Pornography is about dominance. Erotica is about mutuality.
~ Gloria Steinem
The pornography industry is not about sex. It is about money, a lot of it! Even the imagery of most pornography today has little to do with sex and much to do with power and control as expressed through sexual violence. It has been observed that pornography is to sex what fast food is to fine dining. That is to say it is a distillation, a facsimile. It appears to have the outward attributes that would qualify it to fit the catagory, but close examination reveals otherwise. It is quite possible to denounce the pornography industry, without in any sense being anti-sex.
According to a New York Times Magazine cover story back in 2001, called “Naked Capitalists: There’s No Business Like Porn Business”, pornography rakes in big bucks–with $10 billion to $14 billion in annual sales. The author of the article, Frank Rich, suggests that pornography is bigger than any of the major league sports, perhaps bigger than Hollywood. Porn is “no longer a sideshow to the mainstream… it is the mainstream” he says. Now, almost ten years later, with the proliferation of cable television and the internet, profits are ever growing. Whether in print, in video, in live peep shows or virtual webcasts, many people working in this industry are coerced or tricked into it, and are often being exploited by a third party.
We are neither puritans nor prudes. Opposition to pornography need not rest solely, or at all, upon religious or moral precepts. And we are ever mindful of our cherished freedom of speech enshrined in the Bill of Rights’ first amendment. But we must deplore seeing these precious legal safeguards used as a shield to depict all manner of degrading material for strictly commercial exploitation. Those who would wrap themselves in the cloak of liberty to prey upon the weak and vulnerable, deserve only our contempt. That they are motivated solely by profit is all the more shameful. The harm that pornography does is real and well documented. Its corrosive effects operate at many levels: on society, on the victims, and indeed on the consumers. This triple-whammy acts in a direct manner to facilitate and normalize more egregious abuses such as prostitution, sex tourism, sexual violence and child sexual exploitation.
We have been conditioned by an unending bombardment of sexual images in advertising, to associate women and young girls with commodities. Even if we reject this notion intellectually, both men and women are affected by it. This conditioning to accept as normal what should be shocking, is evident in the hundreds of ads appearing in community newspapers and telephone directories for so-called ‘adult services’. We have come to find it unremarkable that legitimate businesses are profiting from flesh peddlers and sex-traffickers!
The New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) launched a campaign in 2007 to draw attention to this and succeeded in having a number of papers voluntarily stop or curtail such advertising. Many other publications continue to rely on this lucrative revenue stream. In fact they essentially engage in price gouging, charging three times as much to the brothels and pimps that place these ads. Perhaps money is cheap when it is wrung from the bodies of young women? NOW asserts that the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services has found that ads featuring specific ethnicities or “in call only” escort services, most often have human trafficking ties. These publications promote and profit from human trafficking! Why is that acceptable? We delve more into this specific affront in our page on DEMAND, Who’s Buying.
We do not advocate more government censorship. Obscenity laws already exist and are the subject of unending debate and litigation. It has been noted by civil libertarians that “the best answer to objectionable speech is more speech!” We support that notion.
We advocate thinking about, learning about, and discussing these issues. We advocate being AWARE of how we are being manipulated and conditioned. We wish to encourage people to speak out against things that are inherently offensive. Write a letter to an editor. Start a petition. Call companies and let them know how you feel about their marketing techniques. The power of the purse should not be underestimated. It is our culture that is being hijacked. Only by raising our voices can we hope to alter the current cultural landscape.
Agree or disagree, the presentation here by Dr. Gail Dines should provide ample food for thought on this subject. Her cogent arguments have been known to compel many to reassess long held beliefs about pornography being ‘harmless’.
Caution: Strong language and graphic images. This is a very frank and explicit discussion about the pornography industry.
The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography, Robert W. Peters, Laura J. Lederer, and Shane Kelly, The Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society, Issue 5, Fall 2012
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