Robert Jensen to Speak at Amherst Books, April 6 at 5pm

The public is invited to hear Robert Jensen talk about his latest book, Getting Off: Pornography & the End of Masculinity. The talk will take place at Amherst Books, 8 Main Street in Amherst, on Sunday, April 6 at 5pm.

Jensen is an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. In Getting Off, he blends personal anecdotes from his years as a feminist anti–pornography activist with scholarly research. With his trademark conversational style, he shows how mainstream pornography reinforces social definitions of manhood & influences men’s attitudes about women & how to treat them.

In his research, Jensen draws on a variety of critical approaches to media & power. Much of his work has focused on pornography & the radical feminist critique of sexuality & men’s violence. In more recent work, he has addressed questions of race through a critique of white privilege & institutionalized racism.

In addition to teaching & research, Jensen writes for popular media, both alternative & mainstream. His opinion & analytic pieces on such subjects as foreign policy, politics & race have appeared in papers around the country. He also is involved in a number of activist groups working against US military & economic domination of the rest of the world. Aside from Getting Off, Jensen is the author several books, including, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism & White Privilege; & Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity.

See also:

Robert Jensen: Liberate Sex from Porn (explicit language)
The minute one begins to make such a critique, one can expect this response: Feminists who critique pornography are really just prudes at heart. Pornography’s opponents, we are told, are afraid of sex.

In one sense, that’s true. I am afraid of sex, of a certain kind. I’m afraid of much of the sex commonly presented in contemporary mass-marketed pornography. I am afraid of sex that is structured on a dynamic of domination and subordination. I am afraid of the sex in pornography that has become so routinely harsh that men typically cannot see the brutality of it thorough their erections and orgasms…

Hugo Schwyzer Reviews “Getting Off” by Robert Jensen
[Jensen:] People routinely assume that pornography is such a difficult and divisive issue because it’s about sex. In fact, this culture struggles unsuccessfully with pornography because it is about men’s cruelty to women, and the pleasure men sometimes take in that cruelty. And that is much more difficult for people — men and women — to face.

[Schwyzer:] The fact that some pornography is produced by and for women, the fact that some explicit material features sexual activity that is truly mutual, doesn’t mitigate the harm done by the industry as a whole. Many defenders of porn cry “But not all porn is like that”, and they point to obscure websites or specialty magazines that occupy a small niche within a much larger, thoroughly misogynistic industry. But it makes no sense — and does women no service — to deny the deleterious impact of mainstream porn on our collective humanity merely because a few tiny sectors of the “adult entertainment industry” produce material that is genuinely egalitarian and redemptive

A great many men look at porn and don’t rape women. But “not-raping” is hardly proof that porn is harmless. There are many ways in which pornography can damage our sexuality short of turning men into rapists. The discomfort and bewilderment of the girl who sent me that note, wondering why her boyfriend (who, in her own words, was otherwise a “good guy”) would even want to come on her face, makes this case with heartbreaking and stomach-churning effectiveness. The answer to the “why” is that he’s seen facials in porn. He might accept “no” for an answer, or he might just keep nagging until she gives in and lets him ejaculate on her face. She won’t be raped in the legal sense, of course, but she’ll be learning a bitter lesson about male sexuality and her own value that she didn’t have to learn…

Leaving aside — for a moment — the question of whether or not the women who perform in porn are exploited or not, there seems little doubt that the male user of porn, the fellow whose masturbatory reveries are conditioned by images of women being gang-banged or facialized or sodomized, is participating in his own exploitation. His own sense of what he really wants is shaped, distorted, and ultimately replaced by what pornography tells him he ought to want. And he grows a little more numb, a little less human, a little less kind. And as high a price as that is to pay, the price that the women in his life pay is higher still.

Shame and self-hatred, guilt and self-esteem: part two of the series on Robert Jensen, porn, and masculinity
[Schwyzer:] …Far from hating himself, or men, Jensen is calling men to love themselves, their fellow men, and women enough to transform

Beyond heat and pleasure to joy and light: the third post on Robert Jensen, porn, and sexual ethics
[Schwyzer:] …I take such a strong stand against pornography for many reasons. I think the conditions under which a great deal of pornography (not all) is produced are exploitative to the performers involved. I think there is credible evidence that long-term pornography consumption leads to a decreased ability to empathize with others, and in particular, a decreased ability to connect intimately and openly with real-life sexual partners. I’ve made that case before in many posts, just as Jensen makes it so cogently in this marvelous new book of his. But the central reason why I find pornography so troubling is that it deceives us into surrendering the chance for genuine joy.

I am not a naive virginal adolescent writing rapturously about what he or she imagines sex to be. I am not a shame-ridden middle-aged convert, either. (Okay, I’m on the cusp of genuine middle-age, but that’s as far as I go.) I think sex is pretty darned dandy, and I think pleasure is a fine thing. I like an orgasm as much as the next person, frankly. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that pleasure that comes at the expense of another living creature or of our own humanity can never lead to joy. The deepest joy comes from pleasure + connectedness, from revealing light as well as creating satisfying heat. And as strong as my libido is, my longing
for joy is stronger still. And that’s why I hate pornography.

AlterNet Reviews Robert Jensen’s Pornography and the End of Masculinity
I have always been part of the collective liberal progressive libertarian value system that accepts pornography as a legitimate expression of the First Amendment. Part of that thinking is that women participate in porn films of their own free will and that porn often represents fantasies — though sometimes quasiviolent or degrading — that people actually have. So as long as people are merely acting in porn films and there is no coercion, or law-breaking, it is acceptable.

But I’ve changed my mind. No, I’m not a prude, or anti-sex. Nor do I think there should be a national campaign to snuff out all porn. In fact, I sometimes watch certain kinds of porn. But what has become clear to me is that, under the guise of the First Amendment, a huge and powerful porn industrial complex has grown out of control. And a big part of its growth is fueled, not just by the internet, but by continually upping the ante, increasing the extremes of degradation for the women in tens of thousands of films made every year…

The debate must be pushed, and the consciousness raised. Many will say, don’t mess with the issue because it’s a slippery slope and could lead to the repression of other freedoms. I’ve concluded we need to take that chance. Male attitudes are potentially being shaped by ugly and sometimes disgusting abuse toward women. And tens of thousands of young women are being seduced and intimidated into lives of extreme public humiliation on-screen. The impact on their lives over the long run could be devastating…

[Jensen’s book] is filled with facts, data, intelligent observation and analysis, as well as examples of the raw product of an industry gone gonzo. I know this may sound like a cliche, but I guarantee that after reading this book, almost no one will think about pornography in the same way again.

What Porn Is: Selections from Mainstream Porn (explicit language)
[Robert Jensen:] …Given the ease with which video can be edited, why did the producers not edit out those expressions [pain, shame, despair]? There are two possible answers. One, they may view these kinds of expressions of pain by the women as of no consequence to the viewers’ interest, and hence of no consequence to the goal of maximizing sales; women’s pain is neutral. The second possibility is that the producers have reason to believe that viewers like the expressions of pain; women’s pain helps sales…

…from my research, both through these content analysis projects and my reading of material from the industry, it seems clear that mainstream heterosexual pornography is getting more, not less, cruel…

The pornographers want to label any collective discussion of the meaning of intimacy and sexuality as repression. They want to derail any talk about a sexual ethic. They, of course, have a sexual ethic: Anything goes. On the surface that seems to be freedom: Consenting adults should be free to choose. I agree they should. But in a society in which power is not equally distributed, “anything goes” translates into “anything goes for men, and some women and children will suffer for it…”

Robert Jensen: Influence of Pornography on Sex Offenders (explicit language)
For these men, pornography was in important factor in shaping a male-dominant view of sexuality, and in several cases the material contributed to the men’s difficulty in separating fantasy and reality. Pornography also was used by at least one of the men to initiate a victim and break down a young girl’s resistance to sexual activity. For several others it was used as a training manual for abuse, as sexual acts and ideas from pornography were incorporated into their sex lives.

Robert Jensen: When Examining Complex Social Phenomena, Scientific Method Has Limits; Listen to the Stories of the Victims (explicit language)
It is important to remember that the feminist anti-pornography critique grew out of these stories. The harms…women coerced into making pornography, forced to view pornography, sexually assaulted in ways connected to pornography, defamed by pornography, and trafficked in pornography–were identified not be experimental research but by taking seriously the lives of women…