Making Pornography a Turn-off

I’m in charge of my book club this week and my lovely compatriots have agreed to read what some call my flagship book:  Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy.  I’ve read the book many times because I frequently teach it in my sophomore writing composition courses.  This week I’ve been reading that and cleaning my house listening to LDS Conference talks.  Cause, you know, I’m super holy and stuff.


I believe there is a great void in the LDS church’s vocalized position on pornography: church leaders say porn is bad bad bad, but they don’t explain WHY pornography is so awful sufficiently to actually deter or to bitter the very image of it for men (and women).  I agree that pornography is addictive and that has repercussions for sexuality yada yada, but those “reasons” do not create revulsion enough to find pornography the opposite of titillating.  As a mother of young boys it’s my job to figure out how to raise men who are repelled by pornography.  Thankfully I married the most wonderful feminist man and I don’t have to deal with this in my marriage and he will be an excellent asset in steering them away from porn. 


Around 2003 pornography and Raunch Culture was in full swing and I was living in it’s hedonistic capital.  “The Girls Next Door” were literally next door to my college.  Britney’s pants were low. Paris and Kim Kardashian built empires on Raunch Culture.  T&A was everywhere and it was cool to be fine with it.  The LDS church had just become very public about their anti-pornography crusade.  Remember those days?  I will not go so far as to say I was interested in pornography, but the culture was in my face.  Find me a woman of my generation who does not know at least one of the names of Hefner’s three girlfriends. We didn’t participate in it, but I think many of us were exposed nonetheless.  Sex and celebrity are a match made in . . . well certainly not heaven.  That pairing will probably never go away (Hi Miley!) and neither will pornography ever vanish from culture.  So we need a new thought framework.

I resensitized myself to Raunch Culture (that is to say I pointedly developed disgust rather than just ambivalence) by thinking deeply about these things.

1. Robin Morgan coined the slogan, “Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice.”  Extreme, no? Porn is going to turn you into a rapist?  No.  Let me explain.  Susan Brownmiller, pioneer of the Women’s Liberation Movement wrote a book in 1975 called “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape”.  The main argument in the book is that rape is not an isolated crime like robbery or murder, but a systematic process of demoralization: of making real live women into less than human.  Hence, rape is a tool used in war in order to subjugate societies.  How do you convince people that humans aren’t humans and can therefore be physically abused?  Propaganda.  What is rape propaganda?  Pornography.  That slogan blares in my mind every time I see images that even hint of porn.  Pornography is the theory – it is the propaganda that helps stupid people to forget for a moment that sex is about people, not just bodies.  Also, how can you think about propaganda images without thinking about the systematic dehumanizing of the jews?  Brownmiller argued that pornography is to women what those horrible “this is what a Jew looks like” posters were to Jews.  How’s that for a turn off?


2.  Passion isn’t the point.  Pornography is not real sex and if it is your model, you’re probably having terrible sex.  There is a disconnect between sexiness and sex itself and the people in pornography are feigning enjoyment.  “Sexuality is inherent.  Different things are attractive to different people yet somehow we have accepted one brand of sexuality” and it’s getting boring.  Next time you see some scintillating picture think of porn queen Jenna Jameson who said of her shoots, “ I had to arch so hard that my lower back cramped.  When I see those photos now, it seems obvious that the sexy pout I thought I was giving the camera was just a poorly disguised grimace of pain.”


3.  The sex industry is in large part fueled by Human Trafficking.  Those hot girls you’re watching?  A significant amount of them are forced participants.  The ones who aren’t are often victims of sexual abuse.  Who wants to watch abused women? If consuming pornography in any way encourages human slavery thanks, but that is simply repulsive. 


I disdain pornography because pornography is socially irresponsible.  Hopefully I can teach my boys social responsibility and by default cause them to be sicked out by pornography. 


Also of note -- A young LDS woman tells of her battle with a pornography addiction:


Also, citing my source: lots of this is paraphrasing Ariel Levy, if not directly quoting.  Good job writing that book, Ariel.


Miss Mary said...

This is such an awesome post! Thank you for this!

One Fish said...

I want to be in book club with you! I read this a couple of years ago after you recommended it on your blog.

Jennie said...

You can join our book club any time. :) Loved your thoughts on this. Sadly, I think it impacts more people than we even realize.

Unknown said...

Lenore, thanks for the talking points for tomorrow night! Can't wait!

Rynna said...

i can't say enough about this so i won't bother here. this is a brilliant presentation by gail dines about, among other things, the effect of porn on young boys. perhaps you have seen it.

S said...

Super interesting. I hate sexual abuse and I can NOT believe how many people it affects and we just don't talk about it except in whispers a lot of times (meaning if the abuse happened to you or your loved one). I'm going to have to read this book.

Lauren in GA said...

The part about the human trafficking...it just breaks my heart. So many people just consider prostitutes as having no morals and living that life as being a choice. This post was so important. Thank you.

Mel said...

Porn is my hot-button issue. I like what you say here. I also think though that if there was some way for us to become repulsed by pornography as a people, yet at the same time not repulsed at all with people who have addictions to it and who feel shameful about it, I'd get on board with that. The more talk of repulsion of the thing itself I fear would make all of the closet watchers of it retreat more into the darkness and denial of it. My own family has been affected by this issue as well as countless friends (I'm serious when I say countless). The revulsion and shame of it needs to be removed because the people I know who have had problems with it are awesome males (male feminists even) who I greatly love and admire. So there's got to be a way to do what you said but also reconcile the fact that good, "normal" people suffer with keeping their shame and problem in the dark for a very very long time.

Mel said...

Communication is the key though! I appreciate your post and would gladly talk about porn all day because it helps bring it out of the dark!

anonymous said...

Great points, Mel, esp about shame--like that blog link said. I also love how she talked about the atonement. I shared it with a friend struggling with infidelity. Also to note that the majority of people have watched porn and there is a huge difference between viewing it and being addicted. It isn't good to view, but all viewers shouldn't be categorized as addicts.


Saheli said...

Fascinating, thought provoking post, Lenore. I will add Levy to my reading list. I can't recall if you were still faculty when we watched Dreamworlds III by Sut Jhally, but it really informed my thinking on this. I probably don't 100% agree with your full perspective, but I think we're generally coming from the same direction. http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=223

Saheli said...

Fascinating, thought provoking post, Lenore. I will add Levy to my reading list. I can't recall if you were still faculty when we watched Dreamworlds III by Sut Jhally, but it really informed my thinking on this. I probably don't 100% agree with your full perspective, but I think we're generally coming from the same direction. http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=223

Larson said...

Lenore, finally read your blog. Terrific! Totally agree. Pornography is about business, not love, intimacy or anything of the kind. Great comment on how objectification dehumanizes.

Elbows from Mom Bennett and me.