(This was taken from a post over at Zelophehad's Daughters...some awesome, rocking ex-mormon/mormon feminists!)
A major voice in the LDS church recently said,
“And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.” (Elder Oaks, April Conference 2005)
To me, this quote raises a troubling, unsettling issue for me as a woman. I don't really know exactly how to voice it, but I'm gonna try.
Elder Oaks centers his ideas around very specific gender roles. Men are the ones who are continuously subject to their sexual urges and women are the ones who hold the power to control men's sexual urges.
To Elder Oaks’s credit he does qualify his statement, not alleging that women are themselves inherent pieces of pornography under all their clothes, but only that they become pornography to some men. Yet, I still find myself completely troubled by this statement in general.
Does the focal point of pornography reside more in the object instead of in the action of gazing? I mean, isn't the definition of pornography that of an image viewed in a particular way, and not a particular person?
I could pose the question, what exactly is wrong with pornography? Is it ok in moderation? Is some pornography, that of various photos better than full on videos depicting random and wild acts of sex?
I think the real problem is the complete and utter objectification of other people that pornography tends to promote. People (women mostly) soon become viewed as tools capable of satisfying the viewers own desires rather than seen as actual people with desires of their own.
Is pornography the opposite of charity? Of selflessness? Of purity?
In the above statement, however, women’s subjectivity has been conveniently elided. Men are potential consumers of pornography, where women are potential creators (even unwittingly); thus, men’s obligation is to eschew viewing pornographic material where women’s obligation is to eschew becoming pornographic material. Men are sexual subjects where women are sexual objects.
In short, by framing his discussion in this manner, Elder Oaks has replicated and perpetuated the very dynamic which is problematic about pornography to begin with.
For discussion fun:
I've dated several men this past year and most of them, in fact, all but one, admitted to watching pornography in some form or another. Do you think this is just a right of passage, a normal part of everyday life? Is it something we need to learn to accept rather than condemn? Or is it something, as women, we should shun and leave room for a NO EXCEPTIONS type policy?
I was recently rereading Persepolis and there is a part when the women have to go back to wearing the veil because their hair is seen as too much temptation for the men in their country. That, in fact, they were walking pornography when they had their hair showing. I am concerned, honestly, that in some respects, the LDS religion seems to be embracing this idea and leaving the residual feeling in the hearts of women that THEY are part of the problem.