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gt book review


©2006 gtslade

How pornography is transforming
our lives, our relationships, and our families

by Pamela Paul


gt slade

Books are so educational. For instance, Pornified demonstrates how far intelligent discourse has sunk in twenty-first century America.

Pamela Paul claims to have researched porn with no preconceptions, until her "eyes were blown wide open," but Pornified's claims of evil, pervasive porn would be easier to swallow if the subject weren't demonised. Paul found as much redeeming value in porn as I did in her book.

Her unrelenting tirade derives from polls and tales. A couple rented "Home Alone 3." Playing the video for their four-year-old daughter, they discovered hardcore sex scenes edited in. One instance is not a trend besides which, in this case, porn was probably better than the movie. "Home Alone 3"? The parents in this series always forget their son. That cannot be reassuring to an impressionable child. Recycling this silly, pre-DVD occurrence begs the question: Can children be protected from everything?

But you don't care about that. You came for porn. And therein lies Pornified's major shortcoming. "Porn" is never defined. A popular description is: I know it when I see it. Convenient, unless you are writing a book about pornography requiring a working definition. Ms Paul never provides one, failing to differentiate between Playboy, Penthouse, Maxim, Hustler, The NY Times Magazine, internet porn or Jennifer Lopez. There should have been illustrations.

Personally, I know what is not porn when I see it. I have experienced women crying "porn," demonstrating that when a woman dislikes something, it's porn. Young woman in a sexy frock? Porn. Young woman with firm breasts? Porn. A woman e-mailed me to complain that this site is pornographic. Imagine that! I have seen porn sites and gt house is not pornographic. Not even close.

From the addict

The book has further impediments to credibility, including "addiction." As George W Bush might say, "Americans are addicted to addiction." Every hobby is an addiction, shortchanging those with actual addictions and those with imaginary addictions. What would constitute pornography addiction, if it existed? Pornified doesn't say, yet the author wants us to add an entry to our Addictionary: pornoholic. She even describes withdrawal symptoms. I experienced withdrawal symptoms when "She Spies" was canceled. I was not a SheSpiesaholic.


Non-journalist Pamela Paul's preferred weapon is semantics, as shown below:

  • "Today, one in four American adults admit to having seen an X-rated movie in the past year." Suppose one in four Americans admit to having read a book in the past year.
  • "Therapists tell stories of wives shocked to find their husbands glued to their computers at night blearily masturbating away." No comment.
  • Most of the men hid their "habit from spouses, colleagues, and themselves." Sliding habit and hiding into one sentence is excellent, although a habit is not an addiction. More important, we generally do not share our sexual exploits with co-workers, unless they participate in them. And, gee, if it were an addiction, isn't there some medical privacy regulation or something?

gt sample office chatter:
"What did you do last night, Chester?"
"Oh, let's see. I watched the news, ate dinner and jacked off. You?"

Unrueful Paul writes that individuals "used pornography," a questionable verb in that context. You might view pornography, or watch it but, in Ms Paul's world, you "use" it. You don't use television or use books or use food. Her syntax is misleading, confusing and deliberate. I've bought used pornography at The Magazine store on Larkin Street. Could I have used used porn to blearily masturbate away?

Ax the children

Anyone grinding an ax eventually invokes "the children." Porn wouldn't be so bad, if not for the children. Boys allegedly learn about the other sex from porn, "lessons traditionally supplemented by sex education, parental guidance, peer conversation, and real-life experience." Such pre-porn sources were untrustworthy. For instance, "peer conversation" was more accurately referred to as "the kids on the corner," not exactly Masters and Johnson, unless you grew up in their neighborhood.

If wimpy parents entrust sex education to public schools, whose fault is that? Not Hugh Hefner's. Government schools always have an agenda, which overrides parental concerns Parents need to assert some authority or resign themselves to being the clueless custodians of horny little perverts. At some point, even the worst students want to study sex, a phenomenon known as puberty.

Child pornography is illegal. Child participation in or viewing of pornography is illegal. Does it happen? Certainly. Is it pervasive? Who knows. Magazines like "Barely Legal" exist, but the models are not minors, as the title states. "Not Quite Legal" is something else.

Even government censors pretend to care about children. Of the Unconstitutional Child Online Protection Act, Ms Paul acknowledges that legitimate publishers were unfairly included, "but the law could have been rewritten so as to confine its targets to pornography proper." That would require a definition of proper "pornography." And "legitimate."

Like Dianne Feinstein, Paul is a "First Amendment Second" advocate, stating, "The First Amendment was never meant to sanction the dissemination of speech that is free of social merit, artistic quality or political purpose." I disagree. With any new technology, whether it be television or the internet, freedom-phobes deny any First Amendment protections. Would the founding fathers have sanctioned pornography? Here's a clue: they were all men who argued over slavery, but agreed that women should not vote.

Ms Paul explains that the most scientific poll mentioned is her own. The Pornified/Harris poll asked what is the greatest impact of pornography on children:

  • 30% of Americans [surveyed] said it distorts boys' expectations and understanding of women and sex,
  • 25% said it makes kids more likely to have sex earlier than they might have
    and so on...

Even if this was an accurate poll, it is fantasy. If 90% of Americans believe there are flying saucers, that doesn't prove they exist, only that people believe alien vessels exist. Later, Ms Paul cites a pseudoscientific 2004 survey of 107 female students at CSU. 96% claimed they would not participate in a "Girls Gone Wild" video, proving that surveys are misleading.

By the way, the Appendix does not include the questions posed or the complete results, giving the impression that Pamela Paul cherry-picked the responses, as she did with the anecdotes. In addition to questionable polls, she provides anecdotal evidence with her special slant. Real names are not used and Paul does not reveal how many interviews she conducted before finding the dimwits in the book. Some samples:

  • Charlie [good fake name-gt] discovered the Internet in grad school. "He was immediately sucked in."
  • Dave came quickly during masturbation, but it took "at least half an hour during intercourse," and that's bad how? His problem, if it is a problem, may have arisen because "I've been masturbating since I was five years old." One wonders how old he was when he told his first lie.
  • Another fictitiously-named subject, Harrison, says "I find that I look more for women who have the attributes I see in porn. I want bigger breasts, blonder hair, curvier bodies in general. Just better-looking overall." Preferences derived from porn, he claims. Don't men and women get choosier as they age? Don't we form ideas based on media information? If men liked porn stars that much, they would date them.
  • Charlie [same Charlie as above] was into child pornography when his 14 year-old niece stayed in his home. "I came very close to molesting her," Charlie admits. He later confessed to the girl that he lusted after her. "The niece, now 21, is still angry at him." Because he didn't molest her or because he found her hot? Pam Paul ignores that porn didn't destroy Charlie's interest in sex with a real person or make him molest anyone. In my humble opinion, it didn't make him hot for his niece, either.
  • Charlie sees porn everywhere. "..girls shaving their pubic hair. How else would you learn that style if not through porn?" In the girls' locker room? From an older sister?
  • Kevin reduced his porn viewing, "stopped drinking as much as he had been, and started exercising again." He called porn a depressant. Maybe he was depressed because his fiance split, precipitating the drinking and other forms of escape.
  • The first time "late bloomer" Rajiv (16) masturbated, it was while looking at pornography. Gee. That is damning evidence. A teenaged boy jacking off. Amazing!
  • Liam tried to get his wife to copy behaviours from pornography. "Obsessed with oral sex, he insisted she swallow his semen and say she enjoyed it -- just like the girls in pornography." Where else would he have experienced that, if not from porn?
the book   

The book's second greatest flaw, besides not defining its subject, is lumping all men together and all women together to generalise about each gender from a few odd examples. These are not homogenous groups. I am no expert, but each woman I've dated was different, especially where sex is concerned.

So "many women remark on the lack of foreplay from men who watch a lot of porn." Right. That presumes that men have always been great foreplayers. I'm guessing many men never heard of foreplay until they watched porn. That's not scientific, but it's a really educated guess.

Before porn, a guy not satisfied at home sought a mistress or hookers. Either way, there was danger, it was cheating and he was spending money on women other than his wife. But porn? The guy is whacking off while looking at other women. Under what circumstances a boyfriend or husband's masturbation be acceptable? The fact is women hate men getting off elsewhere. Men can control the remote, but not the sexual tap.

More shocking true-life anecdotes

  • Bridget, a 38-year old accountant from Kentucky, found porn on the home computer. [Horrors! -gt] Her husband finally "confessed" to "using" porn throughout their seven-year marriage.
    "Bridget couldn't get over the rejection. 'He chose to dwell on these images of other women when he could have been with me at any time,' she says." Read that again, please. Any time? Sure. Considering how she handled her discovery, it is understandable that Marc kept the porn a secret. She believed he was a eunuch because he sang in the church gospel choir.
    Now Bridget is worried. "If I were going to take a trip for my job, I'd wonder about what he might be looking at while I'm gone." If she's that concerned, she should hire a call girl to keep tabs on him.
  • Anecdotal lass Ashley didn't like her boyfriend buying lap dances. "The last time his friends planned a strip club jaunt, her boyfriend stayed behind for her sake. That was a big step in Ashley's mind. 'But he lied to the guys so they wouldn't know the real reason he wasn't going.'"
  • Proving women are never satisfied. She expected him to say, "I am not going, I am pussy whipped." Physical contact differs from watching a monitor, except Pornified lumps them together.

Women object to men even looking at other women. That's unpreventable because men are fascinated with women. It's male nature. If he isn't excited by other women, he's old or he's gay or both.

Women blame pornography when a guy can't get or maintain an erection. Numerous things can cause that, I have heard. It is not only men. Women may lose interest in sex because they are busy with the children or tired. If a woman shops for shoes on the Internet, is she cheating? If she reads romantic literature and gets off during the day, is she cheating? If she has named her vibrator? What if she becomes a senator and has no time for him?

Marlene Spielman, a New York psychotherapist says, "when you masturbate with pornography, you really are with someone else, one way or another." So what she is saying, guys, is that you may as well have an affair. It's the same thing. Only better.

Positively Porn

Pornography is a godsend for men and women who prefer blaming their problems on things that can't argue back.

Kenneth says: "I know it sounds like an excuse, but I do not think this would have happened had I not been looking at porn." Either that or it sounds like an excuse because it is an excuse. Masturbating to pornography is not a chicken-egg scenario. Masturbation came first. Guys stared at pin-up pictures, used their imaginations or just did it.

Masturbation may accompany porn viewing, but it preceded porn by at least two decades, possibly centuries. If a guy is whacking off so much that he can't get it up for his girlfriend (or wife), that's not the porn. Blaming porn for sex problems is like claiming a guy eats too much shrimp because he's seen prawns riding bicycles.

Breaking off is hard to do

Pornified unites women who blame porn for preexisting differences between men and women.

A"definitive" experiment Paul cites occurred 26 years ago (1980). Bryant-Zillman claimed "no rigorous research demonstrations of desirable effects can be reported" of porn. Just because no studies have been done since then, you cannot base a theory on one exercise with 80 students.

In Ms Paul's conclusion, she sticks in gratuitous speculation on why women become porn performers. She had a whole book to explore that mystery.

She mentions "exploited" porn star Traci Lords. Perhaps Traci was exploited, though Pornified doesn't explain how, but that is one example. According to Ms Paul, younger feminists won't condemn pornography when its stars are women "who choose their work out of financial desperation." Financial desperation? That could be said about working at McDonald's or WalMart. Women have different reasons for appearing in porn. Some say it's fun or they get a thrill from teasing men. I dated a porn queen once; she invited acquaintances over to view her videos. She was proud of her work. That's more than most of us can say of our jobs.

"Those who conflate looking at pretty pictures with masturbating to pornography usually have an agenda behind their theories. They have something to prove." Exactly. And it takes one to know one.

According to the Pornified/Harris poll, 1% of Americans believe the government should fully legalise all forms of pornography, and 10% believe government should have no role. Government efforts to stop it would be as successful as those directed at eliminating selected drugs.

Censure, not censor

Since "most people condemn the product, not the people who consume it," like tobacco, according to Pamela Paul, she relays a proposal from the New York Times op-ed page by Jonathan A Knee, director of the media program at Columbia Business School (CBS). He suggests we "criminalise the giving and receiving of payment to perform sexual acts." He bases this proposal on the belief that "society objects on principal to the commodification and commercialisation of sexual relations, even between consenting adults." That is the official party line of bullshit.

In truth, everything is commodified in our society, from news to religion to government. If a guy buys a woman dinner and she has sex with him, is that different from giving her cash or a Tiffany's gift certificate?

Of course, solutions assume that pornography is a problem. And "just as countless studies have shown that violent films and videos affect individuals' attitudes toward violence, pornography can..." [do the same thing]. Even If you accept Paul's generalisations about violence, you cannot extrapolate results into different domains. That would make as much sense as seeking sexual advice from someone who claims to be abstinent.

Pamela Paul's allegations against pornography will tickle those who hate porn, only it will give them little ammunition because Ms Paul mostly shoots blanks. You can prove anything using selective personal accounts. Ronald Reagan was fond of doing that.

Here are my thoughts. If finding a satisfying "relationship," or even satisfactory sex, were easy, porn would be unnecessary. I do not foresee happiness happening, especially in a country as sexually screwed up as the USA. Sex is an arena women want to control even more than political demagogues. In other words, what this country really needs is a good ten-dollar blow job.

gtslade@yahoo! com
   tell me now
May 2006

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