I’m Not Quoting, I’m Just Saying
No, Really. Who Gave This Person A TV Show?
Lena Dunham recently explained, in three easy steps,
why she’s a dumbasswhy she “can’t just laugh off a porn parody of Girls.”
“1. Because Girls is, at its core, a feminist action while Hustler is a company that markets and monetizes a male’s idea of female sexuality.
2. Because a big reason I engage in (simulated) onscreen sex is to counteract a skewed idea of that act created by the proliferation of porn.
3. Because it grosses me out.”
The essence of my refutation is on the card above; there’s not much to add except “Holy crap fuck off.” Porn “grosses you out” but you’re going to be the evangelist who fixes the world’s “skewed idea” of sex? Here’s a newsflash - many, many people enjoy and consume pornography. People of all stripes, creeds, and preferences. There are many kinds of pornography out there. There are, statistically speaking, way way way more people out there who love porn than there are people out there who have their own private glass house on HBO. So you can see why I think you’re kind of an asshole if you think your incredibly odd niche-sexuality should be imposed on a huge porn-loving public.
While debate about the value of pornography, especially in feminist discourse, generally center on the problem of representation (does it show sex “accurately”? are the representations “biased”?) Lena isn’t smart enough to stay in the domain of representation, where she might actually kind of have a valid point. She has to go and make the economic move. It’s not just that she personally finds something distasteful, which is a fair argument. No, Lena has to stage her own personal affect as a political struggle, opposing her “unskewed” sexual preferences (which conveniently line up with her version of “feminism”) to the uncritical “monetization” of sexuality produced by “a company that markets and monetizes a male’s idea of female sexuality.”
The problem with this bad-faith opposition (other than the fact that it’s bullshit, of course) is that it entirely elides the reality of the marketing and distribution of cultural commodities of any kind, all of which have a specific relation to the market. There isn’t a commodity that isn’t subject to marketing; we just market different commodities differently, that’s all. Lena, however, needs her own special high horse to ride. But here’s the dirty secret that Lena would never admit, because her work is “a feminist action”: the audience for Girls is far, far less representative of normative desire than the porn market is. You know why? Because nobody has any fucking reason to sit and watch a porno they don’t actually enjoy. Well, maybe not nobody. But the point is, “pornography” actually answers to the statistical norms of supply and demand much more clearly than “cultural” phenomena like Girls.
People who buy porn go out and buy the porn they like. The sales of porn reflect pretty directly the kind of porn people want to watch, and the reason for that is that, again, very few people would sit and watch a porno they don’t enjoy. People might deny enjoying a porno they do enjoy, but very few people would claim to enjoy - or even sit through - one that they didn’t. But there are any number of reasons why someone might watch Dunham’s crappy show even though its depiction of sexuality is entirely alien to them. Social pressure, for example. From other hipsters. Or from the news media. Or maybe they have a partner who watches it. Maybe they’re hanging out with friends and their friends watch it. Either way, the chance that a viewer of Dunham’s show would be exposed to a version of sexuality that is “skewed” in relation to their own desire is infinitely greater than the chance of the same thing happening to a consumer of pornography. So who’s the one who needs correcting here?
The only real reason to be upset about this porn parody, as I see it, is that the producer and actors of that porn parody are being paid so much less than Dunham and her actors. THAT’s a monetary injustice, and a very real one. But that would also never occur to Lena, who prefers to restage political economy in the same way that she restages sexuality, dating, and life in New York: as a taste-making mirror of her own goddamn issues.
No, but seriously. STFU.