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Ask Tara 2 — Women’s Rights in the US, Pornography, and Feminist Religion

Image Credit: Tara Abhasakun.

Tara Abhasakun is a colleague. We have written together before. I reached out because of the good journalism by her. I wanted to get some expert opinion on women’s rights, journalism, and so on. I proposed a series. She accepted. Abahasakun studied history at The College of Wooster. Much of her coursework was in Middle East history.

After graduating Tara started blogging about the rights of women, LGBT, and minorities in MENA. She is currently a freelance writer. She is of Thai, Iranian, and European descent. She has lived in Bangkok and San Francisco. Here we talk about women’s rights in the US, pornography, and feminist religion.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are the main attacks on women’s rights in the United States?

Tara Abhasakun: I think the most timely issue is the Kavanaugh confirmation. Kavanaugh was confirmed without a full FBI investigation into his possible sexual assaults of three women. On top of that, as we all know, he was nominated by a president who claimed to have grabbed women “by the pussy” so there’s that too. I don’t even know what else to say about either of these things, because they are both so utterly ridiculous, yet they’re apparently both possible, and real.

Jacobsen: The socio-political Left, in general, view pornography with mixed emotional and intellectual evaluations. One branch sees this as legitimate paid work and, in some way, a means for economic independence of some women. Another view argues these are abuses of and exploitation of women. Still, others argue pornography is a branch of sexual liberation, and so on.

People have admired female forms for millennia. They have abused and degraded women for the same time. Also, these have been a basis of economics and trade, even with women as chattel or property to be bought and sold — including for sexual slavery.

Pornography reflects these histories and human propensities as if a prism for renewed reflection of ethics. What seems like the best position to take on pornography in the modern period?

Abhasakun: Firstly, let me acknowledge that there may be many women who truly enjoy working in the porn industry. I think the issue, however, is what “consent” truly means. When there is money involved, and someone knows that they will be paid to perform certain sexual acts, it means that they may feel pressured to perform those sexual acts in order to maintain their livelihood. Is that really consent?

One could argue that this same logic could be applied to any job, and that we all have to have a job, however, I believe that sex is different because sex is something that we usually acknowledge must be wholeheartedly consented to, unlike a desk job in which many people think “I don’t really want to go to work today, but I have to.” In ordinary sexual situations in which no money is involved, we acknowledge that people must give full, enthusiastic consent to sex, and not feel pressured into it. I have a hard time believing that everyone who works in the porn industry is always giving their full, enthusiastic consent, when there is money being dangled in front of them.

I have begun to hear more about feminist porn, and porn being done in more ethical ways. I have not done much research on this, and therefore don’t want to give a definitive answer on what I believe the right answer is. This notion of “feminist porn” however, I want to believe that it’s possible. As of right now, I’m just not entirely sure of how this is being facilitated.

Jacobsen: Following the question on religion and the incorporation of feminism, how might religions incorporate feminism? How can arguments for a higher power help with this?

Abhasakun: I don’t think that belief in a higher power can exactly helps, in fact, clearly, belief in a higher power is used to abuse women.

And yet, the fact of the matter is that many people cannot help but believe in a higher power. Many people have had experiences in which they were very, very likely to die, and something that can only be described as miraculous happened, and they didn’t die. When things like this happen to people, it’s often impossible to convince them that there is not a higher power.

If people are going to believe in a higher power, here’s what needs to happen:

People of faith must begin by looking at their holy texts from objective standpoints. This means that secular education is crucial. All children must be taught to simply read texts, and then come to conclusions, rather than approaching any text with a preconceived idea that it is from God.

People can then begin to view religious texts from a historical standpoint. They can begin to think, “Maybe the treatment of women in this holy text exists because this was written in a backward time period.” Then the question can become “What can I draw from this book that is useful today, and what do I need to discard?” From there, the understanding of God will hopefully move away from a judgemental guy scowling down at all of us, to a force that permeates through the universe.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Tara.

(Updated September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com, Scott.Jacobsen@TrustedClothes.Com, Scott@ConatusNews.Com, scott.jacobsen@probc.ca, Scott@Karmik.Ca.

He is a Moral Courage Webmaster and Outreach Specialist (Fall, 2016) at the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center), Interview Columnist for Conatus News, Writer and Executive Administrator for Trusted Clothes, Interview Columnist for Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), Councillor for the Athabasca University Student Union, Member of the Learning Analytics Research Group, writer for The Voice Magazine, Your Political Party of BC, ProBC, Marijuana Party of Canada, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Harvest House Ministries, and Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization, Editor and Proofreader for Alfred Yi Zhang Photography, Community Journalist/Blogger for Gordon Neighbourhood House, Member-at-Large, Member of the Outreach Committee, the Finance & Fundraising Committee, and the Special Projects & Political Advocacy Committee, and Writer for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Member of the Lifespan Cognition Psychology Lab and IMAGe Psychology Lab, Collaborator with Dr. Farhad Dastur in creation of the CriticalThinkingWiki, Board Member, and Foundation Volunteer Committee Member for the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation, and Independent Landscaper.

He was a Francisco Ayala Scholar at the UCI Ethics Center, Member of the Psychometric Society Graduate Student Committee, Special Advisor and Writer for ECOSOC at NWMUN, Writer for TransplantFirstAcademy and ProActive Path, Member of AT-CURA Psychology Lab, Contributor for a student policy review, Vice President of Outreach for the Almas Jiwani Foundation, worked with Manahel Thabet on numerous initiatives, Student Member of the Ad–Hoc Executive Compensation Review Committee for the Athabasca University Student Union, Volunteer and Writer for British Columbia Psychological Association, Community Member of the KPU Choir (even performed with them alongside the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), Delegate at Harvard World MUN, NWMUN, UBC MUN, and Long Beach Intercollegiate MUN, and Writer and Member of the Communications Committee for The PIPE UP Network.

He published in American Enterprise Institute, Annaborgia, Conatus News, Earth Skin & Eden, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Gordon Neighbourhood House, Huffington Post, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Jolly Dragons, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology Department, La Petite Mort, Learning Analytics Research Group, Lifespan Cognition Psychology Lab, Lost in Samara, Marijuana Party of Canada, MomMandy, Noesis: The Journal of the Mega Society, Piece of Mind, Production Mode, Synapse, TeenFinancial, The Peak, The Ubyssey, The Voice Magazine, Transformative Dialogues, Treasure Box Kids, Trusted Clothes.

Image Credit: Tara Abhasakun.

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen supports science and human rights.

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