Please note this post contains some explicit content.
An ex-boyfriend of mine was addicted to porn. I didn’t like it, but like most women who don’t and get labelled a prude, I didn’t ever say much about it. I shared his computer that he used a lot for freelance work at home; all of our stuff on it was separate and he locked all of his files so I couldn’t see them. One afternoon I went to use it and saw he hadn’t logged off properly, which meant I could see all of his stuff. I was horrified to see that his files were mostly all porn. But the thing that upset me the most was that there was a short video of me in amongst all the other stuff, as if it wasn’t any different. It wasn’t an explicit video of me at all, but I had nevertheless asked him to delete it from the camera not long after he took it and he showed me that he had.
I can’t tell you how denigrated I felt to see he’d kept a copy of it without my consent. It was such a relief to be able to delete it from his computer, but that denigrated and violated feeling not only stayed with me, it grew over the next few weeks. I broke up with him without telling him about it. We became friends again some time after and he asked me if there was anything else I hadn’t told him about why I’d broken up with him. When I told him the truth he was very embarrassed and said he was going to get rid of it all and stop watching porn as it ultimately didn’t make him feel good anyway. I have no idea if he did either of those things, but to this day I can remember how I felt when I realised my sex and what it represented to him was more important to him than my trust.
Dines is a fantastic speaker. She’s funny, witty and very passionate about what she does. Dines (and her message) is not anti sex or anti sexually explicit images, it’s about what mainstream porn is doing to our sexuality and the sexual integrity of a whole generation of young men. In her work Dines goes to some lengths to enable people, particularly women, to understand just how violent and denigrating to women mainstream porn has become. On Friday night Dines described ‘Gonzo porn’ (now mainstream) to her mostly female audience and the shock in the room was evident. Dines describes gonzo porn as:
… Present-day gonzo pornography [is] by far the biggest moneymaker for the industry, this type of pornography makes no attempt at a story line, but is just scene after scene of violent penetration, in which the woman’s body is literally stretched to its limit. One of the newer marketing ploys in gonzo is called ATM (ass to mouth), where the male performer anally penetrates a woman and then sticks his penis into her mouth, often joking about her having to eat shit. In this pornography the code of debasement is most stark. There is no apparent increase in male sexual pleasure by moving directly from the anus to the mouth, outside of the humiliation that the woman must endure. To argue that the pleasure of heterosexual pornography for men is not somehow wrapped up in the degradation of women is to ignore the multiple verbal and image-based cues that form the codes and conventions of mainstream pornography… Read more here.
It’s hard to ignore Dines’ stance when all you have to do is look around you at the endless images of the sexualisation of women. Dines’ statement that as advertising changes consumer behaviour, so too does porn change sexual behaviour, is one of these things I think is impossible to ignore. The porn industry sexualises inequality and violence and gets away with it. And it stands to reason that men are being aroused against their integrity. This Dines calls “a betrayal of their own sexuality”. This is so sad.
I’ve read a bit about the sexual behaviour of young people today and it seems that it’s becoming commonplace that very young women are experiencing health problems such as anal fissures because their boyfriends want to have the same sort of sex they’re seeing in porn.
What on earth is any of this teaching young people at the very beginning of their sexual lives about intimacy and desire? I had trouble enough twenty years ago. I can’t imagine being a young woman now. As Dines’ says “you can’t go to a capitalist industry for creative sex”. We need to find a way to capture young peoples’ imaginations about how to be counter cultural about sex so that young people have a hope in hell of discovering true intimacy and finding their own authentic sexuality. This is a big task and seems incredibly urgent to me…
As Dines’ stated, as a girl “you’re either fuckable or invisible”. I don’t know of a young woman alive who isn’t acutely aware of this. How incredibly sad this is. It should be mandatory that both genders study radical feminism and learn how we got to this point when they’re not much older than 13 or 14. If it’s not in schools by the time I have children I’ll certainly be teaching my own.