Recently, a woman at the art college associated with my university graduated with a first class honours degree. The piece she presented at the end of year degree show included a video she made of herself masturbating and various blown up photographs of herself dressed in bondage gear doing everyday “womanly” activities such as reading a magazine on the couch or loading the washing machine. I could post one of the photos here but I don’t see anything else but pornography when I look at them so I won’t. Two brothers also earned themselves first class degrees with their own pornographic presentation. Their exhibit included sex toys which had been turned into instruments of torture (think replacing knife handles with butt plugs and turning dildos into nunchucks) and one piece was allegedly withdrawn by the show’s organizers because it violated health & safety codes.
Nearly all groups in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of and bringing an end to violence against women are in agreement about the harms of pornography. The Women’s Support Project describes pornography as, “a form of commercial sexual exploitation and part of the spectrum of gender based violence.” The Crown Prosecution Service includes pornography on a list of recognized forms of violence against women and girls. I don’t need to argue why pornography is violence against women on this blog. Any dissenters can easily Google that information and to make it easy for you, I can point you in the direction of Gail Dines and Julia Long. I found it pretty disturbing that my university was not only giving a platform to pornographers but rewarding them with the highest of academic distinctions. Does pornography become art just because the pornographer says it’s art?
The whole situation made me want to look over the Dworkin & MacKinnon Civil Rights Ordinance again because it’s so beautifully succinct. The mainstream definition of pornography is usually simplified and sanitized as, “pictures or videos of people having sex.” Dworkin and MacKinnon define it as, “the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures or words, including by electronic or other data retrieval system.” They go on to specify the acts of subordination which include, “the presentation of women’s body parts, including but not limited to, breasts, vaginas or buttocks, such that women are reduced to such parts[.]” Material in which women are presented as, “dehumanized objects, things, or commodities,” or as, “sexual objects who enjoy humiliation or pain,” are also classified as pornography in the Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance.
This got me thinking about some of the things which fit in the category of pornography if we disregard the “through pictures or words” part of Dworkin and MacKinnon’s piece. The thing that kept coming back to me was the concept of transsexualism. More specifically, males who profess to be trapped in the wrong body and say they need surgery to feel happy with themselves.
The idea that men become women simply by donning the costume and acting the part is offensive and damaging to women in the same way pornography is. Male to female transsexuals become women first by starting to dress in a more feminine manner and asking people to refer to them with she and her pronouns. Where they have access, they seek hormone treatment which have the effect of feminizing their secondary sex characteristics. They will begin to grow breast tissue; their body fat will start to be redistributed so their body appears curvier like a woman’s; and their skin will thin and become softer.
This in itself is pornographic. Women are human beings. The biological function of our breasts is to feed our young. Women did not evolve to have breasts in order to make us distinguishable from (or attractive to) male humans. Simply taking a man and putting a pair of breasts on him doesn’t turn him into a woman and transsexuals know this so this is not the only step they take. Some of them have what is known as facial feminization surgery (FFS) which can include some or all of the following procedures: rhinoplasty, cheek implants, brow lift, lip augmentation, and chin reduction.
The final stage in the transition process for a male to female transsexual is what is euphemistically known as “bottom surgery.” This is the goal and when he becomes “truly” a woman. The commonly accepted terms vary these days but the surgery is also referred to as sex reassignment surgery (SRS), gender reassignment surgery (GRS), gender confirmation surgery (GCS), and with male to females specifically, vaginoplasty. The surgery involves removing the erectile tissue in the penis and then using the skin to form a “vestibule area” and the semblance of labia minora. The penile skin is inverted and inserted into a surgically created cavity in the pelvic area. Part of the glans of the penis, with nerves still attached, is retained and used to form what we are supposed to refer to as the clitoris, and the urethra is shortened to end more like where a female person’s would. According to Dickipedia, the purpose of SRS is, “reshaping the male genitals into a form with the appearance of and, as far as possible, the function of female genitalia.“
You click on the link to “female genitalia” and it takes you to, guess what. The human female reproductive system.Y’see the vagina is just one part of a whole set of organs which make up the female reproductive system. All the parts rely on each other to function to their best ability. The ovaries are organs which produce eggs. That is their function. They are connected to the uterus, which is the major female reproductive sex organ, by oviducts known as the fallopian tubes. The function of the uterus is to accept a fertilized egg. It is connected to the vagina, which Dickipedia says has two main functions: sexual intercourse and childbirth.
Sex reassignment surgery cannot create a uterus and ovaries transplant. In The Whole Woman, Germaine Greer suggests that,
Governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognize as women men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it, because they see women not as another sex but as a non sex. No so-called sex change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant; if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight. The insistence that man made women be accepted as women is the institutional acceptance of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males.
Sex reassignment surgery can only attempt to replicate the form of one of the female sex organs: the vagina. And since there are no uterus-and-ovaries transplants, it can only replicate one of the vagina’s functions: sexual intercourse. The neovagina is nothing more than a fuckhole. It exists solely to be penetrated. In fact the new “woman” must penetrate his surgical cavity every day if he doesn’t want it to close up. The creation of the fuckhole requires a lot of post operative care. Around day 3 post-surgery, the dilation process begins. It will continue for the rest of the patient’s life. If a dilation routine is not adhered to, there is a risk that the neovag will close up due to the pelvic muscles trying to restore themselves. Also, disgustingly, the inside of the neovag gathers wrinkles when it’s not being dilated. If too long is left between sessions, the wrinkles start to heal together and narrow the width and depth of the neovag canal. For around four weeks post surgery, the new woman is advised to douche with hibiscus scrub after each dilation session and every time they sit on the toilet.
All this so they can have something that looks like a little bit like a vulva and serves the function of sexual intercourse. A real woman generally does very little to care for her vagina. Of course, she will wash her labia with soap and water, but the vaginal canal is self cleaning. A real vagina does not come to an abrupt finish where the surgical excavation was deemed complete; a real vagina is connected to the uterus via the cervix. which is capable of dilating itself to allow a baby’s head to pass through.
If the act of digging out a cavity in the pelvic floor, turning the penis inside out, calling it a vagina and the bearer of it female isn’t presenting women as dehumanized things, objects or commodities, then I don’t know what is. This posits womanhood as something you can buy. Something that, with an approximation of the right parts, any man can be.
John Stoltenberg is credited with the famous quote, “Pornography tells lies about women. But pornography tells the truth about men.” Pornography tells us that women are, as Robert Jensen has told us, “three holes and two hands.” It tells us that women are receptive to pain and degradation and even enjoy it. It also tells us that men hate us. It tells us they want to fuck us in every orifice of our bodies. They want to humiliate and torture us. They want to own us, sell us, trade us, and share us with their friends.
Transsexualism isn’t too much different. Transsexualism reinforces the notion that women exist to be penetrated and that the ability to be penetrated is an integral and defining part of womanhood. It is literal four-dimensional pornography.
Transsexualism tells lies about women. But transsexualism tells the truth about men. Transsexualism tells us that women are nothing more than neutered males. It tells us that “women” undergo painful and humiliating scenarios in order to keep themselves penetrable. About men, it tells us that they cannot be satisfied simply with fucking us. To fully consume us, they have to be us and then to tell us what we are.
*I am using the term transsexual/ism here to refer not to the gender-bending woo-look-at-my-womanly-penis crew but to the men who profess to being born in the wrong physical body and take steps to change that through surgery and hormone replacement therapy. Transgenderism is a concept which affects women in different ways – something that I plan to discuss in this context at a later date.