Dr. Gail Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts. Dines specializes in the study of pornography. Here is the full transcript of Dr. Gail’s TEDx Talk entitled ‘Growing Up in a Pornified Culture’ at TEDxNavesink conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Growing Up in a Pornified Culture by Gail Dines at TEDxNavesink
Gail Dines – Anti-pornography activist
Thank you. Today what I’m going to talk about is: what does it mean to grow up in a pornified culture? What does it mean to live in a society where you are surrounded by images of hypersexualized, pornified women? What does it mean when you live in a society where basically pop culture is shaped by those pornographic images? And what I’m going to talk about is how those images shape gender and sexual identity because today young people grow up not in a print-based culture, like those of us over the age of 35, and I’m being nice here — but they grow up in an image-based culture, so let’s wander through the world they live in.
So when I lecture to people, often therapists or parents, they don’t really know the world their kids live in. But you know what? The media does. So here is a magazine called Details which is like Cosmopolitan for men. And they had an article called “How Internet porn is changing teen sex?” They interviewed a pornographer called Joanna Angel, and she said, “The girls these days, they just seem to come to the set porn-ready.” What does that mean?
What I’m going to say is that this culture is socializing our young girls to be ready for pornography whether they ever end up on a porn site or not. And the reason for that is that they are being taught to hypersexualize and pornify themselves. So let’s wander through the images that these young women and men live in. Let’s just think about the images that bombard them, the kind of pornified, hypersexualized images. And really, when you think of all the thousands of images, they all come down to a young, white, blonde, tall female. Now, God forbid, by the way, anything jiggles, apart from the breasts, of course. But other than that, your whole skin has to be bolted down.
Now, we do let some women of color in, if they look like Beyoncé, or Nicki Minaj, or, of course, Rihanna. But on the whole, the main image is a white, hypersexualized female. So in media theory, we have a concept called “the reader inscribed in the text”. So look at this woman. Look at her clothes, look at her face, look at her posture, and look at her gaze, G-A-Z-E. Now who is she speaking to? Because the notion is that every image has a reader in mind. Before you answer, do you think she’s speaking to her mother, saying, “Let’s go for a cup of coffee after the photo shoot?” So who is she talking to? Who is she speaking to? Men. And what is she saying? “Fuck me.” Would you all agree? So this is what I call the “fuck me” look, and there is not a woman in this room who couldn’t right now go into the “fuck me” look, am I right? Does this look right? With your vulnerable neck, looking with your eyes like this.
Now I want you to think what it means to be male and grow up in a culture where before you can even speak, females are offering themselves to you, “Come get me! Come get me!”
Now what happens to young girls is when they are developing their sexual identity, what they learn is they have two choices: either fuckability or invisibility. And what do you want from a teenager when built in to the DNA of adolescence is the need to be visible? What do you want from her when her friends are walking around with low-slung jeans, a tramp stamp, with their midriff showing? What do you want her to do? Because it is impossible to ask her to go for invisibility. So this is not a choice, this is being forced into a trap of sexuality that she didn’t invent, that she didn’t decide because there are so few choices.
So what does this mean to be a young girl? When I was struggling with thinking what has happened in this culture, you know who really told me what it was? It wasn’t someone with a PhD in sociology or psychology, it was actually an incarcerated child rapist I like to call Dick. Now Dick was imprisoned for raping his 12-year-old stepdaughter, and he was explaining to me how he groomed her. And grooming is what you do when the perpetrator homes in on his victim, starts to develop a relationship with her and then tells her what really matters is how hot she is, that she’s really sexy, she’s hot. And by the time you actually make your move, she’s bonded to you, and she thinks the most important thing about herself is that she’s hot.
Now, Dick was explaining to me how he groomed his stepdaughter, and then he looked me straight in the eye and he said, “The culture did a lot of the grooming for me.” And I have to tell you I nearly fell off my chair. Because he was exactly right. The culture is mass-perpetrating against our girls. It used to be that you needed an individual perpetrator to perpetrate against an individual girl. Not anymore.
Now, pop culture part 2 for the boys is the porn industry. When I talk about porn, I don’t mean Playboy, Penthouse, or Hustler. Let’s go back to Details. Basically, they said in this article, “There is an entire generation of young people who think sex ends with the money shot to the face.” Now for the uninitiated out there, a money shot is ejaculation on the face. To tell you what goes on in the world, because I teach young people, I lecture across the country in colleges all over, a student told me that she was talking to a boyfriend who wanted to actually date – which in the hook-up sites culture, believe me, is a big thing – and he said to her he had a deal breaker, and the deal breaker was that she had to let him come on her face. She said, “No, I’m not letting you do that.”
And I was telling a reporter in England, who was in her 40s, she was doing a documentary, and she said to me, “I don’t believe you. You’re exaggerating.” And a 23-year-old assistant turned to her and said, “Do you know how many men have come on my face without asking?”
So get rid of the notion of Playboy, Penthouse, or even Hustler; those were the good old days of pornography. I never thought I would stand here and tell you, look back and say, “These seemed evil quaint.” What changed everything was the Internet. The Internet made pornography affordable, it made it accessible, and it made it anonymous. The three A’s that drive demand.
Do you know that porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined? Just get your head around that and that we know from studies that nearly 90% of the top-watched rented scenes have at least physical or verbal abuse against the woman.
So what I’m going to do now is I am going to follow the breadcrumbs of a 12-year-old. The first age of using pornography is 12. And I’m just going to follow him with no credit card, put “porn” into Google, and I’m going to tell you what he is going to see. The first thing he is going to see, the major act on virtually all websites is gagging. This is where the man puts the penis so far down her throat that she gags almost to the point of vomiting. They put a lot of mascara on her face, so that she’s actually tearing and you can see the rivulets of mascara running down. As she is choking, he grabs her head, and he pulls it towards him, and he says, “Look at me!” And she is choking! This is a kind of a sexual psychopath.
And when you think that porn is the major form of sex-ed, think what is going to happen to the next generation of boys, most of whom are brought up on hardcore, mainstream Internet porn. Now the average 12-year-old, when he goes onto porn, when he puts “porn” into Google, what do you think he thinks he’s going to see? Breasts? People having sex? Do you think he’s thinking of gagging? Of course, he’s not. So what keeps him on that?
I started to read the text that went with the images, so let’s look at this. Do you know what we say to things like romance and foreplay? We say, “Fuck off!” We take gorgeous young bitches, and do what every man would really like to do – we make them gag, etc., etc. This is from a very well-known website called Gag Me Then Fuck Me.
Now, think about this: he is 12 years old, he is going into manhood, he is aroused, that is telling him, “You want to be a male? This is your entrée into masculinity. This is the price you pay to be masculine.” In that boy’s stomach is a toxic stew because he’s aroused, but he is also ashamed, and he is also scared, and he is also angry, and he feels enormous shame that he is aroused, and nobody has said to him, “This is not who you are.” Because the pornographers say to him, “This is who you are. This is what you want. Because we take gorgeous young bitches, and we do what every man would really like to do.” But you know what? That’s not true. And I know that’s not true, and I know that is true because feminists are man’s best friends, because we believe more in men than the pornographers do.
And you know how I know that the pornographers don’t tell the truth about men? I know that as a feminist, I know that as a scholar, and above all, I know that as a mother of a son. My son is worth better than this. If my son is, then I believe your son is too.
The next really constant scene you’re going to see is really violent, pounding anal sex. Let me read you the kind of promotional copy from the movie “Anally ripped whores”. “We at Pure Filth know exactly what you want: chicks being ass fucked till their sphincters are pink, puffy, and totally blown out. Adult diapers just might be in store for these whores when their work is done.” This is the promotional copy. You don’t need a PhD in media studies to understand the violence, and I want to make this clear: this is mainstream porn, this is what the 12-year-old boy gets to within 15 seconds, this is not the worst, I don’t go near the worst.
The standard porn scene, the standard porn film: one woman, three men, oral, anal, vaginal penetration. They’re pulling her hair, they’re spitting in her face, they’re calling her a whore, a slut, and a cum dumpster. This is the sex education today across the world. We know from 40 years of research that the younger the boys get to porn, the more it limits their capacity for intimacy, the more it decreases their empathy for rape victims, the more it increases depression and anxiety, and the more likely they are to engage in risky sexual behavior.
The future. Now we have a whole generation of boys desensitized because really what you want at 10 is different to what you want at 15, 20, 30. So where is this going? In 2002, the Free Speech Coalition which is the lobbying arm of the porn industry lobbied the Ashcroft Court to take away the argument that you couldn’t use girls who looked under 18, and this is what we’ve got overnight: teen porn, first time with daddy, daddy’s whore, it’s OK, she’s my stepdaughter. What are we going to do? How are we going to tie this porn monster down step by step? We’re going to use the Gulliver strategy. Education by education by education.
We’re going to use a public health approach. Just like we stopped drinking-and-driving, you bring to the table all those who have a vested interest in the well being of the next generation. At my group Culture Reframed, we are taking the public health model, and we’re going to build parents’ programs, we’re going to build programs for professionals, we’re going to build programs for students because we’re going to tie this porn monster down piece by piece. And you know why? Because our children are worth more, our culture is worth more, our boys are worth more, and our girls are worth more.
Thank you very much.