Melissa Harris-Perry | July 07, 2012
>>> okay, nerdland parents, i love hearing from you that you watch the show with your kids. so let me warn you we are about to have a frank, adult conversation. and you may want to get the little ones and their ears occupied with other activities for a while. yet even as i said or send the kids out of the room right now, i realize how much i need to do that for basic political stories this year. after all, as a nation we took a collective trip to the gynecologist this year from transedness vaginal probes and as prin between the knees to conception. this has been a banner year for female anatomy. this year alone we have seen the clock rolled back on violence against women and reproduck tiff rights in congress and witnessed a record number of state laws restricting women 's health care . some of these discussions were deemed downright pornographic, especially when taken up by female legislators. in fact, just a few weeks ago michigan state representative lisa brown was sanctioned for her speech during a gatd over an anti-choice law daring to refer to her vagina by name, not that she named it, she just called it a vagina. brown was barred from speaking on the floor afterwards. and in response the women of michigan took to the steps to talk about sexuality on their own terms with the reading of eve ensler 's vagina monologues . while that promoted a discussion on female anatomy, a real decision cushion of sex is lacking. if we are deconstructing sex on the house floor, let's do it feminist style. we'll talk about the reform where a large number of americans encounter sex, not the legislature, but pornography. yes, the pornography industry. let's bring porn into this month-long national sex- ed class . here with me on the table is sex educator , kristin, who is author of "the feminist porn book." and jaqueline freedman, author of what the "what you really, really want." and michael eric dyson , sociology professor at georgetown university who earlier said tap that gas about the keystone pipeline apparently foreshadowing the conversation. let me back up to say, it's a little bit odd, probably, to have a conversation about porn on a political show. and yet somehow it doesn't feel odd. talk to me about why you think this is a conversation we are having.
>> well, for me as a feminist, i think making porn is a political act. i don't think other feminists all agree about that, but i think for me, we need to embrace this cultural medium that's so powerful. and so i consider my porn political because i'm trying to make a different kind of porn.
>> that is a tough sell, right? so if i'm sitting at home right now in wisconsin and i just sent my daughter out of the room and you said, look, my political act for the day is pornography. the fact is, lots of feminists, in fact, there's been a bit of a brew haha on twitter about this. porn is bad for women . if we are having the conversation about rolling back violence against women and have this conversation about rolling back women 's reproductive rights , if there's something i want to roll back it's porn, why shouldn't that be?
>> can we talk about rush limbaugh for a minute?
>> yes, please.
>> let's get to the crux of the matter. when rush limbaugh started his attack on tinder luck in, he said, if we need to pay for your birth control , you need to make a sex tape for us. what's interesting is he does not feel ashamed to say he would like to watch such a sex tape , but it would be degrading for her to perform it. what gets to me is the question of female sexual agency. it is not whether women should be sexual or consume sexual images or not, but the question is do we as women , is our sexual agency taken as seriously as men. can we say, i'm a sexual creature publicly without having that considered different?
>> first you're a shut for talking about birth control and then the sex tape thing. i'm a sex-positive feminist. i really fundamentally agree with this position that what we need to do is teach people sex is not the worst, but then i wonder about the sexual agency question. is pornography something that contributes to women 's sense of sexual agency or pulls away from it?
>> i think you have to separate out, first of all, define porn.
>> i know it when i see it.
>> that is a --
>> if porn is images designed to create some kind of sexual arousal , we'll use that as a baseline definition. that could do a lot with the '60s and '70s magazines. right now the interaction with non-intimate sexual imagery or conversation is across the boompltd you see it in video. you see it on non-sexy websites. it's a big part of people's lives.
>> my fourth of july was almost completely ruined because i told my mother and mother-in-law that we were going to do a segment on porn and they began to talk about "50 shades of gray ." and having to listen to my 65-plus parental figures talk about a book that makes me blush was stunning, but it's exactly the point. the notion of "50 shades of gray " would have counted as porn at some point and now you read it on the airplane.
>> all of this as the male feminist on the panel is thinking about being self-critical about my own gender because it is the male gays. rush limbaugh is cool as long as sex serves him. it is not cool when the sex serves itself. janet jackson can show a nanosecond of nipple on television when that nipple is integrated into the fabric of male desire it works. but when it wants to work for itself to establish its own union and come out so to speak, she's demonized. kim kardashian is celebrated in a way janet jackson is demonized. the racial template is interesting besides the male versus female and how that plays out in whose bodies femalewise are accepted as legitimate objects of porn and others demonized within that.
>> i think it is important you brought up race. if you look at the pop culture moments for women 's sexuality recently, we talk about "50 shades of gray " and " magic mike " and girls, they are all white women . i have issues with all of them and don't think they are necessarily showing what a female sexual agency looks like, even the examples that are like, women like sex, it is exciting. we can get into the details but it is really important even when talking about who can even experiment with putting their toe over that line, it's white women .
>> yeah, absolutely.
>> and i think for me as a feminist, making porn that shows different kinds of bodies and different gender expressions, that's part of the mission. i mean, i personally always include people of color in my porn. because they are considered second-class citizens in other porns. they are sort of hyper sexualized and only put in these really stereotypical roles.
>> that's interesting to me. if you talk about the construction of the black male crotch as the significant center of sexual desire , that which has been both denied and pursued, why is it that lexus steel and mr. marcus are being demonized but peter north is celebrated. some women will do scenes with the white male stars and not the black stars . that's interesting to me. and also women get paid more than men yet it is a man's game.
>> there's a question of the man's game, one of the things we were looking at with the numbers is how many women consume pornography and the sense that, i want to talk about this when we come back, the idea that desire is indodgenous. that what we see and engage with can, in fact, impact what we think we want and what we think of as sexy and good and whether or not, for example, we think condoms are hot, which we'll talk a bit about next. so up next, even pornography is not recession-proof. it turns out this multibillion industry, the internet, is changing some things. but also i want you to answer this trivia question. it's my favorite one of the day. which state is the biggest consumer of online pornography ? the answer