Ben Barker: Anarchists and Torture Porn

By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin

Radicals and the sexual exploitation industry become more and more intertwined by the day. I wish I was surprised when I learned just today that the 2013 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair is being held in a venue owned by the torture porn website, Kink.com.

Kink.com is infamous for its images of women “stretched out on racks, hogtied, urine squirting in their mouths, and suspended from the ceiling while attached to electrodes, including ones inserted into their vaginas,” explains feminist activist Gail Dines, who argues that the pornography website is in stark violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

If you don’t want to listen to some feminist, I’ll let Kink.com speak for itself. On the website, we learn that the project began when the founder decided to “devote his life to subjecting beautiful, willing women to strict bondage.”

Of course feminists sounded the alarm right away and demanded answers and changes from the Bookfair’s organizers. Of course they were only ignored or attacked.

To be fair, a statement addressing concerns about the venue choice was almost immediately posted on the Bookfair website. Not surprisingly, it attempted to justify the decision, with the bulk of the text being about the tight budget they were working with. With the handful of lines the statement devoted to feminist concerns, they deflected responsibility by claiming that “there is a valid political criticism of every venue that is potentially available,” because “we live in a capitalist society, and until we have created an explicitly anarchist infrastructure that can support this type of event, such contradictions and compromises are inevitable.”

It would seem that the organizers of the 2013 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair have little or no ties with Kink.com or their venue, and are indeed making somewhat of a comprise in hosting their event there, because there’s just nowhere else to go. But, yet, their statement goes on to show how aware of the issues they really are. They write: “We acknowledge that pornography and sex work have been divisive issues in the anarchist community. The choice of the Armory Community Center is not a political statement, and the Book Fair Committee is taking no political position on pornography. We accept that members of the community (and even members of this committee) have differing opinions on this issue. We will be organizing a discussion on anarchist perspectives on pornography during the book fair, and if this topic interests you, we hope that you will attend.”

This situation—a big political event hosted at a controversial location leading to public outcry—is familiar. It’s not unlike another incident of just last month, when a bunch of House Republicans booked their annual winter conference at a former slave plantation in Williamsburg (where, to add insult to injury, they planned to discuss “successful communication with minorities and women”).

But here’s the difference between the two events: When the Republicans announced the site of their gathering the Left was out in force to decry them as racist and insensitive to the historical reality of slavery. When the anarchists announced the site of their gathering the Left was out in force to decry feminist objectors as puritanical, moralist, and anti-sex.

Imagine if the House Republicans had put out a statement similar to that of the organizers of the 2013 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair. They might write: “We acknowledge that white supremacy and slavery have been divisive issues in the Republican community. The choice of the former slave plantation is not a political statement, and the House Committee is taking no political position on white supremacy. We accept that members of the community (and even members of this committee) have differing opinions on this issue. We will be organizing a discussion on Republican perspectives on white supremacy during the conference, and if this topic interests you, we hope that you will attend.” That should be sufficient to ease the worries of the Left, no?

I beg the organizers of the Bookfair, and anarchists in general, to answer me this one question: is pain different when felt by a woman?

From Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/08/anarchist-book-fair-porn/

To read this article en français, see: https://www.facebook.com/notes/martin-dufresne/les-anarchistes-et-la-porno-torture/10152572173490595

22 thoughts on “Ben Barker: Anarchists and Torture Porn”

  1. Aloha Owen,

    So glad you posted this. I recently had an email exchange with a professor here about how the anti-GMO people are sexing up the so-called movement, and this posting is in the same tone. I’m confused… what does any form of denying of embracing sexploitation have to do with advancing righteous political movements? And the excuse this man gave me was that it appeals to the youth. Somehow porn and subtle and not so subtle violence against the female form, including the earth, is not only acceptable in so called progressive politics, but it’s becoming normalized.. And I’m at a bit of a loss, because its like having to fight another fight in an already embattled reality.

    Anyways, just sending a Mahalo for the post. I hope all is well.

    Keala

  2. I’m shocked and saddened by this. Gendered classism is the basis of all exploitation and for anarchists to condone the horrific symptoms of this culture is inexcusable. Now. What do we do about this?

  3. Did I really just see a white guy compare a web site where women get paid (and 401ks) to have sex to a SLAVE PLANTATION? In a completely non-self aware, non hyperbolic fashion?

  4. Thank you bugbrennan and Geran Wales for the supportive comments.

    “Tupac Amaru”: Kink.com is not just a website. Pornography happens to real human beings, in this case women. Sure, they get paid to be exploited, as is the norm in capitalism, but that doesn’t make it right.

    1. See “completely non-self aware,” above.

      At least when PETA compares animal abuse to slavery or the Shoah, they seem to have some idea of exactly what those historic oppressions actually entailed.

  5. Sorry mate, but this article is complete and utter BS. Ben, by your reasoning I and anyone else who has a job gets exploited. Models that work for kink.com do not only get paid well, they also like their job. Which is more than i can say for my self.
    Just because you can not imagine to enjoy bondage does not mean that othr people cant. There are thousands of people living right in a city near you that enjoy such acivities.
    So to answer in your own sel rigteous words: Sure you think that bondage is terrible and think you sould write about it in a polarizing fashion, that doesn’t make it right.

  6. ahh, the manarchists…really disappointing. I have unfortunately been exposed to “Kink.com” and there’s nothing remotely resembling “sex” or “sex work” on that site, this is a usual derail – equating torture, violent porn with “people having sex on camera.” This is so beyond “sex work” and “being anti-porn” – kink.com features scenes of torture and pain that have been sexualized. So much for radical social change…boners are at stake here!

    Thank you for reporting on this, it is extremely important. Women’s liberation is more important than some sadistic dude’s dick.

  7. 1st of all I looked at the websites values page: . It sounds pretty good to me. Hopefully this is the case and it most likely is. Also, Comparing two separate issues of oppression and/or history or different groups/cultures is illogical and not well thought out, in fact, I really hate when people do this to justify something because it doesnt make sense. Everything has to be looked at within its own context.

  8. Ben, this is a great article exposing an important issue. This is about basic human rights and dignity. No one deserves what those women are put through, and I think the apologists commenting here and elsewhere are despicable.

  9. As a woman and feminist who is part of a feminist community that involves many sex workers many of whom do kink and/or BDSM work, and many of whom are queer, women of color, working class or some of a combination of the above, I really take issue with how uninformed, abstract, and unrelated to actual sex worker’s experiences this article and most of the comments sounds. What I see here is a silencing of actual sex worker’s voices (which includes men as well as women) so that activists can describe from their own value system how these women and men “should” feel or experience the way they’ve chosen to engage with our capitalist system and their own bodies.

    The women (and men) I know who do sex work, including BDSM/kink work are powerful, sure of themselves, and often very skilled speaking out publicly on their own behalf. I wish I saw more feminists talking about the concerns and needs that actually exist within the sex work community, most of which can be related back to the fact that their trade is criminalized.

  10. Is holding and acting on anarchist principles necessarily incompatible with a sexual interest in domination and submission, and participation in sexual activities where that dynamic is a prominent feature, if these are engaged in only when all parties consent and enjoy it? I don’t dispute that women who appear in porn are frequently exploited, and I don’t have any inclination to defend the particular website mentioned here since I don’t know anything about it, but when I read things like this article I always feel like the author evidently doesn’t find the kink involved arousing, and crucially, they cannot imagine any sane or healthy person feeling differently on the matter, or such a person being able to separate bedroom (or wherever) activities from the rest of their lives. The porn element aside, the message often seems to boil down to “stop liking what I don’t like!” People who get off to some pretty kinky sex are therefore made to feel like there is something wrong with them, or that their arousal or private sexual activities are illegitimate, rather in the way that patriarchal slut-shaming, Madonna-whore-complex ideology has the effect of making people, especially women, feel guilty about what turns them on. It always seems deeply condescending to me.

  11. Notice everyone: Comments made by “pornucopia” have been removed from this page as spam. This user is a representative of kink.com, and therefore a pimp benefiting from a corporation that encourages men to indulge in their fantasies of torturing and enslaving women, and encourages women to feel liberated by abuse.

    1. I cannot remember the exact wording of Pornucopia’s comments, and this page is for some reason not showing up in the Google cache, but I think unless the comments were just incoherent abuse I would have taken the approach in that situation of pointing out to readers that the user was a representative of kink.com (along with my reasons for believing that) and then addressed any substantive points they made, rather than simply deleting their comments.

      I’ll restate my question:
      Do readers of this article, and its author, have a problem with those whose sexual fantasies (some of them at least) enter the territory of domination and submission, if those people are fully on board with the idea of enthusiastic consent and do not seek or even wish to bring ‘power play’ into the world beyond sexual scenarios involving informed, willing participants?

      1. I just wanted to second Croco5’s statement about Pornucopia’s comments and I’d also like to hear the answer to Croco5’s question.

  12. What a stupid move. Can’t belive how such an event can be held in such a place!
    Any decent anarchist that might have attended in that place should have made the necessary arrangments to shut the place down!

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