09.23.16 Truth & Wisdom

Gloria Steinem, The Queen of Feminists Shares Her thoughts on Porn Culture, Contemporary Feminism and Parenting.

Gloria Steinem, The Queen of Feminists Shares Her thoughts on Porn Culture, Contemporary Feminism and Parenting.

BY Amanda de Cadenet

As I am reading her new biography My Life on the Road and feeling so insanely inspired, it seems timely to share this unpublished interview I did with Gloria Steinem where we talked about many things, but the first thing I wanted to know about was this…

AdeC: What is your perspective on porn culture and how it’s infiltrated so many of our lives?

GS: Well obviously it not about sex, it’s about violence. Rape is not about sex. It’s about violence. Most rapes are carried out with bottles and knives and broom handles… And pornography is that too- it’s violence, not sex. So I find it helpful to differentiate pornography from erotica. Because if people equate porn with sex, they think you’re against sex.

AdeC: Which we’re not.

GS: Which we’re not, on the contrary, we’re trying to say that cooperation beats domination.

AdeC: Absolutely.

GS: For everybody. So I find it helpful to have a different word cause eros means love and pleasure and free choice and pornae means female slavery. It’s there in the language.

AdeC: When you explain it like that it makes complete sense, but what would you suggest the most proactive thing that I could do to get this information out there ,because there is a whole slew of 14-year-old girls who are expected to have hairless vaginas and be available for anal sex when requested. This is an epidemic of young girls feeling like that is what they need to do to be accepted by a guy.

GS: It is very scary. At the same time that the Right Wing has suppressed sex education in the schools, pornography has invaded the airwaves. So in a way, pornography has become sex education because we’re not supplying any alternative in the schools.

AdeC: Absolutely.

GS: What we need to do is make a positive effort in getting real sex education in the schools and into kids’ lives. And part of it is empowering individual women who feel scared by this stuff to say- You can put it out of your house. You can say “I won’t have any. I won’t have anything to do with people who buy it. I will object to it.” It’s about empowering each other to say what we’re thinking.

AdeC: I agree with you. But if a woman is in a committed relationship with a guy and he’s a porn consumer –

GS: Get a divorce. Or move out. If that women were Jewish and that guy was an Anti-Semite, she would move out. The only reason that the Anti-Semitism is taken more seriously than female hatred is because it affects men too.

AdeC: Wow, ok…

GS: It may take time because we don’t transform ourselves overnight. But just as battered women have to leave two or three times before they’re able to really leave… I would say the same is true with pornography. Get another guy.

AdeC: I have heard this so many times from men saying, “Pornography is just not a big deal, you know? All men do it.” I don’t like to believe all men consume porn, but I have to tell you that a lot do at this point.

GS: And especially boys when they’re insecure and they don’t know what sex is and so they- they kind of know that it’s not right but they’re afraid to say that to their peers. Many rapes are gang rapes because boys by themselves or men by themselves wouldn’t do this, but the psychology—

AdeC: Pack mentality.

GS: Well they’re just afraid to, to…

AdeC: Say, “I don’t wanna do it.”

GS: Most men would be kind of shamed to go to a prostitute, but in a group…
And most men don’t understand that the average age of entry into prostitution in this country is 13.

AdeC: Again, when you put it like that, when you say this girl likely is not here by her own volition. What little girl says “I’m gonna have a career as a prostitute when I grow up.”

GS: So far in my life, and I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve only met one woman who was there by anything like her own volition. The rest either had been sexually abused in childhood and thought they had no other value or they were trying to eat, you know?
In the street they call it “survival sex.” They do not call it sex work, that is an invention of, you know…

AdeC: Media.

GS: Well I don’t know, I think actually we have to cop to it. I think maybe the women’s movement was somewhat guilty of talking about sex work with the idea that it would give some power to those women.

AdeC: Right, that it was work, it was a job- it was elective.

GS: Yeah, which of course it is not – I stopped saying it the minute I sat in Calcutta in Sonagachi, which is the biggest brothel in the world. And there are signs all in Bengali or Hindi and the only English is “Sex Work.” And you look in the door and there are 7-year-olds.

AdeC: Children.

GS: Exactly.

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AdeC: So when I interviewed Jane Fonda, who I know is a—

GS: Good friend.

AdeC: Yes. She talked about how we put so much focus on raising girls, but actually as mothers to sons we need to also focus on how we’re raising our boys, which I thought was a really valid point, cause it is starting with us.

GS: Well it – no, it’s not starting with us. The fathers are as responsible.
There was not a star in the East here. We didn’t do it by ourselves.

AdeC: I understand, but also as our participation as mothers, how we’re educating our boys and how we’re raising them with what kind of principles?

GS: That’s true, and I think we have always paid attention to boys… always. But they need role models. We do what we see more than what we’re told, so we can’t take responsibility away from grown up men who need to be loving, nurturing fathers. Until men are raising the children as much as women, it won’t work.

AdeC: I do see that shifting, and I fully agree with you.

GS: There are men who fully are parents. They’re not “babysitting” their children.

AdeC: I do see more fathers walking around wearing those Baby Bjorns strapped to them. They’re doing it.
Because there are more and more women going to work and the man is a stay-at-home dad.

GS: It makes a huge, huge difference. My mother was not well, so my father – by accident- raised me much more than most fathers. So I know you know that men can be as loving and nurturing and—

AdeC: Did you grow up with the safety of having a present, loving father?

GS: Yeah, I wouldn’t call it safety exactly because he was not a grown up himself.
He was always in debt, you know? My big memory of him was that he always had to park the car very far away so the finance company couldn’t –

AdeC: If they came to the house they wouldn’t know where his car was.

GS: Right, and he would send me to the door because if it was a bill collector what were they going to do with a 5-year-old? No, Daddy isn’t home. So he wasn’t Mr. Responsible, but I didn’t care because he loved me. He loved my company.

AdeC: How did that affect your choice in men?

GS: Very well, with maybe just one minor error.

AdeC: Oh my god, that’s amazing, only one?

GS: Yeah.

AdeC: That’s extraordinary.

GS: I’m still friends with all my old lovers because they’re good people.

AdeC: You chose good people.

GS: I chose good men.And some of it is luck too, because I could have gotten a violent man without knowing it. I’m not saying that it’s all controllable.

AdeC: No, but I also think what we’re attracted to is largely dictated on what our experience of what love is.

GS: That’s true. All the men in my life with one exception have been really good people.

AdeC: What do you think about the fact that there’s a whole new younger generation of women like myself who identify as feminists?

GS: There’s many more of you than of us. Again if you look at polls, young women are more likely to support feminist issues than older women in general. The media gives the impression that there are no young feminists because they’re trying they’re hoping it’s over.

AdeC: Well, it’s not over! No way.

GS: So I think it’s great.

AdeC: Does it surprise you that you are such a role model after so many years?

GS: Yes, it does surprise me. But what happens with movements is that there are movement people and then by success people get drawn into particular areas and they become less visible as part of the movement per se.

AdeC: But it is interesting that everyone who has been involved in the feminist movement, from the beginning, you are the woman who, certainly people of my generation still talk about like “Oh my gosh, Gloria Steinem.”

GS: Part of it is that my work is media. In the 1930s I would have been called a “media worker.” So I’m just more visible, but it doesn’t mean that I’m doing more than somebody who’s a scientist. For instance, in California Aileen Hernandez should be better known than me because she’s been active longer than me. She lives in San Francisco. She was the first woman and the first black member of the EEOC, was the president of NOW. She was huge- decades and decades of accomplishment. But because she’s not in the media per se, and also because people don’t understand that black women were more leaders of the women’s movement than white women, she’s not as visible.

AdeC: Well, speaking of these young feminists… What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

GS: It’s going to be okay. In spite of what you think now, it’s going to be okay. We can still do it. You know, you and I, we know our 14-year-old selves. We can evoke that person that’s still in there. We’re like Russian Dolls, you know –

AdeC: Yes, yes!

GS: We can still evoke that child in us and say, “I’m here now, I’m grown up. I’m strong, and I know that you didn’t get what you needed but I’m going to give it to you now.”

AdeC: That’s beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for your time, really. I’ve so enjoyed speaking to you.

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Amanda is a wife, mother, friend, photographer and the creator and host of The Conversation. @AmandadeCadenet

Comments

  • Maryann

    Great interview, Amanda. I’m so excited to see Gloria in San Francisco next week, and encouraged by her assertion that feminism is still alive and kicking.

    • Amanda De Cadenet

      Oh yes it sure is !!

  • willow rockwell

    Amazing. I have recently just discovered that although I thought I was okay with my husband watching porn, my body was not. We have two young daughters, and as you know sex is off the menu for a while after giving birth….and then you are just SO tired! Porn sort of snuck in as a regular for my husband, and sometimes I was just relieved that he was relieved, you know?! Anyway, my body really started rejecting having sex with my husband. I would have all kinds of strange symptoms and my vagina just did not like him anymore! I started to almost have panic attacks when he was near me. I had a childhood full of sexual abuse and violence, and my body memory was just really activated. I put two and two together and told my husband that porn was literally making me sick. Energetically and spiritually think of all the contracts that are made while watching porn! And the sperm as a life force energy….what is that creating? My husband is awesome and he quit right away. I would love to contribute to your work on this subject…I am a writer and I speak from my experience in the hopes that I can help other women through things like this! My next blog is about this topic. If I can somehow be involved in what you are doing I would be so excited! My website is willowrockwell.com. Thank you for all you do! I find your work incredibly relevant and inspiring! xo

    • Amanda De Cadenet

      I am still tired fyi and I too think about the energy of which conception is created , what is in a persons psyche is automatically translated into their body, at least that is what I believe.

    • willow rockwell

      I believe that too… and I also believe that erotica can be healing, and porn too for some people…I just feel that listening to your body can really be a guide, and also thinking about how energetically you form soul contracts with whomever you are watching when you are orgasming with them….it is maybe just an aspect that has not been entirely explored up until this point. Is porn an energy vampire or an energy uplifter? Maybe that is really the question…

  • KillForLove

    I really appreciate this article and Gloria Steinem’s perspective. I think more people need to take a stand and raise a voice against some of the effects of us riding the porn train. We need to think more about the effect that this has on people and the youth. However, some of her tone and some of her views I was not completely on board with. Not all pornography is the same, or violent, or rape-centric, there is a lot of “hardcore” pornography out there that is more stylized, plot driven, or focused on theme or acting, such as “Nubile Films” or “Passion” on pornhub.com Sometimes I think people like her who may be older and firmer in their stance need to keep more of an open mind to the idea of pornography and how its not all bad, and how it can actually be beneficial in some relationships and for people. I watch pornography and I definitely think it should be an available outlet, just with more moderation and some regulation. Not all women should be ashamed or embarrassed about watching porn, and I think some of her ideologies are somewhat outmoded. However, some of her opinions I really value. I think there are a lot of issues here but I think a lot of her opinions need to be spoken today, especially by younger people who can actually have their voices heard. I would love to hear some young celebrities actually give an honest opinion about the sexualization of our culture, and how this can be potentially detrimental. There is one documentary by Rashidah Jones called “Hot Girls Wanted” and it was very eye opening. I believe readers of this article might be interested in viewing that. It is an informed yet curious and openminded take on the porn industry from a somewhat younger perspective and it is quite alarming. She also touches on the purveyance of porn in our popular culture in general. You can currently view “Hot Girls Wanted” on Netflix https://www.netflix.com/title/80038162. Thank you for posting this interview. 🙂 <3 Xx

    • Amanda De Cadenet

      I fully agree with you and the Marie Claire survey we did on Women and Porn which you can read here http://theconversation.tv/pornproject/
      includes some pro-women porn ..

  • Charlotte Chatton-Adler

    “What we’re attracted to is largely dictated on what our experience of what love is.” – I love this… And I had no idea that Porn comes from a word that means female slavery! That’s shocking but makes complete sense… Thanks Amanda — I love the work you are doing x

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