Kate Smurthwaite and Anti-Sex Feminism

This Tuesday I appeared on a panel at the National Theatre to debate pornography and its cultural impacts. Joining me in the red corner was the feminist porn producer and performer Pandora Blake. In the blue corner were Heather Brunskell-Evans of Resist Porn Culture (an apparently new anti-porn group; don’t we have enough?) and Kate Smurthwaite, the comedian, writer and anti-sex feminist activist.

It wasn’t the easiest of debates; not because of the subject matter, but because of some heckling from the anti-porn speakers and certain members of the audience (Pandora recognised at least one audience member from other events – there were clearly a number of activists in attendance). This gives reassurance: when one has evidence and reason on one’s side, heckling is unnecessary.

Of course, nobody ever admits they’re anti-sex, for obvious reasons: if you’re trying to get people on-board with an anti-porn message, looking like a fundamentalist doesn’t help your cause.  So when I chose to talk about the anti-sex, rather than anti-porn movement, my choice of words was questioned. In attempting to answer (I was cut off more than once), I pointed out that Smurthwaite, appearing in an anti-porn guise at this event, is a supporter of a variety of other, puritanical causes. I had printed out a tweet of hers in preparation for the event; when I tried to read it, Smurthwaite shouted over me, and threatened to walk out if I read it (I backed down – which I regret, in hindsight).

So here is the tweet which Smurthwaite (@Cruella1) was so determined should not be heard:

Classy: blaming sex workers, not rapists, for rape
Classy: blaming sex workers, not rapists, for rape

@gingerrobbers is a stripper, and as I interpret the above, Smurthwaite is blaming her choice of career for women being raped.

This is, of course, a disgusting thing to say, and surprising from a feminist, since it blames rape on women’s behaviour, rather than on rapists. It’s also a lie: there is no evidence that strip clubs and other forms of sexual expression cause men to commit rape.

Blaming sexual expression (and thus, women who undress in public) for rape has always been a feature of anti-sex feminism. Catharine Mackinnon, an American pioneer of anti-sex feminism, actually went so far as to suggest that a rapist/murderer should be freed, and instead the porn industry put on trial, because he had watched porn prior to committing the crime, and so was not responsible for his actions.

It also demonstrates that the ‘anti-porn’ label is misleading. I have never encountered an anti-porn feminist who is not also anti-striptease, anti-prostitution, or anti-sexual expression that goes far beyond what most people would consider pornographic.

It is for this reason that the anti-sex campaigner Gail Dines coined the term ‘pornification’, which is popular today in the anti-sex movement. It is designed to imply that all sexual expression, however soft, is somehow pornographic in origin and intent, and so proof of the insidious influence of porn across our culture. Thus, Beyoncé music videos, Page 3 of the Sun, sun cream adverts and lads’ mags are all examples of ‘pornification’… created by the river, the torrent, the TSUNAMI of filth that (they say) bombards us on a daily basis.

So if a person attacks every possible known instance of sexual expression as harmful and dangerous, how could they not be anti-sex? I have always wanted to ask Dines, Smurthwaite and their colleagues in the Porn Panic industry to explain what expression of sexuality they would find acceptable; perhaps a Ministry of Smurthwaite could be established to approve erotica that – according to the puritans – does not demean, degrade, objectify or otherwise ‘harm’ women. One suspects it would be a small, sad and sexless library of content.

So I don’t apologise for referring to such types as anti-sex rather than simply anti-porn. I use the term with care.


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15 thoughts on “Kate Smurthwaite and Anti-Sex Feminism

  1. Smurthwaite shouted over me, and threatened to walk out if I read it”

    Anti porn activists shouting over those they disagree with shocker.
    If she had any credability she would have let u read it and then backed it up. Maybe she was ashamed of what she said in the tweet.

  2. I dont think they are anti sex per say as in anti people having sex (which obviously would be moronic) but they are at least anti people making money from sex and anti sex being so widely seen in public.

  3. Saying they are anti sex is correct given that there is no porn without sex and NO SEX WITHOUT PORN.

    The first statement is obvious and if you understand the first thing about humans you know the second is not optional is it inevitable.

    If we love golf we play and watch golf. If we love music we go to concerts and listen to music. What defines humans is our ability and need to communicate with others. In conclusion and even more so than a mere hobby humans naturally love sex and we will and must as human beings communicate/ express our love for sex with is porn!

    The only thing hate groups like Object will ever achieve is making honest human beings feel guilty about being open about who they are. Like the gay haters in the 60s caused gays to suicide for existing and being open about they sexuality.

  4. Yes, I’ve run into similar problems with the anti-porn crowd, their “argument” is mainly to try to shut down their opposition’s ability to be heard.

    I have never, of course, seen them show any real support for sex workers. Every idea they come up with is one that endangers and stigmatizes them more. They are generally indistinguishable from the usual puritanical crowd except that they pretend to use “science” they haven’t actually read to back up their ludicrous claims.

    1. In my experience of them, the ‘science’ they resort to quoting boils down to pseudoscientific constructs like ‘male hypersexuality’ with regard to porn (Google ‘hypersexuality’, to see what an inappropriate appropriation that is), and belief without proof in a crude form of Behaviourism which reduces adult human beings to helpless idiots in the face of cultural artifacts – that’s when they’re not quoting doctored data as ‘evidence’.

    2. As for their lack of genuine support for women working in adult industries, that boils down to the radfem concept of ‘traitor womyn’; in fact, it could be said that the anti-sex ‘feminists’ are some of the most outspoken misogynists going in this respect!

  5. Its funny cos as mad and bigoted as the old religious right wing anti porn lobby was you could at least have a debate with them without them screaming abuse at you or labelling anyone that disagreed with them as misogynist. And I cannot recall anyone from the religious anti porn right wing labelling sex worker unions as the “pimp lobby” and telling sex workers that they are “brainwashed” or to blame for rape.

    1. It’s all about a tiny ideological clique attempting to shame and silence anyone they regard as ‘heretics’; denying women working in adult industries any personal agency is a tool the radfem groups use in order to leverage unearned power for themselves.

  6. Re-reading the above exchange of tweets, Smurf the SWERF is also attempting to link striptease with rape, isn’t she? The infamous ‘Lilith Report’, commissioned by EAVES (which used doctored data to ‘link’ rapes in the London Borough of Camden with the opening of strip clubs there) was debunked pretty thoroughly circa late 2011 – early 2012, and has since been removed by EAVES from their website; is la Smurthwaite really THAT dishonest?!

  7. And the East London Strippers Collective (the subject of the #elsc hashtag in Ginger’s tweet) is a grassroots, dancer-led organisation that is just of a year old. Yet another case of radfem agency-denial?

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