Gail Dines is a professor of American Studies at Wheelock College in Boston. She is helping to organize the National Feminist Antipornography Movement. In her essay with Robert Jensen, “Pornography Is A Left Issue”, she calls on members of the left to apply the same critical thinking to pornography and its impact as they do to other aspects of media, capitalism, and the structure of society.
Dr. Dines will make a presentation on “Sex(ism), Identity and Intimacy in a Pornographic Culture” at The Media Education Foundation, 60 Masonic Street, Northampton, MA, on Saturday, August 26, at 7:30pm.
Please enjoy this excerpt from the essay:
“Contemporary mass-marketed heterosexual pornography–the bulk of the market for sexually explicit material–is one site where a particular meaning of sex and gender is created and circulated. Pornography’s central ideological message is not hard to discern: Women exist for the sexual pleasure of men, in whatever form men want that pleasure, no matter what the consequences for women. It’s not just that women exist for sex, but that they exist for the sex that men want.
“Despite naïve (or disingenuous) claims about pornography as a vehicle for women’s sexual liberation, the bulk of mass-marketed pornography is incredibly sexist. From the ugly language used to describe women, to the positions of subordination, to the actual sexual practices themselves–pornography is relentlessly misogynistic. As the industry “matures” the most popular genre of films, called “gonzo”, continues to push the limits of degradation of, and cruelty toward, women. Directors acknowledge they aren’t sure where to take it from the current level.
“This misogyny is not an idiosyncratic feature of a few fringe films. Based on three studies of the content of mainstream video/DVD pornography over the past decade, we conclude that woman-hating is central to contemporary pornography. Take away every video in which a woman is called a bitch, a cunt, a slut, or a whore, and the shelves would be nearly bare. Take away every DVD in which a woman becomes the target of a man’s contempt, and there wouldn’t be much left. Mass-marketed pornography doesn’t celebrate women and their sexuality, but instead expresses contempt for women and celebrates the charge of expressing that contempt sexually.
“Leftists typically reject crude biological explanations for inequality. But the story of gender in pornography is the story of biological determinism. A major theme in pornography is that women are different from men and enjoy pain, humiliation, degradation; they don’t deserve the same humanity as men because they are a different kind of creature. In pornography, it’s not just that women want to get fucked in degrading fashion, but that they need it. Pornography ultimately tells stories about where women belong–underneath men.
“Most leftists critique patriarchy and resist the system of male dominance. Gender is one of those arenas of struggle against domination, and hence an arena of ideological struggle. Put an understanding of media together with feminist arguments for sexual equality, and you get the anti-pornography argument.”