Book Review: Pornland by Gail Dines

This review of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality by Gail Dines is overdue not so much because my time has been crunched, but because I'm torn about this book. So forgive this unconventional review.

Why I liked the book:
  • The pornification of our society can't be debated. Playboy tees and pole-dancing-as-empowerment are perfect examples of how porn has become mainstream. How we got here is fascinating to ponder and Dines' theory is one that I believe is worthy of reading;
  • The slipperty slope of how much porn is good for society is also one that I've been chewing on. Is erotica ok? Hard core not? Who decides these lines?
  • The money trail of who funds and profits from the consumption of porn (hotels are a huge benefactor) was mind-blowing;
  • Dines details racist messages in how porn is created and consumed;
  • I do believe that the images we see affect us and how we see ourselves and others. The increase in porn-like images is disturbing. Our acceptance of them is frightening.
  • Dines gives us a great look at how our modern porn industry started, especially how Playboy wrote about how women/wives were emasculating men in the early 1950s, yet I bet that real issue was with the post-WWII pressure to be a perfect family. Yes, the same issues that ignited the modern feminist movement.
  • Dines reveals the purification of Jenna Jameson (corporate media glosses over Jameson's survival of sexual abuse in favor of pushing the story of porn = empowered woman) as well as how "Girls Gone Wild" is a bait-n-switch industry. You think it's just about drunk college girls flashing, but there is hardcore porn happening as well.
Why I did not like the book:
  • There wasn't a middle ground. Dines sets up the debate as all or nothing. Either you like porn or you don't;
  • I find it hard to believe that no one was having anal sex before hard core porn;
  • The section about porn addiction depicts men as helpless to the power of porn. The slippery slope of porn addiction seems to be lubricated & no way to stop the addiction until some once-sweet-young-man ends up abusing his neighbor.
In the end, I think this is a book worthy picking up, especially for those of us who may not think about porn and its implications on society. I mentioned this book to a friend who owns an adult toy store. For her, she's tired of reading about the porn wars.

What I would like to read more about is this theme: As society tightened its gender role box on men and women post-WWII, women attempted to bust out of their boxes through feminism, while it seems that men lashed out at women through jokes all the way to violent hard-core porn.

My main interest in reading this was the pornification of childhood. When I talk about this to others, I often get the "High School Musical" versus "Grease" line. I still haven't brought myself to watch HSM. As for "Grease," I didn't get half of the innuendos until college. Madonna versus Miley Cyrus. The Muppet Show songs versus Elmo & Katy Perry. When discussing the pornification of childhood, I am not saying that my childhood was sex-free, especially when Jack Tripper was an early influence on most things romantic. 

But what really got me moving on this review was the current news about how the porn industry handles HIV-infected people, testing and condom usage. Often I hear, "Oh, how does porn hurt anyone?" Well, this week we are learning that when an industry runs its own HIV lab testing company, it can hurt a lot of people.

Purchase a copy from an indie bookstore or and let the debate begin!

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book.

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