Robert Jensen, “Porn’s Dirty, Dangerous Secret”

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Below are the first couple of paragraphs from his essay:

There are a finite number of ways that human bodies can be placed together sexually, and as one pornography industry veteran lamented to me at the annual trade show, “they’ve all been shot.” He sighed, pondering the challenge of creating a sexually explicit film that is unique, and mused, “After all, how many dicks can you stick in a girl at one time?”

His question was offered rhetorically, but I asked: How many?

Probably four, he said; simultaneous oral, vaginal, and double-anal penetration was realistic. Another producer later in the day told me he had once worked on a film that included a double-anal/double-vag scene — a woman being penetrated by four men at once. He said the director had a special harness made to hold the woman for that scene. In contemporary mass-marketed heterosexual pornography, it’s unexceptional to see a standard DP (industry slang for “double penetration,” with two men entering a woman vaginally and anally at the same time) with oral penetration.

Whatever the number, theoretical or routine, the discussion reminds us that pornography is relentlessly intense, pushing our sexual boundaries both physically and psychically. And, pornography also is incredibly repetitive and boring.

Jensen also writes later in the essay that “in a patriarchal society in which men are conditioned to see themselves as dominant over women, such cruelty and degradation fit easily into men’s notions about sex and gender.” He reports:

When I offer this critique to men who are avid consumers of pornography, they often tell me that I’m wrong, that they watch gonzo and don’t see the kind of cruelty and degradation that I am describing. They tell me that that there’s no cruelty in a woman is being penetrated in aggressive fashion by three men who call her a whore throughout the sex. They tell me that when five men thrust into a woman’s mouth to the point she gags, slap a woman in the face with their penises, and ejaculate into her mouth and demand that she swallow it all, there’s no degradation.

Of course they don’t see the degradation. They hold the Glenn Greenwald view that it is all “fiction.” And that the women “wanted it.” They deny the humanity of the women being subjected to this treatment. Did the women consent to everything that happened to them? Who knows? Who cares? Pornography production is unregulated. There are no health and safety officers on site during filming. No one wants to know. Large corporations make billions of dollars off the porn industry, and they like things just the way they are.

As poor a job as government inspectors sometimes do at keeping factory workers safe, it’s hard to imagine them finding unprotected anal sex with multiple strangers simultaneously, or the forced consumption of vomit or feces, within the range of acceptable on the job risks. Yet any women who complain to the police about maltreatment afterward, potentially braving threats of violence for doing so, may be written off as liars, schemers, or folks suffering from mental illness or “buyers remorse.” I’m grateful to Robert Jensen for being brave enough to tell hard truths about pornography. He will doubtlessly be excoriated in many corners for doing so.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to Robert Jensen, “Porn’s Dirty, Dangerous Secret”

  1. Jane says:

    Robert Jensen is great. He is a tenured professor where I am in grad school- University of Texas at Austin. My boyfriend had him as a professor and we went to his lectures on pornography. He also written many feminist pieces. I read in one of his writings that “he seeks to be a traitor to his gender.”

    He is really fucking awesome! And it is awesome to know that he is challenging the ridiculously narrow, sexist world views of the undergraduate students at UT, most of whom are from the heterosexual, Abrahamic, sexist, racist, Creationism-teaching parts of rural Texas (I know this is true because I have taught a lot of these kids.)

  2. Jane says:

    Oh, by the way, you are right about Jensen getting excoriated for these views. People hate him for saying this stuff. In fact, I have even seen feminists rip him apart for criticizing porn.

    It’s gotta be lonely to be this guy.