source - http://sisyphe.org/article.php3?id_article=1210 -
The sexual sadism of our culture, in peace and in war
The Abu Ghraib images have all the hallmarks of contemporary porn
1er juin 2004
I received some horrific photographs by email yesterday. Purporting to be from Iraq, they depicted the sexual abuse of women by US servicemen. On some, chadors were hitched up over the women’s heads. On others, the women were naked while they were raped by groups of men. It is impossible to tell whether the photographs are real - those images we know have been seen by American senators - or faked. They make you sick to your stomach. And they look strangely familiar - like the XXX films in hotel rooms, like those "live rape !" emails sent to internet users, like porn.
If the photographs are genuine, they are the visual evidence of the sexual abuse of Iraqi women - abuse which we already know is common, with or without these grotesque images. We know that such images exist, because a US government report confirmed it. And we know that Iraqi women are being raped throughout the country, because both Amal Kadham Swadi, the Iraqi lawyer, and the US’s own internal inquiry say that abuse is systemic and widespread. We also know this because all wars feature the abuse of women as a byproduct, or as a weapon. The ancient Greeks considered rape socially acceptable ; the Crusaders raped their way to Constantinople ; the English invaders raped Scottish women on Culloden Moor. The first world war, the second world war, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Vietnam - where the gangrape and murder of a peasant woman by US soldiers was photographed in stages by one if its participants.
But even if the pictures are mocked up, it makes you wonder where the images came from. Some woman, somewhere, had to be raped, or make it look like she was being raped. The poses, the large numbers of men to one woman, the violence - they have all the hallmarks of contemporary porn. Indeed, there is suspicion that the photos are part of a gruesome new trend - the manufacture of films showing the rape of women dressed as Iraqis by men dressed as US servicemen.
There’s a difference, of course, between the making of pornography for money and the photographing of pornographic poses as war trophies : the consent of the woman involved. But to the consumer of these images, there’s no way of knowing if there’s been consent or not. They look the same.
Modern porn has become increasingly savage. "You’re seeing more of these videos of women getting dragged on their faces, and spit on, and having their heads dunked in the toilet," says even pro-porn campaigner Nina Hartley. At the same time, the multibillion-dollar porn film industry, bigger than Hollywood, is widely seen as acceptable ; just this week, EastEnders actor Nigel Harman told Heat magazine : "I have always wanted to make porn, I think the industry is very underrated." It is aggressively mainstream.
Nevertheless, right now the American pornography industry is in shock. Not only has the military stolen its thunder, with ritual sexual humiliations of its own performed for the camera, but also three performers have tested positively for HIV, which means that no porn films will be made for 60 days, until all actors are tested. So, in an intriguing quirk of timing, while the making of porn itself is halted, pornography is still being generated - by US soldiers recreating the images many will have seen at home.
Lara Roxx is 18, and arrived in California’s San Fernando Valley, the capital of the US porn industry, only days before she contracted HIV. She had moved down from Canada with the aim of making quick money. She was infected while being penetrated anally by two men, simultaneously, neither of whom was wearing a condom. This act is the vogue in pornography today : condoms are rarely used, and the double penetration of a single orifice, whatever the physical consequences or limitations, is seen as hot.
Porn directors are devastated by the news of Roxx’s infection. David Brett, CEO of Passion Pictures, told the industry’s website, AVN : "I would be mortified if anyone got sick in connection with one of my projects. I have to sleep at night... I would never earn my living at the expense of some other human being’s health and safety." So now there is some discussion of compulsory condoms. But there is no discussion of how "healthy" and "safe" it is to brutalise teenagers in the name of entertainment.
Roxx’s interview with AVN itself shows the fluidity of "consent" in these matters. "I told [my manager] I wasn’t interested in anal at all, and I was a little freaky about the no-condom thing too," she said. On arriving at the film shoot, she was pressured into performing the "double anal" scene by the director, Marc Anthony. She says : "So I get there and Marc Anthony tells me it’s a DA, which stands for double anal. And I’m like, ’What ? I’ve never done a double anal’. And he was like, ’Well, that’s what we need. It’s either that or nothing’. And that’s how they do it... I think that sucks, because he knew double anal was dangerous." Later, she says, she was in pain and could not sit down.
It is hard not to see links between the culturally unacceptable behaviour of the soldiers in Abu Ghraib and the culturally accepted actions of what happens in porn. Of course there is a gulf between them, and it is insulting to suggest that all porn actors are in the same situation as Iraqis, confined and brutalised in terrifying conditions. And yet, the images in both are the same. The pornographic culture has clearly influenced the soldiers ; at the very least, in their exhibitionism, their enthusiasm to photograph their handiwork. And the victims in both don’t have feelings : to the abusers, they didn’t in Abu Ghraib ; to the punter they don’t in pornography. Both point to just how degraded sex has become in western culture. Porn hasn’t even pretended to show loving sex for decades ; in films and TV most sex is violent, joyless. The Abu Ghraib torturers are merely acting out their culture : the sexual humiliation of the weak. So Charles Graner and his colleagues can humiliate Iraqi prisoners because the prisoners are dirt ; they can humiliate women, forcing them to bare their bodies and raping them, because that way they can show their power.
The annihilation of Lynndie England, while her superior Graner, clearly in control and already with a history of violence against women, was left alone, fits this story too. They are both repulsive, torturers ; but she has been vilified for her involvement, while his is passed off with a shrug. Some women in the military - if they are not themselves being raped by male soldiers (in February, US soldiers were accused of raping more than 112 colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan) - seem to have to prove that they are one of the guys by sexually humiliating the only people less important than they are : Iraqi prisoners, of whatever sex. It’s a chilling lesson, that women can be sexual sadists just as well as men. Just give them the right conditions - and someone weaker to kick. It’s proof that sexual aggression is not really about sex or gender, but about power : the powerful humiliating the powerless.
The real images of sexual abuse of Iraqi women, if they are ever released, will at once appear on pornographic websites. They will be used for sexual gratification. People are already joking that England (though not Graner) can have a nice little future career for herself in porn. Of course we are horrified by these images. But we should be horrified too by their familiarity, and how much they tell us about our own societies.
May 22, 2004, Guardian
Sexual Domination In Uniform : An American Value
Source - http://sisyphe.org/article.php3?id_article=1210 -