Quebec’s Bill 78 Shifts the Struggle to a Battle for Democracy and the Right to Dissent

Rebel Youth Montreal Bureau

Last night the Charest Liberal government tabled its repressive Duplessis-style legislation while thousands of protesters marched well past mid-night in the streets of Quebec City and Montreal, waving flags, chanting and even burning a draft of the repressive law.

Bill 78 passed this afternoon with the right-wing CAQ party voting in favour, propping-up the precarous posistion of the Charest Liberals who are currently holding onto a majority of only one vote (following the resignation of the Minister of Education last week).  Links to the law in English are below.

The vote passed 68-48 at about 5:30 p.m. Continue reading

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The Vulgarisation of Marxism by the Opportunists: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914). But the most characteristic thing about the process of the gradual growth of opportunism that led to the collapse of the Second International in 1914 is the fact that even when these people were squarely faced with this question they tried to evade it or ignored it.

In general, it may be said that evasiveness over the question of the relation of the proletarian revolution to the state–an evasiveness which benefited and fostered opportunism–resulted in the distortion of Marxism and in its complete vulgarization.

To characterize this lamentable process, if only briefly, we shall take the most prominent theoreticians of Marxism: Plekhanov and Kautsky.

1. Plekhanov’ s Controversy with the Anarchists

Plekhanov wrote a special pamphlet on the relation of anarchism to socialism, entitled Anarchism and Socialism, which was published in German in 1894.

Georgi Plekhanov

In treating this subject, Plekhanov contrived completely to evade the most urgent, burning, and most politically essential issue in the struggle against anarchism, namely, the relation of the revolution to the state, and the question of the state in general! Continue reading

Supplementary Explanations by Engels: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

Marx gave the fundamentals concerning the significance of the experience of the Commune. Engels returned to the same subject time and again, and explained Marx’s analysis and conclusions, sometimes elucidating other aspects of the question with such power and vividness that it is necessary to deal with his explanations specially.

1. The Housing Question

In his work, The Housing Question (1872), Engels already took into account the experience of the Commune, and dealt several times with the tasks of the revolution in relation to the state. It is interesting to note that the treatment of this specific subject clearly revealed, on the one hand, points of similarity between the proletarian state and the present state–points that warrant speaking of the state in both cases–and, on the other hand, points of difference between them, or the transition to the destruction of the state.

“How is the housing question to be settled then? In present-day society, it is settled just as any other social question: by the gradual economic levelling of demand and supply, a settlement which reproduces the question itself again and again and therefore is no settlement. How a social revolution would settle this question not only depends on the circumstances in each particular case, but is also connected with much more far-reaching questions, one of the most fundamental of which is the abolition of the antithesis between town and country. As it is not our task to create utopian systems for the organization of the future society, it would be more than idle to go into the question here. But one thing is certain: there is already a sufficient quantity of houses in the big cities to remedy immediately all real ‘housing shortage’, provided they are used judiciously. This can naturally only occur through the expropriation of the present owners and by quartering in their houses homeless workers or workers overcrowded in their present homes. As soon as the proletariat has won political power, such a measure prompted by concern for the common good will be just as easy to carry out as are other expropriations and billetings by the present-day state.” (German edition, 1887, p. 22) Continue reading

Communists Condemn Austerity Budget in Ontario

People’s Voice

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) has condemned the Ontario Budget, delivered March 27, as a massive attack on working people and the poor that will destroy tens of thousands of jobs, drive down wages, pensions, incomes and living standards. Combined with the austerity measures in the federal budget, it could push the province into another deep economic recession.

Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) leader Elizabeth Rowley

The Executive of the CPC (Ontario) also warned that the threat of legislated wage controls is a dangerous attack on free collective bargaining and on civil and democratic rights.

“There’s not much air between the Liberals and Tories when it comes to bashing workers and the poor, and restricting their rights. They both unerringly deliver the goods to Big Business, the banks and financial sector, and transnational corporations like Vale, US Steel, Caterpillar, Rio Tinto ‑ the source of the crisis in Ontario” said CPC (Ontario) leader Elizabeth Rowley. “Everything that falls in the way of bigger and bigger corporate profits is under acute attack.” Continue reading

Political Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland

Communist Party of Ireland

At its regular meeting held on 31 March the National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland discussed the continuing crisis of the system and its growing effect on the economic and social well-being of working people, north and south. This crisis is the central question facing all our people, north and south. A just outcome for working people can only be found in their united action throughout the country fighting for an alternative socialist way forward.

The party calls for maximum opposition and a resounding No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. The CPI demands that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty also be put to the people in a referendum, as the two are inseparable. Both are central to the imposition of permanent austerity on working people in Ireland and all working people throughout the euro zone and the EU as a whole. This mechanism creates a permanent bail-out fund for capital that working people will be forced to pay into generation after generation as capital gambles away the future of the planet.

The CPI calls on the ICTU to stop prevaricating, to campaign for a No vote, and to come out clearly and give leadership to Irish workers in regard to these treaties and explain their potential effect on working people. Continue reading

CP of Brazil (PCdoB) – 90 years for Brazil and Socialism!! A Manifest to All Workers and the Brazilian People

National Political Commission of the Communist Party of Brazil.
São Paulo, March 15, 2012.

The Communist Party of Brazil – PCdoB – turns 90 on March 25, 2012. It has had the longest life among the political organizations in the history of Brazil, connected to the workers’ longing for the socialist ideal. It envisions Brazil as a great nation, loving peace and solidarity among peoples, rejecting war and imperialist rulings.

In nine decades generations of communists joined the party ranks. In different stages, three personalities inscribed their names in the saga of communists in Brazil: Astrojildo Pereira, Luiz Carlos Prestes and João Amazonas.

Astrojildo Pereira led the foundation in 1922 and symbolizes the generation of those first days. Prestes joined the Party in 1934, already the “Hope Knight,” and led the generation until 1960. Amazonas joined the Party in 1935 and led a generation that reorganized it and conducted it until the first election of Lula.

As Renato Rabelo was acclaimed president of the Party in 2001, shortly before the passing of Amazonas, a new generation is taking position in the communist trenches.

Today PCdoB is a well-known and prestigious force, a powerful political and moral asset, a strong presence among workers, a predominant influence among the youth, with outstanding presence in the Parliament, in local governments and in the Lula and Dilma Rousseff administrations.

Without underestimating the divergences of the past, the current board of PCdoB is aware that this party is the one founded in 1922 and reorganized in 1962, built by all those generations of communists. The anniversary that we proudly celebrate is that of all those generations.

1. The legacy of the founding generation

The first expressive contribution of the Party to our history is its own foundation. It introduced in the political stage, for the first time among us, a working class party with its own organization and specific objectives, starting with socialism.

At that time, the working class already started strikes for their rights and had active unions. But, under anarchist influence, it resisted the political struggle. However, they received news from Russia, according to which workers brought down a tyrannical regime, took power and started to build socialism. And a piece of information started to circulate: such achievement was only possible because they had a communist party.

Building a party of that kind in our country was the mission started by the nine delegates that founded the Communist Party of Brazil: Astrojildo Pereira, Cristiano Cordeiro, Abílio de Nequete, Hermogênio da Silva Fernandes, João da Costa Pimenta, Joaquim Barbosa, José Elias da Silva, Luis Peres and Manuel Cendón. Astrojildo and others, such as Octávio Brandão, led the first generation of communists.

The Old Republic was entering a crisis and the dispute that led to the Revolution of 1930 eight years after was already growing. The recently founded Party introduced a new element: it led the working class to politics. It organized the Labor and Peasant Bloc, BOC, which systematized for the first time among us a platform of social and labor rights. The Party, by means of BOC, elected in 1927 two communist councilors in the city of Rio de Janeiro: Octávio Brandão and Minervino de Oliveira. In 1929 – with the banner of a unionist coalition that it has defended since 1922 – it created the General Confederation of the Workers of Brazil, CGTB.

In the elections in 1930 Júlio Prestes was the ruling candidate and Getúlio Vargas represented the opposition. The Party proposed Luiz Carlos Prestes as its candidate, which was denied. It then launched the candidacy of Minervino de Oliveira, Secretary-General of CGTB. The campaign suffered from unusual violence and the candidate was imprisoned several times. He had few votes. But the historical fact remained: in 1930 the Communist Party of Brazil launched a unionist worker, a black man, Minervino de Oliveira, as a candidate to the Presidency of the Republic.

As the Revolution of 1930 unfolded, the Party did not support it. It judged – wrongly – that mere oligarchic contradictions were at stake.

The founding generation also left a valorous legacy in divulging the ideas of the Party. The Movimento Comunista magazine was issued in 1922; the A Classe Operária newspaper was launched in 1925; in 1927 it issued the first communist daily, A Nação.

In the theoretical front, the founding generation is also credited for launching the first Brazilian edition of the Communist Manifesto, followed by other works by Marx and Lenin. Octávio Brandão published Agrarismo e Industrialismo (1926), the first essay on the Brazilian reality under the Marxist point of view.

2. Struggle for liberty, development and culture

When the Revolution of 1930 showed its limits, the Party contributed to launch the National Liberating Alliance (ANL) in March 1935. Prestes, who joined the Party in 1934, was its president of honor. ANL rapidly spread in the national territory with its motto “Bread, Land and Liberty” and with its mobilizations against Nazi fascism and its local version, integralism. Then it was banned by the Vargas administration, leading alliance groups connected to the Party to try to form a popular government with the uprising in November 1935, which was soon asphyxiated because it was fundamentally based on the barracks of the Army.

Repression was always heavy on the Party. After the uprising in 1935, it was extensive and cruel, with more than 15 thousand imprisoned. Prestes remained nine years in jail. Olga Benário, the young German connected to the Communist International, Prestes’ companion, was handed to Hitler’s Gestapo and died in a concentration camp. The repressive wave proceeded until 1937, in the dictatorship of the Estado Novo, the New State.

In the 63 years from 1922 and 1985, the Party had only two years and fourth months of legality. The dominant classes always curbed its freedom. But in several occasions repression not only victimized communists, but also the whole of society, such as during the Estado Novo (1937-1945) and the military dictatorship (1964-1985). The most used pretext was the “communist threat.” Therefore, one of the Party’s legacies to the history of Brazil is its extensive fight for freedom.

During the Estado Novo the party leadership was disbanded, demanding a new restructuration that culminated with the Mantiqueira Conference (1943). That is when the second generation of communists appeared, headed by Luiz Carlos Prestes (imprisoned until 1945), Diógenes Arruda, Maurício Grabois, Pedro Pomar, João Amazonas, Amarílio Vasconcelos, Júlio Sérgio de Oliveira, Mário Alves and Carlos Marighella.

The Party fought to make Brazil enter Word War II to join the allied forces, among which the USSR, against the Nazi fascist Axis. It strived for the constitution of the Expeditionary Brazilian Force that fought in Europe, in which many communists enlisted.

After the defeat of Germany in World War II, the Estado Novo came to an end and the Party became legal for a short period. It launched Iedo Fiúza as its presidential candidate in 1945, obtaining 10% of the valid votes; and elected Prestes in the Senate with many votes and 14 deputies for the Constituent Assembly, among which the most voted for deputy in Rio de Janeiro, João Amazonas, as well as Maurício Grabois, Carlos Marighella, Gregório Bezzerra, Jorge Amado and Claudino José da Silva, the only black man in the Constituent Assembly.

At the Constituent Assembly, the Party stood out for its unyielding defense of democracy, the rights of workers, the agrarian reform and national sovereignty. And it highlighted the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi fascism.

The Constituent Assembly became effective in the already poisonous climate of the Dutra administration and the Cold War. The Party lost its permit in 1947 and shortly after its elected Congress members were expelled. That was a rude and contemptible attack against democracy.

In clandestinity again, communists displayed another of their characteristics: the defense of development and national economy. The campaign “The oil is ours” was started at that time, leading to the creation of Petrobras in 1953.

During this period the communists organized great campaigns for peace, against sending Brazilian troops to fight in the Korean War and for the banishment of nuclear weapons.

In this generation the Party sought closer ties with the intellectual and artistic production. Among those directly connected to the Party were writers such as Jorge Amado and Graciliano Ramos; architects and artists such as Oscar Niemeyer, Cândido Portinari, Di Cavalcanti, Carlos Scliar and Tarsila do Amaral; playwrights and actors such as Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, Francisco Milani, Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, Dias Gomes and Mário Lago; musicians such as Cláudio Santoro and Guerra Peixe; directors such as Ruy Santos and Nelson Pereira dos Santos; scientists such as Mário Schenberg; sportsmen such as João Saldanha; jornalists such as Aparício Torelli, the Baron of Itararé.

3. Reorganization and the struggle in many fronts against the dictatorship in 1964

Dreadful facts affected the Communist Party of Brazil between 1956 and 1962. On the one side, the majority of the Brazilian leadership accepted opportunist trends disseminated in the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), headed by Nikita Khrushchev. On the other hand, that same majority adopted a national-reformist trend. Therefore, in 1961 a new reformist organization called Brazilian Communist Party published a new Program and Statute.

Immediately a group of experienced leaders reacted and, in February 1962, reorganized the Communist Party of Brazil, with its original name, tradition and revolutionary character, starting to use the acronym PCdoB. The Party became smaller, but revitalized. It started to think more about Brazil and defined its policies in line with the events. The organization was headed by João Amazonas, Maurício Grabois and Pedro Pomar.

After half a century, life has proven those who reorganized the Party. PCdoB has grown and stood firmly. Nobody today doubts which is the Communist Party of Brazil.

Two years after the reorganization the generals brought about the coup in 1964. The Party concluded that the dictatorship had come to stay. The doors to institutional action were closed. Therefore, it opened the way to armed resistance. In the following years, while the dictatorship became increasingly violent, PCdoB prepared and directed the Araguaia Guerilla.

The Araguaia was a heroic chapter in the history of Brazil that honors and praises PCdoB. The Guerilla resisted for almost three years. The dictatorship mobilized many troops to confront it, prohibited the press to divulge it and resorted to “dirty war.” But the alarm remained: Brazilians did not accept the dictatorship and other Araguaias could appear.

During the Guerilla, almost all of the greatest organization opposing the dictatorship, the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action (APML), joined PCdoB after a long ideological struggle: it was the most important and successful unifying process in the history of the Brazilian left.

In 1976, already in its declining stage, the dictatorship perpetrated the Lapa Massacre, in São Paulo, where three communist leaders were murdered: Pedro Pomar, Ângelo Arroyo and João Batista Drummond.

Amazonas headed a leading core recomposed with leaders from APML and young cadres, guiding a third generation of communists.

In 1975 the Party concentrated the struggle for the end of the dictatorship under three banners: broad, generalized and unrestricted amnesty; the revocation of the exceptional acts and laws; and a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly. In 1979, though distorted and incomplete, the amnesty freed political prisoners and allowed the return of exiles. The social movements started over, with strikes and other journeys such as the Movement against Destitution. And the Party took part of it. In 1984 one of the greatest mass demonstrations in the history of Brazil took place: the Diretas Já (Direct elections now) campaign. Despite its banishment, PCdoB took to the streets. But the Congress did not approve the Diretas Já.

The nation was shocked. The opposition was doubtful. Part of it attempted to form the “Direct elections only” movement. Tancredo Neves, the possible opposition candidate, would have to renounce the government of the state of Minas Gerais in order to become a candidate. Amid such confusion, would he resign?

PCdoB was not confounded. It stressed that the opposition would go to the Electoral College not to legitimate, but to put an end to the dictatorship. It also declared that if a candidate would openly make such a commitment, the Party would take to the streets to legitimize his candidacy. Amazonas went to Minas Gerais to explain that position to Tancredo Neves. He became a candidate and the great demonstrations of Diretas Já were repeated. Victory finished the College and the dictatorship.

The defeat of the Soviet experience in 1991 was another crucial moment. Capitalist proclaimed that socialist was finished. Politicians and intellectuals, even progressive ones, believed that lie. Many communist parties put their flags down, changed their names and their symbols and renounced Marxism.

PCdoB did not lower its flag, did not change its name, did not change its symbol and did not deny Marxism. It tried to learn from the defeat, studying and learning with the successes and mistakes of the Soviet experience, adjusting the struggle for socialism to the new conditions of the world. It stressed that that defeat took place when socialism was still in its infancy, taking its first steps. The Party called an Extraordinary Congress (1992) and after a substantial debate the conclusion was unanimous: “Socialism lives!”

Today it is capitalism that struggles under the claws of a systemic crisis. And its epicenter is exactly in the capitalist metropolises: in Europe and in the United States.

Much to the contrary, socialism displays its vitality. We can see that in great China – the second strongest international power – heroic Vietnam and fearless Cuba, among other experiences, including the socialist project in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. The rebellious movements in Wall Street and Europe also stood out.

It is a new struggle for socialism that is unfolding all over the world and especially in Latin America. That is a revolutionary and renovated socialism that does not copy a single model, absorbing national particularities and opening the way with courage and an open mind. That is the socialism of PCdoB.

4. A new time, democratization, the Constituent Assembly, a Party in the government

Redemocratization after the dictatorship followed an unexpected path. Tancredo Neves passed away and his vice President, José Sarney, took the decisive steps. The Party was legal once again and took part in the new Constituent Assembly in 1987-88. Its 1,003 amendments dealt with broadening democracy; labor rights; development and national sovereignty. Such as in the Constituent Assembly in 1946, one of them guaranteed religious freedom. The Communist Party of Brazil is the only party of all active organizations today that took part in the three Constituent Assemblies in the republican period.

On January 1st 2003 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was inaugurated in the presidential palace. It was not a mere change of names. A new era started in the history of the country.

PCdoB is proud of its leading role in building that cycle. It is the only party, apart from the Workers Party, that fought for it since the beginning. It supported Lula since his campaign in 1989, in his three initial defeats and in the three following victories until the election of President Dilma Rousseff in 2010. It engaged in the difficult resistance to the neoliberal era, in the great popular students’ demonstrations that led to the impeachment of the President of the Republic in 1992. In the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration it fought against the neoliberal policy, privatizations, the IMF, the Apagão (energy blackout), the diplomacy that raised its voice against Bolivia and lowered it with the USA. The Party helped to turn that tenebrous page – we hope it is forever.

The change in Brazil is part of a broader movement. It is almost all of Latin America that has rebelled in a true red, democratic, patriotic and progressive tide dyed with the Latin American blood.

Rebellion follows an original path where the main weapon is popular vote. By means of the victories of advanced candidates, backed by popular movements, the transformation progress follows its course.

To the Party, 2003 brought an unprecedented reality. It was called to take part in the government of Brazil for the first time in its history. And the offer was accepted.

PCdoB has supported and participated in the struggle and success of the democratic-popular administrations of Lula and Dilma Rousseff. It offered them some of their best cadres to work – with outstanding success and immaculate integrity – in areas such as Sports, political articulation, Oil, Culture, Science and Technology, Health and Tourism, among others. In the crucial days of the crisis of 2005, when conservative opposition thought they would “get rid of those people,” PCdoB brought the people to the streets to shout “Stay Lula!”.

At the same time, PCdoB does not mix up loyalty and support with playing second fiddle. It preserves its political independence in relation with the government. It defends the autonomy of social movements, the mobilization of the people as indispensable to change. It believes that the government needs both support and criticism in order to advance and defend itself from right-wing coup-like attempts. It believes that to criticize what is wrong is a form of support.

5. Call

The Communist Party of Brazil is a Brazilian political force engaged in pursuing objectives such as the transformation of Brazil into a prosperous, developed and free Nation, loving peace among peoples, marching towards a socialist transition. It is aware of its past of struggles that contributed – often with unprecedented sacrifices – to take Brazil to where it is today.

The world is now undergoing a great crisis of capitalism that is further aggravating growing inequalities and social crises and increasing war conflicts in the world. In such a context, the main issue is which way to follow, which alternative to choose.

That is why PCdoB, in its 90th anniversary, calls the people to embrace its Socialist Program, to apply and develop it.

The Socialist Program results from mature thinking regarding the situation of the country and the world. It went through years of elaboration and embodies a new programmatic concept.

The current Socialist Program of PCdoB takes a new step forward: it proposes a direction and a route. Socialism is the direction. Strengthening the Brazilian Nation is the route.

Strengthening the Nation is achieved by the materialization of a New National Development Project based on four principles: the struggle for sovereignty and the defense of the Nation; the democratization of society; social progress; and the solidary integration with Latin America. The Program presents a broad set of proposals that will allow directing that project.

That route could lead to a popular democracy under the hegemony of workers and the majority of the Nation, therefore creating conditions for the transition to socialism. It will represent a leap for civilization, the third in the rough but victorious history of Brazil.

It is armed with that Program and the New National Development Project that PCdoB makes this call and, certain that increasing its political representativeness will contribute to advance the achievements of the people, it will be fully committed in the elections next October, disputing city halls in many capitals and other important cities. The Party maintains its doors open and accepts in its ranks all Brazilians that are looking for an organized and transforming political activity.

Reaching 90 years of existence is a great victory of the Communist Party of Brazil. But even greater is our joy to turn 90 fully active, revitalized and confident. It remains active because it never failed to defend workers and Brazil. It is revitalized because it never had so much people in its ranks in order to face the tasks of the future. And it is confident of being in the path that will lead to a stronger Nation and socialism.

Long live March 25!

Long live PCdoB!

Long live Socialism!

Long live Brazil!

 Communist Party of Brazil

The Absurd Myths Porn Teaches Us About Sex

By Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz

Young people who have learned about sex from watching porn have a treasure trove of sadly mistaken beliefs and misconceptions about sexuality.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
When Lynette, a college student, first hooked up with an ex-boyfriend, she came face to face with the unrealistic ideals mainstream porn can create about sexuality.

“I had a boyfriend who didn’t realize that women had pubic hair,” she tells us in an interview. “Because he had only watched porn, he had never seen a naked woman outside of porn, so he just sort of failed to realize they had pubic hair.”

“This came up somewhat before my pants came off,” she added, “so you can realize how awkward this was.” She paused. “His face was memorable. In an ‘oh God, what is wrong with me, I am never taking my pants off in front of anyone ever again’ way.”

Porn has become immensely popular in the last century. With the rise of Internet pornography, no longer do you have to enter a sleazy sex shop in a shady part of town to witness an astonishing panoply of sex acts. A quick Google brings you sex acts from the mundane (happy amateur couples having missionary intercourse) to the bizarre (could looners, who have a sexual fetish for balloons, ever have met each other outside the Internet?). Many teenagers have their first introduction to sex from the glow of a computer screen.

And these days, it can lead to some hilarious misconceptions.

Learning About Sex from Porn

Despite Rick Santorum’s newly declared war on porn, porn is not evil. Alan McKee, an Australian university professor and pornography researcher, tells AlterNet, “Pornography is good at teaching lifelong learning, open communication, that sexual development should not be aggressive, coercive, or joyless, self-acceptance, awareness and acceptance that sex is pleasurable, and competence in mediated sexuality.” In short, he claims that pornography can be the foundation to a healthy sex life—not to mention leading to many solo orgasms.

The problem is, learning about sex from porn is like learning about firearms from action movies. Action movies sacrifice realism for the sake of storyline or a really cool explosion. Action movies don’t teach you gun safety. Action movies don’t talk about alternatives to violence. And action movies use some tropes—such as the infinite ammo supply—that may move the story along but don’t reflect reality. That’s not a problem, as long as everyone treats them as entertaining fantasies.

Unfortunately, for many young people becoming sexually active today, the entertaining fantasies of mainstream porn are the teacher they’ve spent the most time with, and mainstream porn is a terrible teacher.

Talking to various young people about porn and sexuality, we quickly discovered a treasure trove of sadly mistaken beliefs about sex. A teenage boy who believed that all women, no matter how much they protested otherwise, really wanted to be called sluts when they had sex. Guys who think that foreplay is just jamming a few fingers up someone’s vagina before sex. People who didn’t know you need lube to have anal sex.

“I’ve met more than a few guys who were very surprised to discover that women more often masturbate by humping their hands or rubbing their clits than by penetrating themselves,” blogger Holly Pervocracy said.

“I actually had a guy tell me I was wrong,” Lynette said. “If I was rubbing my clit, it wasn’t real masturbation. He didn’t even know about the G spot; he thought I should be getting off on the friction of my fingers with my vagina.”

Women aren’t the only ones who fall victim to glaring anatomical mistakes. The giant, ever-hard, pounding penises of male mainstream porn stars are equally unrealistic. “My first boyfriend told me, in all seriousness, that he was pretty small—just seven and a half inches,” said Pervocracy. “He thought nine was average.”

Lynette agrees. “I talked to a guy who said that he thought he was average, he didn’t know, maybe he was on the small side. Really played it up,” she said. “Finally he admitted that he was eight inches. I burst out laughing. Ashamed, he looked at me and asked ‘is that that small?’”

These myths about sexuality might seem humorous, but they hide a tragic truth. A generation of teenagers grew up under Bush’s record-breaking funding for abstinence-only sex education.

Although Obama has eliminated funding for abstinence-only and funded evidence-based comprehensive sex education, the damage has already been done. And both Santorum and Romney, the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, favor abstinence-only sex education—despite the evidence that it delays loss of virginity only eight months. According to research at the Guttmacher Institute, the rates of pregnancy and STIs among teenagers who received abstinence-only sex education are far greater than the rates among those who didn’t.

Even so-called comprehensive sex education is deeply limited. Often, it focuses on STIs and condoms to the exclusion of any other topic. Even basic ideas like queerness or consent are usually neglected. In my comprehensive sex education, we labeled a diagram of the vulva that didn’t have the clitoris on it—no wonder some people think that women are supposed to get off on friction with their vagina! In such a limited sex education, you can forget about having someone’s misapprehensions about penis size or the prevalence of the female orgasm corrected.

Admittedly, even in the absence of good sex education, only a small percentage of people who use porn use it to figure out how sex “really works.” Most of the teens who use porn use it for the same reason anyone else does—arousal, masturbation and orgasms. Nevertheless, the lessons that mainstream porn teaches when no one knows that they’re learning from it may be just as disheartening.

Susie Bright, in The Pride of Miss Kitty MacKinnon, famously compared many people who criticize the problematic aspects of mainstream porn to people who taste several glasses of salt water and insist only one of them is salty. However, that glass of saltwater is still salty, and porn still has many racist, sexist and queerphobic elements. Even worse, in the absence of truly comprehensive sex education, many people may believe that real sex is somehow supposed to reflect those elements.

“Porn gives us the wonderful ‘she-male’ and ‘chicks with dicks’ names… I’d consider it a misconception because people think those are legitimate things to call us,” trans activist Ami Angelwings says. “Asian trans women porn gave a former boyfriend of mine the idea that trans women were prettier and passed better than white ones which led him to remark ‘Asian guys make the best women’ (and yes that’s when I broke up with him).”

“The majority of guys who fetishize Japanese women are clearly getting it from anime porn,” Pervocracy said, “and will be very disappointed if their Japanese woman turns out not to be childlike, whimperingly submissive, or cartoonishly cutesy.”

“I think the porn that plays into the submissive Asian girls thing is more the Asian porn produced in the US… these often exotify Asian women,” Angelwings said.

She added, “I know more than a few people who have intuited through the differences in expression in women in Japanese porn (vs. US porn) that Japanese men get off on rape.”

Some people object to the idea that a private fantasy in the boundaries of one’s own mind is something other people ought to be concerned with. However, a person’s private sex life is much different than treating trans women as “chicks with dicks” or Japanese women as childish and submissive in media distributed around the globe. A fantasy is one thing; perpetrating degrading and inaccurate stereotypes is quite another. Whatever their flaws, most schools at least try to convey the idea that you shouldn’t stereotype people based on their race or gender identity, a distinct plus over porn.

Equally troublesome is the clean, packaged image of sex sold within mainstream pornography. Within the world of mainstream porn, erections appear upon request and continue until their owner wishes for the sex to end, at which point the orgasm is prompt. Sex positions and acts are chosen for how they look on camera, not how they feel to the participants. Everyone is constantly up for sex, with no negotiation between fluctuating libidos required. No one ever experiences vaginal farting or can’t get the penis in no matter what they do or falls off the bed.

Porn is a fantasy. Fantasies are supposed to be unrealistic. To depict the fluffers or the multiple retakes or the porn star getting the hair waxed off her ass would ruin the movie. Genuine sex education could teach people that erections and orgasms are often unpredictable, that acrobatic sex positions aren’t always necessary for good sex, that libidos differ, and that sometimes mistakes happen in sex. But in its absence, the fantasy of porn—and the fantasy that porn is not a fantasy—can lead to unrealistic beliefs about how sex works.

That’s the advantage of truly comprehensive sex education. Of course, it can reveal that women are often not multiorgasmic and how to have safer sex, and that’s valuable. But, more importantly, truly comprehensive sex education can point out the diversity of sex: people have different bodies, different desires and different abilities; it’s not that the sex presented in mainstream porn is the best and other people’s sex is less good, but that there are thousands of possible and enjoyable sex lives. Sex is human and weird and often quite funny, and that’s a side of it that porn rarely shows.

“Porn also hid from me the existence of sexual moods beyond ‘passionate’ or ‘dominating,’” Holly Pervocracy said. “It wasn’t until I got out into the sexual real world that I understood the idea you could have sleepy sex, that you could have silly giggling sex, that you could have quick morning sex or slow evening sex, that you could have romping goofy sex with your shirts or socks still on, that you could have cuddly sex, that you could have comfort-sex when one of you is sad, that you could have ‘hm, let’s see if this works’ experimental sex, that you could have sweetly awkward nerd-sex, that you could have gleefully competitive athletic sex.”

And she adds, “It wasn’t until I got out in the sexual real world that I knew you could smile during sex.”

 AlterNet / March 26, 2012  |