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Thread: The paradox of pornography

  1. #1

    The paradox of pornography

    From opednews.com:

    February 1, 2006

    The paradox of pornography

    By Robert Jensen

    Pornography’s business has always been the exposure of women’s bodies for the pleasure of men, and that was readily evident at the annual Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas last month.

    But also exposed at the sex-industry gathering was the paradox of the pornography business at this particular moment: At the same time that the pornography industry and its products are more normalized than ever in the United States, the images they produce are more brutal and degrading toward women than ever. How can it be that a once-underground industry that lived at the margins of society has become mainstream, at precisely the same time that its sexual cruelty toward women is most pronounced?

    The resolution of the paradox offers disturbing insights not just into the sexual ethics and gender politics of the United States, but into the underlying values of the entire society.

    The AEE -- which attracted 350 exhibitors to the Sands Expo Center, one of Las Vegas’ major convention facilities -- is part industry-insider gathering and part public spectacle. About 18,000 fans, the vast majority of them men, paid $40 a day to wait in long lines to pick up autographs from their favorite women in pornography and be photographed next to them. While fans indulged their fantasies, pornography producers focused on deal-making, often sounding as if their business were no different than selling shoes. In seminars, industry experts talked about improving marketing and retailing practices to expand market share and increase profits

    On the convention floor, most everyone would have agreed with Paul Fishbein, president of Adult Video News, the trade magazine that sponsors the event: “[T]he industry is ready to serve the needs of adult retailers, as well as consumers that seek to celebrate their sexuality.”

    And “celebrate” they do, with no questions asked. In Las Vegas, no one was discussing the social implications of the commodification of sexuality and intimacy in the 13,000 new pornographic videos and DVDs released in 2005. Questions about the effects of sexualizing male dominance in a $12-billion a year business were not on the table. This was a venue for self-indulgence, not self-reflection.

    Pornography -- though still resisted by some, from either a conservative/religious position or, on very different grounds, from a feminist point of view -- has become just one more form of mass entertainment in a culture obsessively dedicated to the pleasure-without-thought-about-the-consequences principle. Not everyone likes it, but few see it as worth debating.

    But the paradox remains: At the same time that it is more accepted, pornography’s content is becoming steadily more extreme. In the “gonzo” style (those films with no plot or characters, just straightforward sex on tape) that dominates the market, directors continue to push the edge, filming increasingly rougher sexual practices involving multiple penetrations of women by two or three men at a time, or oral sex designed to make a woman gag, while the language used to insult women during sex grows harsher. Since legal controls on pornography began loosening in the 1970s, pornographers have pushed the limits of sexualizing the denigration of women.

    Though the pornography industry loves to talk about growing sales to women and the so-called “couples market,” men are still the vast majority of pornography consumers in the United States. Producers and distributors I interviewed at the convention all estimated their clientele was 80 to 90 percent men.

    What do these men want to watch? It turns out they like viewing sexual acts that the majority of women do not want to perform in their lives. While there is no survey data about women’s preferences regarding multiple penetrations or gag-inducing sex, informal investigation suggests such things are not common in the day-to-day lives of most people and not sought after by most women.

    So, how can we explain the paradox? People typically do not openly endorse cruelty or the degradation of women. Yet just as those features of pornography are more extensive and intense than ever, graphic sexually explicit material is more widely accepted than ever. How can a culture embrace images that violate its stated values? Wouldn’t a society that purports to be civilized reject sexual material that becomes evermore dismissive of the humanity of women? There are two potential explanations.

    First, because of the way pornography works, most of the consumers don’t see the material as being saturated with cruelty or degradation; the sexual pleasure that pornography produces tends to derail critical viewing and thinking. When consumers are focused on the pleasure, the politics drop out of view. So, when fans I interviewed said they didn’t think the material they watched embodied male domination and female subordination, they likely were being honest. They don’t see it, because they are too absorbed in feeling the sexual pleasure to be thinking about such issues.

    But some men are quite clear about the gender politics in pornography, and they like it. Most of the advertising for the gonzo style highlights the subordination of women -- one company brags it is in the business of “degrading whores for your viewing pleasure” -- which suggests that’s exactly what some men are looking for.

    The second explanation is a painful reminder that, in fact, the United States is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation. After all, there was no sustained, collective outrage over the revelations of systematic torture by U.S. military forces, epitomized by the photos from Abu Ghraib in Iraq. One prominent right-wing commentator compared it favorably to fraternity hazing rituals, which is not entirely misguided -- fraternity hazing is routinely cruel and degrading, albeit at a much lower level.

    The United States is a society that uses brutal levels of military force, including the illegal targeting of civilian infrastructure (such as in the 1991 Gulf War, when power, sewage, and water facilities were targeted) and the routine use of weapons that military officials know kill large numbers of civilians (such as cluster bombs that continue to kill long after the conflict is over, as unexploded bombs detonate for years). The culture celebrates this as evidence of our benevolence as we “liberate” other countries.

    The United States is a society that locks up more than 2 million people, a higher percentage of its population than any other country, disproportionately non-white. The everyday conditions under which many of those human beings are kept in this prison-industrial complex are so harsh and degrading that leading human-rights groups condemn U.S. prison practices. The culture celebrates this as evidence of the superiority of our system of “justice.”

    And the United States is a society that has built thousands of glittering temples to unsustainable levels of consumption -- called shopping malls -- in this wealthiest nation in history, while nearly half the world’s people live on less than $2 a day. The culture celebrates this state of affairs as the wondrous workings of the magical market.

    So, there is no paradox in the mainstreaming of an intensely cruel pornography; pornographers aren’t a deviation from the norm. Their presence in the mainstream shouldn’t be surprising, because they represent mainstream values: The logic of domination and subordination that is central to patriarchy, nationalism, racism, and capitalism.

    What pornography says about sexuality, intimacy, and gender politics in the contemporary United States is frightening. What it says about our entire society is even more disturbing.



    Authors Website: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/%7Erjensen/index.html

    Authors Bio: Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center, http://thirdcoastactivist.org/. He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books).

  2. #2
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    My take on pornography is that it has been increasingly anger based. You look at many of the guys and they have contorted faces when they are screwing; it's almost as they are raping the girls. Not every film is like that, but for the most part I agree with the first part of the article. Pornographers have successfully detatched tenderness from sex.

    The second part of the article is a cheap shot from a anti-war creep. The US finds itself in war against non-human monsters who murdered 3000 innocent citizens on September 11, 2001. Liberals go to hell.
    Last edited by daydreamer41; 02-26-2006 at 11:53 AM.

  3. #3

    Is porn a reflection of society?

    DD41,

    I agree with you on your first point but I think your second point is a classic conservative's knee-slapping, flag waving, jingoist view that abhors any liberal view. I am not liberal or conservative on all issues. I am fiscally conservative but socially liberal.

    I think Jensen makes some valid points in trying to understand that pornography is not deviating from mainstream views that are often based on domination and racism. He may be exaggerating this link, but it is definetely there.

    GG

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    Quote Originally Posted by daydreamer41
    The second part of the article is a cheap shot from a anti-war creep. The US finds itself in war against non-human monsters who murdered 3000 innocent citizens on September 11, 2001. Liberals go to hell.
    You had to go there? (and I actually agreed with your first paragraph!) I don't recall the current now-4 year war in Irak to be against Al Quaeda, do you? i don't recall the population of Irak to be involved with the toppling of the world Trade Center, but I'll raise you their 30,000 dead to the 3000 poor people that were killed by 19 men of mostly Saudi nationality. As for going to hell for disagreeing with such obvious fallacies, I'll go but you can lead the way!

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    Daydreamer, come on. Think about what we're doing in Iraq. If Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, show me the proof. It's been four and a half years and there's nothing. Even when the administration was trying to trick the American populace into supporting the Iraq war, they never really claimed there was an Iraq link to 9/11. That lie was too much of a stretch. They used the somewhat less ridiculous line of 'WMD'.

    When Bush was asked a couple of months back about civilian casualties in Iraq, he shrugged and casually said, "about 30,000." His tone was so non-chalant it was chilling. Did any of those men, women or children have any fault in 9/11?

    I don't suppose the lives of civilians in a foreign country matter much to most Iraq war supporters, so let me appeal to you in another way. If we have to fight a war on terror-and I agree, we do-ask yourself this question: Does engaging an uninvolved nation strengthen our ability to fight our enemies? We've gone into long term debt, while bogging down and exhuasting our military against a nation that had a secular, hapless dictator at the helm. Saddam is a bad man, true, but the world is full of them. We can't fight them all. Why did we fight him?

    I'm an accountant, and have a habit of sometimes looking at the world in terms of numbers. Look at this war in numbers: over $250 billion spent.
    Roughly 2500 dead, and over 15,000 wounded. Many of these people have permanent injuries like lost limbs, paralysis, etc.

    Meanwhile, realize that combat units must be rotated because of the mentally exhausting nature of war. Therefore, our troop involvement of 120,000 is actually much greater. Combine that with our presence in Afghanistan, not to much all of our other troops on foreign soil; the UK, Germany, Japan, Korea (what the hell are we still doing there 53 years after the end of hostilities?) Overall, the 2003 Department of Defense pulication "Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and Country" listed 135 countries with US troops stationed in them.

    Meanwhile, the number of overall active military personnel in the US armed forces have been steadily declining since Reagan left office. This is a great strain and a lot to ask of the men and women in our military-many of whom are younger than me-(28).

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    BTW, I'm sorry to GG for going so of topic in this thread.

  7. #7

    back on track...

    Ladies & gents,

    No problem but let's leave Iraq aside for now even though it is an important topic. Any thoughts on this article? Is porn becoming more violent and graphic? If so, why? Is porn reflecting the degrading values of mainstream America? How is liberal society dealing with testing the limits of free speech and expression? Why do men get off on watching violent acts against women?

    It's all pretty disturbing - what a f_cked up society we live in!!!

    GG

  8. #8
    GG I agree on your last statement.

    Its too bad Jensen had to ruin a good article with an irelevant rant about US desire to dominate the world. I don`t agree with either point of view given so far. The debate on the US role in world politics is so much more of an issue but what the hell does it have to do with the politics of pornography - nothing.

    As for the article itself, I do feel that pornography has become much more extreme and what really concerns me is that it will lead to a major backlash by the moderate conservative voters in the US as they become aware of the extremity of porn and it really exceeds the limits of what even most users of porn consider acceptable. This will only hurt the rights of people in general but those rights which have been protected by the liberals in the US is also what has led to this extreme forms of porn (if anyone feels they need to challenge this statement, please do a quick review of porn on the web).

    I have nothing against porn while it stays reasonable and even think it can be healthy and helpful, but porn is now widely accesible over the net and I am quite concerned about the impact that its extreme forms are having on teens. As the article points out, men are by far the majority of users and this is like winning the lottery for teen boys. As a teen boy, I could buy Penthouse or Playboy (and read it for the articles of course) to get my fill of ``porn``. Today, teen boys just need to access the web and have access to young girls doing ``bukkake``, peeing on each other, or apparently being raped. This is far more extreme than looking at nude women. More importantly, this will often lead to the expectation by teen boys that girls will do these acts for them. I`ve already heard lots of stories that is pretty much a common sex act among high schoolers. This was not the norm 20 years ago and I`m sure that porn on the web has had some influence here. And as porn on the net gets more extreme, so will the expectations of teen boys with teen girls. There is a good chance that extremen forms of porn will lead to greater violence against ten girls and women. The problem is how do you control porn in today`s world. How do you decide what is acceptable and how do you prevent porn site operators from countries with rogue governments from selling extreme porn over the net. I also believe that the net has had a major impact on the growth of child porn which is dispicable.

    As I stated at the beginning, the result may be a major backlash in govt. policy (such as a ``war on porn``) to stop this and the result being that anything that is even remotely associated with porn, including the entire sex trade and web sites such as MERB will be driven underground.

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    I apologize if you thought that I was introducing a debate of the Iraq war. I was not.

    I thought that the article that started this thread had some really interesting points about the pornography business until I got down towards the end and the author was definitely turning into a political diatribe.

    Whether you think the war is justified or not justified, how does pornography connect to the war? I don't understand the link.

    I personally thought that the war in Iraq was a gamble. It did free 25 million people, who were being held under tyranical rule by Sadam Hussein. There were far more than 30,000 deaths that the Iraqis suffered under Hussein.

    Whether you think the war is correct or not, I am sick and tired of those against the war trying to link every part of the US Society to why we are in the war, why we elected Bush and Cheyney, why we this and why we that.

    If you can explain the legitimate link to me, go ahead.

  10. #10

    testing the limits

    DD41,

    I was suggesting that there is a link but it is obviously not a direct link. There is no question that America is a violent society and that violence is becoming fashionable and commercially viable. Why are these porn flics testing the limits of 'acceptable' free speech? Why is violence selling among porn distributors? We as a society, should be concerned when violence becomes mainstream in video games, porn flics, ultimate fighting championships, hockey, etc.

    At one point, we have to ask ourselves if things have gone too far.

    >>MakeIt, I completely agree with your post. It ties in to what I asked above. I am not a big fan of government involvement but I cannot think of any private sector initiative to clean up the internet and our TVs from this stuff. I know a lot of people will say you cannot control it and they're probably right.

    But I am very concerned with young men bombarding their minds with senseless violence against women and children.

    GG

  11. #11
    There's a saying a lie said 1000 times became a truth.

    What I want to say here is that even that everybody's have the right of practice any sexual behavior as long they dont hurt other people the practices that we can see now in porn were unacceptable 30 years ago now are seen as common stuff.
    So what's my point here? For example a gang bang was a forbidden and censored practice in movies (and life) in the past but after some time from watching that stuff and the actors and actress doing it over and over it and some people doing it in real life it became more and more accepted by the persons and enviroment and all end in the fact that was previosly seen as a "monstruos twisted disgusting practice" is now seen as just another option in the sexual buffet that some men and women enjoys. The same applies for all other extremely hardcore practices in the past were censored and now they are widely accepted by the industry and some people in real life due the fact the people were adapted mentally after been exposed to them over and over.

    While I support the tolerancy for both parties involded those who like extremly hardcore sexual practices and those who don't (I personally don't like it but I know there are some folks and girls around there that like this stuff) I think that there should be respect for all, if someone likes to be in lots of orgy's, fuck as many girls and guys as possible and have a lot of options availables in order to enjoy their sexuality fine with me I don't have any problem with them as long they dont harm others but in the same way I demand from them the same respect and tolerancy for those who don't like that stuff and don't want to be involved for example: Why a guy who doesn't like to share his girl will be forced by another guy to be involved in a some kind of threesome (guy-girl-guy) by the force or some sort of psycology blackmails? Just because the other guy likes that practices, that's rape and a brutal one. So the the people will continue to be conditionated and some practices that were seen in the past like "unnatural" or "twisted" are now seen as "common" and "normal" in the industry so the only thing that we can rely on is the tolerancy and respect for the sexuality of every and each one of the people in the sex industry and also in the real life wheter you like or not some sexual practices.

    I first look at porn when I was 15 I was looking at porn only to seek for beautiful naked women or women with little clothes also one-one man-women sexual practices and I was shocked of seeing to many "branches" that already existed in the industry who were far away of just satisfying the sexuals needs of the persons.

    B.T.W. I need to go to a only English speaking area because my skills in English are decreasing very very FAST in both grammar and pronunciation......................................

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    For General G,

    You are comparing Apples with Oranges.

    Did World War II demonstrate that the US was a violent society?

    Hell no, we were defending the world from tyranny but the war was violent.

    Is the US a violent society?

    Probably, since crime is greater in the US than most places for probably many many reasons other than we have a military. If you remember Gun Smoke and John Wayne movies where fights were common, American TV has for years misrepresented violence. The normal teen thought it was their right to punch some kid that was smaller than them in the mouth. In any state in the US, it is illegal to strike (assault and battery) another person.

    War is violent because that is the nature of war. But it is a fact that there are people in the world who want to do war with the US and the West. Just because we are trying to defend ourselves does not mean WE the US are violent. We are involved in a violent process. To do nothing would be masochistic and suicidal.

    For strike69,

    I saw my first pornography at 13, and it was too young for me to see. It was the man/woman porn, nothing extremely perverse, but at that young of an age when you are first attracted to girls, porn is a distraction for a juvenile. I was addicted. I wish I never saw it.

    I agree that the porn that is made today is way too perverse. It could screw up the minds of lots of young boys or even men (college age). The adult film industry is interested in only selling their wares and doesn't give a shit about who it may harm.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by daydreamer41
    I agree that the porn that is made today is way too perverse. It could screw up the minds of lots of young boys or even men (college age). The adult film industry is interested in only selling their wares and doesn't give a shit about who it may harm.
    Good, at least we agree on this. As for war, even my favorite conservative pundit, Bill Buckley, stated that it is high time the US got the hell out of Iraq. The only interest being defended there are the oil companies' interests. That is it; nothing to do with democracy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by General Gonad
    Good, at least we agree on this. As for war, even my favorite conservative pundit, Bill Buckley, stated that it is high time the US got the hell out of Iraq. The only interest being defended there are the oil companies' interests. That is it; nothing to do with democracy.
    If civil war breaks out, the US may have to leave because who's side would the US be on? The Shite? The Sunnis? or The Kurds?

    A civil war would be catastrophic. As far as the Oil companies, we are the oil companies. If oil were to go to $100 per barrel (and it could if a civil war broke out), the oil companies would only be passing along the buck. That oil belongs to the OPEC countries, Russia and Canada. The oil companies are the refiners and distributors. Their profits would only go up based on the percentage they mark the commodity that they buy. (Their profits may go down if supply is dramatically cut). I don't agree with Buckley on this.

    But let's not hijack your thread. I agree with you on the pornography biz.

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    Daydreamer, I got too carried with the war and I'm sorry. Forgive me. Even though we're on different sides, I understand some of your frustration with people's perceptions. Not everything in life revolves around Iraq.

    As for the increasing violence in our porn, it's symptomatic of the anger in so many Americans. We've always been a violent country. We've also always been a country with a chip on it's shoulder. We measure success by wealth and possession.
    As a result, today, everything in America is advertising. If you don't buy your kids this video game, you're a lousy parent. If you don't wear designer clothes, or drive a certain SUV, you're a loser. Americans work more hours than the people of any other country. Japan is a distant second, and I don't think the Japanese are a particularly happy people, either.
    We see everything from cars, to clothes, to sex advertised everywhere. When we can't have all that we see, we get pissed off. Young men, especially, are put in a difficult position. We're supposed to be bread winners, and make lots of $, while at the same time we're supposed to support equality in the workplace.
    There IS equality in the workplace, at least for MY generation. Actually, according to a recent study, women are 15 times more likely than men to become a top executive before the age of 40. And don't even get me started on how American boys are lagging behind in school. My son is only 1, and I already worry about the gender gap in American schools-I worry about the next generation of American men.
    Meanwhile, one trend remains unchanged. With few exceptions, women continue to only marry men who earn more than them. This is reflected in the fact that the top wage earners among women are either unmarried, or occasionally, married to super wealthy men.

    What does this have to do with porn?

    Alot of frustrated, fucked up young men. Daydreamer, I don't think you know how right you are about the effects of violent porn. ABC had a piece on the effects of this type of 'entertainment'.
    Most of the acts performed are acts no woman would want done to her. It is about dominance/submission. Problem is, these men are going to be even more frustrated when they find this out first hand.

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