- a feature-length documentary, Between the sheets, for international television broadcast, focusing on the global community of erotic visual media viewers, writers, directors, actors, and crew
- an interactive, content-rich website allowing the website’s users to see erotic visual media in a broad context across time and place
- an academic symposium on the past and future of erotic visual media hosted by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
- a nationwide series of theater programs dealing with the past,
present, and future of erotic visual media, plus a traveling exhibit,
organized by the Adult Film Association of America
What if the project description laid out a plan to "bring together disparate groups of scholars, writers, viewers, editors, erotic visual media fans, and the general public, to launch an entertaining, substantive, lively discussion about how everyday erotica is created, who consumes it, and how it helps shape private lives and public cultures?" Wouldn't that sound a bit like a federally funded pornography creation and promotion, and industry networking, all thinly disguised as academic study?
Do you think there might be a bit of public outcry regarding that spending?
Would people not question the point of federal involvement in the porn industry?
Would the argument not be made that there's not sufficient benefit to the U.S. population to justify federal funding for such an endeavor?
Would feminists not loudly question why women's hard-earned tax dollars should go toward paying for what amounts to glorification of and support for sexual entertainment for men?
Of course they would.
There would be hell to pay, and probably a lot of shaming thrown in for good measure. How dare the patriarchal overlords fund such a one-sided project? How dare they throw women's money at behaviors to which many women strongly object?
And for at least some reasons, they'd be right. Such funding which would not be in the interest of the general population. Federal money shouldn't be spent on something so unnecessary - so frivolous - not because a portion of the population finds it abhorrent, but because it's not a national need. It's entertainment, and private commerce. If such a project were conceived, it would and should be up to the industry to fund it.
So what if we replace "porn" with "romance novels?"
Then you have a real, government funded program. The Popular Romance Project is Wastebook 2013's 3rd item, with spending listed at $914,000. Other funding for the project was provided by Mass Humanities, Romance writers of America, Tavris Fund at Brandeis University/Women’s Studies Research Center
and donors to a kickstarter campaign.
Take everything I've written above about the Everyday Erotica project, substitute reference to romance and romance novels for every place where I mentioned erotic visual media, and you have the gist of it. According to its website, the Popular Romance Project "will explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective—while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks." The feature-length documentary will be called "Love Between the Covers." The academic symposium will be hosted by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. A nationwide series of library programs will be organized by the American Library Association.
This is no less wasteful or sexist than it would be for the government to fund a project to promote and study porn, and politicians in the U.S. would know better than to even try. In fact, according to former Library of Congress curator Ralph Whittington, the Library collects nearly everything (including phone books) but not porn. Yet the National Endowment for the Humanities had no problem throwing nearly a million dollars at a project centered around material which is nothing but sexual entertainment for women.
Of course, there are those who will cry, "But this is different! This is sophisticated. Porn encourages the objectification of women! Romance novels don't do that!"
Of course, they do.
Every complaint feminists make about pornographic portrayals of women can be made about portrayals of men in romance novels written with women as the target audience; they promote in women unrealistic standards of male aesthetics, unrealistic expectations, and an unrealistic and exploitative attitude toward men. If one argues that these portrayals have little or no effect on the female reader's relationship with men, then one has no business making claims related to portrayals of women in pornography.
The difference isn't in the effects or validity of the material. It's a gaping double standard within society's attitude toward the aspect of the target audience which makes these media entertaining to them: their sexuality. Male sexuality is treated as aggressive and controlling, and women in heterosexual interactions are generally seen as being acted upon by the men they're with, rather than as participants in a mutual experience. Therefore, sexually suggestive or explicit entertainment for men must be treated as dirty, shameful, and exploitative, and hidden away from public view. On the other hand, female sexuality is treated as valuable and important. Important enough that even a woman's most mundane effort at heterosexual interaction is treated as a favor or prize offered to the man involved. Important enough for the National Endowment for the Humanities to tuck nearly a million taxpayer dollars between the collective straight female population's lascivious... covers.
Feminists complain that women are slut shamed for expressing their sexual needs, while men's sexuality is celebrated, yet the stark difference in social and official response to gender-targeted sexual entertainment tells an entirely different story.