Analysis: Deconstructing Dines

CYBERSPACE—"Feminist" Gail Dines has a long record of bashing the adult industry from her perch as a Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Wheelock College, where she conducts an annual conference called "Stop Porn Culture." She's also written a couple of books, including Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, and now has a new one, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, which she's been hawking shamelessly on sites like Huffington Post, where she wrote an article "Adventures in Pornland"—which we thought was worthy of dissection.

What follows is the text of Dines' article, with AVN legal analyst Mark Kernes' comments in bold:

"Writing a book about porn can take a person on some strange research missions, but for me the most bizarre was no doubt the three days I spent at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas in 2008. Imagine being in a cavernous hall with hardcore porn being projected onto every wall, your voice drowned out by the fake orgasmic noises coming from the movies."

Actually, no movies are projected on any wall; they're only shown occasionally on TV sets and computer monitors at booths. Makes one wonder if she was even there.

"Scattered around the room are scantily clad women sitting on tables with their legs wide open so fans can take pictures of their barely covered crotches."

The vast majority of the women were STANDING BEHIND tables, and few would have been displaying their crotches.

"I went around the hall interviewing porn producers, many of whom were more than happy to talk about their work. It became clear very quickly that what gets these guys excited is not bodily contact but profits, niche markets, and bulk mailing."

Wow! Businessmen (and women) talking about PROFITS! How unique!

"In all the workshops I went to, nobody talked about sex, just his or her business plan for increasing revenue."

Guess she went to the wrong workshops. She apparently missed the legal panels and the ones about sensuous massage, etc.

"One of the representatives from RealDoll—a company that specializes in life-like sex dolls--explained to me, with a straight face, that these dolls are "great for men who want to learn how to be with a woman." One porn producer was keen to tell me that his movies were more tasteful than the usual hard-core ones, even though his latest had a woman kneeling in a coffin as she was being anally penetrated."

SO... Dines has hang-ups about sex AND (fake) death!

"One afternoon I sat down next to Patricia, an African American security guard being paid a little more than minimum wage. I asked how she was, but she looked at me suspiciously and turned her back, assuming I was a pornographer. Only after convincing her that I was an anti-porn feminist writing a book did she open up to me to complain bitterly about the work detail, since she had never before seen porn. Patricia was especially upset by the African American women porn performers, and every time one passed us, she asked me to go tell her that that it is "not good for her to be doing this stuff." Patricia and I struck up the kind of friendship one does when you feel like you have found some sanity in a crazy place."

Hmmm... a security guard who doesn't like her work asking this asshole to tell people who DO like their work to stop doing their work. Yeah, that makes sense! And of course, neither Dines nor her new friend are sane.

"When I started to write Pornland, my first thought was: How can I find the words to describe just how brutal mainstream Internet porn has become? In my lectures I show images, but this was not an option for the book since I didn't want to become one more purveyor of porn. I knew that I had to describe today's porn, because many of the readers—especially women—would have an outdated image in their heads of a naked woman seductively smiling in a cornfield."

To our knowledge, there's never been an adult movie that features sex (or naked women) in a corn field... but what do we know? We just review them all!

"The first thing I did was to type porn into Google and just describe, in a somewhat clinical fashion, the images that jumped out at me. This is not an easy read, because today's mainstream Internet porn is filled with images of body-punishing sex acts that are designed to debase and dehumanize women. These are not fun, creative, playful images that feed our sexual imaginations but instead are industrial products that depict a type of sex that is formulaic, generic, and plasticized."

Well, when you pick and choose which images you're seeing, you can make anything look bad—and Dines, as an anti-porn person, has undoubtedly gone out of her way to choose the worst sites she could find.

"Porn images are not only found in those materials we call pornography. The imagery and themes have now migrated to pop culture. Whether it be Miley Cyrus in Elle spread-eagled on a table dressed in S&M gear, or Maxim doing a feature on the 'Top 12 Porn Stars,' we are inundated with images, messages, and ideologies that promote porn."

Well, she doesn't have to read Elle or Maxim (or any other magazine or newspaper) if she doesn't want to—nor watch TV shows she objects to, or even the news. They call that "the American way." And in any case, at least the Elle photo doesn't "promote porn"; if anything, it promotes SEX, which most people enjoy.

"Using interviews with hundreds of college-age students, Pornland takes a close look at what it means for young women and men to grow up in such a culture and how it shapes their identities, sexualities, and ideas about intimacy, relationships, and connection."

What? The kids don't have minds of their own? They're helpless pawns in the face of "such a culture," whatever that is? They were never taught to evaluate the things in the world with which they come in contact? They never had, for instance, sex education? (Probably not, actually.) They never had any courses in school or discussions with their parents about how to deal with sexual or (more importantly) advertising imagery? (Definitely not, we're guessing.) And whose fault is that? Certainly not the porn industry's! If we were conspiratorially-minded, we might lay it at the feet of multi-national corporations and their government lackeys that don't want kids thinking too analytically about TV ads, but the fact is, people—even college kids—have the capacity to reason, and some of them actually do!

"One problem I knew I had to deal with as I was writing the book was the inevitable accusation that, because I am anti-porn, I must be an anti-sex prude who is out to police people's sex lives. To criticize porn today is to be seen as criticizing sex, because—thanks to the porn PR machine—porn has now become synonymous with sex."

We can't help but note that she never says she ISN'T anti-sex. We must admit we've wondered what her sex life is like, being such a prude. And of course, much of porn is pro-sex, even pro-GOOD-sex, but somehow, this (anti-sex?) person hasn't seen any of that kind.

"The way I address this in the book is to ask the reader what would happen if this book were a critique of McDonald's for its exploitive labor practices, its destruction of the environment, and its impact on our diet and health. Would I be accused of being anti-eating or anti-food?"

Well, if McDonald's actually WASN'T exploitative, DIDN'T destroy the environment and their food WAS somehow healthy for human beings, yeah, that's what you'd be accused of.

"I suspect that most readers would understand that the critique was focused on the large-scale impact of the fast-food industry and not the human need, experience, and joy of eating. So I say in the preface that this book should be read as a critique of the industrialization and commodification of sex by corporate predators, and not as an attack on sex itself."

"Industrialization"? Is she nuts? PEOPLE make these movies; PEOPLE act in them; PEOPLE buy them. The only thing resembling a factory is the place that presses the DVDs and the warehouses where they're stored. As for "commodifying sex," just about every sexually sane person likes to watch people having sex. Looks more like porn fills a market "demand."

"It is this industrial setting that often gets ignored in the heated debates over porn."

Oh, yeah; the porn "industry" is just like an auto factory: Lots of machinery and people working on assembly lines. You wish!

"I write about porn as an industry because I want people to understand that it needs to be seen as a business whose product evolves with a specifically capitalist logic."

This is the only true thing/valid point in the entire article.

"This is a business with considerable political clout, with the capacity to lobby politicians, engage in expensive legal battles, and use public relations to influence public debate."

These are just outright lies. There's exactly ONE paid lobbyist in the industry, and all he does is make sure the industry is treated fairly; i.e., like any other industry in the state. "Political clout"? Money for "expensive legal battles"? "Public relations?" Is she nuts?

"As with the tobacco industry, this is not a simple matter of consumer choice; rather, the business is increasingly able to deploy a sophisticated and well-resourced marketing machine, not just to push its wares but also to cast the industry's image in a positive light."

What a shame porn doesn't harm anyone's health like tobacco does! What a shame single people can masturbate to it! What a shame couples can use it to spice up their sex lives!

"I have no plans to go back to the Expo in Las Vegas next year,

Thanks! Don't let the door hit you in your ass on the way out!

"but you can be sure the industry will be there planning how to develop new niche markets and marketing techniques to keep an increasingly bored and desensitized consumer base interested. Patricia won't be there either, since she packed in her job as a security guard straight after the Expo and moved as far away from Las Vegas as possible."

Great decision on Patricia's part, considering her antipathy toward porn, which in a sense is Vegas' stock-in-trade—and again, that's the American way. And while we'd also be quick to agree that a lot of porn is boring, or deals with niches that don't interest everyone, it still manages to find favor with a large segment of American consumers because some of it is excellent, even on an artistic level. Too bad Dines wouldn't know the good stuff if she fell over it!