The Harm That Porn Brings

by Gail Dines

* From the Book's Introduction:

"As someone who studies porn, I am accustomed to these kinds of images, but Patricia is new to them, and it is through her eyes that I see it for what it really is: a parallel universe where the complexity of humans, the multiple pleasures of life, and the deep connections that nourish and sustain us, vanish. …. Both Patricia and I are in the middle of a world which reduces humans to orifices and body parts, bled dry of soul, personality, history, and future, as life in the porn world is only about the here and now where penetrating someone or being penetrated is all humans exist for.

... Rather than sporadic trips into a world of coy smiles, provocative poses, and glimpses of semi-shaved female genitalia, youth today, especially boys, are catapulted into a never-ending universe of ravaged anuses, distended vaginas, and semen-smeared faces. When they masturbate to the stories, acts, and narratives of the porn in a heightened state of arousal, the images send a cornucopia of messages about women, men, relationships, and sex to the brain.

... Porn, like all other images, tells stories about the world, but these stories are of the most intimate nature as they are about sexuality and sexual relationships. When men go to porn to experience sexual arousal and orgasm, they come away with a lot more than just an ejaculation, as the stories seep into the very core of their sexual identity. To suggest otherwise would be to see sex as just a biological urge, removed from the social context within which it is developed, understood, and enacted in the real world. No biological urge exists in a pure form, devoid of cultural meaning or expression, and in American society, porn is probably the most visible, accessible, and articulate teller of sexual stories to men."


* Berel Dov Lerner writes:

"The book makes an interesting and alarming set of claims regarding the affects of pornography on its users and those around them. Anyone acquainted with the history of attempts to link pornography to rape knows that this is a tricky area of investigation, and even some feminists have argued that porn can be sexually liberating. Dines tries to prove that pornography -- especially in its increasingly extreme and aggressive "gonzo" forms -- does not merely promote violence against women, rather it distorts the attitudes and expectations that people bring to normative erotic relationships. Citing evidence including her discussions with college audiences, Dines tells us that women today are expected to conform to a pornographic ideal of feminine beauty and are pressured to engage in unpleasant and degrading acts popularized by porn. Men are intimidated by the sexual athleticism of male porn stars and they confess that pornographic conditioning has undermined their ability to connect emotionally with their sexual partners."



"Gale Dines disputes the widely held assumption that the mass distribution and use of pornography is a morally neutral cultural phenomenon. She is open about the fact that we do not know for sure the consequences of saturating our culture with porn. Yet her well-evidenced critique of the industry and porn consumption are a testament to the overabundance of negative effects on women’s and men’s sexuality, relationships and culture. It is her attempt to bring to public consciousness a problem that she argues is nothing less than a public health issue.

... Media images are not harmless. They help construct our mental map of the world, and they way we make sense of our place in it. Dines has found that men who view porn begin to ask the women in their lives to replicate degrading acts that amount to abuse; they encourage them to dress, look and act like porn stars. Men who use porn become less interested in real human beings and more interested in the porn women they conjure up in their imagination; the women they date inevitably become objects that can be used and disposed of.

In her treatment of men, Dines is a voice in the feminist wilderness. What is different about this book is that one doesn’t find a scathing attack on the unrestrained appetites of men. Certainly, she is in fine form when it comes to describing how porn has turned women into objects used for the self-gratification of the unrestrained desires of porn watchers, yet she is willing to acknowledge that men too might be suffering the consequences of porn usage. She even goes as far as to argue that pornography, as it becomes the main form of sexual education for boys, is a form of violence towards them, denying them the opportunity to develop an authentic understanding of intimacy and developmentally appropriate growth. Finally we have a feminist who has widened her methodological lens, acknowledging that “repressive patriarchy” might not be able to explain the entirety of the human experience."

[Hat-tip: Ned]

Comments

Komal said…
Although this article is not entirely wrong, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with the way the issue is framed and on what the focus has been laid. Further, I disagree with the final statement that porn is violence against men.

Pornography is primarily political, and political in the context of structural inequality where women are oppressed by men (there is no symmetry here: it is women who are oppressed, and they are oppressed by men). Porn is violence against women (not men), and the reason men consume it (those who do) is out of their misogyny. It is the men who are making the porn, directing it, raping and torturing women in it, as well as buying it (thus making up its market). The porn doesn't just happen by itself and impose itself on innocent boys: it is itself the product of the male imagination. Thus, any claim that porn is violence against men is deeply anti-feminist and misogynistic. It is like saying that black slavery is violence against white slave-owners, as it prevents white slave-owners (and those white people who have inherited the privilege left over from them) from connecting in an intimate and egalitarian way with people of colour. Although such a claim may not be psychologically inaccurate, it is politically reactionary and conservative, by mis-identifying the oppressed and oppressor, thus taking sympathy away from the oppressed and not holding the oppressors to account for what they are doing.

There are two kinds of critiques of porn. One is the radical feminist kind, that sees porn as being hate speech and propaganda, creating by and for misogynistic men in order to solidify their power at the expense of women. The other is the 'health approach', that sees porn as unhealthy and damaging to everyone. The latter is reactionary, because it is apolitical, whereas the former is the right approach.
Komal said…
This is not to say that pornography is not unhealthy, but just that framing the issue in terms of health takes attention away from the political reality of it. I prefer to frame it politically, while agreeing with the claim that it is unhealthy, if the claim is made.
shakeel said…
I do not agree with the picture presented by Komal. there are always two sides of a story.
There is no denying in the fact that porn is made in a way to attract men, but not all of it. So most of it unfortunately is degrading towards women either intentionally or unintentionally.
But as far as the issue is concerned that women are the completely innocent and men are the absolute oppressors who torment women, that is not true.
Here are a few facts that show WOMEN ARE ALSO INVOLVED IN RUNNING PORN INDUSTRY;
1- DANNI ASHE can be regarded as the founder of internet pornography. DANNI's HARD DRIVE, started in early 90s, was the pioneering adult website that lead to mass market of internet pornography.
2-JOY KING, the woman who helped turn Jenna Jameson into a brand.
3-CHRISTIE ANN HEFNER, daughter of hugh hefner, has been running playboy enterprise since 1982.
similarly there are many other women in this business too. so to say men are totally responsible for porn industry is wrong. I think money is the biggest factor in the growth of porn industry. Women do porn because they want to earn cheap and fast money.It is their choice to do porn no one is forcing them except in developing countries where their is sex slavery.
shakeel said…
Today internet is the biggest source of porn and the trend of internet pornography was set by a woman, DANNI ASHE. I think that Gail Dines gave a better picture of pornography, it does affect both men and women. Both are the victim of the age which focuses more on mechanical than aesthetic aspects of life.