Talking About Porn At Yale With Gail Dines

There is audio footage recorded from a phone of my appearance at Yale University in February, 2012 with Gail Dines at the bottom of this post. It’s been long awaited. I’ve been incredibly restrained when talking about Professor Dines for someone who has made a career out of dismissing the self-worth of porn performers as “brainless, soulless, pieces of meat.” I’m not normally patient with that kind of bullshit but because Dines notoriously avoids speaking with progressive/feminist pornographers and has a ridiculous double-standard about what constitutes “threatening language,”  and because she complained to Yale University about what some of my then 5,000 Twitter followers said about her when I announced the engagement, I’ve been low key.

So let me tell you what I really think.

Gail Dines is a bully who has announced herself as the arbitrator of feminism. She calls herself a rigorous academic but the only thing she can cite are porn titles and porn actions. It’s clear that she has watched a lot of pornography but when it comes to concrete evidence that there is a clear, direct connection between pornography itself and actualized violence, the most she can ever come up with is the nebulous “they.” “They have done studies that prove that women in the pornography industry have worse PTSD than Vietnam veterans,” is something that she said out loud at Yale and you can certainly hear her say that in the recording of our panel I have included with this post. She also made it clear that she hadn’t so much as researched me or my writing prior to appearing on a panel with me.

I know that I’m a cum guzzling porn whore but we were appearing on a panel together at Yale University. I researched her work as well everyone else I would appear with for the event as a common courtesy. She repeatedly denounced me as not mattering at all, to anyone.

Thing of it is, I couldn’t help but smile. I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had speaking up on that panel. Normally I can be a nervous wreck but this time I felt calm and unflappable. For some reason she couldn’t get under my skin that day and most of what she said was so ridiculous I would smirk. Little by little, she starts to crumble and as a grand finale she attacks the moderator of the panel, Claire Potter, for acknowledging the high stakes of censorship. My only regret is that I didn’t get to grab coffee or tea with Carolyn Bronstein or Claire Potter afterwards. When things closed, I attempted to shake Gail Dines’ hand but she literally scoffed at me and turned away in a huff. Everyone else was a rockstar and despite the range of opinions I was proud to be there with all of them that day. We were at a university that was once exclusive to men and still lacks adequate restrooms for women in its math and science buildings. It meant something that we were there talking about something that almost everyone encounters but is often considered beneath rigorous study.

However, Gail Dines does not study with rigor. She invents numbers, statistics, and studies that cannot be verified anywhere. She invents fantastic profit margins for porn and trains other people to repeat them without critical thought when the number is much, much, much smaller and shrinking. Feel free to peruse the slideshows and scripts so that you too can host your own “porn sucks” party.

Here are some more quick points to think about whenever engaging with anything produced by Gail Dines:

1. The prohibition of erotic materials is only possible with government totalitarianism.

2. AVN and the Los Angeles porn industry does NOT have a monopoly on porn production. This is absurd to even consider in 2012 when the studios are closing or being purchased by larger entertainment moguls. In many ways, Gail Dines is wasting her time and breath because the membership website is not going to survive over the new ways consumers are accessing erotic content.

If anything, porn performers are in more control than ever before because “porn performer” means live webcam model or erotic clips producer. Being a cam model takes a lot of work and hours and hours online everyday but it is a no contact job. It’s masturbation, fantasy roleplay, and showmanship. (Showwhoreship?) A dot com porn website is not enough to sustain anyone because the industry is saturated, because consumers have made it clear that they do not like membership models of consumption, because of peer-to-peer distribution of content, and because of the fact that despite however “horrible” it is to show off your naked, sexually aroused body (by Gail’s account) it appears that we can’t get enough of showing each other our secret no-no zones.

3. The patriarchy was established before porn was even a glimmer of a possibility for humanity. Rape happened before consensual rape play did.  One of the reasons why many people enjoy consensual rape play is because it reaffirms that individual’s control over the own body and because sexuality is one of many tools afforded to humans to understand themselves and their worlds. A fantasy is a way to photoshop reality with the mind’s eye. A child can look at a cardboard box and have the very real experience of being on a pirate ship at sea and we know just how powerfully vivid this is. In fact, children roleplay the macabre and the horrific all the time. When a small child comes up to you with a pointed finger shouting “bang bang” you know immediately to act out a terrible, painful death. Why?

The power of the imagination is one of the greatest gifts we have and we use it to understand what’s happening with our universe, our planet, our fellow humans, and our interior landscapes. Yes, there are a lot of things depicted in porn that I would never want to see happening in real life, non-consensually, before my eyes. I know that most children would be horrified if their pretend firearm were actually harming you. What they’re thrilled about is the magic of altering consciousness by employing focused attention on an idea. We’re not surprised when children learn about the holocaust and head to the playground to decided “who’s Hitler” for a group roleplay. They aren’t doing this because they want to be Hitler, because they espouse genocide, or because they’re racist. Kids roleplay the horrors of grownups because it doesn’t make any sense at all that we would ever hurt our fellow humans like that. It is illogical, it cannot ever be fully understood, and it never serves us.

Adults do the same thing. We use our mind to Photoshop reality in real time and in retrospectives. Sexuality is one facet of many, many, many incredible functions of the most complex and intricate computers ever assembled on planet earth and it’s made of meat and it lives in our heads.

4. Societies where the prohibition of erotic materials has been (publicly) successful still have rape, assault, sexism, and abuse. In the audio recording, you can hear Gail Dines make the claim that by eliminating pornography we can eliminate sexism and racism and have an equal society. Patriarchal cultures produce patriarchal media. This media includes but is not limited to pornography. Porn is the reflection, not the roots source. It’s a symptom, not the disease. You can be a misogynist without ever desiring sex with a woman or consuming sexually explicit media and if we don’t examine this we’re missing the point of the struggle for equality.

5. In order to prohibit erotic materials, you must have the power and force to scare people into ignoring their pleasure drives.  It can only be accomplished by making the punishment more body damaging and terrifying than the pleasure drive, and even then it is never truly successful. I will not throw my support for any movement that can only be upheld with government officials standing on the other side of the barrel of a gun. Until Gail Dines can explain how there will be a totally peaceful porn prohibition, what she says is tantamount in my mind to advocating violence against pleasure seekers.

6. Despite being a Marxist, Gail Dines repeatedly favors women with academic credentials over women without them. Ivory Towerism doesn’t exactly fit in with Marxism in a time when a college education comes at the expense of a lifetime of debt. This means that only women who can afford tuition for graduate education and receive tenure are  real “porn academics” and the study, research, and real life experiences of people performing in and making porn are nothing more than bouncing and saying, “Porn is empowering! Porn is fun!” Then again, a woman who prides herself on not researching her fellow panelists shouldn’t be expected to create anything more than a caricature of anyone who makes her job more difficult.

7. Gail Dines relies on “Razzle Dazzle” over academic analysis. Some might call this ad hominem attacks. 85% of her talks are about the hyperbole and the exaggerated shocking language. No one likes to talk dirty more than Gail Dines and you can see it in every single appearance she makes. Her favorite phrase in the English language just might be “cum guzzling sluts” and you would think that this might be something that could bring us together.

8. Despite how “pornographic” our media may be, we consume infinitely more non-erotic, non-pornographic media throughout any given day or lifetime. If you want to talk about racism and sexism, let’s talk about DISNEY, a powerhouse entity that DOES literally advertise itself to children and makes more than all Los Angeles based porn combined. In order to look at the shaping of our sexuality, you have to look at what kind of media we consume and what kind of worlds we live in during our early childhood. For example, the famous “Doll Test” was revisited in this video. Do you think pornography or basic children’s programming had more of an impact on these findings?

9. Consider the drug war more extensively: we can all agree that chemical substances (both legal and illegal) can be misused by any individual. Humans are tool making creatures and we can turn anything into a weapon, including sexuality. To make porn does not mean to endorse any and all porn ever made. I have staunch criticisms of “the industry” behind porn the way I have staunch criticisms of all industries. In theory, we have prohibited the use of certain drugs in our country as a way to protect us from their potential risks and dangers. In practice, we have more incarcerated people than any other nation through our biased perspectives of racism and classism along with setting the stage for violence in our country and many others across the globe. The categories of “illegal” and “legal” drugs are defined by the highest bidders and not be medical or scientific fact. How is porn prohibition going to play out any differently?

10. If Gail Dines is concerned about performers on set, why doesn’t she comment or support any initiatives by sex workers to improve performer rights? Where is she when a performer picks a new career only to be shunned? What has Gail Dines brought to the table in terms of assisting performers who leave the industry? How has she helped humanize porn performers, and what does she believe we are capable of doing if not porn? Why does she refuse to acknowledge the growing number of independent performers who are high functioning and happy? If she’s an expert on porn, why hasn’t she commented on the rise of the clip sites and web cams?

11. What should be done with pornographers, especially those of marginalized groups that she claims to support, who continue to produce pornography in willful defiance of her future state without pornography? 

This is a major question given the fact that there have been repeated threats against the lives of feminist smut peddlers by feminists. It’s a major question, especially after Gail Dines has called feminist pornographers “pimps” and “traitors to feminism.”

I wonder what Gail would do to shut us up? Would she espouse incarceration? Involuntary inpatient mental health commitment? Fines? Violence?

This is not hyperbole. Violence is the last refuge of the desperate and as more and more people talk about porn openly, criticisms of the industry can be aired. Moreover, it’s already changing beneath her feet. Just as the GOP is fighting a losing war against same sex marriage because too many young people know or care about someone who is queer, Dines cannot win in crusade against pornography because an increasing number of people know someone who either cams or makes clips. Especially in a bad recession and a generation of well educated prisoners of debt coming of age, you stick out as an asshole sitting in an ivory tower telling people that they way they keep a roof over their heads and food on their table without hurting anyone and only creating pleasure is tantamount to believing that all women are “guzzling cum buckets, brainless, soulless, pieces of meat.”

You cannot win against a generation that has compiled enough evidence to see that prohibition (like, THE DRUG WAR) will only result in collateral damage.

Gail Dines knows this. This is why her attacks against progressive pornographers can only escalate from here on out. I will say that I have no fear of her or any other bully that tries to huff, puff, and blow my house down. I live in a brick house of love between me and my partner. We make pornography together. We are not ashamed and nothing that she or her underlings can say will make me ashamed. She is not standing on the right side of history. She is not acting out of love.

Without further ago, The Porn Panel at Yale for Sex Week 2012. Feel free to save a copy, pass it on, or reference.

27 Comments

Filed under activism, community, culture, feminisms

27 responses to “Talking About Porn At Yale With Gail Dines

  1. When Dines came up on Tristan Taormino’s Twitter feed the other day, I mentioned her to my wife, who keeps up with some of the more popular feminist blogs. “Never heard of her,” she replied. Now, far be it from me to argue that Dines “doesn’t matter,” but it made me wonder if the academic feminists she so admires aren’t exactly paying her the same respect.

  2. I was lucky to be able to attend this panel at Yale and watch how amazing you were. I was shocked by Gail’s childish behavior at the end when she realized the audience did not support her opinion on porn.

    I’m very excited to have you as part of the CatalystCon Opening Keynote Plenary in September.

  3. I just wanted to say that this post is awesome.

  4. Mike

    Why do you have this hatred of Patriarchy?
    Have you considered that Feminism has had a negative impact on society. Please watch this video. I sincerely would like to hear your comments. Thank you.

    • Have you, uh, read the post? Why are you here? WHO SENT YOU? ALIENS?!?

      • Anthony

        Just ignore the MRA whackjobs and their female sockpuppet Girlwriteswhat, Maggie….they are simply the flip image of the antiporn radfems.

        And…major props to you for standing up to Gail’s BS and calling her out publically. She’s no Marxist or even a decent progressive; she just pretends to be one to fool people into getting sucked into her right-wing agenda.

        Anthony

  5. Rhea

    I don’t know why you believe that Gail Dines “invents numbers, statistics, and studies that cannot be verified anywhere.” That is simply untrue. I am sure she could provide you with all the references and citations you need. But believe me, nothing is invented.

  6. juliesunday

    I’m an academic feminist and I think Gail Dines’s work is unbelievably sloppy and inherently not scholarly. The problem I have with Gail’s use of “the studies” is that the few studies she does cite are incredibly small, usually in the field of psychology, which is interested in looking at small numbers of individuals who are suffering from some specific condition. As everyone learned on day 1 of Research Methods is that studies like that (which look at, say, 12 women who used to do porn who are all experiencing PTSD or something) is that you cannot, not under any circumstances, ever claim that the relationship between, say, porn and PTSD in THOSE WOMEN is possibly representative of any relationship among the population in general. And since Gail deals in claims about “the culture” and “society”, basically how porn is harmful at the *population level* even if she does point to “the studies” about porn those studies aren’t measuring what she claims they measure. I wouldn’t argue that porn doesn’t have some effect at the population level (because we don’t have any studies that show it does or doesn’t) but the research that is out there currently that does document negative effects isn’t population level, full stop. But any thing (like, say, scissors) is going to be harmful on some small number of people and if you only study those people who just can’t stop poking themselves with scissors and you conclude that scissors are dangerous and racist and sexist and we should ban them then, well, you need to go back to research 101.
    Great post Maggie!

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  8. MAGGIE…(in ralph cramdons voice)” you’re the greatess”…keep up the enlightening debate/dicussion on a subject that i believe soothes alot of savage beasts in society & is all around beneficial to the economy as well as provides for some families..etc….///ROCKONMAYHEM///

    • Appreciated your voice for bringing some nuance to that conversation, asking people to think beyond “is porn good or bad?”

      It’s too bad you had to deal with such unprofessional conduct.

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  10. Reblogged this on Sex Texts and commented:
    I squeed about the Mayhems yesterday, and here is Maggie Mayhem talking about porn, anti-porn feminist Gail Dines, and politics. It’s pretty rad. I found this point particularly relevant to my own feelings about the porn debates –
    “6. Despite being a Marxist, Gail Dines repeatedly favors women with academic credentials over women without them. Ivory Towerism doesn’t exactly fit in with Marxism in a time when a college education comes at the expense of a lifetime of debt. This means that only women who can afford tuition for graduate education and receive tenure are real “porn academics” and the study, research, and real life experiences of people performing in and making porn are nothing more than bouncing and saying, “Porn is empowering! Porn is fun!” Then again, a woman who prides herself on not researching her fellow panelists shouldn’t be expected to create anything more than a caricature of anyone who makes her job more difficult.”

    I strongly believe that we need to stop privileging certain forms of knowledge over others, because that kind of academic wankery just makes us blind to the contributions that non-academics could be making. It’s ridiculous.

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  14. Outstanding essay, Maggie.

    It’s actually refreshing to see a genuine sex worker/adult performer stand up to Gail Dines and call out her BS and outright lies.

    And, allow me to make one thing perfectly clear: Gail Dines is NOT a Marxist, or even a Leftist; she only pretends to be one and imitates one in order to sell her right-wing agenda.

    I tip my hat to you for challenging her..and I’m sure that you will now be on her “I won’t debate this ‘proporn shill’ because I’m afraid I will get my ass handed to me” list.

    Anthony

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  17. Well experienced. Well thought out. Well written. Keep your spirit strong.

  18. Thanks for sharing the recording from Yale! It was informative. Gail is here in Iceland now to “educate” the government on porn. Yesterday she was interviewed by the National TV.

    I’ll add the video for those interested but among the the things she says are:

    You can’t find softcore porn on the internet anymore. Only hardcore material called “gonzo”.

    Majority of porn today is produced by a small number of men from LA who are cruel, violent and misogynist. She goes on to say that these men control the development of sexual identity of men in most of the world and that this material has become the major sex education for young men who then go out and have sex with prostitutes and victims of sex trafficing.

    All this has of course led to an epidemic that has to be addressed by a public health approach as well as legally. Icelanders need to stop men from watching pornography as it is vital in order to reach gender equality. Gender equality, and men watching porn within the society simply don’t go together!

    The most amazing part has to be where she states that the mere utterance of the term “slut” into the ears of young women leads to them experiencing symptoms very similar to victims of rape.

    Enjoy the interview, those of you who watch:

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