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Should We Worry Whether Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality?

Author Gail Dines says today's brutal pornography looks nothing like it did 15 years ago -- and it's damaged our ability to have intimate relationships.

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And so, in order to teach people how to be consumers, you needed to show them what it was to buy products they didn't need. This is where Playboy was so successful. The advertising in Playboy was about telling men that if you consume at this level, then you will get the real prize, which is the women in the magazine, or women who look like women in the magazine. So what he did–he didn't just commodify sexuality, he sexualized commodities, which is his brilliance.

Also in 1969 in the New York Times there was an ad for Penthouse, and that was Penthouse trying to come in and dislodge Playboy from its number one position. And between 1969 and 1973, you had a war between Playboy and Penthouse to see who could be the most explicit. Now in a way, Playboy lost the battle but won the war. The reason is that it didn't go as explicit as Penthouse. Penthouse was so explicit that a lot of the advertisers ran and were nervous about putting their images, their products, in there.

Now, during the battle between '69 and '73, they opened up the space for what was acceptable pornography. It's no accident that in 1973 you saw the first edition of Hustler. This absolutely pushed the limits of what could be mainstream, hard-core pornography. So you had Playboy staking out the soft-core, then you had Hustler staking out the hard-core. Those were -- and I can't believe I say this -- the good old days. Today, I mean, Hustler is mild compared to what you see in the mainstream pornography.

SK: Because of the Internet.

GD: Absolutely. The Internet changed the industry. It made it accessible, and it made it affordable. So remember, when the average age of first viewing pornography is 11, when the 11-year-old boy puts "porn" into Google, he's not looking at your father's Playboy, he's looking at a world of cruelty, and a world of brutality. So what I ask in the book is, "What are the long-term effects of bringing up boys on violent images when you think about pornography as being the main form of sex education in our society?"

SK: And I want to get to that question, but let's talk about the effects on women. Because as the industry has changed, the women participating in that industry have gone from, you know, being photographed naked to now being literally brutalized -- physically brutalized. What does the average female participant in the pornography industry go through in terms of her physical degradation and her physical health?

GD: If you watch pornography you see that immediately. What you see is a woman being penetrated brutally vaginally, anally and orally. As that's happening -- three men at one time, four men at one time -- she's being called vile, hateful names, she's being sometimes slapped, sometimes her hair is pulled... Even the industry said that many women have a hard time being in the industry for more than three months. Why? Because of the brutalization of the body.

SK: Three months?

GD: That's what the article says in Adult Video News. Also, I've interviewed somebody who worked with AIM, the health care organization that takes care of the health of porn performers, and he was telling me just what happens to the bodies of these women. For example, he said one of the big things are anal prolapses, where literally their anuses drop out of their body and have to be sewn back in because of the brutal anal sex. He also talked about gonorrhea of the eye, and the latest thing -- because you have something called [ass to mouth] -- they put the penis into the anus, and then into her mouth without washing. They're finding now that women are getting fecal bacterial infections in their mouth and throat.

 
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