Nazi Girls Are Easy: Porn, Cinema, And The Body In Anti-Racist Politics

Porn has a political message. At least at times. Partly because the center-Right claims to stand for “family values,” and to oppose sex out of wedlock and other “sins” (including, often, pornography), political propaganda of the pornographic type has tended to emanate from the Left-wing. More than just an open rejection of the center-Right’s values, certain theories on the Left — which we will look at momentarily — tied sexual liberation to anti-fascism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc. The “authoritarian personality” could be stamped out of society through promiscuity, “polymorphous perversity,” and so on.

Let Them Eat C–t

The roots of anti-traditionalist porn go back to the latter half of the 18th century, and the final decades of France’s ancien régime. Revolutionaries (and, later, opportunist pamphleters) churned out anti-monarchist propaganda that focussed solely on the figure of Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI.

Extraordinarily, when, in October 1793, Marie Antoinette was forced to stand trial before an all-male jury of the Revolutionary Criminal Tribunal, many of the accusations against her were ripped from the pornographic pamphlets. She was accused of engaging in orgies at Versailles, of corrupting the established regime, not least of all by her sexuality, and even of having an incestuous affair with her son, Louis-Charles Capet. Marie Antoinette was executed later in the same month as her trial.

This propaganda, however, did not aim to articulate arguments her, or royalty more generally, but merely illustrated what the author’s imagined to be her sex life. While capitalizing on eroticism, the pamphlets allowed feel morally superior by presenting the scenes as one of degeneracy, and the viewer as a concerned citizen.

nazi-girls-are-easy

Louis Auguste and Marie Antoinette were married in May 1770. He was 15-years-old and she was 14. Her mother, Marie Theresa, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, had pledged Marie Antoinette to the marriage when she was only ten-years-old, in hopes of cementing the union of the old rivals of the Hapsburgs and Bourbons.

Despite her young age, within a mere four years of her wedding, in 1774 the first attacks on the queen, alleging her to be an immoral woman, had begun. As time went on the accusations grew more lurid and the nature of the pamphlets – many of them produced in London, Amsterdam, or Germany, and smuggled back into France – more pornographic.

For several years, the royal couple failed to produce any offspring, leading to suspicions that the king was impotent. They eventually had four children together, with the first, Marie Thérèse Charlotte, born in 1778. But the alleged impotence of the king had already become a theme of obscene pamphlets, poems, and songs. Political pornographers seized on it to justify claims that Marie Antoinette was involved in an array of extramarital affairs and sexual encounters. Louis’s impotence had driven her to lesbianism, as well as into the arms of the king’s brother, among others.

The Mass Psychology of Fascism

In his Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich proclaimed that sexual repression had been the cause of the rise of Nazism. Marcuse agreed. For him in most civilizations sex was “channeled into monogamic institutions” an “organization [that] results in a quantitative and qualitative restriction of sexuality.” For the utopia envisioned by Marcuse, liberated sexuality would be key. Instead of monogamous relationships, for which sex was primarily for procreation, “the body would be resexualized.” It would be “a thing to be enjoyed-an instrument of pleasure. This change in the value and scope of libidinal relations would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family.” (Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization.)

The ideas of Marcuse, and the Frankfurt School of which he was one of the major thinkers, entered the university education system as an array of “gender studies.” Many of these have concentrated on the portraying of homosexuality, lesbianism and transgender persons in popular culture, or have become distinct subjects, such as feminist studies. In many cases, true to the ideas of the school, students explore how women and non-heterosexuals have been “oppressed” by Western society, by privileging marriage as between one man and one woman, for example.

This has not always been the Left-wing view, however; and communist regimes have never respected homosexuality. “In the Allied nations, a selected form of sexuality – heterosexuality founded on equality, respect, and nonviolence – was validated as a reflection of democratic national ideals, “ asserts Laura Frost in Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism, “while particular sexualities that did not fall into line with this norm were designated ‘fascist.’ ” “Fascist” types of sexuality included sado-masochism and – echoing the pornographic accusations of Marie Antoinette having lesbian affairs – even homosexuality.

From Porn to Punk

Wilhelm Reich, an early although largely forgotten pioneer of psychology, and the influential Cultural Marxist theorist Herbert Marcuse, were among the first to link — wrongly or rightly — sexual repression to Nazism, and sexual liberalization to anti-fascism.

The influence of these thinkers — especially Marcuse — would eventually have an influence on non-mainstream sexual identities, some of which would eventually absorb Nazi imagery, though subverting its original meaning, and making it symbolic of anti-Nazism, and a statement against discrimination, etc.

Most notably, during the 1970s and 80s, the pink triangle became the most recognizable symbol of “gay pride” in Britain and other Western states. The Nazis had used it to designate concentration camp inmates arrested for acts of homosexuality, and gay activists had consciously appropriated the sign. However, the adoption of the pink triangle turned it, in contemporary culture, into a symbol of gay liberation, gay identity, and so on.

Charlotte Rampling in The Night Porter (left) and Sid Vicious and Nancy (right)
Anti-fascist entertainment: The Night Porter (left), and Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols wearing his controversial trade mark swastika t-shirt (right).

The swastika was also adopted by the Punk movement — a movement that was in actuality Left-wing, and pro-anarchist. It is likely that in regard to the Nazi emblem, however, that Punks were drawing not so much directly from history as from theater.

Only a few years before the creation of Punk music, in 1974, Nazi imagery was intertwined with notions of sexuality, in the controversial movie The Night Porter. In the movie, Lucia, a former concentration camp inmate, meets, by chance, the SS officer that had abused her. Now, thirteen years after World War II, the one-time Nazi official is employed in the rather underwhelming position of night porter at the hotel where Lucia is staying. Meeting again, they become entangled in a sado-masochistic relationship.

Lucia is played by the striking and slightly androgynous Charlotte Rampling, whose high cheekbones and angular face are an affront to suburbanites who – like the former SS officer of The Night Porter, albeit for different reasons – want nothing more than to blend in. Rampling appears in several flashback scenes, topless, wearing long black leather gloves, an SS officer’s cap with its skull and crossbones emblem, and thick black eyeliner.

There can be no doubt that the aesthetics of The Night Porter did affect popular culture at the more avant-garde end of the spectrum. The influential British, Eighties, New Romantic band Japan wrote and released a song called Nightporter, while the video for The Chauffeur single by Duran Duran – also originally a New Romantic band in the vein of Japan – appears to have been largely influenced by the movie.

The underlying assertion of the movie is that fascism lies just beneath the surface of the ordinary, rather boring, middle class world. As the Director of the movie, Liliana Cavani, remarked in regard to The Night Porter, “Fascism is not only n event of yesterday. It is with us still, here and elsewhere.” Regardless of its artistic merit, for Cavani, the movie acts as a kind of psychotherapy session, which “brings back to the surface a repressed ‘history’; today the past is still deep within us[…].” Cavani wanted to explore this “repressed” side of our collective psyche, and to expose it, “so that all of us can live wakefully.”

Palin Porn

Political pornography did not die with The Night Porter, however. More recently, conservative women have perhaps become the most obvious and typical target. Alaskan Governor and then Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin and conservative pundit S. E. Cupp are two relatively recent victims — or reluctant stars — of pornographic political propaganda.

Lisa Ann as Nailin' Paylin

Nailin’ Paylin: Hustler capitalizes on Palin’s run for Vice President.

In 2012, Hustler magazine published a photoshopped image of S. E. Cupp. The pundit had been made to appear is if participating in oral sex. A caption beside the image read: “What would S.E. Cupp look like with a [d–k] in her mouth?” There was also an explanation for photoshopping, and embarrassing of S. E. Cupp, that made it clear that, in Hustler’s view, her politics had warranted it:

S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp’s suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.

One of the first images of Sarah Palin to hit the net, after her announcement to run for Vice President, was a Photoshopped image of her wearing a American “stars and stripes” bikini and toting a shotgun. The Left-wing Huffington Post, one of the media outlets to expose the scam, seemed to acknowledge the extent to which Palin was being sexualized, saying, “If it wasn’t because of her reproductive escapades or her daughter Bristol’s, then maybe you heard her name mentioned a time or two as McCain’s choice for VP?” However, the online daily wondered aloud that, considering Palin’s energy policy and “lack of international experience[…] why bother with badly Photoshopped pictures?” such as the widely circulating bikini image.

But the sexualizing of Palin – the fusion of sex and politics – was, as we have seen, a type of commentary rooted in the French Revolution. As with Marie Antoinette and other unwilling stars of political porn, images of Palin both titillated the viewer while allowing him to feel morally superior. The royal attire, the Nazi uniform, or – in Palin’s case – the American flag bikini and shotgun (alluding to an unpleasant “Redneck” mentality) are all visual signs meant to assure the viewer that the woman stripped otherwise naked and sexualized is already morally degenerate, outside of those he would associate himself with, and perhaps not fully human. The viewer commits no sin, it is implied, since he is unable to degrade her more than she has degraded herself with her incorrect opinions.

As with S. E. Cupp, Palin pornography reached its height with Hustler, which was reported to be making a video, to coincide with the election, with Lisa Ann, a Palin look-alike. In an echo of the lesbian pornography made about the French queen, Ann – who was now playing the role of Palin, and who’s professional name was now “Nailin’ Paylin” – has sex, in the video, with Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice look-alikes. Among other sexual encounters on the movie, she would also have sex with “Russians who come knocking on her back-door” – a mocking reference to Palin’s claim to be able to see Russia from her state of Alaska.

Positive Porn Propaganda?

Over the last few decades, as the West has become more open to homosexuality and non-traditional sexual relationships, so nudity (and perhaps to a certain extent pornography) has been used to reinforce self-identity, and not just as an attack weapon on anyone with different political views (though no doubt we will continue to see that).

The most visible manifestation of this use of at least partial nudity is the Slutwalk phenomenon. Held in several US cities, Slutwalks by women usually wearing little more than underwear, Slutwalks are aimed at raising awareness of sexual violence and bigotry.

Slutwalk girls with pink, green, and purple hair.

Girls of Slutwalk, 2011.

The international animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has long made use of scantily clad models to promote its message. (And these have included adult actress Jenna Jameson.)

In 2012, though, PETA went considerably further, launching PETA.xxx, a website featuring pornography as well as information about animal welfare.

Over the last few years, nudity has also come to be commonly used in women’s rights campaigns, with the Ukranian activist group FEMEN setting the trend with topless protests.

FEMEN gained worldwide attention for its nude protests against sex tourism, institutional sexism against women, and the subjugation of women under Middle Eastern regimes such as Saudi Arabia. In 2013, however, FEMEN members protested outside of the Right-wing Front National party. “We announce that we start our treatment of this fascist epidemic,” one FEMEN member told the press. “We know how to treat it. We have an effective pill.” The pill, as we know, is nudity.

Angel_headshot_smallAngel Millar is an author, blogger, and the editor of People of Shambhala.