Sisterhood Of Smut Collectors
Women who collect porn & erotica; we are out there, and we are not the novelties you might think us to be.
Out shopping with CR/LF over the weekend we were caught smooching in the book stacks. "Get a hotel room," came the familiar voice of a local antiques & collectibles dealer that we know. We laughed and exchanged hellos, and then he asked, "Do you know [name omitted], she's a local porn collector I met..."
Now, I did not know this woman, but because it seems as though we are a small group, this dealer assumed we would know one another. Despite the fact that like attracts like, I don't know all women who collect porn or document sex history through the evidence left behind, but his assumption that we female smut collectors are a small group is a common assumption ~ and one I don't entirely agree with.
I don't have any statistical data on the subject ~ and how could I when just being female and admitting you like sex is still a giant taboo ~ but I don't think we are a small group at all. I know quite a few women who collect smut (DeeDee & Silent Porn Star come immediately to mind ~ and are "out" of their collecting closet, so I feel free to name them) and I do know that I see many women digging through boxes of vintage porn & raising their bidding paddles for erotic works. Often there are more women searching for and buying smut than men. We are out there, and not the novelties you might think us to be.
While can't speak for all in what I just described as a "not small group," I can comfortably say that we are not all the "woo-hoo party girls" many people like to think we are.
Many of us began our collections as part of or extensions of other collections &/or research ~ usually exploring what it means to be or have been a woman. Some of us began looking at porn critically due to radical feminist anti-porn stances, others as a part of pin up and Hollywood glamour collections, others found themselves wandering into smut as they studied the historical (d)evolution of sex education... Categories such as "feminism", "health", "classic film" ~ collections previously "clean & pure" ~ found themselves becoming actively sullied with the stuff. As for myself, it was all this and more (I never really focused my collecting habits until I found I had storage and space issues). But no matter what our early intentions, the point of view we started with, one thing remains consistent: Many women are searching for the answers to what it means to be female, historically and right this minute, and how we feel about that ~ and we're using porn & erotic materials to do it.
As Jaded Hippy wrote:
Feminists like me spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing women's bodies. How they are used in society, how they are appropriated, commodified, objectified... How we are taught to view them, both when it's your own body, and when it is the body of other women. Much of that discussions seems to revolve around naked or almost naked women's bodies. We are used for all manner of distasteful stuff.
Figuring that out... coming to terms with it... When you add that to the societal programming we all go through that tells us our bodies are simultaneously shameful, dirty and gross, it can lead a budding feminist to feel covering up is the thing to do. It also seems to lead other budding feminists to believe taking it off is the thing to do. These reactions have long puzzled me. Not because they don't make sense, but because I think they're two sides of the same coin. That coin being: coming to full ownership of YOUR body.
No matter who the body before us belongs to, it becomes our own. That could be our tits, our ass, our labia spread wide open like a briefcase on his desk. We could be the whipper or the whipee. Just how do we feel about all that?
Is it our libido or righteous anger which becomes aroused? Both? The intellectual & emotional responses are complicated. They have to be; this is a complicated issue.
Jaded Hippy's right when she says that we've been "used for all manner of distasteful stuff" ~ and we have not only the right to examine that, but we have the responsibility to stop such use and abuse. Those two reactions she spoke of, to cover up or strip it off, they are indeed two sides of the same coin ~ but to just knee-jerk to one side or the other of that coin is reactionary.
Such reactionary response has little, if any, thought behind it ~ but this issue of a woman's body and who owns it requires much thought before any action is taken. As a believer that each woman owns her own body, I believe that she and she alone should dictate if & when she will cover it up and/or take it off. But she should know why she chooses to do so.
The prevailing societal programming does much to obstruct the issues here; I find this use and abuse of our minds as abhorrent as the misogynistic misuse of our bodies. It is through the items in my collection ~ and through the act of collecting too ~ that I have come to learn a lot about this battle to control me and anyone else in a female form. I've also come to see just how damaging this is to men too.
I have used ~ and will continue to use ~ this information to build a knowledge base for action, so that I am no longer reactionary in my dismissal or acceptance of any party line but instead choose my own path of action.
The things I've learned are called my Lessons Of A Porn Collector; and I'll be sharing them with you. Meanwhile, you may want to attend Aesthetic Response Porn School, or check out the hundreds of other 'thoughts on porn' articles here at SK.