Nov 26, 2011

Is Capitalist Pornography a Product That Dehumanizes Women?


I recently wrote about my own involvement in the pornography industry. And trust me, it IS an industry.

Much like what seems to eventually happen to everything in an uber-capitalist society, modern porn has been commodified for mass consumption via a production line mentality. There's a quality to its creation, distribution, and its consumption that's not very different from a robot punching out machine parts on the assembly line. I don't think this is up for debate. I know, because I've done it myself.

What is up for debate is porn's ultimate effect on society. I realize it's not a new debate. It's been raging on in one form or another for centuries, and it's been happening in America specifically since the 1950s.

However, there does appear to be a new twist on this debate, one that's come only since Internet technology has allowed us to perfect pornography's total industrialization: does porn sold as a capitalist product dehumanize women?

An emphatic "Yes, it does!" has consistently come from anti-porn crusader Gail Dines. Dines, a self-proclaimed "radical feminist activist", is chair and professor of American studies at Boston's Wheelock College. Loved by many and reviled by many more, Dines has been called, "the world's leading anti-pornography campaigner".

She maintains that mainstream pornography, i.e. porn that can be found by simply typing "porn" into Google, is violent, abusive, demeaning, and dehumanizing towards women, including porn products that are produced BY women themselves. It's no surprise that the porn industry doesn't share her opinion of itself.

Below is a clip of Dines debating the inherently dehumanizing nature of porn with adult superstar Ron Jeremy. If the adult industry could be distilled into the body of one person, then Jeremy would be its walking, talking, jerking, squirting incarnation. He's also pretty smart and makes some valid points in this short clip:

There's some truth in what both are saying. Dines' assertion that porn is not "your father's Playboy" anymore is certainly true. What used to be in Playboy 40 years ago is now on the cover of style mags like Vogue and Cosmopolitan. We're past the point of "provocative pictures of a woman naked in a cornfield" (she must love that phrase because she uses it in every interview I've watched).

But I think Dines overreaches by painting ALL pornography as abusive and humiliating. There is a lot of porn that's extremely hardcore and geared towards giving men the powerful rush of sexually demeaning women: calling them names, hitting them, spitting on them, pissing on them, etc.

There's also a lot of porn that's basically just voyeuristic gawking at women's "naughty bits", almost as a form of sexual worship. Something that Dines never clarifies is the difference between objectification and dehumanization.

Is the naked woman spreading in a cornfield being objectified? Absolutely. Like the arousal some men get from shoes, her body is mentally being broken down into its respective parts. Her breasts become all breasts. Her vagina becomes ALL vagina. "Putting the pussy on a pedestal", as they say in "The 40 Year Old Virgin".

That's different from putting your cock in a woman's ass and then immediately shoving it down her throat. The goal of this kind of sexual objectification is to turn women into things not worthy of love, respect, or consideration. Plus it trains men that women enjoy this kind of treatment (most of them don't enjoy it).

Gail Dines has said that "there is no room for porn in a just society". I think she's partly right, but her statement should be amended to "there is no room for dehumanizing, mass-produced porn in a just society". Stating that porn should be abolished is overreach. And if there's anything more capitalist than overreach, I don't know what it is.

Nov 19, 2011

Peak Oil and The Collapse of Civilization

Resource wars increase as civilization collapses
"What are they THINKING?! They're thinking that it's running out. It's running out, and 90% of what's left is in the Middle East. This is a fight to the death, so when you finally wake up, they will have sucked you dry. And you will have squandered the greatest natural resource in history."
- Bryan Woodman, Syriana

If you've never heard the term "peak oil" before, you're not alone. Even though the concept has been around since the 1950s, it's not something that gets bandied about much in mainstream media. I won't go into the details of it here (do you think I'm political or something?), but you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about peak oil here. Basically, it's the point where half of all the world's oil has already been extracted and consumed.

Many people believe we are at, near, or even beyond the point of maximum world oil production. In other words, total oil output is sliding along the downhill side of the bell curve while the demand for oil continues to increase rapidly.

Not that big of a deal though, right? I mean, we still have the other half to burn through before we run out. Right?

Um...don't we?

In his terrifying 2005 book, "The Long Emergency", James Howard Kunstler predicts that industrialized civilization will collapse long before we are able to extract all of the second half still in the ground. This is because the first half (that we've already blown through like a crackhead on his last bender before rehab) was the easiest to reach (i.e., not under an ocean or a frozen wasteland) and required the least amount of energy input to acquire. Also keep in mind that we used most of the first half after WWII.

Much of the second half is more difficult and expensive to extract because oil fields significantly decrease in output once they pass the mid-point of their total volume. Some of the remaining reserves also exist in difficult forms like oil shale, the extraction of which is more like strip mining than the familiar oil derrick.

Some dismiss Kunstler's exploration of peak oil as just more "collapse of civilization" doom-saying, but "The Long Emergency" doesn't read at all like a hysterical crackpot treatment of the end of the world. It's calm, rational, measured, and feels irrefutable. Not to mention deeply unsettling. One reader remarked that Kunstler is "either the craziest sane person or the sanest crazy person I've ever run across".

Crazy or not, Kunstler delivers some profound assertions that feel all too real:

  1. Modern life is based on an unsustainable model of unlimited growth that ultimately cannot continue.
  2. Almost all our technology, from electricity, transportation and food production, is based on unlimited access to cheap oil.
  3. Modern technology can't exist separate from oil, and wouldn't have developed at all without it.
  4. Most "civilized" people, particularly Americans, are oblivious of the three points above.
  5. Our lives are dependent on oil-based technologies that we don't understand.
  6. Technology has led to mass ignorance in the West about meeting life's basic necessities. How many of us could successfully feed ourselves without supermarkets and long haul trucking?
  7. Many of our mass population centers literally could not exist without unlimited energy resource access. Can you imagine Phoenix without running water or air conditioning? Like Phoenix isn't bad enough already.
  8. The "American Dream", considered by many as a birthright, will cease to exist when the oil runs out.
  9. No existing alternative energy source can take oil's place. We will not be able to simply transition our mass consumption lifestyle from oil to a different energy source. We'll be forced to drastically scale back our entire way of life.
  10. Lots of people will die when we finally begin to encounter serious oil shortages. The planet's human carrying capacity is around one billion people without oil. Current human population is nearly seven billion people.
  11. Humanity will not gracefully accept the end of the oil era. We can expect more resource wars, more poverty, and more religious extremism as people battle over dwindling oil resources.
  12. America, that shining beacon of liberty and equality, may very well not survive the end of cheap oil as a cohesive entity.
  13. We are very likely to see a mass resurgence of feudalism.
  14. Americans like to believe we're exceptional. We're not. We've just had exceptional access to the most fabulous natural resource on Earth.
  15. The modern oil era and all its resulting technologies have not fundamentally changed the human animal. Morality, government, racial and sexual equality, and "human rights" are really just tied to natural resources. Read "Guns, Germs, and Steel" if you don't believe me.
Kunstler thinks we have probably passed peak oil but says that knowing for sure can only be done via hindsight. Is he right? Is the beginning of the collapse of modern civilization upon us? I think it is, but I'm sure I can ignore it as long as there's enough gas to fill up the tank of my Suburban. After that, all bets are off.

"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nov 17, 2011

Is Pornography a Bad Drug?

Am I bad for doing porn?
I have a confession to make. I've worked in porn. No, I wasn't getting paid to fuck porn stars or have a double anal penetration gangbang with Sasha Grey after reading to schoolchildren. I'm no Peter North or Ron Jeremy.

Instead, I was one of the millions of porn salesmen that flood the Internet with smut. I worked as an affiliate for several major pornography producers. I got paid when someone bought a membership to their content. A cut of the action. A commission.

If the producers of porn are like the heroin processing centers in Afghanistan, then I was the guy who brought it to you on the street corner. You can thank me now if you'd like for helping make pornography the pervasive problem it is today. The only requirements are human greed plus the Internet.

By the way, you're welcome.

You'll notice that I refer to my porn involvement in the past tense. That's because I quit.

Now, you might think that working in porn sounds like the best job in the world. Getting paid to look at tits and ass and people fucking all day long? Awesome! So what's the problem? Well, doing pornography is a WHOLE lot harder than you might think.

You see, peddling women's asses for money isn't as easy as it looks.

For one thing, if you're in it for the money, you're definitely facing some stiff competition (sorry, I had to). Modern Internet pornography is such a recent phenomenon and has changed so quickly over the last 10 years that the market for porn is absolutely saturated. Millions upon millions of adult pictures, movies, games, and software can downloaded for free. Huge online communities trade free porn via message boards, image hosting services, alt binary groups, and also via the bane of Hollywood copyright lawyers, bit torrent software. Porn producers give away enormous quantities of free smut, hoping to entice their customers into shelling out for a monthly membership.

It's a total production-line mentality: tease the horny bastards with an endless stream of titillating content and hope it makes them wonder what you're NOT showing them. Make them feel like they need the stuff they have to pay to see.

Even though getting men to open their wallets for porn is difficult, getting men to unzip their pants and spend the wee hours of the morning frantically surfing your sponsor's porn is INCREDIBLY easy. Women and the men who sell them figured out this basic truth back in the Bronze age: leading men around by their dicks is just about the easiest thing in the world.

And that's why I had to quit. Not because of social mores or fear of what my friends might think. Hell, porn stars are practically celebrities nowadays. And not because I felt guilty about exploiting women. Every image I sold was backed up by documentation proving the performer(s) were of legal age and consenting. It was all 100% above board. I even paid my fucking taxes on the income.

I quit not because I think pornography is bad, or that masturbation is bad, or even that infidelity is bad. I quit because the rush I got out of manipulating (mostly) men was bad. Bad for me that is. It was turning me into a person I didn't like. A person consumed by the lust for power, for control, for the thrill.

I quit because I started acting like a drug addict again. A drug addict without any drugs at all. Except the porn itself.

Most of the guys who read this will know what I'm talking about. Pornography is a highly addictive substance and can progress like a really bad drug addiction. You always want more. And more. And MORE. That's what ultimately does make men open their wallets and pay up. The need for more.

The successful porn affiliates all know this and act accordingly. I knew it too, before I even started selling it. You really are a dealer, and your job is to get your customers so hooked and so strung out that it becomes easy to separate them from their cash. This was the part of pornography that was bad for me.

I've used pornography my whole life, but the bad part started when I crossed the line from merely using it to actually selling it. Have you ever heard that old druggie saying, "Never get high on your own supply"? Well, that saying also applies to selling porn, although it should be modified slightly: "Never get high SELLING your own supply".

Because that's when pornography does become a bad drug. For me. VERY bad!

Is it bad for you too?