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Stop Porn Culture Conference, Wheelock College, June 2010

Tuesday Jun 22, 2010

I am starting my blog today to celebrate the publication  of my new book, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. It is now available for purchase on Amazon.

We just had our Stop Porn Culture Conference at Wheelock College in Boston. It was a great success with over 120 participants from across the country as well as from Australia, the UK and Norway. Below is my opening speech:

Welcome to the Stop Porn culture Conference of 2010. We are thrilled to host these two days of keynotes and workshops and to provide a space where we can discuss the harmful effects of an industry that saturates our society with misogynistic and racist images. In this room we have women and men who are activists, anti-violence experts, academics, anti-racist educators, students and citizens who feel deep in their gut that something is wrong with the culture.  Everywhere we look we see what it means to live in a pornified culture where the images, themes and stories of porn seep into our everyday lives. Whether it be teens sexting or Miley Cyrus doing a pole dance, the dominant discourse around sex and sexuality has been hijacked by the pornographers.

We come together this weekend to share ideas and discuss strategy and we do this because we recognize that we need to build a robust movement that takes on this predatory industry. This weekend you are amongst friends.   It is not often that those of us opposed to porn find a place where we can feel welcome. The academy has basically turned us into outliers, the mass media has caricatured us, and we are ridiculed and insulted all over the web.

If the chatter is to be believed then we are, wait for it, anti-sex prudes who hate men and scream rape every time a woman has sex with a man. To read about us it would appear that we against fun, sexual creativity, playfulness, masturbation and of course orgasms. We are depressing, unappetizing and worse yet, out to ruin everyone else’s sex life.

Of course all of this is just a way to belittle us and legitimize the porn industry.  I would say that anti-porn feminists are pro-sex in the real sense of the word, pro that wonderful, fun and deliciously creative force that bathes the body in delight and pleasure. And what we are actually against is porn sex. A sex that is debased, dehumanized, formulaic and generic, a sex based not on individual fantasy, play or imagination, but one that is the result of an industrial product created by (mostly) men who get excited, not by bodily contact, but by market penetration and profits. A sex that encodes deep cultural scripts of male entitlement and female subservience.    

To appreciate just how bizarre it is to collapse a critique of pornography into a critique of sex, think for a minute if we were critiquing McDonald’s for its exploitive labor practices, its destruction of the environment, and its impact on our diet and health. Would anyone accuse us of being anti-eating or anti-food?  I suspect that most readers would separate the industry (McDonald’s) and the industrial product (hamburgers) from the act of eating and would understand that the critique was focused on the large-scale impact of the fast food industry and not the human need, experience, and joy of eating. So, why, when we talk about pornography, is it difficult to understand that one can be a feminist who is unabashedly pro-sex but against the commodification and industrialization of a human desire? The answer of course is that pornographers have done an incredible job of selling their product as being all about sex, and not about a particular constructed version of sex that is developed within an industrial setting.

Understanding that porn is an industry means that it needs to be needs to be understood as a business, whose product evolves with a specifically capitalist logic. This is a business with considerable political clout, with the capacity to lobby politicians, engage in expensive legal battles, and use public relations to influence public debate. Like the tobacco industry, this is not a simple matter of consumer choice; rather the business is increasingly able to deploy a sophisticated and well-resourced marketing machine, not just to push its wares but also to cast the industry’s image in a positive light.  As a major industry, the porn business does not just construct and sell a product; it constructs a world in which the product can be sold: the technologies, the business models, the enthusiastic consumers, the compliant performers, the tolerant laws, even the ideologies that proclaim porn to be the very pinnacle of empowerment and liberation.

As anti-porn feminists we refuse to buy into the porn equals empowerment argument and instead look at the industry from a critical and macro perspective. This means looking for patterns and explaining how they came to be, their dynamics and the structural forces that perpetuate them. We acknowledge that some women can make porn work for them. Jenna Jameson is fabulously rich, Sasha Grey is on the fast track to becoming a major crossover star, and Tera Patrick is a one woman industry. But for all the Jennas, Sashas and Teras, there are thousands of women that go to the San Fernando Valley with stars in their eyes and come away with scars on their bodies. Some go back to their low paid jobs while others end up on the streets under the control of pimps, in the brothels of Nevada, or doing the type of porn that is considered to be beyond the mainstream, even by the porn industry.

You won’t be seeing these women on Oprah or on Howard Stern. These are the women the pro-porn people never want to talk about because they bring into stark focus just how the industry really treats women. Their lives illustrate the contempt and utter disregard that the industry has for women and the reality of their lives is hidden behind the mantra of “well they consented”. What does consent mean in a world where women are the poorest, hungriest and most overworked group. What does consent mean in a world where according to economics Amartya Sen, 100 million women are missing? And we don’t even notice their absence. For these women, gender isn’t some abstract concept to be played with or deconstructed within a post-modern discourse, it is a lived experience and it shapes, determines and controls the conditions of their lives.

One of the core principles of anti-porn feminism is that we see all women’s lives as connected. This doesn’t mean that we all have the same experiences but that living within a male supremacist world affects the range and amount of choices we have. Some women, especially those with economic privilege, have more choice than those who are economically and racially oppressed.  To assume that a woman who is filmed as she being penetrated in every orifice by men who call her a slut or cumdumster has the same choices as me is to willfully ignore how macro systems of inequality operate on the individual level.

Now if you want to talk choice let’s talk about men’s choices. They are the main consumers of porn and it seems, if porn producers are to be believed, that they are demanding even more hardcore images. Why? According to the pornographers the answer is boys will be boys, a particularly reactionary and biological view that posits that men are by nature violent. The irony of all of this is that feminists, despite our man-hating image, refuse to believe that men are born violent. We see the misogynist culture as grooming men for porn and that young boys are socialized to develop a taste for hard core.

Anti-porn feminists are often accused of showing only the worst of the porn on the internet. There is no doubt that there is a range of porn but the industry itself says that the hard core, body punishing type is the most popular. AVN, the trade journal of the industry, says that such porn, called gonzo by the industry, is “the overwhelmingly dominant porn genre since it is less expensive to produce than plot orientated features.” Indeed, the more glossed up, soft focus feature films also sell but go on the internet, type porn into Google and you will see that we are not selecting out only the most brutal.

Now for some good news. When we started SPC in 2008, we wanted to develop an organization that primarily raised public awareness as to the harms of pornography. In just a few years we have been incredibly successful as our numbers have grown and our slide show, Who Wants to be a Porn Star is now given all over the country, as well as in Israel, France, and Russia. It is used in colleges, community centers, rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters. We have held four training sessions on how to give the slides show and we now have a second slide show, thanks to Rebecca, called It’s Easy Out Here for a Pimp: How a Porn Culture Grooms Kids for Sexual Exploitation.

Our experiences, as well as the email we get, tell us that there is a groundswell of people who are enraged with the porn culture. There are women who will not tolerate their partner’s porn use, men who refuse to be manipulated by the porn industry, teachers and parents who develop media literacy skills in their students and children and there are therapists, anti-violence experts, and community organizers who dedicate themselves to dealing with the harms of pornography.

We are here this weekend to harness this energy and to publicly signal that we will not capitulate to the porn culture.  We will not fall victim to the lies, obfuscations and plain old bullshit that the pornographers disseminate. They are corporate predators and unless we organize against them, they will continue to infiltrate our lives. This is our culture and we want it back.


4 Comments »

Turgay Gunduz:

Thank you professor for your excellent effort to stop porn culture, the anti-human behaviour, and congratulations for your new book, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. I will get and read the book as soon as possible.

July 10th, 2010 | 10:09 am
mhc:

Pornography and Rape Culture

Question: Pornography helps to create a rape culture.

Results:
Strongly agree 35.4%
Agree 22.7%
Some pornography does 18.8%
Disagree 11.0%
Strongly Disagree 8.4%
I have no idea 3.6%

Responses: 308

The results of this poll do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Men Can Stop Rape. The results are not scientific and solely reflect the opinions of those Internet users who have participated.

Copyright © 2007 Men Can Stop Rape E-mail: info@mencanstoprape.org
P.O. Box 57144 Washington, DC 20037

July 11th, 2010 | 2:52 pm
mhc:

This is very disturbing!

Sasha Grey, The Dirtiest Girl in the World: The Story Behind the …
Apr 29, 2009 … Rock & Roll Daily, Your non-stop music news source. … Sasha Grey is the adult industry’s reigning princess of porn, a rock & roll …

http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/…/sasha-grey-the-dirtiest-girl-in-the-world

Gail,

In the many comments there are many women including quite a few educated women saying they love porn and they love Sahsa. Many people said that her porn videos are very abusive and degrading and violent.Infact 2 hetersosexual young men who said they both like to explore sexually,were really appaled at how abusive,degrading and violent her porn videos really are one of these men said he actually cried when he saw it.Many posters called her a dumb bitch,slut and whore.

One woman Stacey,who said she is an attractive educated woman,and a nurse practitioner said she loves porn and that she watched her first Sasha Grey video today(posted in July 2009) and she disturbingly said although very arousing,the first thing I thought was holy sh*t I wonder if her parents have seen this?! She then says,no judgement ,if that’s what you want to do then do your thing sweetie.She then says,I do find extremely irritating when I hear over and over again about her intelligence and talent.She then says,umm really? And then disturbingly says that what she saw today was a pastey little rag doll guzzling the spooge of 15 dirtbags lol! She then says that she was getting rammed simultaneously in both orafices hard and fast for a looongg time! She then disturbingly says,again I have no problem with porn,but to crown this chick as highly intelligent because she watched a couple of French films and claims to be a feminist is comical! Furthrmore for those of you who say she isn’t doing any damage to her body, you obviously have no medical backround. I’m a nurse practitioner and there is no way what Shasa did in that video was anything close to healthy!

She then says,wearing a diaper by 30? I think that’s a little far fetched but the girl is gonna have some issues for sure if she keeps this up! Then she says my point is putting your health in jeopardy in this way makes you a retard not a member of MENSA. She then says that Sasha was definitely diddled by uncle Jerry as a child and has some serious issues. And then she asks why else would you drink enema milk out of some greasy dudes ass? :( :evil: :pukeleft:

Another woman cumslut, said she is an educated emotionally healthy woman(she is really very sick! hopefully it was really a man and that is bad enough) said that Sahsa’s videos aren’t dirty enough for her,what she really means is that they aren’t violent,abusive and degrading enough for her.She also said imho it’s all you close minded inhibited sheep that are f*cking up this world.

People said that Sahsa is often hit,and choked from being throat f*cked by many men at the same time,and gang banged vaginally and in her sh*thole by many men at the same time and then ejaculated on her face and in her mouth and she sawllows all of the men’s semen.Please read all of the many comments they show the effects and influence of pornography and the extent of the mainstreaming and acceptance of even this more extreme abusive types.

July 11th, 2010 | 2:54 pm
mhc:

I also said,Gail you are brilliant and so totally right on!Thank you for speaking the much needed ugly truth,and for the important work you do trying to change this totally screwed up porn male dominated woman-hating,sick sexist society! As Rhea Becker used to say to me many years ago when I spoke with her,we live in a very sick society and we live in a society that hates women,and pornography is a big reason why!

July 19th, 2010 | 12:06 pm
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