Chyng Sun, a media studies professor in the McGhee Department of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, is currently conducting an international study on how pornography is affecting the lives of heterosexual young adults all over the world.
In studying pornography, Sun ultimately hopes to “understand porn consumption and how, in any way, it connects to sexual desire, behavior, and relationships.” She is particularly interested in deviant and violent genres of porn and their effects on young people.
She hypothesizes that people who watch a lot of porn eventually develop sexual desires that resemble porn sex, most of which is unrealistic and oftentimes sexist, racist, and violent. Even people who don’t consume porn on a regular basis are affected because much of pornography has been mainstreamed and normalized. Hints of porn can be found in almost every form of visual media (music videos, advertising, fashion, etc.). The porn industry has ties with every hotel, every search engine, every internet/cable provider, credit card companies, publishing companies, radio stations, and banks.
Much of Sun’s research has been inspired by Gail Dines’ book Pornland: How Pornography Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. In her book, Dines argues that pornography has so permeated our society that it is permanently ruining male and female sexuality. While she supports pornography’s right to exist, she is highly critical of the ways in which pornography has seeped into our every day lives.
In the video above Dines expresses the main points or her arguments against ‘porn culture’.
It is important to note here I think that Dines is discussing what is most popular in mainstream commercialized pornography and the negatives elements of this that seep into our popular visual culture. She is not against sex or the existence of pornography in general, just the most anti-humanist parts.
There is a growing abundance of of alternatives to commercialized pornography on the internet and with it’s connections to sex trafficking and the drug trade it would be good, and so on, there are lots of additional reasons to avoid it.
Jane Caputi in, The Pornography of Everyday Life (video link above), declares pornography as “a habitual mode of thinking”, that underpins our everyday discourse, supporting oppressions like sexism, racism and homophobia. It makes us see a man possessing, overpowering, threatening, using, humiliating and abusing women as ‘manly’ and ‘sexy’. She argues that pornography is not about arousal – it is about objectification, desensitization and dehumanization. These negative mass representations of sexuality is a public form of psychological abuse that limits or ability to imagine alternatives.
Cindy Gallop, founder of makelovenotporn.com and makelovenotporn.tv has first-hand (no pun intended) experience with the effects of mainstream pornography, the sources it seems for many people – her young male lovers in particular – for learning their bedroom techniques, which she says, makes them inconsiderate lovers. In an era where all types of pornography (Rule 34) are more freely and widely available than ever before. She believes, parents and sex education teachers still give too little guidance about how to develop healthy, sex-positive relationships – so toward that end Gallop created makelovenotporn.com and makelovenotporn.tv
so that young men don’t think that’s always the normal way of behaving in the bedroom and their girlfriends don’t have to pretend to like it
Gallop aims to re-educate people via the internet with #reallifesex filled with type of passion and intimacy distinctly missing in the typical commercial mainstream porn flick. Gallop’s model is new – anyone can ‘share’ a video (ie: their own production) that meets the positive sex guidelines (plus “no poo, children or animals”) and collect 50% of the rental fee that others pay to watch it.
This is a good example of what Feona Atwood, in No Money Shot? – Commerce, Pornography and New Sex Taste Cultures (2007) would refer to as ‘a community of exchange’ where members of the website (free to join) participants as both vendor and consumer typical of our technology enabled participatory culture. One could also argue however, that it is an ingenious way to make money off of amateur pornography, as such videos are usually posted online in various forums.
In my opinion, ‘ordinary’ folk accessing ‘realcore’ like Gallop’s site or altporn available on Nerve.com or SuicideGirls.com can be a positive experience and influence on mainstream culture as it can open the door to more (& positive) sexual exploration outside of vanilla, monogamous, hetero-normative intimacies and into realms like polyamory, bisexuality, and BDSM. That said however, I think that it can also have a negative impact such as sex-positive empowerment narratives being perversely translated into mainstream commercialism with works like “Fifty Shades of Grey” by authors who have only experienced (and understand) the tiny tip of the iceberg of these alternative communities, and cherry pick concepts that fit into their hegemonic frameworks of male dominance and female submission.
In the West we drive to Tantric Bars in out Toyota hybrids, show off our foreign script and dragon henna tattoos to our friends while eating sushi with chopsticks and drinking shōchū, after an hour of practising yoga in clothing with various spiritual symbols emblazoned on them. At home our children enjoy anime and manga, in rooms decorated with prayer flags, scrolls, kimonos and devis. We listen the sounds of sitar, tabla , shakuhachi and taiko and drift off to sleep in our silk pyjamas (if they are well off). We think about visiting an ashram in India to really learn about spirituality.
Meanwhile, in the East, after working 12-hrs, they drive home in BMWs and watch foreign TV dramas, drink Bourbon and eat beef with potatoes while their children play World of Warcraft in a house with televisions, refrigerators and sofas that are too big for the rooms while listening to foreign pop music in their flannel pyjamas (if they are well off). They think about visiting New York City to really go shopping.
Why do you think Eastern philosophies and symbolisms are so popular in the West? Why do (esp. young) people in the East think everything is better in the West? How does this affect our construction of identity?