Progressive arguments against porn

Sociologist Gail Dines was recently interviewed by PULSE about her new book, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. The thesis of her book — that porn destroys sexuality by accustoming our culture to ideas of sex that are unrealistic and completely severed from intimacy and love — won’t be new to most InsideCatholic readers.

But as a self-described progressive, Dines’ dismantling of common liberal justifications made on behalf of porn — that it’s just fantasy, that being anti-porn makes you a prude — is refreshing.

Another common attitude or belief boys and men have toward pornography is “Well, that’s just a fantasy and I wouldn’t act that out in real life.” Do you see that as an excuse to legitimize pornography? Why is that problematic?

I address this in my book. As progressive people, we cannot bear that the right-wing media has the power to construct ideology in this country. None of us who are progressive will look at Fox News and say, “It’s just imagery; it’s just a fantasy; and it has no effect.” People can tell the difference between media and reality.  We know media has the power to shift views and consolidate right-wing ideology.

Pornography is also a form of media representation. So why is it that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh have the power to change and shape society, and suddenly pornography is the only media form that has no effect? This whole fantasy issue is totally ludicrous. It takes no account of how images construct reality.

And later:

People or individuals who try to explain that sex is about intimacy, caring, sharing, and trust in a relationship are often cast off as “prudish,” “a tight-ass,” “a religious nut,” or “someone who isn’t getting any.” How difficult has it been to explain this aspect of sex and how pornography strips it of any human connection? Why is there such aversion to sex based on equality and respect?

I think there is a real fear of being labeled anti-sex. The way pornographers and their allies have sold this is that you’re either pro-pornography or you’re anti-sex. Which of course is ludicrous because pornography is not the same as sex. Pornography is an industrial product. It commodifies human needs and sells it back to people, often in an unrecognizable form. It is not simply a reflection of reality. It is a specific representation of it and it is a specific way of representing sex.

Now to assume that if you are against pornography you’re against sex, is to assume that anyone who criticizes McDonald’s is anti-eating. People who criticize McDonald’s are against the destruction of the environment, against the assault on healthy foods, and against child obesity. They are against an industrial product. They are not against eating. So why can’t they see that it is the same thing when it comes to pornography and sex?

It’s encouraging to see that common sense about sex and pornography can be found in abundance on both sides of the ideological divide. Kudos to Professor Dines for her important work.

The link to the interview is here — but I’m posting it with a strong warning that, in both the book and interview, Dines talks about pornography with some graphic/explicit details, to show the real depth and rot of the problem. Proceed with caution.

 

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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