So I recently read a piece written for the Huffington Post by Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston and author of the recently published Pornland: How Pornography Has Hijacked Our Sexuality (2010), and all I can do is sigh…
Dines is an anti-porn activist and scholar and has written extensively on the (perceived) “pornification” of society for decades. I do not agree with the vast majority of her findings, largely because of the poor research methodologies she employs, but that’s a topic for another time…
In this particular Huffington Post piece, entitled “Adventures in Pornland,” she talks about going to the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) in Las Vegas in 2008. For those of you who don’t know, AEE has been the industry trade show for years. Myriad companies from all corners and aspects of the industry attend to do business and network, but there are a few hours set aside each day for the public and fans. It’s an intense, loud, interesting, and exhausting show.
How do I know? Because I’ve gone.
…and presumably so has Dines. These are some of her observations and claims:
- Hardcore content is projected on every wall of the “cavernous” convention hall.
- Women sit on tables with their legs spread so their “barely covered crotches” can be photographed by whomever.
- Convention hall security workers are paid just above minimum wage.
- Business people are there talking about… business.
- Dines was able to walk around and interview porn producers at will.
She also said this: “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.”
Right off, let me set this record somewhat straight. Although product-promotional reels of adult content may be playing in booths on monitors and although these reels may be seen by willing fans, there is no “hardcore porn being projected onto every wall.” Talent stand and sit behind tables or the like to sign for fans and meet members of their industry; they do not flash their pussys (barely covered or not). Producers and knowledgeable industry insiders are booked at pretty much every moment during this event – a pop-in interview is not really something that happens. And finally, there are lots of sucky jobs out there that pay barely minimum wage, including that of security guard; this sounds a lot like labor inequality to me, however I don’t think that’s the issue Dines is trying to raise here.
In addition to all this, I feel that the most confounding and frustrating statements center on Dines’ castigation of business people doing business at their annual industry-wide business meeting and her “revelation” that adult is a “business whose product evolves with a specifically capitalist logic.” So what?! It is!! What exactly are business people supposed to talk about at a business convention if not…business?
The implications of these comments are that members of the adult industry are supposed to be talking about something else in a completely different way… or maybe they should just be doing something else entirely… perhaps operating under a different business model or simply adopting some form of non-profit sex exploration thing that doesn’t involve commercial exchange and nakedness, sex, or security guards?
I had a feeling that Dines’ newest book was going to echo these sentiments; but I hadn’t had the chance to buy a copy of it yet, so I went to Amazon.com (where the book is on sale) to check out her table of contents. These are some of the (apparent) chapter topics: the big business of porn, “how porn seeps into men’s lives,” and kiddie porn. And although I haven’t had the opportunity to purchase and read Pornland yet, I somehow doubt that those chapters discuss (respectively) how –
- The adult film industry is predominantly comprised of a multitude of small businesses and talent who work as independent contractors on a scene-by-scene basis. The only “big business” involved are large hotels, media providers, and the like who distribute content in specific venues.
- Adult content “seeps” into people’s lives via a multidimensional relationship that exists between consumers and producers. Unregulated, obscene, or even illegal porn is not force-fed to unwilling innocent bystanders by nefarious pornographers, nor is adult content absorbed accidentally or by osmosis.
- Although children and underage persons are sexually exploited and victimized in all sorts of sick nasty ways around the globe, the US adult film industry does not and has never produced “child pornography.” Not one rigorous academic study or criminal case has found this.
Dines finished off her Huffington Post piece by stating that she had no plans to attend AEE again. Bummer because herein lies the biggest problem – feminist scholarship and feminist methods, both of which Dines claims to support, maintain that one must actually engage respondents, populations, “subjects,” whatever in order to comprehend what is going on in their worlds. In other words, you have to go inside “Pornland” to understand it.
If Dines’ apparent performance at AEE is a metaphor for her in-depth understanding of “Pornland,” I think feminist epistemology would tell her she’s got some serious work to do.
What do you think? Email me!!
Oh, and just in case you want to learn more about feminist research methodologies, see:
Naples, Nancy. 2003. Feminism and Method: Ethnography, Discourse Analysis, and Activist Research. Routledge.
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