‘The pornographic vocabulary of sex as the violent debasement of the female body had seeped out from screens and into the lives of women’
There’s a shift happening. Perhaps not quite enough yet to call it a tipping point. But something is going on. When my colleagues and I were working on ‘Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry’ in 2010-11, concerns about the way porn was shaping sexual attitudes and behaviours in new and harmful ways were barely a whisper. But now the ill effects of the pornographic experiment on relationships and sexuality are being named out loud.
This personal piece on Twitlonger by Rosie Redstockings is one of the most potent I’ve read describing a woman’s experience of porn-conditioned men. I reprint it with permission. And below it, Sarah Ditum’s remarkable confession in New Statesman last week. You must read the whole thing. “The pornographic vocabulary of sex as the violent debasement of the female body had seeped out from screens and into the lives of the women I knew”, she writes. Rosie’s experience, and Sarah’s frank admission, are a perfect match here on MTR today.
In Response to Owen Jones
I’m 23. Mine is the first generation to be exposed to online porn from a young age. We learnt what sex is from watching strangers on the internet, we don’t know anything else.
Here are some of the things that I have experienced…
- having my head shoved into his crotch, and held down while I sucked him off
- being told that my gag reflex was too strong, couldn’t I work on it?
- bullied into submitting to facials. I didn’t want to. He said (joking?) that he’d ejaculate on my face while I was asleep. He wasn’t joking – I woke up with him wanking over me.
- bullied into trying anal. It hurt so much I begged him to stop. He stopped, then complained that I was being too sensitive and it can’t be *that* bad, he continued to ask for it
- having my hair pulled
- constant requests for threesomes
- constant requests to let him film it
And on every single occasion, I felt guilty for not being a ‘cool girl’. I was letting him down. I was a prude.
THIS IS NOW NORMAL. Every single straight girl I know has had similar experiences. Every. Single. One. Some have experienced far worse. Some have given in, some have resisted, all have felt guilty and awkward for not being “liberated” enough, not giving him what he wants.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I discovered radical feminism, that I realised it was ok to say no. I’m lucky enough to be with a man who respects this and who understands. Even so, it was only recently that I decided I wasn’t going to swallow anymore. I’d never liked it, but always thought I was obliged. I told my boyfriend and he said that was totally fine, he was horrified to hear I hadn’t enjoyed it previously. Why would he think anything else? This is what sex is for the porn generation.
I’m a very privileged woman – I’m middle class, well educated, I come from a very supportive family – and yet I still struggled to muster up the confidence to say no. The men I have had sex with are now lawyers, doctors, management consultants – they’re powerful people, they have influence, and they still think that degrading their sexual partners is normal.
Porn has done this.
When you use your influence to tell thousands of your readers that all men watch porn, this is just what men are like, “why should we care?”, you’re perpetuating this. An entire generation of women have suffered because of porn, and we will all continue to suffer unless men change. This isn’t just an intellectual exercise for us. “Boys will be boys” is not going to change anything, nor will bleating “yeah but porn doesn’t *have* to be misogynistic”. Please start using your influence for good.
You say you’re a feminist ally? Prove it.
Why I changed my mind about porn
….Though it seemed callow to admit it, I’d seen things in my research that shocked and upset me – real penetration of real women causing real pain. And there was one more thing, which happened more gradually: I heard from friends about the boyfriend who wanted to choke them, or the one who slapped them about in bed, or pressured them to do anal, or wanted to film it all. The pornographic vocabulary of sex as the violent debasement of the female body had seeped out from screens and into the lives of the women I knew…
The actions of Craft, Dworkin, Mackinnon and Dines are defined by their urgency. Anti-porn feminism recognises a link between the propaganda of sexual violence and its practice, and stopping porn is understood to be essential in ending the rapes, killings and torture that men practice against women. These campaigners believe that lives are at stake – and even so, they are somehow less censorious, more open to dialogue, more creative than those who now police the “safe spaces.” In these spaces, everyone must be warmly welcomed and intellectually unchallenged, except of course for feminists speaking against male violence. One wonders exactly why Pornland was such an intimidating prospect for supporters of the sex industry in Austin. Perhaps it is a perverse testament to Dines: maybe her opponents know that, if viewers approach with a readiness to debate in good faith, they might, like me, end up changing their minds. Read full article
The porn industry must be throwing a fit right now. The adult book Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over twenty million copies in record time, and sales are still going strong. How did E.L. James, a first-time author who was a television executive, manage to pull off a feat that has eluded the porn industry—getting women to see sexual cruelty as hot sex? In my interviews with them, porn producers regularly bemoan the fact that they just can’t seem to make porn that appeals to the majority of women.
I can’t say I am surprised that the normally business-savvy porn industry has been bested by a novice, given the somewhat ridiculous advice Adult Video News (the porn industry’s premier trade) journal offered to pornographers interested in attracting more women to their websites. Arguing that only 15% of Internet porn consumers are women, AVN suggests that to attract women, “adult Webmasters need to create sites where the primary elements are interaction and education.” And what would these sites look like? “Such sites would allow women to obtain advice, perhaps during teleconferences with experts, have elements of cybersex, and should play into women’s relationship fantasies”.
I can’t imagine women flocking to websites where they can get handy hints from experts mid-arousal. But The AVN article did get something right: women are flocking to a book that plays into, and exploits, “women’s relationship fantasies.” The fantasy they recommended, “a story of how a woman got a rich and powerful boyfriend” because she is good in bed, is very close to the formula James followed. But this story line alone isn’t going to sell to women, as the porn industry knows only too well.
While much of the sex in Fifty Shades is as cruel and sadistic as in mainstream porn, it is expertly packaged for women who want a “fairy tale” ending. In male-targeted porn, the woman is interesting only for as long as the sex lasts. Once done with her, the man is onto the next, and the next, and the next.… She is disposable, interchangeable, and easily replaced. No happy ending here for women.
In Fifty Shades, however, the naïve, immature, bland Anastasia is, for some unfathomable reason, the most compelling woman our rich, sadistic, narcissistic hero has ever met, and he not only kisses her during sex (something you rarely see in Internet hardcore porn) but he doesn’t move on to the next conquest once he has had his wicked way with her. In fact, he actually marries her and confesses undying love. As one of the female fans I interviewed said, this is like Pretty Woman all over again.
Indeed, Fifty Shades is about as realistic as Pretty Woman. How many prostitutes do you know who end up living in marital bliss with a former john? I would guess about the same number of women who live happily ever after with a man who dictates, in a written contract, what to eat and wear, and when to exercise, wax, and sleep. In my work, I meet many women who started out like our heroine, only to end up, a few years later, not in luxury homes, but running for their lives to a battered women’s shelter with a couple of equally terrified kids in tow. No happy ending here, either.
In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Mr. Grey is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.
And yet women of all ages are swooning over this guy and misreading his obsessive, cruel behavior as evidence of love and romance. Part of the reason for this is that his wealth acts as a kind of up-market cleansing cream for his abuse, and his pathological attachment to Anastasia is reframed as devotion, since he showers luxury items on her. This is a very retrograde and dangerous world for our daughters to buy into, and speaks to the appalling lack of any public consciousness as to the reality of violence against women.
Fifty Shades also reveals just how pornographic our culture has become over the last decade or so. While the old Harlequin romance novels had narcissistic heroes who toyed, sexually and psychologically, with their much younger prey, however remote and emotionally challenged he was, the hero did not have a torture chamber tucked away in his basement. Fifty Shades of Grey is Harlequin on steroids, a kind of romance novel for the porn age in which overt sexual sadism masquerades as adoration and love. New as this is, the ending remains depressingly the same for real women who end up falling for the Mr. Greys of the world.
GAIL DINES is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book is Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality (Beacon Press). She a founding member of Stop Porn Culture.
Gail Dines is a contributor to Big Porn Inc:Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry (Ed MTR and Dr Abigail Bray, Spinifex Press, 2011).
Last week, midway through a leisurely Saturday afternoon, I got an email from MSNBC asking me to be on the Melissa Harris Perry Show a week later (July 7th). I was delighted to accept, as MHP is not your usual American journalist. A professor of political science at Tulane University, she is an outspoken African American feminist and a progressive voice in a media landscape dominated by right-wing talking heads. MSNBC is a rare media oasis in the U.S. where one gets to hear some actual critical analysis, so I—mistakenly, it turned out—thought this was going to be one of the few positive experiences I’ve had working with corporate-controlled media. In all honesty, after many years of being on talk shows in the U.S., I have come to expect very little in terms of integrity from the media. Their job is to boost ratings by making stories entertaining and light, and God help anyone who gets in their way.
I spent a long time on the phone with MHP’s producer talking about my research on the harms of porn and the ways women in the industry—especially women of color—are financially exploited and physically and emotionally dehumanized and debased. Given MHP’s feminist politics and her scholarly work on the representation of African American women in U.S. history, I was excited to do a show with an interviewer whom I expected would be engaging and thoughtful, in contrast to the usual adolescent sniggering I get from the male journalist who suddenly finds himself in the awkward position of interviewing a feminist who doesn’t think porn is fun. Read full article here.
I thought I was coming to Australia for a mix of work and sightseeing. Well, I was correct about the work part, but missed seeing your beautiful country since I spent much of my time holed up in the studios of ABC.
My book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, was, thanks to the efforts of Spinifex Press, selected to be part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival, so I assumed I would have a work-packed four days and then some down time.
What I didn’t plan for was that the book would ignite a firestorm and I would have to battle it out with a small but very vocal pro-porn lobby that was spearheaded by academics, public intellectuals and plain old pornographers.
I have debated pro-porn advocates for many years and usually have an interesting if somewhat predictable discussion. Their agenda is to sanitize porn as a bit of harmless fun, and my job is to speak for those women and men whose life stories are disparaged as “anecdotes.” While we disagree, it rarely gets personal and nasty.
‘The central issue about pornography for a woman on the left like me is sexual subordination and how to end it’
Opponents of pornography are prudes, moralisers, hung up about sex and want to put all women in burqas . Right? Not exactly.
Dr Helen Pringle tackles these weary and predictable stereotypes in a piece just published in On Line Opinion.
Helen is in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales. Her research has been widely recognised by awards from Princeton University, the Fulbright Foundation, the Australian Federation of University Women, and the Universities of Adelaide, Wollongong and NSW. Her main fields of expertise are human rights, ethics in public life, and political theory.
Helen is also a contributor to Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry, (Spinifex Press) with a much needed critique of a pro porn report.
Do you read discussions about pornography in the Australian media? Perhaps you followed the recent visit here of Gail Dines, the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality and an anti-pornography activist? Dines was introduced at a Sydney Writers’ Festival panel [ACTIVE] http://blip.tv/slowtv/porn-wars-dines-cannold-holden-lumby-5248617 by the chair’s making a snide dig to her as ‘the furthest to my right’. The panel chair asked Dines, ‘And where do you sit? So often in this debate there are odd bedfellows…you will often find radical feminists like yourself aligned in their views about pornography with Christians on the far right.’
Fair question? Well it is, if you only read of anti-pornography perspectives in mainstream media. The way the media reports on it, opposition to pornography comes only from the religious right. You know, those strange characters that have some problem with women’s bodies, and probably with men’s bodies as well. Who think that sex is sinful and who are obsessed with purity. Or, as the tired old joke goes, those who are opposed to sex because it might lead to dancing. What is even more frightening in this treatment of opposition to pornography is the women’s auxiliary wing of the religious right, in which everyone is having fits of the vapors at the very thought of a penis.
That is not my position on pornography. I am a woman on the left, and I am opposed to pornography…
Last month Collective Shout co-hosted with University of NSW, Spinifex Press and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, a standing room only address by Pornland author and US academic Gail Dines. An extract of her address at NSW State Parliament was broadcast this week by ABC Big Ideas. You can see it here:
The Hardcore Truth About Porn
Julie Bindel writes in The Guardian about the film Hardcore, the true story of what happens to a young single mum at the hands of porn producer Max Hardcore. Describing it as a horrifying look at the abuse of women in pornography, Bindel makes the point that while the film is shocking and some women’s groups have objected to its screening, it helps strip away the myths about pornography being harmless.
‘Porn is used as a tool of degradation against me’
A US prisoner, Kyle Richards, 21, is suing the State of Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder claiming denial of porn magazines is a violation of his civil rights. According to Daily Beast, Richards argues denying him porn subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.”
On July 7 on Feministing, ‘Lori’ wrote a piece defending Richard’s actions. She received many favourable responses. But not from a woman who actually works in a prison. Lawyer Kendall Krajicek wrote this:
… as a correctional caseworker who works in a prison housing unit, I can attest to the fact that porn (or “fuckbooks,” as the inmates refer to it) is definitely used directly and explicitly as a tool of degradation against me. It is not uncommon for an inmate to draw crass comparisons, knowingly within earshot, between a woman featured in a porno mag and what they imagine my body (“pussy,” to be precise) looks like. Inmates have purposely covered their walls with photos from porn magazines featuring redheaded women (like me), knowing that I am going to search their cell, and shared laughs and insulting comments while I am so engaged. So on and so forth.
Some such behavior is against the rules of conduct for prisoners at the facility where I work, and my male bosses have backed me up in the handful of instances I have reported by imposing institutional discipline (i.e. extra duty or a couple of days of room restriction). But so much of what happens is subtle, or done anonymously (by yelling from within the cell when all the inmates are “locked down,” such that I can’t be certain who said it), or just so dishearteningly common that if I consistently documented and reported such behavior, it would engulf a huge amount of my time. To be frank, I also worry that “making an issue out of it” every time would just make it more pervasive, as it would reveal a sensitivity that may be best left unrevealed in the staff-inmate interactive context, given my fiscal reality of needing to keep this job until I find something better.
The F Word ran a counter piece July 13 by Meghan Murphy titled ‘Of course pornography is a prisoners right because women aren’t actually human beings’. An extract:
Pornography limits our vision of sexuality. It prevents us from achieving true equality. It sexualizes, as Andrea Dwokin said, inequality. It limits how we see women and how we see men. It perpetuates an objectifying male gaze. Pornography has very much structured the way in which we see female and male sexuality. These aren’t images that simply disappear from our minds once they are no longer in front of us. They stick. We are a culture that has been shaped by pornography. It isn’t just a fantasy, it is the lived realities of women (and of men). So I don’t think it is ‘anti-sex’ to desire something different, something that can be understood as real freedom. I would like freedom from these images, personally, but I would also like all women to be free from, not only these images, but from the reality of their lives inside a pornified culture. We know full well that images in advertising and on television impact our perceptions of reality and yet, for some reason, we continue to believe that watching sexist pornography won’t impact real people’s lives.
Caitlin Roper and Dr Michal Flood make compelling case against porn t.shirts
There is a seriously good interview with Collective Shout’s own Caitlin Roper and sociologist Dr Michael Flood. You really should listen to it. From Brianna Piazza’s blog :
Campaigners say no to porn t.shirts
THE UK Report on the Sexualisation of children made many recommendations – one of which was to put modesty sleeves on pornographic magazines for sale.
However, Caitlin Roper from Western Australia says Australians cannot do the same when porn t-shirts are worn in public.
Ms Roper and more than 50 national experts, activists and women’s groups are calling for action on porn t-shirts. In a statement recently published, the signatories say pornographic and images depicting violence towards women on t-shirts contribute to the sexualisation of children.
I spoke with Caitlin Roper and sociologist Dr Michael Flood to find out more about the campaign and the harmful effects such t-shirts have on young people and children.
It rakes in billions, exploits women, and leaves men disgusted with themselves.
A few years ago at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, the biggest porn convention in the United States, Abbywinters.com, an Australian porn company, had one of the largest booths. It bills itself as offering “real, passionate, unscripted” sexual activity by “happy, healthy, regular girls in their normal environments”. The company markets its female masturbation and girl/girl videos as featuring women with “no make-up, no fake boobs, no airbrushing”.
The Abbywinters.com women did stand out from the other porn performers in the room, but their girl/girl action (the industry’s term for lesbian sex tailored to a male audience) didn’t look much different from the industry norm.
With all varieties of cameras, men surrounded the booth, vying for the best angles to record images of women being sexual.
That moment provides an important reminder: pornography, at its core, is a market transaction in which women’s bodies and sexuality are offered to male consumers in the interests of maximising profit. In the end, it’s about attracting the most “wankers” possible. Read full article.
Gail Dines speaks on porn harms at NSW event
In a powerful and unflinching address, Gail spoke to more than 100 people in the Jubilee Room of NSW Parliament House on Tuesday.
Gail Dines and MTR on Phillip Adams Late Night Live
Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How porn has hijacked out sexuality – just published in Australia by Spinifex Press- and I were guests on ABC RN Late Night Live last night (repeated this afternoon). We discussed the harms of the global porn industry with well known ABC radio host and the man who coined the term ‘Corporate Paedophilia’, Phillip Adams. You can listen to it here: (Interview begins at the 15:00 minute mark)
Passive acceptance of the sexual oppression of women
Ginger shared her poignant experience of the men in her life using porn – including her 11-year-old son, on the ABC Late Line page last night.
I was raped twice in my youth. Can you imagine my horror when I found that my 11 year old son has been looking at porn? To find that he had been looking at rape sites was devastating. Yet his father looks at porn; his older brother (by ten years)asserts that it is a normal part of culture, that my arguments are those of an old fashioned prude.
I have tried to raise my sons with humanitarian values, where we respect the rights of others, are able to empathise and defend those who are less fortunate than us. Yet modelling my value system has come a poor second to the power of the media, of peer pressure and passive acceptance of the sexual oppression of women by a multi million business which is stripping us of deep intimacy, of meaningful relationships. I fear for future generations when ‘intelligent’ men are slaves to the need for ever increasing degrees of excitement rather than deepening intimate connection.
Men Who Hate Porn
Fortunately there is a new movement of men speaking out against porn. It is so encouraging to know there are men who recognise porn’s destructive agenda for their lives. The Age ran this piece today, reprinted from The Guardian:
…While an enormous amount has been written about how pornography affects women, less has been written about how it affects men, which seems odd given that, as McCormack Evans says, pornography is a product predominantly ”made by men, marketed by men and consumed by a massive male majority”.
One obvious problem for many porn users is the conflict between their stated belief in equality and respect for women, and the material they’re watching in private. McCormack Evans says he used to exist in a ”kind of double consciousness. For that half hour when I was watching porn I thought, ‘This is separate from my life, it won’t affect how I view the world.’ But then I realised it did.” Read full story here.
More men asking questions
How did porn get to be so cool?
Also in The Age this week, Adam Cary asks how it happened that porn became cool. “Maybe porn is the new black, and we should all wear it”, he writes.
Who needs porn when you’ve got MTV?
And Steve Kryger writes in The Punch about routine unintentional exposure to porn:
Three times a week I watch porn. I’m a man of routine, so the days are always the same – Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
It’s nothing too explicit – just stocking-clad women stripping off their clothes and shaking their breasts in my face as they rub up against other women, men, poles, or whatever else they can find nearby.
When it’s not lingerie models, it’s women in a nightclub, lying on the top of the bar, near naked, while groups of men pour alcohol over their glistening bodies, to the beat of the latest dance music sensation.
Then there’s the classic pool party scenario – groups of women in bikinis striking provocative poses as they splash and play in the pool – to an audience of men on poolside – and me.
This is the content of the MTV video clips that are playing on the television screens when I visit my local gym each week. It’s nothing short of soft-core pornography, and I’m over it. Read full story here
See also a piece I wrote on pornography for ABC The Drum Unleashed a couple of years ago (still entirely relevant, unfortunately).
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