Academic Defenders of Porn Need to Engage with Reality (explicit language)

Gail Dines is a Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College in Boston, and a long-time anti-porn activist. She writes in
Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality (1998, p.163-166):

I have met hundreds of women and men who have stories to tell about pornography and the devastating impact it has had on their lives…

I have heard about what it is like to be coerced into making pornography by parents, brothers, uncles, boyfriends, husbands, and pimps. I have listened to women tell me about being raped and brutalized by men who wanted to reenact their favorite porn scene, and I have spent time with women who were gang-raped by their male “friends” after watching pornography. The women who tell their stories speak of the lasting effects that pornography has had on their lives…

In the world of scholarly discourse, these stories are contemptuously referred to as “anecdotal evidence”, first-person accounts that may make for interesting reading, but are not comparable with real scholarship. In a world cleansed of pain and passion, the realities of these people’s lives are lost in the maze of postmodern terminology and intellectual games…

The women who have told me their stories did not make a choice to be in pornography. Being raped as a child and sold to the highest bidder does not constitute a life of choices. Running away from a sexually abusive home and being “saved” by a pimp who then turns you into one of his “girls” is sexual slavery, not choice. These women form part of the pornography industry and rather than telling their stories, many of the pro-pornography books give us detailed accounts of those few women–such as Annie Sprinkle or Candida Royalle–who have managed to switch sides of the camera. The Horatio Alger story of pornography tells us much about the endurance of mythology in America, but little about the lives of the majority of women in pornography.

To read many of the scholarly books on pornography, one would think that men who use pornography have this uncanny ability to compartmentalize their lives. It seems that just as they put their penis away after using the stuff, so too they put the images away in that part of their brain that is marked fantasy, never to leak out into actual life. This is a ridiculous assertion that does not hold up in the lived experiences of men and women… Women have talked about being forced by their partners to watch the pornography so they can learn how to dress, suck, fuck, moan, talk, gasp, lick, cry, or scream like the woman in the pornography. And many of these men get very upset if their partners don’t react the same way as the women in the pornography…

For an industry that is meant to be about fantasy, the owners are incredibly adept at marshaling material resources to fight their battles. This is no small-time operation, existing at the margins. This is an extremely powerful industry that will unmercifully destroy any potential opposition to its power. It has friends in high places and can count on employing the most seasoned and expensive of lawyers to defend their economic interests… This imbalance of power is never discussed in the pro-pornography books; indeed, we are the ones characterized as powerful while the pornographers are represented as marginalized defenders of the First Amendment working to protect the rights of the powerless…

By refusing to deal with the realities of pornography, the pro-pornography academics have chosen to defend a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry and to ignore the ways in which pornography is implicated in the oppression of women.

Leave a Reply