I was talking with a friend the other day about man hating, and it made me think... I am not a man hater. I did go through a phase of hating men, when I was 'working' as a prostitute, and looking back, it's easy to see why. My ex partner abused me, the men he introduced me to abused me and the johns paid to abuse me. It was far safer for me to say, men are shits, they hurt you, and to disconnect. I think it made it less personal, less hurtful to me as a human being, to say all men are like this.
Now, though, in recovery, and over time, I have come to believe something different. As the anger fades, and I can see things a little clearer, see the hurt a little clearer, I can see my old view for what it was: a defence mechanism which was helpful in a situation of extreme trauma. I have sought therapy in recovery (I spent 12 months seeing a male therapist, which helped me immensely with my difficulties trusting men), and met and became friends with some good men along the way. I have come to see the truth that just as there are good women and bad women, so there are good men and bad men. I just happened to have spent more time with the latter!
The porn industry perpetuates a lie, it sells us a lie that men and women are fundamentally completely different. Women are there to be used, to be fucked and photographed and filmed as sexual animals, who want that, who love that, and who get off on that (look at that smile!). Men, on the other hand, are there to dominate, to penetrate, to violate, with impunity. All this under the guise of 'free speech', of 'harmless fun', of 'boys just being boys'. It is excused, no, more than that, it is expected that men behave a certain way, treat women a certain way, in order to be men. The subtext is clear: if you do not buy into using pornography, into treating women as sexual objects, to be seen as a collection of body parts and 'holes' that exist for your pleasure, you are less than. Similarly, a woman who questions whether an industry that sells women's bodies, that makes vast sums of money not for the women it uses but for the men who sell them, is 'empowering and liberating' for women, are labelled as prudes.
The sex industry has achieved something quite remarkable: it has hijacked the language of feminism and choice to defend its destructive and oppressive practices. And society has bought into this. I don't believe it's easy for anyone, man or woman, to stand against what has become seen as 'normal' and mainstream. Society has naturalised something which is completely unnatural, which oppresses both men and women. There's nothing new about the oppression of women, but the way that the sex industry seeks to undermine its opponents by posing as some sort of protector of free speech, justice and liberty has added a clever twist and made it more difficult for people to speak out against it.
The lies that we are told and sold by the sex industry are damaging to both men and women. But we do not have to buy into those lies. I believe that men and women are equal, and that a healthy relationship between men and women needs to be founded on respect for their common dignity and humanity. We all bleed if we're cut. We all hurt if we're beaten. To tell men that they are 'less manly' for not treating women as sex objects is to do them a disservice. To tell women that they are 'prudes' for wishing to be treated as ore than sex objects is to do them a disservice.
It is not surprising that such a hugely profitable industry should defend itself at all costs against attack. What is perhaps more surprising is the way our society has bought into this so easily. In my experience, a good deal of the inaction around the inequalities the sex industry fuels is based purely on ignorance. People who lack personal experience of the sex industry look at the arguments as they are laid out (by the sex industry), and are drawn in by what superficially appears to be the side of 'choice' and 'empowerment' for women, ie the sex industry's argument. As a survivor of pornography, of prostitution and domestic violence, there is nothing more painful to me then to watch other women fight to defend the 'rights' of other women to be treated as I was. The arguments defenders of the sex industry use are abstract, impersonal, at a safe distance, and sanitised beyond meaning. I defy anyone, male or female, who saw what I saw, who experienced what I experienced - being raped, being beaten, being threatened, being sold - to continue to defend the practices of the industry. The use of women by the sex industry is nothing if not personal! Being naked and penetrated and wanked over and used again and again is as personal as it gets.
So though I remain cautious in my interactions with men (as I do with women: trust takes time to rebuild after being so thoroughly shattered), I do not buy into the lie of the sex industry that men are at the mercy of their hormones, controlled by their penises. I think men deserve to be given more credit than that. Men and women who oppose what the sex industry is doing to our society, and how it treats the people it uses, need to join forces and fight together. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good person to sit and do nothing. It's time we spoke out, side by side, male and female.