Toronto
3 min

We need a porn plot twist

I thought pro-sex feminists had won

Being a homo is just like living in a thriller. Seriously! Life for queers isn’t just a movie, it’s a specific genre of movie. The landscape keeps shifting on us in suspicious ways, and every time we look more closely, events take on new meanings. We hardly know where we fit, without checking our watches against the run time of the film.



In the last century, homosexuality went from mental illness to learned behaviour to genetic predisposition with plot-twisting speed. In numbers, we’ve been rare, isolated freaks, 10 percent of the population and then about three percent (not that, as current conventional wisdom has it, such numbers should matter much).



The relationship between the gay movement and feminism has been equally tough to figure out. Are we allies or enemies, or are we neither, merely sharing the common foe of the oppressive straight man?



Gay lib, in some ways, can be considered the little sister of women’s lib – which was definitely the biggest news event of the 20th century. Women decided they could do what they want to do; gay and lesbian people decided they could love whom they want to love, fuck whom they want to fuck.



But betrayals ensued, particularly between gay men and straight women. Lesbians have often been torn between allegiances.



Pro-sex feminists have done a fantastic job of rebuilding trust over the past few years. Feisty female thinkers, both straight and queer, have successfully argued against fear of sex and sexuality. For a while, I was sure the debate over the ill effects of porn was dead… but it seems to have come back to life. It’s not about sex anymore, but rather sex that engages violence – consensual or otherwise.



The Women’s Legal Education And Action Fund (LEAF) is tied up in knots over whether to intervene on behalf of Little Sister’s in the Vancouver bookstore’s Supreme Court Of Canada case against Canada Customs. And out of nowhere, the US-based group Equality Now has taken a rest from its concerns about the rape of school girls in Kenya to intervene against Little Sister’s in the case. (Turn to Jared Mitchell’s satirical piece on page 21.)



Equality Now’s world is filled with women who have suffered from abusive violence: a 10-year-old girl sold by her father; a 51-year-old woman stabbed to death by her former boyfriend. It’s a world where women are disproportionately the victims of violence, where any means of stopping and preventing such violence is worthy of consideration.



Gay men’s just-say-no-if-it-doesn’t-turn-you-on sexuality seems naively cheerful alongside such examples. Some women feel we live in a social climate where inequality makes it impossible for anyone to offer a legitimate “Yes.”



This position flies in the face of the lesbians who produce the SM magazine Bad Attitude, and the straight women who like rough sex – women who believe that there’s a life beyond the power to say no. But it’s the argument that will ring loudest in the ears of the Supreme Court, as it determines whether the porn bound for Little Sister’s is apt to cause “harm” in society.



The court’s 1992 Butler decision has stuck us with the burden of common law that says images lead to action and that violent images lead to violent action – usually by straight men against straight women.



Perhaps the best (but most unlikely) argument is that sex between men, and sex between women – and all the kinky representations of it we can muster – is indeed an exception. Nobody wants to be a seperatist, but Butler leaves little room. For gay men and lesbians, sexual expression takes place in a self-contained, idyllic universe that has little effect on how women are treated in society.



In homo couplings, societal inequalities between the genders don’t come into play. There is more freedom in queer relationships, less worry about power going awry; the Supreme Court needs to acknowledge it. Let us opt out. (Straights who can demonstrate their own sense of equality could fill out forms to join us.)



Such a ruling would cast homos again as outsiders, people who live in a world not governed by mainstream conventions. After years of trying to work our way in, it would be a welcome plot twist.