Michael Castleman, at Psychology Today, made the bizarre claim that pornography is not violent. Anyone who would make such a claim has clearly never watched mainstream pornography, or is a pornsick stooge. He is a journalist that specializes in sexual issues, so probably the latter. How can anyone make such a blatant lie and expect to get away with it?
Well, the first tactic he uses is to lie about the evidence, so his audience (who will generally be unfamiliar with anti-pornography research) will think he’s got the upper hand:
In her 2010 book, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, author Gail Dines, Ph.D., asserts that 88 percent of porn videos contain violence against women…
Does 88 percent of porn really show violence against women? No way. But don’t take my word for it. Just browse any of the sampler sites that aggregate porn clips from thousands of sources (cliti.com is one example). The vast majority of porn videos, both professional and amateur, depict generally happy—or at least not visibly unhappy—people engaged in nonviolent, totally consensual sex.
First of all, Castleman clearly does not ever go on actual popular pornography sites on the Internet. He speaks from a position of pure ignorance. Secondly, this is a straightforward lie. Gail Dines does not say that 88% of all pornographic videos on the Internet contain violence against women. What her data says is that 88% of the most rented pornographic movies contain violence against women:
The data from the industry indicating that Gonzo is the most popular and profitable sub-genre of porn is backed up by a recent peer-reviewed study that conducted a large-scale content analysis of contemporary porn… Bridges (2010) and her team found that the majority of scenes from 50 of the top-rented porn movies contained both physical and verbal abuse targeted against the female performers. Physical aggression, which included spanking, open-hand slapping, and gagging, occurred in over 88% of scenes, while expressions of verbal aggression—calling the woman names such as “bitch” or “slut”—were found in 48% of the scenes. The researchers concluded that 90% of scenes contained at least one aggressive act if both physical and verbal aggression were combined.
Hell-bent on arguing against his own strawwomyn, Castleman then tries to explain why the results that he made up are wrong:
And how did the study’s authors—professors at four prestigious universities—come up with their figure? By totally misunderstanding one form of sexuality often depicted in porn—bondage, discipline, and sado-masochism (BDSM).
So this article is out to completely misrepresent both pornography and BDSM. He tries to prove his point, and wheezes, stumbles, and falls on his fucking face:
So, do people know violence when they see it? Not always. Consider this scenario: One man strikes another sharply between the shoulder blades. Most people would call that violence—hitting, assault. But if the two men are colleagues and they’re both smiling, the blow becomes a pat on the back for a job well done—not violence, but congratulations. In other words, violence must be judged not just by the action, but by the action in the context of the participants’ intentions.
Hitting someone in the back with an open hand is a ritual. To claim that this must be a violent act is to assume that one is ignorant of this fact. No one would confuse an act of congratulations with an act of violence. The participants’ intentions have nothing to do with this evaluation. If one person pats another on the back with murderous intent, we still would not see this as an act of violence. Likewise, someone punching another in the face with the very best of intentions is still committing a violent act. Intentions have no place in an ethical evaluation, such as the kind of impersonal judgment we make about acts committed by other people (moral evaluations are another thing entirely).
But most importantly, this is not the kind of violence perpetrated by BDSM advocates. Consider the following list: spanking, whipping, burning, cutting, strangulation, rape, torture. Do any of these acts sound anywhere remotely like the equivalent of a pat on the back? Do we have a common ritual of strangling people to congratulate them? Do people spank each other on the street as a routine greeting?
The argument is the result of a profoundly confused mind. There is generally no issue with identifying acts of violence. We may disagree on which are justified and which are not, but I don’t think identification is an issue.
He then goes on to describe the popularity of BDSM and BDSM-based literature, and offers another absurd whopper:
Porn critics rail against X-rated media, but oddly, don’t condemn romance fiction for the way the male characters dominate and threaten the female protagonists. Why? Because romance fiction is written to appeal to women’s erotic fantasies. Women understand that it’s fantasy. But the researchers who call X-rated media violent apparently don’t recognize that porn is also fantasy. They erroneously believe that porn represents men’s real-world sexual agenda. As anti-porn activist Robin Morgan once said, “Porn is the theory. Rape is the practice.”
Yes, it’s that old bromide again, “pornography is fantasy.” I don’t know how stupid you have to be to believe such nonsense, but pornography, like most filmed media, is not fantasy. It depicts real acts performed on real people. The only exception is special effects, but most pornographic videos, being produced extremely cheaply, do not use special effects beyond screen wipes.
To compare literature with film betrays a deep media illiteracy. Romance fiction does not involve real women performing real acts. Pornographic movies do. Novels are make-believe, filming people is not. Even if they are acting, you are still filming something that’s actually happening. Literature cannot show us things that are actually happening (at best, they are a recollection or a retelling of something that did happen, filtered through our conceptual understanding).
It’s hard to understand why a supposedly serious publication like Psychology Today would agree to publish such blatant lies and drivel, even if it’s only an online blog article. The only reason why anyone would even pretend to agree with it, I think, is because they are BDSM advocates and they wish to grab onto anyone and anything which attempts to justify or rationalize away the rape, violence, and cruelty in BDSM. But certainly they can do better than such pathetic nonsense.