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.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Pornography isn't certainly an easy subject to tackle, I find myself searching for some slippery middle ground between the extremes. Certainly some (perhaps most?) porn is produced in conditions which doesn't take into account the emotive aspect of the subjects involved in shooting it. But I don't think the sollution is believing that the exclusion of all things pornographic is really tackling the underlying economic reasons why some people find the sexual industry a valid "choise".

    I find it a work in progress to think about these things.