PHIL 2170 Lecture Notes - Male Gaze
Monday, March 21, 2011
Pornography degrades the male vision of women in this way. When I stand among the
shelves there I am standing in a maze of female images, shelf after shelf of them,
hundreds of naked women smiling or with their eyes closed and mouths open or gasping.
I am just one more image in a broken mirror, with its multiple reflections of women, none
of them whole.
•Sex and violence together do not mean all sex is about violence
•Violence is everywhere and yet we have a big issue about porn
•Why attack porn, only some of which may be violent?
•Negative effect captured in the above caption.
•Degrade – treat as less than human. Make some act/behave in a way that is
•Some of Nussbaum’s objectification present – makes women look as though
they’re interchangeable – capturing the feminist aspect
•Male gaze being distorted here; the way in which men are being told to see
women – not so much the women in the porn or the porn itself
I don’t believe there are limits to what women can imagine or enjoy. I don’t want limits,
imposed from within or without, on what women can see, or watch, or do. That branch of
feminism tells me my very thoughts are bad. Pornography tells me the opposite that none
of my thoughts are bad, that anything goes…
•She likes porn, falling into male traps
The message of porn, by its very existence is that our sexual selves are real.
•All the sexual behaviour in porn exists. Real behaviour, possibility, etc.
•If we try to suggest porn shouldn’t exist is denying we have these sexual selves.
•Follows McKinnon – sexuality is important to women. Important that we don’t
allow sexuality to be dominated or controlled – expressing ourselves in ways we
can’t otherwise express. Tisdale doing the same thing, except supporting porn.
What a misogynistic worldview this is, this claim that women who make such choices
cannot be making free choices at all – are not free to make a choice. Feminists against
pornography have done a sad and awful thing. They have made women into objects.
•By arguing against objectification, they have created a platform objectification
•Two ways to interpret against anti-porn feminist movement: 1. Limited choices –
if we like porn we only like it because we’re told we aught to. One choice which
is not a choice which is liking porn because others like porn. Curtails autonomy.
2. It’s not our ability to make choices, but our ability to make choices about
everything. These images that come out in porn come out everywhere in society.
How much is our autonomy curtailed? Similar to de Beauvoir where we’re stuck
in a bind.
Its obsession is virility, endurance, lust [not domination]. Women in modern films are
often the initiators of sex; me in such films seem perfectly content for that to be so.
•Two empirical claims coming up against each other
•What we should look at are the power relations
Power fantasies, on the other hand, are rather common for men and women both…Power
takes a lot of forms, subtle, overt…
Tisdale thinks watching porn is also for a learning experience. Suggesting we should
watch porn, normative concept.
I want not to accommodate to pornography but to claim it. I want to be the agent of sex. I
want to own sex, as though I had a right to these descriptions
1. Normative claim, wants us to feel the way we feel
2. Not to judge it from afar, critique it, abolish it, etc.
3. If women participate in porn, maybe the shelves wouldn’t look the way they do.
She doesn’t make porn, but idea of becoming consumers is recommendation over
critiquing from afar
Problems with Pornography:
1. Does it send a message? (paradigms vs. possibilities)
a. Is porn a realm of paradigms or possibilities? Tisdale argues possibilities –
we should explore. Feminists and other arguers say they’re paradigms.
What counts as a paradigm? Media of porn – a documentary. Tisdale says
its anthropological (varieties of human culture). Is it fiction [Halwani’s
argument might stand], a reality show [shows a message of what’s
normal]? Can’t dismiss porn has an impact on our lives just because it’s
not violent. Two extremes don’t hold If porn exemplifies some sex, it
says something about other sex.
b. How does the media convey the message? Tisdale says it’s a more
complex relationship (i.e. look at the power relation). Halwani claims
there is no message to convey (i.e. can’t see it as a paradigm of sexual
2. Is interpretation the responsibility of the producer or the audience? (freedom to
vs. freedom from)
a. Freedom to: [capitalist] liberal idea to explore our desires. Option to
explore as many possibilities as possible. Porn is fine sides with audience
b. Freedom from: [judiciary] Restricted in freedom to hold a responsible
position. Who should we hold responsible?
3. What constrains sexual behaviour? (autonomy or consent; moral principles or
a. Can be coerced to consent. Autonomy does not mean consent, consent
does not mean autonomy. Did the people making porn consent only for
b. Most arguments are empirical. We can judge good porn from bad porn in a
few ways. Apply moral principles. Bad porn is degrading, dehumanizing,
c. Empirical possibility – does porn corrupt? If so, how? We keep getting
hung up on content
4. Who are the stakeholders? (all women vs. consumers and actors; all me [causes
desire] vs. some men [caused by desire])
a. Are all women concerned with porn?
Does porn impact our lives the ways feminists have argued?
Feminists pointing out women have not consented to the way women in porn are treated