The Glamorization of Violence Against Women
Publicity, Porn, and Propaganda and Their Impact on Sex-Based Safeguarding
Normalization & Desensitization
Porn goes hand in hand with “the oldest profession,” no, not prostitution, pimping. The last 2,000 years of men’s history include the buying and selling of women and girls for men’s status, use, pleasure, degradation, service, and childbearing. It gives me a sardonic chuckle when people say “prostitution” is the oldest profession as if women of old were savvy entrepreneurs living autonomous lives rather than a slave class bought and sold for men’s profit and pleasure. Throughout this time women have fought against our reproductive exploitation, subjugation, and control. (And we continue to fight.)
Although women have gained things like the right to vote, the right to own property, have our own bank accounts, and get equal pay for equal work (nearly), many of the things are foremothers fought for and won are vanishing before our eyes, the right to single-sex bathrooms, shelters, hospital wards, prisons, and sports. One thing that has remained constant over this period is sex-based violence against women. According to UN Women and WHO, 1 out of 3 women experience sexual violence from men.1 Multiple factors make it especially hard to end the epidemic of sex-based crimes, 1. the normalization, fetishization, and glamorization of violence against women in porn and publicity, and 2. the erasure of sex as an important characteristic in the public and political lives of women/girls alongside the valuing the importance of the human capacity for sex recognition.
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5.1 Billion Porn Views/Month of Sexualized Violence Against Women
Nearly 6 billion hours of porn were consumed last year.2 Porn gets more yearly watch hours than Hollywood, Netflix, and Viacom holdings combined. The combined total of the world’s top 3 porn sites has over 5.8 billion site visits per month. 88% of porn videos contain violence against women which translates to 5.1 billion of those visits per month. This is all to say that porn represents one part of a massive propaganda arm that is sexualizing, normalizing, & desensitizing violence against women.
Alix Aharon, co-founder and board member of Partners for Ethical Care, as well as the creator of The Gender Mapping Project, spoke to me on my youtube about the porn site Facial Abuse. This site contains some of the most graphic violence against young women. The women are abused by multiple men at the same time, made to cry and vomit, and are abused verbally as well as physically. The violence seen in facial abuse porn is real. Real women are really beaten & abused--those are real bruises, real tears, real vomit, & real fear that real women experience. I was shocked and horrified by the little I saw. The site is disturbing and made me feel sick to my stomach that men get off on abusing women in this way.
As horrible as that porn site is, the images featured on it are leaking into popular media in the music industry, the runway, and Hollywood. These images are being normalized. Normalization & desensitization to boundary violation is a grooming tactic. But almost worse than the normalization of these images is the glamorization of them by popular celebrities. The glorification of violence against women and girls is a strategy for female subjugation, dominance, and control.
Porn or Pop Culture?
Our pain/pleasure response exists as a safeguarding guidance system. A healthy pain/pleasure response keeps you safe, guides you to food that is good and keeps your hand away from the open flame. A healthy pain/pleasure response also works empathetically. We flinch when we see someone fall down or get hurt in front of us. In images like Doja Cat in her luxury jewelry being photographed in front of paparazzi, pain is being "glamorized," made to appear elite, enviable, & glamorous. As a result of images like this one our empathetic response to women's pain is being subverted. The pain response is being confused with envy, desire, sex appeal, luxury, and celebrity status. The normalization of the “beaten face look” by a celebrity serves to normalize violence against women. The image of porn serves the same purpose, but is also working to degrade and control women. There is hardly any difference between the two photos.
To "glamor" is to cast a spell, to create an illusion, concealing the true form of something. In the case of the celebrity images, the "glamor" is to conceal the physical pain of the images. Anyone who has ever had a black eye knows the intensity of that pain--the tenderness, the swelling, the blurred vision. And everyone who has had the flu knows the discomfort of vomiting--the nausea, the cramping, the foul feeling of your stomach contents coming up. But Doja Cat and Lady Gaga are concealing this truth and creating an illusion that these states are enviable.
"The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour, publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour."3
This is the glamorizing not just women’s pain, but images that are indistinguishable from images of women’s abuse. Publicity is the means by which these states are subverted from painful to enviable. "The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour, publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour." Glamor is being used to mystify & desensitize. The fetishized ritual abuse of women is now synonymous with elite celebrity status. This is a sick reversal, where pain is now symbolically linked to egoic image, sexualized objectification, and status. This is a disruption of the natural pain/pleasure response system which is there to protect us and keep us safe from harm. Disruption of this healthy function is another safeguarding failure. This is a dissociation from our primary instincts which are the building blocks of healthy bodily autonomy and boundaries.
Porn or Protest?
Successive reproduction of cultural symbols constructs a narrative that's so ubiquitous as to be inevitable, irreversible,& most of all invisible. The images of women’s real abuse in porn are not just being amplified and glorifed by celebrity culture, they are being normalized. There are thousands of entries on Pinterest and other sites with tutorials on how to give yourself that “beaten up look.” Domestic abuse is now a sexy Halloween costume. The problem with this “trend” is that it makes real-life violence is indistinguishable from glamorized pornified violence. Do I feel empathy for the woman I see with bruises, or do I feel envy? Is she the victim of a man’s violence, or a willing participant in his fetish?
"If witnessing violence/misogyny made people, especially men, sympathetic to our erasure then they'd watch one porn video & become feminists. Funny that's not how it works. Violence against women is the backdrop, it's the context that we live in." K. Yang
And how does this bode for the women who speak out against male violence? This October, women gathered in Portland to speak up for women’s sex based safeguarding as part of a #LetWomenSpeak campaign across the United States. In the very act of speaking out against vulnerable incarcerated women being trapped in cells with serial rapists, Carmen May, along with a group of brave women, was attacked with pie in broad daylight using the very tactics men use to degrade women in porn. As K. Yang has said, “a pie is a punch.” Carmen May did not just have pastry thrown at her, a man body slammed her to the ground and her face was shoved against the pavement multiple times. The pie is not just used as an attack weapon, it is used to humiliate and degrade. Men using this tactic on the streets against women who speak out are using it for the same purpose men use “cream pies” in porn. They hope to scare and demoralize women into silence and submission.
As can be seen in the above repost of Reduxx Magazine’s breaking tweet about Carmen and the Portland event, other men understand the symbol and signal. Men like @FXtravaganza now use the protest image for the same purpose as porn, for their own sexual gratification. The very men we are speaking out against for dehumanizing women and claiming their face contouring makeup and falsies make them one of us, get off on our public attacks and humiliation. As K.Yang observes, "if witnessing violence/misogyny made people, especially men, sympathetic to our erasure then they'd watch one porn video & become feminists. Funny that's not how it works. Violence against women is the backdrop, it's the context that we live in." While we must not let their attempts to silence stop us, we must also be aware that any violence against us will ultimately be celebrated by the very men we are fighting.
Unsurprisingly, wherever women go to speak out against our erasure, degradation, dehumanization, & men's violence against us, we are met with male violence, their primary strategy for female subjugation, dominance, & control. The same tactics they use use against us in porn.
Even These Small Demoralizing Acts Do Wonders!
The NYC leg of the #LetWomenSpeak USA tour was the largest and most violent event. In many ways, it was a literal representation of all the other events that had taken place thus far. Pornified tactics continued to be used by men against the women who were brave enough to stand up for their sex-based safeguarding. As Erlick notes these tactics were intended to “demoralize” not just the women who attended, but all women who witness such events.
In NYC pornified tactics were used against Karen Davis of You're Kidding Right (youtube now banned). A man is seen miming jerking off as he mocks her. This same man also pulled K.Yang's hair during the event. He came for both women a year after seeing them at Jennifer Lahl’s Center for Bioethics and Culture NYC panel event, “How ‘Gender Equality’ Cheats Women and Girls.” Lahl’s event was protested by a group of men who stood outside and chanted at woman. The man in the above video specifically targeted Karen Davis and K.Yang, he told K.Yang he wanted to touch her hair. A year later he found his opportunity.
These two models were in NYC; Casil McArthur left, and Amara Vasquez right. In NYC they used pornified stripping & actions as part of their violent threats. Their careers are spent glamorizing their surgically altered medicalized bodies. He walk runways for Coach & she appears in videos with Madonna & Miley Cyrus. It is not an accident that these newly endorsed minor celebrities led the protest against the women at #LetWomenSpeak.
Casil and Vasquez used sexist slurs, spit at women, including K.Yang and Jeanna Hoch, called women “Nazis,” used homophobic slurs, and attacked women for their looks. These two have made careers by self objectifying, hyper sexualizing themselves, commodifying their own bodies, and turning themselves into lifelong medical patients. It is not surprising that they would attack women based on their images, when image, publicity, and celebrity are the cache by which they live. Vasquez, in typical male fashion, also threatened women with his fists and verbally told women, “imma beat yo ass.”
Although the NYC #LetWomenSpeak event garnered the most media attention of any KJK event, our story was still largely told as one of "anti-tr@ns hate." The models that screamed and spit at us were featured more prominently than the women who spoke at the event. The violence we faced was invisiblized by most news outlets. If the police hadn't held the line, we would have been brutally attacked.
“We are fighting against the colonization of the female sex and our biology, the context we live in is one of male dominance, and female subordination, and of skyrocketing rates of sex based violence and femicide all around the world.” K.Yang4
In NYC we were corralled into an increasingly smaller and smaller area as the crowd of violent (mostly) men pushed in at the flimsy fence that separated them from us. This is a very literal boundary violation as the pushed into our space. A few of them broke through the line at various moments. At the end of the day there had been 9 arrests made only from their side. As Erlick brags, they don’t adhere to respectability, they use every available tactic to dominate, silence, and control the speech and movements of women.
Adherence to Instincts
Publicity & propaganda are used to glamorize, normalize and desensitize violence against women. Young girls and being indoctrinated by propaganda that equates men's abuse & degradation of women with elite celebrity status while boys are being indoctrinated by consuming porn that links their sexual gratification with violence against women. Alongside this narrative runs a parallel one—”trans” ideology preaches dissociation from primary sense awareness, that people can be "born in the wrong body," and that there is no way to distinguish between the sexes. Together these narratives work to obscure the seriousness of sex-based crimes as well as the importance of sex recognition in sex-based safeguarding.
Sex-based crime is on the rise but sex-based safeguarding can't be insured without accurate sex recognition. Being responsive to instincts, intuition, and our primary sense perceptions for sex recognition are the basic building blocks of safeguarding. We must not allow ourselves to be glamorized, mesmerized, or be-spelled by the normalization & fetishization of violence against women. We must be awake to our body's responses and renew the natural order of our pain/pleasure responses. Grounding ourselves in the authority of our own bodies is what gives us integrity and strength. These tools are foundational for healthy boundaries & bodily autonomy.
While at the Tacoma #LetWomenSpeak event, I intervened and interrupted an attempted attack. While it has been pleasant for me to be celebrated for what has been termed a heroic act, the truth is, I wasn’t attempting to be brave or heroic, I was simply responding to my immediate instincts in the moment. My act was not the result of thinking or planning, it was a reflex that was instantaneous and happened at a level prior to conscious thought about what I “should or shouldn’t” do. In the moment, I simply saw what was about to take place and my body responded. I feel it is important to underscore that I was able to do this is because of the work I've undertaken to understand the power of my own embodied awareness. At a previous point in my life, when I was still living in my dissociated trauma response, I would not have been able to respond in such a way. Because of the embodiment work I have done I was able to be present to both my own senses and my environment. I was grounded with response-ability: the ability to respond.
When I speak of embodied tools, some people have thought I was speaking of something nebulous, or "new age" or "woo." But the tools of embodiment are practical skill sets. They are internal capacities that we can call on for self-protection, internal authority, & boundaries. In "The Gift of Fear," Gavin de Becker also urges women to value & credit their intuitive responses to violent situations. He urges readers to listen and respond to their sense perceptions and intuitions as one’s first safeguarding tactic.
The way I responded in Tacoma was a moment of self defense of my group. Jeanna Hoch also responded in Tacoma with self defense. K.Yang reminds us that "equating women’s self-defense with male violence creates ambiguity about who is the victim and who is the offender." The women of #LetWomenSpeak came out to peacefully speak, those who came to protest our event acted with multiple instances of violence. Lead organizer of the event, April Morrow, founder of Sovereign Women Speak*, was mobbed by the crowd at the end of the event. A man crushed her hand while attempting to steal her phone. She is now unable to use her hand, it will not fully close, and she can no longer teach dance which was her main profession. This senseless crime should never have happened. (*follow the link to donate to help April.)
When nearly 97% of the rapes are committed by men and women/girls are 70% of the victims5, it's important to be vigilantly cognizant of how violence is used to control us. When 1 in 3 women are the victims of rape and violence at the hands of men, we must have compassion for women who have been victimized and make sure our language does not equate women who protect themselves with the men who abuse them.
"Framing self-defense as violence neutralizes & ignores the power imbalances inherent in the patriarchal order. Framing self-defense as violence contributes to the criminalization of women who refuse to suffer violence patiently and wait for predators and oppressors to stop hurting us –it also isolates women who choose to engage in self-defense from community support." K.Yang
The environment in which we live is one of violence against women; through the proliferation of porn, through public celebrity events, violence against us is being used for public pleasure. Even the images of our protests are turned into fodder for men to jerk off to. The disruption of natural pain/pleasure responses through propaganda that attempts to groom us to dissociate is an a further act of abuse against us. Those of us who have the cognizance to see it must refuse to participate in the glamorization, publicity, & normalization of violence against women/girls. We must reject the dual narratives of pain/pleasure disruption alongside dismissal of sex recognition. We must counter the values of this agenda with values of our own. We must stand in our values, and meet the sick ideologies of violence value to value! If the values being used against us are those of dissociation, cognitive dissonance, pain/pleasure disruption, objectification, compartmentalization, and commodification, then we must meet these with the values of embodiment, sensory awareness, intuition, instincts, feelings, and responsiveness. We must embody these values in our lives, in our work, and in our activism.
In the words of Carmen May, People of the Uterus:
"And we know
When there’s no shades of gray
Start seeing us as prey
Someone’s gotta hold the line."
https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women, https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics
Berger, J. (1977). Ways of Seeing. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
To hear K.Yang speak more about this: https://youtu.be/oioLrZD3DEU