The eroticization of abusers: from jizz in the face feminism to dapper white supremacists

There is a genealogy to ideologies. A lineage that connects what we thought then to how we see the world now. Politics and the ideas that support them hardly ever come out fully formed, pulled out of thin air by visionaries. Instead, they evolve through time by a gradual build up in what resembles more of a lego brick pile with each new idea fitting on top of the previous one, than a single “lightbulb moment” of unique inspiration.

“Cuck” as a trend

2012 was the inaugural year of what I like to call “jizz in the face feminism”. Barack Obama was nearing the end of his first term as President of the United States and white male anxiety was reaching a peak. Simultaneously, the gradual but steady growth of interest in “cucks” was building up towards a trend that wouldn’t be noticed until years later. The white cisgender heterosexual man’s sexual desires, embodied in unspeakable fears of seeing their women taken by a Black, powerful man (a common porn trope and topic of countless fetish tales). So pervasive was this fear that the word itself, cuck, was turned into an insult. The racist fantasy, so unfathomable that it became a mechanism to degrade political opponents.

It was in this climate that the “feminist but not feminist” site Jezebel gave a platform for the inauguration of “jizz in the face feminism” where a white, heterosexual cisgender fauxminist pontificated on the virtues of the porn trope known as “the money shot” as a feminist act because of its capability to cleanse and empower cishet men.

Coincidentally, it was also in 2012 that “sex positive feminism” reached its absolute popularity peak. While many Women of Color were interested and engaging in an emancipatory politics of sex, this particular brand of sex positive feminism was heralded into the mainstream by a majority of white feminists who either vocally aligned themselves with “jizz in the face feminism” or promoted similarly cishet male centric models of sexual politics. It was in this climate that certain white feminists promoted active engagement with MRA or MRA adjacent groups such as “pick up artists” which would eventually become a core active group within the white supremacist alt-right.

It was in the same year that the elevation of James Deen into “feminist porn star” began to take place. In an extensive profile, published at the end of 2011, that was scrutinized and analyzed in practically every woman-centered outlet, Deen began his ascent into the mainstream. His porn output, heavily centered on the appeal of his cisgender cock was promoted as the “ultimate” cishet women’s fantasy. It was said then that James Deen’s appeal was based on a perception of him being “safe”. Back then I wrote about my astonishment that all of these sex positive/ supposedly woman friendly tropes were still so heavily centered on the cishet penis and that there were hardly any “femme centric pleasure models” available. Back then, I said

In November last year, Amanda Hess interviewed neo-porn darling James Deen (it’s an excellent read, by the way) and this sentence in the feature stayed with me “In some videos, he appears only as a disembodied, thrusting penis”. This guy is hailed as a novelty within the porn industry precisely because of his appeal to cis, straight women; he is often described as someone who, by all accounts treats his sex partners with respect. And yet, we get more of the same “penis centric erotica”.

A year later, in 2013, James Deen was giving college lectures at the behest of the “jizz in the face feminism” professor. Mainstream coverage of the event contained this tidbit:

“My students were engaged. It was a wonderful afternoon,” Professor Hugo Schwyzer, whose class is titled Humanities 3: Navigating Pornography, told the Daily News. “I was proud to offer up James Deen as a role model to the class.”

James Deen, a role model to the class.

By 2015, news of James Deen’s abusive behavior reached the mainstream. He was, by several, credible accounts, a rapist and a violent man. He degraded his partners and fellow porn performers, violated their consent, choked them, forced them into sexual violent acts against their will. According to the numerous victims who came forward, his abuse had been going on for years. Some even mentioned that fellow performers had warned them in advance. All of this to say, his abuse was not secret. “A role model to the class”, indeed.

The news of Deen’s abusive and predatory behavior shocked some feminists. They publicly repented. They wondered how this could happen. By then, the mainstreaming of his chauvinistic, cishet male centric porn as the pinnacle of straight women’s appeal was already an irreversible fact.

In June this year, Vice’s Broadly reported on the James Deen’s still thriving career as a porn star. According to the report, “Deen announced an increase in membership to his pay site” and “few other men in pornography have the money-making reputation as Deen, and even fewer (if any) have his mainstream name recognition”. I must insist, “a role model for the class”.

In October 2016, video footage emerged of then Presidential Candidate Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. In the video, this dialogue takes place:

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

When Susan Sontag wrote about the rehabilitation of Leni Riefenstahl for The New York Review of Books. She said (emphasis mine):

The rehabilitation of proscribed figures in liberal societies does not happen with the sweeping bureaucratic finality of the Soviet Encyclopedia, in which each new edition brings forward a dozen hitherto unmentionable figures and lowers an equal or greater number through the trap door of nonexistence. Our rehabilitations are softer, more insidious.

She was, of course, talking about the rehabilitation of people. However, the same “soft” mechanism can be applied to the mainstreaming of certain ideologies or ideas. Currently, mainstream media is keeping itself occupied in the rehabilitation industry by featuring “dapper white supremacists” and comparing Steve Bannon’s younger sex appeal to Robert Redford’s.

Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and journalists, analysts and media outlets wonder how 53% of white women could vote for him. How could all these white women vote for a man that openly bragged about violently grabbing women by the pussy? How could they vote for a man that openly admits to being misogynist and sexist? How could they ignore the sexual violence and anti woman politics that him and his Vice President candidate, Mike Pence were advocating? My counter question is, how could they not when the same kind of sexual violence and anti woman politics have been pushed as “empowering” for half a decade?

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