Written by CAPP International, translated from French with DeepL.
At a time when the debate on pornography is beginning to gain momentum in France following the opening of an investigation against the Jacquie & Michel website, and the subsequent arrest of several pimping “producers” thanks to a tip-off from three feminist associations, the filmed prostitution lobby is organizing to fend off the blows of abolitionists.
Together, we will analyze the way the media have communicated on the subject since the opening of this investigation, in order to pinpoint the strategy of the defenders of porn-prostitution, notably through the example of Robin d’Angelo.
Robin d’Angelo is a journalist who has “infiltrated” the porn industry in order to write a book on the subject. Some abolitionists relay his work to show the misogynistic violence that is commonplace in the industry.
Don’t get me wrong: although he’s helped expose this violence, this man is no ally, because he’s a regulationist. His goal? To make you believe that there is such a thing as “good porn” and “bad porn”. This idea obviously runs totally counter to the values of abolitionist feminists, for whom “ethical” porn doesn’t exist.
In all his interviews, Robin asserts that he believes this activity should be “regulated”, not “banned”. He argues that we need to create laws, supervise and protect “actresses”. These are exactly the same arguments as those hammered home by associations such as STRASS, which maintain that there is a difference between “forced” and “consenting” prostitutes.
In this debate, one of the trump cards played by those in favor of regulation is to blur the definitions of rape and pimping, by communicating in such a way as to make them ever more confusing.
For example, porn producer Nikita Bellucci posted on her twitter account the news that her colleague Pascal OP had been arrested for rape and pimping, candidly proclaiming that the industry needs to be cleaned up. It’s hard to believe her sincerity when you consider that she and her husband had known about the facts for a long time, without ever having denounced them… With this statement, we rather get the impression that Bellucci is brandishing this sordid example in order to better dissociate herself from the caricatured portrait of the pimp using violence to physically coerce women into prostitution, thus reinforcing the archaic belief that rape can only be defined by violence.
Yet the legal definitions of rape and pimping are very clear:
“Pimping is the act, by anyone, in any manner whatsoever:
1° Helping, assisting or protecting the prostitution of others ;
2° Profiting from the prostitution of others, sharing the proceeds or receiving subsidies from a person who habitually engages in prostitution;
3° To hire, train or divert a person with a view to prostitution, or to exert pressure on them to prostitute themselves or continue to do so.”
As for rape, it is defined by the penal code as.
“Any act of sexual penetration, of any kind whatsoever, committed on the person of another or on the person of the perpetrator by violence, constraint, threat or surprise”.
Consent is not mentioned.
- This notion, often invoked by feminists who want to combat rape, but also by defenders of the prostitution system, is problematic. Indeed, when you consider the subject of prostitution and porn, it becomes clear that consent can be monetized and manipulated – particularly in a situation of control – that it is conditioned by our social construction based on sexist stereotypes, and that it can be the consequence of traumatic arousal.
It’s clear that regulators brandish consent to make you forget the constraint that leads women to say yes, a yes behind which lies a whole system of domination and pressure: patriarchy, capitalism.
- It’s in the very nature of porn-prostitution to buy the yes of its victims, to make them consent, thereby suggesting that they alone are responsible, and to use this to prevent them from denouncing the intrinsic violence of this activity.
- But back to Robin. In a recent interview on Konbini, he recounts the sexism and violence he witnessed on the Jacquie & Michel and Dorcel shoots he attended. In particular, he recounts how producers manipulate women to force them to “consent” to certain practices, for example, by taking them by surprise during the scene, then insisting, often to impose sodomy.
Robin makes it clear: “actresses don’t have the option of saying no”. So he describes rape, but without ever uttering the word. He also cites the reasons why the women he has met do porn: need for money, to feel valued, to please a boyfriend…
So we have a man who is clearly aware of the damage porn does to women. It would be easy for an uninformed audience to see him as a well-meaning man, eager to denounce an unfair situation and bring about change…
- The interview starts to become problematic when he admits, with a mixture of embarrassment and amusement, to having taken part in certain scenes. However, he denies having shot penetration scenes, which he presents as the most dangerous for women. An insidious way of mitigating the violence of bukkake, the theme of the scene in which he admits to having made an appearance. Bukkake is a very popular practice in porn which consists in ejaculating as a group on a woman’s body, often her face or breasts. The aim of this practice is clearly to use women as “vessels”, to humiliate and dirty them.
At the start of the interview, Robin introduced himself as a pro-feminist and explained that he had been inspired to infiltrate the porn industry because he felt disturbed by the contradiction presented by watching porn that he identified as degrading to women. However, when he talks about it, bukkake seems to be acceptable to him, although he doesn’t go into detail and passes over it quickly.
It’s at the end of the interview that it becomes clear that his apparent criticism of gender-based violence in porn is very superficial. Indeed, he ends by saying that, in his opinion,
“porn is just a mirror of society and those who want to censor it want to make the mirror disappear as if it will destroy the image it reflects of them.”
We note the use of the word “censorship”, a pejorative term that designates an “arbitrary or doctrinal limitation of everyone’s freedom of expression”.
Speaking of censorship, he presents porn under the guise of fiction, a simple cinematographic work, an artistic means of expressing creativity. This is pornographers’ favorite technique for concealing the fact that, unlike action films in which scenes of violence are produced by special effects and acting, porn “actresses” actually suffer the abuse inflicted on them: strangulation, beatings, penetrations causing anal and vaginal tears, etc…
It’s surprising that Robin should present things this way, after going to such lengths to highlight the power imbalance between men and women in this industry, and the physical damage caused by repeated penetrations and other violence inflicted on “actresses”.
The ambiguity of its positioning is thus obvious from this final statement.
- To sum up, porn-prostitution is a hotbed of misogynist violence, but the solution is not to “censor” this violence, but to try to improve the “working” conditions of “actresses”. In the end, it’s back to the myth of “good” porn and “bad” porn, “good” pimping and “bad” pimping, etc….
Pour faire passer cette idée – dont dépendent d’immenses profits pour l’industrie pornographique ainsi que le maintien d’un privilège masculin archaïque, la stratégie de Robin d’Angelo est la suivante : il commence par dénoncer des violences qui ne peuvent plus être niées maintenant que la parole des survivantes de la porno-prostitution se libère, faisant croire qu’il se range du côté de ces dernières, avant de conclure que la solution réside dans une meilleure réglementation du secteur pornographique.
It’s striking that all the media reporting on the Jacquie & Michel affair chose precisely the same angle.
- On September 11, 2020, the newspaper 20 minutes published the testimony of Karima, one of the first Jacquie & Michel victims to speak out.
- Barely a few days later, a second article appeared in the same daily newspaper, containing several more of the dozens of survivors’ testimonies that followed Karima’s story. The facts of psychological and sexual violence recounted by these women were chilling, but the journalist nonetheless managed to conclude his article… by promoting Onlyfans, presented as a “safer” platform for those wishing to launch into “sex work”.
- As for Elle magazine, in its September 18 issue it published a double-page article entitled “porno mais réglo”, extolling the virtues of so-called “feminist” or “ethical” porn. The article only hints at the “all-too-frequent abuses in the porn industry”, without a word for the victims, and presents the solution as better salaries, “a more humane environment, and above all better supervision”. Here, the main argument in favor of this type of “porn” is that more and more women are consuming it, and this demand must of course be met.
Nowhere did we read that attempts to regulate prostitution have always failed, nor that studies have proven that desireless penetration, whether on camera or not, is a form of violence in itself, with serious physical and psychological consequences.
- Above all, it’s striking how quickly the media diverted the public’s attention from these revelations to instantly offer them an alternative presented as revolutionary. The observer’s reasoning is thus short-circuited before the conclusion can be drawn in his or her mind that porn-prostitution is filmed rape, because of the constraint it implies for the “actresses”. Rape is essential to the production of the pornographic images demanded by consumers.
The words of survivors, now too numerous to be ignored, are misused to make them seem like a new wave of revelations in the wake of #metoo, putting them on the same level as those of victims of sexual violence in sport or cinema, for example. It’s as if porn “actresses” could be protected in the same way as figure skaters, and that all it would take to put an end to rape in this field was to raise awareness.
The strategy deployed by the defenders of filmed prostitution, from Nikita Bellucci to the editors of Elle and Robin d’Angelo, lies in superficially criticizing the obvious sexism of this milieu, pretending to be indignant about the violence revealed by the victims as if we were only just discovering it, and then using the “ethical porn” model as a decoy to avoid questioning the industry itself at all costs.
We can therefore measure how far we still are from the demands made by abolitionist feminists and, in the first instance, by survivors of porn-prostitution.
WHAT SURVIVORS WANT:
Survivors are calling for an end to the commodification of bodies in all its forms – the only real way to put an end to this unbearable violence.
To this end, they are trying to inform the general public about the disastrous consequences of pornographic practices, not only for the “actresses” – whether “consenting” or not – but for society as a whole.
They insist that content presented as “ethical” is nothing but a scam, both a new loss leader and a front to whitewash an industry that continues to enrich itself on the most despicable macho violence.
They try to dismantle the notion of consent, because they know the mechanisms that construct this famous “consent” based on economic pressure, manipulation, traumatic terrain and sexist societal constructs that lead women to believe that their value lies in their degree of “fuckability”. They also understand that “consent” in no way alleviates the physical and psychological consequences for women who are victims of the violence of repeated unwanted sexual encounters filmed and broadcast on a large scale, with no possibility of controlling these images for the rest of their lives.
Feminist abolitionists are calling for real reflection on what it means for society as a whole, and for new generations in particular, to agree to place our imaginations and fantasies in the hands of profit-hungry industrialists.
Finally, they alert us to the danger posed by lobbies who use every means at their disposal to keep public opinion on their side, using well-honed communication techniques, as the examples cited in this article show. Any intermediate proposal between the current situation and the total abolition of porn-prostitution is a scam.
Written by CAPP International!
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