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Is Porn That Depicts the Subjugation of Hispanic Women Tied to the Rise of Hate Crimes Against Latinos?

Lou Dobbs cheers on anti-Latino backlash, while pornography provides the context for the dangerous stereotypes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation tells us there has been a steep rise in hate crimes against Latinos in the United States in the past six years.

Hate crimes against Latinos rose by nearly 35 percent from 2003 to 2006, a mind-numbing increase that shows no signs of slowing down.

Just last week, an all-white jury in rural Pennsylvania acquitted two white teens of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation for the beating death of Luis Ramirez.

Experts attribute the rise in hate crimesagainst Latinos to the parallel rise in anti-immigrant diatribes put forth by ratings-starved nativist TV and radio talking heads like Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, the latter of whom was this week banned from visiting England because of his incitement of hate.

Even though immigrants come to the U.S. from more than 200 nations, and the majority of "illegal" immigrants in the U.S. are those who have come on educational or work visas and simply overstayed, the mainstream media and aforementioned pundits inexplicably continue to pretend all immigrants are Latinos who crawl like roaches across the border to steal jobs and spread disease.

They also pretend: all immigrants are Mexican, though only 43 percent of immigrants to the U.S. come from Mexico; all Latinos are Mexican, even though there are 30 nations in Latin America; all Mexicans are "illegal immigrants," even though millions of Mexican Americans have roots in the United States that predate the arrival of the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock. All too often in the U.S. media, history is an inconvenience.

This steady drumbeat of hate, fueled by widespread misinformation and stereotypes, has led, predictably, to the mainstreaming of fear and loathing of Latinos in general, and Mexicans in particular.

This is nothing new. We have seen the same sort of rise in ethnic and racial hatred played out in many nations during times of economic crisis; scapegoating a powerless group (Jews by Hitler, East Indians by Uganda's Idi Amin, etc.) is a time-honored and desperate technique employed by the powerful when they have led their citizens to economic ruin and wish to sidestep the blame.

Internet Porn: The Invisible Perv(asive) Pundit

While Dobbs and other mainstream talking heads clearly have had a powerful influence on the nation's surging anti-Latino/immigrant backlash, there is one equally powerful, influential and profitable sector of the media that no one is talking about: Pornography.

While few users of the Internet will admit to using pornography, facts published by Familysafemedia.com suggest that nearly half of all Internet users seek pornography online.

There are 4.2 million porn sites on the Web, totaling more than 400 million Internet pages. An astounding 25 percent of all search engine requests are for pornography. Pornography profits each year exceed the profits of NBC, ABC and CBS combined.

And yet no one in the rising-Latino-hate debate has thought to look at this sector of the media for indications of violence and hatred toward Hispanics, and Hispanic women in particular. Except me. Because I'm practical like that, and I'm not afraid to go there. Or anywhere, really.

Rape of Latinas Popular on the Net

I've been keeping tabs on the popular free porn site Redtube.com, which is essentially the X-rated version of YouTube, and have found a very disturbing trend.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, videos claiming to depict the rape of Latina maids or Mexican women seeking green cards, etc., have appeared in the top five videos of the day, often in the No. 1 spot, with high ratings from the site's users.

Often, these videos depict women crying, begging for mercy and enduring unwanted anal sex. (The popularity of Latinas in these videos is all the more alarming when one considers that Latina actresses comprise less than half of 1 percent of all TV and movie roles in the United States.)

It is no coincidence that as hate toward Latinos and immigrants rises, Hispanic women are being presented in a very popular, profitable (and, we pretend, invisible) media outlet as the ideal rape victims.

The Redtube videos routinely show Hispanic women begging for money, for citizenship, trying to simply do their jobs of, say, cleaning toilets, but often "getting what's coming to them" instead. The punishing "what's coming to them" theme is rampant and popular. Someone, somewhere, is getting off on this. Lots of someones.

Direct Impact?

The link between pornography and violence against women is a subject of much debate. While researchers at the University of California, San Diego and University of California, Berkeley found that watching porn might reduce rape, researchers at Columbia have concluded that watching violent videos or video games increases violent behavior in the viewers.

The most recent statistics on rape and ethnicity published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reflect the time period 1993 to 2000, meaning they would not represent the spike in hate against Latinos since 2003.

It will be very interesting to see if there has been a quantifiable increase in sexual violence against Hispanics for this most recent time period.

Why I Believe Sexual Violence is on the Rise Against Hispanic Women

While I've always been on the receiving end of "go back to Mexico"-type hate mail from the time I began working as a staff writer at the Boston Globe, I have noticed a change in the tone of my hate mail in recent years.

Now, they are apt to have sexual overtones along with the "go back to Mexico" message. They are also increasingly signed by people who say they are "angry white males."

One such person recently called a police department to tell them he planned to find me and cut my clitoris off with a fish knife. Thankfully, he has not found me yet.

Rape is considered a separate category from "hate crime," in most instances (not sure why, frankly), and I was unable to find any statistics about the rise in rapes of Hispanic women.

I suspect there has been an increase in this type of crime, and that it has paralleled the general rise in hate crimes against Latinos reported by the FBI. I also suspect that in the case of undocumented women, this crime is going entirely unreported.

With Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio now asking armed civilian posses to go after "illegals," you can only imagine what sorts of men might sign up for the task and what they might do to women.

Good Girls Don't Talk About Porn

I know it is considered impolite to discuss pornography in the context of serious media. I know firsthand that the mere mention of pornography will illicit more lascivious chuckles than discussion in America's newsrooms, the vast majority of which are headed by men.

But I also know it is irresponsible not to pay attention to a medium with such broad reach and impact; when I was a reporter at the L.A. Times and discovered that the porn industry eclipsed Hollywood in sales, I suggested the paper add a porn beat. I was laughed at. The male editors (and they were all males) guffawed and snuffled in their bow ties. Good girls, and respectable news outlets, they informed me, did not pay attention to pornography.

But even good girls know, better than anyone, how powerfully pornography shapes the behavior of men -- in the bedroom and out.

I have little doubt that the increase in Internet pornography depicting the rapes of Hispanic women is playing a vital role in the rise of hate crimes against Hispanic women.

I suspect there is a reciprocal relationship, and that the rise in hatemongering and scapegoating of Latinos/immigrants on CNN and talk radio is actually leading to increased (undiscussed) demand for degrading and violent pornography depicting white males abusing Hispanic/immigrant females.

Can Porn Be Hate Speech?

I believe violent pornography targeting a specific racial, ethnic or religious group is hate speech. I am not alone.

Just as England chose to ban Michael Savage for inciting hatred, Canada ruled in 1992 to outlaw violent sexual material, ruling it a form of hate speech.

I do not know what effect this has had on the distribution of such material via Internet, but I do believe such a ruling in the U.S. would go a long way toward getting the media and hate-crime watch groups to pay attention to disturbing trends in porn, rather than laughing it off.

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is a recovering journalist and practicing author. Read more of her work at her blog.
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