In his book, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle," Chris Hedges has a whole chapter on pornography, "The Illusion of Love". The title of this blog is taken from a quote from Andrea Dworkin which Hedges uses as a lead-in to the chapter. Recently, Michelle Bachmann has garnered some media notice for signing a pledge put out by the FAMiLY LEADER, an Iowa conservative group, to rid the country of pornography among other things. The pledge has gained notoriety for a phrase suggesting that African-American families were better off during slavery than they are today. But there is little discussion of the substance of the pledge including its stance on pornography (as usual the media is only interested in the most sensationalized aspects of reality). Bachmann, whom many have characterized as a right wing nut case, has championed Christian conservative family values including the definition of marriage as being "between a man and a woman." Irregardless, the Left has been mute regarding pornography which suggests that it adopts the "live and let live" attitude it has about homosexuality and marriage and the family in general which is really a libertarian attitude. After reading Chris Hedges' chapter on pornography, the Left might reconsider this stance at least with regard to pornography. What Hedges has to say is truly shocking and the faint of heart might consider discontinuing reading this blog right here.
Suffice it to say that pornography has gone mainstream. According to Hedges:
There are some 13,000 porn films made every year in the United States, most in the San Fernando Valley in California. According to the Internet Filter Review, worldwide porn revenues, including in-room movies at hotels, sex clubs, and the ever-expanding e-sex world, topped $97 billion in 2006. That is more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix, and EarthLink combined. Annual sales in the United States are estimated at $10 billion or higher. There is no precise monitoring of the porn industry. And porn is very lucrative to some of the nation's largest corporations. General Motors owns DIRECTV, which distributes more than 40 million streams of porn into American homes every month. AT&T Broadband and Comcast Cable are currently the biggest American companies accommodating porn users with the Hot Network, Adult Pay Per View, and similarly themed services. AT&T and GM rake in approximately 80 percent of all porn dollars spent by consumers.
And Obama thought he was saving the American auto industry! Instead he saved one of America's largest porn purveyors! The mainstreaming of porn has openly flouted obscenity laws which like other regulatory laws have been largely missing in action. According to the website HULIQ, "According to Miller v. California (1973), the "Miller Test" became a Supreme Court-sanctioned ruling that set up a three-part array in which "community standards" could be used to determine whether or not an item was pornographic, obscene, and of no redeeming value. This allowed communities and regions to set their own obscenity standards, which is in keeping with Tea Party standards (as a federal law banning pornography would not)." So where are the community standards especially in the red Tea Party states that would ban pornography? Or is it OK because there's a lot of money in it? So what's the problem with the mainstreaming of pornography? It's innocuous adult entertainment, isn't it? Hardly. According to Hedges, "The largest users of Internet porn are between the ages of twelve and seventeen. And porn producers increasingly target adolescents." I've even heard this demographic referred to as "children"! "The age demographic has moved downwards, especially in the UK and Europe," explained Steve Honest, the European director of production for Bluebird Films. "Porn is the new rock and roll. Young people and women are embracing porn and making purchases. Porn targets the mid-teens to the mid-twenties and up."
Hedges interviewed porn star Patrice Roldan who has starred in nearly two hundred films including Lord of Asses, Anal Girls Next Door, Monster Cock Fuckfest 9, Deep Throat Anal, Trophy Whores, and Young Dumb & Covered in Cum. Roldan made good money in the porn industry so to say that these girls who entered the industry voluntarily were exploited is not wholly accurate. In addition to the money they made filming, they could go on "dates" with their fans who they met at the annual Las Vegas porn convention at $3000 -$5000 a pop and up. Some made great money as hotel-bound prostitutes. Just imagine if you could have met Marilyn Monroe or Lana Turner or Sophia Loren at an annual convention and "dated" them! But in those days movie stars couldn't even sleep together onscreen in the same bed much less "date" their adoring fans. But that's de rigeur in the porn film world. Tres ordinaire et normale. After Roldan's first film, she was handed $600. and contracted gonnorhea. Hedges again: "She began, once she had treated her gonnorhea, to do films three or four times a month. She would have several more bouts with gonnorhea and other sexually transmitted diseases during her career. She got pregnant and had an abortion. The demands on her began to escalate. She was filmed with multiple partners. Her scenes became 'extremely rough.' They would pull my hair, slap me around like a rag doll."
"The next day my whole body would ache," she recalls. "It happened a lot, the aching. It used to be that only a few stars, people like Linda Lovelace, would once do things like anal. Now it is expected." And this is how our teen-agers are learning about love, sex and relationships?! This is how they are developing their concept of how to treat a woman!
The physical pain and numerous surgeries to repair torn vaginas and anal tissues lead most porn stars to use excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain and the emptiness of their emotional lives. Most end up being junkies and alcoholics. Hedges again: "Roldan would endure numerous anal penetrations by various men in a shoot, most of them 'super-rough.' She would have one man in her anus and one in her vagina while she gave a blow job to a third man. The men would ejaculate on her face. She was repeatedly "face-fucked,' with men forcing their cocks violently in and out of her mouth. She did what in industry shorthand is called 'ATM,' ass-to-mouth, where a man pulls his penis from her anus and puts it directly in her mouth." She explained that she washed herself good so this didn't bother her too much except when the man pulled his penis from another girl's ass and put it in her mouth because she didn't know about the other girl's standards of cleanliness!
"What does it say about our culture that cruelty is so easy to market?," Robert Jensen, author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity asks. "What is the difference between glorifying violence in war and glorifying the violence of sexual domination? I think that the reason that porn is so difficult to discuss is not that it is about sex - our culture is saturated in sex. The reason it is difficult is that porn exposes something very uncomfortable about us. We accept a culture flooded with women who are sexual commodities. Increasingly, women in pornography are not people having sex but bodies upon which sexual activities of increasing cruelty are played out. And men - maybe a majority of men - like it."
Finally Hedges sums up why pornography represents the "illusion of love":
As porn has gone mainstream, ushered two decades ago into middle-class living rooms and dens with VCRs and now available on the Internet, it has devolved into an open fusion of physical abuse and sex, of extreme violence, horrible acts of degradation against women with an increasingly twisted eroticism. Porn has always primarily involved the eroticization of male power through the physical abuse, even torture, of women. Porn reflects the endemic cruelty of our society. This is a society that does not blink when the industrial slaughter unleashed by the United States and its allies kills hundreds of civilians in Gaza or hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Porn reflects back the cruelty of a culture that tosses its mentally ill out on the street, warehouses more than 2 million people in prisons, denies health care to tens of millions of the poor, champions gun ownership over gun control, and trumpets an obnoxious and superpatriotic nationalism and rapacious corporate capitalism. The violence, cruelty, and degradation of porn are expressions of a society that has lost the capacity for empathy.
Why would the Left cede this family values issue to the likes of Michelle Bachmann? Surely a libertarian attitude towards pornography acquiesces in the mainstreaming of pornography and the profits accumulated by large "respectable" US corporations like GM and AT&T. It also acquiesces in the purveying of pornography to young adolescent males who make up a large share of the audience and the attitudes that are being formed by exposure to such trash. American culture has gone in a few short years from one that was overly puritanical to one that is awash in degradation, obscenity and debauchery by anyone's definition. The sexual liberation of the 1960s, initially a salubrious renunciation of repression, has been thoroughly exploited and degraded by the commercialized pornography industry of the 2000s. It is the culture of the Roman Empire before its fall, of Caligua and Nero, a culture of debasement and depravity. Surely, it should not be left to the likes of Michelle Bachmann to point this out. While I don't agree with her on her stance against homosexuality or the definition of marriage, I do heartily endorse the fact that she purportedly is taking a stand against pornography. The American culture is so hypocritical that it outlaws legalized prostitution but mainlines pornography. I think legalized prostitution might serve an actual purpose for those who cannot find satisfaction in a normal relationship with a woman, but pornography is not helpful in formulating salubrious attitudes between the sexes nor is it protective of women who enter the industry despite the fact that they are paid well and do so voluntarily. When a "live and let live" libertarian attitude results in the degradation of a class of women and results in unhealthy attitudes towards sex, it should be prohibited while encouraging healthful relationships, not necessarily, but including, marriage.