn, you have no right to ever complain about sexism and the objectification of women” comments. Forget about the barrage of leering and come-ons and inappropriate jokes I’d get at conferences and talks and public appearances. Forget, even, about the rape threats and the threats of sexual violence. If I made a movie for HUMP!, or posted nude pictures of myself on the Internet, I strongly suspect that it would become the one thing anyone ever remembered about me. I strongly suspect that my writing about atheist anger, or diversity in the atheist movement, or Pascal’s Fucking Wager, would get lost in a sea of, “She’s that atheist who did the dirty pictures, right?”

Look at what Jen McCreight at BlagHag deals with. A year and a half ago, McCreight made a boob joke on the Internet that went viral. She didn’t even show her naked boobs: on Boobquake day, she wore a mildly revealing tank top. And Boobquake is still, by her own acknowledgement, the one thing she’s still most famous for. In a recent interview, when she was asked, “For what are you most known?”, she responded, “I’d like to say my wit and charm, but let’s be honest — my boobs. I could cure cancer and people are still going to make earthquake jokes at me.”

Imagine what would have happened if she had, in fact, shown her naked boobs.

Now imagine what would happen if I did porn, or posed nude.

It would become the one thing anyone ever remembered about me.

And this makes me really, really sad.

I used to do this stuff a fair amount, back in the “by women for women” feminist porn revolution in the late ’80s and ’90s. And I loved it. It was richly satisfying and hugely fun. It helped free me from a lot of the shame I experienced around sex. It helped free my from a lot of my low self-esteem about my body. It helped me claim my sexuality as my own. It helped give me courage for other sexual adventures. It helped me feel like part of a sexual community, and part of a social change movement for sexual liberation. (And a lot of the time, it was just hot.) My sexuality is a huge part of who I am: sex has always been very important to me, and it’s always been a prominent topic in my writing and my public work. Doing porn and erotic modeling was a big part of that: I have extremely fond memories of it, and I don’t regret a minute of it.

But that was back when I was primarily known as a sex writer. And it was back before the Internet made anonymous rape threats easy and cheap. Now that I’m trying to build a writing career around topics other than just sex, it’s hard to imagine that doing porn would be anything other than career suicide.

And that sucks.

I would freaking love to do porn now. I’m more comfortable and more happy with my body than I have been in a very long time. And I would love to share that… for my own exhibitionistic pleasure, and for the sake of others. There aren’t a lot of role models for women of my age — I’m turning 50 at the end of this year — being openly and brazenly sexual, being comfortable and happy with their bodies and their sexualities and proudly celebrating them. I would love to be one of those role models. If I was ever going to do porn or nude pictures, now would be the time.

And I just don’t think I can. Not if I want to be taken seriously as a writer.

This really pisses me off. It pisses me off that, in order to be taken seriously as a female intellectual voice, I have to hold back my sexuality. Especially since it’s such a no-win situation. Women who are too sexual aren’t taken seriously, and women who aren’t sexual enough aren’t taken seriously. Women who are conventionally attractive get valued solely for their sexual appeal; women who aren’t conventionally attractive get dismissed for their lack of it. Women who are conventionally attractive are assumed to be dumb bimbos; women who aren’t conventionally attractive are assumed to be either bitter or desperate. Women who are conventionally attractive get trivialized; women who aren’t conventionally attractive get treated with pity and contempt. We can’t win.

Performance artist Karen Finley used to have nudity in some of her shows. (Still does, for all I know.) Although she wasn’t an erotic performer, she often ran into convoluted local laws governing sexual entertainment. And in England, she was told that, in her stage shows, she could speak, or she could be naked, but she couldn’t do both at once. Quote (from “Pranks!”, published by ReSearch, page 96): “Scotland Yard told me that I could not talk and show my body at the same time — I could do a strip show, but I could not speak.”

That’s how I feel. I can be naked, or I can speak — but I can’t do both.

This pisses me off. And part of me wants to say, “Fuck it, I’m going to do it anyway.” Part of me doesn’t want to let my decisions about my career and my life be inhibited by hateful, misogynist trolls on the Internet. If I do that, then the terrorists win. As has been pointed out many times by many people in these conversations: The whole point of all this misogynist vitriol and threats is to shut women up, to make women feel constrained about what we say and do in public. If I don’t do porn just because of sexist assholes on the Internet, then the sexist assholes win.

But I also have to be smart. And I have to decide what my priorities are. If doing porn were hugely important to me, I’d go ahead and do it, blowback be damned. But I have higher priorities. Creating a career as an atheist writer and speaker is a higher priority than making a five-minute porn video for HUMP!. Duh. That’s a no-brainer.

It just sucks that I should have to make that choice.

Comments

  1. Pteryxx says

    … I would have liked to see your porn work too, for all the reasons you list. Fuck. Fuck all this hating.

  2. julian says

    I would take you seriously if you did both.

    Same here.

    Fuck, I take Comrade PhysioProffe seriously and he’s a Yankees fan.

  3. says

    This just shows how important this is as an issue, and why it must be fought tooth and nail!

    But nobody should have to sacrifice their future, either…

    My own solution so far is to create drawn porn wherein naked women talk a lot.

  4. Alexis says

    When a person starts with an attack on your appearance or your sexuality, I would take it as an admission that he has no substantive argument to make.

  5. Frogmistress says

    “Scotland Yard told me that I could not talk and show my body at the same time…”

    I hate that those are your choices.

    Scott Brown posed nude, yet was elected. A woman’s political career would have been over before it began.

  6. Al Stefanelli says

    I bet you’d find a lot of people who’d buy Gretaporn and read Gretabooks, but I agree with you – it would probably be Hell’s Bells for your writing career. Which, admittedly, sucks. I happen to like porn (who doesn’t), and being about the same age as you, it kinda creeps me out to watch girls that are younger than my daughters.

    Be that as it may, Greta, it’s good to see you writing about it, at least, so that the world knows you’d still be willing to engage, so to speak.

    I’ve written extensively about misogyny, but I do not understand it from a female perspective for obvious reasons. From a guy’s point of view, though, it is still very obvious of the complete and total bullshit female atheists in general have to deal with, and more so of those of you who write.

    It’s kind of bittersweet for me, though, because as an atheist activist, author and one of your comrades here on Freethought Blogs, I truly enjoy reading your stuff, and have been a fan of you and Jen for quite a while – but… I’d still pay good money to see a Greta porno and, of course, Jen’s boobs.

    You can have the best of both worlds, but there is always a cost, eh?

    -Al

  7. says

    I’m not trying to pressure you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing…but if I’m being honest, I think you have enough respect garnered in the community that you could do it and it wouldn’t have a negative impact upon your work. Sure, some people would be douchebags about it (like people are douchebags about everything else), but I think most people would be supportive. And as a 20-something woman who is probably going through a lot of what you went through as a 20-something, I think it would inspire me (and other women) to be more confident about their bodies and to speak out.

    Also, maybe I live in a cave and am different from everyone else, but I don’t know Jen “for” her boobs. Yes, I learned about her because of Boobquake, but she does so much else that I know her for now. I remember Boobquake because I feel like it empowered a lot of women– at least, I felt empowered by it. I felt it was giving women in general a voice, even if Jen was the main mouthpiece.

    Anyway– I seriously respect you, Greta, and I’ll respect your decision either way. :) Keep rocking on.

  8. pajamapaati says

    Greta wrote:

    It pisses me off that, in order to be taken seriously as a female intellectual voice, I have to hold back my sexuality. Especially since it’s such a no-win situation. Women who are too sexual aren’t taken seriously, and women who aren’t sexual enough aren’t taken seriously. Women who are conventionally attractive get valued solely for their sexual appeal; women who aren’t conventionally attractive get dismissed for their lack of it. Women who are conventionally attractive are assumed to be dumb bimbos; women who aren’t conventionally attractive are assumed to be either bitter or desperate. Women who are conventionally attractive get trivialized; women who aren’t conventionally attractive get treated with pity and contempt.

    (My emphasis added)

    So many performatives omitted! Taken seriously: by whom? Valued: by whom? Assumed: by whom? Trivialised or treated with pity: by whom?

    Seems to me that you’ve already decided you can’t win over the “whom”s above, whether or not you do nudity and/or porn. So who’s left? Freethinkers! Many of whom will be radically challenged by a woman who not only talks radical sexual openness but visibly walks the walk too. And some of us may not be up to the challenge, and go over to the Dark Side and become MRAs. But some – more that the other lot, hopefully, will survive the challenge and maybe become better, more open-minded people. After all there’s a bit of puritan in most of us, even those who’ve thrown off the more overt religious indoctrination, and maybe we need some challenging on it, and having a woman who can not only think and express herself brilliantly in words but also unashamedly sexually just rocks! (Not to mention grabbing me so much both above the neck and below the waist that I think I’m in love : – ))

    – – – –

    Oh and, if you do do it, you have got to rope PZ in! ; – )
    Hell, why not all the FTBloggers?!
    And why stop there, how about Richard Da…. OK, let’s not get carried away here
    ; – |

  9. micaelagodfrey says

    I was having a discussion with one of my guy friends about this. He was at a class of some sort, and there was a woman coming to speak, and he was disappointed when she wasn’t conventionally attractive.
    We then discussed why he was disappointed, because we both agreed that it was ridiculous and rubbish that he was judging the value of this intellectual speaker based on her looks.
    I am fairly certain he still does this, perhaps a side-effect of our society today, or whatever you’d like to call it….But he feels bad about it, and spends time pondering why he does.

    Anyway, after that (I fear long and pointless) schpeal, I guess what I’d like to say is this:
    I love you and all that you have done for people as a whole, the world is rubbish, and I understand your decision completely, but would fight tooth and nail to defend you should you change your mind.
    You’re an amazingly inspirational woman. Being openly sexual shouldn’t change that in the slightest. In anyone’s eyes.

  10. nude0007 says

    Contrary to what you might conclude from my moniker, I have never done porn. I have respect and sometimes awe for those that do, although some seem either ashamed of it or very pre-disposed to think others disrespect them. My exposure (nice choice of words there) to said persons is very limited, though.

    I am a nudist, but I see nothing wrong with engaging in sexual activity where others might see you. It is a natural act and should be no different than any other action in public, clothed or not. Most people seem to disagree, but I think we’d all be less uptight if the world were that free. That is not to say I have ever done that, but I just don’t understand why people think it is something that HAS to be hidden.

    I don’t understand rape, and can’t comprehend why anyone would wish rape on someone else, anonymous or not. what kind of moral code (or lack thereof) would make this acceptable?

    I am always troubled by the attitude that women are worthless without sexuality or beauty, and a lot of guys seem to think a woman has to be gorgeous to even be considered a woman. I find beauty in most women, though I find it hard to accept fat people of either sex (still I don’t treat them badly, or differently, unless they are particularly offensive in some way). I have always treasured women’s company, insights and general joy of life.

    I am particularly susceptible to being entranced by a beautiful woman. I tend to stare. I just find them so visually pleasing it’s like a drug. However , that doesn’t mean she can wrap me around her finger. (xtainity robbed me of dating in my formative years and long thereafter, but I did finally find a woman who could look past my awkwardness and see that there was much more there. that’s another story) I look for honesty, kindness, and intelligence in anyone and respond positively to any of these. A beautiful woman who is an ass, will get no respect, and likely no help from me.

    I am constantly ashamed that women STILL don’t get equal pay or treatment. It boggles the mind.

    I would advise you to do whatever you like and damn the idiots who cannot see past one thing they think defines you. To define you as any ONE talent you have, thus limiting your perceived ability and depth is ridiculous. I tend to treat others as an intellectual equal until they prove me wrong. Not that I would probably ever see any work you did in that area, but I would encourage you to not let them limit you, and think of it this way, if they see you in a porn flick and then all they can do is leer at you and make stupid sexual comments, then you have just earned a way to spot real assholes much easier.

    Sorry for the long rant about my views, but I guess I just needed to share.

  11. Kagehi says

    Unfortunately, the other side of the equation is that you don’t stop people using such idiot and stupid things, and the hate that goes with it, by playing to the idea that there is something bad about it, and therefor they are right for saying it. The solution, like dealing with religious idiocy, is often to say, “So?”, then laugh your ass off at their stupidity. But, not everyone would be comfortable with doing that, or putting up with the assholes that would try to ruin careers over such bullshit.

  12. Midnight Rambler says

    Fuck, I take Comrade PhysioProffe seriously and he’s a Yankees fan.

    I would certainly continue to take Greta seriously if she did porn again. But I do have my limits.

  13. says

    Don’t worry, Greta, I’ll be the bisexual atheist woman writing porn for you! I write sci-fi/fantasy erotica. You can come join us at Circlet Press anytime you want to cut loose and talk about porn!

  14. says

    It long has puzzled me that so many men not only want sex as a tool for social dominance, but that that they are willing to sacrifice sex as social play for that purpose.

  15. TommyP says

    Hugs Greta. I’m so sorry that you feel that way, and I hope attitudes change in the future, for a lot of reasons.

  16. Michael Swanson says

    No matter what you choose*, I respect you immensely.

    *Disclaimer: choices do not include Scientology, Tea Party affiliation, homeopathy, Puritanism or wearing a skirt over jeans (I hate that look).

  17. =8)-DX says

    Gosh, that’s the fist time I realised Jen McCreight had breasts to notice. I’ll have to unlearn that image you posted but it is rather odd to me that this never ocurred to me – to me Jen has just been another friendly atheist out there.

  18. Foie Gras says

    Your ideas are shared and appreciated by many.
    Sex, art, humor, porn, food, … there are lots of things to enjoy in this short life we have.

    Thank you

  19. Thomas says

    So, we’re not going to get to see you naked? That is a loss of something nice in the world. But getting to read your stuff here is a pretty good compensation. There is far too much nasty and not near enough nakedness on this planet in my opinion. We want to thank people with political power and their religious minions to thank for that.

  20. Chas Warren says

    I don’t know that this necessarily — or at least, exclusively — has anything to do with being a woman. Doing porn wouldn’t help the careers of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, either.

  21. says

    The most important truth here is the distinction between levels of attractiveness and how women are still bound by this convention. It is a regrettable dichotomy in which girls growing up and women of age must face. I believe there must be an alternative to the choice at the bottom of Greta’s article. Even though it seems like women fall into a spectrum (of being beautiful or not in relation to their level of respect) in which they must operate, the solution doesn’t have to, and frankly, ought not to exist within this spectrum. The answer cannot be choosing one, the other, or even both. The answer must be to drop the potential quality of a woman’s ideas as related to her beauty. I know as culture, for all genders, this is impossible in the idealized sense because we will always be affected by beauty. However, it should not be the case that we are willing to outright attribute and consider ideas based on the attractiveness of a woman. A faceless speaker should be equivalent to a pretty, or ugly voice. So the question becomes, how do we break women out of this spectrum? The only answer I believe for women to operate on this scale is to demolish the scale completely. Success and consideration ought not reside on beauty itself nor expressions of beauty.

    It bothers me deeply to think: I have done modeling before, and encouraged one of my ex girlfriends to do it as well. Yet, she might face a stigma I will never know. When I tell people about it, they are surprised and claim how they never could do it. There is never a sense of wrongness here, that I feel she might receive.

  22. Jurjen S. says

    In the spirit of this blog, I’m just thinking out loud, but I wonder whether this is a dilemma specific to women. I mean, to compare, Ron Jeremy may have developed a decent side career doing non-sexual gigs, but he’s never not going to be “The Hedgehog” in anyone’s mind. Despite certain libertarians’ infatuation with John Stagliano, it’s still in the context of his being a producer of hard-core pornography.

    But even so, it sucks that anyone has to make that decision to either do something that “appeals to the prurient interest” or be taken seriously as an intellectual.

  23. Roger says

    “Imagine what would have happened if she had, in fact, shown her naked boobs”
    No-one would know what her face looked like, probably.

  24. FictionalFighter says

    Do it and be proud.

    The GLBT community didn’t get where it was by putting up with social norms, neither did African-Americans in the United States and Atheists haven’t made the headway they have in the last decade by making snide comments in friendly environments where other theists can’t hear.

    Do it and be proud, maybe some people will give you less credibility, but we’ve already ostracised theists and religious moderates so… fuck it. People will slowly wake up but it takes good role-models to show them the way. If chauvinists and sexually repressed suddenly don’t like you as much is that really a loss?

    Who knows you might even be surprised at how much support you get.

  25. says

    I have no desire to do this myself, but your article gives me some useful insights.

    On the other hand, that’s the whole idea behind HumpFest, right? It’s (pretty much) anonymous, and some of your fans will nudge each other in the ribs and say, “Isn’t that Greta Christina?” but in general you can share the fun with your inner circle without any images going viral.

    Just thinkin’ out loud …

  26. Rieux says

    As usual, Greta proves she’s among the very strongest and most eloquent voices we have in the atheist community.

  27. sunnydale75 says

    Greta, sounds like you have an addition to make under “Atheists and Anger”.

    I also find it mindboggling that in England you can’t _talk_ and do an erotic show. What exactly is the foundation for _that_ inane law, I wonder?

  28. VeritasKnight says

    I suppose my thought on the matter is that if you feel that your speech would be discredited by doing porn, and you choose to speak, given the topics you discuss, all you’re doing is helping the next person who follows to have the social acceptance to do both if she wishes.

    Giving up what you’d like to do for the next generation to be able to do it safely (we hope) is perhaps the most noble of causes. I think that’s sad, yes, but also awesome.

  29. Zugswang says

    Do it and be proud, maybe some people will give you less credibility, but we’ve already ostracised theists and religious moderates so… fuck it. People will slowly wake up but it takes good role-models to show them the way. If chauvinists and sexually repressed suddenly don’t like you as much is that really a loss?

    I actually think it would have the opposite impact, with the bros and MRAs of the world liking her a little too much, and thinking that just because someone does porn or has a sense of sexual freedom, it gives them license to pursue that individual above and beyond what they already believe they are entitled to from other women.

  30. says

    That *does* suck :(

    Let me just join the other commenters in saying I’d take you seriously if you did both. That’s probably not something that would have been true a few years ago, but I’ve fortunately learned a lot since then. I’d glad I can say it’s true now.

  31. Austin Green says

    I would just like to say seeing you appear in porn can only strengthen my respect for you.

  32. says

    Excellent points, Greta, and I agree with JT that I’d take you seriously if you did both. Also, the point about how we “can’t win” either way (regardless of how we look) is something I’ve thought about as well.

  33. DLC says

    I understand your complaint, and I agree with you that your porn career (were you to have one) should not interfere with or detract from your career as a speaker, author or atheist advocate.

  34. Laura-Ray says

    First off, I would totally support you for doing porn!
    I actually have a friend who is a sex therapist, and he’s actually who I thought of immediately when I read this. He totally changed my mind about a lot of sexual stuff, including bondage, S&M, nudity, and kink in general. It all used to make me very uncomfortable, but seeing him paddling friends at parties (that’s funny to write out, I forgot it wasn’t like a normal thing) or doing knifeplay safely, it was kind of like an educational film. He really helped me to become more open minded, and I think it’s because he was a person I respect. I shame-facedly admit that I used to think any kind of kink was weird and unnatural, maybe even crazy. After I saw people I respected engaging in these activities, I started to be a lot more okay with kink. So I can see some real good in your being in porn. Maybe the losing respect of some < gaining the respect of others, and helping them be brave and educated?
    That being said, the guy is a friend, and not a guy on the internet. It's sad to think about it that way, but I can understand why you'd be hesitant. Sometimes I can't even open my facebook if I've recently made a particularly inflammatory post, so I am not gonna call you a wuss for putting your naked self out there for everyone to comment on. People are jerks a lot. It's easier to be a flaming asshole when you're anonymous (re: 4chan), and it's also easier to assume that people you don't know very well are the worst thing they can possibly be.
    Just know that while some people might disrespect you for it, to me (and maybe other people), you might just become superman :)

  35. Azkyroth says

    Just know that while some people might disrespect you for it, to me (and maybe other people), you might just become superman

    Well, there’s a scene theme if you change your mind ^.^

  36. llewelly says

    Galileo Unchained : November 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm :

    … but in general you can share the fun with your inner circle without any images going viral.

    Many people, even many smart and technologically savvy people have had embarassing images of them accidentally leaked – even ones they shared with very few people. Nothing shared digitally, even if only with a few friends, is a s private or as secret as it seems. Computers copy and spread data far more automatically than most people realize.

    You might get away with it for a week, or for a year, but in the long run, anything you share over digital media is at risk of becoming public – unless you are both very knowledgable, and make no mistakes.

  37. skm9 says

    Not that it’s the same situation, but people seem to take Nina Hartley’s writing seriously even when she writes about things other than sex.

  38. Zak says

    Just want to add the voice: I’d take you seriously. Hell, I only just learned through this article that you did sex work. I take you MORE seriously now after learning that you value your sexuality in that manner.

  39. says

    While I’m among those who would still take you seriously if you did porn again, and who wish that you could do as you please on this without having to make that choice, I can’t say that I don’t see your point. Just recently I’ve been in a debate with someone at Friendly Atheist who’s opening line was:

    Well, at the very least it seems to me that porn lessens the dignity of those involved.

    That demonstrates that there definitely are freethinkers who would think less of you for doing porn.

    Which totally and completely sucks.

    Still, there are a number of freethinkers who are more sex positive than that, should you change your mind.

  40. Azkyroth says

    Well, at the very least it seems to me that porn lessens the dignity of those involved.

    That’s true, I suppose, for some very fucked up concepts of “dignity” but they’re best thrown to the winds anyway.

  41. says

    That’s true, I suppose, for some very fucked up concepts of “dignity” but they’re best thrown to the winds anyway.

    I’m not sure what those concepts would be, but you’re probably right.

  42. Azkyroth says

    I’m not sure what those concepts would be, but you’re probably right.

    The kind of “dignity” that’s held to be incompatible with having fun or letting go.

  43. says

    The kind of “dignity” that’s held to be incompatible with having fun or letting go.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want that kind of dignity.

  44. Peter MacKinno says

    I am afraid many of your mysogynist critics would be women. Women seem to be very harsh on other women who do overtly sexual stuff.

  45. Azkyroth says

    I am afraid many of your mysogynist critics would be women. Women seem to be very harsh on other women who do overtly sexual stuff.

    Yes, the patriarchy has been pretty good at tricking women into enforcing it. So good, in fact, that it has historically ensnared quite a few women who thought they were fighting it as enforcers of its sexual ethos. Still kind of a broad brush, though…

  46. Jared G. says

    I hate (I think that’s the appropriate word in this circumstance) that individuals that are sex workers have their opinions trivialized or arguments dismissed simply because they’re sex workers. It’s illogical. A person’s sexual activities have no bearing on the validity of their arguments.

    But perhaps I’m a hypocrite in all this because there are naked pictures of myself on the Internet; it’s my insurance that I’ll never enter politics (if only jokingly.)

  47. says

    This reminds me of the Carrie Prejean incident. She got a lot of outrage for her homophobic comment. And then there was the revelation of the dirty pictures and the possible sex tape. And then there was outrage for that. But the outrage was not for the pictures, it was for the pictures, while at the same time being a homophobe. If not for her homophobic ideas, I think release of the pictures would have gone over very well for her. If she had instead been in favor of same sex marriage, the release of the pictures would have gone over very well.

  48. RookieAtheist says

    It really is annoying that after all the efforts of sexual freedom movements that society today is still so prude. However, I can’t help but think that Greta’s article is too female-centric and forgets that if any of her male counterparts were to do porn then I would imagine that their reputations would also take a dive. Though probably for different reasons: I would find it hard to listen to, say, Sam Harris speaking with an image of his last groaning ejaculation still clear in my mind!
    There’s a lot going on in Greta’s post above, but I think the barriers against her doing porn go beyond just misogyny. But yeah, misogyny is certainly a good chunk of it.

  49. says

    No one can tell you what to decide, but if I had that exhibitionism in me, I’d do it.

    I think the majority of bigotry is unconscious. Once you point out to people that they are letting a prejudice influence them that subconscious bigotry can often be remedied. If I had it in my to do porn, I’d use the unwanted fame to my advantage. I’d use it to get invited on shows so I could say “why, WHY are you judging me differently based on my sex life? Really ask yourself that question” and maybe, just maybe, a few people would be swayed by my argument and think twice before making sexualized judgements in the future.

  50. peterwhite says

    One of the reasons I rejected religion as a teenager was the stand they took on sex. Conservative sexual behavior is not morality but religions seem to think of little else. The only moral issue around sex is ‘informed consent’.

    I love the fact that the porn industry has become the home of amateurs. That is really how it should be – everybody doing it, enjoying it, and sharing it, if they choose.

  51. says

    I absolutely do not want to co-opt your point, but I’ve experienced this somewhat as well. I’m not a professional writer. Nor am I a woman. But I want to be.

    I want to be the former, that is. The latter would be interesting and I’d love to try it, but it’s not something I aspire to.

    Among the writing I’m most proud of is some rather brutal erotica. Years after having written it, it still receives a lot of attention according to the weekly reports I’m sent. Unfortunately, I’ve had to keep that work completely separate from anything which could identify it as mine. Associating myself with that part of my writing portfolio would be toxic to any career.

    I know that being unable to share some of my written work doesn’t compare to what women deal with. I suppose all I’m saying is that my own experiences give me a special sympathy for women who must deal with this issue.

  52. says

    This reminds me of the case early this summer when an English teacher of 33 years (I think junior high or high school), who wrote erotica under a psuedonym, was somehow outed. She never mentioned it in school and it didn’t affect anything she did as a teacher but she still got a huge blowback from the media(a newspaper quote: “A parent came forward because she felt erotica “is unethical, totally unacceptable. Period. It just sort of sickens and saddens me to know everybody’s sort of looking at this like, hey, this is OK.””); it was even in the Daily Mail, of course totally sensationalized and flat out stating that she should be fired.

    And this isn’t even visual or film media, where perhaps people might be worried that her students might somehow find it and recognize her, but pseudonymous writing.

    In short, yes I agree that North America is extremely prudish when it comes to sex and nudity, and seeing someone in porn shouldn’t lessen the respect they get at all, nor should it be the primary thing they’re known for (unless it’s their main occupation).

  53. Meagan says

    This is such a great post, it puts into words a frustration I’ve felt since my mid-twenties when I quit sex work and became a mother. I went on to go to college and graduate school and am now a scientist, but I miss the sexual freedom I used to have when I wasn’t trying to be taken seriously. I would love to be a burlesque dancer, but I fear the backlash. While I agree with you on all of your points, the place where I feel I have to raise dissent is in the implication that this is a gendered issue. To me, this is a problem that’s more about how our society views sex and sexuality than how our society view women’s sexuality. Let’s look at Anthony Weiner as an example. This is a man who was well respected in his community and was known for fighting for his values and the ideals of his constituency but none of that mattered when self-portraits of his penis surfaced. He will not be remembered as a congressman who received a 100% rating from the NARAL pro-choice America or for his sweeping support of heathcare reform. A little consensual sexting coupled with some tasteless photos effectively ended his career. This is only one example of men being held to a puritanical moral standard that you seem to imply is only imposed on women. That we are judged and remembered more for our bodies than our minds in a lot of cases is true and it’s something we should be actively pointing out and rallying against. However, in this case, I really think that you’ve missed the big picture in this circumstance.

  54. says

    I agree with you and I am female. However I feel men put up with a lot of the trash too. For example even a male porn star wouldn’t be taken seriously if he were to talk about science in a public stage. They are judged on their physique etc.
    I think gender stereotyping and the hypocritical disrepute attached to sexuality sucks on a whole and is more than a feminist issue, though women surely bear more of the brunt.

  55. sunnydale75 says

    “I hate (I think that’s the appropriate word in this circumstance) that individuals that are sex workers have their opinions trivialized or arguments dismissed simply because they’re sex workers.”

    &

    “It really is annoying that after all the efforts of sexual freedom movements that society today is still so prude.”

    –Sadly, I don’t find it all that surprising. By and large, a vast number of people in the United States have had certain religious views drummed into their heads since birth. When those views include notions of women being subservient to men, sex being for reproductive reasons (and not for pleasure), masturbation & premarital sex being sinful, etc, etc it’s not hard to see why people are so prudish. Of course, those views might hold up if you’re in a small community, but once children reach a certain age, they’re going to be exposed to the outside world and influences beyond the views of their religion. Religious views and many stark realities of the real world really don’t mesh well and I think that’s one of the reasons sex workers are looked upon with disdain and why so many people are prudish.

  56. sunnydale75 says

    RookieAtheist:

    There’s a reason Greta’s article focuses on women. They face a greater stigma regarding sex than men do. Men aren’t called ho’s if they sleep around after all. There’s almost an unwritten biblical rule that men can do whatever the hell they want to sexually, but women have to confine their sexual exploits to the bedroom, and then only for the purposes of childbearing.
    Just look at the Penn State scandal. There are people who are defending Joe Paterno. I’m not a sports fan, so I don’t get the near religious fervor that so many Americans feel about the sport, but seeing comments from Penn State fans shows that Paterno was revered. As was Penn State itself. Yet Paterno stated in his first official statement that all Penn Staters should trust in all the name represents. Really? Seriously? What does it represent? Thus far Paterno has done nothing illegal, from a moral perspective he has fallen quite a bit short. And of course you have high profile individuals like Rush Limbaugh saying: “…and that’s an impeccable reputation. But that’s gone now, and the media is going to see to it, and this is all part of a nation in decline.”* Wow again. Of all the statements to make at a time like this, Rush doesn’t show empathy to the CHILDREN involved in the alleged abuse. He automatically sides with Paterno. I absolutely love moral relativism.

    Now, I don’t know for certain, but I’d hazard a guess that a woman in a position comparable to Paterno would get shredded by politicians and the media.

    Double standard much?

    *http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/09/penn-state-joe-paterno-jerry-sandusky

  57. says

    ‘[I]t was back before the Internet made anonymous rape threats easy and cheap.’

    That’s the crux of the problem, I think. It’s far too easy for the troglodytes to emerge and stomp about the countryside, and no one is holding them accountable.

    I find it amazing that anyone could email threatening notes to anyone and not get prosecuted to the hilt for it, or at least given mandatory psychiatric therapy – with the attendant drugs that psychiatric therapy metes out so well.

    Yet it happens all the time. Raving thugs tear up the landscape, they’re cheered on or ignored (which is worse, in a lot of ways) by their ‘peers’, and the message is that abusers may continue to abuse, rapists rape, and murderers murder.

    The most saddening thing, for me, is that women’s empowerment has been contested for a fucking century now, and still this shit continues, and anyone who’s paying attention should know exactly why. The empowered, entrenched males who feel threatened are manipulating media and the narrative, constantly reframing fundamental rights as somehow invasive upon the rights of others, like human equality is a zero-sum game.

    Some days, I would like to see what would happen if for one generation only, all media with any sort of misogynistic, homophobic, or bigoted message was censored into total silence. Just one generation of Americans brought up without the message that blacks or women or gays or lesbians are somehow inferior, or less than, or deserving of punishment, or are unworthy.

    I’m all for freedom of expression, but I’m also in favor of silencing the disreputable, the disrespectful, and those who do not deserve respect in the first place.

    If abusers want to write abusive emails, how about we make our first response a total suspension of their ability to get to the internet? Maybe loss of immersion in their strata of filth will leave them some space to rethink their antisocial attitudes, or at least take a few of them out of the crowd.

  58. FictionalFighter says

    “I actually think it would have the opposite impact, with the bros and MRAs of the world liking her a little too much, and thinking that just because someone does porn or has a sense of sexual freedom, it gives them license to pursue that individual above and beyond what they already believe they are entitled to from other women.”

    True, but if I’m not mistaken there are ways for Greta to moderate her comments if things get disrespectful, if bros and MRAs want to hand around a blog cause they think they’ll see sexually explicit content they’ll either get bored and wander off or (we can always hope) something might actually sink in through that Evolutionary throw-back of a skull they have…

    I can see your point though, in my experience if the misogynistic element of the internet decided to waltz into FtB the current readership could be drowned out as easily as a tidal wave swallows a toy boat…

    Now I’m depressed.

  59. Matrim says

    Not being a woman, I’m more-or-less shielded from that sort of objectification (not that I still couldn’t run into trouble about it), but I always feel personally offended when I hear people use lines like “since you posed nude you can no longer complain about being objectified.”. The fact that people don’t see what’s wrong with that statement is baffling to me. So, because someone wants to have something be an aspect of their life that means they must accept it in all others? I once posed in a picture wearing goofy glasses and a clown wig, does that mean I can’t complain about someone not taking me seriously in serious aspects of my life? Just because I want to look attractive or sexually pleasing on a date, does that mean I have to accept sexual advances while I’m doing a research project for my doctorate? Just because I want to be seen as something in one set of circumstances, does that mean I must humbly accept being seen as that in all others without complaint? I realize I’m repeating myself at this point, but it bears repeating.

  60. Aussie Xian says

    Greta writes:

    A lot of women — women atheists, and other women — have been writing lately about misogyny, and what it’s like to be a woman writer on the Internet. They’ve been writing about the fact that, if you’re a woman writer on the Internet, you’re going to be targeted with a huge amount of sexual and gender-based abuse. At best, you’ll be called ugly and fat: criticising women’s ideas by insulting their appearance is a tradition that goes back for centuries, and it’s alive and well today.

    Hi, I wrote briefly on your ‘why I do what I do’, and am a happy Christian. I would like to applaud, you, Greta, for the conclusions you have made about porn, and how de-liberating it is; and in fact DOES NOT aid the women’s movement to achieve its aims. I would argue it only provides money to the burgeoning Adult industry, and devalues women to be only objects for self gratification and for lust expression by males. I believe women should be more than mere images for self-centred fantasy by males who wish to escape reality.

    A little about my background. My father suffered a mental illness, and my closest uncle was an alcoholic. My father introduced pornographic magazines to me at the early age of 11. A few years later, I found myself hopelessly drawn to images of naked or half-naked women and to pornographic magazines. I developed a fantasy world, and an unrealistic view of women. This addiction lasted for over 20 years, until one day I decided to investigate the true nature of my addiction, and to seriously look at its effects on women, my male friends who I knew was ‘into it’, and analysing the way I related to women as a whole. I also had many girlfriends, but was hoping to commit myself to a married life, and I knew that my addiction to porn would not assist me in valuing my future wife, and maintaining a loving and long-term relationship.

    After reading books, attending ‘Sexaholics Anonymous’ groups, and attending seminars addressing the negative effects of porn, I decided it was time to address my addiction. It was a long, hard struggle; and in a few years after my decision, I met my perfect match, whom I decided to marry. I was ashamed to ‘act out’ on her before I committed to her, but within two years of our marriage, I knew we were in trouble. I had to finally resolve to deliever a final death blow to this addiction. I sought God’s help, the help of other former addicts, consistently attended recovery groups, and finally could stop all forms of porn. The struggle is lifelong, as it is for alcohol, narcotics, gambling, and eating addictions; but I have found my view of women have changed, the way I relate to my wife, the way I look at women on the street, and am looking to reaching out to other men who are trapped in the an addiction to porn.

    Once again, I congratulate you Greta. If you can permit me to be precocious, I believe that God has made you into a special and unique woman. You are worthwhile, not simply because of the writing you do, not because of what you look like at a particular stage in your life, not because you engage in activism, but simply the fact of being YOU. Your reality may not include God, but from a Christian perspective, you are loved by God simply because… He delights in your existence.

    Women are not to be exploited, but to be treasured.

    Thank you.

  61. says

    As someone who is a recipient of this I understand fully. PornWikiLeaks shocked me to the core. I was shocked to see my full legal name, my birthdate, and my stage name on a website list dedicated to people who were “high HIV risk” because I openly work with male “crossover” performers. This includes my personal partner who is also queer identified.

    I was shocked when I saw that my elementary school’s facebook page was spammed with comments above a picture of me at age 12 with my class calling me a whore and hooker. Facebook still has not fully scrubbed the comments from this page and it’s hard for me to press for it because I don’t have a facebook page.

    I get tired of people assuming I’m an idiot and sadly abused pathetic person. First and foremost, being abused does not make some pathetic, stupid, or ruined for life. I did not sustain sexual abuse and I’m an out loud activist about a lot. I’m a college graduate, a long time HIV prevention specialist, grant recipient for HIV prevention and AIDS care work in Tanzania, Africa and a disaster relief responder in Haiti.

    I write and I have coordinated health clinics for years. The moment people hear that I do porn that’s the end of the story. I do understand why you don’t want to get out there and here’s some snaps and love for that choice. Thing of it is, this is why I am dedicated to continuing my work and why I need support from people who don’t do porn to speak up about what it means when someone gets in front of the camera.

    Once you’re an outlaw, you can either repent and beg forgiveness or be a goddamn good outlaw. I’m not one for repentance when I have done nothing wrong so that means being the best outlaw I can be. I refuse to live in a world where being happy and proud and a bit of a consensual exhibitionist does not mean you’ve surrendered your rights to justice and a productive place in society.

    It’s funny how rarely people are willing to accept just how much you lose when you make the choice but then even in the middle of a denial all of that harassment and violence is justified by those throwaway phrases, “…well you KNEW people would be mean if you did this…”

    Thing of it is, anonymous threats are the least likely to be acted upon from a criminal justice perspective. The anonymous trolls I get aren’t so different from the trolls I see on gardening, cooking, and mom blogs. It’s what you get from the people you know–the ones with names–that are disheartening and sometimes even terrifying.

    We all get comfortable making the joke that men can only think with one head at a time but it seems that any woman who ever enjoyed sex and commented about it in public is denied the return of blood flow to her head after. She’s seen forever as dumb, broken, and damaged. I hate that, I do.

    So thanks for writing and help create change by talking about sexual smart women.

  62. Greta Christina says

    Aussie Xian @ #70: Valuing women starts with listening to what they’re actually saying. Something you have utterly failed to do. If you had, you would have realized that in no way do I agree with your opinions, and that in fact I am passionately and vehemently opposed to them.

    If you’re opposed to treating women as only objects for self gratification, I suggest you actually read and listen to their ideas, instead of spurting your own opinions all over their blog with no attention or concern for who they are as a human being.

  63. says

    My thought? Better not to define what you do in terms of what others think. Don’t be a second-hander

    Serious people will treat you seriously if you insist on your own autonomy. Sometimes tough. But integrity is all

  64. Glen says

    Porn is brilliant, I for one, certainly do not think any less of women for choosing to appear in these productions, as brilliantly (and briefly) analysed in Orgazmo, porn (the big porn industry) is an industry that exploits everyone, in a sense. Larry Flynt is taken seriously, so to is the former Asia Carrera, her real name eludes me for the time being, Nina Hartley was mentioned in an earlier comment. And, how can we forget Traci Lords? Yes, the circumstances of her “rise” are quite sordid, but she is also not known only for her porn. There are many, very intelligent women in porn, whether it is in front of, or behind the camera, and their work outside of that, be it writing, painting, politics or whatever should not be eclipsed by the fact that they appeared in porn.
    I think porn is probably one the greatest expressions of free speech we have, because it shows us in our most (literally) exposed moments, our “perversions” are out on show, there’s bodily fluids going about. In short, it’s great stuff. And, the great thing about porn is it caters to everyone’s tastes. I think (at least in this arena of liberal minded and progressive thinkers) that there would be no issue, and that your porn would be just something tacked on after “Writer/blogger/atheist…etc”.
    Do it, I probably wouldn’t watch it, but then again I might, I mean I (regretfully) watched “Two girls one cup”, so who’s to say?
    I don’t know what my point really is, except, I, and many others would certainly not lose any respect for you, or only think of, or remember you for doing porn. For me, I’d remember back to the very first blog of yours I read, after it was helpfully linked to my Facebook, which was “Atheists and Anger”, I’ll always think of that piece when I think of you, which I know does not define you, but I thought it was a brilliant piece of writing.

    Just my two cents, which btw are completely useless here in Australia as our government got rid of one and two cent coins yonks ago.

  65. says

    I read this post a few days ago and didn’t realise how much it changed my perception of things until I ran across this article.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/11/sasha-grey-porn-star-read_n_1088017.html

    The comments really put your words into perspective. It is a really sad state of affairs that the moment one does anything vaguely sexual (be it for free or for money), one relinquishes any public perception of dignity. That forever the person is tarnished by their association with sex.

    Any article that improves an idea of a subject is a good one.

  66. julielada says

    Wow. Amazing article that really hits close to home right now. I’ve had a hobby blog that occasionally forays into srs bzns stuff about veterinary medicine and how alt med is becoming more accepted in my field. I want a larger audience, I want more exposure and so recently I tossed my hat into the ring for Hemant’s guest spot over at Friendly Atheist.

    At the same time, I’m working on compiling a portfolio to submit for a lingerie model call out. I really want to do this, for all the reasons you mentioned above; claiming my sexuality, becoming comfortable with my body, and maybe indulging my exhibitionist streak a little bit, too. And it suddenly occurred to me – what if I get that blogger spot? What if I’m also chosen to model for this company? A sudden, international spotlight would be on me and everything would be fair game. I have no illusion that it would take internet-savvy readers to find those photos.

    Basically, I’ve decided to go for both. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get either of those things, but should I get really, really lucky and both wind up happening for me, I’m going do do both. Yep, it’ll get me harassment, threats, leering and much more. But I want both and I’m not going to hold back because other people think I shouldn’t be able to have both. I completely respect your decision to balance your priorities. Right on, good for you. Not saying my choice is in any way superior, hell, it’s probably far stupider. But fuck them, that’s why.

  67. says

    I’ve noticed that there is a huge amount of heterogeneity in how much crap one woman vs. another will get from the misogynists “out there” and I think it might be interesting, even important, to understand why this is, and what causes it.

    I have only one possibly relevant thought on it at the moment. Obviously there are a lot of factors such as exposure, as well as what the woman is doing or writing about, as you point out. But I think there is a structural aspect to this that needs to be considered.

    The really nasty aggressive verbally violent and abusive stuff is, in my view, in large part fueled by anger (and possibly other strong emotions like frustration) channeled into obsession. Any idiot misogynist can say “Greta Christina is a bitch” to himself or his buddies, but to go through the effort to say it to you, and to hype it up into a rape threat and so on, is equivalent to going from giving somebody the finger while in traffic vs. following them to their parking lot and keying their car. Anger and obsession, together.

    What this means, structurally, is that the attacks are going to be more like tornadoes than like rain storms. The total low level crap you take is more in a wet climate, less in a dry climate, but the really bad stuff is not just weather, but more rare and more severe weather. Statistically, these reactions are uncommon and have a very high variance.

    If the most notable reactions, and the ones that make it through various communication channels and that are more likely to engender counter-reaction of some kind are also these most severe ones, we would expect a lot of heterogeneity in the level of misogyny.

    I know this idea is a bit off topic…

  68. North says

    Reading this made me feel like I’m not alone.

    Lately I’ve been struggling with being female because of how differently we’re treated in everything we do. I’m friends with a lot of guys, and I often hear that I can’t do something because I’m a girl, so I’m not as fit to do things because I’m female, or because I’m a lady I shouldn’t speak the way that I do. All of this really bothers me.

    I want to thank you for writing this, because it lets me know that I’m not alone in the feeling I have of being limited because of gender, on and off of the web. I know I’m almost a year late finding this, but my heart goes out to you around this. I wish the backlash for taking care of yourself and fulfilling your wants, needs, and dreams wasn’t so drastic- better yet, I wish it were non-existant.

  69. lee says

    do porn, don’t do porn. you’re are a beautiful human being whatever you do. just don’t give in to the haters. in fact that is an order and the only order i ever give anyone. carry on being beautiful and make your own choices. i will love you what ever you want to do

  70. aidacra says

    I think your statements are very interesting and thought-provoking. As I man, I must confess to having watched, enjoyed and been stimulated by a lot of attractive-female pornography, but as I get satiated with it, I wonder increasingly exactly why extremely visually attractive women would venture into that arena.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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