Skip to content

Drone Porn – The Arousing Nature of War

January 16, 2010

Caption: "Drone Porn. The article is kinda scary, but the photo is hella sexy." (Photo from Wired.com)

Drone porn. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t. And I certainly didn’t realize that it was the newest YouTube hit.

As soon as I saw it referenced in an article I was immediately inquisitive about what drones had to do with porn and why the phenomenon was so popular.

My curiosity led me to discover quite a few things… 1) that watching (never mind participating in) deadly warfare is intended to cause sexual arousal, 2) that the Department of Defense (DoD), or at least a private company that appears to be contracted by the DoD, has uploaded images of the aforementioned warfare onto YouTube, and 3) that the images are the catalyst for a maelstrom of online hatred.

An AlterNet article states, “Ranging from relatively detached wide shots of bombings taken by onboard cameras to startlingly graphic close-ups, the so-called “drone porn” has been a smash hit, as it were, tallying over 10 million views.”

Despite my best attempts, I cannot figure out when or by whom the term “drone porn” was first coined.  However, if I take into account the widely acknowledged (at least by feminists) interconnections between sexuality, power and the military the term isn’t exactly shocking.

As Abigail Colodner discussed in a previous post, sexually explicit images of women have been employed historically by the military to provide sensual attraction, reminders of home, and a call to arms.

It makes sense that the rich potential of women’s images to trigger strong feelings in the (presumably – don’t ask, don’t tell, of course) heterosexual and (historically, largely) male members of the military has been put to use for various purposes.

Many feminists go even further than Abigail does and assert that an integral part of the military’s objective to turn men (and women) into soldiers is the creation of a rigid hierarchy of power and subordination that exists in relation to imagined female and homosexual inferiors.

The book Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles provides a vivid description of this. Author Anthony Swofford describes his first day as a scribe in the Marine Corps, when he learned the language of the military, in the following way:

“Now, hands were dickskinners, the mouth was a cum receptacle, running shoes were go-fasters, a flashlight was a moonbeam, a pen was an ink stick, a bed was a rack, a wall was a bulkhead, a bathroom was a head, a shirt was a blouse, a tie was still a tie and a belt a belt, but many other things would never be the same.”

With this in mind, a reference to drone warfare in sexual terms makes (unfortunate) sense. That, however, is not to say it strikes me as at all acceptable.

Equally as upsetting as the sexual reference, is the very nature of the videos. What would motivate someone (or an institution) to post footage on YouTube of Coalition forces from Multi-National Division – Baghdad operating an unmanned aerial vehicle, firing a Hellfire missile, and killing six heavily armed criminals??

From what I can gather DVIDS – the company responsible for posting this and other YouTube vidoes – is contracted by the DoD to feed us, the public, images of soldiers in action. They claim to be an operation that provides a timely, accurate and reliable connection between the media around the world and the military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

I am in favor of access to accurate and reliable information – even when it illustrates the uncomfortable reality of war – however I think it is critical to ask: to what ends? Watching this footage is eerily similar to watching a video game. Yet, the reality is that those are real people – they may be criminals, or even terrorists, but they are also someone’s brother, husband, father, or son (or sister, wife, mother, daughter).  Publicly broadcasting – in the form of entertainment – their sudden and unexpected killing is disrespectful.

The closest I have come to finding an explanation for the drone footage is an interview with Keith Thomson, the author of the article that originally alerted me to this phenomenon.  Thomson asserts that perhaps it is an attempt by the Department of Defense to enable Americans to take part in a broader dialogue about the changing nature of warfare.

I’ll be honest, I find it extremely difficult to imagine that the DoD – or its contractor – has suddenly embraced participatory, egalitarian principles and cares what I, or anyone else for that matter, has to say about the nature of warfare.

Since all I can do is speculate about the intent, I’ve chosen to focus on the undeniable results.

Among over 1,000 comments on YouTube in response to the video above, examples range from: “LOL….bye bye.” and “Yes Baby!!!” to “Would you like your dirty ass insurgents toasty, slightly well done, or dick blown off crusty?” and “the only good Muslim is a dead one.”  There is also “F*** you Islamic pigs!!!!!!!” with the accompanying “F*** you American pigs!!” as a response.

And unfortunately the vitriol and hatred gets much worse.

In response to this comment:

“They were just defending thyr own country from being invaded. I doubt any of you would have the balls to fight an invader (iraq was a sovereign country and was invaded) with a few ak’s and rpg’s against zillions of high tech weapons and tech. Plus the military are so brainwashed and they must come from the ghetto or mobile home… national guard and blackwater, criminal and assassins who torture and rape… peace forces uh ?”

There were these comments:

“oh shut up! these people would grab you and serrate your neck open whilst you gargled and drowned in your own blood if they could lay their hands on you, and not just because American went there, but they would do it even before Sept 11!”

“i doubt you would even have the balls to shoot a b.b. gun. shut the f*** up. nextime some f***er with a gun is killing and raping your family shut up and take it… dont call the cops and if the cops show up tell them to let the bad guys rape you first… cause that in a nutshell is what sadaam was doing to the iraqi ppl. its so heartbreaking that at the end of the day a person in the military may just give their life for your right to keep talkin shit! oh BTW SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!”

“You dont think we have the balls to fight an invader. Break in and find out motherf*****. Whats you f***ing malfunction anyway, sh**stain. Do you enjoy taking sides with the radicals that want us exterminated. F*** YOU!”

“F*** yeah. I say let that little f***er come in my house. I’ll kill him with my bare f***ing hands… he can bring whatever he wants to the party. If there’s something fun the Army taught me, it’s how to break someone’s neck.”

I don’t know which aspect of this phenomenon I find most disturbing — the sexually explicit reference, the seemingly misguided intentions, or the resulting vitriol?? And I am at an utter loss for what an appropriate response is to any of it. Should footage of drones killing individuals simply not be made publicly available? Or is the footage a manifestation of a larger problem and if censored the problem will rear its ugly head somewhere other than a YouTube comment thread? Is it possible for footage from deadly drone attacks to constitute meaningful information and be the catalyst for productive discussion?

Alicia Simoni currently lives in Washington, DC where she works in the field of gender and peacebuilding – documenting women’s unique perspectives and highlighting the integral role gender plays in building and sustaining peace globally. She has a MA in International Peace Studies from the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame.

2 Comments
  1. Jonathan permalink
    January 18, 2010 11:45 am

    The term “Drone Porn” is most likely derived from the term “Death Porn.” Death Porn was a column in a Russian English-language magazine called The Exile. Death Porn reported on the many gruesome murders that take place all over Russia. More accurately, it reported on the reporting of those murders. Its name was specifically intended to make explicit the salacious nature of the reporting. The paper gained popularity in the West. The internet version of the magazine was much linked to within the blogoshpere.

    As an aside, the editors of the magazine were eventually forced to flee Russia. They have a new website, if you’re interested.

Trackbacks

  1. Drone porn hits Youtube - Allison Kilkenny - Unreported - True/Slant

Comments are closed.

  • Previous Series at GAB

  • TWITTER: What’s going on @GABblog

  • Top Posts

  • Recommended Reading

  • We participated in Blog for International Women’s Day 2010.

  • NetworkedBlogs

  • %d bloggers like this: