How can we change what we won't name? 

How can we change what we won't name?

The other day a friend of mine got a text message from her sister. The sisterís just discovered that her 14-year-old son has been looking at pornography on his mumís workmates computer.

So a few of us were discussing this over lunch recently. There are of course the more obvious questions. Like it being a bit cheeky to scan porn on someone elseís office computer. When thereís a computer at home the boy could be using. And that he was a bit doof not to erase the site history on Internet Explorer like his aunt taught him to do. And how does a mother show her concern about something without forbidding it. Given that, even if she did want to forbid it, heíd still find ways around it.

But more than that, it got us talking about pornography in general. How to define it. Itís role in society. The difference between sex and erotica and pornography.

My one colleague said that, for her, essential ingredients of pornography are power and a penis. And, whilst I donít quite agree with the inference that there arenít power issues in women/women relationships, I can appreciate her point. The male/female power imbalance is a given. Men have more power. And so much of our society in general, and sexuality specifically, reinforces that. Women who challenge that are labeled radical angry man-hating bitches. Men who challenge that are derided as ďpussy whippedĒ or effeminate.

This power imbalance is so much the reality of the world that itís difficult to have a calm, thougthful conversation about it. And itís so hard to know even where to begin to unravel it. Like racism, or homophobia, or other forms of elitism, any questioning of the status quo is so threatening itís dismissed as emotional or irrational.

In the face of that, my own temptation is towards anger. I know that the violent fantasies of hurling petrol bombs or taking a machete to the genitals arenít productive. But Iím at a loss as to what would be.

The masterís tools of violence, intolerance and oppression wonít deliver the radical transformation towards humanity and justice that we need. But how then do we move towards that new reality? We cannot change what we refuse to name.

In a world that pressures conformity and rewards normalcy, perhaps the most revolutionary thing we can do is refuse to conform. Claiming our own positions and taking pride in our convictions might just be the first and most transformative radical action. Speaking truth to power is essential. But maybe it starts with speaking truth at home, at work, and in community.

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