Friday, October 12, 2007

Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity

by Robert Jensen
South End Press
Paperback, $12.00
208 pages
ISBN: 978-0-89608-766-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Pornography has become normalized.. mainstreamed. If pornography is increasingly cruel and degrading, why is it increasingly commonplace instead of more marginalized? In a society that purports to be civilized, wouldn’t we expect most people to reject sexual material that becomes ever more dismissive of the humanity of women?
This paradox can be resolved by recognizing that the United States is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation. .. This is a strikingly cruel culture in the way it accepts brutality and inequality.
Pornography is not a deviation from the norm. Its presence in the mainstream shouldn’t be surprising, because it represents mainstream values: the logic of domination and subordination that is central to patriarchy, hyper-patriotic nationalism, white supremacy, and a predatory corporate capitalism.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pages 16-17)

Pornography is now big business, raking in $13 billion last year alone. But it has also become part of the mainstream culture, evidenced by its profusion over the Internet and the fact that numerous Fortune 500 companies have created “adult entertainment” divisions designed to cash-in on the escalating demand for the salacious material.
Those complaining about the profusion of porn have generally been dismissed as either uptight feminists or as opponents of free speech. Fortunately, in researcher Robert Jensen we have an intrepid voice in the wilderness willing to make the convincing case that the x-rated industry is rapidly normalizing “the subordination of women” and that “we live in a time of sexual crisis” where “inequality itself has become sexualized.”
Professor Jensen, who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin in the journalism department, arrives at some chilling conclusions after making a litany of disturbing observations about the direction of this culture in Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. For example, he finds plenty of evidence of parallels between depictions of minorities in porn and their relative status in general society, specifically, “stereotypical representations of the sexually primitive back male stud, the animalistic black woman, the hot Latina, the Asian geisha.”
Jensen makes an analogy between this sort of voyeuristic slumming and the way that many suburban teenagers have come to embrace hip-hop. For apparently, many white males enjoy watching their women copulating with big black bucks, especially when in a degrading fashion. The author claims that “interracial pornography of this sort is a kind of new minstrel show that functions as a peepshow for whites into what they see as authentic black life, not on the plantation, but in the ‘hood where all the conventions of white civilized society cease to exist.”
Ultimately, he concludes that these demeaning images of women and minorities employed for the enhancement of sexual pleasure only reinforce the racist and sexist attitudes leveraged by white men to rationalize women’s subordinate status and the repression of the threatening black male. A powerful, political opus posing thought-provoking questions about the dire prospects of human sexuality in the 21st Century.

Getting Off can be ordered at:

No comments: