Men beware the perils of porn

Robert Jensen's new book warns men and diagnoses society in a time when getting off couldn't get any easier

Stephanie Dickrell

You might have walked in on your roommate using this, maybe even twice, or more, in one day. No, not “doing it.” Replace human emotion with sexual stimulus manufactured to make you orgasm in 10 minutes or less. Enter pornography, as author Robert Jensen sees it.

“Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity”

Author: Robert Jensen
Publisher: South End Press
Pages: 185
Price: $12

Event

WHEN: Sept. 9, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Magers & Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
TICKETS: Free

It might be the subject that no one talks about, but it’s everywhere. Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy have become household names. Some estimates show the industry doing $10 billion in business in the United States alone. Comparatively, Americans shell out $9 billion at the box office.

“Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity,” is the latest book by Jensen, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas-Austin. It takes porn on its horns, stripping away the surface that is increasingly accepted and mainstreamed and telling just how potentially damaging porn is to all of us.

After enduring through his nearly 200-page book with vivid descriptions of porn mixed with academic analysis and the writer’s own plight to stop being a man and start being a human, the reader might be exhausted. But porn, as he argues, is something worth discussing beyond the normal terms of freedom of expression and one’s love or hate for sex.

Sure, the book is excruciating, and sometimes even painful to read. It’s not easy for a woman to look frankly at how men might see them through porn, and what the porn industry says turns them on, and turns them on quickly, which is, as Jensen puts it, the repetitive and systematic degradation of women. It is equally uneasy for men to admit that is how they might see and treat women.

Jensen works hard to maintain the fact that he too is guilty of degradation – he is just one of us, part of the system. He talks about his own use of porn quite frankly, maybe more than you wanted to know about a professor.

In truth, Jensen spends half of his book defending how he wrote the book. In a way, this provides him with legitimacy because he argues against his critics before they can even begin.

Jensen tells us that porn is a mirror of our own society, one that was created through centuries of patriarchy and male dominance. The mirror shows us how men see women, without the strains of political correctness to hold them back.

Perhaps readers will scoff, but few can deny the inequities of our society. The description fits.

He calls our culture a “rape culture,” represented in porn by its overtly racist and misogynist ways.

“Pornography is what the end of the world looks like,” he said. “Porn is the product of the perfect storm of inequality.”

In the book, Jensen takes on pornography and masculinity, which, he said, produce sexual violence toward women, children and other men. And he does it all from a radical feminist perspective.

Now, before you all close the newspaper, seeing that other F-word, just hear Jensen out. He calls feminism a gift to men. How so? This seems directly contradictory to common knowledge. However, Jensen explains it is through feminism that men can truly liberate themselves from the quest to be manliest of the manly, from all of the insecurity and repression that comes from competition for dominance. Think of the schoolyard game King of the Hill: The “winner” betrays friends and ends up alone.

This book is written by a man, for men, as a concrete guide of how to change the world, one little step at a time. It can be shocking and uncomfortable for women.

Dealing with centuries and centuries of repression won’t happen overnight, Jensen admits to skeptics, which is why he provides concrete ways for men to change the world now. In the most explicit way, he provides a way for men to change.

He lays out a few key but simple ways to break down the cycle of this rape culture of ours.

Stop using porn. It objectifies women and degrades them. Look objectively at what you’re “getting off” to: women being reduced to the sum total of three holes and two hands.

The next time you feel the need for a one-off, no-strings-attached orgasm, and you turn that DVD on, picture that woman as your mother, your sister, your daughter, your girlfriend, because, as Jensen writes, that woman you’re watching is every woman.

Stop attending strip clubs or using prostitutes. Stop objectifying women, Jensen writes.

Have some questions? That’s the point. Read the book or attend the reading, then talk about it.

Pornography shows us our ugly side, and if we take our eyes off the screen and look in the mirror, we might be dismayed at what we’ve become.