I wrote recently, albeit briefly, about feminist fiction which encouraged some positive feedback and recommendations from friends of mine. In all the excitement, I had completely forgotten The New Woman’s Broken Heart by Andrea Dworkin; a very small collection of tales with a stream-of-conciousness feel to them. The stories chronicle the wonderful, terrible life of Bertha Schneider and the abuse that she endures. Themes of women, abuse, birth, identity, tragedy, sexuality and the Holocaust all intertwine to create a multi-layered glimpse at the life and evolution of Bertha Schneider (most probably based on Dworkin’s own experiences of abuse and rape).
My own copy of the book has a wonderful inscription on the inside cover (I love finding things like that in second-hand books) which reads ‘7/21/91 one of my favorite writers-to one of my favorite writers!’ LOVELY.
Pornland… provides a disturbing glimpse into just how far porn culture has infiltrated our lives. Our sexual relationships are being hijacked by the images we see on-screen and perpetuated by the mass media. I think Dines has, rather succinctly, unpacked some of the key issues surrounding the creation and consumption of porn; namely, how does it affect the lives and sexual relationships of everyday men and women? I found some of the descriptions of porn scenes quite…uncomfortable. Demands for more extreme and explicit forms of pornography (gonzo porn, as Dines calls it) have manipulated a whole generation of young men into believing that what they see on-screen is what actually happens in the bedroom and has them believing that the women on-screen deserve the degrading acts they may endure:
‘The first and most important way pornographers get men to buy into gonzo sex is by depicting and describing women as fuck objects who are deserving of sexual use and abuse. it is especially important for the pornographers to shred the humanity of the women in the images, as many porn users have sustained and intimate relationships with women in the real world…to erode any empathy that many men may have for the women in porn-an emotion that would most likely end up derailing the porn experience as they might feel sorry for her-the porn needs to construct porn women in ways that clearly demarcate them from the women that men know and love,’ (p.p, 63-64).
A typical example of this may be the female performer being called degrading names such as bitch, cunt, slut and being told that they deserve what they are getting, whether that be pounding anal sex, a cum-shot to the face, multiple penises in multiple orifices or ass-to-mouth oral sex. The male performers are usually emotionally distant, hyper-masculine and physically threatening.
Body-punishing sex, such as that portrayed in gonzo porn, negatively impacts the way in which we govern our own sexual relationships. Men feel pressured to perform to standards they see on-screen and women often feel compelled to emulate the women they see in porn; they might remove all their body hair or exercise excessively to achieve this fabled notion of bodily perfection for fear of rejection from a potential sexual partner.
Sure, the performers are being paid, but what is the real cost?
Dines argues that porn affect both men and women negatively and is keen to point out that men, in some ways, are just as much victims of the façade that gonzo porn creates; exploitation masquerading as liberation.
Dines also dissects the institutionalised racism of porn and the portrayal of men and women of colour, its role in big business and the link between excessive porn consumption, the ‘teen’ sex trend, or PCP (pseudo-child porn) as it is referred to in the book, and child pornography.
Regardless of your stance on porn, whether for, against or in-between, I think Pornland… is a thoughtful and interesting dissection of the porn industry and the affect it has on our relationships. Highly recommended.