books for budding feminists: Gail Dines, Pornland
I sure as hell never envisaged myself reading a book with Porn in the title when I was fifteen, but here I am five years on having thoroughly enjoyed just that. Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality by Gail Dines is an exploration of the effects porn has had and continues to make on society. It is more straight up and down in terms of facts, references and figures compared to the other books I’ve read on my journey but rather than be boring, it is all the more attention-grabbing for it. Some of the statistics quoted in this book will truly astound you.
What surprised me the most about Pornland however, was the bluntness it used when describing porn scenes. While this language is easily accessible on porn sites all over the Internet, having never actively sought out this kind of literature before it was quite a full-on experience. This is definitely not the kind of book that you want to allow others to read over your shoulder. At least, not while you’re on the page that talks about “horse-hung black dudes” with bulging cocks ripping open tight, white slutty pussies. There is a lot of this language in the book, although the quotes from users on porn sites would definitely have to be the most disturbing. I’ll let you experience that horror for yourself if you decide to read it one day.
Another aspect of the book I liked was the inclusion of history. It begins by describing in great detail how the most well known porn magazines in Western culture began. It turns out Playboy is one of the least provocative magazines in the porn industry, despite being the first to bring porn into the mainstream. Hustler on the other hand continues to be the most successful hard-core magazine in the porn world because advertisers do not restrain it when it comes to content. That was the stumbling block for Playboy – advertisers had so much power over just how far the nudity and crudity could go, whereas Hustler has almost completely free reign. If you only read these two chapters of Pornland, it would be well worth your while. The creation story of the Porn industry, while not glamorous, is extremely interesting.
The rest of the book delves into types of porn and how they portray both women and men. I found the section about men particularly fascinating. Dines explained that men who are introduced to porn early often form more negative opinions about women and have more trouble socialising with women. Heavy porn users often find it hard to not envisage porn when they look at their wife, girlfriend or partner and addictions to porn are becoming increasingly common.
I also learnt that these Porn addictions are extremely dangerous. Men who get bored with regular porn will start looking for things that are more hard-core and more exciting, which often means more demoralising and violent towards women. Dines explains the different levels of porn in the book but ultimately some men who simply aren’t satisfied eventually move into children’s porn, which is illegal. After interviewing convicted child rapists in several prisons, Dines found out that of the rapists she interviewed, there was less than a year between the moment they first discovered child porn online and the first time they raped or sexually assaulted a child themselves. The book isn’t saying this happens to everyone who has ever seen porn, just that there are enough cases of this out there to merit significant concern.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most disturbing parts of this book was reading comments from porn site users. So much porn, particularly Gonzo porn, involves extreme violence towards women. The violence is so ‘hard-core’ that the female porn performers often cannot walk for a week afterwards or must go to hospital to be stitched up after having three penises thrust into their anus, vagina and even throats at once. I fail to understand how this is a turn on, particularly when the aim of some porn genres is to get off on watching the women cry or grimace in pain. As I found out however, there are thousands of porn users around the world who are ashamed of their path to this type of porn. Like so many others, they never thought it would happen to them.
Perhaps most of all in this book, I felt sorry for the porn performers. What they are required to do on screen would be categorised as assault in any other circumstance. In some porn videos the woman is clearly heard saying ‘no’ and shaking her head as tears stream down her face. Rather than cut filming the male performer is instructed to nail her harder and in plenty of cases shove his penis down her throat until she vomits. Even then, the scene will continue until the man ejaculates.
The porn industry is not full of consenting, empowered women. Most do not realise the extent to which they will be injured and many do not return after their first ‘performance’. Not only women are objectified but men also. Men in particular suffer a lot of racial profiling with black men being portrayed as the ultimate porn ‘animal’ and often referred to only by the power of their “black penises”. In my opinion there is nothing right about the porn industry – nothing. To young viewers it promotes unhealthy sexual expectations and poor understandings of the value of women as human beings. It can be life-consuming and the amount of emotional and physical harm it inflicts on its performers is horrific.
What do you think about it?