Porn Panic II

While Canadian Business reports the decline of the porn industry (see blog entry Porn Panic I), academic Gail Dines claims the industry is taking over contemporary culture in her new book  Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. She was recently on CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition. I have not read the book, but excerpts and introductions have left me suspicious of the content. Alarmist claims such as “Given that the average boy first sees porn at the age of 11, we are raising a generation of boys who are cruel, bored and desensitized” or “competition in the industry and consumer desensitization have pushed porn toward hard core extremes” may be true, but they are certainly not new. Similar claims were made decades ago.




The 1970 Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography included discussions of early exposure and desensitization, and ultimately dismissed concerns such as those raised by Dines. The report was controversial, and Dines argues that modern porn is a far different beast than the material we now look on with a fond nostalgia. Fair enough, but there are other concerns with her work, which Clarisse Thorn describes as “breathtaking in its lack of evidence” (http://carnalnation.com/content/58415/1133/sympathy-anti-porn-feminists). Several claims are not only unsubstantiated, but in this Ms. Magazine blog, claims are contradicted by those in the industry, including a former research assistant to Dines.

President Nixon rejected the findings of the 1970 Commission, stating in part:
“The Commission contends that the proliferation of filthy books and plays has no lasting harmful effect on a man’s character. If that were true, it must also be true that great books, great paintings, and great plays have no ennobling effect on a man’s conduct. Centuries of civilization and 10 minutes of common sense tell us otherwise.
“The Commission calls for the repeal of laws controlling smut for adults, while recommending continued restrictions on smut for children. In an open society, this proposal is untenable. If the level of filth rises in the adult community, the young people in our society cannot help but also be inundated by the flood.
“Pornography can corrupt a society and a civilization. The people’s elected representatives have the right and obligation to prevent that corruption.
“The warped and brutal portrayal of sex in books, plays, magazines, and movies, if not halted and reversed, could poison the wellsprings of American and Western culture and civilization. ….
“Moreover, if an attitude of permissiveness were to be adopted regarding pornography, this would contribute to an atmosphere condoning anarchy in every field–and would increase the threat to our social order as well as to our moral principles.

Forty years later, Gail Dines seems to be sounding the alarm again. I’d be the first to agree there is less social order than there was in 1970, but that may just be nostalgia, and in any event I am not convinced porn is the cause.

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