12 mai 2020
Review of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines translated and published in French by Éditions libre.
Did you know that porn now serves as the major form of sex education for millions of children? And what are kids learning? That humiliation, and violence are central to relationships, intimacy, and sex. Just as the tobacco industry argued for decades that there was no proven link between smoking and lung cancer, so, too, has the porn industry denied the existence of more than 40 years of research on the impact of its products.
TW : Rape, Incest, Racism, Misogyny, Child Porn
We are in the midst of a pandemic. Lockdowns across the globe mean women are in an extremely vulnerable position. Confined with abusive males, domestic violence has risen by 33% in France since governmental enforced quarantine. Coronavirus has become a living nightmare for many women – as well as those in poverty, and victims of racism and exclusion.
As industries register big losses during this period, one industry has managed to cash in on the pandemic. Recently embroiled in numerous controversies for allegedly failing to remove videos of child rape from its site, Pornhub, subsidiary of MindGeek – a media giant with a net worth of $460 million dollars – hopes to build an image of acceptability by offering free premium access to users in regions particularly struck by the virus. This might initially appear as a philanthropic act, however Pornhub are in fact collecting an incredible amount of user’s personal data, and are monetizing it for their own gain. Pornhub’s publicity stunt exploits the coronavirus crisis, and silences ongoing complaints that videos on it’s platform feature sex trafficking victims.
Traffic from France was up +38,2% on March 17th 2020 after PornHub offered free premium service to « encourage people to say indoors and distance themselves socially ».
In Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, Dr. Gail Dines exposes the porn industry and lays bares the horrific consequences of these porn tube sites. Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, Boston. Having researched and written about the porn industry for over 30 years, she is internationally acclaimed as a leading expert on how porn seeped into our lives, and the effects of this saturation. A decade ago, Dines penned Pornland, undoubtedly the porn industry has changed since then, however Dines analysis is still as strikingly pertinent today.
It is important to note that when Dines refers to porn in this book, she is primarily referring to the gonzo genre of porn. This is by far the most watched, popular, and profitable genre ( gonzo represents 95% of porn productions). Gonzo porn depicts hard-core, body punishing, violent sex where women are degraded, debased and dehumanized to such an extent that they no longer bare their name; they are mere sluts, whores, and cumbuckets. Gonzo porn doesn’t bother with storylines, it is sex scene after sex scene, so that consumers can “cut to the chase, get off on the good stuff”. The user just watches two nameless people having sex on a screen; there is no sense of identity, there is no sense that they are even real people. This further enhances the « porn is a fantasy » theory that we will later discuss. Unlike past generations, porn users today have unlimited access this gonzo material. Even more worrying, the average age for first viewing porn is 11 years old, according to Dines. In France, almost half of all 14 year olds have watched their first porn film.
Before we discuss today’s big business of porn, it’s necessary to reflect back on the bygone period, the period before the advent of the internet, the so called “Golden Age” of Porn. This allows us to understand how we got here. How violent debasing porn became acceptable and even celebrated in today’s society. What happened for the dominant culture to become so tarred by this violence against women.
Dines chose to focus on three magazines which paved the way for the current porn industry. She spoke of the symbiotic and competitive relationship between Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler magazines which pushed the envelope on what was considered acceptable mainstream porn. This trio of magazines groomed the public into accepting the hard-core porn that was later to come.
To begin, a magazine, branded as men’s lifestyle, published in the US post WWII provided the economic and cultural space for today’s gonzo porn; this magazine was called Playboy, and Mr. Hugh Hefner was at its helm. Before Playboy, pornographic magazines weren’t circulated through mainstream channels of distribution, thus access to pornographic material was limited. Playboy broke the boundaries and eroded the economic, cultural, and legal barriers to mass production and distribution of porn. This racy magazine debuted in 1953, with the sex-symbol of the era, Marilyn Monroe, bracing the cover. Hefner’s aim was to create a worldwide brand that was associated with a particular lifestyle his magazine promoted.
Dines reminds us that the 1950s signaled a period of enormous change in the US; the baby and economic boom, the growth of suburbia, the pressure to conform to family life and marry young, and the growing push towards a capitalist consumption lifestyle were markers of this decade. During this period the mass media played a seminal role in legitimizing and praising a “pro-family” ideology, the nuclear family was hailed as the most basic institution of society. The apparent demands on American men to conform to both family life and to corporate America instilled a hostile anti-women sentiment. Women were described as greedy, manipulative and lazy, and consequently became the acceptable culprits for the emasculation of American men by over-domesticating them.
Dines states that it was during those pro-family, women-hating years that Playboy first hit the stands. However, I think that it’s redundant to focus on this specific period as particularly “women hating” or “pro-family”, as that undermines past and present struggles, as we still live in an oppressive patriarchal society that kills women, and idolises and reinforces the nuclear family unit. Men have been claiming to be in a crisis for centuries, this is not a new phenomenon, or one that is unique to the 1950s. This rhetoric of the crisis of masculinity chastises women who want to liberate themselves from oppressive sex stereotypes, i.e. gender, and in turn legitimises their punishment.
Playboy struck a nerve with American men and was an overnight success. The magazine reinforced the rhetoric that the position of American men was continuing to deteriorate with articles such as Miss Gold Digger of 1953, and The Womanization of America which warned men that “a couple of generations ago, this was a man’s world, nothing could be further from the truth in 1953”. Playboy was to become a manual for readers raised during times of depravation, The Great Depression and WWII, and sexual conservatism, to assist them in becoming upmarket consumers of goods and women. Dines discussed in detail how the anti-woman ideology that Playboy espoused was nothing new, however it’s marriage-critical position was. She also delved into the genius marketing techniques Hefner applied; I really advise you to read these passages.
Playboy soared in the 50s post WWII, however the 1970s posed stiff competition in the form of a British magazine named Penthouse. The rivalry between the UK and US magazine opened the floodgates to more objectifying material; Hefner crudely coined this period The Pubic Wars. Hustler magazine was able to join this misogynistic party, after the groundwork the latter two magazines laid provided the perfect climate for Hustler to produce the “first nationally distributed magazine to show pink”. Hustler targeted the average American man, a lower class man whose income couldn’t match the high level consumption lifestyle that Playboy and Penthouse espoused. Hustler’s ideal reader was a truck driver, not a college educated professor or executive. In reality the Hustler reader didn’t represent the working class, and their readers earned a lot more money than Playboy’s readers, even though Hefner targeted his magazine at middle class executives. Hustler presented it’s ideal reader in anything but idealistic terms. This cunning marketing ploy allowed the real reader himself to think he was better than the vulgar macho reader portrayed in the magazine. This allowed the upper class man to buy this magazine, but still distance himself from it as he is merely observing and ridiculing the culture and content of a lower social class, that is not his own.
The heyday of these three magazines is long over. However, we must not overlook the influence these magazines had on the porn market, and the dominant culture. The more Hustler and Penthouse overstepped the boundaries, the more acceptable Playboy appeared, and consequently the more it penetrated mainstream culture. By the arrival of the Internet, the culture had been deeply groomed into accepting pornography as acceptable and a commonplace feature of our everyday lives, rather than the powerful industry that produces images and videos that debase, objectify, and humiliate women. Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler set the scene for the gonzo genre we are bombarded with today.
Today porn is everywhere. Dines provides insights on how the industry made the shift from being a taboo in the shadows to threading the mainstream. Dines cites careful strategizing and clever marketing as the tools that sanitized the porn industry, and cleaned it of it’s “filthy” factor, to reconstruct porn as something fun, sexy, playful, and liberating. This skillful marketing allowed porn to seep into the dominant culture and into our collective consciousness. Dines discusses the sanitizing agents that facilitated this manoeuvre; she focuses on 3 American examples – Girls Gone Wild, Jenna Jameson, and Vivid Entertainment. I will now briefly discuss GGW:
GGW is a show that produces videos of college students partying, exposing themselves, and sometimes engaging in lesbian sex. The GGW bus hunted adolescent girls on university campuses to participate in their show. Knowing the impact of peer pressure on teens, the older GGW team targeted women surrounded by her pals, encouraging her to flash her breasts, whilst also encouraging her friends to convince her into doing so.
Joe Francis the owner of GGW, carefully crafted this product not to fit into the porn category, but to belong to the world of pop culture. It fits into the latter category as it is deemed to be a more sociably acceptable product as it merely shows drunk college girls frolicking around and having fun; one could say its a porn product marketed as pop culture. Men enjoy this “soft-core” porn, as GGW refer to it’s participants as “real girls”. This has two effects. Firstly, this leads men to believe that porn actresses are not real women, they are below this definition. There is a hierarchisation of women. Secondly, this allows men to believe that all women are sexually available, not just “sex workers”. This supports the discourse that “all women are sluts”. Dines interviewed teenagers who regrettably featured in GGW, many of whom now suffer from PTSD, as the drunken moment that they were pressured to partake in sexual activities in front of a camera crew of older men will always be frozen in time on tape. They forever live in fear that this video will reappear later in their lives.
This examples clearly show how the frontier between porn culture and pop culture is increasingly blurring. The pop culture of today resembles the porn culture of 2010. Dines could have easily discussed the music industry too, with it’s pornified music videos, that are easily accessible to children via YouTube.
To resume, porn is infiltrating mainstream culture, from fashion magazines, to advertisements, to film, and then they have the audacity to package our oppression as empowerment. As Dines aptly puts it “Porn shouldn’t be understood as an avant-garde art form…it needs to be understood as a business whose product evolves with a specifically capitalist logic. Like other powerful industries, the porn industry doesn’t just construct and sell a product; it constructs the world in which the product can be sold: the technologies, the business models, the enthusiastic consumers, the complaint performers, the tolerant laws, even the ideologies that proclaim porn to be the apogee of empowerment and liberation”
Like global capitalism, porn glorifies hyper-masculine power that exploits, humiliates, and commodifies those within its grasp. To fight porn is to fight capitalism. Determining the size of the global porn industry is no easy feat, however annual revenue from the porn industry has been estimated to be around the $97 billion mark, to put that into context Hollywood makes roughly $10 billion per annum. As Andrew Edmond, CEO of porn corporation Flying Crocodile stated:
The porn industry does not exist in isolation, like all major global industries, it interfaces with banks, credit cards, mainstream media and multiple social media platforms. Every one of these industries has a vested economic interest in the continuation and growth of the porn industry. Everyone in the supply chain from initial production to consumption is getting rich from and complicit in strengthening the industry. Dines shares her experience of attending the porn industry’s annual trade show, Adult Entertainment Expo; there she learned that pornographers “are not particularly interested in sex. What turns these people on is making money”.
With so many porn tubes sites offering free content, one might wonder how these pornographers turn a profit. Content on these free sites act as a teaser to spark the viewers interest so that the business can then monetize the free porn with advertising and by diverting the user to paid sites. I initially thought that these free sites would harm the industry, however they actually expand paid porn’s consumer base. To quote Dines “Free porn is the same as the tobacco industry handing out free cigarettes to kids to get them hooked, without fear of prosecution”.
To protect porn’s growing mainstream positioning, the porn industry launched the Free Speech Coalition in 1991 to fend off unwelcome governmental regulation. The coalition engaged in lobbying, public relations, and litigation, in order to “help limit the legal risks of being an adult business, increase the profitability of its members, promote the acceptance of the industry in America’s business community, and support greater public tolerance for the freedom of sexual speech”.
The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is another dubious association founded to provide the porn industry with a socially responsible image. Founded in 1996, its ASACP’s mission to eliminate child porn from the internet, and to prevent children from viewing “age-inappropriate” material online. With the 2002 Ashcroft case, the Free Speech Coalition successfully lobbied to change the law on child pornography to all the porn industry to use women who, while 18 years of age, looked much much younger. ASACP puts on a nice disguise, but it’s utter hypocrisy and uselessness is exposed when we learn that Hustler is one of the organization’s members. This is the same Hustler that runs the Barely Legal Magazine, and brands itself as “the world’s number 1 teen magazine with the largest collection of teen sweethearts found anywhere”.
One industry that porn totally revolutionised is technology. From the Polaroid camera that developed intimate photos from the privacy of one’s own home to the VR of today, porn thrust the technological world towards many of its finest achievements. It is important to note that Dines wrote Pornland in 2010, thus many of technologies latest developments and it’s ramifications on the porn industry are not discussed in this book, such as the omnipresence of screens, virtual reality, and now the growing presence of Camgirls.
Advancements in technology, allowed porn viewers to consume porn in private, negating the need to go to a shady sex shop. A common pattern amongst these technologies is for pornography to blaze the trail and exert a disproportionate influence over the said technologies when they are new and too expensive and difficult to use, they then create an initial market that allows them to develop to the point where they’re ready for the mainstream. The porn business has also been a pioneer of new business models such as internet subscription, highly complex fraud control systems, and advertising techniques that make free video streaming platforms profitable, leading the way for sites such as YouTube.
All of this is proof of how porn has become a big business, wielding political and legislative influence. The industry’s links to mainstream finance, media, and communications chains provides it with powerful allies. As the Porn industries power and profit increases, so will the pornification of the society.
A defence of pornography we hear over and over again is “porn is fantasy”, it’s fun and harmless. The dominant view among industry apologists is that porn images are in the users head and stays in their head, consequently they don’t have any repercussions in the real world. According to this argument, porn has no bearing on reality, and users can close their screens and remain unaffected by the misogynistic images entrenched within. Of course, the main pushers of the porn is a fantasy argument are those who have deep vested interest in the industry: be it the financial investment of the pornographers, or the emotional investment of the user.
Dines believes porn moulds the world views of men who masturbate to it. She rejects this Fantasy theory, which is supported psychologist Michael Bader who insists that its impossible to know what’s in mens minds, and what they actually think about women while they are masturbating to porn, since they are using their imagination in creative ways. Dines argues that these are not fantasies developed in the mind of each porn user, due to their own creative imagination, desires or past experiences; but they are scripted images produced by a cunning group of capitalists in a multi-billion dollar industry.
Dines chose to dissect the reasoning of Bader, as he is quite progressive in comparison to his counterparts, he regularly publishes articles on how mainstream corporate media has the power to shape and manipulate the public. He has singled out the media as a major form of miseducation that sells a specific worldview that legitimises vast economic and social inequality. The major question is how does he ardently oppose exploitative capitalist institutions and their power to distort the way people think about power, culture, and politics, but simultaneously hold the view that porn doesn’t have a material effect on its users?
Dines believes these so called progressives refuse to engage in a deep analysis of how porn affects the worldwide views, as they believe measuring porn’s real life effects boils down to the complex question- does porn lead to rape? By rejecting more nuanced questions, they do not consider porn’s impact on the dominant culture, the men who use it, or the women in society.
Dworkin and MacKinnon, two pioneers in abolitionist feminism, never stated that porn leads a non-rapist to rape. They more so argued that porn has a complicated effect on male sexuality, and that rape is a cultural practice woven into the fabric of this patriarchal society, rather than simply being caused by pornography. Porn is an agent of this male dominated society and it enshrines this women-hating ideology.
When we place porn in a cultural context, we see how men are inundated with messages from the media that dehumanise women, and depict them as sex objects. These images supply a narrative about men, women, and sexuality. One may argue that some of these media images are polysemic, however one cannot dispute the clear message that gonzo porn conveys to men that have already been brought up in this pornified culture saturated with sexist imagery- women adore being humiliated and degraded.
Dines highlights that “the media plays a role in the systematic dehumanisation of an oppressed group”, and rebuts the fantasy argument by comparing sexist images to racist images. African Americans protested racist films which depicted black people as idiots and lazy, as they rightfully believed that these images would have very real effects on the way the dominant group, white people, would view black people. Dines highly doubts that African Americans would be satisfied with the argument that these images were just playful fantasies and white viewers would disassociate the representation of blacks in the media, as idiots, from the black people in real life.
Of course, just like the “does porn lead to rape” question, this does not mean that after viewing this film a white non-racist person would join the Klu Klux Klan, or that this would have a very negative impact in an ideal society where blacks and whites were treated equally. However, in a society stained by racism, this film would reinforce and normalize racist ideas that were already present in the culture, and these images would legitimise the ongoing oppression of the group.
How does society defend the sexist images in porn on the grounds that they are merely fantasy? The oppressing and violent imagery is concealed in a sexual cloak, rendering it invisible, and reframing this oppression as empowerment. The detrimental effect racist imagery has on the lives of black people is widely accepted. However, many refuse to accept that images of women of all colours being beaten, chocked, and sodomised whilst being called whores, and worthless cunts could have a negative effect on women as a class. Feminists who protest this violence are labelled as “anti-sex” and “whorephobic”, and not anti-violence or anti-hate.
Although, I do agree with Dines’ rebuttal of Banes theory, I am not entirely satisfied with her own findings. Dines chose to argue that the fantasy isn’t produced in the users mind but this fantasy is created by a powerful exploitative industry, and is fed to the consumer. Dines also asserts that these sexist images are not playful fantasies are they have direct repercussions on the oppressed class.
I would have preferred if Dines focused on the subjects of pornography; the real people who are being sodomised, tortured, and pummelled for men’s pleasure. The definition of a fantasy is a story someone creates from their imagination and that is not based on reality. The images porn produces are indeed scripted, however the actors who are being penetrated in every orifice are very real indeed. Their pain, suffering, and debasement is real. The violence produced by the porn industry against women is based on reality, and we must not euphemize and undermine this exploitation by calling it a fantasy.
Dines refutes the theory that it’s completely natural for men and boys to enjoy porn, they are simply exploring an innate desire. Men are socialised by the culture surrounding them, and there is nothing natural about boys being shoved and manipulated into conforming to oppressive gender stereotypes. She further dissects the damaging effects that this has on boys forcing them to hide their emotions under the mask of masculinity.
Through her university lectures, Dines presented the affects of porn to men and women throughout the years. Her presentations always stirred up extreme emotions in men. Stripped of an erection, men are asked to reflect; explore their sexuality, and more so examine their porn use to see how this impacts their daily lives after they close their laptop. Here is what she learned from young heteroseuxal men:
What happens when men become bored of the repetitive predictive gonzo porn they watch over and over again? The legions of easily bored male viewers become desensitized by porn, and to maintain their interest and erection they search harder and more violent porn, they ejaculate to images which formerly disgusted them. We will discuss this in more detail when we look at teen porn.
As with male students, Dines discussed the porn industry with their female counterparts. When presenting to a privileged audience at America’s Ivy League Universities, Dines words infuriated many students. They accused her of denying them “free choice” and “liberty” to embrace the hyper-sexualised porn culture. As rising members of the next generation’s elite, these highly educated privileged students saw no limits or constraints on them as women.
This sort of liberal feminist approach reminds me of the hit show Sex and the City; the female characters in this show were utterly dependent on males and their approval. However, they are glorified as independent and empowered as they could afford to buy their own high end goods. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda’s independence was based on their ability and freedom to consume rather than their refusal to submit to men’s power, or traditional gender norms.
This story of Dines’ interaction with university students, highlights that women don’t need to look at porn to be grossly affected by it, as porn’s images, and messages are neatly delivered to women through the pop culture. More worryingly, conformity to porn culture is labelled as a “free choice”, and rather liberating. This “free choice” bothers me, this negates the fact that we are social beings that construct our identity within a set of economical, political and social conditions, which are not of our own making. In short, we are socialised by the dominant culture, and women learn that they will be treated better if they perform femininity. Gender is a social construct, consequently our belief of what is normal feminine behaviour is moulded by external forces, such as pop culture, and it’s mainstream images of women.
We must not ignore that we are deeply influenced and affected by the cultural constructions of idealized femininity. Women are led to believe that their conformity with this hypersexualised image will give them power in this patriarchal society, as we learn – in this porn culture – that our power lies in our fuckability. Kim Kardashian and her K clan are perfect examples of hypersexualised role models. Kim became a household name after the release of her sex tape. Kim was christened a slut by the mass media, however this slur enhanced her career as her wealth cleansed this dirty insult. Unfortunately for the majority of working class women and girls, this insult would stick and stain like mud.
Using Cosmopolitian as another example of a dominant force in pop culture, Dines dissects the pseudo- independence that this magazine offers. With articles such as 67 New Blow-His-Mind Moves, 50 Ways to Seduce a Man, Shrink Your Inner Thighs glossing its pages it’s no wonder that Cosmo focuses on his needs and his orgasm. It isn’t new to have a women’s magazine focusing on a man’s pleasure, however in the past the goal was to stimulate his taste buds, rather than his penis. Cosmo and it’s equivalent don’t promote sorority amongst women, as they’d like to think, rather they glamorise competition with articles advising women on how to have hotter sex with your boyfriend than his previous partners.
The different advice that these women’s magazines offer has very real consequences. An inmate, called Dick, interviewed by Dines, conditioned his 10 year old step-daughter into “consenting” acknowledged that this process was easy when he chillingly stated “the culture did a lot of the grooming for me”. He exploited the fact that pop culture facilitates sexual abuse. This culture lets young girls and women believe that their value is based on their hotness. This erodes their self esteem, and chips away at their self of themselves as worthy, interesting human beings. They can develop eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and low self esteem as they are socialised into only seeing themselves as mere sex toys, and not much else.
Feminists in the 70s fought for sexual liberation; the right for women to seek pleasure, desire, and to completely enjoy sex- on her own terms. We are very far away from reaching this liberation today. Porn perpetuates a patriarchal capitalist narrative. As Robert Jensen said:
Porn puts a price tag on women’s bodies, defined by the rules of the market, and discards them when they are declared past their expiration date. A half a century later and our sexuality is still defined by men in ways that serve their interests. However, unlike the 70s, today this male centred sexuality is sold to us, women, as empowering.
As one can imagine, porn profits from racism and makes a buck off filming racial stereotypes. Porn mirrors mainstream media in the fact that the majority of the decision makers are white men.
Some black porn performers call for greater black presence in the production of porn. Porn actor Jesse Spencer’s shallow solution is for “black performers to create product for our people and our market, because no one else is going to do it for us.” One can image that the “us” he is referring to is the penis wielders of his class; as I severely doubt how women of colour would benefit from his suggestion.
In porn, women of colour’s “race” and sex become intertwined and she carries the status of dual subordination; all past and present racist stereotypes are being inflicted upon her as she is being orally, vaginally, anally pounded by at least one man. She is utterly debased.
Dines research primarily focuses on American society. In this context, Asian women are the most popular women of colour in porn. In France, largely influenced by it’s own colonial history, Arab, and Maghrebian women top the polls. The category beurette (a pejorative term for a woman of Maghreb origin) ranked in the Top 4 PornHub searches in France in 2018. Asian women portrayed as being sexually servile geishas, china dolls, submissive Far East nymphos. They are described as being naive, obedient, submissive, petite, cute, and innocent; in short, they lack any adult agency.
Porn is Racist: « beurette » in the top 4 Searches of 2018 in France
Of course, a long with these characteristics, the bodies of these women are similarly described as juvenile. Words like “tiny tight pussy” are often used to create an image that the man in question is penetrating a child’s vagina, not a woman’s. Apart from infantilising these women, how can porn make these women anymore powerless? Trafficking them. Asian women on sites such as “Me Fuck You Long Time” are depicted as being trafficked for an extra thrill. The film Asian Street Hookers boast “The Oriental Express flies to Thailand and the Philippines – and once again imports the sexiest dolls around”. Men masturbate to images of young girls in a foreign country, unable to speak the local language, without a support system, their passport confiscated by the pimp, who would rather kill them than let them leave. These women are rendered completely powerless, and in porn this state of utter vulnerability makes the sex so much hotter for the viewer.
Unlike Asian women, Black women are seen as overbearing and domineering bitches. This horrendously racist stereotype is not a recent phenomenon, Dines cites a famous American governmental report from 1965 called the Moynihan Report, which blamed poverty in the black community solely on black women, as they emasculated black men. In Porn these stubborn women are chastened. In Porn, black women are always depicted as having an attitude and an uncontrollable libido; it is then the duty of the black or white man to “domesticate” her, and tame her.
One cannot speak about racism in porn without mentioning the fetishization of black women’s buttocks. Most titles make reference to the black woman’s buttocks, reducing black women to a “big black booty”, no longer a full human worthy of respect and dignity. Ghetto porn is a subsection of black porn. The story always follows that these women are wild and lacking elegance, and they a pimp to make a lady out of them. Latina women are also vilified, and objectified in porn. The same principle applies– the women’s “race” makes them even sluttier than the standard white women in porn.
Men in porn don’t escape these archaic racist stereotypes either. Whilst Porn sites are inundated with Asian women, very rarely are their sexual partners Asian men. This reflects pop culture, there are very few roles offered to asian actors, apart from being a martial arts master, or a wise old philosophical man with a beard. Darrell Hamamoto, an Asian American professor at the University of California, and porn producer who promotes Asian on Asian porn, accounts this lack of asian men as lovers to the widely held stereotype that asian men are asexual nerds. In gay porn, Asian men become the feminised gay men by default, thus the sexual object of white men.
Professor Hamamoto is enraged by the categorisation of Asian men; rightly so, he believes that Asian American sexuality has been warped by White supremacist thought and colonialism, and this negatively affects this group. Interestingly, Prof. Hamamoto’s remains blind to the harmful racist imagery of Asian women in porn. Dines criticizes Hamamoto as he ultimately uses the dominant sexist imagery of masculinity – one based on control over women – as his measure of what a re-masculinised Asian man should behave like. Within this thought process, it highlights why Hamamato produces Asian on Asian porn, as Asian men get to play out the ultimate act of masculinity, which is to literally fuck their own women.
Whilst Asian men are seen to be feminised in porn, it is quite the opposite for black men. They are uncontrollable masculinity personified. Black male performers partake in the popular interracial porn (IP) category. A retailer that Dines spoke with at the Porn Expo summarised this genre, in saying “My customers seem to enjoy black men ‘taking advantage’ of white women; seducing their white daughters and wives. The more ‘wrong’ a title is, the more appealing it is. The Blackzilla line is one of my best selling series. Oh No! There’s a Negro in My Mom is also one that sells as soon as it hits the shelves. My customers don’t want to see a loving interracial couple; they want to see massive black dicks, satisfying or defiling pretty white girls”.
As one can imagine the customers he speaks of are white males. Lest we forget the golden rule in porn, the more the woman is debased, the better the porn experience is for the viewer. And what better way, in the minds of the white male viewer, to debase a white woman than to have her penetrated by a black man, who in the past was labelled as sexually deviant, perverse, and uncivilised? Like Black women, Black men are similarly reduced to their penis. IP focuses on how the “big black cock” can do insufferable harm to the “tight white pussy”.
Porn helps to amplify and reinvigorate racist stereotypes; the submissive but sexually exotic Asian woman, the defiant and savage Black woman, the asexual Asian male nerd, and finally the beastly black man who savagely fulfils the needs of the white man’s daughter or wife. To quote Dines “While these stereotypes are often a product of the past, they are cemented into the present every time a user masturbates to them”.
Society as a whole is becoming more and more desensitized to sexualised imagery of girls. Pop culture is saturated with images of both sexualised “childified” adults and sexualised “adultified” children. As pop culture becomes more and more sexualised, to remain relevant and distinguishable the porn industry has to become more hardcore.
Like any good capitalistic enterprise, the porn industry must constantly seek new markets to exploit, to the point of developing a niche. The aforementioned Ashcroft case allowed the porn industry to present young women as children in pornography. It also opened the floodgates on computer generated images of child porn, as well as pseudo-child porn which childifies young women, otherwise known as teen porn. Teen porn shows images of teens posing as children being penetrated by either their father, teacher, employer, or just a plain old child molester.
Child Porn remains illegal, however teen porn which uses young adults disguised as children is perfectly legal. In 2002 the Ashcroft case normalised this content, in 2006 there was an increase of 61% on searches of teen porn in just two years. Even though the actresses in teen porn are adults, this genre of porn still serves the purpose of sexually arousing men by pictures of children. Many researchers argue that child porn is used by predators to prepare them for sexually assaulting a child, as it arouses them and more so numbs them to the brutal harm done to children, while it also acts as a manual guiding them on how to commit this heinous act. One could ask, why wouldn’t these teen porn sites play a similar role? The answer to this question depends on how successful teen porn is in constructing a reality for the viewer; does the viewer imagine that he is masturbating to images of children or childified adults?
To understand the link between child pornography and teen porn. Dines chose to examine the five categories of child porn set out by researcher Tony Krone:
As the acts, visuals, and narratives are drawn from mainstream adult pornography, teen porn falls into all categories but primarily 2, 4, and 5.
Solo Teen sites act as an introduction to teen porn, as the presumed child discovers her own sexuality, with the aid of a dildo. Women on these sites starkly contrast from regular porn sites as they’re small breasted, slightly built, with little makeup. To further childify them the pornographers employ various techniques: props such as stuffed animals, lollipops, braces, school uniforms are regularly included, and words such as “petite” “cute” “tight” “teeny” are used to describe her body. Whilst women on regular porn sites are referred to as “whores” “cumbuckets” and “ghetto hoes”, these sites refer to the female with terms of endearment, such as “sweetie” “honey”, “little darling”, this preserves the notion that the performers are actually innocent children, not stanky old whores.
With sites such as Defloration, Bloody Virgins, and First Time Sex, these sites show the viewer sees a pseudo-child woman penetrated for the first time. The sex on these sites is very different to gonzo as the male caresses and kisses the young performer, as if to prove that there is authentic consent. Women on these sites look like debutants in comparison to other porn sites; their movements are awkward, their positioning is unnatural and clumsy. Its hard to know if these women are freshly recruited and are in fact novices, or they are acting. The latter is unlikely, as this isn’t big production porn films, thus the likelihood of their acting skills being that honed is slim to nil. Dines believes that its likely that it is these performers debut film, or in a worst case scenario, to quote Dines, “these women are having the loss of their virginity documented by the porn industry, to be circulated over and over again for male’s masturbatory pleasure”.
This discourse of “loss of virginity” bothers me, and I would prefer if it wasn’t employed. Virginity is not a medical term, it is a social construct that has been used for centuries to humiliate, shame and police the bodies of girls and women. In regards to hymens, some women are born without a hymen, some break theirs while riding a bike, using a tampon; thus, the rupture of a hymen doesn’t always signify penetration of a vagina.
These teen porn sites also fall within the gonzo genre. The women involved in these videos have childlike juvenile bodies, the pornographer plays on this and highlights how huge penises will tear, destroy, and split the teens not-fully-developed orifices. To make this more demeaning, the so-called young virgins are often paired with men at least three times their age. Not only do these sites romanticise huge age differences, but they also give the veteran male even more power by highlighting the economic disparity between the two.
Another scenario that is often utilised to increase the power imbalance is the classic employee-employer relationship, with titles such as Drunk Baby Sitter users can masturbate to young girls, who don’t have the capacity to consent due to the asymmetrical power dynamic, and their state of inebriation.
Users like to believe that they are ejaculating to consensual sex, even more so for the grotesque teen porn subcategory of incest porn. Incest porn is a very popular porn genre, and father daughter incestual relationships are the videos of choice is this category. To clear the viewers conscious, porn goes to great lengths to put the onus of this rape on the daughters. On porn sites such as Daddy Whore father daughter incest occurs because daughters are seductive and manipulative; they coerce their unfortunate father into accepting their sexual advances.
Some sites don’t even bother employing this “manipulative daughter” technique, and the father seduces his complying daughter. More often than not, these films tell the story of a girl whose mother died years previous, and is no longer present to protect her from her fathers advances. Initially, she is scared and horrified at the thought of being fucked by her father but she finally succumbs and this results in the best sex of her life. This scenario shockingly mirrors real life, as over half of girls abused by their fathers, didn’t have mothers present in their life at the time of the abuse. These girls were isolated and at the peril of their perverted father. Psychiatrist Judith Herman describes these abusive fathers “as the family providers, they felt they had the right to be nurtured and served at home, if not by their wives, then by their daughters”. They saw their daughters as the void their wives left, and in the absence of a wife, the daughters became the surrogate wives.
A popular teen porn series is called Cherry Poppers shows how these videos can serve as instruction manuals for pedociminals. In one scene from Cherry Poppers, a man finds the younger sister of his girlfriend alone, and he offers to give her some educational advice on “what boys like”. He proceeds by showing the girl how to stroke a penis, this finally results in oral sex. Then he begins to finger her vagina and anus, Dines informs us that this is a technique often used by rapists to stretch a child’s vagina and anus, so it won’t be later torn by an adult penis.
Throughout these acts the man reassures her that she’s “a good little girl”, followed by requests for her to call herself a little cunt. The man shifts between being kind and cruel throughout the sequence, this a strategic move repeatedly employed by rapists to confuse, frighten, and attract the young victim. The very last scene harrowing mirrors real life child rapes, when the man in this gruesome video takes a picture of a naked girl, soaked in his semen. Child molesters take a picture after their rape as a trophy but also to keep for their or other men’s future pleasure, to blackmail the child into silence, and also to show their future victims what is expected of them.
Without doubt, Cherry Poppers and the thousands and thousands of other teen porn sites legitimize children as sexual partners for adult men. Even worse, some of these sick teen porn sites dare to challenge the users masculinity, they test and tempt him. One animated incest site tells the viewer that if he watches these films, it is because he isn’t yet courageous enough to have incest sex and that their films based on true stories are the next best thing to the real deed. What this message really relays is that if you are man enough to masturbate to transgressive images, will you then be actually brave enough to take the next step and have incest sex?
As with mainstream porn users, teen porn users, after regular use, can become desensitized and bored. Men get off on women being submissive, and after teen gonzo porn, there is only one place to go; who is more submissive than a child? Fortunately this descent into utterly abusive child porn is not guaranteed for teen porn viewers, however it does entice some to take this step. Feminist sociologists Diana Russell and Natalie J Purcell argue that these “PCP sites can serve as a bridge between adult pornography and child pornography”. If this analysis is correct, the increasing popularity of PCP porn will increase the demand for real child pornography. In 2009 Dines interviewed 8 men in prison for downloading child pornography and sexually assaulting children. From these interviews, Dines noted that the average length of time between downloading child porn for the first time and sexually assaulting a child was one year. One particular sex offender admitted candidly that watching porn before raping his victims “got him in the mood”.
This is the disastrous effect of young girls being hypersexualised, it erodes social norms that declare girls as off limits to male sexual use and abuse. In this porn sodded culture, girls are forced into the category of woman younger and younger, and they are perceived as such, as a woman, as a toy for men for their use, pleasure and abuse.
Porn is now so engrained in the dominant culture that to criticize porn equates to being anti-sex. I find the opposite to be true. Why is it so difficult for many to understand that one can be pro-sex but against the commodification and industrialisation of human desire? Dines takes another application of the flawed anti-porn equals anti-sex rhetoric, asking if this said book was a critique of McDonald’s exploitive labour practices, its destruction of ecosystems, and it’s negative impact on our diet and health; would anyone question her for being anti-eating or anti-food? She suspects that in this case that the reader would be capable of separating the industry, McDonald’s, and the industrial product, the burgers, from the act of eating, understanding that this critique was focused on the wide scale impact of the fast food industry and not the human need to consume food and the pleasure the experience of eating yields.
The story that gonzo porn tells us about women, men, and sex is as consistent as it is violent. Of course this story is consistent as it is produced and delivered by an industry, thus the images are scripted, formulaic, and monotonously generic. A study conducted in 2010 on the top 50 rented porn movies showed that physical aggression, including choking, open-hand slapping and gagging, occurred in over 88% of the scenes, whilst verbal aggression, calling women whores and bitches featured in just under half of the scenes.
In porn, women are one-dimensional beings bound by two common characteristics: the absence of the word “no” in their vocabulary, and their readiness and enthusiasm for sex, no matter how brutal or dehumanising it may be. Women’s orifices are stretched beyond capacity, to inhumane proportions, as supposedly the more painful the act, the greater the sexual arousal is for her. This excessive pounding by a penis, which is often enlarged due to viagra, results in damaged vaginas, red raw swollen anuses, and aching jaws, etc.
Gonzo porn doesn’t bother telling stories, however porn itself tells us that women are whores by nature, and through titles like Every bitch will suck cock for a few dollars and This slut will do anything for rent money we learn every woman has a price, and can be easily bought. Astonishingly, these “whores” who love nothing more than to be fucked don’t have any sexual imagination of their own, as their desires only encompass what the man wants. Instead of seeking and asking to be pleased, their only request is for the man to penetrate harder. In porn, pregnancy, STD’s or bodily injuries never cross women’s minds. Neither are they fazed by the constant onslaught of slurs. Frankly, they are immune to being labelled sluts, stupid hoes, and dirty skanks. Women in porn seem to enjoy having sex with men that express nothing but utter contempt for them; the more horrid the insult, the greater the orgasm.
Unlike women who are portrayed as robotic whores in Pornland, men are depicted as robotic and soulless studs. Men in porn are emotionless and lifeless, well apart from their erect penis. They display zero love, respect or empathy when penetrating women, no matter how much excruciating pain their partner is in. Often, the “money shot” marks the end of a scene, when a man ejaculates on a woman’s face. This ejaculation is comparable a dog urinating on an object to mark his territory, a man does likewise, he marks this woman as his property and more so as used goods. Devoid of feeling during the sexual act, they remain as cold and unattached postcoital, and they show no affection to the woman smeared in their semen.
Feelings we normally associate with having sexual intercourse – respect, equality, tenderness, affection, connection- are omitted, and are replaced with feelings of disgust, contempt, and fear. To quote Dines “In porn the man makes hate to the woman, as each sex act is designed to deliver the maximum amount of degradation… the goal of porn sex is to illustrate how much power he has over her”. If you scrape out the respect and affection in sex, you have to fill it with something else to allow it to keep shape. Porn fills it with contempt, violence, hatred and cruelty.
When that loses men’s interest, you have to bring it up another notch and that becomes more extreme porn, then PCP, and then this inevitable route takes some men to the final destination of child porn. You may think this is an extreme analysis, but porns goal is to eroticize sadism, to quote Andrea Dworkin “Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men: this is the essential truth of pornography”.
If you still are not convinced that porn sex is about making hate, then I invite you to glance at the porn message boards where porn consumers discuss their favourite scenes. I have never read such hate towards women, and I hope I never will again. These message forums made me physically sick.
I wholeheartedly agree with Gail Dines in her assertion that the hyper-sexualised media and pornography are a public health crisis of the digital age. We cannot ignore this discussion any longer, to remain silent is to be complicit. We owe it to ourselves to figure out what sexuality looks like outside of capitalist, misogynistic, and industrialised imagery.
Collectively, we need to fight back against this pervasive and invasive industry, because as long as porn exists women will never be seen as full human beings deserving of the same rights men hold, but rather as objects, as commodities. Let’s listen to porn survivors, the same way we need to listen to survivors of prostitution. Let’s end the demand, but even more importantly, let’s end the supply.
Some sites demonstrate their intolerable negligence by making profits from videos of rape, and trafficked children. A 15 year old girl who was missing for a year was finally found after her mother received a tip that her daughter was featured in videos on a site – 58 videos of her rape were discovered on Pornhub, among other sites. We ought to hold these sites accountable for their actions and demand that they be shut down today. Pornography is a weapon, the purpose of which is to alienate men, objectify women, reinforce racial stereotypes, sexualise children, and to make some white men very rich. For us to build a just society, based on feminist and anti-racist cultures, we have to abolish the sexual exploitation industries.
DINES Gail, Pornland, comment le porno a envahi nos vies, Éditions libre.