Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gail Dines Book “Pornland” and How Pornography Destroys Intimacy and Hijacks Sexuality

I saw a link to this interview on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. Gail Dines is professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College and an expert on pornography. Dines' book Pornland looks at the effects of contemporary pornography on society. It's a pretty sobering assessment and an interesting interview. An interview excerpt:


In the preface of your book, you share a personal story about a conversation you had with your son over pornography. You write, “I said [to him] that should he decide to use porn, that he was going to hand over his sexuality—a sexuality that he had yet to grow into, that made sense for who he was and who he was going to be—to someone else.” How and why do boys and young men give their power away to pornography? What kind of power does pornography have in shaping boys’ and men’s perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs toward sex?

Boys and men don’t realize the power they’re giving away to pornography. They don’t understand the power it has to shape who they are, their sexuality, and their sexual identity. In this culture, we think of pornography as a joke or something to laugh about. We don’t take it seriously as a source of information that has the ability and power to impact on the way we think about the world. Most boys and men go to pornography for an ejaculation; they come away with a lot more. I don’t think they’re quite aware of it.

Pornography, like all images, tells stories about the world. It tells stories about women, men, sexuality, and intimacy. In pornography, intimacy is something to be avoided, and—as I say in the book—“In pornography nobody makes love. They all make hate.” The man makes hate to the woman’s body. It’s about the destruction of intimacy.

Is it true that what most boys and men see in current trends of pornography are things that they expect in sex? How did that happen, and how is it impacting on boys’ and men’s perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs toward sex?

Well, a lot of people don’t know what pornography is. The first thing I do in the book is very purposefully describe it in detail. I know that for many people it’s going to be hard to read. I understand that. But if you’re really going to understand what I’m saying and why I’m saying it, then you have to understand the material I’m talking about. A lot of older men and women think I’m talking about Playboy from 15 years ago: a centerfold or a woman with no clothes on smiling in a cornfield. They think, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, that was bad enough in the way it objectified women, but we’re on a whole new level now with this kind of imagery.

How it got to this point is the Internet. It made it more accessible, affordable, and anonymous. You’re seeing a massive rise in use, and the users are getting younger and younger. Children who are 11½ years old are now looking at pornography because it comes straight into the home. There’s no limit on how much you can access. It used to be you had to steal father’s Playboy or Penthouse. Use was limited to how much you could actually pilfer. Today it is unlimited.

So what happens is that desensitization sets in that much quicker and that much earlier. In order to keep the consumer base going, the pornographers have to keep upping the ante. They make it more violent, body-punishing, or abusive as a way to keep men interested. When you think about it, if you’re exposed to it at age 11 or 12, you’re jaded by 20. You’re certainly jaded by 30. Pornography bleeds sex dry of intimacy, emotions, and connection. Once you do that, then there’s not much left. It becomes boring and mechanical. So you have to keep feeding newer and newer ideas just to keep [the audience] interested.

You describe Gonzo porn as “body-punishing sex.” Why is it body-punishing, why is it prevalent today, and what do people need to know about it?

It’s body-punishing because the male performers pound away at a woman’s body. You often see three men orally, vaginally, and anally penetrate her over and over again for 20 minutes or more, and these are often Viagra-fortified penises, so they stay hard much longer. A woman’s body has limits. All of ours do. What you see in Gonzo porn is a woman’s anus that is red and sore and a swollen vagina. All of these things happen because of the way a woman’s body is treated. Even the pornography industry says that Gonzo is very demanding and potentially dangerous for women. If the industry is saying it, then there’s certainly a problem.

What I’ve found with my interviews with men is the more they watch, the more they want porn sex, because they become habituated to that kind of industrial-strength sex. Once you become habituated to that, anything else looks boring or uninteresting. What I find is that some men lose interest in their partners altogether and use more pornography. Other men nag and cajole their girlfriends to perform porn sex, or they use prostitutes because that’s who they think they can play this porn sex out on.

Remember that you are not just reading or looking at porn. You’re actively masturbating and having an orgasm to it. It has a very visceral response in the body. This is one of the reasons it is so powerful.

How/why does pornography misuse and abuse the concepts of sex and how/why does pornography normalize the idea that pain is pleasure?

Well, it’s because of the way the woman’s body is treated. In pornography, no matter what you do to her, no matter how much you physically or verbally abuse this woman, she loves it. She can’t get enough. What I find fascinating and upsetting at the same time is…

Men believe that!

… That’s right. They believe it. I’ve had men argue with me that they believe women like it. So when I say to them, “What’s your evidence? Have you seen any empirical studies? Have you interviewed these women?” No, of course they haven’t. They’re using the text as their evidence because she’s saying “I love it! Give it to me harder!,” when of course she has no choice. First of all, she wants to get paid. She has to say that, and if she wants to continue working in pornography, she has no choice.

Read the entire interview HERE.

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