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Interview of Gail Dines ― Resistance Radio

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Derrick Jensen: Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen. This is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Dr. Gail Dines, Professor of Sociology and chair of American Studies at Wheelock college in Boston. She is the author of multiple books and articles and has been described as a worlds’ leading expert on the effects of pornography. She is the author of the highly acclaimed Pornland How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. Translated into 4 languages, Pornland is the basis of a documentary released this fall by Media Education Foundation. Dr. Dines is founding president of Stop Porn Culture, a non-profit organization composed of academics, professionals, and activists from a wide range of perspectives, that’s dedicated to raising public awareness about the impact of pornography on children, youth, and adults. So first, thank you so much a) for your work and b) for being on this show.

Gail Dines: Always a pleasure to talk with you Derrick.

DJ: So I guess the first question is, so, the last phrase of your bio is “dedicated to raising public awareness about the impact of pornography on children, youth, and adults”. That leads to the question of a) what is that impact? Or b) what’s wrong with porn?

GD: Well, it’s interesting because when people ask me that, they’re often thinking of porn 15 years ago, which is basically Playboy or Penthouse. Which as sexists as it was—which was basically a woman with no clothes on, smiling in a corn field—as sexist as that was, those are the good old days.

Today, pornography has shifted rapidly, and it’s shifted because of the internet. The internet domesticated porn, and by doing so, it made it affordable, accessible, and anonymous; the three things that have driven demand. Now as demand became greater, and more and more men were using more and more porn, a kind of boredom set in. In order for the porn industry to meet the needs of the users, they had to keep increasing the level of violence. So today—and I never really thought I would say this—the old days of Playboy and Penthouse and even Hustler, are the good old days.

What’s wrong with porn, if you want to know, is put porn into google, and just follow the breadcrumbs of a 15 year old boy who’s got no money. And what you will be catapulted into is a world of sexual cruelty, of misogyny, of debasement, and dehumanization. That’s mainstream porn today. If you want to find so-called soft porn, you’re going to have to look for at least 20 minutes to half an hour. You tell me what 15 year old boy with an erection is going to be searching for 15 minutes for non hardcore porn.

So the problem with porn is that mainstream porn today is the kind of porn that I would say, a generation and a half ago you would have had to go to a porn store, and the back of a porn store to find that. That kind of violent porn is now front and centre, and virtually the only porn made by the porn industry.

DJ: So I want to talk about the violent porn in a moment, but the thing you were saying about the woman standing in a cornfield is, in my book The Culture of Make Believe, I wrote a chapter called Seeing Things, which is about pornography. To do that I had to do research, because I haven’t actually looked at much, or any porn in my life—except for the entire culture being pornographied, we’ll leave that aside for a second—and I couldn’t look at the really horrible stuff. Basically all I looked at was probably a month, or two months, of looking at pictures of naked women standing in a field of daisies or something.

What I found objectionable about even that—I mean of course there’s the effects on women—but what I found for myself is that, there’s the cliche of what men do is undress women when they see them on the street. And that was entirely foreign to me. That is just something that had just never occurred to me. If I might see a woman I might be interested in some way, I might fantasize about having a conversation with her or something.

What I found, one day I was walking to the library, and this woman passes me in the other direction—after I’d been looking at porn for 6 or 8 weeks—and I suddenly wondered what colour her pubic hair was. This had never in my life occurred to me before, and in that moment—I still remember where I was on the sidewalk—in that moment I thought, this has affected something as intimate as my spontaneous fantasy life, and that’s actually when i quite doing the research, and I was like, I can’t do this anymore.

GD: Well you wouldn’t have that question anymore because no women have any pubic hair in porn, so that wouldn’t even come to your head. I would say the average guy today after spending 6-8 weeks looking at porn would be thinking “I wonder what that cunt looks like, with my dick down her mouth as she’s gagging”. Those would be the questions. The idea of asking what colour her pubic hair colour is, is laughable. That’s the degree to which this has shifted. I mean, pubic hair is gone—as it is in the real world of young women—and now the daisy field has been replaced by women being gagged with a penis which is the constant image you’ll see when you put porn into google.

The other image you’ll see is really rough pounding anal sex. Anal sex is used in porn as a way to deliver to women the message just what a real filthy dirty slut-bitch-whore she is. And that’s the ultimate message of porn. Whatever story it tells, that’s what it boils down to. That women are filthy dirty sluts and whatever you do to them, not only do they enjoy, but the actually seek out, and they deserve.

DJ: What do you say to the people who say that this sort of advertising has no effect. That it’s all fantasy and that there is no real world effect? “I can separate, I can keep separate what I see there from what’s reality. I watch a cowboy movie, it doesn’t mean I’m going to go ride a horse”…

GD: Ok, I’ve got a great answer to that. What I would say is let’s talk more in terms of political economy now, and think about this. We all accept that the fashion industry impacts the way we dress. We all accept that the food industry shapes the way we eat. How could it be possible that the porn industry would be the only industry in the world that had no impact on the culture? The question I want to know is how would that be possible?

We know that in a capitalist society, industries shape culture. They’re not just profit driven entities, they’re also cultural shapers. To argue that pornography had no effect on the way that people think about sex, sexuality, relationships, and intimacy, would basically be to say that images have no impact. That in fact you’re born a sexual being, and it’s divorced from the culture, and it is a stable reality who you are sexually. We know that’s ridiculous. We know that we are evolving cultural beings.

I would throw back to people and say explain to me, in a society where we know that industries shape the world, explain to me how in a society where we have a multi billion dollar a year industry called advertising that uses images to change behaviour, how then does pornography stand outside of all of those industries? It is a nonsensical question to say……..????? shape reality or not, of course it does.

DJ: I think that a lot of indigenous peoples would argue that the Cowboys and Indians movies shaped culture too. That’s the whole point of making a WW2 movie where you’re killing the Crouts?? or something.

GD: Well let’s even go back to Birth of a Nation. One of the first feature films that was over two hours long. Birth of a Nation was crucial in whipping up white racism…..
When you think about say Birth of a Nation, what was very interesting was that prior to the Birth of a Nation being shown in a cinema you would have the Ku Klux Klan having a huge parade beforehand. Birth of a Nation, as was indeed the Minstrel shows were major forms of whipping up white racism against African Americans.

We know for a fact that one showing of Birth of a Nation would not have made you a Ku Klux Klan member, but put Birth of a Nation in a racist culture where racism is the hegemonic way of thinking, and then Birth of a Nation of course doesn’t so much change the way you think, as it cements the hegemony floating around. That’s the same as porn.

People always say “how does porn change views?” I wouldn’t ask that question. What I would say is how does porn cement the misogyny that circulates through our culture, and include pop culture? And what porn does, unlike any other form of imagery, is it delivers, to the man, messages of misogyny to his brain, via the penis, in a crisp succinct way that is unambiguous and unquestionable. That is why pornography is so important an issue for feminists. Nothing quite delivers to men the message of pornography in the way that pornography does.

DJ: So let’s talk about finances for a second. You are a part of a huge organization that is taking on all these tiny little pornographers.

GD: I wish.

DJ: Don’t you think it’s unfair to pick on them with all your strength?

GD: Oh, all my millions in the bank, yes. Let’s talk finances… Let’s just say that you can’t get a PhD in and English university in Sociology, and not come out with a Marxist perspective. That was my reality. So I always follow the money, that’s where the most interesting things are for me.

Now the porn industry, if you put porn into google, you come up with millions and millions of hits and sites and you just get kind of lost by the images. Well let’s get some reality here. Basically the porn industry is run by really one corporation. It used to be called Manwin. M-a-n-w-i-n as in man win woman loses. It is based in Luxembourg and the head of it was a man called Fabian Thylmann who was a 30 odd year old German business man who revolutionized the porn industry. And what Manwin did is it systematically brought up distribution sites. Now it’s called MindGeek They’ve kicked out Fabian Thylmann because he was arrested for tax evasion so they got rid of him very quickly.

Now when you go into Google and you put porn into Google you will come up on the front page with the free porn sites, and there’s about 5, 6, or 7 of them. I would say that MindGeek, I think it owns virtually all of those free porn sites. Now, your portal into the porn world is indeed the free porn sites. It’s very difficult to get into the porn world without going into the free porn sites. So now let’s talk about the fact that one company that is in Luxembourg that has offices all over the world— including by the way Los Angeles—controls most of the distribution.

So really what you have is the Nike model of porn. You’ve got production which is diffuse all over the world. You’ve got production in Los Angeles, you’ve got production in Nevada, you’ve got production in Eastern Europe where you have no end of women in poverty. But it’s the same as making Nike. Women make Nike sneakers all over the world, they don’t make any money. Who makes money off Nike sneakers? Nike, who runs them at the end of the distribution chain. That’s the same as porn. Porn now does the Nike model. Mass diffuse production, concentrated distribution. And at the distribution, which is where the money is, that is where MindGeek sits. So you are looking at now a multi billion dollar a year industry. Now this has enormous ramifications. Because it’s one thing to have an industry that has lots of small players, when you have an industry that has a major player think of the political and cultural power of that money.

And if I may give you an example of this: the AIDS Health care Foundation, a few years ago, put forward Measure B, which was basically to say—very reasonably—that anyone in LA making porn should have to wear condoms in order to prevent STD outbreaks, HIV outbreaks. And then there was this massive fight against Measure B. I discussed it with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who actually are a very brave organization and they actually got Measure B passed. And then when we started looking at all these organizations that came in to fight Measure B, some of them were like the Republican Women’s Association of America… I thought well this doesn’t make sense, so I started phoning all of these organizations that evidently were fighting condom use, and guess what? It was the same disconnected number, at the same address. Who do you think had set up all these dummy corporations? MindGeek. Which by the way, you know it’s illegal to use foreign money to bring into the United States. So now they’re under investigation by the Department of Justice for trying to affect laws in the U.S. That’s called astro-turf organizing. That’s what that kind of money does. So all these so-called arguments against the Measure B condom use, a lot of it was financed by MindGeek.

DJ: I hear what you’re saying, and I don’t want for listeners to get the impression that if somehow someone were able to sue MindGeek and cause them to go into bankruptcy, that the entire porn industry would topple….

GD: What are you going to sue them on?

DJ: The point is that the fact that it’s centralized does not imply that addressing that single target would address porn in any way.

GD: ??…..is it finds the weak link. It does make our life easier, because if we have to go after tonnes and tonnes of industries in the supply chain, then we’re really busy like chickens with our heads cut off. But as an activist I’m always thinking, what is the weak link in the supply chain? And when you’ve got so much power concentrated in one place, it’s a very good way for activists to think about…

DJ: Right, I’m sorry, I wasn’t really clear. What I was trying to say is that, that doesn’t, there are a lot of other fingers in the pie are there not? Like Viacom, like hotel chains, so I just wanted to make clear that it’s not just one company getting fabulously wealthy off all the porn in the world.

GD: Well, hotel chains are no longer, you know why? Because hotel chains only run soft core porn, and men don’t want soft core porn. Men bring their hardcore porn on their laptops to the hotels. So basically the hotel porn industry is going down because no one wants what you can get on the hotel porn, so that’s gone. But you have to think about the way in which MindGeek is stitched into other global corporations.

Imagine every time a guy puts a credit card in to buy porn, think about how many corporations are involved in that feeding chain. Just think about it. Banks, credit card companies, venture capitalists. Do you even know that the porn industry is so sophisticated that they have a thing called cascading payment systems? And what this is, is remember the guy’s hot and bothered, and he wants to get off as quick as possible, and then he puts his money in to a paid website—because most of the free porn sites direct you to paid websites pretty quickly—now the thing that’s going to kill his erection is if it comes back saying credit card rejected. So what you have now is another industry which does cascade payment systems. So if he puts his card in, and it gets rejected, there’s all these organizations that come in and say accept his card because we will find somewhere along the line, somewhere that will pay that fee. So that’s how sophisticated it is. So you are talking about one of the most sophisticated industries.

And let me say how sophisticated it is as well, one of the largest porn conventions every year is January—right now more or less, actually—in Las Vegas. And every year that porn convention—which is often sponsored by Adult Video News—on one floor of the huge stadium wherever they have it is the porn convention, and on the next floor is the biggest electronics convention of the year. And people go upstairs and downstairs because the electronics and the porn industry work hand in glove.

DJ: So, can we talk about the actual… like, what percentage of commercial internet use, I’ve heard, I don’t know if this is true, I think this is, that porn is the largest single commercial use of the internet?

GD: They say about a third, a third of the internet is porn. I mean, it’s very hard to pin down exactly, but from lots of different stats i’ve seen it’s about a third of all internet use is somehow linked to porn.

DJ: And pornography has driven at least some of the development of the technology, has it not?

GD: I would say virtually most of it. For example: pop ups, payment systems. There’s a whole list of things it’s driven. And also the other thing it really drove was the mobile phone. Now, let me say why this is. Think about this: like every industry you want to maximize profit. And so how do men get their porn via the internet? Traditionally they got it through a laptop, or a regular computer. If you live in a place that is over crowded like Brazil or India, the guy cannot be jerking off to porn in the middle of the sitting room, which is where the family live. Why they put so much money into the mobile phones is it allowed them to get into Brazil, and to India, so that the guys had a portable way of basically using porn.

And then I want you to think what it means to go to a place like India, where in many cases they’ve never see a naked woman, and then all of a sudden overnight with the mobile phone explosion, they get access to the most violent porn imaginable. And this is what’s happened.

In London a few years ago at the expo?? convention, which is another porn convention, a lot of the workshops were on developing the mobile phone screen because they said “we can’t get into Brazil, and India, without developing the screens on the mobile phone”.

DJ: So, I know we’ve talked about this bus, what are the… Really bring home the affects of seeing these images—I mean I tried to do this in a very small way by saying that it affected my spontaneous fantasy life, and it took me maybe 3 or 4 months of not watching porn to re…

GD: Calibrate

DJ: Thank you, that’s the word I was looking for, recalibrate…

GD: How old were you, by the way when you did that?

DJ: That was about 2000, so I was about 40.

GD: Oh goodness me, at 40 years old. Because you know the average age of viewing porn today is 12. Now think about this, think about 12 years old is when you are developing your sexual template. You’ve probably had no sexual experience, and you put porn into Google, and you think you’re going to see breasts, or maybe people having sex and you are catapulted into a world of absolute utter violence and cruelty. Think of the impact on the 12 year old boy.

Now, I have a son who’s older than 12 and I think about what it would have meant for him at 12, to put porn into Google and to come up with a woman with semen smeared all over her face to the point she can’t open her eyes. Exhausted, crying, gagging, vomiting. Can you imagine the trauma of a 12 year old boy when that is his introduction into pornography? And I think this explains why so many boys at such an early age become habitual users.

If you know anything about trauma literature, that often when you’re traumatized, you go back to the point at which you were traumatized to try and hope that you can play it out differently. And that’s why I think so much habituation is going on with young boys today. I think pornography is traumatizing an entire generation of our young boys. I mean, I’m a radical feminist. People expect radical feminists to be man haters, that is the image that they have had of us. Let me tell you, we are fighting not just for our daughters, but for our boys as well. Because I am arguing that not only are girls and women being victimized and traumatized by the porn industry, but I think a whole generation of boys are being victimized and traumatized. That young boy at 12 who thought he was going to see a picture of maybe a naked woman, and then sees the gagging and the violent anal sex, think what exists in his stomach. Think of that toxic stew of anxiety, and shame, and arousal, and fear, and then think of how that is shaping his sexuality. And the thing that we know, is the younger you habitually use anything, the more difficult it is to recalibrate after that. So you at 40 walking around thinking “what colour is that woman’s pubic hair?” is laughable, but it makes you want to cry when you think about the 12 year old, and what he is being catapulted into.

DJ: And what, in your perspective are the effects on women and their sexuality?

GD: Well there are studies now coming out on this as well, and what they’re finding is that a lot of women… well first of all let’s make it clear. The pornography industry always want to say that women are using porn all the time. That’s actually not strictly true. Whenever I interview the pornographers they say to me they wish more women were using pornography, but the truth is it’s mainly men, and the main pornography—which is the violent porn—is men alone, after their wives or girlfriends have either left or gone to bed.

So the effects on women is actually quite similar. A very toxic mix: shame, fear about they can’t live up to the images in actual pornography, and also what I have found, now this is anecdotal but I want to say something very important that you hear enough anecdotes and it coheres into data. And that’s a big issue in feminism that we listen to what women have to say, and I travel across not just the country, but much of the world. And many of the women who are using gonzo porn are actually victims of sexual abuse. And i’ve had women tell me that because of their rapes, they cannot orgasm unless they’re watching a woman being degraded and humiliated. So why women use porn and the effects on women is very complicated, and is tied up with the enormous amount of sexual violence against women and girls.

DJ: And I think, something that’s really, really important to remember always, is that part of the point of any system of oppression is to attempt to get the oppressed to participate quote willingly unquote in their own oppression.

GD: A la?? Gramsci, and I hate to quote Altezar?? because he killed his wife, but Louis Altezar?? also argued that. Let’s take Gramsci because he didn’t kill his wife, so we’re on safer ground with Gramsci. I think that was the brilliance of Gramsci, is that Marx often thought about ideology in kind of a blunt instrument, and what Gramsci came in and did was to really, I think, make it more nuanced. And said look, you cannot impose an ideology from above if those who you’re opposing it upon do not get something out of it. And so, like you said, you have to get the oppressed to somehow think that their interests are tied in with the interests of the oppressor otherwise its not going to work. And this has worked beautifully with women.

Women have been told that in order to be noticed, or as I like to say ‘fuckable’—you might have to bleep that out—in order to be fuckable, you have to conform to a porn image, because if you don’t, you’re invisible. And really if you put up fuckability vs. invisibility, who wants to be invisible in this world? And especially if you’re talking about adolescents where the actual DNA of adolescence is to be visible, is to be seen. And in our porn culture, if you do not conform to the pornified images of women, then you will not be seen and you will be invisible. That’s the problem that women face today.

And what makes me crazy is when you get this third wave feminism saying that looking hyper-sexualized is actually a choice based on wanting to empower oneself. Real choices mean you have lots and lots of choices on offer, and you pick one depending on your background, who you are, your creativity, your authenticity, all of those things. Today when young girls are wandering through the culture wondering what does it mean to be female, there is only one image on offer. The Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, hyper-sexualized, fuckable image that says, if you want to be noticed, this is what you have to look like. There is nothing empowering in conforming to the images of the oppressor.

DJ: So, of all my books, I think one of my favourite lines I ever wrote is that “any hatred felt long enough, no longer feels like hatred. It feels like economics, or philosophy, or religion, or just the way things are”. And so it seems to me that this oppression is normalized, and this hatred of women is also, one of the ways that this hatred of women is normalized is not only of course through pornography but then also through the mainstream objectification of women through media, and the media portrayals of women. Actually that’s something I want to bring up, did you ever know the work of George Gerbner.

GD: Yes, of course. I knew George Gerbner well, personally.

DJ: I interviewed him, maybe 1998 or something, one of my favourite interviews I ever did. And one of the things if you recall was casting and fate, where he talked about the important thing with say violence in film, is not there’s an act of violence, but the question of who does what to whom? He was talking about that’s how, like, Bruce Willis can be a white male, who is a police man, and he can kill 15 people in the first 5 minutes of the film and nobody cares. But if you have a woman, who is not a police person, who then kills someone the whole movie has to be about why she would do something so horrible. So that ties back to porn here on who’s doing what to whom?

GD: And also I think Gerbner who was—unfortunately I think a lot of post-modern media studies has wiped Gerbner off the face of the earth in that young people are not studying Gerbner in media studies—and his stuff was so important because what he showed, as you said, was who’s doing what to whom. But he also showed that the more you watch television, the more you have a television view of the world when you hold other variables constant. And so what is amazing about Gerbner’s work, and which is what I used in my book, and I discussed before, is his question isn’t just how does media change reality, it’s how does it cement it in a way that allows those in power to continue to oppress the powerless. So Gerbner on many levels was actually a revolutionary. I think some of his work was wonderful.

He also talked about, I think he really put his finger on it when he said “why are films so violent?”. And he said, one of the reasons is because now you have a global market, the language of violence is international. Let’s think about it. Take a British movie that I just saw which is Pride, which is excellent, which is looking at the relationship of how the Lesbian and Gay communities in England joined with the miners to fight Thatcher. There’s a lot of dialogue in there, very difficult to export it to other countries.

But you take a violent movie, and everybody understands a bullet, and blood and guts. And so that’s really had a big impact on the movie industries. The fact is there’s virtually no movie you can make now that doesn’t make tonnes and tonnes of money. If it completely bombs in the United States, you just drop it off in some other country. And I actually remember when I was travelling a few years ago in Israel, and I was looking around, what you saw in different parts, especially when you went over to some of the territories, was a lot of the movies that you’d had in the movie houses for maybe two days here and then were gone, where all over, and they were making a fortune.

DJ: My writing mentor, when I was learning how to write, had a piece of serious literature that explored questions of… it was great, it was the intersection of thriller and literature where there was some action, but at the same time there were explorations of the effects of the violence on the people involved. And he sold that to… they sold the rites to that, and it ended up becoming a big action film in Japan with all of the, actually exploration of the violence taken out, and there was nothing but violence left.

GD: Of course, I could have told you that was going to happen. There’s a very similar story actually, there was somebody doing some really good media literacy work in Maine. And he went into a classroom, and he gave kids cameras, and he said: “look you can make a 3 minute take, what do you want to do?” And they had to write the film and then act it. And of course all the boys were doing violence and shooting and killing. And he said: “that’s absolutely ok, you can do that, but remember if you do that you’re going to have to write in a funeral, and then you have to write in people crying because people are dying”. So you can’t just have the violence, you have then have all… well let me tell you, that changed what they thought they were going to do. And I thought that was a brilliant idea is to get them to understand the consequences of violence.

And I really think if you want to bring it back to porn, you know, I do travel, and I speak to young men—college age students—everywhere. And to say in their favour, I don’t think they really get the lives of the women that they perpetrate this violence against. I don’t even think they see it as violence. I think they don’t understand that when the ejaculate on their faces without asking them, or flick them over and do anal sex, they don’t see it as violence.

They come up to me afterwards, and this can be in a hall of 500 students at a university, and they’ll come up to me afterwards and they’ll say “Oh my god, this is what I’ve been doing? This is who I’ve been?”. And this is a good sign because they’ve been so brainwashed by the porn culture, and all it took was an hours’ lecture on my part, for them to begin to get some of their humanity back. And so, in a lot of ways they do have some hope. Now there are the sociopaths who are gone, you realize we’re never going to get them back, but I don’t believe that’s the majority of men. I think if we carry on down this road we’re going to have a lost generation who we are not going to be able to bring back to humanity, and I would hate for that. Especially as the mother of a son, I would hate for that.

DJ: This reminds me of something an environmental mentor John Osborne of mine always says about how you have to repeat a lie a thousand times because lies are just very expensive and we know the truth, and our bodies know the truth.

And this is one reason why the timber industry has to say again and again that deforestation isn’t harmful or something. And it’s the same with this, that it has to be repeated. This also reminds me of, I’ve said this before publicly that, when I was a teenager it was very common to use the word fag. It was just a generic insult that actually meant nothing. I stopped using that word after I was teaching a friend of mine how to drive and he ran my car into a pole, and I said “oh you fag”, and he was bisexual and he looked at me and said “ya I’m a fag, what does that have to do with me running your car into a pole?” I had never made the connection between this abstract word that meant nothing to me, and the actual slur. All it took really, was him pointing out that this is a real insult for me to start to change.

GD: Well I think that’s a great example, but I want to sort of take it one step up and say look, the timber industry and all the other earth killers, what they don’t have on their side is what porn has on their side. And what porn has on their side is that they connect their message to arousal and ejaculation. Think how powerful that is. So the timber industry, and lots of industries has to keep saying it over and over again. I think given the biological reality of porn that the message is encoded into the body via arousal and ejaculation. I think you have to say it a lot less actually, and that’s what scares me.

DJ: So to be clear, what you’re saying is that men who look at porn and masturbate to it are getting the biological reward of an orgasm—which is a very powerful biological reward—for watching this act of degradation and that cements the connection between degradation and pleasure in a very somatic way.

GD: Absolutely. That is excellently put. And I would add to that it also cements their relationship with porn. Because if you look at when you have an orgasm you release all sorts of hormones that help you bond with the person you’re having an orgasm with. And when I often see men who are really literally ready to kill me because I’m anti porn—what is going on here?—and what I realize is they have bonded with their porn, in a way that we would hope you would bond with the person you’re having an orgasm with to build a somewhat intimate relationship. And so there’s that profound bonding goes on as well. So yes, what you say is correct, and add that to the fact that they have a sort of bonding going on with their porn.

DJ: Well that was another moment—and I wrote about this in A Culture of Make Believe—that was another moment in my understanding of porn is that at one point i’m sitting there in front of the computer and it suddenly hits me that as much as I might want to fantasize that I’m hanging out with this woman whom I love, the truth is I’m sitting in a hard back, hard cushion chair, sweats around my ankles, looking at a computer screen, listening to UFO play rock bottom in the background. That’s kind of pathetic.

GD: It’s sad, it’s lonely, and it kills intimacy.

DJ: And in addition, I mean, neither one of us is against masturbation I presume…

GD: No, no, no, of course not.

DJ: And it’s, I mean with masturbation there is at least the memory with the person, or there’s still a relationship with the… help me out here.

GD: I would say that’s gone as well. I’d say masturbation pre the porn culture, you would build up your own fantasies and images, and whatever made sense to you. Now, when you speak to men who masturbate, all they can pull up are the porn images, whether they’ve got porn in front of them or not. And in fact it was very common in my interviews—and studies show this—that men in order to ejaculate, even if they’re with a real human being, a real woman, they have to pull up their porn in order to ejaculate. Their images.

DJ: I was talking to someone not long ago who is known for being an attractive woman. And this person said that she had boyfriends who broke up with her because of pornography. And that really hit me hard with the power of pornography that they are with actually someone whom other men probably fantasies about, and they’re actually with her, and she doesn’t want them to use porn, and they still did. And their attraction to porn—and for God’s sake they may have actually been masturbating to pornographied images of her—so they were choosing porn, over this woman whom other men would fantasize about.

GD: Ya, but who would get tired of very quickly. You see the great thing about porn, and that’s why the average shelf life of a woman in the porn industry is 3 months. When you go on most porn sites, they’ll say fresh meat every week. Guys like to see new, different women. They want to see changes. I mean a woman can’t survive very long in the porn industry because they want to see something different.

So even if she’s, and by the way I smiled when you used the word attractive, because you’re letting your age show, and we’re probably a similar age actually. No one in my classes uses attractive. The word is hot, right. You’ve got to be hot. Because that means sexual. We used to say attractive when someone was good looking, I remember that was the word you used, was attractive. No, that’s gone. I’ve never heard any of my students use that word, it’s always hot. And of course hot means sexual sizzle as well as looking good.

But the interesting thing about the porn industry is they have to keep revolving through women. This is why I think they’re going to move a lot more to Eastern Europe where there’s no end of poor women thanks to what global capitalism has done to Eastern Europe. And they want change.

I remember when I was writing Pornland there was a very popular site, and it promised first time ever on porn. And I was looking at the sites where guys discuss porn, because you know there’s all these sites where guys go on and discuss their favourite porn scenes, and they’ll ask questions like “can someone tell me the best scene where the bitch really hates it?, or where the bitch starts to cry, these are the kinds of questions they ask, and you get hundreds of answers, you know, go to film a and 3 minutes and 14 seconds and you’ll see where she really cant stand it anymore. So I was on one of these sites, and one of the longest threads was on about this site that said “She was new to porn, this is the first time ever on porn she’s ever been seen”. And in fact, it was somebody that somebody had recognized from another porn film. Well, they were enraged. Because they had been promised new meat, fresh meat. And what it turned out, was she was not fresh meat. Why? Because she was quote, a whore, and she had been in porn before. And it was so interesting, I got my head around, why are they so upset that this is not the first time, what I realized is that was exciting was to watch her go from being a civilian, to a porn whore. They wanted to be present at the moment of that change.

DJ: Well, and I think that gets to the absolute heart of patriarchy. It seems to me that The central imperative of patriarchy is the violation imperative. To take someone and to show your own superiority to them, and how do you show your superiority? By violating them. And that violation imperative is insatiable because there are always new…

GD: Perfect, perfect.

DJ: Always new people, including non-human people, including the land, including the moon, that’s why they bombed the moon.

GD: There’s never enough. The truth is, there’s never enough though. As many as there’s new, it’s never enough. How many more porn images do we really need? How much more destruction to the environment do you need? It’s never enough. It’s insatiable.

DJ: There’s this wonderful line by R.D. Lang—who was an abusive jerk, but also wrote great stuff—“how do you plug a void, plugging a void?” And that’s part of the problem I think. Is that pornography is using a void to plug a void. And as such…

So I guess we’ve got like 5 or 10 minutes left, and there’s a couple questions I want to ask. One of them is, can you hit again just the whole notion of the spectacle and of this void plugging a void. And you’ve hit this pretty hard, but can you talk again about how because there is no emotional connection to it, it becomes boring and always must accelerate, how the spectacle always has to accelerate.

GD: That’s right. Well first of all, I would say a void plugging a void is, remember in many cases the pornographers create the void in the first place. So you have the void created by the porn then plugging a void created by the porn and on, and on, and on. Because I think all of us have a desire for connection and intimacy, and I think pornography comes in and strips young boys of that desire.

When you think about what makes sex interesting with another human being its the idiosyncrasies of the other person, it’s the way they move their mouth, its the way they joke. Just think of all that makes intimacy interesting, and not just sex, but intimacy. Now take porn. Porn is generic, it’s formulaic. I can literally map out the average porn scene that you will come across now. So if you’re going to glean out all that makes sex and intimacy interesting, you’re going to have to fill it in, the void, with something. And what you fill that void in with is anger, and rage, and hate, and everything else. I say in my book, “porn is about making hate to women, not making love”. Everything you think about when you make love, all those emotions you think about of connection and intimacy, and kindness, and warmth, all of that is destroyed. And in it’s place is hate, and loathing, and debasement, and dehumanization. And so, the best sex you have is when you have connection. The best porn you have is when you have utter disconnection. When you can take that bitch-whore-slut, whatever you want to call her, and totally as they say in the porn world, drill her till there’s nothing left.

When you watch porn… I have to say when I was watching porn for my book there was times when I would literally dissociate from the violence. Luckily I don’t have a history of sexual violence, because I don’t think I could do this work if I did to be perfectly honest with you I think I would dissociate too much if I did. But even me, I would literally dissociate. I can remember times of seeing violence where I literally didn’t know what to do with myself, I was almost weeping on the floor. There was one scene when I was starting to write the book where you’ve got a guy with a woman’s head down a toilet and he’s penetrating her from behind—and people should just know there’s a trigger alert here–and he’s got her head in the toilet, he’s flushing it, and he’s screaming at her “I’m gonna fuck you till your mother fucker comes up from the fucking grave”. And this went on, I clocked it, it was 30 seconds, and it felt like 30 hours in my body. And I literally turned off the computer, I couldn’t do anything. I literally was just rendered, I was paralysed. That level of hatred, how is it possible a) that men make it and b) men find it arousing. And that was the teaser on one of the top visited porn sites.

I often say to people, I’ve studied porn for 25 years. I probably know more about the industry and porn than most living people and that includes the pornographers. And yet, in a profound way, I don’t understand it. I don’t get anything, I really can’t understand it. I can’t understand that level of hatred that can then be linked with arousal. There’s a way in which I really don’t get it.

DJ: I have to tell you that I say that same thing about environmental destruction every single day. I’ve written 20 some books, I don’t get it, I don’t understand any of it. So, I guess 2 questions, and one of them you’ve made very clear so far, but I wanted to ask this question just because I love your answer so much. And that is one of the arguments that is made against you is that because you’re against pornography, obviously you must not like sex, you must be just this prude. So, do you want to respond to that one?

GD: I’d love to respond to that. I always say, if I was going around the country talking about the impact of the fast food industry, and the way the McDonalds lays waste to the environment, nobody would accuse me of being anti-eating. They would see that I am against the industry as opposed to the human act and enjoyment of eating. To say that I am against sex, when I am against pornography, is to conflate the porn industry with sex. And this by the way is part of the brilliance of the porn industry. They have said, if you’re against porn, you’re against sex. So what I argue is that porn is to sex what McDonalds is to food. It’s the industrialization, formulaic, generic renditioning of what is a human creative act. And it is knocked out by the porn industry, and turned into an industrial product.

DJ: It is embarrassing to, I think you, and to me, and to the entire culture, that you even have to say that.

GD: Well it tells you about the culture that they can’t separate porn from sex. And I think it’s true. You know how many men say to me, and these are not said in an angry way after I’ve given a lecture at university, they’ll say, “if I don’t use porn, what am I going to masturbate to?” And I’ll say to them, you know what, supposing I was coming in here again, and talking about the fast food industry, you wouldn’t say to me “if I can’t eat at McDonalds, what should I eat?” And I wouldn’t tell you what to eat. You know what? I don’t know what you want to eat, you might eat French food, Italian. Who the hell knows what you want to eat. It’s not up to me to tell you what to eat. So it’s the same thing. I don’t know what you like sexually, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know who you would grow into if you could develop your own sexuality without this porn industry round your neck. So, you know what, people who come in and talk about the food industry, they don’t bring recipes with them and tell you this is what you should cook, and how to cook it. Go ahead, experiment, have fun, enjoy it. Of course with sex it has to be consensual. But who am I to tell you what to do sexually? All I can say, is that the porn industry shouldn’t be the ones to tell you. You should be allowed to be the author of your own sexuality. That is I think a basic human right that the porn industry is robbing us of.

DJ: So, I guess my last question—we’re running out of time—my last question is, so if you were made the queen of all things associated with pornography, or the minister of cultural information…

GD: Oh, ya, that’s going to happen, go on.

DJ: So what would you, you can’t take down capitalism, we’re going to accept capitalism for now. You can take down capitalism next week. But for now you have to keep capitalism in place, but you can do whatever you want with the porn industry. What sort of legislation would you put through, what sort of regulation or elimination, or what would you do if you were suddenly put in charge of dealing with porn.

GD: Well you see if we’ve got capitalism, the reality is I wouldn’t be able to do anything because it’s set?? but let’s just assume I could for the time being…

DJ: Yes, and thank you for saying that. I love the fact you just said that.

GD: Ya, thank you. I would have to say that I would go the way that Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon started, and which Iceland is thinking of, which is defining pornography as a violation of women’s civil rights. And I would use, as Dworkin and Mackinnon so brilliantly thought of, the civil rights legislation as a way to think about what to do with porn. If we take the civil rights of women seriously, if we take equality seriously, then you cannot have a society where women are full and equal citizens and have this juggernaut called pornography breathing down the necks of men everywhere. So I would begin to develop a legislation that was based on civil rights law to figure out how to go after the pornographers, and sue them, pornographer by pornographer.

DJ: So I guess the very very last thing is, what do you want individuals to do, both women and men having heard this interview, what do you want them to do?

GD: I would like them to go to stoppornculture.org and join us. And because you know what? You can’t do this as we all know, movements are not made up of individuals. The movement is always bigger than the collective of the individuals. And that’s where we start and Stop Porn Culture. Because people feel overwhelmed by the porn culture. So what I would say is go to Stop Porn Culture, join up, come to our conferences, become part of our movement. Pornography is a global industry. The only way you stop global industries is through global movements. So that’s what I have to say to people. If you’re going to go at this on an individual level you are going to burn out, you’re going to feel helpless and hopeless, and you’re not going to be any good to yourself, or to anybody else. This has to be movement based. And you know what, the old idea that feminists have no sense of humour, I don’t know people funnier than feminists. We are the funniest people around. So we do this?? and we have a lot of fun as we’re closing down this industry. So that would be my offer to people, join us at Stop Porn Culture.

DJ: Thank you so much, and I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been Gail Dines. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio, on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on February 8th — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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