Not Oprah’s Book Club: Getting Off

getting off.jpgFor most of my young life, I’ve avoided thinking about or watching pornography. Sure there was that time that my gal pals and I got a porn flick in a hotel room on spring break “just to see� or the afternoon Gareth and I spent researching feminist porn and finding scary titles like Dungeon Mistress. I’ve browsed and I like to check out Bust’s one-handed read, but generally I’ve steered clear of porn or, even, truth be told, erotica. (Somehow I even missed studying pornography in college or grad school.)
I never made a conscious decision; it was just one of those subconscious, self-protective moves. I think I sensed that there was a “point of no return� quality to being aware of what was really out there and I was scared to go down that road just as I was developing my sexual identity and getting involved in relationships (in my case, heterosexual).
But I’ve really loved Robert Jensen’s work on Alternet and I’m obsessed with masculinity studies, so when I saw that his new book was Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, I had to read it.
I was right about the “point of no return� thing…

Jensen’s book rocked my world. I don’t mean that in the sense that I LOVED it. I mean that in the sense that it totally shook the foundations of my understanding of men, women, contemporary culture, sex, porn etc. It made me question my previous assumptions about where we—the royal We—are with regards to sex and power. It made me question every single one of my guy friends (poor unsuspecting dudes) about their use of porn and what they thought it all meant. It made me, well, fucking sad.
In addition to some riveting personal essay writing about why he became interested in the topic etc., Jensen does a really rigorous analysis of the top selling films in heterosexual pornography today. His argument is that out of both “features� (soft core) and “gonzo� (hard core), a $10 billion annual industry, a few basic themes are common:

All women at all times want sex from all men;
Women like all the sexual acts that men perform or demand; and
Any woman who does not at first realize this can be easily turned with a little force. Such force is rarely necessary, however, for most of the women in pornography are the “nymphomaniacs� that men fantasize about

I won’t expose you to his analysis at length here, but suffice it to say that he reports such dialogue as this being heard: “Can these fuck toys be any dumber?� It’s not hard to guess that he takes this analysis and then projects it the contemporary landscape of sex, violence, and power more generally, rape culture, and continued repression of both men and women’s authentic selves (sexually and otherwise). Eventually he goes so far as to attest that “we live in a world that hates women.�
This is where I keep getting snagged in Jensen’s analysis. He is utterly convinced that we live in a culture that—by and large—wants to see women humiliated, submissive, and in pain. He argues for totally eradicating, not reforming, masculinity: “I cannot escape a simple conclusion: If men are going to be full human beings, we first have to stop being men.� His prose reeks of self-hate and desperation.
But this doesn’t ring true with my experience of the world today. Yes, there is still massive repression in various places and contexts. Yes, rape is still horrifyingly common and America, in particular, is totally screwed up about sex. But there have also been big changes in the way that women and men interact over the last few decades. There are some truly liberating porn films and erotica outlets (see Rachel Kramer Bussel’s work) putting women in charge of their own sexuality and giving them a setting within which to explore what feels good.
There are times when Jensen feels too eager to only see the evidence that supports his worldview, as opposed to being open to the contrary. I totally agree with him that the top selling films which he analyzes are horrifying and symptomatic of a culture that associates sex with humiliation, domination, and degradation. I totally agree with him that there are people—men in particular—who are not taking enough responsibility for aligning their sex lives with their values. And I totally agree with him that the associations men (and women) develop about sex while watching porn carry over into real life. I’ve never bought the idea that porn consumption has nothing to do with real sex.
He asks critical questions, like:

When a man who thinks of himself as one of the good guys engages in the habirtual use of misognynistic pornography, does it affect his attitude toward women and/or his sexual behavior?
Can the habitual use of pornography, given its addictive like qualities, lessen men’s ability to make meaningful intimate connections with a partner?
Why do some men find the infliction of pain on women during sexual activity either (1) not an obstacle to their ability to achieve sexual pleasure or (2) a factor that can enhance their sexual pleasure?
Of all the ways in which people might possibly understand and use sexuality in their lives, which are most consistent with human flourishing?

All great questions, BUT I don’t believe that masculinity is inherently evil or that there is no room for the representation of sex, or the so-called “objectification� of bodies. I know I get turned on by abstract images of beautiful bodies—both male and female; does that mean my mind has been infected by porn culture? It actually feels quite authentic and loving to me, not degrading as Jensen claims all images of body parts are.
And what about women (or men) who actually enjoy playful pain with their sex? Feminist erotica has plenty of painful play in it. Would Jensen argue that these women are self-hating? He doesn’t allow for much natural variation in what turns people on.
Still, Jensen has my number:

Men have a stake in believing that we are not really like that. Women have a stake in believing that men really don’t see them that way. For each party, facing the truth often feels as if it is too much to bear. So we turn away and pretend.

I’m not going to pretend anymore, thanks to Jensen, but I’m still trying to figure out where I can authentically stand on the issue—not out of a place of fear, not out of a place of ignorance, not out of a place of naivety, but also not out of a place of pessimism or intolerance. I want to keep having these dialogues, keep reading, and find my own truth about it. Anyone else have theirs’ figured out?
Next week: Woodward and Bernstein by Alicia Shepard and the week after that Women Who Light the Dark by Paola Gianturco.

Join the Conversation

  • Sayna

    I’m not a fan of Andrea Dworkin at all, but I am a fan of debunking urban legends.
    RE: Incorrect Dworkin Quote to the rescue!
    They actually say that the quote is misattributed to Catherine Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin.

  • Sayna

    I’m not a fan of Andrea Dworkin at all, but I am a fan of debunking urban legends.
    RE: Incorrect Dworkin Quote to the rescue!
    They actually say that the quote is misattributed to Catherine Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin.

  • Jeff Wegerson

    I am a man. There is porn that I enjoy. I am very concerned about exploitation and objectification and its effects on the people at both ends of those power relationships. I am willing to examine how and why I maintain my own sexual identity.
    I listened to an interview of Mr. Jensen with as open a mind as I feel I am capable. I was left feeling uncomfortable and uncertain whether that discomfort was with him or myself as I imagined he might view me.
    Thank you very much for writing your own careful and nuanced view of his views. It has given me additional basis for judging my reactions.
    As an ancestor of Europeans, acculturated by U.S. social norms, I struggle with racism all the time, including the reverse racism of bending over backwards. So I do not expect perfection in my racial identity, just constant effort.
    I view sexual politics as even more difficult.
    So thanks again for your very, as I said, nuanced remarks on Jensen.

  • Hugo Schwyzer

    I’ll be posting on this tomorrow, folks — and just a friendly warning, Courtney, I’ll be taking gentle issue with your characterization of Jensen’s prose as reeking of “self-hate and desperation.”
    And yay for Schwyzer’s law, even if it doesn’t survive this thread.

  • kissmypineapple

    CarmelizedMe: I wasn’t saying that it never happens, I meant, I don’t care if a man or woman who gets off to the image of a woman being brutalized never actually brutalizes a woman. He/She might as well have. And for that, he/she is a misogynist to the bone.

  • ShifterCat

    To all the posters who’ve said, for one stance or another, “We can’t tell whether the sex workers in porn movies have been coerced” — actually, to an extent, you can. As this post points out, a lot of porn actors have blogs, or at least webpages wherein they answer fan mail. Google the names.
    Also, if Company A has a good record with its employees, and Company B’s employees are silent (or worse, some of them have tearful revelations of abuse), then stay the fuck away from Company B.
    It is my opinion, though, that consumers shouldn’t have to do this. This is why we really need inside-the-industry watchdogs.

  • ShifterCat

    Dallas: I’d also add Nina Hartley’s instructional videos and the Girlfriends Films studio.
    I have a lot of praise in particular for Girlfriends Films. They do movies by and for lesbians, featuring actresses who wear pretty clothes and choose their own toys. They show lots of kissing, foreplay and afterplay. The only objection I have is that they keep those silly fake fingernails on.
    And these things sell. They sell to men, to women, to straight couples and to lesbian couples. My store can barely keep them on the shelves. Not only that, but my husband, who is probably the pickiest guy in the world when it comes to video porn, actually likes Girlfriends movies.

  • Shadowen

    I just want to point out that some of the terminology used in the article–it might be Courtney’s or Mr. Jensen’s–is off.
    1) Softcore is used to describe any movie where there is full nudity, kissing and groping, and all the right motions, but no onscreen penetrations or ejaculations.
    2) Hardcore is used to describe any movie with full nudity and explict penetration and/or ejaculation.
    3) Feature is used to describe any movie with a plot, softcore or hardcore.
    4) Gonzo is used to describe any movie that breaks the fourth wall. This can be done in any number of ways–interviews, narration that the performers or crew act on, lack of editing, etc. These movies usually have no plot, even if they are scripted. In any case, gonzo porn is presented as being reality, with camera trying to make the viewer feel as though he or she is there.
    Just thought I’d pick some nits.

  • sotonohito

    Knot If you want to argue that the term “rape fantasy”, while technically accurate should be avoided and actively cast down for political reasons, I can definately see and even agree with the point.
    But that doesn’t seem to be what many people here are saying, and that’s where I still find myself baffled. It seems as if they are denying that people actually have those sorts of fantasies, and that’s simply factually incorrect.
    On topic, I’ve often wondered if it’d be possible to establish a “non-abusive porn” label. To qualify a company would have to pay decent wages, meet criteria regarding treatment of actors, the labeling agency would maintain a complaints line for actors to report violations of the code, etc. I honestly don’t see it working (mainly because it’s been an abject failure as far as anti-sweatshop labels go) but its an interesting thought.

  • Jovan1984

    I am a sex-positive feminist man and I have to say that there is no more than approximately 20% of all porn that is out there that does not degrade women in any way form or fashion. Playboy, oddly enough, is the only big name that is part of that 20%.
    The rest of the 80% of porn is the type that the Dworkinites are talking about. And of the 80% that is misogynist, nearly all of that porn is on video. Just a little fyi. And hardcore porn is misogynist porn and what Betty Boondoogle refers to as rape, fyi.
    I haven’t bought any porn since December 2005. I quit reading books in July 2006. I haven’t been able to read what I want to, because what I want to read ends up being censored by some group of people who oppose the material on religious grounds or because they lump that material as degrading to a certain group.

  • Betty Boondoggle

    Catch-all response post:
    sotonohito –
    “I honestly do not get where you are going, or what your point is, with your rejection of the term “rape fantasy”.”
    I read the whole post but it’s so pathetic there’s little point in repeating myself again. I’ve explained it multiple times now. You’re clearly refusing to get it.
    “while technically accurate should be avoided and actively cast down for political reasons, I can definately see and even agree with the point.
    But that doesn’t seem to be what many people here are saying”
    Incorrect. I, and others, talked about exactly this.
    “It seems as if they are denying that people actually have those sorts of fantasies, and that’s simply factually incorrect.”
    Incorrect. It was stated – many MANY times by myself and others – that no one is saying no one has rape-simulation fantasies (who ever coined that – well done)
    “BUT, whenever I have happened to be on their computer, I have found extremely degrading pornography.”
    It goes back to something Ginmar has said quite a few times. Liberal men are still men raised in a patriarchy. Patriarchy wants us to believe that there’s a class of women that’s acceptable to abuse. Those “immoral dirty wantom sluts who sell it for money”, etc. So, equality-minded liberal men tell themselves porn is “just a fantasy” and the actresses “get paid lots of money” to convince themselves they’re doing nothing wrong while watching misogynistic porn. But all they’re really doing – aside from being colossal hypocrites – is treating a group of women as the group that it’s acceptable to abuse.
    Kevin E. Cleary
    ” and I must say I disagree with the idea that viewing pornography leads to the commission of violent sex crimes. and I must say I disagree with the idea that viewing pornography leads to the commission of violent sex crimes.”
    And who, praytell, said that it does?
    “I meant, I don’t care if a man or woman who gets off to the image of a woman being brutalized never actually brutalizes a woman. He/She might as well have. And for that, he/she is a misogynist to the bone.”
    By viewing, by paying for it, by getting off on it they are perpetuating the market for it. They may not personally brutalize anyone, but they’re GUARENTEEING that more women will be brutalized.
    So while I can appreciate the predictament the poster above demonstrates with the “they just can’t find non-degrading free porn” thing. I have to say, cry me a river. You could just stop looking at free internet porn and thereby stop being part of the problem altogether.
    Funny how that occurs to them. Its like addiction.
    ShifterCat – ” a lot of porn actors have blogs, or at least webpages wherein they answer fan mail. Google the names.”
    I find one problem with this suggestion.
    Someone who makes their living from being in porn is hardly a non-baised source. It’s possible (and possibly likely) they are telling the total truth. It’s also somewhat possible that they say whatever they’re told to say, or whatever they think is acceptable to say, so as not to be blacklisted (as it were) from continuing to work. Nopornnorthhampton has a piece on exactly this.
    Like the suicide girls, for example. They also have blogs. Blogs that are edited for content by the company that owns the label. Again, hardly non-biased.

  • Tina

    Oh man. I have wanted to stay away from this thread, and the thread from the last time the book was mentioned. But I find I need to respond to a few things.
    Various studies have showed that around 90% of sex workers (talking about all kinds of sex workers here) were sexually assaulted prior to the age of 18.
    F****************ck this. As a sex worker and sex work activist for 13 years, I am INCREDIBLY sick of this bullshit argument. Really, Ninapendamaishi? Show me that study. I’d love to see it. The reality is that in the general population, 1 in 4 women are thought to have been assaulted at some point in their lives. In my experience, and I have met a lot of hookers over the years, that number, which is disturbingly high already, does not tend to be any higher in the sex industry. But I don’t expect you to accept my empirical statistics anymore than I accept your overinflated, unsourced statistics. Suffice to say, maybe you people should think about the misogyny, classism (is that a term anyone on tis site is familiar with?), and racism inherent in implying that women who work in the sex trade are nearly universally there because they are damaged and unable to make decisions for themselves. We are infants who need your help! Oh please oh please save us! This argument is oversimplistic, it ignores the complex and contradictory experiences of sex workers and lumps us all uselessly into a victim category. It obscures the reality of the dangerous working conditions and coercion that actually DO occur in the sex trade, keeping them from ever really being dealt with. If you really want to see conditions in the industry improve and less women there who don’t want to be, why don’t you start by addressing the sexism that makes the sex industry one of the only places where a woman with no formal education can make enough money to support herself well, in fact can make more than a man. Why don’t you look into the welfare cuts, the lack of state-funded childcare or drug rehab programs?
    Secondly, for MANY sex workers, the sex we have at work IS fiction. It doesn’t matter that penetration technically occurred, my personal definition of sex does not mean a mechanical act. That doesn’t mean that the act didn’t occur, or that there aren’t implications and consequences of that act, but I don’t consider the sex I’ve had for money to be sex the way the sex I’ve had for pleasure is. It’s something else, a performance, something more complicated- and needs to be addressed as such.
    Additionally, I am a woman who has rape fantasies. I also enjoy porn occasionally. Betty and many others here, I simply don’t fit into your definitions. Does any of this mean that I want to be raped for real, or that I am submissive in my regular life? Absolutely not. I am driven, aggressive, and know what I want. I demand that I be treated with respect, and do not accept mysogynist treatment. This kind of personality is not mutually exclusive with having rape fantasies.
    I would suggest that people look into the writings of Samuel Delaney. He is a genius on many subjects, but one issue he writes about is being a black man who has (and actively acts out) fantasies of being dominated by white power men using racial epithets. He talks eloquently about the uselessness of pathologizing fantasy.

  • ShelbyWoo

    Additionally, I am a woman who has rape fantasies…Betty and many others here, I simply don’t fit into your definitions.
    To what “definitions” are you referring? “Betty and many others here” have VERY CLEARLY stated their opposition to the term “rape fantasy”, nowhere did they “define” what a woman is/isn’t. Did you read the comments before going off about this? NO ONE is condemning your fantasies or saying they aren’t real or valid. The term “rape fantasy” is the problem here. It’s erroneous at best, at worst it contributes to the fallacy that there is no rape because if women fantasize about it they clearly want it in real life. Your fantasy is a simulation of rape that you have consented to and are in control of, which precludes it from being “rape.” (please read the above comments as they are much more clear and articulate).
    We are only saying the term used to describe said fantasies is flawed and potentially destructive to rape victims. What is so fucking hard to understand here? Have your fantasies (hey, I have them too) but let’s call something more appropriate and less damaging to (past and future) actual rape victims. Like say “rape-simulation fantasy.”

  • kissmypineapple

    Tina, did you really just use the term “hookers?” Seriously?? You want respect so badly, why don’t you go first? Hooker is a derogatory term. And just because you don’t view some of the sex you have as sex, doesn’t mean that it isn’t absolutely real for other sex workers. It’s wonderful if you’ve never had a negative moment in your career, but we already addressed that upthread when someone referenced Jenna Jamison. Just b/c you haven’t doesn’t mean there aren’t other women who are abused by the porn industry every damn day, and I’m not going to stop fighting misogynist sources of porn just because some sex workers have been lucky enough to fall into a bucket of butter.

  • Tina

    yes, shelby, I did read the comments, and I disagree with them. I disagree with the need to change the language. I feel that we don’t need to change language just because there are people who can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality- who don’t know that the term fantasy does not mean that a person wants something to happen. I think we are doing a disservice to the lexicon of sex, fantasy, rape, and sexism by NOT pushing the point that fantasy and desired reality are different. Moreover, I don’t think that adding ‘simulation’ is going to change the point of view of someone who is bent on thinking that all women really want to be raped.
    And kissmypineapple, I AM a hooker and I am able to use the word to describe myself if I prefer it. I use many words- sex worker, hooker, whore, etc, and I don’t have to answer to you or anyone else about what you may or may not find derogatory. There are MANY ‘sex workers’ who prefer the term hooker, or ho, or whatever- and feel that sex worker is too academic and doesn’t describe their experience. You may have heard of the terms reclamation or reappropriation- it’s why there is a feminist cultural criticism magazine called Bitch.
    It is incredibly rude of you to assume that I have ‘never had a negative moment’ in my ‘career’. Nothing in my post stated that. I have had many negative moments in my career. I simply said that for myself and many women, we don’t consider the act to be the same as sex- I was responding to earlier threads saying that what happened isn’t fictional. I am trying to say that it’s more complicated than fictional or nonfictional. I also said, if you read my posts, that just because it I define it some other way besides as ‘sex’ doesn’t mean that there aren’t implications and consequences of the act- meaning a whole slew of emotional and physical consequences.
    I am not a person who thinks that the sex industry is a particularly empowering or enjoyable profession. It’s ultimately just a job, and I have never really liked most of the jobs I’ve had (BTW, where were any of you when I needed saving from my degrading minimum wage fast food job?). I simply think A) sex work CAN be empowering and enjoyable, even if it isn’t for me, and B)that there are economic realities making it one of the only well-paying options for women, and rather than pathologizing them or trying to save them we need to address why it’s the only option for many people, and how we can make the industry safer and more positive for the people who work in it.
    I think you should maybe ask yourself why a sex worker trying to address her own experiences in a way that is complicated and neither fully positive nor fully negative incites such virulence and an inability to understand that seems almost deliberate.

  • CarmelizedMe

    kissmypineapple [TypeKey Profile Page], I wasn’t trying to say that you didn’t believe that happens in real life. I was trying to agree with you (if you’re watching porn and enjoying these women being degraded, it’s a problem), but also pointing out that above and beyond that, in real life men actually do sometimes watch porn and then directly go to their girlfriends and expect that from them. This was the quote I was thinking of, if anyone’s interested:
    She had a boyfriend. She was twenty-one. One night he went to a stag party and watched pornography films. He called her up to ask if he could have sex with her. She felt obligated to make him happy. “I also felt that the refusal would be indicative of sexual quote unquote hang-ups on my part and that I was not quote unquote liberal enough. When he arrived, he informed me that the other men at the party were envious that he had a girlfriend to fuck. They wanted to fuck too after watching the pornography. He informed me of this as he was taking his coat off.” He had her perform oral sex on him: “I did not do this of my own volition. He put his genitals in my face and he said ‘take it all.'” He fucked her. The whole encounter took about five minutes. Then he dressed and went back to the party. “I felt ashamed and numb and I also felt very used.”

  • Hugo Schwyzer

    I’ve posted part one of a three-part response to Jensen’s wonderful book here:
    To excerpt myself:
    The fact that some pornography is produced by and for women, the fact that some explicit material features sexual activity that is truly mutual, doesn’t mitigate the harm done by the industry as a whole. Many defenders of porn cry “But not all porn is like that�, and they point to obscure websites or specialty magazines that occupy a small niche within a much larger, thoroughly misogynistic industry. But it makes no sense — and does women no service — to deny the deleterious impact of mainstream porn on our collective humanity merely because a few tiny sectors of the “adult entertainment industry� produce material that is genuinely egalitarian and redemptive.

  • Tony Comstock

    “Porn is media which is used primarially as a masturbation aid, and in which a person loses almost all interest following orgasm”
    A person? Which person? How many persons? A person watching in a theater as a part of an audience? A person watching at home with a lover? By themself?
    You’ll be quoting Potter Stewart next.

  • mpowell

    I think a big mistake here is in assuming that typical male interest is what drives porn production. There are two problems with this. First, it is easy to get porn for free. So the segment of people actually paying for porn is not representative of most guys. Secondly, only a certain highly unrepresentative group of men or women are going to get into porn as producers or actors/actresses. This means that the market for porn is probably pretty inefficient. The porn that gets produced is driven quite a bit by what is going on in the heads of porn producers, not their customers.
    All of this means that a lot of men view porn in spite of the negative themes there, not because of it. Obviously, I can’t speak for all men, but I really doubt my attitude to women has been much affected by the ‘pornification’ of our culture. Sometimes I think that it has impacted my sexual needs in the sense that I want to have more casual sex with different partners than I would have otherwise, but this is not an unusual desire in men in human history. I am pretty confident that it has impacted my beauty ideals. The most obvious example being that my perspective of what constitutes large or normal sized breasts has been permanently skewed. But I don’t think porn has played the dominant role in either of these cases.

  • EG

    Why don’t you look into the welfare cuts, the lack of state-funded childcare or drug rehab programs?
    We do. Those have been areas of major feminist activism over the years.

  • HoneyBee

    This is an extremely complex issue for which I could write pages and pages on.
    Let me first say there are many great comments here. I would just like to add that while there’s no doubt there is alot of bad porn out there, I’ve noticed these discussions tend to focus entirely on the absolute worst/extreme forms.
    I am a feminist, and I enjoy certain kinds of porn. I don’t think that is a contradiction. I’ve watched a fair bit over the years and I personally think the percentage of “good” porn is higher then many here give credit.
    Also we haven’t even really discussed gay porn, lesbian porn, or animated porn, for which I assume most of that material is much better then what we’re discussing here. There’s also a big infusion of amateur porn out there these days, which is generally alot better, b/c it’s real people, with real flaws, having real sex.
    I think we can all agree that porn will never go away. It will never be made illegal, and it certainly won’t stop on it’s own. That’s why as feminists especially, we need to help promote and support the good kind, while at the same time condemming the bad porn. And we need men and women working from within the industry itself to help improve the situation. If we continue to do these things, as we have started to, over time the amount of horrible porn out there should decrease and the amount of “good” porn that we feel ok about will increase. I think that’s the only thing we can do.

  • Denelian

    so, over a hundred comments, and i dont expect anyone to really read this but… i just have to say this.
    i am in constant chronic pain. i have trouble walking. my boyfriend and i can rarely have sex because of this problem – and when we can, if it starts to hurt me, he LOSES his erection. he can’t get past hurting me, let alone get off on it. i’m just saying – while i’m sure that there are things in this book that are common, in this one case, i’m not convinced that most (or even many) men actually get off on inflicting pain. some do, i’m sure, but many? most?

  • avril

    here’s an excerpt of the book that i find to be indicative of the core problems of pornstituters. here, jensen is quoting a “veteran of the pornography industry”:
    I’d like to really show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that. The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that, because they get even with the women they can’t have. We try to inundate the world with orgasms in the face. (pg 69-70)
    the most serious problems our culture faces in the mirror that is pornography is the intent of violence against women. regardless of what ‘type’ of porn is consumed, this is the underlying concept that pornographer$ are u$ing.

  • EG

    That also says something really disturbing about the way men view their own sexuality, avril. It seems like they really do consider their own sexual pleasure to be hostile, an expression of hatred rather then of pleasure or happiness or affection.
    Denelian, my experiences with my boyfriends have been similar. I do think there are plenty of men out there who are horrified at the thought of hurting the women they’re with. But maybe I’ve just been lucky.

  • avril

    porn does not equal sex.

  • Eurosabra

    Jensen touches on one factor (“they get even with the women they can’t have”), namely that porn is (to the men who use it) a substitute good, a simulacrum of the sex women won’t have with them. And we can put the emphasis on “won’t have”, if it’s a type of encounter hard to obtain in vanilla society, or “with them” for marginal men who are so far down the socio-economic dominance/socialization ladder that women can’t relate to them because of their social pathologies, incapacity to fulfill the traditional masculine sex role, or telegraphed signals of desperation.
    Part of the recent debate in the UK about a disabled man who went public with his desire to hire a prostitute (he needed support staff to carry it off physically) was about whether certain kinds of men should be allowed to have sex at all. I’m very interested in where Jensen comes down on the issue, because I have the impression that he’s invested in a kind of voluntary celibacy like Stoltenberg and I doubt many straight men want to define their sexuality according to his parameters, particularly when he’s so hostile to masculinity.

  • buggle

    I think people here need to READ THE BOOK before rushing to judgment.
    And I gotta say, it’s really sad to see so many people (feminists?) trying to justify their porn use. So many arguments, so many justifications. You are using someone else’s body to get off. You don’t know that person, you don’t know what their life has been life, you don’t know why they are there. You don’t know if they are in pain or not. You don’t know how many STD’s they have. You don’t know if their asshole has fallen out from being fucked in the ass so many times. AND, the worst part-you don’t even care! It’s all about you and your pleasure. That is disgusting. Hey, watch porn all you want, just don’t kid yourself about it. Porn uses and abuses women. It sells women’s bodies. That’s the bottom line. Do you really want your sexual expression mixed up with an industry that constantly puts out more and more sick stuff? Do you really want your arousal to be linked to violence?
    I find it really sad and depressing that so many people, feminists included, want so desperately to cling to their porn, and keep their blinders on regarding the impact porn actually has on our world.
    And thank you Avril, for pointing out what others in this thread cannot seem to understand: PORN IS NOT SEX. SEX IS NOT PORN.
    God, it’s not that complicated!!!!
    Can I also just say a big UGH to the men who come on here telling us what kind of porn they like. Nasty.

  • A male

    This topic has made for a very thought provoking read. Posters here have been so real.
    Thank you, Thomas, for the legal perspective. How do such abusers in the industry and their accomplices stay out of prison, with victims going public, and so much evidence including recorded faces and names, literally sitting on the shelves?
    and um, thank you for sharing your experience in BDSM.
    Skoropeya: There are ways to find out what unbrainwashed women can decide for themselves what they like in sex: find out from women who were raised in very progressive cultures like in the Netherlands or northern Europe, where entire societies experience more gender equality, by law and in practice. The people in those societies pay high taxes to enjoy the social benefits, but by most measures, live peacefully and quite well.
    CarmelizedMe: thank you for that Dworkin essay link. I had to stop reading halfway through the accounts of abuse on the second page because it sickened me. The explicit link Dworkin made between slavery of Africans and abuse of women including sex workers made it so clear. So now I need to ask: The alleged favorable treatment of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves (or any other “kindly treated” slaves) does not justify the practice of slavery. It was finally abolished in the US. People today can understand and accept that decision.
    So how can porn, even “good porn” “sex positive porn” or porn by women be tolerated any more than slavery of African-Americans? We don’t point to Thomas Jefferson or the New Testament to demonstrate proper models of slavery. It was all abolished in the US, and we are still living with its effects today.
    Tina and others in the industry: Wow. Thank you for your comments.
    So am I to understand that if there were real alternatives for people in the industry so they could choose to leave, and proper safeguards in place inside, then what would remain, as unpalatable as it may be, would be acceptable to most people?
    Pardon me for bringing this up, but this kind of reminds me of the abortion debate: some call for zero tolerance or restrictions, while others call for it being an individual choice with as few restrictions as possible. Some say there are women who are not fully qualified to make choices, others say women do not need saving, don’t patronize me, F*** off or create alternatives. It is difficult for such diametrically opposed sides to find common ground. “Don’t like porn? Don’t watch porn.” is no solution for those who link pornography to misogyny in society, and cannot accept that misogyny. Where can they find common ground? [Note once more that I am pro-choice on the abortion issue, and am not judging those who make those choices. It's just an analogy.]
    I also have seen pornography which appeals to me. My own favorite and most often viewed porn, if one will call it that – is suggestive or nude photos of Japanese women, not the pay site “Japanese” models targeted for a US audience, not the gynecological posed variety, and with no partners involved. You know, “cute” Japanese girls or women for the domestic market. I don’t know if you could consider this a fetish, because I am Asian myself.
    My favorite model, who incidentally never poses nude, AFAIK does not do love scenes, and is portrayed as asexual as is customary among Japanese female idols:
    She’s 24, BTW. Personally, I have also noted the effects of my being exposed to Japanese media portrayals of women, and living in a 99% Japanese society for over a decade: I came to favor cute, feminine, young, petite, Japanese women and portrayals of deference and submission. This happened despite me loudly objecting to much of what I saw.
    I’m still trying to think of any strictly adult oriented material that would not be considered degrading or in some way promoting objectification of women. No, not even pictorials or humor in Playboy magazine seem safe.
    Betty, knot: No rape fantasy. I get it. I hate that term myself, because of that word rape, and never use it in speech. Maybe the concept simply needs to be called a sex fantasy, and the scenario spelled out if it needs to be more explicit, while also making clear that it would be unacceptable behavior in real life. I’ve got my family to think about before I would ever allow Yuko Ogura and her twin sister to simply barge into my house, push me down and lustily use me on the floor with their school uniforms still on.
    I don’t call myself feminist, but I am also glad that I do not feel the need to be stereotypically masculine. I gave up on that when I was a slow developing teenager. Too bad others continue to consider more neutral qualities “gay” or undesirable in a man.
    Thank you, buggle. Yours is one of the boldest comments I’ve seen. I agree. I am unable to reconcile these conflicting feelings within myself. I have the freedom to look at this stuff, yet it is not something I want my family to see over my shoulder or go flipping through in the closet. It is not what I want my children to do when they grow up, nor how I want my wife to be with anyone else. People would certainly consider it and my thoughts nasty. BTW, why are only the men’s declared tastes in porn nasty?

  • MLF

    Every single guy I dated only watched mainstream porn, so I think it’s sort of important to focus on that. Everyone can make the case that there is more female positive porn out there but would men be into it? I don’t think so.

  • MLF

    but mainstream porn makes it look like women LIKE painful things and that they WANT more painful things done to them and I think there is a huge difference. It goes back to the fact that these women are acting but most of them men don’t think of it like that (I’m not saying all)… I’ve had guys wanting to do things like have anal sex with me and trying to convince me that it would feel good – obviously this idea didn’t just float into their heads randomly.