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The Porning of America
The Porning of America
 The Rise of Porn Culture,
 What It Means, and
 Where We Go from Here

 Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott

 beacon press
Beacon Press
25 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-2892

Beacon Press books
are published under the auspices of
the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

© 2008 by Carmine Sarracino and Kevin Scott
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America

11 10 09 08          8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This book is printed on acid-free paper that meets the uncoated paper
ANSI/NISO specifications for permanence as revised in 1992.

Text design and composition by
Wilsted & Taylor Publishing Services

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sarracino, Carmine
 The porning of America : the rise of porn culture, what it means, and where we
go from here / Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott.
     p. cm.
 Includes index.
 ISBN 978-0-8070-6153-4
 1. Pornography in popular culture--United States. 2. Pornography--Social
aspects--United States. 3. Sex in popular culture--United States. I. Scott,
Kevin M. II. Title.

 HQ472.U6S37 2008
 306.77--dc22                                                     2008008099
To Tamara, Dante, and Carina Sarracino
Mary Ann, Connor, and Maisie Scott--
for their patience, support, and encouragement.

  Introduction ix

1 Normalizing the Marginal 1
2 A Nation of Porn Stars 31
3 Popping Rosie's Rivets: Porn in the Good Old Days 49
4 Porn Exemplars: Advancing the Front Lines of Porn 81
5 Would You Like Porn with That Burger? 117
6 The Nexus of Porn and Violence:
  Abu Ghraib and Beyond 137
7 Women and Porn      169

8 Where We Go from Here 195

   Acknowledgments    223
   Notes   225
   Index 235

As college professors, we usually write about subjects that we hold
at arm's length: objective, intellectual, dispassionate. But not so in
this book.
    We are very much part of--involved in, living through--the
phenomenon we describe as the porning of America. We are
American males, husbands, and parents of small children, each of
us the father of a girl and a boy. Strolling in the mall last week, one
of us came upon something we had before only read about: thong
underwear for little girls.
    The other recently saw his four-year-old daughter, enrapt,
watching a television ad for Bratz dolls, which look remarkably like
prostitutes.1 Our sons, eight and ten, pretend indierence when
such ads appear on their cartoon stations, but we have seen them
stealing glimpses, and even ogling, eyes riveted, when they didn't
know they were being watched.
    How can we, as fathers who are ourselves sexual males, blame
them? We too appreciate the allure of the female form and of
sex. And we are thankful that our children will grow up in an at-
mosphere of sexual freedom that will spare them most of the ig-
norance, hypocrisy, and repression of earlier times. If guilt is
disappearing from sensuality and sex, along with shame about the
human body, we happily wave goodbye to all that. But what is com-
ing in its place?

x                                                         Introduction

     What has in fact already arrived is a culture increasingly being
shaped by the dominant influence: porn. Porn has so thoroughly
been absorbed into every aspect of our everyday lives--language,
fashion, advertisements, movies, the Internet, music, magazines,
television, video games--that it has almost ceased to exist as some-
thing separate from the mainstream culture, something "out there."
That is, we no longer have to go to porn in order to get it. It is fil-
tered to us, in some form, regardless of whether we want it or are
even aware of it.
     If we want porn, the Playboy Channel brings it right into our
living rooms. But even if we don't want it, Paris Hilton, for one,
brings it into our living rooms via, for example, a television ad for
the fast food chain Carl's Jr. in which Hilton--it can only be de-
scribed this way--performs oral sex on a hamburger. (Shortly after
the ad aired, the comedian David Spade remarked that while
watching TV he saw a hamburger get to second base with Paris
Hilton.) The Internet oers literally millions of porn sites to anyone
who wants a peek. But it also oers peeks if you don't want them.
For example, one of us, in the weeks before Christmas a few years
ago, with an eager kid on each knee, made the mistake of Googling
"toys." (And that was in the days when, as is less common now, a
closed porn screen automatically launched one or two new porn
screens, creating an impromptu video game in which one must
click closed pop-ups faster than new ones can open--flashing butts
and breasts!--while simultaneously elbowing kids o one's knees
and shouting, "Daddy needs a minute here!")
     For that matter, toys themselves have been, if not rendered
pornographic, drafted into pornography's service. Consider again
the Bratz doll. The doll pictured here belongs to a line called Bratz
Play Sportz, but it is di~cult to imagine any sport--outside of a
pornographic video--that dresses young women in uniforms of
thigh-high fishnets and stiletto heels (popularly called fuck-me
Introduction                                                              xi

Bratz doll.                                              Kevin M. Scott

pumps). Bratz dolls fundamentally redefine girlhood--and lead
many parents to feel as if porn is hunting their daughters.
    Porn is everywhere in ordinary American life in 2008; indeed,
in this book we show that porn is a cultural trend aecting all age
groups, all races, and all classes, and that virtually every aspect of or-
dinary day-to-day life is being shaped by porn. It's not, then, so
xii                                                     Introduction

much that porn has become mainstream, which we often hear, as
that the mainstream has become porned. Increasingly in America,
we live porn in our daily lives.
    What are we to make of this development? Are we worse o,
for instance, than we were in earlier times, when pornography
was consigned to the back alleys of our culture? The question is far
from simple. In fact, it serves as a good entry point into the com-
plexity of the porning phenomenon.
    For one thing, those earlier times, sometimes known as the
good old days in America, are often sentimentalized. We forget, for
instance, that in the nineteenth century boys were commonly told
by trusted elders--ministers, fathers, grandfathers--that the sin
of "self-pollution" would bring not only eternal damnation in the
next world, but physical debility and even insanity in this one.
They often sat through blood-chilling lectures that were part of
antimasturbation moralist campaigns. Girls, for their part, were
informed by their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts that women
took no pleasure from sexual intercourse and bore with it simply to
produce children. The only women who were exceptions to this
rule were prostitutes, whose supposed abnormal sensuality led
them to a disgraced life on the streets.
    Suering resulted from such sexual ignorance, repression,
and hypocrisy. In 1856 Walt Whitman wrote the first poem in
American literature dealing with masturbation, "Spontaneous
Me," trying to reassure young men and women that such irre-
pressible urges were completely natural.
    Porn has always existed in some form in America, and it can
be found in all the cultures of the world, ancient and modern. If
nothing else, the universality of porn forces us to acknowledge a
fundamental reality: men and women are, in fact, sexual creatures.
And the more that porn has emerged from the shadows and back
alleys, the more directly and honestly we as a culture have had to
face our own sexuality and decide what we will make of it.
Introduction                                                         xiii

    In America today, porn has blown away most of the old dodges
and blinders. There are certainly exceptions depending on where
one lives and whether one identifies with a religious faith, but it is
more di~cult now than ever before, for instance, to maintain that
pubescent boys and girls should never masturbate. Or that we ex-
perience sexual desire only with our "one true love," so that having
sex ("making love") becomes the proof positive of having found the
chosen one we were destined to marry. Or that normal women
have no sexual urges, a falsehood that has been falling away piece-
meal over time--the sexual double standard being one of the last
vestiges to begin to totter in our own day. Or, to cite another bit of
sexual ignorance only now (when the elderly figure prominently
on many porn websites) beginning to crumble: that past a certain
age, perhaps sixty or seventy, men and women cease to exist as sex-
ual beings. For all the minuses that exist, then, there is clearly a
positive side to porn as well.
    But it's di~cult to make an overall, blanket judgment about
porn because the word itself is so imprecise, so vague, that two
people arguing on opposite sides of the question might in fact not
even be talking about the same thing. Studying porn for the past
few years in preparation for this book, we realized almost immedi-
ately that porn is not one thing. Porn is not, to put it this way, a sin-
gle color but rather a whole spectrum. Therefore, its influences on
the culture are similarly varied and complex. Some porn is clearly,
unequivocally damaging, such as child pornography. As parents,
we wish we could consign it not just to the back alleys, but to the
back alleys of some distant planet.
    And along with child pornography, a good deal of porn can be
labeled cultural toxic waste, such as the very dark porn eerily gain-
ing popularity on the Internet, featuring physical abuse, violence,
and torture. But there is another side of the spectrum. Some porn
movies, especially those produced and directed by women, as well
as some amateur homemade adult videos posted on websites,
xiv                                                        Introduction

celebrate sensuality and a joyful, mutually shared, playful and
aectionate sexuality. It seems mistaken, then, to group these cele-
bratory movies with, say, films depicting sexual torture, as if the
two were the same, or equivalent.
    To put it simply, there's a whole lot of stu out there, dramati-
cally varied but all called porn. We need, first of all, to sort through
the various types of material and indicate the important dier-
ences among them. But in preparing to sort through material re-
ferred to as porn and pornography, it's enlightening first of all to
consider that the words have dierent associations and can convey
dierent things.
    Porn is the grandchild of pornography. Porn may share the
same gene pool, more or less, as pornography, but it is much
younger and hipper, and far more varied. The word pornography
was invented (from the Greek roots porne + graphien, or "depicting
the acts of prostitutes") by nineteenth-century European art histo-
rians who were abashed and flummoxed by what they regarded
as obscene paintings, sculptures, and frescoes. The National Mu-
seum of Naples was the focal point for this problem, as it held
extensive materials from excavations at Pompeii. The excavations
had begun in the mid-eighteenth century and almost immediately
unearthed shockingly sexual artifacts: a representation of the god
Priapus, for instance, with an enormously exaggerated erect phal-
lus, along with frescoes depicting couples copulating.
    What to do with this Roman art? As art historians, their aes-
thetic values compelled them to respect it. But as Catholics, their
religious values forbade them from publicly displaying it. How,
then, to catalog and store it? To include it in the museum's hold-
ings would have meant exposing the public, especially the young, to
the corrupting, immoral influence of graphic sexuality.
    So a secret room for the "Pornographic Collection," as it was
o~cially cataloged, was created in the National Museum of Naples
Introduction                                                      xv

in 1866, a room constantly under lock and key, whose doors were
guarded day and night. Pornography was thus created, both as a
word and as a category of human sexuality. It was in a sense an as-
semblage, stitched together from disparate parts, a painting here, a
fresco there, rather like a certain monster similarly pieced together
a bit earlier in the century by a young Englishwoman with a wild
imagination. And like Mary Shelley's monster, it soon slipped the
locks of its secret room and began to rove among the populace,
striking fear across the continent.
     Pornography, then, the older of the two words, is much more
heavily stigmatized. To the curators of the National Museum of
Naples, pornography connoted "bad." Similarly, the oldest pornog-
raphy in America consisted of what most of us would regard as
--if not bad--undesirable, sexist, objectionable. That is, early por-
nography in America, from the stereoscopic slides of the Civil War
soldiers through the 8 mm blue movies of the decades just after
World War I, generally depicted males dominating females for
their own pleasure, and often demeaning their female partners,
who were usually prostitutes. American feminists generally had in
mind male-dominated, exploitative sexuality when they began at-
tacking pornography in the 1960s.
     In the 1960s and 1970s the word porn began to replace pornog-
raphy. Nowadays, one hears and sees porn far more often than
pornography. The words dier not only in that porn refers to a
much larger body of material that is far less homogeneous than
what was covered by pornography, but also in that porn is much less
stigmatized than its forerunner.
     Pornography applied almost exclusively to visual images, either
still photos or movies, and only occasionally to writing. On the
other hand, porn is used loosely, especially by those under forty,
to label a great variety of material, including movies, photos, and
writing, as well as anime, video games, peep shows, sex toys, and
xvi                                                      Introduction

X-rated lingerie--all without the judgmental sense of "bad." The
word porn even feels more casual and familiar than pornography,
like the nickname of a pal.
    In Chapter 1, we provide a brief history of pornography in
America, showing that in order to enter the mainstream, porn
stars began to imitate ordinary men and women. Then, in turn, or-
dinary men and women began imitating porn stars.
    We open the chapter with a discussion of Timothy Greenfield-
Sanders' 2004 exhibit, XXX. In this exhibit Greenfield-Sanders, a
renowned photographer who has photographed presidents and
the most famous celebrities, presented paired portraits of porn
stars: on one panel, a nude shot as the individual is familiarly seen
in porn films, and in the next, the same individual in street clothes
--looking like an ordinary person, someone like you and me.
    How did porn stars come to be like you and me? And, more
significantly, how have we come to be like porn stars? The answers
to these questions bring us to the heart of the cultural phenome-
non we call the porning of America.
    In Chapter 2 we look at one result of this phenomenon: uni-
versal sexualization. Increasingly, ordinary life mimics the ethic of
porn, that everyone--regardless of age, profession, social rank--
exists to a heightened degree as a sexual entity and therefore as
a potential sex partner. The unprecedented sexualization of chil-
dren (we look closely in Chapter 1 at the Olsen twins) is one mani-
festation of this phenomenon. But the elderly too are sexualized
as never before. Indeed, whatever one's public identity--athlete,
politician, schoolteacher--everyone is sexualized in a way and to
a degree historically unprecedented before the last quarter of the
twentieth century.
    Chapter 3 again takes a historical perspective, examining a
time often idealized for its supposed dramatic contrast with con-
temporary times, the 1950s. It was precisely in this "innocent" era
of the postwar 1940s and 1950s, however, that pornography began
Introduction                                                       xvii

slipping out of the alleys and back rooms of American society and
into mainstream culture, especially in comics and men's maga-
zines. Bettie Page, for example, regularly appeared nude in leather
and lingerie. But she also appeared in bondage and domination
photos that express the struggle to contain the rising social threat
--to many men, a threat--of female economic and sexual inde-
     The porning of America involves so many important figures
that it is impossible to consider them all. In Chapter 4 we have
selected (from a possible multitude including Ralph Ginzburg,
Henry Miller, Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, and Seka) six figures we
regard as porn exemplars: Russ Meyer, Al Goldstein, Madonna,
Jenna Jameson, Snoop Dogg, and Paris Hilton. We present short
portraits of each, focusing on what these individuals brought to the
process of furthering the normalization of porn.
     Advertising has played a vital role in America's porning, and
this is the topic of Chapter 5. We look first at the advertising indus-
try's use of porn to sell all sorts of products, some quite directly
linked to sex, but others sexualized only through the porn-derived
context of the ad. Hamburgers, for instance, are inherently non-
sexual but were presented sexually in the Paris Hilton television
commercial for Carl's Jr. Every ad that uses porn to sell a product is
at the same time an advertisement for porn. In this chapter we also
look at the way thinking about our bodies and sexuality as com-
modities (an attitude derived from porn) finds popular expression
on such websites as Craigslist, MySpace, and Stickam.
     In Chapter 6 we examine what might become a major direc-
tion for porn, for it is growing in popularity on the Internet, and
perhaps in our culture as well: violent sex that emphasizes debase-
ment, humiliation, and the infliction of serious pain. We regard
the mistreatment of detainees at the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib
as a watershed in the connection between degradation porn and
xviii                                                    Introduction

    So, is this a pro- or anti-porn book? Before addressing that
important question directly, in Chapter 7 we look at women's re-
sponses to porn. We discuss the first assaults on porn made by
feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon in
the 1960s and 1970s, and the often heated debate over porn that
continues to the present day. We review the current research sur-
rounding such important questions as whether porn causes vio-
lence against women, and we discuss women's influence on the
industry as both consumers and producers of porn.
    In the last chapter, thinking about where we go from here,
we stake out our own position. We would reframe the question of
whether our book is anti- or pro-porn and say that it is unequivocally
pro-sex. We regard sexuality as a great good in human life, not only
for the taking of one's own pleasure, but also for the giving of
pleasure--that is, for the enhanced joy of both receiving and im-
parting a surpassingly ecstatic experience. Of all the ways in which
we interact with others in this world, the back-and-forth exchange
of sensual pleasure is one of the most satisfying and blissful of all
    Being wholeheartedly pro-sex, then, we have to say that porn
is often not pro-sex, and sometimes even anti-sex. Women's porn
(produced and directed by women and intended for a female audi-
ence), and true amateur porn, consisting mostly of video clips
posted on host sites by ordinary men and women, are the most
pro-sex porn we have seen.
    Typically, in true amateur porn, the sex partners, who are not
paid, engage in passionate, playful, personalized sex: they seem to
know and like each other and to want to please each other sexually.
Their bodies might not be perfect--in fact are sometimes far from
perfect--but their sensual excitement and pleasure is undimin-
ished. Contributor blurbs, on sites that include them, often indi-
cate committed relationships--"me and my boyfriend," or even
"me and my husband." Often, the sex partners look into each
Introduction                                                      xix

other's eyes, as almost never happens in professional porn, some-
times grin or giggle. For all the lust, in other words, there is also
aection and an evident desire to please the partner.
     Early in our final chapter we present a critique of porn. An im-
portant part of our critique consists of considering alternatives to
the anti-sex porn, exploring directions that would remove from
porn its--surprising, perhaps--vestiges of Puritanism. For to surf
through websites is to revisit, in an odd way, American Puri-
tanism: the sex these sites oer is nasty, bad, dirty, the women
sluts and whores. The pornographers and the Puritans start from
the same premises. The main dierence between them is that the
porn sites revel in what the Puritans fled. But there are alternatives
to sex rooted in sin and shame. Tantra, which we briefly discuss, is
one tangible example of a sensual, ecstatic approach to sexuality
that is completely absent the stigma and guilt, and consequent
degradation and humiliation, characterizing so much porn.
     In thinking about where we go from here, we identify sexual-
ization--which is rampant in our culture--as the root problem
underlying the damaging and dangerous practice of turning indi-
viduals, especially girls and young women, into sexual objects.
Through sexualization individuals are seen as having no value be-
yond their sexuality. In this regard, we look to the landmark Report
of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexual-
ization of Girls (2007) for our analysis of the problem, and also for
ways to counteract and combat it. Sex without sexualization is an
ideal to be pursued.
     Porn, then, as the word is used in 2008, ranges from the liber-
ating to the objectionable. The title of our book, The Porning of
America, simply recognizes that the whole range of possibilities
is active now in shaping American culture--in some ways for the
better, but in many ways for the worse.
     We enjoy enormous sexual freedom in America. As individu-
als we can explore our own sexuality and make choices about ap-
xx                                                        Introduction

pearance, dress, behavior, identity--about what is broadly called
lifestyle--as never before in this country. The walls of restriction,
limitation, taboo, are everywhere toppling.
     In The Brothers Karamazov, a main character, Ivan, thinking
about the general decline of traditional codes of right and wrong,
says, "Now everything is permitted!" Ivan is thrilled at the prospect
of unlimited freedom. But he is also deeply troubled.
     For everything is permitted is as daunting a realization as it is
exhilarating. There are, after all, no built-in guarantees, and with
unlimited options, we can choose badly as easily as choose well. Vi-
olent sexuality, for instance, is gaining in popularity on the Internet
and even in Hollywood movies. The abuse and torture at Abu
Ghraib alert us to the dangers posed to our very humanity by
pornography that is based on sexual humiliation and degradation.
     The Porning of America, then, will help you understand clearly
what is going on in our culture. And, more than that, it will help
you make the most, and not the worst, of our hard-won sexual
1. Normalizing the Marginal

On a cool Saturday night in New York City, October 30, 2004,
a much-anticipated show at a Fifth Avenue art gallery, the Mary
Boone, is drawing the bright and the beautiful. The exhibition will
eventually travel across the country to other galleries, but this is
the opening, and it is part of an intricately choreographed rollout in-
volving book, documentary, and music releases that will get much
of elite America talking about its subject: porn.
     Ben Stiller and his wife, Christine Taylor, wander the gallery,
bumping into the likes of movie directors Barry Levinson and Dar-
ren Aronofsky. Calvin Klein, Rachel Weisz, and, of all people, tele-
vision handyman Bob Vila are present and chat casually with the
artist, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
     Greenfield-Sanders is one of the most famous photographers
in America. He has photographed a number of recent tenants
of the White House, including President George W. Bush and
First Lady Laura Bush, George H. W. and Barbara Bush, Jimmy
and Rosalind Carter, Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore
and several Supreme Court justices. He has photographed world-
famous actors, musicians, artists, and writers. Like appearing on
the cover of Time as a politician, or reaching the $20-million-per-
movie level as an actor, to be photographed by Greenfield-Sanders
is to be recognized as having made it. Big time.
     At the gallery, however, neither the glitterati nor the renowned

2                                              The Porning of America

photographer are suns around which the planets orbit. Rather, at-
tention goes to the subjects of several of Greenfield-Sanders's
exhibited portraits who are present in the room: Gina Lynn, Nina
Hartley, Tera Patrick, Savanna Sampson, and Chad Hunt. To-
gether, they have starred in well over a thousand porn films.
    Greenfield-Sanders was inspired to create this exhibition,
XXX, after he watched the 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson film Boo-
gie Nights, which explores the lives of porn stars. If there is a plot
at all to Boogie Nights, it is the growth of the porn industry: its
increasing awareness of what popular audiences want and, in re-
sponse, its imitation of Hollywood. (The fictional director, played
by Burt Reynolds, finally realizes his great dream of making porn
--With a plot! Like a real movie! )
    Similarly, Greenfield-Sanders's exhibition attempts to show
porn as mainstream. The exhibit is a series of thirty diptychs, each
depicting side-by-side portraits of an individual in identical poses,
except that in one the porn star is clothed, and in the other, naked.
The portraits are large, about five by four feet, and placed high on
the wall, so the viewer must look up at the faces (and chests) of the
figures. Several are slightly larger than life size, yet each figure
stares straight out from the photo. With a few exceptions, the
figures exude confidence and ease, especially in the nude photos.
    To most Americans, the names of those pictured would be un-
familiar, but a few figures have achieved a kind of fame that breaks
through the old barriers against pornography. Ron Jeremy, the
porn everyman, portly and unthreatening, regularly takes cameos in
movies and television shows. Nina Hartley has become an intellec-
tual critic of porn, and of culture in general. Most famous of all,
certainly, is Jenna Jameson, a voluptuous blonde who looks back at
the viewer with a gaze both sexual and challenging--a Marilyn
Monroe with attitude.
    It is a purposely provocative show. Greenfield-Sanders has said
Normalizing the Marginal                                            3

that his intention for the exhibit is to start a discussion about who
these people are and what they do. Who, indeed, are they, then?
And what do they do?
    The back-and-forth visual transference from the clothed, aver-
age-looking person (as most of them are) to the naked, sexual one,
breaks down the dierence between the two. On one side is the
portrait of an apparently ordinary man or woman, dressed in a
sweater and jeans or some other casual outfit. On the other side,
we see the same person in almost the identical pose, but wearing
not a stitch. The overall eect of these side-by-side presentations,
clothed/naked, clothed/naked, one after another, is to fuse the or-
dinary and the normal with the world of porn.
    Who are these people? People like you and me. What do they
do? They make a living naked, having sex in front of a camera.
    The XXX exhibit was an artistic expression of a truth about
American life: porn had found its way into mainstream culture.
How many of the exhibit viewers, though, exiting into the chilly
New York City night, thought about the other side of the equation
of porn stars and themselves? The side of the equation dealing
with porn's transformative impact on the way people live. That is,
if porn stars have become like us, how have we in turn become like
porn stars?
    When we ask the question in terms of how porn has changed
us, we get to the heart of the matter. We are then asking not how
porn has become mainstream but, much more important, how the
mainstream has become porned. A host of further questions then
arise: How has porn changed the way we see one another and our-
selves? How has it altered our personal relationships and our sex-
ual behavior? How has it changed the social order? How has it
shaped our individual identities, and our national identity? To begin
to answer these questions, we need to have some understanding of
the development of pornography in America.
4                                               The Porning of America

growth of the porn runt
Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the
Whaleship Essex (2000) tells about a surprisingly sexually active re-
ligious sect in colonial America: the Quakers living o the coast of
Massachusetts on Nantucket Island. In this community, where
men were at sea hunting whales for long periods of time, some-
times even years, it was an open secret that the women had learned
to pleasure themselves. Their journals contain opaque references to
their masturbatory activities, including code words for dildos, such
as he's at homes. In 1979, homeowners remodeling a house in the
historic district of Nantucket found a six-inch dildo made of clay.
     Still, examples of what might be considered porn from
seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America are rare, and consist
mainly of cheaply printed pamphlets, called chapbooks, contain-
ing smutty jokes, lewd drawings, and cartoons.1 The chapbooks
were produced surreptitiously, bought for a penny or two, and
passed around among males.
     Unlike the Nantucket Quakers, the Puritans, the largest group
of earliest settlers, kept their secret sex lives, if they had them, se-
cret. And yet, as we will show, the Puritans figure importantly in
the construction of the American idea of pornography.
     Despite the stereotype of them as austere and sexually re-
pressed, the Puritans were quite sexually active. Recent scholars,
for instance, have examined the records of births, deaths, and mar-
riages in various colonies and discovered that quite often the date
of a first child's birth was less than nine months from the time of
the parents' marriage. This may well have been a result of the prac-
tice of bundling, in which prospective couples were allowed to
sleep in the same bed, typically in the home of the young woman's
parents, provided they were individually restrained in garments or
separated by a board. Unsurprisingly, many young people found
their way around these obstacles and into each other's embrace.
Also, remarriage after the death of a spouse often happened
Normalizing the Marginal                                              5

quickly, without the observance of what many today would con-
sider a proper period of mourning. One cannot help wondering
whether the later marriage had originated as a liaison of some
    But the reason we connect the Puritans with pornography has
to do with their religious condemnation of sexuality as sinful and sa-
tanic, and the denial (whether hypocritical or not) of their own sen-
sual nature, which they constantly tried to hold in check.
    One of the first things that the Puritans built in the New World
were high walls separating their settlements from the natural
world, which they feared for both rational and irrational reasons.
Rationally, there were of course beasts and hostile Indians to fear.
But reading their journals and letters, it quickly becomes clear that
their fear of "the howling wilderness," as one eminent Puritan,
William Bradford, repeatedly described the American landscape in
his journals, had more to do with their phobia regarding wildness
than with any actual threat. The term so came to describe the new
continent for the Puritans that Josias Winslow used it in his elegy
of Bradford as a man who, if God bade him, would again follow
God into "a howling wilderness."
    The beasts out there and the Indians out there . . . on the other
side of the wall, in the dark woods . . . were wild! They gave in to all
sorts of base and lewd desires. But within the settlement walls the
Puritans could hold themselves apart from lawless, godless,
unchecked impulses. They could remain focused on Scripture and
under control, no matter how white-knuckled and tight-lipped.
    Pornography, as it grows and strides across America over the
mid-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and then dominates
American culture at the turn of the new millennium, typically has
an essentially Puritan point of view on sensuality and sex. The vo-
cabulary of the typical Internet porn site could be written by one of
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter Puritans: Sex is sinful! Nasty!
Naughty! The only dierence in this regard between the Puritans
6                                               The Porning of America

and the pornographers is that from the same starting point they go
not merely in dierent, but in opposite, directions. Porn revels in
what Puritanism rejects.
    In the world of porn, sex is dirty, the women are sluts--but un-
like what happens in the world of Puritanism, in porn all restraints
are o. The walls are down. The Puritan wilderness becomes the
porn playground. The immensely popular contemporary series of
porn films called Girls Gone Wild is a Puritan nightmare come
horribly, horribly true.3

from the civil war to celebrity culture:
porn comes into its own
In all the changes wrought by the Civil War, from the earthshaking
to the trivial, the oddest may be this: the War Between the States
marked the beginning of the pornography industry in America.4
     In the middle of the nineteenth century, for the first time, it be-
came technologically possible to cheaply and quickly produce mul-
tiple prints of a photograph. And just when this happened, the
Civil War separated hundreds of thousands of men and boys from
their wives and sweethearts. For most of them it was their first
time away from home. They were lonely and bored in camps. The
words horny and hooker came into widespread usage.5
     Photographs of all kinds were important to the soldiers. In the
pockets of their frock coats they carried ambrotypes of their loved
ones. They mailed home small calling cards, called cartes de visite,
showing themselves photographed in uniform, wielding Colt re-
volvers and bowie knives. And deep down in their haversacks, or
under the straw mattresses of their winter quarters, they hid
stereoscopic photos of seductive women. When viewed through a
special holder, two side-by-side photographic images transformed
into the three-dimensional form of a girl clad only in see-through
gauze, or brazenly lying with her legs spread. The popular carte de
visite had a prurient incarnation: a prostitute's nude form occupied
Normalizing the Marginal                                           7

the space normally reserved for the image of the gallant soldier.
    It did not take long for some to spot a market opportunity, how-
ever illicit. Young men may have been horny before the war, but
they were spread thinly across a nation of farms. Now they were
amassed in camps, by the thousands and tens of thousands, away
from the prying eyes at home that would certainly have prevented
them from tra~cking in pornography via the mail. Companies
such as G. S. Hoskins and Co. and Richards & Roche in New York
City sent out flyers and catalogs to the soldiers, detailing their
oerings: photographs of Parisian prostitutes; condoms and dil-
dos; even miniaturized photographs that could be concealed in
jewelry such as stickpins, and that, when held close to the eye, re-
vealed a couple engaged in a sex act.
    Despite the sea of catalogs that were printed, only a handful
survive. From time to time field commanders "cleaned up camp"
and built bonfires with the copious material. No doubt countless
more after the war fell victim to former soldiers' pangs of con-
science or to the fear that a family member might happen upon
them. In The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War,
Thomas P. Lowry reviews five catalogs, including one that ended
up in the National Archives because a Capt. M. G. Tousley wrote
to President Lincoln complaining of the obscene catalogs and
thought to include a sample. We don't know whether Lincoln ever
saw the catalog, but it is droll to imagine him, in those darkly ser-
ious days, paging through "mermaids wearing only mist and
foam," and "The Temptation of St. Anthony," showing the "naked
charms" of the seductresses, and "Storming the Enemy's Breast-
works," in which a Northern soldier quite literally assaults the
breasts of a Southern belle.
    A new industry had been created, and a lot of money was
changing hands. So much obscene material was passing through
the mail that the Customs Act of 1842, which contained the first
federal antiobscenity legislation, was strengthened in 1857. In
8                                              The Porning of America

1865, in an attempt to check the flood of pornography triggered by
the Civil War, a federal statute prohibited the use of the mail to
ship obscene books and pictures. After the war, alarmed moralists
led by the zealous crusader Anthony Comstock, who was truly ob-
sessed with stamping out smut, passed the Comstock Act of 1873,
making it illegal to trade in "obscene literature and articles of
immoral use." As Walter Kendrick notes in The Secret Museum:
Pornography in Modern Culture, Comstock himself, in 1874, re-
ported seizing and destroying in a two-year period 134,000 pounds
of "books of improper character" as well as 194,000 pictures and
60,300 "sundries" such as "rubber articles."
     Those who today look to legislation, or to a moral crusade, as the
best means to limit if not eliminate pornography, would do well to
recall Comstock's relentless, but ultimately futile, eorts. Attorney
General Edwin Meese and his Commission on Pornography, con-
vened about a hundred years after Comstock's campaign (the com-
mission's final report was issued, and almost immediately ignored,
in 1986), could have saved time and energy had it recalled that ear-
lier zealot's failure.
     And zealot he certainly was. Comstock, who was not above us-
ing false names and even disguises to investigate obscene materi-
als, pursued wrongdoers with the tenacity of a pit bull. He drove
one oender, W. Haines, a surgeon by training who became rich
producing more than three hundred obscene books, to suicide.
     Before Haines, an Irishman, appeared on the scene, America
had only imported from Europe, but not produced, obscene books.
Haines changed all that. By 1871 he was selling one hundred thou-
sand such books a year. The night before he killed himself, Haines
received a message: "Get out of the way. Comstock is after you.
Damn fool won't look at money." In later years Comstock, who
would blush at an indelicate photograph, boasted about the sui-
cide, which he regarded as a victory over the forces of evil.
     But neither the criminalization of obscenity in 1865 nor Com-
Normalizing the Marginal                                           9

stock's obsessive crusade killed o pornography. Another war, the
Great War, was not far on the horizon, and it would once again
concentrate huge numbers of lonely, horny men--and with photo-
graphic and printing technologies further advanced, oer them an
improved, more enticing product.
     Porn's birth weight had been low, and the runt was pushed into
the dark alleys of American life. But there it thrived. By the end of
the twentieth century, it had emerged mature and powerful--son
of the European curators' Frankenstein. Widely known if not re-
spected, it had corporate o~ces in New York, Chicago, and Los An-
geles. Its annual earnings at the turn of the twenty-first century
were estimated at $10 billion to $14 billion.
     But the financial success of the pornography industry, including
its close ties to Fortune 500 corporations, is not our principal in-
terest. As teachers and scholars, we have been drawn to culture
studies. One of us has for many years taught a college course
called Growing Up in America. The other has written and lectured
on twentieth-century popular culture, such as comic books, men's
magazines, and video games. Along such lines of interest, we have
turned our attention to pornography.
     Why would we do so? Because porn increasingly dominates
American life in 2008, shaping our entertainments, influencing
the way we dress and talk, the way we see one another, and the way
we behave sexually. If we want to know who we are now--as indi-
viduals and as a nation--we must recognize and come to under-
stand the phenomenon that we call the porning of America.
     From the Civil War until recent times, pornography was mar-
ginalized and stigmatized. Lately, though, it has moved from the
edges to the mainstream of American culture. But more than
that--and far more importantly--it has now become the domi-
nant influence shaping our culture.
     Porn spread beyond a particular segment of the population--
soldiers at war--and began to enter the mainstream of American
10                                           The Porning of America

culture via early porn films variously known as blue movies, stag
movies, and smokers. These were typically anonymous produc-
tions, and the participants were often, like outlaws, masked. Not
only were they not like us, they were, visually, the opposite of us:
we show our faces and hide our genitals; they hid their faces and
showed their genitals.
     Further, the individuals who appeared in these short movies
(fifteen to twenty minutes long) were not "acting" in any sense.
The women were usually prostitutes, photographed performing
sexual acts with their johns.
     But by the turn of the twenty-first century the outlaws had
become entertainers, celebrities even, acting in scripted movies.
Many of these porn stars were so familiar to so many Americans
that a sophisticated and highly regarded exhibit of their portraits,
the XXX exhibit, could be shown in a major art gallery. Rather than
misfits and deviants, then, they had become, in about a hundred
and fifty years, people like you and me. They had become like
us and we in turn had come to imitate the way they dressed, talked,
and behaved sexually. Our identities merged to such a degree
that what had been marginalized and stigmatized became instead
the norm.

"she's gonna look just like a porn star!"
Dr. 90210 is a reality television show on the E! network featuring
patients undergoing plastic surgery. A recent show was typical of
the oerings.
    "Heather Ann," an attractive, self-employed beautician in her
twenties, was about to receive breast implants. As she was sedated
in preparation, she expressed anxiety about undergoing surgery to
her mother and boyfriend.
    Then the cameras followed Dr. Robert Rey, a Harvard Medical
School graduate, as he deftly inserted implants to enlarge Heather
Ann's breasts. Camera cutaways showed the patient's mother and
Normalizing the Marginal                                           11

boyfriend fidgeting and chatting nervously throughout the proce-
dure. Finished, Dr. Rey cleaned up and went to the waiting room.
He assured Heather's mother and boyfriend that everything had
gone very well, adding: "She's gonna look just like a porn star!"
They beamed back at him.
    Even as a joke--a lighthearted comment to break the tension
--we cannot imagine anything comparable from a doctor speak-
ing to a patient's family members much before the mid-1990s, by
which time porn had been destigmatized for most Americans. Dr.
Rey did not know the mother and boyfriend well, but well enough
to surmise that neither was, say, a Christian fundamentalist. For
the most part, only religious extremists and the elderly (who tend to
think of porn in terms of its earlier, stigmatized incarnations)
would now take oense at the easygoing comparison of a daughter
or girlfriend with a porn star.
    Porn stars, like celebrities in general, had become not only cul-
turally accepted but even objects of emulation, as exemplified by
popular books published in 2004 and 2005, How to Make Love Like
a Porn Star, by Jenna Jameson, and How to Have a XXX Sex Life,
by "the Vivid Video stars," eight performers well known in the
industry--all functioning now as educators of a public eager to
learn their sex secrets. So destigmatized had the term become that
girls and young women playfully sported T-shirts emblazoned with
the words porn star.
    The release of the porn film Deep Throat in 1972 would be
a pivotal event in the cultural changes that permitted Dr. Rey
his icebreaker. But the mainstreaming of porn actually began in
those innocent days of the 1950s, with Hugh Hefner and Playboy
    Before Playboy started publication in 1953, porn was low-rent.
As we have seen, the earliest pornography in seventeenth- and
eighteenth-century America consisted of ribald tales badly printed
and shabbily bound. Through the nineteenth century and most of
12                                               The Porning of America

the twentieth, pornography was typically printed on cheap paper,
featuring grainy photographs of prostitutes and their johns. Pros-
titutes were depicted as desperate women--alcoholics and drug
addicts, victimized by brutal pimps. The marginalization of the
women and men in the photographs was evident in the illegal,
seedy-looking presentations of porn and the underground nature
of the porn industry.
     The communications theorist Marshall McLuhan famously
said, "The medium is the message." On its simplest level this com-
plex understanding may be applied to Playboy's presentation of
soft-core pornography. The "message" in the medium of the cheap
catalogs sold to Civil War soldiers, for instance, was: Here are de-
viants, losers, engaged in sinful, taboo, illicit--but tempting! exciting!
--sexual behavior. Want to take a peek? (While of course allowing
the partaker to remain on the other side of the line separating dark-
ness from light.)
     Shame--the shame of poverty, of transgression, the shame of
the outsider--was in a sense encoded into the early presentations
of pornography. Shame inhibits identification. We don't want to
see as "ourselves" those who are socially, morally, and legally stig-
     Hefner, however, imitated prestigious magazines such as The
Saturday Evening Post and The New Yorker in the quality of paper
and sophisticated formatting and graphics he used, publishing
only the best writers and photographers. Most importantly, he fea-
tured seminude and nude photographs of "the girl next door"--an
All-American girl who, in a typical profile, enjoyed long walks on the
beach, playing the guitar, and sharing a candlelit bottle of wine
with a special someone.
     The principal element in the mainstreaming of porn is that
it enters the world that the readers/viewers themselves inhabit or
would like to inhabit. It must enter their actual or desired reality in
order for them to identify with it. In the case of Playboy, readers
Normalizing the Marginal                                             13

hefted the slick pages of stunning photographs of wholesome,
beautiful girls, intermixed with images of and information about
high-end stereo equipment, hip apartments, and sports cars, and
thought, consciously or not: This is me! This is who I am--or who I
want to be! Interviews with luminaries (McLuhan himself was fea-
tured in March 1969) added the element of intellectual attainment
to material acquisition.
    Were the Playboy playmates actually "like" the readers of the
magazine? Were they the girl next door? Only if the girl next door
happened to be an anatomically perfect aspiring or established
model or actress who mingled with celebrities in a certain Chicago
mansion. The playmates were, in their own way, as distant from
the men and women who read Playboy as the catalog hookers were
from the farm boy soldiers marching to Gettysburg.
    Through Playboy, however, pornography (albeit soft core) not
only detached itself from the negative associations of earlier porn,
but also in fact attached itself to the polar opposite of those nega-
tives. If earlier porn inhibited individuals' readiness to identify
with losers, Playboy, on the contrary, made them feel like the
auent, smart, informed winners they aspired to be.
    Within this elevation of the social context of pornography, in
1972 Deep Throat took porn movies in an entirely new direction,
much as Playboy had done for print porn. Deep Throat abandoned
the stag movie format, and instead starred an actress, billed as
Linda Lovelace, along with a supporting cast. Instead of the twenty-
minute length of the traditional 8 mm stag movie, it ran about
an hour and a half. And--wonder of wonders--it was actually
scripted, with characters and a plot (of sorts), as well as all the sex
expected of a blue movie. It was, in other words, in all its basic ele-
ments a Hollywood movie, but with the added feature of plenty of
graphic sex.
    To say that the movie is a cultural milestone (as has become
fashionable since the release of the 2005 documentary Inside Deep
14                                             The Porning of America

Throat) does not exaggerate its significance. Top celebrities--the
likes of Frank Sinatra, Mike Nichols, and Sammy Davis Jr.--not
only admitted watching the film, but raved about it. (The docu-
mentary features such intellectual luminaries as Gore Vidal, Nor-
man Mailer, and Camille Paglia, with cameos by the political
satirist Bill Maher and Hugh Hefner.) From a financial point
of view, the movie was an unprecedented blockbuster: shot for
around $24 thousand, it has grossed perhaps as much as $600
million in worldwide revenues from an audience estimated at
10 million viewers. In the industry of pornography, nothing like it
had ever been seen--or probably even imagined.
    What explains Deep Throat's acceptance and cultural assimila-
tion? Although not billed as a porn comedy, the film adopts a goofy
comic tone right from the outset. The camera follows Linda
Lovelace walking along the docks in Miami, and getting into her
car as credits roll and a sound track plays. For a couple of minutes
the camera watches over her shoulder from the backseat as she
drives (a somewhat eerie shot for those who know that the actress
was involved in three serious car wrecks, the third fatal in 2002,
when she was fifty-three. In fact, camera angles were carefully
planned in Deep Throat to avoid showing a scar on her abdomen
that had resulted from an earlier accident.)
    When Linda arrives home, she finds her mother in the living
room, legs spread over a chair, enjoying cunnilingus. Well, sort
of enjoying: in addition to its silliness, a tone of ennui pervades
the film. Her mother, for instance, languidly lights a cigarette, tilts
up the head of her busy partner, and asks, "Mind if I smoke while
you're eating?" The sound track plays "Taking a Break from the
    The structure of the film is simple, consisting of typical 8 mm
sex loops, without dialogue but with musical accompaniment, in-
terspersed with a plot based on a nutty premise: Linda learns from
a Dr. Young, a psychiatrist, that the reason she cannot achieve or-
Normalizing the Marginal                                            15

gasm is that her clitoris is in her throat. Concluding her gynecol-
ogical examination, he announces, "No wonder you hear no bells,
you have no tinkler!" During the exam, the sound track consists
of a dirty version of Mickey and Sylvia's well-known "Love Is
     One more example of the slapstick humor that characterizes
the film: Dr. Young consoles Linda, "Having a clitoris deep down in
the bottom of your throat is better than having no clitoris at all."
"That's easy for you to say," she objects. "Suppose your balls were
in your ear?" He is momentarily flummoxed, until a lightbulb
pops on over his head: "Well, then I could hear myself coming!"
     Humor, even lame humor, is disarming. From a propagandis-
tic point of view, the makers of Deep Throat had stumbled onto a
mass-market presentation of porn that would assist its acceptance,
its normalization.
     First, the opening credits announced, "Introducing Linda Love-
lace As Herself." We had an actress, then, rather than the prosti-
tute of a typical 8 mm stag movie, but she was "playing herself"
--an ordinary, attractive young woman--someone we might
know. Once the movie begins, the humor takes over and in eect
tells us to lighten up, not to take it seriously. It's just entertain-
ment, dizzy and raunchy, like some weird, X-rated I Love Lucy.
     It worked. The star, Linda Lovelace, appeared in an extensive
photo layout by Richard Fegley in Playboy in April 1973, and the
next month on the cover of Esquire magazine dressed in a polka-
dot dress modestly buttoned to the white wing collar and wearing
white gloves--a send-up of the girl next door, but the girl next door
     Hidden beneath the appearance of an ordinary young woman
starring in a new kind of porn film, however, lay an altogether
dierent reality--one representative, in fact, of "old porn." Linda
Susan Boreman, "Linda Lovelace," was a former prostitute who
had appeared in such 8 mm stag movies as Dogarama (also known
16                                                   The Porning of America

          Linda Lovelace, May 1973.
                                      Anthony Edgeworth for Esquire.

as Dog Fucker) in 1969, and Piss Orgy in 1971. Her husband/
manager, Chuck Traynor, had forced her--often at gunpoint, she
later claimed--to perform in the stag movies and in Deep Throat.
Add to this submerged reality the heavy use of hard drugs by
Linda, her husband, and others in the movie, along with mob in-
volvement (mainly financial, but some theaters were reportedly
strong-armed into featuring Deep Throat), and the film seems
quite far afield indeed from mainstream American culture's no-
tions of acceptability.
    Still, the crucial step had been taken: Linda Lovelace presented
herself in some important ways as "one of us." She was, after all, the
Normalizing the Marginal                                             17

star of a kind of movie we recognize as legitimate: one that plays in
theaters, not in the back rooms of smoky men's clubs, features
attractive actors in a narrative that defused its illicit subject matter
with a comic outlandishness, had a sound track and rolled credits,
and was viewed and praised by well-known and respected figures.
As film critic Richard Corliss pointed out in a March 29, 2005,
Time online article, "That Old Feeling: When Porno Was Chic,"
even comics such as Johnny Carson and Bob Hope, cultural icons
in 1972, made jokes about Deep Throat, conferring a kind of bless-
ing on the film, tacitly legitimatizing it and its place in the world.
     The film was quickly followed by another in 1972, Behind
the Green Door. In it, Marilyn Chambers was in fact billed as
"the All-American Girl." Chambers (who would in 1975 marry
Chuck Traynor, divorced from Linda Lovelace) was indeed so all-
American looking that just as Behind the Green Door was released,
Ivory Snow soap flakes put out a newly designed box featuring a
photo of a mother holding her baby. The mother was none other
than Marilyn Ann Briggs, otherwise known as Marilyn Chambers,
the suddenly famous porn star. Procter and Gamble abashedly
withdrew the box design.
     Like Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door imitated the Holly-
wood movie and contained a hip sound track, an important ele-
ment in getting the audience to identify with the characters in the
film. Again, to paraphrase McLuhan, an audience does not so
much listen to a sound track as put it on, bathe in it. A sound track
of hits feels familiar and comfortable, making everything associ-
ated with it more familiar and comfortable.
     These two movies from 1972 launched the porn movie indus-
try as we know it today, catapulting its stars to celebrity status and
playing to larger and larger audiences of men and women, espe-
cially through the addition of video (and later DVD) rentals and
18                                               The Porning of America

         Marilyn Chambers, holding the box of Ivory Snow for
         which she posed as the mother.

     Beginning in the early 1970s, then, it became increasingly easy
to acquire porn without buying it under the counter or from a
shady character on a street corner. One could simply go to the
neighborhood theater or, beginning in the 1980s, to a hotel or mo-
tel with in-room pay-per-view. In the 1990s, of course, porn would
come right to your home through cable oerings such as Vivid, the
Spice Channel, and the Playboy Channel. In these ways, the acqui-
sition of porn has become quick and easy, a critical step in its des-
     But the story of the mainstreaming of pornography, with its
shaping influence on American life and culture, is more complex
and subtle than simply the evolution of the pornographic movie in-
dustry. If Deep Throat took porn films in a totally new direction by
Normalizing the Marginal                                            19

imitating Hollywood, and by drawing on girl-next-door and all-
American stereotypes, soon enough Hollywood and ordinary peo-
ple would in turn begin imitating porn.
    In the same year as Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door,
Marlon Brando starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in
Paris, which transgressed the limits of traditional Hollywood treat-
ments of sex, even containing an infamous "butter scene" of anal
penetration. But the film was controversial, and not in any sense
mainstream. It was originally unrated, then later rated NC-17.
    Fast-forward to the mid-1990s, however, and a Hollywood
movie could now deal with explicit sex, including such taboos as
anal sex. The celebrated film Leaving Las Vegas (1995), for instance,
contained these lines delivered by the prostitute Sera (played by
Elisabeth Shue) to Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage): "So for five
hundred bucks you can do pretty much whatever you want. You
can fuck my ass. You can come on my face--whatever you wanna
do. Just keep it outta my hair, I just washed it."
    It is impossible to imagine those lines ever finding their way
into a Hollywood movie without the decades of porn films preced-
ing it. Later in the movie, Sera is anally gang-raped, and we see her
nude in the shower (an overhead shot) with blood washing down
her legs and into the drain. The film was regarded as somewhat
risqué, but not seriously controversial. It was rated R. In fact, Elis-
abeth Shue was nominated that year for an Academy Award for
Best Actress for her role as Sera, and Nicholas Cage won the Oscar
for Best Actor.
    If Hollywood had been transformed by porn (a character like
Sera could not have existed in a movie of the 1950s, 1960s, or even
the 1970s), so had the audience. Only an audience in a sense made
ready by the kind of porn films that Deep Throat pioneered would ac-
cept such language and images in a Hollywood movie.
20                                             The Porning of America

softening the contours
Two films from the 1970s and early 1980s--Pretty Baby (1978) and
Blame It on Rio (1984)--are instructive in showing the major role
that Hollywood played in normalizing pornography, thereby in-
creasing its power to influence and eventually dominate American
     In his review of Pretty Baby in the New York Times, Vincent
Canby remarked that the filmmakers (Louis Malle directed and
cowrote the screenplay) had "softened the contours of what was
probably a very sordid history by making a film of dazzling physi-
cal beauty."
     In much the same way that Hugh Hefner glamorized soft-core
pornography through the sophistication of Playboy as a physical ar-
tifact, Louis Malle took on a subject that had only been dealt with in
the most taboo kinds of hard-core pornography--child pornogra-
phy and child prostitution--and made his treatment not only ac-
ceptable but admirable.
     A good part of the physical beauty that Canby found in the film
was provided by a young Brooke Shields, in the role of Violet, the
"trick baby" of New Orleans prostitute Hattie (Susan Sarandon). In
the film, Hattie auctions o her preteen daughter's virginity.
     Canby does not mention in his review that the film includes
nude scenes of the twelve-year-old Shields, photographed in ways
that are provocative and enticing. (He does assert, however, that
the film is "neither about child prostitution nor is it porno-
     Although the film is indeed about a misfit photographer
(whom Canby takes as the "real" subject of the movie), it neverthe-
less also plays to the prurience of the audience, which is viewing
what would in other less-normalized contexts be regarded (and
perhaps even prosecuted) as child pornography. But the film dis-
tances itself from child pornography by first of all being about child
Normalizing the Marginal                                            21

prostitution, and then further distances itself because it clearly
does not in any sense endorse prostitution, and in fact presents us
with the pathos of a prostitute who is sexy, savvy, and also enjoys
playing with her very first doll.
     Perhaps most important of all, it distances itself from what
Canby rightly notes is a sordid history by virtue of the film's style--
not only its cinematic aesthetic but the glamour of the Hollywood
celebrities the movie features (Keith Carradine, Susan Sarandon)
and the allure of the child star Shields.
     So Pretty Baby, in 1978, after the era of Deep Throat and other
Hollywood-like porn movies, could present the topic of child-as-
sex-object in candid and graphic ways that, by contrast, Stanley
Kubrick's Lolita could not dare in 1962. In Kubrick's movie, a nude
scene of Sue Lyon as Lolita was so unthinkable it was never even
proposed by Vladimir Nabokov, who wrote the screenplay, or Stan-
ley Kubrick, who directed. Lolita and Humbert Humbert (James
Mason) were not allowed even to kiss, let alone display any kind of
sexuality--as later they would in the 1997 remake of Lolita starring
Jeremy Irons and Dominique Swain.
     Two years after Pretty Baby, Brooke Shields was back on the
screen in The Blue Lagoon, again nude, now as an early teen (both
fictionally and in fact). Just as Deep Throat opened a door for other
porn movies to crowd through, so Pretty Baby opened a farther
door for the unabashed portrayal of children as sex objects, fre-
quently partnered with adults.
     Blame It on Rio, for example, another star-studded movie
(Michael Caine, Valerie Harper, Demi Moore), dealt with two older
men, best friends, who vacation in Rio with their teenage daugh-
ters. One of them, Matthew (played by Michael Caine) winds up in
a sexual relationship with the other's daughter (Jennifer, played by
Michelle Johnson). Johnson was not yet eighteen when the movie
was filmed. Caine was fifty-one.
22                                            The Porning of America

    Age in this film--Jennifer's and, for that matter, Matthew's--is
treated in comic, and even titillating, ways, not as something truly
problematic or disturbing. Consider the following exchanges.

     matthew: I'm twenty years older than you.
     jennifer: Twenty-eight.
     matthew: Twenty-five.

    A bit later, Jennifer comes in while Matthew is shaving and
asks for a kiss.

     matthew: Kiss you? I'll spank you!
     jennifer: Ooooooo, please! And bite me too!

     In 1980 Brooke Shields moved oscreen to star in ads for
Calvin Klein jeans. The most famous of these showed Shields
slightly bent over (presumably having just pulled on a pair of
jeans) beginning to button her enticingly open blouse, with the tag
line: "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." She was now
fifteen years old and a familiar sex symbol in America and overseas
as well. A teenager functioning as a sex symbol had by now be-
come, culturally speaking, accepted as normal--thanks in large
part to the barrier-breaking influence of pornography (such as
Deep Throat) on Hollywood mainstream movies.
     The contours of the taboo had been su~ciently softened that, by
the 1990s, children as sex objects had become culturally familiar
in movies, on television, and in advertisements--with all sorts of
oshoots. For instance, beauty pageants for very little girls--five or
six, and even younger--swelled into a multimillion-dollar industry
of local, regional, and national competitions involving highly paid
consultants and coaches, clothing designers, makeup specialists,
and so on. Arguably, the winner of these pageants is the child who
most successfully combines adult sexuality with childlike inno-
Normalizing the Marginal                                            23

cence. (The most well known of such child beauty queens, of
course, is JonBenét Ramsey, who was murdered in 1996.)
     Calvin Klein's use of children as sex objects continued in the
1990s with an ad campaign featuring children in highly sexual-
ized situations. When rumors began circulating that he was being
investigated on charges of the sexual exploitation of children, he
began pulling the ads in August 1995. Sexualized children, how-
ever, continued to appear in ads, movies, and on television. Con-
sider, for instance, the Olsen twins.
     Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have become a brand name. After
the twins turned eighteen, in June 2004, they took over control of
their corporation, Dualstar Entertainment Group, a company that
brings in over a billion dollars a year and has made each of the
twins worth a reported $137 million. The twins first gained fame as
the character Michelle Tanner on the sitcom Full House, starting
their acting careers at less than a year old. The show ran for eight
years, so the country watched them grow up nearly from their
birth. The public's attachment to the girls was clearly a significant
component in the popularity of the series, and the twins' manager
parents quickly took advantage of their daughters' popularity by
getting the girls involved in making movies and music designed,
at first, for the children's market, and later for the increasingly im-
portant "tween" market of eight-to-twelve-year-olds.
     Like Martha Stewart, the twins themselves became the product
their company sold, and it sold them hard. Dualstar continues
to produce the Olsen twins' movies and music, but also their
makeup, perfume, dolls, books, furniture, and, most importantly, a
profitable clothing line available at Wal-Mart. More than any other
single popular-culture figure, the twins, for over a decade, deter-
mined what tweeners could aspire to. And while Dualstar has
always marketed the twins as wholesome American girls, their
popularity has grown, in significant part, due to the steady porning
of Mary-Kate and Ashley. Whether the marketing of the twins in-
24                                             The Porning of America

tentionally adopted the imagery of porn or whether the online
porn community merely appropriated the twins, they became the
fuel for an online porn engine that combined pedophilia and kiddie
porn with twin and sister porn.
     From the beginning, much of the charm of each sister has
been the fact that she is half of a set, and as the girls evolved from
being twin actresses to a business phenomenon, their twin-ness
was the focus of the marketing campaign. Today, dozens of web-
sites are dedicated to the twins as children, and many more in-
clude photographs of the girls at ages two, three, four, etc. . . . The
most common kind of image pictures Mary-Kate with her arms
around Ashley, or vice versa, faces close together and both smiling
widely into the camera.
     Theorists have long studied the fascination with twins, gener-
ally suggesting that the dual nature of twins is so provocative be-
cause it underscores the singleness most of us experience as lone
and separate entities. Pornography, of course, has always found
ways to sexualize such fascinations.
     An ad from shoe designer Steve Madden's so-called big-
headed-girl campaign finds a marketing use for the twins fascina-
tion. The twins pictured in the ad display more than their shoes
here, and their handholding, their gazes, and their overt sexuality
invite the viewer to imagine them together, without their shoes on
or any other clothing. The ad hardly strives for subtlety, however,
as every business on the street has the word twins in its name.
     Until 2005, the Steve Madden brand openly targeted women
in their teens and early twenties, and the big-headed-girl ads cap-
tured the precise mixture of attitude and sexuality that would make
the midpriced brand popular. It also captured the self-sexualiza-
tion trend that girls and young women are increasingly expected to
adopt. The twins in the ad--who look suspiciously like the Olsen
twins--possess the bodies of Bratz dolls and strike the same pose
as well, right down to their cocked wrists. With their massive
Normalizing the Marginal                                         25

          Steve Madden ad.

heads and extra-large eyes, Bratz dolls have roughly the same pro-
portions as toddlers and combine come-hither sexuality with child-
like vulnerability.
    This, of course, is the same strategy apparent in the selling of
the Olsen twins. (No wonder, then, that bloggers and discussion
board posts have long described the Olsen twins as living Bratz
dolls.) The imagery of the Olsens began to change as they entered
puberty. With increasing frequency, they were photographed in
clothing that was tight and revealing but still maintained, if only
marginally, their persona as sweet and wholesome girls. As they
moved through their teen years, these photographs steadily grew
more sensual, culminating in photo shoots for Allure and Rolling
Stone in the spring of 2004, before their eighteenth birthdays.
    The increasing sexuality of the twins and their marketing dur-
26                                             The Porning of America

ing their teen years paralleled their increased presence online.
"Olsen twins" became a phrase that, if Googled, led to cloaked
porn sites. The porn community was so aware of the sexual allure
of the twins that it used their names as a "Google-beater," including
the words "Olsen twins" on their sites, which otherwise had no
Olsen content, simply to increase hits--a strategy that assumes
that a high percentage of people looking for Olsen twin informa-
tion would be happy to find themselves landing on a porn site.
Other porn sites, many of them dedicated to celebrity shots, have
entry sites that simply list the names of the most famous female
celebrities intermixed with keywords like "boobs naked nude sex
hot" in order to capture web searches. "Olsen twins" is always on
the list.
     "Twin tracker" websites were sprinkled throughout the Inter-
net in the years leading up to the twins' eighteenth birthdays, with
reverse clocks counting down to the very minute when they would
be "legal." The twins were such a porn commodity that they be-
came the subject of a porn community debate online--is it okay to
Photoshop the heads of underage women onto the bodies of per-
forming porn stars, as was common? The community was split on
the issue, but the simple fact of the discussion demonstrates the
unspoken assumption that the Olsen twins were fit subjects of sex-
ual interest.
     Though the porn community was undeniably fascinated with
the Olsen twins, it is not clear whether the twins, or their manage-
ment company, were colluding in their online porn popularity in
order to heighten their mainstream popularity or profitability. Yet it
is hard to imagine that their agent or manager could have been
unaware of the uses to which the online porn community was put-
ting the twins' images. Playboy's "Twins and Sisters" site includes
women in trademark Olsen poses, though the Olsens appear
clothed. In shot after shot, the public was presented with images of
the twins leaning in toward each other, faces and mouths close,
Normalizing the Marginal                                           27

as if about to kiss. Caught by paparazzi on red carpets, the twins
would snap into their standard pose, Mary-Kate's arm around Ash-
ley's hip, Ashley's arm around Mary-Kate's neck (or vice versa). It is
a pose that forces their torsos tantalizingly close, and the ease with
which they assumed their positions showed how well coached and
practiced they were.
       The porning of the Olsen twins reached its height in the Allure
and Rolling Stone articles, which essentially announced their legal
status--a "Hey, we'll be legitimate sex objects next month!" mes-
sage. The Rolling Stone article, which acknowledged the latent
pedophilia of their marketing campaign by headlining them as
"America's Favorite Fantasy," included images of the twins draped
over each other in clearly erotic poses. The cover showed them
leaning toward each other, their hands pulling at clothing and
touching in a way clearly evocative of twin porn.
       The signature photo for the Allure article showed the twins--
still underage--in an unabashed sexual embrace, breasts together,
mouths open in porn-pose ecstasy, their hands sliding into each
other's clothing. The article, which emphasized their essential
youth and innocence, also discussed whether they would ever do
nude scenes ("Probably not"), the suggestiveness of the photo
shoot ("If everybody knew we were straddling each other. . . oy vey
. . . All those dirty old men out there . . ."), and an anecdote about
Mary-Kate using her finger to "slowly, firmly" remove some excess
lip gloss from Ashley's lip and "slowly smear[ing] it on her own,
slightly open mouth."
       On one level, certainly, the twins consented to the articles in
order to ease their movement into more mature careers, but the
stories were also explicit acknowledgments of the porned sexual-
ization of children. One Rolling Stone photo combined both mes-
sages, their youth and their sexuality, by putting them in the
clothing of little girls dressing up, but with highly sexualized
makeup and hairstyles, and with Ashley pulling a pearl necklace
28                                           The Porning of America

through her puckered lips--the kind of imagery dirty old men
would find fascinating.
    Not only are children, such as the Olsen twins, sexualized, they
are also targeted as consumers of sexually charged products. Play-
boy, for example, has marketed a Playboy skateboard, a Playboy
snowboard, and a pink Bunny tracksuit. The target market for
such products is supposed to be eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds,
but reportedly Playmate Pink glitter cream and Bunny Pink lip-
stick are big hits with preteen girls.
    Sexually revealing clothing, sometimes called the stripper look
or slutwear, is specifically target-marketed to children as well as
adults. In 2002 Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, began selling
thongs in its stores catering to children, with the words eye
candy and wink wink printed on them. Thongs are also avail-
able with Simpsons and Muppets characters.
    Elle, Cosmopolitan, and many other women's magazines have
begun publishing versions for teens and preteens, with names like
ElleGIRL and CosmoGIRL! Still other such magazines, such as
Twist, complete with sex-advice columns, are exclusively for chil-
dren, with the target group ten to fourteen.
    In June 2005 a spokesperson for Sony Computer Entertain-
ment announced that it "could not stop" software makers from
producing and marketing pornographic discs for the PlayStation
Portable game console, most of whose users are children. Almost 3
million of these handheld consoles, which Sony introduced in
March 2005, had been delivered to Japan and the United States by
June of that year. Two pornographic filmmakers had discs on the
market by July, and several more followed shortly after.
    At the same time, July 2005, the video game industry changed
the rating of the very popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,
from M for mature to AO, adults only. After initial denials, Take-
Two Interactive Software, makers of the game, which plays not
only on PCs but also on Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles, acknowl-
Normalizing the Marginal                                           29

edged that scenes of pornographic sex had indeed been pro-
grammed into the game, and could be unlocked through an Inter-
net download, called a mod (short for modification) in the gaming
     By the 1990s, not only had children become thoroughly sexu-
alized in movies, advertisements, and marketing, but something
more general had begun to occur: the sexualization of just about
everyone, regardless of age or status in society.
     In other words, if we ask how porn has shaped us, how it has
aected how we see ourselves and one another, one answer is that
we are coming to see ourselves and one another in sexual terms
first and foremost, regardless of age, and regardless as well of mar-
ital, professional, or social status. Like Heather Ann with her sexier
breasts--Everyone a porn star!
2. A Nation of Porn Stars

In 1982 Neil Postman published one of the most provocative and in-
sightful cultural studies of our times, The Disappearance of Child-
hood. In it, Postman discusses the historical development of the
concept of childhood as a separate life stage, having unique char-
acteristics and entitling children to certain rights and privileges.
Postman notes that this idea of childhood did not always exist, and
that it could very well go out of existence, despite the proliferation
of children among us.
    According to Postman, the idea of childhood arose during the
Middle Ages, just after the invention of the printing press in the
mid-1400s. Before that time, people did not recognize childhood
as a stage of life requiring special treatment. Children were re-
garded just like everybody else. They worked at the same jobs and
chores as adults, though of course they were less capable. Paint-
ings by the sixteenth-century painter Brueghel, for instance, show
children engaged in laborious activities, such as carrying wood,
along with adults. Careful study of the paintings also reveals that,
although the artist was an excellent draftsman, he got the propor-
tions of the bodies of children all wrong.
    Children, for instance, have bigger heads, proportionally, than
adults do in relation to the rest of their bodies. But Brueghel drew
them the same--because he did not see children as fundamentally
dierent from adults. You will also find beer-guzzling, drunken

32                                             The Porning of America

adults in his paintings of festivals--alongside beer-guzzling,
drunken children. The ethic of medieval times, before the printing
press, was we're all in this together. No special privileges or charac-
teristics applied categorically to children.
     Children did not, for instance, enjoy special protection from
adults. The Dutch scholar Erasmus tells with some disgust about
traveling to inns where drunken adults would, as a common
amusement, lift a child onto the table to publicly play with his or
her genitals.
     A technological invention changed everything. Once Johannes
Gutenberg invented the printing press, the medieval population
began to dierentiate: there now were those who could read and
those who could not. Literacy became so important a value that
convicted murderers could save themselves from hanging if in
court they could demonstrate the ability to read.
     It was at this time that the idea of childhood began to form. If
there were literates distinct from illiterates, childhood became that
special and important time of early life when one learned to read.
In this way, children were recognized as a distinct group, for the
first time separated out from the rest of the population.
     Once children were so grouped, the concept of childhood
could develop into what has become familiar to us today. Essential
to the concept of childhood is innocence: it is widely accepted that
children must be protected from knowledge and information that
they are simply not developmentally ready to handle.
     Postman refers to the means by which children have tradition-
ally been protected from, mainly, sex and violence as "the sequence
of revealed secrets." If a very young child asks where babies come
from, he might be told "the cabbage patch." A bit later the same
question will get a dierent answer: perhaps "mommy's belly."
And later still the answer will be modified and amplified to include
more biological and even sexual information until the answer is
full and complete.
A Nation of Porn Stars                                              33

    The technology of the printing press in a sense respected this
sequence of revealed secrets, because a book could be written
about sex in such a sophisticated vocabulary and syntax that it
would simply go over the head of a child who might pick it up be-
fore she was ready for it. Therefore, in the course of the succeeding
centuries, the idea of childhood grew stronger in the West.
    The idea of childhood continued to develop until another tech-
nological invention appeared in the middle of the twentieth cen-
tury and almost immediately began to undermine childhood
--television. There is no threshold of literacy for television. It does
not respect the sequence of revealed secrets. Its information goes
out everywhere. It shows everything to everyone. Children with tel-
evisions in their homes could no longer be protected from knowl-
edge they were not ready for.
    By the turn of the millennium, twenty years (a blink in the
scope of history) after the publication of Postman's book, children
could be exposed via television to anything at all, no matter how
unsuitable or even taboo. News reports of terrorist attacks feature
close-ups of mangled bodies and even severed body parts. Reality
television, beginning in the 1990s with programs like Real TV,
shows surveillance-camera video of convenience store clerks being
shot to death, suicidal individuals jumping o bridges, and so on.
Subscription cable networks, such as the Spice Channel, show
pornographic movies 24-7.
    What happens to childhood innocence under such conditions?
And if innocence disappears from childhood, in what sense does
"childhood" continue to exist? Postman predicted--and it is hard
to argue against him in light of what has transpired over the al-
most thirty years that have elapsed since publication of The Disap-
pearance of Childhood--that our culture would soon return to the
pre-Gutenberg model of a society in which children are no longer
aorded the protections traditionally bestowed upon them as a
special class.
34                                             The Porning of America

we're all in this together
If indeed the idea of childhood is disappearing, then one implica-
tion is that adulthood is disappearing, since these concepts depend
on each other. We can make the further generalization that former
distinctions of hierarchical status are disappearing from our society.
     Robert Bly, in his The Sibling Society (1996), described the phe-
nomenon of such social leveling metaphorically. It's as if, Bly says,
we are all siblings now, interacting on the level of equivalence.
     He introduces his argument with a personal anecdote: When
Bly, a man well into his seventies when the book was published,
telephones his bank, the clerk asks for his account number to ver-
ify his identity. Once he provides that, the nineteen-year-old clerk,
whom he has never met, chirps, "What can I do for you, Robert?"
He informs her that the first thing she can do is address him as
"Mr. Bly."
     We have lost societal distinctions in a sexual sense as well, hav-
ing blurred or entirely erased earlier social signals and markers of
sexual availability in, for one thing, the way we dress. If we look at
Norman Rockwell paintings from the 1930s through the 1950s, for
instance, we see all sorts of markers of life stage and social status
reflected in clothing. Rockwell was meticulous in observing and
recording such details.
     In Missing Tooth, his painting of three schoolgirls from 1957,
for example, we see three girls standing together, one with her
mouth open showing two missing front teeth, a slightly older girl
leaning in to have a look, and a slightly younger girl o to one side,
pouting. The oldest girl, functioning as the inspector of lost baby
teeth, publicly displays--by her appearance, especially her cloth-
ing--her place in the social pecking order. In a glance, we can de-
termine her age (around twelve) by the way she is dressed. Her
hair is short, unlike the long hair of the younger girls, and is loose
rather than pig- or ponytailed. Moreover, she wears a blouse and a
skirt and knee socks, whereas the younger girls wear dresses and
A Nation of Porn Stars                                                35

ankle socks. There are even finer distinctions of junior status evi-
dent in the dress of the youngest girl, who stands by forlornly, not
having yet lost a tooth. We also notice in the oldest, preadolescent
girl just the subtlest suggestion of budding breasts under her
white blouse.
     And that is really what this painting is all about: a girl's journey
to womanhood, through clearly marked stages. In this painting,
we observe one important early stage, the rite of passage occa-
sioned by the loss of baby teeth. Soon the youngest, pouting girl
will stand in the honored place of the girl who has just lost baby
teeth, and she, in turn, will move to the inspector's. The inspector
will have advanced, out of this frame, into full adolescence. And so
it goes, is the implication.
     In other Rockwell paintings, older professional men are typi-
cally dressed in dark (navy or black) three-piece suits, as is invariably
true of the many doctors Rockwell portrayed, as well as the grand-
father in his well-known Thanksgiving painting Freedom from
Want. Younger professional men wear lighter suits, gray or brown,
but not navy or black--not until they have attained "elder" status.
     In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, boys did not
wear long pants until they were nine or ten years old. Girls awaited
the day when their hair would come out of pigtails. Traditionally,
then, in the hierarchical societies of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and
(most of ) twentieth-century America, we found endless ways to
signal one another about exactly where we stood in the social/
developmental order at any given moment.
     Contrast that, however, with the public statements that our
clothes make about us today. Girls nine or ten years old, and even
younger, commonly wear miniskirts or low-slung jeans, along
with tank tops or midri-baring "belly shirts," just as do adult
women from the ages of twenty to fifty. Some nine- and ten-year-old
girls wear thongs, just like older girls and women.
     On a college campus, it is di~cult to distinguish male profes-
36                                             The Porning of America

sors from students by dress alone--except that the professors tend
not to wear the ubiquitous flip-flops favored by students (although
sandals are not unusual). Cotton shirts open at the neck (with no tie)
or polo shirts, along with cotton pants (jeans, cargoes, or chinos)
are the order of the day for both professors and students, with
sweaters added (rather than sport coats) when the weather turns
colder. If it's true that our clothes make a public statement, then
the statement we are making today, old and young, is we're all in
this together.
     And so we are, in ways other than mere dress. In 1989, for in-
stance, People magazine chose Sean Connery as its "Sexiest Man
Alive." Connery was sixty at the time. In 1999, the same magazine
cited Connery as the "Sexiest Man of the Century," at age sixty-
nine. In that same year, Connery starred with Catherine Zeta-
Jones as his love interest in a film called Entrapment. Connery was
almost seventy and Zeta-Jones thirty.
     We could make a long list of such film couplings. In True Crime
(1999), Clint Eastwood, also almost seventy, played an over-the-hill
journalist whose girlfriend, at the beginning of the movie, was a
college student in her early twenties. Mary-Kate Olsen, twenty-one,
whose development we traced, along with her twin sister's, in
Chapter 1, and Ben Kingsley, sixty-three, star as love interests
in The Wackness, which, the New York Post reported, will include a
"full make out session." (The film was still in production as this
book went to press, scheduled for release in early 2008.) For about
two decades Americans have been watching television shows and
movies dealing, in one way or another, with the sexualization of
the elderly (usually elderly men) as well as children, along with
the phenomenon of pairings that reach very wide across the gener-
     Now, we don't mean to suggest that the elderly should not be
considered sexual beings, and we aren't making a judgment about
intergenerational romance; we're simply pointing out that previ-
A Nation of Porn Stars                                             37

ously recognized barriers or distinctions between the groups at ei-
ther end of the age continuum are increasingly eroding.
    Beginning in the 1980s, countless sitcoms featured episodes
built around we're-all-in-this-together humor. A typical plot had a
mother and daughter both falling for someone and, in the course of
rhapsodizing to each other about the new love interest, discovering
that--oh no!--it's the same guy!
    A recent film spins this tired gag a more extreme way. In Must
Love Dogs (2005), Sarah (Diane Lane), a forty-something recent di-
vorcée and preschool teacher, answers an Internet personals ad
and shows up to meet her date, who turns out to be--yikes!--her
own father!
    The film is replete with all-in-this-together humor. Her dad
(Christopher Plummer), recently widowed, is slightly embarrassed
by the turn of events, but unabashed about his Internet dating. Al-
though he is seventy-one, a bit later in the movie Sarah happens
upon him and one of his many sixty-something girlfriends deep-
kissing and groping like teenagers. So highly sexed (and sexual-
ized) is this elderly character that he has several girlfriends by his
side at all times to keep up with his needs.
    One of the girlfriends, Dolly (Stockard Channing), becomes
Sarah's pal. One night she comes to Sarah's house distraught be-
cause one of her Internet boyfriends has just showed up to meet
her--and turns out to be fifteen years old. Dolly breaks o the
relationship despite the boy's desire to continue; as he explains
through his braces, age is "just numbers."
    Sarah adventures on in the confusing maze that the dating
scene in 2005 turns out to be. One of her main love interests is the
father of one of her preschool students, a forty-something hunk
named Bobby (Dermot Mulroney). When she goes to his condo
unexpectedly one night, she finds him with June (Julie Gonzalo),
Sarah's eighteen- or nineteen-year-old teacher's assistant.
    The film is ostensibly about Sarah's (and, later, her true love
38                                             The Porning of America

Jake's) desire for a return to romantic love of the "eternal soul-
mate" variety. (Jake, played by John Cusack, watches the film Doc-
tor Zhivago over and over.) That sentimentality aside, the film
consists of men and women, boys and girls, popping up in com-
ically unexpected ways, as if from the opening and slamming
doors of the comedy of errors that all-in-this-together America has
     When hierarchical distinctions are blurred in a mass of social
equals--a sibling society, in Bly's term--then all ages are sexual-
ized. So we have beauty queens at the age of six. And male sex
symbols, real and cinematic, at seventy. And pairings can occur
across the spectrum of age.
     So it is in the world of porn. In porn, everyone is sexualized re-
gardless not only of age but of social position. If a porn film in-
cludes a character playing a physician, for instance, we can be sure
that the good doctor will soon, like Dr. Young in Deep Throat, ex-
amine his patient lasciviously, and more. The mere fact that he is a
doctor (a profession treated with near-reverence in the paintings of
Norman Rockwell) does not elevate him above inappropriate venal
behavior and sexual characterization. All barriers are broken, all
lines crossed.
     In the real world of America in the early years of the twenty-
first century, everyone--from professional athletes to teachers to
the president of the United States--is seen in sexual terms. A na-
tional online site allowing students to rate college professors, for
instance, includes the possibility of adding a special symbol, a chili
pepper, to the male or female professor's rating if he or she is
"hot." And for those who are hot, student comments often focus
more on the professor's allure and on sexual fantasies than on his
or her attributes as a teacher.
     The most compelling example of such universal porning
occurred during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Details of the pres-
ident's sex life, which were publicly revealed during his impeach-
A Nation of Porn Stars                                              39

ment, included an initial encounter with an intern that could have
come right out of a porn script. An attractive young woman snaps
the waistband of her thong at the president of the United States.
Like someone playing "Mister President" in a porn film, the real-life
president eagerly responds to this come-on by engaging in oral sex
with the young intern in the Oval O~ce. In one session, she mas-
turbates with a cigar for his titillation. In another--well, we all saw
the movie.
    A number of polls indicated a pattern in the responses of
Americans. Young people in high school and college (who view
porn as entertainment and casual sexual encounters as a norm)
were mainly amused by it all. Older Americans, especially those
over fifty, who still attached stigma to porn, were shocked.
    By 2008, however, it had become di~cult to imagine anyone
being truly shocked by real-life examples of "right out of a porn
movie" sex. Let's consider just the most famous of recent scandals
involving older male politicians and younger--sometimes very
much younger--females and males.

  · In 1974 Representative Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.) was found to be
    having an aair with a young stripper named Fanne Foxe, aka
    "the Argentine Firecracker," who jumped into the Tidal Basin
    in Washington, D.C., when police pulled over their car.
  · In 1983 the House Ethics Committee censured Representa-
    tives Dan Crane (R-Ill.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) for having
    had sexual relationships with seventeen-year-old pages, Crane
    with a female, Studds with a male.
  · In 1988 former senator Gary Hart's relationship with actress/
    model Donna Rice derailed his presidential bid.
  · In 1989 Stephen Gobie, the former gay lover of Barney Frank
    (D-Mass.), admitted having operated a male prostitution ring
    out of the congressman's apartment.
  · In 2001 the U.S. senator Garry Condit (D-Calif.) admitted to
40                                          The Porning of America

   an aair with missing and presumed dead Chandra Levy, a
   young woman in her twenties, ending his political career--
   because of his casual response to her disappearance rather
   than the aair.
 · In 2006 Representative Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned from
   Congress when it was revealed that he had been sending "dirty
   e-mails" to teenage House pages.
 · In 2007 Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) plead guilty to disor-
   derly conduct after being caught in a police sting operation
   investigating lewd acts in a Minneapolis airport men's public
   restroom. Craig had been widely considered a "family values"

    Politics was only one source of scandals involving sex between
older, more powerful adults and young partners. Religion and edu-
cation were two other similarly tainted institutions.

 · In 1987 Jim Bakker, a televangelist reportedly bringing in a
   million dollars a week in donations from followers, confessed
   to a sexual liaison with a young woman, Jessica Hahn (who
   later appeared nude in Playboy). That scandal was followed by
   a spate of similar stories involving celebrity ministers caught
   in sexual transgressions, the most famous of which, in the fol-
   lowing year, 1988, was Jimmy Swaggart, who wept his confes-
   sion to a national audience.
 · Beginning in 2002 and extending through the next few years,
   reports proliferated of hundreds of Catholic priests who had
   molested and raped young boys and girls. Bishops who simply
   moved the oending priests from one diocese to another as
   the crimes were brought to their attention had in eect, it
   turned out, protected serial rapists.
 · In 1996 a thirty-six-year-old schoolteacher, Mary Kay Letour-
   neau, gained notoriety when her sexual relationship with one
A Nation of Porn Stars                                            41

    of her sixth-grade students, a thirteen-year-old boy, became
    known. Her case was soon followed by innumerable others
    involving male and female high school and middle school
    teachers having sex (and sometimes, like Letourneau, having
    children) with their teenage and even preteen students.

     We could go on. To see just how jaded we have become by such
events, try telling someone a made-up story about having just seen
a news report in which a respected individual (choose anyone in
the public eye) was reported having sex with someone unlikely
(make it as outlandish as you want). There may be some surprise,
some heads may shake in disgust, but it's a good bet that people
will accept the story as true.
     Our readiness to believe almost any example of sexual pairing,
however outrageous, is fueled by the fact that we are exposed not
only to sensational anecdotes (which though significant are usu-
ally atypical) but also to instances of sex being infused into main-
stream culture everywhere we look. Let us catalog some examples
of this cultural porning, just to sample the field:

  · World Wrestling Federation mixed tag team matches, which
    receive heavy television coverage, can only be described as soft-
    core porn, featuring unsubtle double entendres in the pre-
    match challenges and taunts ("I'm gonna slam her ass!"), and
    scantily clad men and women in clearly sexual positions (in
    their male-female and female-female pairings) during the
  · Female athletes have become increasingly sexualized, and
    even marketed in soft-core formats for their sexuality rather
    than their athletic prowess. Anna Kournikova, for example,
    never a top singles professional tennis player, nevertheless be-
    came a media darling, receiving more attention than better
    players simply because of her sex appeal and her willingness to
42                                          The Porning of America

   flaunt it. In a way, she set the pattern (seminude/nude, highly
   suggestive calendars and posters, advertisements, appear-
   ances in movies) that other female athletes, both professional
   and amateur, now must follow.
 · High school cheerleaders have so dramatically sexualized their
   routines, often bumping and grinding like strippers, that in
   one recent instance, a state congressman in Texas, Representa-
   tive Al Edwards, proposed legislation that would put an end
   to "sexually suggestive" performances at high school athletic
   events and other extracurricular competitions.
 · Dirty dancing has gotten even dirtier. At the turn of the nine-
   teenth century, waltz partners were thought by some alarmed
   moralists to be mimicking sexual intercourse. Imagine what
   they would make of contemporary "grinding," and "freaking,"
   popular forms of dancing in which the female bends over and
   presses her buttocks against the pumping groin of her partner.
 · Nude calendars have become commonplace. Beginning on a
   large scale in the 1990s, groups of all sorts, usually connected
   with charities or not-for-profit organizations, began publishing
   such calendars as a fund-raising ploy. One of the most well-
   known featured the Australian women's soccer team, the
   Matildas, in 1999. A dedicated website lists hundreds of nude
   calendars for sale, consisting of photos of amateur, volunteer
   models ranging in age from early twenties to senior citizens,
   raising money for athletic teams, theatrical companies, volun-
   teer fire fighters, and disease research. These calendars range
   from depictions of naked grannies holding kittens and pup-
   pies (raising money for animal shelters) to bu male rugby
   players, clearly conveying the message: Everyone a porn star!

    And the list goes on. Porn chat rooms, for example, abound on
the Internet. Such spaces invite ordinary people to participate in
A Nation of Porn Stars                                              43

the creation of pornography, mainly in the form of "cybering," hav-
ing imagined sex, in real time, with a partner or partners in the
room. The participants, who often admit that they are simultane-
ously masturbating, describe in detail what they are "doing" with
the other (or others), how they are responding, and so on. These
"performances," to describe them that way, are sometimes en-
hanced with webcams for one or both (or all) participants to view.
Further enhanced with voice, the results can be quite complex and
sophisticated, even indistinguishable from the oerings of profes-
sional porn websites.
     Chatropolis, a site with both free and pay options, advertises it-
self as one of the largest and most active chat sites on the Web,
oering about 230 chat rooms, most with a maximum capacity of
twenty-five people. Not all rooms are full all the time, but if, let's
say, on average, half the number of possible chatters are online,
that means about three thousand are in Chatropolis at any given
moment. Chatters come and go throughout the day and night,
however, sometimes merely changing rooms within the site, but
also logging in fresh, so the total number of chatters on this one
site alone in the course of a day is huge, certainly in the thousands,
perhaps even the tens of thousands.
     One Chatropolis room is called "Legal Today." Another, at the
other end of the age spectrum, is "Perverted Old Men." Still an-
other links the extremes of age, "Across the Generations." Some
rooms cater to phone sex, such as "Call Me." Others to sexual pref-
erences, such as "Analopolis."
     Thousands of such chat sites (free and pay, large and small) are
available on the Internet. For years Yahoo, for instance, oered
hundreds of rooms with cam and voice options, many exclusively
pornographic--"PA Girls for Sex," for example, and many others,
such as user rooms (rooms created by users) focusing on specific
sex acts and fetishes, particular sexual orientations, such as bi and
44                                            The Porning of America

lesbian, and so on.1 Even an unscientific, thumbnail approxima-
tion, then, would conservatively find millions of Americans of all
ages in such chat rooms--all in this together--every day.
    Perhaps the best--the most clear, compelling, and widespread
--behavioral example of the porning of America is the relatively
recent practice of hooking up.

hooking up
The sexual practice, widespread among the young (high school
and college age), called hooking up involves two people, usually to-
tal strangers, making eye contact at a party--or in a club, a school
dance, or even at a mall--and then slipping into a room or hallway
nearby for sex. Tom Wolfe, who introduced the term to older
Americans in a recent book, says this about the practice: " `Hooking
up' was a term known in the year 2000 to almost every American
child over the age of nine, but to only a relatively small percentage
of their parents, who, even if they heard it, thought it was being
used in the old sense of `meeting' someone. Among the children,
hooking up was always a sexual experience."2
     Regarding the popularity of the practice, Wolfe says: "Thirteen-
and fourteen-year-old girls were getting down on their knees and
fellating boys in corridors and stairwells during the two-minute
break between classes. One thirteen-year-old in New York, asked
by a teacher how she could do such a thing, replied: `It's nasty, but
I need to satisfy my man.' "3
     A related, apparently widespread, phenomenon, which Wolfe
does not mention, involves relationships in which the partners are
"fuck buddies" or "friends with benefits." Whereas the hookup
is typically a onetime occurrence, friends with benefits are pals or
associates who have an ongoing no-strings, nonromantic sexual
     Hooking up perfectly mirrors the sex that is typical in a porn
movie. It is anonymous, or nearly so, impersonal, and undertaken
A Nation of Porn Stars                                           45

without commitment. Those who hook up simply recognize the
mutual sexual need of the moment, and then proceed as partners
to satisfy their lust. The gag line of so many jokes about the one-
night stand of earlier times--"Will you call me in the morning?"--
simply does not apply in the hookup.
    We might also describe it, putting aside the exchange of money
for the moment, as the kind of sex typified in prostitution--
remembering that the word pornography derives from Greek roots
meaning "depicting the acts of prostitutes." In fact, one of the
terms for a prostitute, hooker, is quite close to hooking up. Hooker
and hookup then, are quite alike in suggesting a quickly made tie
between two sex partners that is understood by both to be tempo-
rary and impersonal.
    Let us fill out the picture of the typical hookup with details
of looks and dress common in the early years of the twenty-first
    The male might well have the kind of body common in porn
movies, a body ideal painstakingly cultivated by young men all
over America, referred to as bu or "cut." That is, the hours in the
gym lifting free weights and working out on exercise machines are
spent to achieve a look, not in connection with athletics or body-
building. And the desired look is one we recognize from porn:
the stud.
    The female would almost certainly be wearing a thong, a now
common article of underwear once exclusive to the porn films and
strip clubs of the 1980s. (She would also have shaved her pubic
hair, another style derived from strip clubs.) In fact, her glitter,
heavy mascara, low-slung jeans, and midri-baring shirt are often
described (even by the companies that manufacture them) as
    If, then, this typical male and female of the new millennium--
this stud of the six-pack abs and his thonged girlfriend-of-the-
moment--drawn together by lust, each perhaps not even knowing
46                                            The Porning of America

the other's name, engage in a sex act without aection or commit-
ment . . . who could distinguish their hookup from a scene in a
porn movie?

the amateurs take over
If it is true, as we have suggested, that not only has porn become
mainstream but that the mainstream has become porned, it would
follow that porn produced by professionals would merge with a
new kind of porn created by secretaries, bakers, nurses, auto me-
chanics, housewives, schoolteachers--ordinary people from the
mainstream of American society who, à la Timothy Greenfield-
Sanders, have come to see porn stars as like themselves, and who
therefore see themselves as like porn stars. And indeed this is ex-
actly what we do find.
     Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, "amateur" porn movies
were produced in great quantity, created by and large by profes-
sionals who employed unknown porn actors billed as amateur per-
formers. Since the turn of the millennium, however, as digital
video cameras and cell phones with video capability have enabled
people to record their own sexual activities and post the results via
their computer on a dedicated website, there has been a skyrocket-
ing increase in true amateur porn. The number of such websites
(such as Private Porn Movies, YourAmateurPorn, and Best Home
Sex) is growing exponentially. Even websites that are not specifi-
cally for amateur porn become such sites de facto, because some
members use their webcams on these sites to broadcast them-
selves masturbating or having partnered sex.
     It may well be the case that true amateur porn is the future of
porn in America. And to say this is perhaps to announce the end of
porn. Because just as it is true that if everything in the world were
blue there would be no word blue, when blue movies are every-
where, there are no more blue movies.
     The final result of the porning of America, then, may well be
A Nation of Porn Stars                                         47

the end of the recognition of porn as something separate from the
mainstream. Pornography will have shrunk to porn and porn fur-
ther shrunk away altogether, disappearing because it can no longer
be distinguished from what we see everywhere around us on the
Internet (on innumerable amateur sites, in chat rooms, on My-
Space, Craigslist, Stickam, and so on), on cable television, in
movies, magazines, advertisements, music videos. Porn will have
become our cultural wallpaper.
3. Popping Rosie's Rivets
     Porn in the Good Old Days

For many Americans, the 1950s remains hallowed ground, a ver-
sion of the nation altogether healthier, saner, safer, and, most im-
portantly, more moral than the shifting quagmire we believe
ourselves to be sinking into now. This sanctification has been un-
der fire for some time now by historians and cultural critics who
have pointed out, among other things, the systemic racism and
sexism of the 1950s, two dark historical facts whose submersion is
necessary for the preservation of the sanitized image of white sub-
urban life. But the 1950s was also the decade when pornography
began poking its head out of the alleys and back rooms of Ameri-
can society and slipping into mainstream culture--unleashed,
strangely enough, by that proud and determined bicep-flexing
American everywoman, Rosie the Riveter.
    To utter the 1950s is to invoke a set of images: innocent (white)
teenagers jitterbugging at the hop, mothers in dresses and aprons
preparing the family dinner, fathers in suits and ties arriving home
from well-paying jobs. These images are historically accurate for
many Americans of the times, but fail to tell the stories, all just as
common, of a host of others.
    Another label that encompasses the 1950s, Cold War era, pow-
erfully brings to mind a very dierent set of images, all anxiety
laden: Sputnik and the space race, the global spread of commu-
nism, rising juvenile delinquency, and the constant threat of apoc-

50                                             The Porning of America

alyptic nuclear war. That these vastly dierent, even contradictory,
images apply to the same decade should reveal the dubiousness of
accepting a single narrative from our complex cultural memory.
     And so we need to bring some skepticism to one of the most
powerful of the stories we tell ourselves about the postwar years:
that the era was a paradigm of sexual conservatism. This story is in
many ways true, but woefully incomplete. American cinema, de-
spite regular challenges, still labored under the burden of the Hays
Code, a set of guidelines established in 1930 to ensure that the
movie industry would not be susceptible to corrupting influences
and, like the "the obscene plays of Roman times," lead our nation
into a similar collapse. In one of the most famous rules, if a scene
included a man and a woman sitting on a bed together, one of their
feet had to be on the floor. Television, increasingly the most pow-
erful source of popular culture, had its own, similar, code.
     While television and film writers and directors often included
suggestive jokes that were themselves coded, the era is largely rep-
resented, on film, by married couples sleeping in separate beds,
creating, in its own way, a pornography of moral purity in which
the viewer is constantly aware of the potential sexuality of every sit-
uation by virtue of its assiduous suppression. Watching these films
now, we wonder which type of pornography might be more de-
structive, the porn of moral impurity or the porn of glaring purity.
When Jessie Hays divorced her husband, William, the author of
the Hays Code, she cited his inability to distinguish between her
navel and her clitoris.
     The "innocence" of the 1950s, as represented in popular cul-
ture, is challenged by the historical reality of the postwar period.
Following World War II, unexpected and stealthy social changes,
mostly connected to the evolving status of women and minori-
ties, made that innocence increasingly tenuous. Such social
changes are always traumatic, and, like a neurotic patient, Ameri-
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                            51

can culture displaced its fear and tension about gender and class
roles by turning to the burgeoning world of comic books, men's
magazines, and pornography.

rosie the riveter
Most postwar social developments had their inception, of course,
during the war, created largely by the removal of so many men
from society and the entry of so many women into the workforce.
The Rosie the Riveter phenomenon--the influx of women during
the war into defense jobs and other occupations, such as ship-
building, traditionally filled by men--grew out of the marriage
of economic need and women's desire for self-su~ciency, with
marketing o~ciating. By 1943, 75 percent of all adult American
women were married, and 50 percent of them had jobs. Most of
the Rosies (61 percent), however, had worked outside the home
even before the war; only 22 percent had been full-time house-
wives (now referred to as stay-at-home moms) before World War
II. But the American government knew early on that this trend of
women succeeding in di~cult, traditionally male jobs could upset
the psychology of the nation.
     The propaganda arm of the war eort, the O~ce of War Infor-
mation (OWI), dealt with this cultural threat by working with the
War Advertising Council, an entity formed by advertising execu-
tives, to satisfy two somewhat disparate needs: create the image of
a highly competent working woman who, at the same time, sub-
mitted to the ideal of male supremacy. Competent and vital in her
portrayals on government war posters and in the public arena--in
everything from public service announcements to advertisements
for soap--Rosies were, therefore, white middle-class wives or
     Rosies could not, however, be portrayed as indispensable in the
war eort lest the status quo of ultimate dependence on males be
52                                             The Porning of America

threatened. The solution lay in the publicized motivation of
women to take up work in the first place. Entering the workplace,
government propaganda suggested, was a sacrifice women made
for one purpose only: to bring their men safely back from the war
as soon as possible so that the women themselves could then re-
turn to their homes, and to their proper roles as wives and mothers.
     The most popular image of Rosie graced the cover of The
Saturday Evening Post in May 1943. Painted by Norman Rockwell,
Rosie, clothed in coveralls and with a large, phallic rivet gun across
her lap, sits on a wooden crate with a sandwich in one hand and
her foot on a copy of Mein Kampf. It is, in many ways, a startlingly
masculine image. She is confident and looks powerful with her
broad shoulders, hefty biceps, and wide leather watchstrap. Yet de-
spite the grease smudges on her cheeks, she has done up her hair
attractively and wears carefully applied makeup. A compact peeks
out of her hip pocket.
     She is portrayed by Rockwell as a powerful woman and a
source of America's economic and military strength--but also as
a woman who never forgets to look good for her man. Despite all
the concessions to male-dominated America, Rockwell's Rosie
was, nevertheless, like her real-life counterparts, a grenade lobbed
at the walls of traditional gender boundaries.
     Just as women's labor was put to service in the war, so was their
sexuality. War posters targeting men often highlighted both
women's desirability and their sexual vulnerability. At the same
time that the OWI touted American women's purity, dance hall
girls served as totems of sexualized femininity, fox-trotting with
men home on leave to remind them what they were fighting for.
As the war drew to a close, advertisements and war posters in-
creasingly featured narratives of redeployment, portraying relieved
women who could once again return home after the sacrifices of
the war.
     This message of sacrifice, of women having given up some-
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                            53

thing that was prized, was mostly a propaganda eort to reassure
men that the status quo was intact. At the same time, the mes-
sage was intended to encourage women to quit their jobs now
that the war was over and such extraordinary eorts were no
longer needed. Department of Labor statistics show that the
large majority of women wanted to keep working after the war,
including women who had been housewives before the war. And
many women who believed they had recourse attempted to keep
their jobs, such as female members of United Auto Workers who
tried, unsuccessfully, to forestall their "demobilization." In the
end, overwhelmingly, women who wanted to keep their high-paying
positions could not do so and were forced back either into the kind
of lower-paying jobs they had before the war or out of the work-
force altogether.
    It would be overstating the Rosie eect to say that the war was
a watershed either with respect to women's opportunities or to atti-
tudes about women's labor. Polls show that the idea of men as the
head of the household grew dramatically after the war, and most
women agreed with the notion. Indeed, in 1945, 65 percent of men
and 57 percent of women believed that a married woman should
not work outside the home.
    Rosie did, however, have long-term eects that set the stage for
the women's movement. During the war, women not only made
the choice to work, but many women left entry-level jobs for better-
paying positions, demonstrating their growing ambition. After the
war, while most women accepted the necessity of their exit from
the workforce, oral histories have shown that intense pride was the
common reward for their experiences. "I never realized what I
could do" was the nearly universal refrain.
    And subsequent history shows that the Rosie phenomenon
changed women's fundamental ideas about labor. Though the
number of women working plummeted after the war, it began to
creep back up within a few years. By 1960, women between forty-
54                                              The Porning of America

five and fifty-five years old led the way in returning to work, with
50 percent holding down jobs, only 10 percent less than the war-
time peak. These were the same women who in their thirties had
formed the largest group of Rosies.1
    Evidently, they had not forgotten how good their wartime inde-
pendence had felt. These and other aspects of women's time as
Rosie the Riveter were the seeds that would eventually flower into
the women's movement of the 1960s. Women's slowly building
economic and social authority came to challenge the image of
the strong, stoic male that had long dominated American popular

from war hero to organization man
For decades after World War II, returning servicemen were under-
stood as having seen and done things that they did not want to talk
about except on those occasions when they gathered with other
veterans. But interestingly, it is only in recent years, as we have cel-
ebrated what Tom Brokaw called "the greatest generation," that we
have come more fully to fathom the depth of the former soldiers'
psychological and emotional burden. After all, the images of the
postwar American man had overwhelmingly emphasized virility
and control. Only few postwar voices--the later works of Ernest
Hemingway and movies like The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)--suggested that in fact
American men were troubled.
    Yet it is precisely in these images of virility and control that
we can see what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called "the crisis of Ameri-
can masculinity." In a November 1958 Esquire article, Schlesinger
wrote, "Today men are more and more conscious of maleness not
as a fact but as a problem. The ways by which American men
a~rm their masculinity are uncertain and obscure. There are mul-
tiplying signs, indeed, that something has gone badly wrong with
the American male's conception of himself."
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                              55

     Schlesinger and other commentators saw in communism a
symptom of everything that assailed American men, everything
that wanted to strip America of its love of the individual and turn its
men into servile automatons. Countless science fiction films of the
era, such as The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, served as
allegories of the fear of losing one's individuality.
     Returning from World War II, white American men found
a culture in which their dominant social position--and their jobs
--were increasingly being challenged by white women, the former
Rosies, and black men. Not only that, but the corporations for which
they labored were busily developing new ideas about e~ciency
that would treat them much as they feared communism would, as
anonymous and interchangeable parts. Having returned from war,
arguably the most masculine of all endeavors, the former soldier
became "the organization man" (as William H. Whyte titled a 1956
book), subsuming his own worth to that of the company.
     Another work, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (both the 1955
book and the 1956 movie), follows the postwar experience of Tom
Rath, a veteran who has found success in the corporate world but
who has also lost there the sense of purpose he had in the war. In
short, many men in the 1950s faced what they saw as a kind of so-
cial and sexual emasculation.
     Much of Schlesinger's work in the postwar years was dedicated
to identifying and correcting the emasculation of the American
male and of American society as a whole. His star-making book,
The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom (1949), was, for instance,
significantly responsible for the popularization of the terms hard
and soft, clearly terms of male sexuality, as descriptors of attitudes
about communism and the "dynamism" of American culture.
American men, of course, wanted to be hard, politically and per-
sonally. It is no surprise, then, that the 1950s, despite being the era
of home, family, and fidelity, also witnessed the birth of modern
American pornography.
56                                            The Porning of America

     Despite our stereotypical view of the era as comparatively pure,
World War II exposed American servicemen to cultures that had
liberal attitudes toward sex and pornography. Servicemen fighting
in France, for instance, encountered a culture with a long-standing
tradition of popular pornography, much of it with a tone of mild
kink. The war itself, as wars always do, created environments in
which men, separated from wives and girlfriends, developed much
more open attitudes about sex. Servicemen received four condoms
a month, a number well short of what medical o~cers thought
appropriate, and 80 percent of American servicemen away from
home for at least two years admitted to regularly engaging in ex-
tramarital sex. In contrast, while popular culture largely gave sexu-
ally active men a free pass, it depicted women who strayed as low
and unpatriotic. Nevertheless, infidelity among young married
women rose during the 1940s.2
     For men and women, then, wartime combined in powerful
ways not only the concepts of love, patriotism, and sacrifice, but
also sex, violence, and death. The pinup girl provides a poignant
example. Brought to fame by Alberto Vargas in Esquire and distrib-
uted as cards and posters to servicemen with the overt purpose of
reminding soldiers what they were fighting for, the pinup girl com-
bined blushing innocence with erotic power. Taking their cue from
this odd nexus of sex and war, airmen famously painted the noses
of their bombers with pinups (the Memphis Belle is best known).
Often much more explicit than the magazines and posters that in-
spired them, including nudity and visual jokes about penetration,
nose art narrowed the gap between sex, violence, and masculinity.
     Small wonder, then, that the postwar years sparked a national
conversation, albeit delivered sotto voce, about sex and power. Dur-
ing the war, the culture had mobilized sex in much the way it had
mobilized tank brigades. After the war's end, images of sex and vi-
olence would be used to negotiate the power struggle between
men and women within our own borders.
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                            57

t he early years of accepted porn
Pornography was hardly new to American culture. Along with
France, the United States was the biggest producer of stag films,
which evolved very little from the 1910s to the 1960s. These were
brazenly hard-core, and generally infused with locker-room hu-
mor, sporting production credits such as A. Wise Guy, A. Prick,
and Ima Cunt. Shown for audiences almost entirely of men, they
presented men as dominant and assertive and the more passive
women as constantly available and ready--though they too en-
joyed the act. Violence, real or suggested, was nearly nonexistent.
    Stags, however, generally illegal and produced secretly, were
usually shown in back rooms, in brothels, or screened in traveling
carnivals and other marginalized venues. A young American man
could easily live his entire life without the opportunity to see one.
During and after World War II, however, porn in several new
forms increasingly showed its face in public.
    Esquire can take much of the credit for opening the doors for
what became known as girlie magazines. During the war, the Post
O~ce Department changed the popular magazine's status from a
second-class to a first-class mailing, making it much more expen-
sive, citing as the reason for the change the pinup-style pictorials.
Esquire's eventual victory in 1946, in the Supreme Court, arguing
that the Post O~ce could not eectively practice censorship, made
it much easier for more explicit publications to follow. When Play-
boy debuted in 1953, it faced no such trouble.
    The kinds of pornography that characterized the early postwar
years tended to be what today we might view as quaint, even inno-
cent. Indeed, the first few years of Playboy depicted nude women
mostly in poses very familiar to men who admired the pinups of
the war era. The magazine's explicit thesis, despite the glossy, re-
touched photographs, was that ordinary women actually enjoy sex.
Playboy spawned hosts of copycats with titles like Modern Man,
Cabaret, and Mr. For African Americans, Ebony fulfilled the same
58                                             The Porning of America

role as Esquire, and the short-lived Duke oered a black Playboy.
The expanding world of burlesque provides an even clearer exam-
ple of the relative innocence of what was then regarded as pornog-
     Burlesque, and the staged striptease that became its most
famous component, had its heyday in the 1920s, after which it be-
gan to die away until the war and hosts of lonely, entertainment-
hungry men gave it a new life that would last until the late 1950s.
The burlesque striptease, like Playboy and the pinup, belong more
to the world of erotica than to what most people think of as pornog-
raphy. Even the names of the dancers evoke not raw titillation but
a kind of jovially sexual fascination. Doe Mae Davison, who ap-
peared under the stage names Princess Do May and the Cherokee
Half Breed, danced in headband and eagle feathers. Yvette Dare
performed "The Dance of the Sacred Parrot." Lili St. Cyr, probably
the most successful performer of the last decade of the industry,
danced a kind of sexualized ballet, and sealed her fame with a bub-
ble bath routine.
     The striptease was what its name suggests, a tease. The
dancers certainly presented themselves as sexual beings, but not
as sex objects. Their distinctly individual names and their signa-
ture dances gave their acts an air of performance rather than pros-
titution, and there was never any question about who was in
control of the act. These were often significant productions, with
multiple costume changes and narrative arcs, and, since less flesh
was shown than we would expect today, the success of the per-
formance depended on the relationship the dancer created with
her audience.
     A successful performer like St. Cyr could play a single bur-
lesque house for years. While some striptease artists occasionally
flashed, which they were technically forbidden to do, a customer
could pay many visits to a theater and never see it. In the late 1940s
and through the 1950s, a group of producers outside the Holly-
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                              59

wood movie industry known as the Forty Thieves began making
and distributing burlesque movies, spreading the aesthetic of the
burlesque outside the major cities. Lili St. Cyr appeared regularly in
titles like Love Moods and Varietease, as did Bettie Page, the most fa-
mous pinup girl of the era.
     Page, however, was both one of the last examples of the
striptease artist and one of the reasons burlesque finally faded. In
the 1950s, as rules for distributing pornographic material loos-
ened, the market for raunchier material grew, and Bettie Page tried
to be in as much of it as possible, appearing in every format: cards,
photographs, movies, magazines (including Playboy), and onstage.
While much of her work, both stills and loops (films of only a few
minutes), were fairly innocuous, consisting of lingerie shots less
revealing than the average Victoria's Secret catalog, Page often
posed nude, and eventually brought BDSM (bondage/domination/
sadomasochism) to a broad audience for the first time. Photo-
graphs and loops of her paddling bound women, and images of
Page bound, gagged, and suspended by wires, brought her to na-
tional attention, including that of Senator Estes Kefauver, who
subpoenaed her to appear before a Senate subcommittee holding
hearings on pornography in 1955.
     The bondage and S&M pornography in which Page is featured
would be considered quite tame by today's standards. Any sense
of threat conveyed is defused by the obvious artifice of the photo-
graphs and films. Despite the whips, handcus, and gags, the par-
ticipants smile reassuringly, and the paddle generally never makes
contact with flesh. Nevertheless, the popularity of Page's fetish im-
ages demonstrated a burgeoning interest in the intersection of sex
and power.3
     In all of these examples of midcentury pornography, including
the photographs that so disturbed Senator Kefauver, in Page's
bondage pictures, in burlesque and early striptease, in most stag
films, and in Playboy, Esquire, and all of their imitators, we clearly
60                                              The Porning of America

see performance. To a degree the women are objectified, especially
in photo spreads like Playboy's, but Bettie Page's work, burlesque,
and even stag films generally relied for a large part of their appeal
on the viewer's awareness of the fully present identity and person-
ality of the female performers. In showcasing their identities, such
work opened the door to the possibility that highly stylized erotica,
rather than anonymous, objectified porn, would dominate the
coming sexual revolution.
     There were, however, other forces gathering with a very dier-
ent take on the connections between sex, identity, and power.

porn! and for kids!
A year before his investigation into pornography, Kefauver over-
saw hearings on "Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency." In-
deed, all his hearings, including a televised Senate investigation of
organized crime in 1950­51, were in his mind unified as one sus-
tained eort to combat inextricably connected social ills. Accord-
ing to Kefauver and most of his witnesses, it was simple: the
reading of comic books led youngsters to violence, pornography,
and sexual dysfunction (including homosexuality), and a life of
     But while it is easy for us to smile condescendingly at the con-
strained and even bigoted attitudes of the era, a sober look at the
comic books of the times reveals that most professional pornogra-
phy today, focused as it is on power, domination, and violence, in
fact derives more from popular-culture forms like early comic
books than from Playboy or the bondage shots of Bettie Page. It
might seem strange that comic books could bear more responsi-
bility than, say, stag films, for violent porn, but what matters in that
assessment is not so much the appearance of bare breasts or geni-
talia as the way many comics reveled in scenes of arcane, brutal,
and extremely sexualized torture of women.
     By the time the hammer came down on the comics industry
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                          61

(literally, in the hand of Kefauver as he opened the Senate hear-
ings), comic books had become one of the most popular forms of
entertainment in the country, read by every sort of American. In-
deed, in 1947, 41 percent of adult men and 28 percent of women
read comics regularly. By 1950 (before the industry peaked), 54
percent of all comic books were read by people over twenty. Adult
readers of comics read on average eleven titles a month, and nearly
half of all readers, adults and children, were females, driving the
massive growth of so-called working-girl comics and romance
comics. And while various adult groups read comics in roughly
equal numbers, white-collar workers read more than any other
adult market. It was an immense--and powerful--industry.
     The Kefauver hearings, however, put an end to more than a
decade of massive growth. At the beginning of 1943, Americans
were buying between 12 million and 15 million comics a month, a
number that would seem minuscule in 1954, when industry circu-
lation peaked at 150 million issues a month, with 650 dierent ti-
tles. Even more important, the average comic book was read three
or four times, meaning there were between 450 million and 600
million readings every thirty days. In a population of 150 million
people, this is what corporations call saturation.4
     Kefauver depended heavily on the work of Fredric Wertham,
a psychiatrist whose 1954 book, The Seduction of the Innocent, sup-
ported the links between comics and deviancy upon which the sen-
ator would base his arguments. (Wertham's book also famously
postulated the homosexuality of Batman and Robin.) Joining the
cause were national institutions like the General Federation of
Women's Clubs (GFWC), which organized community responses
to comics across the country in church organizations, PTAs, and
other groups.
     In an attempt to appease the growing public outcry over comic
book content and to avoid government interference, the industry
instituted its own version of the Hays Code, ending what most his-
62                                            The Porning of America

torians call the golden age of comics. The Comics Code Authority,
established in 1954, attempted to excise all sex, violence, gore,
sadism, crime, and horror from the industry, and as a result,
within one year, more than half of all comic book titles had disap-
peared. Superhero comics, which had been in decline since the
end of the war, made a comeback, but the industry had lost the so-
phistication and wit that had earned the medium a large adult au-
dience in its heyday.

the golden age of comics
Comics' golden age had begun with a superhero--the superhero.
In 1938 the sons of Jewish immigrants, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shus-
ter, first published Superman, who would be the most popular
comics character ever and one of the most recognizable images in
the world. He was, however, in the early years, a man apart from
sex. While he certainly had an interest in Lois Lane, it was the most
chaste of pursuits and always lower on his priority list than appre-
hending the merest of criminals.
     Seldom given anything near equal credit for creating the in-
dustry is the second costumed hero, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,
who debuted in America only three months after Superman.
     From the beginning, comics oered idealized versions of men
and women. While Superman and his kind were presented as vir-
ile incarnations, the comics themselves remained sexless in any
overt way until 1942, when the United States entered World War II
in earnest. The comics industry, despite the burdens of paper ra-
tioning, can thank the war for the growth of its adult readership.
Stories changed, grew more overtly patriotic, and hundreds of
thousands of issues were shipped across the globe to servicemen,
two-thirds of whom read comics and enjoyed the pop-culture con-
nection to home. On military bases, comics sold ten times the
combined sales of Life magazine, Reader's Digest, and The Saturday
Evening Post.
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                           63

    In response to the new, adult readership, comics grew more
overtly sexual. Female heroes that had appeared rail thin in reveal-
ing but relatively modest costumes now flaunted voluptuous
curves, covered by the scantiest of attire. Comics were, in many
cases, narrative pinups.
    On the home front, women began reading comics as female
characters assumed more powerful roles within them. Career-girl
comics and women superheroes proliferated and gave women
their own vicarious thrills. William Moulton Marston, the psychol-
ogist who created Wonder Woman with the explicit purpose of pro-
moting a feminist philosophy, never allowed her to be presented
as a sexual object. Most leading female characters, however, even
in comics aimed at a female audience, grew more sexual as the war
    By the last years of the war, many comics--though seldom the
marquee superhero titles--depended on what has come to be
called "good girl" art, hypersexualized female characters who faced
peril that usually emphasized their bodies and their vulnerability.
Common "headlight" covers depicted women bound with their
arms behind their backs, tied to posts, their backs arched to em-
phasize their breasts. Nazis, Japanese soldiers, generic natives,
and even aliens bent over them, ready to despoil, mutilate, and
murder. Leering villains threatened good girls with every imagina-
ble death: dismemberment, burning, and beheading (the most
    After the end of the war, with paper rationing over, the comics
industry began its meteoric rise. With every passing year, the su-
perheroes appealing mostly to kids fell in importance while adult
adventure, crime, and romance stories multiplied, often featuring
good girl art with more psychologically complex threats posed to
the women.
    The 1946 cover of Rangers Comics no. 31, provides a perfect ex-
ample of the uses to which women's bodies were put in the early
64                                                         The Porning of America

        Rangers Comics, October 1946 (Fiction House).
                 Uncredited illustration. From the authors' private collection.

postwar years. The victim is a good girl with Bettie Page hair. Most
obvious in the image is the anger and dark joy of the tormentors as
they menace a voluptuous woman. The "woman in peril" theme is
far older than American culture, but the threat on display here,
and on thousands of other comic book covers, renders that theme
in explicitly male terms, and makes graphic sexual violence the
promise of the issue.
    The cover image is a Freudian nightmare. The woman is tied to
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                               65

a post, her arms behind her back, and her breasts, with nipples
erect, thrust forward. The natives clutch long sticks, and the Amer-
ican rescuer, small and pathetic, clutches his tiny gun in the
background. The star of the drawing is, of course, the large, fire-
spouting serpent, a penis dentata (symbolic "toothed penis") that
threatens both to burn her alive and consume her.
     The tiny, distant rescuer visually contradicts earlier versions of
the powerful American male hero. Here he appears as an ineec-
tual sham version of the traditional hero, just as the serpent itself,
if we follow its length around, is also a phony--merely an empty
tube manipulated by natives pulling strings. Because the serpent
is not the real thing but just a device manipulated by hand, the im-
age plays as a representation, perhaps, of sexual frustration and
masturbation, with an imperiled American woman as the object of
arousal. The cover exemplifies the turn comics had taken from the
war era to the postwar years.
     For one thing, after the war, comic book covers shifted away
from depicting enemy soldiers (Nazi and Japanese) being over-
whelmed by larger, and more masculine, American heroes. Nazis
remained popular villains, but were joined after the war by generic
dark-skinned savages of undiscovered lands, who thrilled to white
female flesh and dominated the American would-be rescuers (if
they were even present). The visual language of the covers increas-
ingly designated the villains, rather than the American heroes of
the war years, as the vicarious thrill providers. The perspective of the
implied viewer of Rangers no. 31, for instance, is that of one of the
victim's tormentors, not a rescuer.
     While male characters were also often threatened in arcane
ways (Batman's sidekick, Robin, was a common victim), the threat
was generally outlandish (giant fanged teddy bears controlled by
the Joker, for instance), unlike the more distinctly imaginable, real
damage the good girls faced.
     Given the adult readership of comics and the social changes
66                                            The Porning of America

overtaking America--scarred servicemen returning home and ex-
Rosies returning to the workplace after their forced retirements
--the growing anger and sexual violence of the comics suggests
a response to women in which violent sexuality negotiates the new
     Fiction House provides a fascinating example of the sexual
politics of the era. Comic book publishers resembled nothing so
much as assembly lines, with writers cranking out stories and
sending them to rooms of artists who, nearly shoulder to shoulder,
penciled, inked, and lettered the stories. At the beginning of the
war, women found work in these factories just as they did in many
industrial ones. In general, women worked as artists only, but at
Fiction House women not only drew, but also wrote and even ed-
ited, comics titles.5
     Moreover, alone among major publishers, Fiction House did
not fire its women employees as servicemen returned home ex-
pecting to regain their jobs. More than at any other publishing
house, women provided a strong creative voice throughout the re-
mainder of the company's existence.
     The cover of Rangers no. 31 provides an interesting example of
how these gender politics worked themselves out. Specifically, we
can see in that cover how Fiction House attempted both to respond
to the growing public desire for sexually violent imagery and, at the
same time, to promote an awareness of women's changing social
     Like most comics, Rangers was an anthology of six continuing
storylines. In issue no. 31, none of the stories includes any event
resembling the action on the cover. The threat to burn and con-
sume the bound woman is a bait and switch--a tease to attract in-
terested eyes and open wallets.
     Quite unlike the cover, the eight main characters within the
comic include one female villain, one female victim, four heroic fe-
males, and two heroic males. None is harmed in any significant
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                             67

way. Top billing is given Firehair, Frontier Queen, a protector of
Native Americans and the enemy of wealth-seeking white men.
The issue utilizes a common paradigm: women in peril featured
on the cover, and smart, heroic women inside. Similar cover im-
ages graced the titles of many publishers, and while the promised
brutality was seldom delivered, only Fiction House straddled both
sides of the divide, depicting eroticized threats against voluptuous
women while at the same time acknowledging the evolving posi-
tion women were assuming in the culture.
    Looking back on this moment when comic books in their own
way negotiated a turning point in the social order, their eorts
might appear promising: the culture seemed, in the inside pages
of the comics, to be slowly coming to grips with an empowered fe-
male population. The cover images might then represent merely a
vestigial resentment over the loss of male supremacy. In all, the
comics were perhaps about to mature into positively feminist con-
    Sadly, such was not the case.

the horror! the horror!
A number of developing social changes took clearer shape as the
nation passed the midcentury mark. Women began returning to
work in more noticeable numbers, though generally not to jobs as
well paying as the ones they had left. And public intellectuals like
Schlesinger began to note that there was trouble brewing with
American males. The comic book industry, serving an increasingly
adult and dramatically expanding readership, responded to
women in the workforce and the consequent "crisis of American
masculinity" by publishing fare that did indeed deliver on the
promise of sexual brutality--and in spades.
    In 1950 William Gaines, the publisher of Entertaining Comics
(EC), led a revolution that spiked the industry's circulation but that
also ordained its demise. EC specialized in horror comics. Conser-
68                                            The Porning of America

vative groups had long complained about the sex and violence in
comics, but public and governmental concern did not gain any
traction until the horror comic asserted its grisly dominance in the
public imagination. War, romance, and crime comics retained
their popularity, and even outsold horror, but horror comics gave
the industry a ghastly new face--which now became the target on
which every foe of comics could draw a bead.
     Invariably, groups protesting comics cited their harmful eect
on the young. But several crime comics included the phrase for
adults only on their covers, and in any case featured stories inter-
esting only to adults.
     EC's writers and editors certainly saw themselves as serving an
adult audience, and dealt with adult social topics. Bigotry against
minorities, non-Christians, and the disabled, among other mar-
ginalized groups, was excoriated as an all-too-common, knee-jerk
American reaction to dierence of any kind. In fact, EC comics
stood firmly and openly on the side of progressivism in general--
on every social issue except gender equality. EC's titles champi-
oned the weak and the vulnerable, and punished the guilty in ever
more creative ways. Even animals came under EC's protective
wing. Women, however, were another story. As far as Gaines was
concerned, women were on their own.
     Of necessity, horror comics like EC's took fear as their primary
subject. Murderers, aliens, and cannibals inspire obvious brands
of fear, but in EC's antibigotry stories, the fear was often of being
surrounded by an American mob, itself afraid of threats to the tra-
ditional order of things.6
     The most common source of fear in EC comics, however, and
in a host of imitators, was not monsters or zombies but women.
Specifically, women who challenged accepted notions of masculin-
ity. The paradigmatic EC story introduces someone--or some-
times a group--who commits some sin (pride, selfishness, and
cruelty are typical) and receives a harsh punishment as a result.
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                             69

The tales always convey a moral, with endings that often include
explicit discussions of the social issues in play. While men earn
punishments for cruelty and bigotry, women, on the other hand,
earn their grisly rewards for infidelity, for promiscuity, for bad
mothering, and for placing their careers ahead of their husbands.
All these prospective wrongs were, of course, commonly attached to
women's position in the workforce.
     In "Beauty and the Beach," for example, in EC's Shock Suspen-
Stories, a dual story covering two women embarking on modeling
careers, we see how their success turns the women into harpies
who reject their husbands. When the husbands snap, pushed past
their limits of tolerance, we are meant to sympathize with their
righteous anger. One encases his wife in plastic while the other
burns his wife to death under those emerging symbols of vanity--
sunlamps. In three years (eighteen issues) of Shock SuspenStories,
women were punished for gender-related sins by, among other
means, being stabbed, strangled, chopped in half, decapitated,
electrocuted, devoured by a shark, and suocated.
     In story after story, EC encourages its readers to take satisfac-
tion--and to learn from--the consequences of female moral fail-
ure. Women should understand their role, these comics said,
by accepting their subordinate marital status and their nature as
mothers. We don't wish to argue here that EC comics encouraged
actual violence toward women, but in the context of a perceived
American masculinity crisis, the tales identify nontraditional
women as the primary cause of trouble for both men and society.
And their punishment for threatening the social dominance of
men is violent and highly sexualized.
     Beset manhood served as the regular subject of EC comics and
others. In "Made of the Future" (1951), from EC's Weird Science,
poor Alvin suers when his fiancée abandons him for a wealthy
man. When he happens across a guided tour from the future, he
quietly follows it to 2150, where he obtains a kit for a Deluxe
70                                            The Porning of America

Wife--just add water--and takes her back to his former life. The
wife is perfect, beautiful and subservient, but Alvin loses her as
well when she is accidentally returned to 2150. The story is a fable
about the disappearance of traditional gender roles, and of the
hopeless eorts of men to retain them. Alvin is presented as pa-
thetic and, in the end, lonely. Another Weird Science story, "Lost in
the Microcosm" (1950), about a scientist who grows ever smaller
until he disappears, predates the more famous film The Incredible
Shrinking Man (1957), but both explore the sense of manhood's
shrinking as a result of a society that no longer valued it.
    Men, however, were ready to fight back, hard.

"hitler's hideous harem of agony":
men's adventure magazines
After the Comics Code Authority put an end, in 1954, to the work
that made EC and Fiction House profitable, adult readers, and
men in particular, largely abandoned comic books. They turned in-
stead to men's adventure magazines (MAMs), where, over the next
fifteen years, they could find pictorials of voluptuous women in
bikinis and lingerie, as well as increasingly explicit illustrations
of their torture fully dramatized in the stories. Popularly called
"sweats" (for the obvious reason) MAMs had been around since
1949, with the creation of Stag. The bastard love child of pulp fic-
tion magazines and men's literary magazines, such as Esquire,
MAMs ascended during the same years that the comic book in-
dustry declined.
     Martin Goodman, the publisher of Stag, knowingly pitched his
magazine low. Betting that there was a large, underserved market
of veterans who had not gone on to wear gray flannel suits but had,
rather, returned home to boring lives and unchallenging work,
Goodman believed these men wanted to remember the hero-
ism and action--and even the gore--of war, to see themselves, vi-
cariously now, as powerful and masculine. Circulation numbers
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                            71

proved him right. By the late 1950s, over fifty dierent MAMs
crowded the local drugstore shelves, where, unlike Playboy, they
were generally welcome. Even the lower-tier magazines enjoyed
sales numbers of 100,000 to 250,000. While the total circulation
of MAMs never equaled that of the comics, their total circulation
roughly equaled that of Life and The Saturday Evening Post com-
     MAMs depended on the faltering comic industry for more
than its swelling readership. Goodman also published the Timely
Comics line--what is now known as Marvel Comics--which had
created figures like Captain America. In the next few years, some
comic book publishers added MAMs to their lists, transforming
titles like Battle Cry in MAMs. Others abandoned comics alto-
gether and turned wholly to the popular new trend. After all, the
restrictive comics code had left many editors, writers, and artists
looking for work, and they now found a place for their skills on the
pages of magazines like Stag, True, and Man to Man. And because
MAMs clearly targeted an adult audience, conservative groups
worried about children did not interfere with their publishing and
     Publishers did, however, have to contend with groups like the
GFWC (General Federation of Women's Clubs) and the Catholic
National Organization for Decent Literature (NODL), which felt
that they had battled the comics successfully and often included
MAMs on their banned books list (along with the work of William
Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and others). Local NODL groups,
sometimes with the help of the police, would pressure drugstores
and newsstands not to stock books and magazines they found un-
acceptable. Because such groups faced pressure in return not to
appear to be banning everything, adventure magazine publishers
could walk a tightrope, remaining as lurid as possible while still
taking care not to become the first to appear on the conservative
groups' hit lists.
72                                            The Porning of America

    During the first years of the growth of MAMs, which is to say
those last years before the comics industry was compelled by grow-
ing public furor to create the code, Stag and its imitators relied on
cover illustrations of heroic American men with good girls at their
sides. These buxom women provided readers a visual transition
from the comic book to the magazine. In addition to the illustra-
tions and stories contained in the magazines, they oered Ameri-
can men the first mainstream portal to products they previously
had a di~cult time finding: ads sold lingerie by Lili St. Cyr, sex
manuals, and yes, hard-core pornography.
    The revolution Playboy started in 1953 contrasted starkly with
the marketing appeal of the MAMs. Whereas MAMs sold fear and
anger, Playboy sold pleasure and joy, whether in the form of cen-
terfolds or in the reviews and ads for the best new products. Nearly
every MAM featured at least one title such as "American Men Are
Sex Saps," "The Homosexual Epidemic," or "Americans Are Lousy
Lovers: Why Our Women Prefer Foreign Men." Playboy, on the
other hand, was explicitly corporate, materialistic, and driven, pro-
moting a vision of the good life.
    Playboy's good life, however, seemed foreign to many working-
class men. The resonant message of the MAMs was that American
men, many of them former combat soldiers, triumphed through
the power of guns and clenched fists. If "they" want to steal your
masculinity, the MAMs implied, you'll have to keep it through vio-
lence and the sheer force of your will. Had the silk-pajama-clad,
smoking-jacketed Hugh Hefner appeared in a men's action maga-
zine, he would have seemed more an example of the "homosexual
epidemic" than anything else.
    The MAMs enjoyed a tremendous legal advantage over Play-
boy in many states and communities because they contained il-
lustrations rather than photographs. The local drugstore usually
wouldn't stock Playboy, with its images of topless, smiling girls-
next-door, but magazines featuring illustrations of women in
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                             73

bondage, wearing only strips of clothing, and, let's say, about to be
dipped in lye--those were fine.
     Illustration enjoyed another advantage over photography. In
1954 Man's Magazine published its February issue with two covers,
one a standard illustration of a heroic American fighting Aus-
tralian Aborigines, the other featuring a pinup photograph of Eva
Meyer (wife of the porn film director Russ Meyer). The illustration
outsold the photograph.
     Why might this be so? The way that illustration facilitates fan-
tasy is dierent from the way photographs work. Illustration can
emphasize detail di~cult to capture on film and render the impos-
sible believable. The early MAMs had experimented with staged
photographs of scenes of violence and sexual threat, but the de-
sired eect was minimized by their obvious dramatization. They
were clearly fake photos. While it seems a contradiction, illustra-
tion, though obviously "not real," facilitates a closer identification
with the fantastical experience--whether it be wrestling an octo-
pus or caressing, or flaying, the skin of a beautiful woman. After
Man's Magazine's experiment, MAMs depended almost wholly on
     In the mid-1950s publishers would begin to test the limits of
men's ability to identify with extreme images and stories. Till then,
most covers and interior illustrations depicted men in combat,
against men or animals, and the blood on display often belonged to
the protagonist, whom we were meant to believe would fight his
way to safety. In 1956, however, two new trends surfaced. A few
magazines began including pictorials of lingerie-clad women not
just as eye candy, but menaced by the same kinds of attackers that,
until recently, only male heroes had to battle, thereby ramping up
the level of violence involving scantily clad women. In 1958 the
Supreme Court made the government's task of regulating obscen-
ity much more di~cult, by giving protection to "unorthodox ideas,
controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of
74                                           The Porning of America

opinion," and the second new trend appeared: publishers of
MAMs realized they were free to publish nearly any image or story
they wished, no matter how outrageous the sexualized violence. If
there was a dormant misogyny in the comic book industry before
1954, with the MAMs it had awakened, hungry and lustful.
    Immediately, the visual and narrative treatment of women in
MAMs became even more extreme than in the comics, a di~cult
feat. The lion that had previously been roaring at the terrified
woman now had its claws in her flesh. Clothing became more tat-
tered and the poses began to look suspiciously like those of a
woman during sex, despite the arms of the octopus wrapped
around her. Simultaneously, the American male figure began to
shrink both visually and in the storyline.
    By far the most obvious expression of this trend was the reap-
pearance of Nazis--Nazis everywhere! And all of them tormenting
and torturing beautiful, half-naked females. Earlier MAMs had
made the heroic American male the center point of the illustra-
tions and stories. Now, leering Nazi o~cers and their fat, shirtless
henchmen subjected supple-limbed women to an endless variety
of grisly deaths. After 1959, Nazis torturing women became the
most common theme of the genre. By assigning to the Nazi o~cer
the same power and authority previously given to the American
hero, the MAMs began a decade-long trend in which the reader's vi-
carious thrill was no longer heroism and victory but torture and
    The November 1965 cover of New Man shows a Nazi o~cer
preparing to impale a bound woman from behind with a spear still
red hot from the brazier. Nearby, a Nazi soldier binds another
woman, the next in line for torture and death. Roughly half of
the MAM titles featured images of women being branded, burned
alive, thrown to voracious animals, beheaded, stretched, drilled,
frozen, dipped in acid, dismembered, engulfed in molten metal,
and, in cover after cover, whipped bloody. In all these images the
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                                               75

female is tightly bound, as if otherwise wild, uncontainable, and
    Strikingly, the women in the MAMs from the 1960s seem to
have all been busy preparing for a glamorous night out when they
were kidnapped, bound, and readied for torture. Wearing lacy bras
and deep red lipstick, they were apparently ready for sex when cap-
tured. The New Man cover from November 1965 is typical in this:
block out all of it except the faces of the victims and their expres-

     New Man, November 1965 (EmTee Publishing).
                    Uncredited illustration. From the authors' private collection.
76                                           The Porning of America

sions could easily be interpreted as sexual arousal rather than pain
and horror. And the sexuality is deliberate, of course. The images
oer us the women's death as the ultimate climax.
    These are, then, immensely angry images that act out the sex-
ual and social frustrations working-class men felt as their world
shifted underneath them. The countless scenes of torture oered
men the vicarious thrill of reasserting the control and dominance
they felt they deserved but were losing. Oddly enough, since many
of these men were veterans, they reasserted themselves by turning
to images derived from an act of incomprehensible nihilism, the
Holocaust. The signature atrocity of the Nazis consisted of the at-
tempted total destruction of the other, the non-Aryan, Jews, as a
way to legitimize themselves and create their own identity. In the
fantasized images on the covers of MAMs, as in the actual Holo-
caust, the powerful regarded themselves as superhuman and de-
nied full humanity to their victims.
    In the worldview of the MAM, women were the usurpers of a
fully realized masculine identity, which could be regained only
through sexual domination and violence. Being a Nazi, via the
pages of a magazine, made such violently sexual domination pos-
sible. The Nazi figure may also have revealed the suppressed self-
hatred and guilt MAM readers felt, stemming from their desire to
subjugate a whole category of human beings and to torture as a
means of pleasure.
    Though not nearly as popular as the scenes of Nazis torturing
women, the American soldier also regularly faced torture in the
MAMs--by huge-breasted, Teutonic Nazi o~cers, shirts open to
their waists, sneering at the degradation of the American hero.
This was a far cry from the heroic images of a decade earlier,
in which American GIs conquered all foes. And who, after all,
brought him so low? Women! Powerful women whose self-posses-
sion and independence shows on their grinning faces.
    Seldom would a 1960s MAM cover show an American man
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                           77

and woman side by side, facing a common threat, as happened of-
ten in the 1950s. In the MAMs, men and women were citizens of
dierent countries, permanently at war.
     Readers of adventure magazines also believed that the war
against comics and the less successful battle against men's maga-
zines, by groups like the GFWC and NODL, was part of a larger so-
cial eort to force them into moral conformity--a movement led
mainly by controlling women who would even decide what men
could and could not read. The bondage and torture covers can be
seen, then, as a pulp-paper revenge.
     As the adventure magazines aged, the culture changed, and
the Nazi became too distant a figure for its audience to depend on
consistently for violent thrills. In the late 1960s the Nazi morphed
into the hippy and the outlaw biker. Just as American men had,
during the 1940s, defined themselves against their Japanese and
German enemies, they now, as they entered middle age, defined
themselves against new, barely fathomable groups. Yet the maga-
zines continued to adopt these groups as the stand-ins for their au-
dience's resentments, even providing some transition, as most of
the bikers--and, strangely, even many hippies--wore swastikas or
the Iron Cross.
     In late 1967 the Supreme Court again widened the protections
for obscenity, allowing full frontal nudity, and many adventure
magazines again transformed (as they had done in the 1950s from
comic books to adventure magazines), this time into "skin" maga-
zines. But after 1968, the number of adventure magazines plum-
meted as competition winnowed the ranks of skin magazines
down to a supportable number.
     The new men's magazines were still not in any way silk pajama
clad, and they did not try to compete with Hefner's Playboy. True,
one of the more popular survivors of the transition, chose a flam-
boyantly crass approach that mixed the old with the new. One 1976
cover advertised "12 Pages of Hot Nudes!" along with a story about
78                                             The Porning of America

"The Depraved Orgy-Master Who Makes Manson Look Like a Boy
Scout." But the misogynistic violence of the adventure magazines
of the 1960s had largely evaporated.

of she-wolves and he-men
Physicists tell us that energy cannot be destroyed, merely changed
into new forms. The cultural force behind the success of men's
adventure magazines, especially the Nazi-focused issues of the
1960s, moved from page to screen in the 1970s. The Naziploita-
tion film, as it has been called, is considered largely apart from the
porn renaissance of the 1970s, but it's worth noting.
    Porn historians call the 1970s the golden decade because of the
big budgets available to the industry and porn's growing popular
acceptance. Genre films like Love Camp 7, SS Hell Camp, and, the
most popular, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, flew under the radar of many
Americans who worried about the growth of mainstream porn.
Imported from Italy or produced in the United States with com-
paratively low budgets (Ilsa was made on the leftover sets from
the television show Hogan's Heroes), these Naziploitation films fea-
tured medical experiments, graphic torture sequences, and sexual
debasement. Making the sexualized anger of the adventure maga-
zines explicit, Ilsa, for instance, castrates her male prisoners and
uses a giant electrified dildo to torture her female inmates.
    The Naziploitation trend did not outlive the 1970s, but its
underlying philosophy--of denying the humanity of the other
through sexual violence--did indeed survive. Subgenres like the
"women in prison" film, for example, maintained some of the
more obvious violent aspects.
    But in the 1980s the video porn industry began to grow into
the massive enterprise it is today, and porn developed its own class
system, much like the one that divided Playboy from the adventure
magazines. Today, rape porn and snu films (featuring deaths that
Popping Rosie's Rivets                                        79

are simulated, but increasingly realistic) are underprivileged in
comparison with the near-Hollywood-quality porn films being pro-
duced. But the lion's share of video porn is rooted in anger and
resentment directed against women, and so looks more like the
men's adventure magazines of an earlier era than like Playboy.
4. Porn Exemplars
     Advancing the Front Lines of Porn

The figures responsible for the porning of a culture are legion. We
present here just a sampling, not a comprehensive catalog, of a
half-dozen on America's A-list. Because we discussed Playboy and
Hugh Hefner, arguably the premier exemplar of America's porn-
ing, in Chapter 1, we have left him out here. To hold the number to
six, we had to make some either/or choices, such as Al Goldstein
over Larry Flynt. The two are in some ways alike in what they bring
to the porning of America, but Goldstein, never the subject of a
major Hollywood movie, is less well known.1
     Discussed here, then, are Russ Meyer, Al Goldstein, Madonna,
Snoop Dogg, Jenna Jameson, and Paris Hilton. What links these
individuals, in our view, is their role in what we referred to in
Chapter 1 as the normalizing of the marginal. That is, each has
been instrumental not only in bringing porn into mainstream
American life, but doing so in such a way that it has been absorbed
into the fabric of the culture. For example: Jenna Jameson.
Whereas at one time many women in porn were impoverished,
drug-addicted prostitutes, Jameson, in contrast, is an enormously
successful career woman, in many ways a model of the strong
woman Americans so admire. Her attractiveness, intelligence, in-
dependence, and wealth then become attached to porn, her chosen
career, by association. Undoubtedly there are those who would

82                                           The Porning of America

question her career choice, but because her overall profile is posi-
tive, Jameson is considered "normal," one of us.
    We do not, however, tell the same story six times over: each of
our porn exemplars is unique, and all have normalized the mar-
ginal in strikingly dierent ways.

russ meyer
We exaggerate only a little in saying that what was left of the
modesty of 1950s America went up, at the end of the decade, in a
mushroom cloud of Russ Meyer tittyboom. Tittyboom was the for-
mer World War II combat photographer's term for the still and
moving pictures he took of gorgeous leggy women with stunningly
large breasts. In the late 1950s Meyer unleashed an atomic dose of
tittyboom in his first movie, The Immoral Mr. Teas. America, espe-
cially Hollywood, would never be the same.
     It is a surprisingly funny term from a man seriously obsessed
with breasts. But exploring the humorous possibilities of nudity
and sex, at a time when nudity and sex could hardly be explored
directly in any way at all, would become a trademark of Meyer's
     And it is a strange fact that some of the most important mod-
ern American porn is humorous, or at least has a comic side. Even
before the goofy humor of the 1972 blockbuster porn movie Deep
Throat, in 1959 Meyer's groundbreaking The Immoral Mr. Teas es-
tablished a cartoon-like comic tone--not surprisingly, really, since
Meyer often cited Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip as one of the
most important influences on his work.
     Presenting sex as funny may have been the perfect strategy,
whether intentional or not, to break the prevailing ice of sexual
suppression. Men's magazines of the 1950s (with titles such as
Peep Show, Frolic, For Men Only, and Adam) very carefully remained
on the safe side of the line separating allowable glimpses of bare
skin from arrest on obscenity charges. Exploitation films of the
Porn Exemplars                                                   83

period, with titles like Is Your Daughter Safe? and This Is My Body,
often masqueraded as educational films about the dangers of drug
addiction or back-alley abortion or some other social peril. Sexu-
ally, they promised everything in advertising pitches, but on-screen
they delivered little.
     The national libido was conflicted, even schizoid: it panted
with barely containable excitement at the men's mag fringes--the
Frolic cover photos, say, of babes in bikinis--while the center re-
mained as crisply buttoned as the housedress over June Cleaver's
bosom. And at just this cultural moment, along came Mr. Teas in
his straw hat, pedaling a bicycle, a door-to-door false-teeth sales-
man so cartoonishly ridiculous that neighborhood urchins hooted,
pelting him with rocks and clods. Come on, loosen up, Mrs. Cleaver!
Teas seemed to be saying. It's all in good fun.
     When Teas has an impossibly oversized molar extracted by a
dentist, the shot of painkiller, proportionately oversized we must
assume, produces an unexpected result: he hallucinates a kind of vi-
sual superpower and imagines seeing through the clothes of every
woman he meets. The film is pure voyeurism as Teas, the embodi-
ment of ineectuality, can do no more than ogle the array of ample
breasts for which Meyer's movies would become famous.
     Or infamous. Twenty minutes into the premiere screening
of The Immoral Mr. Teas in San Diego on May 27, 1959, the police
raided the theater and stopped the show, seizing the reels and
holding them for almost a year. If anything, however, the bust
helped the movie, creating a buzz in the industry and on the street:
here at last was a film that delivered gorgeous women in naked
abundance. In January 1960 the movie reopened to a packed
house in Los Angeles. The following summer it opened big in
Seattle. Then on to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., attracting
large and even record-breaking audiences at every venue. On April
26, 1961, under the headline "28,810 for `Mr. Teas,' " the Holly-
wood Reporter announced, for instance, that The Immoral Mr. Teas
84                                             The Porning of America

had set a house record in its seventh week at the Paris Theatre in Los
     Just as later, in 1972, the stunning profits of Deep Throat would
spawn greedy imitators, so The Immoral Mr. Teas launched a new
genre just on the basis of its bottom line. If a film about the mating
rituals of the monarch butterfly had been shot for $24,000 and
grossed a cool million--as was the case with The Immoral Mr. Teas
--the numbers alone would surely have inspired a new genre of
monarch butterfly films. Just so, a new genre was born in the nest
of Mr. Teas greenbacks: the nudie-cutie. The old exploitation tease
was dead, replaced by the sexploitation Teas. Meyer's sexploitation
films would feature gorgeous heroines with immense and fre-
quently uncovered breasts. And Meyer could crank out these films,
sometimes two in one year: The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959 was fol-
lowed by Eve and the Handyman in 1960, Erotica and Wild Gals of
the Naked West in 1961, Europe in the Raw and Heavenly Bodies! in
1963, and Lorna and Fanny Hill in 1964.
     Meyer can be credited as the filmmaker who proved the truism
sex sells beyond any doubt. But we must also credit him for figuring
out how to pitch that sale to America in the late 1950s. As Jimmy
McDonough says in Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of
Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film, "Meyer dragged the hairy sex mon-
ster into the noon sun and turned it into a seemingly innocent car-
toon. Where Americans had shuddered, they now laughed."3
     For the next couple of decades Meyer found himself competing
against the porn industry as well as Hollywood, as mainstream
movies revved up the sex in their oerings and porn movies in-
creasingly played in the same grind houses and drive-ins that
featured Meyer's movies. He would do well in the race against Hol-
lywood, always outpacing the studios in sheer quantity of nudity
and in daring. The race against hard-core porn, however, was one he
simply refused to run.
Porn Exemplars                                                      85

    Even before The Immoral Mr. Teas, Hollywood studios had be-
gun to push the envelope of nudity and sexuality in mainstream
movies, and they pushed it harder after Teas. Posters for Baby Doll
(1956), for instance, had showed a seductively pouting girl-woman
in a tiny nightie (called a babydoll thereafter). Psycho (1960) fea-
tured a shower scene that revealed no significant nudity but was
considered risqué simply for depicting a woman in the shower.
Walk on the Wild Side (1962), set in a New Orleans bordello, came
with a warning on posters and in previews: "This is an adult pic-
ture! Parents should exercise discretion in permitting the imma-
ture to view it." In 1963, Promises! Promises! featured the Monroe
wannabe Jayne Mansfield, and included nude shots of her am-
ple bosom. The late 1960s saw Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, about
swingers, and Midnight Cowboy, which flirted with homosexuality,
showing (while not quite showing) fellatio in a movie theater.
    In 1972, the second development, the growing popularity and
accessibility of hard-core porn movies, manifested itself dramati-
cally in Deep Throat, whose graphic, hard-core sex totally eclipsed
the nudie-cutie. Even before Deep Throat, tamer porn movies,
many from Europe (such as Sweden's I Am Curious (Yellow) in
1967) still far outstripped the sexuality of Meyer's sexploitation
    Although Meyer always referred to himself as a pornographer,
he loathed hard-core porn. He was contemptuous of movies that
showed the sex act itself, especially the close-up shots of the piston-
like penis-in-and-out-of-vagina that would appear in the hit porn
movies Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door, and that in fact re-
main as obligatory fare in most porn movies today. He vowed that
he would never diminish the power of the mystery of female eroti-
cism by such cinematic dissection.
    What to do, then? How could Meyer continue to compete with
Hollywood and hard-core porn, and yet resist crossing a line he
86                                           The Porning of America

was loath to cross? His single response to Hollywood's encroach-
ing nudity and porn's unacceptable explicitness was a heavy ad-
mixture of graphic violence.
     Meyer's movies, then, became as much about violence as sex,
beginning with Lorna in 1964. Splattered blood began to mix in
equal quantities with bare breasts in a new genre sometimes called
the roughie. Some critics see Meyer's turn to violence as a weaken-
ing of his genius for voyeuristic sex, but with this new formula he
was indeed able to continue to produce moneymaking movies.
     Meyer made sixteen movies between The Immoral Mr. Teas
(1959) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), his two most well-
known films, including Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in 1966 (which
has something of a cult following) and the very successful Vixen
(1968), which may well, as some claim, hold the record as the
longest-running movie at a drive-in theater--fifty-four straight
weeks in Aurora, Illinois.
     Along with making movies one after another, Meyer also bat-
tled obscenity charges one after another, sometimes prevailing,
sometimes not. Vixen, for instance, which broached the taboo of
incest, was shut down or otherwise censored in Florida, Georgia,
Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and
     Meyer was a fighter, and thanks to the financial success of
Vixen, he was able to hire some of the best lawyers to represent
him in these contests. In many instances charges against him
were dropped or cases dismissed. The stiest and most successful
resistance came in Ohio, where a wealthy and influential busi-
nessman, Charles Keating, led an impassioned anti-pornography
crusade to ban Vixen. Keating would later become nationally fa-
mous as a corrupt banker, convicted of fraud in 1993 in the Lincoln
Savings and Loan (aka the Keating Five) scandal. The crusader
against porn had perpetrated a dierent kind of obscenity, one that
cost many company retirees their entire life's savings.
Porn Exemplars                                                     87

    Meyer's legal battles with Keating in Ohio were an important
part of the larger battle that raged throughout the 1960s regarding
First Amendment protections of free speech, especially as applied
to artists. In 1961, for instance, the ban on Henry Miller's Tropic of
Cancer was lifted. But in that same year, the comedian Lenny Bruce
was arrested for obscenity at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco,
the first of many such arrests (in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New
York) until Bruce's death by morphine overdose in 1966. Ralph
Ginzburg, publisher of Eros magazine, was convicted of obscenity
in Philadelphia in 1963; the ruling was reversed by the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1964, and the case ultimately
went before the Supreme Court, which upheld Ginzburg's convic-
tion in 1966. On the very same day that the Court announced its un-
favorable decision for Ginzburg and Eros, however, it lifted the
long-standing ban on Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, a
novel it found to have some "redeeming social value."

al goldstein
Al Goldstein not only stepped into the donnybrook of a legal tussle
Meyer found himself in (Goldstein launched the porn magazine
Screw on November 4, 1968, the day before Richard Nixon was
elected president), he sucker punched, so to speak, none other
than J. Edgar Hoover, calling him a "fag" in an early issue of the
    Goldstein was subsequently charged with obscenity nineteen
times in a two-year period, 1968­70, something he has stated he
regards as Hoover's vendetta. According to Goldstein, the FBI di-
rector's last words were, "Get Goldstein!"
    Before Al Goldstein, pornography was just plain dirty. After
Goldstein, pornography was still dirty, maybe even dirtier, but it
was no longer plain. Goldstein's Screw, and then later his cable tel-
evision show Midnight Blue beginning in 1975, opened pornogra-
phy out in new directions. In print and on television, Goldstein
88                                             The Porning of America

oered pure porn--explicit images of nudity and sex acts--but
added political and social commentary, wicked satire, intellectuality,
and a goofy Mad magazine kind of humor. Screw's porn was still
dirty, but now it was also edgy, funny, and socially relevant--in a
word, hip.
     Through this unique publication, then, which appeared at a
critical time in the shifting sexual mores in America, a rebellious Al
Goldstein became not merely another pornographer, but a leader
of the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and the 1970s. Perhaps
even more important, Goldstein became a public champion of free
speech at a time when the limits of First Amendment protections
and the related issue of defining obscenity were hotly argued in ac-
ademic and legal circles. Ultimately, these matters were litigated in
courts from the state level all the way up to the Supreme Court,
with Goldstein and Screw often at the center of it all.
     For all these reasons, Screw attained a certain antiestablish-
ment kind of respectability entirely new to pornography, especially
among the intelligentsia and celebrities. At the same time, it
turned a good profit by appealing to large numbers of readers who
bought it simply for the dirt. Screw regularly oered reviews of
pornographic books (which had never before been treated with the
seriousness that a book review automatically confers), and the re-
viewer of these "fuckbooks," Michael Perkins, was an English pro-
fessor with a Ph.D. Along with hard-core porn stars such as Seka
and John Holmes, celebrities such as Jack Nicholson (November
1972) and John Lennon (June 1969) were interviewed in Screw.
     In Al Goldstein, then, porn had, for the first time in America, a
well-known and interesting representative to help nudge it into
mainstream American culture--a sort of ambassador of smut.
Goldstein would, in print and on his cable show, make references
to Aristotle and Spinoza while talking about oral sex techniques
with Seka. He would pal around with celebrated writers like Philip
Porn Exemplars                                                    89

Roth, Gay Talese, and Jerzy Kosinski, who once accompanied
Goldstein on an excursion to the swingers haven Plato's Retreat in
New York City.
     Goldstein's trademark became the middle-finger salute, which
he memorialized in an enormous poolside sculpture that faced the
ocean at his Florida mansion. His was an in-your-face style of
pornography for which, however, he would pay a hefty price.
     For all his arrests on obscenity charges, Goldstein was gener-
ally successful from a legal standpoint, thanks to dropped charges,
hung juries, and not guilty verdicts--until December 1974. He
and his partner, Jim Buckley, were then charged by federal author-
ities with mailing obscene material (Screw magazine) into Kansas.
And for the first time they were convicted.
     The conviction, however, was reversed. The judge ruled that
the prosecutor had made inflammatory and prejudicial remarks in
his closing arguments, and declared a mistrial. A retrial began in
October 1977, and this one ended the following month with a
deadlocked jury. So again there was ultimately no conviction. But
the stress of three years of an intense legal battle took a toll on
Goldstein's health, and cost him about three-quarters of a million
dollars in fines and legal fees.
     In an unpublished article, Goldstein oers an interesting take
on his federal indictment.4 In May 1974 Goldstein was the fea-
tured interview in Playboy. Always outrageous in his eorts to
shock the bourgeoisie, he outdid himself before an audience of
millions. In his words, "My interview in Playboy was volatile, fiery,
rambunctious, provocative, and contained an insane verbal assault
on Richard Nixon, his attorney general and coterie of attack dogs."
And that puts it mildly. In fact, he commented that Nixon had his
daughters perform oral sex on each other in front of the Secret
Service. He also said that Nixon and his best friend, Charles (Bebe)
Rebozo, regularly sodomized each other. Then Goldstein took o
90                                             The Porning of America

the gloves and got nasty. As Goldstein puts it, "My attack on Nixon
was like a Ginzu-wielding sushi chef, overdosed on crystal meth,
trying to slice and dice the universe."
     The exposure he gained from the Playboy interview led to his
appearance in further high-profile venues. And more foaming-
at-the-mouth rants. On CNN's Crossfire, Goldstein asked the con-
servative commentator Pat Buchanan what images he used for
masturbation. In a debate with Jerry Falwell, Goldstein wanted to
know what color panties God wore. Meanwhile, the publicity rock-
eted Screw sales to 175,000 a week. "My newspaper was filled with
hooker ads and in this new millennium God smiled on the world
of fucking and sucking." And so, Goldstein concludes, "This is the
world Nixon wanted to punish me for helping to create."
     Through high-profile trials like those in Wichita, Goldstein's
public identity had gradually assumed its most important form:
he became a kind of sexual outlaw, in his words, "taking on the
world." The posture linked him to two of his personal heroes, the
brilliant and controversial comedian Lenny Bruce, who was also
frequently arrested for obscenity, and the expatriate writer Henry
Miller, whose "obscene" books Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capri-
corn were banned from importation into America for decades.
     Bruce, like Goldstein himself a bit later, was often arrested for
his defiant--sometimes tauntingly defiant--flaunting of social
and legal strictures. Perhaps Bruce's most famous arrest was after
his 1961 performance at the Jazz Workshop, where he performed a
now famous comedic ri on the term to come.
     Though he saw Bruce perform live, Goldstein never met him
personally. In 1970 he did, however, undertake a cross-country trip
to the Los Angeles home of Henry Miller, a journey--more a
pilgrimage--that he made, as he later put it, "awash in hero wor-
ship." Goldstein's adulation of Miller sheds much light on Gold-
stein himself, and on the roles he played as America's crusading
Porn Exemplars                                                     91

     Miller's authorial voice is Goldstein's as well, and can be de-
scribed as angry working class--the voice of a common man, a
working sti who is disgusted by the deadening conditions of me-
nial employment, and by a conventional, hypocrisy-ridden morality.
In the early 1920s Miller worked for the Western Union Telegraph
Company, which he renamed in his writing the Cosmodemonic
Telegraph Company. Goldstein, too, despised his work for newspa-
pers, which he began while still a student at Pace University,
moonlighting as a photographer, gofer, and driver of the radio car
for the New York newspaper the Daily Mirror.
     Like Miller, whose father was a tailor, Goldstein resented not
only his own deadening employment, but also that of his father,
who worked as a photographer "eighty hours a week, running with
the news hacks chasing down headlines." He was a man who, as
Goldstein says in his 2006 autobiography I, Goldstein: My Screwed
Life, "never had a close friend, never went to a movie, never read a
book, never had an original thought."5 For both men, the example
of the father became something to resist, to rebel against.
     One manifestation of this struggle was that Goldstein, like
Miller, developed an insatiable appetite. Tropic of Cancer and Tropic
of Capricorn, Miller's most famous books, are almost as much
about eating and drinking as about sex. Goldstein, five foot eight, at
one point in his life, before undergoing gastric bypass surgery, bal-
looned up to 350 pounds.
     For both men, though, literal hunger also became abstract,
metaphorical: Goldstein hungered for the perfect pastrami sand-
wich, certainly, but, more generally and more importantly, he hun-
gered for fully alive, vital experience. Like Miller, he hungered for
pleasurable sensation, for the joys of sensuality, for the excitement
of shocking the bourgeoisie--for a life that refused to gnaw on the
dry bones of meaningless work and hypocritical convention. In
short, Goldstein, like Miller, hungered for a life unlike the wasted
life of his own father, unlike the wasted lives of the masses of
92                                             The Porning of America

"walking corpses," in Miller's term, one sees everywhere. It was an
insatiable hunger for a life worth living.
    That hunger might have led Goldstein in many possible direc-
tions. And in later years, dead broke, homeless, shunned by his
only child, maybe Goldstein himself wondered about alternative
paths. As he observed in 2007, now seventy-one years old: "All the
battles I had, all my arrests, all my struggles to legalize pornography
have produced a product I am ashamed of. The pornography of to-
day is horrendously ugly, desensitizing--I would call it almost a . . .
fleshy catastrophe."6
    But in fact hunger led both men into lives of unbridled, unin-
hibited sexuality. And that untethered sexuality, in turn, further
led them to their vocations: one as a controversial chronicler
of his own sexual exploits, the other as a rebellious, free-speech-
crusading pornographer.7
    One wonders how many Americans, like Goldstein himself,
find in porn (and in strip clubs, porn chat rooms, swingers clubs) a
release from hated jobs and a resented conventionality. One sub-
theme of Deep Throat, after all, is that bourgeois life is boring--
and is relieved only by the edgy, promiscuous sex of hard-core

In Madonna we have the single most evocative--and provoca-
tive--figure in the porning of America. From the beginning of her
career, a time when the entertainment industry busily promoted
images of masculinity such as Rocky, the Terminator, and Gordon
Gecko, she spoke openly about her close friendships with homo-
sexuals. Even more bravely, Madonna was one of the earliest--and
certainly the most famous--of stars to speak publicly against the
sexually repressive attitudes that slowed the nation's response to
the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. On the other hand, Madonna also
Porn Exemplars                                                   93

made it her explicit purpose to bring the images and themes of
pornography into the mainstream. And in these eorts, as in all
others she has undertaken, she was stunningly successful.
    Born Madonna Ciccone, she began her almost unbroken
string of successes early. Earning straight As in school and a dance
scholarship to the University of Michigan, she headed after gradu-
ation for the mecca of aspiring performers, New York City.
Whereas most such aspirants do little more than wait tables,
Madonna soon earned a coveted place with the Alvin Ailey Ameri-
can Dance Theater troupe. She also began recording dance sin-
gles, and her first successes gained particular popularity with gay
audiences, signaling the creation of a career-long fan base that
would lead to her being hailed as the biggest gay icon of all time.
    As is true of most successful vocalists, Madonna was talented,
hardworking, and lucky. Her greatest talent, however, has never
been her singing voice. Instead, as would become clear in the gath-
ering momentum of her career, her greatest gift is her ability to
construct the persona of Madonna as a multimedia phenomenon.
By the time of her second album, Like a Virgin, Madonna's cultural
presence reached far beyond the limits of her voice. There was also
the sexy, outrageous Madonna of MTV videos, wearing, for in-
stance, nothing but strategically placed leather straps, grabbing
her crotch, and even simulating masturbation. And Madonna the
actress, starring in major (if generally unsuccessful) Hollywood
films. And, most especially, in the endless interviews an insatiable
media demanded of her, the Madonna of the powerful public
voice, guaranteed to raise eyebrows and cause a stir.
    Indeed, the single theme running through all of these mani-
festations of Madonna is power. Appearing in 1984 on American
Bandstand, Madonna said, in response to Dick Clark's question
about her plans, "I want to rule the world." It was an odd comment
from a woman who had just sung "Holiday"--the bubblegum pop
94                                             The Porning of America

encomium to the idea of fun. To Madonna the comment was, how-
ever, more prediction than joke, and she would soon prove to be
nothing less than the most famous woman in the world.
    Like a Virgin foreshadowed what would become her career for-
mula: begin by tapping in to a previously ignored audience, add
sexual provocation, and find colossal success. Wearing lacy lin-
gerie in the title song's video and in performances, with a large belt
buckle proclaiming BOY TOY, she made herself the scourge of par-
ents and the idol to millions of adolescent girls, many of whom
became "Madonna wannabes." Her live performance of "Like a
Virgin" at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards startled even that
worldly audience as she sang prostrate on the stage, writhing in or-
gasmic pleasure. Madonna was a savvy manipulator of image, her
fans would soon come to realize, and such components as the label
boy toy needed to be understood ironically. Boy toy was what she
wanted, not what she was.
    The Madonna story, as she herself often tells it, attributes her
Herculean work habits and mania for control to her mother's
death when she was five, and the eventual remarriage of her father,
a conservative Catholic. These disappointments gave her a fascina-
tion with and a desire for power--to control in adulthood what she
could not as a child.
    Madonna's captaining of her own career and her pro-sex
stance has made her an important figure in what is commonly
called the postfeminist movement. In 1990 the scholar and public
intellectual Camille Paglia wrote, "Madonna is the true feminist.
She exposes the puritanism and suocating ideology of American
feminism, which is stuck in an adolescent whining mode. Ma-
donna has taught young women to be fully female and sexual
while exercising control over their lives."8
    Indeed, the two characterizing traits of Madonna are sex and
control. What may be limiting, and troubling, about Madonna's
larger vision of the world--of culture, politics, and personal rela-
Porn Exemplars                                                       95

tionships--is that her career has always conflated sex and control,
as if neither were conceivable without the other. From her earliest
videos, sex was the field upon which the battle for power was
played out.
     Sparking one of her early controversies, Madonna played a
peep-show performer in the video for "Open Your Heart." Wearing
lingerie that can best be described as dominatrix lite, Madonna re-
creates within a strip club the watcher/watched relationship she
was developing with American culture itself. Yes, she seemed to be
saying, you can view my performance, you can even thrill to my
body, but in doing so you give me control over you.
     The sexual gaze is explicit throughout the video, the gaze of
the peep-show audience and her own in return, but she takes com-
plete control of it. The audience, after all (the peep-show audience
within the video and, by extension, the actual audience viewing the
video) must pay to keep open the panels through which they gaze.
She may, then, in a sense give them sex, but without surrendering
one iota of control. The power in this exhibitionist/voyeur relation-
ship of exchanged sexual gazes, in other words, is completely un-
shared. It is Madonna's alone.
     The peep-show audience in the video includes two gay sailors
and a woman dressed in a man's suit. From this point on, Ma-
donna's productions would regularly promote a cross-gendered
sexuality, a "political" message that she continues to see as her
fight against a repressive culture. "I'm constantly trying to chal-
lenge the accepted ways of behaving sexually," she has said. She is
waging, in other words, another battle of control on the field of sex.
     Is there, we want to ask, any sexuality at all that doesn't require
someone to dominate? Madonna has always been very open about
her own desire to dominate. Her interviews are regularly peppered
with declarations about the size of her balls, especially in relation to
the men around her. She regularly calls men (Warren Beatty and
Kevin Costner, for instance) "pussies." She has said she finds
96                                             The Porning of America

eeminate gay men intriguing because she sees them as alter egos
to her own mannish or butch identity. She regularly characterizes
her dancers and performers as children: "They're naughty chil-
dren. They're needy children. They're gifted children. I love them all
to death," she said on her 2006 Confessions Tour DVD. She herself,
then, is their firm but doting mother--though she often better re-
sembles the stern father she frequently includes in her produc-
tions as an avatar of control and repression.
     In her controversial and successful--if critically hooted--1992
coee-table book SEX, she wrote, "I wouldn't want a penis. . . . I
think I have a dick in my brain. I don't need to have one between my
legs."9 For all her gender unorthodoxy, she accepts the traditional
view that all relationships inherently have a dominant partner and
a submissive one, and that the dominant power remains distinctly
masculine, a "dick in the brain" if not between the legs. This dick in
the brain of a gorgeous female body may explain her fascination
with cross-gendered identities.
     In the early 1990s Madonna would focus almost solely on the
issues of power and sex, in multiple ways: the Blond Ambition
tour, the documentary Truth or Dare, the release of SEX, the video
for "Justify My Love," and her sixth original album, Erotica. SEX is
at the center of this flurry of activity.
     SEX functions as a primer on nontraditional sex acts, includ-
ing bestiality, sadism and masochism, bondage, and a host of oth-
ers. While some of the images are almost quaint, such as longing
looks from same-sex partners, many are startling, such as a topless
woman threatening a bound Madonna with a switchblade held to
her crotch. All the images, however, have such a theatrical feel, like
a girl playing X-rated dress up, that no real threat is conveyed, even
in the mild and almost playful S&M pictures. The book is interest-
ing mainly for the way, as in almost all of Madonna's work, it por-
trays sex in terms of dominance and power.
     Critical backlash was one principal response to her book and
Porn Exemplars                                                    97

her other productions of the early 1990s, and it triggered a heated
reaction from Madonna. In her next album, Bedtime Stories, she ex-
presses apparent surprise that her work, so clearly calculated to
provoke, had actually done so. One track, "Human Nature," opens
with the demand that we express ourselves, and not repress our-
selves, and goes on to argue that because sex is human nature she
has no apology for anyone she might have oended.10
     But in this put-down of sexual repression and suppression of
free speech, and in other ways as well, Madonna represents much
that is positive in the porning of America. She is emphatically and
unapologetically pro-sex. She has spoken and acted against injus-
tice, beginning in the 1980s with her criticism of the nation's slow
response to the AIDS epidemic. She has been a powerful force in
America's hesitant but steady welcoming of gays and lesbians into
mainstream culture. And she has been arguably the most influen-
tial figure of the last three decades urging women to take control of
their own sexual and professional lives.
     Yet she has also been a part of the general sexualization of
American culture, and of young women in particular. In a 2007
New York Times article about the proliferation of campus-based
porn magazines, Alecia Oleyourryk, the founding editor of Boston
University's Boink, cited a girlhood influenced by Madonna: "All
she was was naked all the time." It's the porning of America
in miniature, a generation of young women who, like Madonna,
take charge of their own lives, but increasingly view themselves
through a prism of sex. Worse, Madonna has created a template
too easily adopted and poorly executed by her pop music progeny.
When Britney Spears dressed up like a porn movie schoolgirl and
sang "Hit me baby one more time," she reversed Madonna's power
relationships and established herself permanently--and, later, dis-
turbingly--as the object of power rather than the holder.
     As American culture has grown increasingly porned, and in-
creasingly drawn to domination as a way to think about sex,
98                                            The Porning of America

Madonna has literally and figuratively moved away, relocating to
the English countryside with her husband, Guy Ritchie, a movie
director. When she began a new international tour in 2006, the
Confessions Tour, the accompanying, almost obligatory "Madonna
controversy" had nothing to do with sex at all, but rather dealt with
her placing herself on a cross to relay a message about violence
     Going completely unremarked upon, however, was the open-
ing of the show. Madonna, drawing on her growing interest in all
things equestrian, appears as the master of the hunt, with several
of her dancers in the roles of horses, wearing the horse-derived
fetish gear of leathers and bits. (The porn industry calls the fetish
"pony play.") Much reining, riding, spurring, and whipping follow.
A production number so heavily laden with bondage and domina-
tion imagery, relying for its thrills on the suggestion of sado-
masochism, would certainly have made headlines during the
Erotica era. But in 2006, nary a raised eyebrow.
     Of her intention in SEX, Madonna told Vanity Fair in October
1992, "I'm out to open their minds and get them to see sexuality in
another way. Their own and others." The simple fact that Madonna
no longer shocks us sexually is proof of how thoroughly she has

snoop dogg
The rapper Snoop Dogg (born Calvin Broadus) asserts that he is
America. This sweeping claim does two things at once: it positions
him as the new normal and suggests that his values are America's
as well. Once we understand that, we'll be all right, he assures us.
If that assurance sounds as much threat as stoner humor, the as-
sertion may well be correct either way.
     Snoop Dogg often speaks of himself in the third person--as a
creation, an act, or a brand. As his career as a rapper has waned--
his records still do quite well, but more as party music than as the
Porn Exemplars                                                    99

"voice of the streets"--his cultural presence has actually increased,
moving him away from his original fan base of mostly young black
men to an ever wider and whiter audience, an expansion that has
earned him the uno~cial title of King of All Media. Starting in
2001, his media kingdom began to include porn.
     Much has been made of Snoop's background. His impover-
ished youth in Long Beach, California, his slide into gang life
with the notorious Crips, his time as a drug dealer (for which he
was jailed), and his arrest and trial for murder--all of these are
still leveraged in the maintenance of his gangsta image. In his
1999 autobiography, Tha Doggfather, Snoop is quick to explain that
his time as a gang member was less about violence than it was
about money. "We liked money and we liked what we could get
with money and we weren't too especially particular where we got
the money to get what we wanted. We were straight up capital-
ists."11 He credits his drug dealing with training him for his career
in rap, as well as for his entry into every highly competitive market
from cell phones to barbecue grills to pornography.
     His entry into pornography (as a producer and narrator, not as
a performer) brought together his two loves, money and the pimp
lifestyle. When Snoop discusses pimpin', he uses the term in sev-
eral overlapping ways. One is to refer to the clothing and style
made famous by the character Huggy Bear on the 1970s televi-
sion show Starsky and Hutch, a role Snoop filled in the comedic
2004 Hollywood film reprisal. Another meaning of pimpin' is the
achievement of absolute authority over a group of women who are
eager to fulfill the pimp's every whim and wish, especially in a pub-
lic display. Snoop established himself as the most famous pimp in
the world when, at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, he arrived
leading two scantily clad women in dog collars. In 2006, Snoop
told Rolling Stone that some years earlier, at a high school Hal-
loween costume party, he and a friend had won first place by dress-
ing as pimps. The next year, a girl volunteered to portray their
100                                           The Porning of America

prostitute. "So we put the bitch on a leash and walks the stage. We
pimpin,' she's the ho, and we won back to back."
     Around the time of his stunt at the MTV awards, Snoop took
up actual pimping as a hobby, fulfilling what he called a childhood
dream. Snoop Dogg managed prostitutes for two years, until, in
late 2004, he realized it was a barrier to reconciling with his wife,
against whom he had started divorce proceedings.
     Another barrier to reconciliation was Snoop's short but im-
mensely influential career as a porn impresario. Working with
Hustler Video, Snoop wrote, narrated, and composed the music
for Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle, widely hailed as something new in
porn: the hard-core hip-hop music video. Doggystyle was im-
mensely popular, winning two Adult Video News awards, for best
music and best-selling release of the year. Shot in Snoop's Califor-
nia home, it was the first hard-core video to appear on Billboard's
Music Video chart.
     The movie fulfills the promise many music videos make but
never deliver on. A clever mixture of the conventions of hip-hop
videos and hard-core pornography, the video established hard-core
hip-hop as a new genre recognizable to both worlds.
     The hypersexuality of hip-hop videos has long been controver-
sial, within the African American community and beyond. While
most music videos would hardly be described as sexually cautious,
hip-hop videos have generally moved sexuality to the foreground
in more literal and less stylized ways, often by filling the screen
with women shot from behind, thonged and bent over, their rears
bouncing to the rhythm. Further, in keeping with his valorization of
the pimp image, Snoop's videos regularly portray servile women,
"hos," as proof of masculine power and virility.
     Yet Snoop Dogg's videos marked a milestone of sorts in black
equality. While the pornography industry has long produced
videos targeted for black audiences, these have seldom been major
productions or enjoyed big sales, as was the case with Doggystyle.
Porn Exemplars                                                    101

Because of its financial and cultural success, Doggystyle created a
small renaissance in hip-hop pornography, with figures like Mys-
tikal, Ice-T, Digital Underground, and others getting involved in
the industry--though, so far, none as performers. (R. Kelly's sex
tape is an infamous and inadvertent exception.)
    In 2002 Snoop Dogg himself followed up on the success of
Doggystyle by producing Snoop Dogg's Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp, and
appearing in Girls Gone Wild: Doggy Style. Snoop's Girls Gone Wild
(GGW) entry became the center of controversy when the two
young women pictured raising their shirts on the cover of the DVD
sued Snoop and the company. The women, one of whom was
seventeen at the time the video was produced, alleged that Snoop
oered them the drugs ecstasy and marijuana in return for show-
ing their breasts. After settling his part of the lawsuit, Snoop ended
his relationship with GGW, complaining about the lack of black
women in the videos.
    Indeed, the role of blacks in pornography can be seen as a mi-
crocosm of American race relations. The depiction of blacks as
animals has traditionally been a familiar theme in porn. When a
white female porn star has sex with a black male star, her pre-
sumed degradation in the act is often one source of the "pleasure"
derived from the scene. Historically, one way to dierentiate major
porn stars from the lesser lights is whether or not they have had to
perform in interracial scenes in order to maintain their place in the
industry. (Jenna Jameson, famously, has never performed with a
black actor.)12
    Doggystyle and Snoop Dogg's Hustlaz, on the other hand, are
brazenly positive about blackness in general and about black male
sexuality as a distinct and powerful cultural trait. For this reason,
coupled with their high production values and enormous sales,
they mark a breakthrough in pornography. It must be noted
though that they do not similarly empower women. In Snoop
Dogg's videos women are if anything even more objectified,
102                                             The Porning of America

treated simply as bodies that serve men's pleasure, than in the typ-
ical hip-hop video.
     In the years after his porn heyday, Snoop's corporate popularity
has soared. He even starred in a GM commercial with Lee Iacocca,
as sure a stamp of cultural approval as any rapper is likely to receive.
Richie Abbott, his publicist, has said, "Nowadays, Snoop is for the
kids." This, of course, is precisely the worry, since Snoop's fascina-
tion with porn remains a significant part of his persona. During a
2005 performance in Sweden, for instance, Snoop projected on a
screen explicit girl-on-girl pornography during his rap set.
     Rolling Stone captured the contradictions within the fascina-
tion with Snoop in a December 2006 cover story titled "America's
Most Lovable Pimp." The cover showed him smoking a large pep-
permint stick--bringing to mind his drug of choice--and wearing
a Santa hat. In that same year, however, the lovable pimp, the kid-
die Santa, was arrested three times on drug and weapons charges.
Music critics have speculated that these arrests were actually man-
aged, created to maintain his street credibility, which remains a
crucial part of his popular appeal. He's a gangsta and a sexist, yes,
but our sexist gangsta.
     If our fascination with Snoop is filled with contradiction, he
himself is a walking contradiction. Snoop lived a life of sex, drugs,
and violence as a youth. He has periodically revisited that life as an
adult, and also renounced it. He is a peacemaker, having created a
program to keep kids out of gangs. At the same time, however, he
maintains his membership in the Crips. He was an important part
of the tenuous 2005 ceasefire between the Crips and the Bloods,
yet he continues to release songs that glorify criminal activity and
     The contradictions continue in regard to his treatment of
women. He credits strong women with saving his life, yet his
songs and his actions are misogynistic by any measure. In "Can
You Control Yo Hoe," he sings that you have to put a bitch in her
Porn Exemplars                                                       103

place, even if you need to slap her face. He uses the traditional ex-
planation for the violence of his lyrics: Snoop told the Courier-Mail
in 2006, "When I call a woman a bitch, it's an act. I'm acting out
my scene. I'm expressing my true art. If you don't respect it for
what it is, then please don't listen to it, don't criticize it." It is an
eective defense, reminding his critics of the fallacy of equating
art with reality. (Nobody believes that Johnny Cash ever shot a man
in Reno, let alone simply for the enjoyment of watching him die.)
But Snoop admits to having actually "strong-armed hos" during
his career as a pimp. If the Snoop Dogg persona is a creation, it
seems to have taken over its host.
    Nevertheless, Snoop's star continues to rise. He has taken on
porn as a lifestyle, and, with the help of corporate America, he has
made it cute. The violence, misogyny, and homophobia of Snoop
and other rap stars may at one time have been an understand-
able--though not defensible--reaction designed to reclaim black
manhood in a culture that has systematically undercut it. This im-
age of the rapper, however, has been co-opted and commodified,
packaged for an increasingly white audience taking a vicarious
pleasure in aggressive black manhood, a process that harkens back
to blackface minstrelsy.
    With Snoop, however, the meeting of gangsta rap and com-
merce have a special significance. In commodifying Snoop's vision
of the fully porned lifestyle, corporate America has taken on the
role that pimp Snoop has abandoned (as a career if not as an image).
While Snoop bragged that he once had hos "on every exit from the
10 freeway to the 101 freeway," as the King of All Media he can
bring the porn lifestyle to everyone.

jenna jameson
Earning the title World's Most Famous Porn Star is a bit like being
named a McDonald's employee of the month fifteen times in a
row: a lot of work to get there, but a dubious honor nonetheless.
104                                           The Porning of America

     The title, which adorns the covers of several of her self-
produced videos, may actually be far too humble a description for
Jenna Jameson, who, according to New York magazine, has
reached the status of a cultural icon. Only trauma has brought
iconic status to porn performers in the past, such as Linda Bore-
man (aka Linda Lovelace) and John Holmes, who participated in
the short-lived porn chic era of the 1970s, only to have their lives
publicly spiral into despair and violence. In contrast, career man-
agement and steadily increasing success may well be the central
themes of the Jameson biography. Jameson videos often sell
twenty times the average porn video, her ClubJenna website profits
about $15 million a year, and she has achieved an unparalleled
mainstream presence. It's hard to argue with the claim that Jenna
Jameson is in fact the most famous and successful porn star ever.
     With the 2004 release of her postmodern memoir, How to
Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, Jameson publicized
a life story that seems to take direct aim at a host of conceptions
about her and her industry. Yes, she suered a tough childhood,
early sexual abuse, and an underage entry into sex work. No, she
doesn't believe it led to her making a career of pornography. Yes,
porn can be humiliating and degrading. But it can also be empow-
ering. Yes, she's proud of the title Porn Star. No, she doesn't want
her children to have a mom who is one. She has also said that she
would lock her daughter in a closet if she wanted to go into pornog-
raphy. These tensions characterize not only her memoir but much
of her career as well.
     Jameson made her first film appearance in the eleventh edition
of the Up and Cummers series, dedicated to new industry talent,
but she graduated quickly to starring roles and just as quickly began
to turn her burgeoning popularity into greater control of her career
and image, a rare thing in the industry. A perfect example of the
cult-of-personality marketplace that characterizes American cul-
ture of the past few decades, Jameson has turned herself into a
Porn Exemplars                                                    105

highly diversified corporation within the sex industry. She has ap-
peared in video games (including one in which winning means
bringing "Jenna" to orgasm), in cameos in mainstream movies like
Private Parts, in a recurring role on a 2003 NBC series, Mr. Sterling,
and as an interviewer for the E! cable channel and for the ECW
professional wrestling series. In 2000 Jameson created Club-
Jenna, profitable in its third week, that at first produced only her
own videos. It has, however, expanded and now hires its own con-
tract girls, a few of whom earned their contracts by winning Jame-
son's reality show on Playboy TV, Jenna's American Sex Star. In the
tradition of big Internet successes, in 2006 Jameson sold Club-
Jenna to Playboy Enterprises for an undisclosed (but undoubtedly
very large) sum. She continues, however, to run the company for
     If it weren't for the fact that Jameson's empire is built on
pornography, she would be universally embraced as a great Amer-
ican success story, a powerful woman living a twenty-first-century
American dream.
     It's another example of the push-me-pull-you tensions within
pornography, and also between porn and mainstream American
culture. In this as well, Jameson provides a complex and revealing
illustration. After entering porn, her fast-rising popularity gave her
a power over her career that she put to firm and uncommon use.
Most female porn performers find themselves inexorably drawn
along the traditional career arc for a porn star--which moves
roughly from girl/girl scenes, to girl/boy, to anal sex, to "double
penetration," to interracial, and, finally, to the dark zones. Jame-
son, however, stopped her progress in the arc at girl/boy interac-
tions, and while online forums are full of complaints about her
lack of adventurousness, Jameson's popularity has grown without
     Indeed, at the same time that Jameson has reveled in her
Queen of Porn status, she has performed not in more films, like
106                                            The Porning of America

most porn successes, but rather in fewer and fewer. Her rise to
porn superstardom developed at about the same time that she met
and married Jay Grdina, and she responded to marriage by elimi-
nating girl/boy scenes until she could convince her husband, a
successful porn film director, to perform with her. In 2006, after
the breakup of her marriage with Grdina and the sale of Club-
Jenna, Jameson began dating Tito Ortiz, a mixed martial artist who
competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship series, and with
this union she committed to ending her career as a performer alto-
    While still a performer, the evidence of Jenna's "empower-
ment," of her special status at the top of the porn star hierarchy,
could be seen in her refusal to participate in the acts for which
porn is known. Jameson avoided anal sex, double penetration
(vaginal and anal), and interracial scenes. In most porn these are
standard fare, and the women simply must comply, upping their
hard-core ante, in order to maintain their place in the porn hierar-
chy. Pornography's audience eagerly await "Her First Anal!" for
their favorite stars, and accepting the inexorable movement to
harder-core performances is generally requisite for industry suc-
cess. Jameson's refusal--confident that she would star neverthe-
less--constituted an assertion of superiority over what second-tier
stars have to do. It is also, counterintuitively, an assertion of inde-
pendence from her audience's expectations and desires. Porn, yes,
but on her terms.
    That interracial scenes are near the bottom of the list of unde-
sirable porn acts for performers but are immensely popular with
consumers of mainstream (white) heterosexual porn suggests an
implicit desire in the viewers to see porn stars lower themselves--
regarding sex with a black man as degradation, and thereby com-
bining racism with misogyny. It is possible that Jameson's decision
to avoid interracial scenes has more to do with staying at the upper
Porn Exemplars                                                     107

end of the porn marketplace than with racism per se, but it is, nev-
ertheless, a reiteration of gender and racial hierarchies.
     In 2006 Jameson moved behind the camera with her directo-
rial debut, The Provocateur. Produced on film, a mark of quality in
the porn world, it is a high-production-value fantasy featuring wall-
to-wall sex. In a special DVD segment describing the making of
The Provocateur, Jameson described the film as "couture porn,"
and, of her visual style, she explained, "I don't want it to be porn. I
want it to be something you would see on a Marc Jacobs runway."
It's a telling comment that demonstrates her desire to dierentiate
herself from the vast majority of what sits on the racks in the video
stores next to her own productions. This desire to, in a sense, de-
porn pornography, to make it more broadly acceptable, is apparent
in most high-end porn films.
     Porn's actors and directors regularly discuss how closely their
productions meet Hollywood standards. For example, a huge adult
film success in 2005, Pirates (unconnected to Jameson), had over
a $1 million budget and was also released in an edited, R-rated
version, made available in rental stores like Blockbuster--a move
openly intended to widen porn's audience, especially among
women. High-end pornography operates almost as a separate in-
dustry within the larger industry, and Jenna Jameson is its avatar.
     As well, in The Provocateur and in most of the products in
Jameson's niche in the porn world, the films are committed to the
idea that the women characters are enjoying themselves in a fully
consensual and mutual way. Facial expressions of pain are nearly
nonexistent, and pleasure is tied to mutual cooperation with a part-
ner. While The Provocateur remains pornography--decidedly hard-
core--intended primarily for men, most of it is clearly intended as
well to be tolerable to and even enjoyable for women. In general,
Jameson's films tend to be sex positive, and they generally explicitly
support women's personal and sexual agency. In the plots of such
108                                              The Porning of America

films (the large majority), women usually play either powerful
characters or characters who gain power over both their profes-
sional and sexual lives. Seldom does the act of sex leave a female
character in the thrall of her male partner; indeed, the reverse is
much more often true.
    These films are not merely pro-sex. The most common theme
is of female self-empowerment--an odd by-product of the neces-
sary focus on women in porn for straight men. Yet the narrative
conjoins all modes of empowerment with sex. The main character
begins as unsure, unsuccessful, and unsexed, and each vector is
reversed by the film's end. This seems to assert a positive message
about women's innate strengths, but the implication is that for a
woman to be fully empowered she must also become not just sex-
ually active but sexually voracious, participating in sex constantly, in-
tensely, and, often, with multiple partners. In this sense, it replaces
one confining standard for women--of the "good little wife"--with
another, the multiple-orgasming uberwoman.
    Jameson's films figure importantly in the crucial argument
over whether pornography is inherently misogynistic. In her film
roles and in her personal and professional lives as well, Jenna
Jameson presents herself as the very model of the self-possessed
successful woman. If she and those following in her footsteps are
able to make this point convincingly, the American culture may
well resolve the question of porn as misogyny in the negative. But
maybe even more importantly, the line between adult and main-
stream films will also become even thinner than it is now, perhaps
to the point of vanishing altogether.

paris hilton
The oft-heard characterization of Paris Hilton is that she is famous
for being famous. But that is not completely right. In fact, she be-
came famous as the beautiful young heiress everyone got to see
down on all fours having sex on an Internet video. Before that
Porn Exemplars                                                       109

event, Paris Hilton was only a moderately successful occasional
model, and a bit actress in forgettable films. But in a culture mim-
icking porn in innumerable ways--decked out in slutwear, speak-
ing what Tom Wolfe has called "fuck patois," hooking up--Paris
gained fame for going whole hog in her own porn imitation. In
May 2001, on computer screens everywhere, she appeared naked
with her boyfriend Rick Salomon in four minutes of heaving flesh
and pumping buttocks. Just like a porn star.
     And yet, she was not a porn star! She became famous, then, as
the un-porn porn star, the outsider who was not part of the indus-
try per se, but rather was usually part of porn's audience--a mem-
ber of that audience in eect speaking back to the world of porn
and saying, "Here, look at me! I'm every bit as good at making
porn as you!" Her video got millions of Internet hits, and a longer,
twenty-seven-minute version, marketed by an adult film distribu-
tor, sold very well. She was not the only member of the porn audi-
ence, then, who thought she had succeeded.
     But not only was she in fact not a porn star, she was about as far
from the typical kind of female found in porn as could be imag-
ined. The back-alley elements of personal misery and deprivation
are lacking. It's clear that she likes to party, but she is not perceived
as an alcoholic or drug addict. Her childhood, according to some
accounts, may have been short on parental attention and aection,
but it's by no means a story of abandonment and abuse. Far from
poor, she is indeed the heiress to an enormous and well-known
     Who is Paris Hilton, then? And why does she act like a porn
star, both on and o camera? (In the fall of 2006, for instance, she
was "caught," along with pal Britney Spears, partying in clubs
pantyless. Even in our seen-it-all, jaded society, the resultant bare-
crotch photos shocked many.) The critiques of Paris Hilton's per-
sonality are well known, and we needn't belabor the issue. Even
her self-portrait in the 2004 book Confessions of an Heiress: A
110                                              The Porning of America

Tongue-in-Chic Peek Behind the Pose presents little more than a su-
perficial, self-absorbed, vapid young woman. In a South Park send-
up of Hilton, her lap dogs finally can no longer bear her ennui,
arrogance, and utter emptiness. The poor pooches commit sui-
cide, shooting themselves with her driver's revolver.
     We are interested, however, not in the strictly personal, but
rather in what Paris Hilton represents in our porned culture, and
with who she is in that iconic sense. Along those lines, it well may
be the case that Paris Hilton has all the vices of the contemporary
porn star she imitates--superficiality, narcissism, materialism--
and none of the virtues. For instance, Jenna Jameson is, like some
others in the contemporary porn industry, clearly a working girl.
Whatever we may think of her career choice, she nevertheless
brings to it intelligence, independence, and hard work. Although
Hilton has earned millions via soft-core commercial ads and paid
appearances at all sorts of public and private events (where she is of-
ten required only to wave at the photographers), our heiress is not
in it for the money.
     She is in it, apparently, for the attention. Culturally speaking, it
is a perfect match: exhibitionist meets voyeur. And this match can
be said to play itself out in a little porn drama that is so familiar as
to be in fact a cliché. We'll call it, "The Gardener's Aair with the
Rich Man's Daughter."
     In this overused plot, the voyeuristic gardener becomes a
stand-in for the viewer. At first, we see the daughter only from
a distance: beautiful, provocatively dressed. The gardener gets his
first close look at the daughter when he happens upon her having
sex with her boyfriend. He can't leave without alerting the pair to his
presence, so he must, like the porn audience itself, quietly watch--
a trapped situation that confers a kind of innocence upon voyeur-
ism, his own and that of the audience. Near the end of the sex
scene with her boyfriend, the daughter notices the gardener, but in
Porn Exemplars                                                    111

a combination of kinky thrill and utter condescension, she finishes
with her boyfriend anyway.
     Of course, even if you haven't seen this plot in action, you
know where the narrative must inevitably lead. The daughter
watches the strapping gardener at his chores and eventually goes
to him in his shed, where he sleeps.
     From this point the storyline may take one of a few possible di-
rections. The daughter and the gardener may run away together.
Or, in another common version, the daughter may, after a short
and intense aair, abandon the gardener and go back to her rich
boyfriend (and snobbery). Or the gardener may turn the tables on
the rich daughter (who always sneered at him anyway, even when
they were locked in carnal embrace), by reversing the condescen-
sion, scorning her decadent luxury, and haughtily abandoning
her--which is indeed what happens in our version of the porn
drama involving Paris as the rich man's daughter and the gardener
as, essentially, the American public.
     Though Hilton, the daughter of real estate tycoon Richard
Hilton, was known by readers of fashion magazines for a few years
before she became famous, most Americans saw her for the first
time on the Internet, in the "doggie position" with her boyfriend.
Like the lower-class gardener, we were all at that moment given
almost unwilling access to the sexual lifestyles of the rich and
famous. And from that moment on, we have been engaged in a
highly sexualized and volatile "aair" with her.
     What makes our fascination with Hilton so odd is that, except
for a small number of readers of men's magazines, like Maxim, the
American public doesn't like her at all. This is unusual. Generally,
we like our sex symbols, even the ones we ghoulishly watch self-
destruct, like Marilyn Monroe, or, recently, Anna Nicole Smith.
     Indeed, our fascination with Paris Hilton is almost completely
negative, and she has become a cultural touchstone signifying ig-
112                                            The Porning of America

norance, vacuity, and fame without merit. We take pleasure in her
troubles and public humiliations, even the smallest of which feeds
our schadenfreude (such as her being pelted with cigarettes and
lipstick tubes by members of a crowd in a mall in Austria in Feb-
ruary 2007). She sneers at us with her glossy, plastic, celebrity
face, and we sneer back with our blank, John Q. Public faces.
     And yet, despite the mutual animus, she continues to perform
for us, begging for our attention. And we continue to oer it up,
raptly. This porn movie we are engaged in with Paris Hilton, then,
is a degrading one in which our pleasure and hers are based on
disliking and dehumanizing each other.
     Contrast this perversity with the--at least relative--sanity and
spirit of the 2005 remake, The New Devil in Miss Jones, starring
Jenna Jameson. The setting in the remake is the business world,
and the movie suggests that the damnation of Justine, the main
character, is a result of her unwillingness to take charge of her life
personally, professionally, and sexually. The message is a bit of a
stunner for a porn movie. The implicit linkage of the three areas, af-
ter all, makes for a reasonable thumbnail description of feminism.
     This porned vision for women's complete self-possession is,
however, the single most common theme in high-end pornogra-
phy. That the movie dominated the film category of the 2006 Adult
Video News Awards makes for a compelling argument that at
least one part of the industry is engaged in a purposeful eort
to move porn toward a contemporary, woman-friendly ideology,
which would enhance its full acceptance into the mainstream film
     This comparison is not intended to convey an endorsement
of the Jenna Jameson brand of pornography, or of any brand of
pornography, for that matter. Rather, we are arguing that if the cul-
ture had to choose between the two narratives of American sexual-
ity for which Jenna Jameson and Paris Hilton are the exemplars, it
would do well, in our view, to go with Jameson's version.
Porn Exemplars                                                    113

    The Paris Hilton brand of porn, based on mutual contempt
and dehumanization, is consistent with the degradation porn rep-
resented in the images issuing from the Abu Ghraib prisoner-
abuse scandal, discussed in Chapter 6. And humiliation and
debasement form the basis as well of a metaphorical porn evident
in many areas of our culture--for instance, in the field of political

metaphorical porn and its exemplars
Reviewing the exemplars of porn, we observe a distinctive charac-
teristic of the entertainment culture that is also driven by porn:
from one exemplar to the next, the shock bar, so to speak, must al-
ways be raised. For Russ Meyer, the nudie-cutie raised that bar
enough to garner widespread attention. By the time we come to
Snoop Dogg, however, the bar is all the way up to hard-core porn.
    Entertainment must keep exceeding itself to remain captivat-
ing; it must constantly outdo its previous performances. The
grinding relentlessness of this ethic can be seen dramatically in
cases where it almost literally takes over as the shaping force in
someone's career. The late daredevil Evel Knievel, for example,
jumped his motorcycle over increasingly longer lines of cars, then
moved from cars to trucks and buses, then, many bone fractures
and near-fatal crashes later, attempted to jump the Snake River
Canyon in Idaho in a rocket-powered Skycycle.
    Some fifty years ago, Marilyn Monroe attracted enormous
attention for photos showing her standing on a subway grate in
Manhattan, her pleated white dress blown up around her hips to
reveal her thighs and just a tiny peek at her panties. Today, no fe-
male sex star would attract much attention with such a limited dis-
play of skin. In fact, from Marilyn to later sex symbols, we can
sketch an exponentially upward-curving line of "shock value." The
line passes through Jayne Mansfield, who exceeded Marilyn in dar-
ing some well-publicized fully nude shots; through Bridget Bardot,
114                                            The Porning of America

who dared a few more than Mansfield; through Ursula Andress,
the first Bond girl, who appeared in Playboy in 1965 and appeared
nude in countless photos; through Brooke Shields, who elevated
the shock bar by appearing nude at the age of twelve in the 1978
movie Pretty Baby; through Madonna, who further raised the bar
by incorporating bondage and S&M images in her music videos of
the 1980s and in her book SEX; and finally, to the likes of Paris
Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsey Lohan, who in the fall of 2006
were all photographed in clubs and elsewhere flashing their
shaved crotches. If at this point we revisit the photos of Marilyn on
the subway grate, they seem by contrast almost innocent in their
self-consciously naughty transgression.
     Porn, too (which can be defined imperfectly but not altogether
incorrectly as "sex as entertainment"), is subject to this imperative
to exceed itself. It has arguably responded to this imperative by be-
coming increasingly dark: that is, more and more marked by
humiliation and real violence. But in this postscript we'll briefly
look at the way in which "porning" can be understood as a cultural
metaphor that applies to areas apparently disconnected from ac-
tual porn, such as, for instance, political punditry. In recent years,
in this understanding, we have witnessed the porning of politics,
so that we now have not only literal porn exemplars but also
metaphorical porn exemplars, chief among them Rush Limbaugh,
Al Franken, Bill Maher, and Ann Coulter.
     In the late 1980s (his very first syndicated radio show aired on
July 4, 1988), Rush Limbaugh made a discovery that would trans-
form politics in America: political commentary was lucrative pop-
ular entertainment! Political commentary could be so entertaining
that if one did it right, a huge audience of radio listeners would be
the reward. But just as we can trace an upwardly curving line from
Marilyn Monroe to Paris Hilton in the raising of the shock bar,
so we can trace a similar line from, for instance, Limbaugh to
Franken to Maher to Coulter. Once political commentary had be-
Porn Exemplars                                                        115

come entertainment, the bar had to be continually raised. And, as
with porn, the method of raising the bar became increasingly dark:
politics as entertainment began to rely, like porn, on heightening
levels of degradation, evidenced in commentary as increasing lev-
els of personal insults and attacks.
     In 1996, when Al Franken wrote a book to attack, or counter-
attack, Rush Limbaugh, that work of ideological disagreement was
titled Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. Rather than analytical polit-
ical argument, the book consisted, as the title suggests, mostly of
ridicule, insult, and invective.
     Coulter, for her part, attracts enormous attention by in a sense
outdoing the shock level of deliberately outrageous regular fea-
tures on Limbaugh radio shows, such as the "Animals' Rights
Update." The lead-in to this bit from early Limbaugh programs
consisted of the sounds of automatic gunfire tracked over the
howls and yelps of the slaughtered animals. How do you top that?
     Coulter, in 2006, on national television called former vice
president Al Gore "a total fag." She also accused some 9/11 victims'
wives of "enjoying their husbands' deaths."13
     What we have in all this, then, is not political analysis in any in-
tellectual sense, but rather a highly lucrative entertainment specta-
cle driven by the willingness to reach down into lower and darker
depths of ridicule, humiliation, and debasement. In other words,
using the term not literally but metaphorically now, we have the
porning of American politics.14
     And just as it is disturbing to contemplate what will follow
the violent porn that is growing in popularity on the Internet, so it
is unsettling to contemplate the metaphorical-porn exemplar now
waiting in the wings, whose outrageous insults and calculated
humiliations will upstage even Limbaugh, Franken, Maher, and
5. Would You Like Porn
   with That Burger?

In 2006 Clinique, a popular line of skin care and beauty products,
released an ad for a moisturizer that even a decade earlier would
have been not so much unacceptable to potential customers for its
objectionable sexuality as just plain incomprehensible to most fe-
male viewers. Unless one was familiar with hard-core porn, the
close-up of a young woman's face splashed with a milky substance
extending from her lips, across her cheek, and over the lid of her eye
would be simply baing: What's she doing? you can imagine the
viewer thinking. That can't possibly be the suggested application . . .
    But the ad execs, a culturally savvy group, who designed this
promotion knew that their target audience of young women would
instantly read this image as a playful take on the most common,
obligatory sex finale in hard-core porn, the cumshot or facial. For
the last decade or so, most sexual sequences in heterosexual porn,
whether on Internet sites or in movies, culminate with the male
ejaculating on the face of the female. The Clinique ad is both a
visual pun ("facial") and an allusive verbal joke ("dramatically
dierent moisturizing lotion") intended to appeal to a sexually so-
phisticated, hip (as in Sex and the City) female sense of humor.
    The female face in the ad has a mannequin-like perfection of
smooth features and skin as well as the almost complete absence
of hair. In this regard, like a mannequin she represents not an in-
dividual but a kind of everywoman. And like a mannequin, she is

118                                            The Porning of America

             Clinique ad.

all about surfaces, completely devoid of emotion, as her expres-
sionless face makes clear. The eyes are closed, suggesting privacy,
or, even more, a transcendent peacefulness. The only familiar sug-
gestion of sexuality is in the mouth: the wide, full, sensuous lips
contrast in their red tint with the blandness of the other colors and
the starkness of the lighting. The lips alone are textured, the only
part of the total image that looks like it might contain nerve end-
ings and feeling (and thus, pleasure).
     Putting everything together, then, we have a portrait of emo-
tionless superficiality--so deliberately cultivated as to mimic the
mannequin's perfect surfaces and complete absence of feeling.
Inasmuch as the image is about sex at all, it is about oral sex, which
is suggested in the sensuous mouth, and is explicit in the streak of
semen-like fluid across the face. What we have, in other words, in
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                             119

the Clinique ad is an iconic representation of sex in twenty-first-
century America: the emotionless, impersonal hookup.
    There is, however, no sell in just representing the hookup. And
so the image is not so much about sex, after all, as it is about how
Clinique can help young women in making their way through this
new world of the hookup. The message is that the mannequin-like
perfection of one's exterior (and that's where Clinique comes in)
can serve as a kind of armor against emotional vulnerability in
these days of impersonal and highly porned (cumshot) sexuality.
Clinique is selling, then, a personal ideal for young women, as well
as the means to achieve it, and we could call that ideal mannequin
    As a cultural artifact of our hypersexual times, the Clinique ad
finds much company in the world of porn-derived advertising, dat-
ing back at least to the 1980s and the image of the fifteen-year-old,
presumably pantyless, Brooke Shields in her Calvin Klein jeans.
Of course, sex has always been used in American advertising. But
in the past few decades the sex in such advertising increasingly de-
rives from hard-core porn. Consider, for another example, a 2007
ad by Old Spice, which markets Red Zone, a bath product for men.
    Whereas the Clinique ad is pitched to young women, the Old
Spice ad is pitched to young men, and the intended demographic
accounts for some important dierences in how the ad is to be
read. For one thing, unlike the more oblique and subtle Clinique
ad, which oers an image without comment, the text of the Old
Spice ad comments directly on the image, and does so in a locker-
room, jesting way: "This is simply a picture of a woman eating a
vanilla ice cream cone" is the verbal equivalent of an elbow dig,
inviting a "Yeah, sure it is!" from the male viewer. (Indeed, the next
word in the text is Sure.)
    Still, the ad is carefully crafted and highly porned. In the short
text, the word eat and eating appear, and the word it occurs four
120                                            The Porning of America

              Old Spice ad.

times, including in the phrase eating it. Instead of the semen-like
splash of lotion in the Clinique ad, we have semen-like melted ice
cream on the young woman's tongue, from an ice-cream cone that
resembles an erect penis right down to the pastry cone shaft.
      The sell in this case is a personal hygiene that is commensu-
rate with the angelically backlit, all-American blonde, whose sultri-
ness (which the text alleges) is actually nowhere apparent in the
image except in the dark eyebrows and eyelashes that contrast with
her hair, which itself has only hints of the darkness of sexual ap-
      Having repeated the word it three times in the text, the fourth
appearance, in which the word is underlined, is in the phrase keep
it clean. The ad makes it explicitly clear that the woman is "only eat-
ing it because it tastes good," which is to say that if you, the young
male viewer, do not "keep it clean," she will not eat it. The heavy-
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                              121

handedness of the text is deliberate, reinforcing the guy-to-guy hu-
mor that is essential to the ad's message.
    The hookup, subtly implicit in the Clinique ad, is in the Old
Spice ad suggested by the odd phrase it is hot where she happens to
be. The word happens implies something unarranged, unpredic-
table, which is characteristic of the contemporary hookup: a meet-
ing leading to sex could happen at the mall, or it could happen at a
party, or it could happen in the apartment elevator. You never
know. Unlike the traditional date, in preparation for which you
could get it clean, in the era of the hookup you have to keep it clean
because you just never know.
    A recent ad for Orbit gum can be seen as a female companion
piece to the Old Spice ad, and connects with the Clinique ad as
well. This ad shows a young woman with a manhole cover in her
hyperextended open mouth, with the text beneath the photo read-
ing, "Dirty mouth? Nothing cleans it up like Orbit."

           Orbit ad.
122                                            The Porning of America

     Like the Clinique ad, which makes no apparent sense at all ex-
cept in a porned culture, this ad is unreadable to anyone not famil-
iar with the conventions of porn. Why, after all, would bad breath be
described as a dirty mouth? The loaded term dirty mouth is applied
to someone who talks dirty--or, perhaps, does dirty things with
her mouth.
     As with the Clinique ad, however, the culturally attuned adver-
tising executives who went forward with this promotion knew that
they could count on their young clientele's familiarity with the con-
ventions of porn. The photo of this attractive young woman with
her mouth entirely filled by a circular object recalls the images
rampant on Internet porn sites of women performing oral sex on
men. The message of this ad to its young audience is simple and
clear: her mouth is dirty because it's an orifice for male sex, a
     Just as the males in the Old Spice ad are told that they need to
keep their genitals clean and ready for a woman who might, at any
time in the unpredictable world of the hookup, fellate him, so here
young women are told that oral sex leaves their mouths dirty. This
might of course refer to an unpleasant aftertaste as much as to
moral regret. But in either case, Orbit gum will take care of it. (The
promise in the ad implies a mess, something that must be cleaned
up rather than just cleaned.)
     Like the Clinique ad, the Orbit gum ad addresses conflicted
young women in a porned, hookup culture. They are expected to
provide oral sex (the new second base, according to Tom Wolfe in
Hooking Up), just as the young woman in the Clinique ad has to be
emotionally prepared in her own sex life to deal with the potential
insult of the facial.
     Rape victims are often said to shower compulsively after the
assault; Orbit gum promises to deal with the defilement of oral sex
by similarly "clean[ing] it up." Why this young woman might be
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                              123

conflicted about having a dirty mouth is evident in her angelic,
girlish face (if we mentally remove the manhole cover and see
her as she would normally appear). The aura around her head, as
well as her white blouse, further suggest that "dirtiness" is contrary
to her nature. Indeed, this ad, like the Clinique ad (and we could
cite many more such examples), speaks to the emotional discomfort
many girls and young women in America experience as a result of
their sexualization.

two-dimensional preening
We are interested here not in chronicling the phenomenon of
porned advertising (which, just from Brooke Shields to Paris
Hilton, would require a book in itself), but rather in examining the
repercussions of such advertising on the culture. We begin with
a self-evident proposition: advertising works. Profit-driven busi-
nesses and corporations would not spend billions of dollars a year
on advertising (in many enterprises advertising dollars comprise
the biggest piece of the budget pie) unless it was known demon-
strably to be eective.
    Advertising works, but in unintended as well as intended ways:
every ad that uses porn to sell a product is also, at the same time, an
ad for porn. When Paris Hilton, for instance, looking every inch
the porn star, performs something resembling oral sex on a ham-
burger, everything about the ad--that it comes into our homes
on our familiar television screens, that Hilton is a rich, beautiful
celebrity, that the choreography and cinematography are slick--
everything, in short, about the ad that makes it work to sell us
Carl's Jr. hamburgers also makes it work in a real sense to sell
us porn. If Hilton's beauty, wealth, and celebrity, for instance,
make the Carl's Jr. hamburger in her hands more desirable by as-
sociation, so do they make the porn star look more desirable by
the same association. In this way, porn is marketed through its
124                                             The Porning of America

presence in glamorous and eective advertisements for all sorts
of products. Ms. Hilton, via the Carl's Jr. ads, sells us a side of porn
with every burger.
    Further, this combo of burger and porn subtly imparts to porn
the familiarity and acceptability of that most all-American of food
staples. (And, to complete the symbiotic relationship, the porn ele-
ment in the ad lends new excitement to what might otherwise
become a too familiar and even tired staple, the same old ham-
    Advertising works in more general ways as well to promote
porn. The use of porn--which is to say the sexual use of female
and male bodies--to sell us everything from clothing to food items
to music CDs to automobiles, implies that our own bodies, our
own sexuality, are in themselves commodities in a vast market-
place. This process of seeing oneself as a commodity assists the
normalization of porn because we live in a culture driven by con-
sumerism. We feel familiar with, comfortable around, things for
sale, even when we ourselves become, to use the current word,
commodified and marketed. Let's look at some very clear examples
of this phenomenon.
    As we've seen, in the late 1990s clothing manufacturers intro-
duced what they themselves called slutwear, and the fashion
quickly became popular with high school and college-age girls and
young women. Slutwear can be defined as clothing that presents
the female body as a sexual commodity on display.
    Some staples of slutwear are, for instance, the thong bikini,
which, like thong underwear, entered popular usage via strip clubs
and porn movies of the 1980s. (These sources also, by the way, in-
troduced women to the current fashion of shaving their pubic
hair.) Thong underwear can also be considered slutwear when
worn (in a fad that has for the most part lapsed) so as to be partially
visible from behind. In that case, the elastic waistband and the top
of the V that gradually disappears into the cleavage of the derriere
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                              125

is called a "whale tail." (At least a half-dozen websites are dedicated
to publishing "seen on the street" or "voyeur" photos of whale
     Push-up bras lift and shape the breasts for maximum cleavage.
Belly shirts button low from the top to reveal cleavage, extending
just below the breasts, leaving the midri exposed. Extremely low-
slung jeans sit just above the pubic bone. Along with belly rings
and other piercings, tattoos, heavy eye mascara, and glitter (ap-
plied to breasts and legs as well as to the face), the eect is to imi-
tate the porn star.
     In the 1950s, if a teenage girl wore a tight sweater and skirt and
an angry parent said, "You look like a little tramp!" the teenager
would probably protest that the parent simply didn't understand
what kids were wearing these days. In 2008, if a teenage girl is at-
tired as described above and an angry parent says, "You look like a
little slut!" the girl might well respond, "Hey, thanks!"
     If the popularity of the slut look surprises you, consider the ad-
vertising climate in which young women have grown up. Twenty-
year-olds in 2008 were born in 1988. If we lump MTV music
videos into the category of ads, which they certainly are in part as
they promote the sale of music albums, today's twenty-year-olds
were just four when Madonna simulated masturbation in some of
her Blond Ambition tour numbers. They were six years old when
Calvin Klein began running ads featuring the model Kate Moss,
who was in fact eighteen but looked prepubescent. One of the
most famous of these ads showed her nude, lying on her belly on a
sofa, the visual focal points being her childlike face and bare bottom.
Today's twenty-year-olds were fifteen when Abercrombie & Fitch
began running increasingly sexual ads in its A&F Quarterly cata-
log. In the space of a few years these ads progressed from partial
to complete nudity, and from complete nudity to suggestions of
group sex.
     Again, this list is simply a quick gleaning, merely representative
126                                            The Porning of America

and not at all exhaustive. Su~ce it to say that teens and twen-
tysomethings have grown up in a culture saturated with porned
advertisements, relentlessly promoting the notion that their bod-
ies and their sexuality are marketable commodities.
    Such commodification is everywhere evident in our culture,
ranging from the relatively benign to the highly porned. The web-
site Facebook is among the benign, an online yearbook of sorts,
with photos (mainly headshots, as the site name suggests) and
profiles of high school and college-age males and females. The
profiles cite interests, turn-ons and turn-os, favorite quotes, and
so on.
    Appearance in Facebook is virtually required of everyone in
their teens to early twenties. In a New York Times Magazine (March
4, 2007) article about college sex magazines, "Campus Exposure,"
a student at Harvard says of the holdouts who refuse to participate
in Facebook, MySpace, and other such online networks, "They're
treated like pariahs, people will just harass them until they join."
If you pose the question in a college classroom as to how many of
the students assembled are in Facebook, typically everyone in the
room will raise their hands. It is hard to think of any other ques-
tion likely to elicit such unanimity. Alexandra Jacobs, author of the
Times article, explains the near-universal willingness to join such
networks this way: "To attend college now means to participate in a
culture of constant two-dimensional preening, for males and fe-
males alike."
    MySpace, which recently surpassed Google as the most popu-
lar website, and which claims about 125 million member profiles
worldwide, is a more complex phenomenon than Facebook, and
the two-dimensional preening is more consistently porned. My-
Space clearly demonstrates the culture's comfort with the com-
modification and marketing of the individual.
    Such marketing occurs on many websites, including in innu-
merable personals in classified ads all over the Internet. Craigslist,
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                               127

for instance, publishes personal ads for women seeking men, men
seeking women, men seeking men, and so on, as well as separate
categories for "strictly platonic" or, at the other extreme, "casual en-
counters." Some matchmaking sites, such as AdultFriendFinder,
are so specialized as to cater only to those looking for no-strings-
attached sexual encounters, whether hetero, same sex, or bi, part-
nered or group. Reliable membership numbers for such sites are
hard to determine, since the operators have a vested interest in in-
flating them. But if one considers MySpace and its countless spin-
os, along with all the dating and matchmaking sites in existence
--some of which, like Craigslist, are huge in themselves--the
number of Americans marketing themselves via online advertise-
ments is unquestionably immense.
     Compared to Facebook, the demographics of MySpace are far
more wide-ranging, including the elderly as well as the very young,
high school dropouts as well as college grads, and even profession-
als with postgrad degrees. And members can market themselves
in sophisticated multimedia formats using text, photos, graphics,
and music.
     Those who post on MySpace are in a tough market, with mil-
lions of competitors. Often many thousands compete for attention
within a twenty-mile radius of their own zip codes, which shop-
pers use in narrowing their searches and perusing profiles.
     Profiles are formatted like advertisements, so the typical My-
Space page is an easy read. Essential information is presented suc-
cinctly, in headed columns. An "About Me" column, for instance,
lists such details as marital status (one can simply identify oneself
as being "in a relationship"), sexual orientation, favorite music, tel-
evision shows, and books, along with schools attended, current
job, and even annual salary.
     The "I am here for" section typically lists one or more of the
following purposes: dating; networking; long-term relationship; or
friends. "Who I'd like to meet" is also standard fare, though the
128                                            The Porning of America

chosen individuals can be surprising. One Pennsylvania woman,
who identified herself as "born again," indicated that she'd like to
meet: (1) Dolly Parton and (2) Jesus.
    Along the right side of the page is a mandatory column of
friends consisting of other MySpace members who log on to a
profile page with photos of themselves, along with greetings and
a brief personal message to the host. The creators of MySpace
regard this particular feature as so vital--perhaps to uphold the
sense of community, of an online meeting space as welcoming as
an actual neighborhood gathering spot--that lest some page be
sadly without a single friend, the site automatically provides every-
one with "Tom," an agreeable-looking twentysomething buddy in a
    In the case of older members, lists of friends often include
their own children, as well as nieces and nephews, stopping by to
oer a palsy, aectionate greeting, addressing the parent or rela-
tive as "my best friend" or "my good bud." Similarly, on the pages
of young members, moms and dads, aunts and uncles, pop in with
a chummy word or two. In the virtual MySpace world, the social
leveling described by Robert Bly as "the sibling society" very much
    To assist even the computer-naive in creating a suitable page,
boilerplate layouts are available free of charge from many
providers, as well as such standard features as glitters (images and
words that literally sparkle), flash toys (graphics, often photos, that
suddenly appear on the page), and colorful backgrounds, often
with a design motif of, typically, unicorns or Harleys. Surfing the
pages of MySpace, however, one is struck by how many of the
pages include material that is pornographic, both soft core and
hard core.
    MySpace has clear guidelines prohibiting, for instance, nude
photos of the members. Oers of prostitution are also forbidden
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                               129

and violators are booted o the site. Many profiles, however, espe-
cially those created by self-described swingers, push the envelope of
the acceptable, including photos in which members are shown
wearing thongs or similarly revealing lingerie. One expects the
risqué on swinger pages.
     But even on the most ordinary of pages, one often finds porno-
graphic cartoons, photos, and GIF images of sex acts, glitters with
porn messages, and so on, much of which is easily available as free
downloads from a number of providers, such as the website Sex-
peeppages ("What you need, when you need it"). The seamless-
ness with which material such as glitters with the words nice tits
and blow me coexist on a page along with, for instance, photos of
children's birthday parties and Colorado ski vacations, is visual tes-
timony to the porning of America--that is, of porn so thoroughly
absorbed into the culture that we hardly notice it anymore. It does
not stand out as taboo, or even in poor taste. Rather, it is part of
who we are, in carefully constructed public presentations. In the
sophisticated advertisements for the individual known as MySpace
profiles, porn is used in much the same attention-getting way that
Calvin Klein and Carl's Jr. use it in their advertisements.
     The phenomenal success of MySpace has, as mentioned,
spawned countless spinos, many of which attract members by
lessening the sexual restrictions that apply on their site. Stickam, for
example, an Internet newbie, consists of MySpace-type member
pages, or "rooms," but is heavily populated with webcam users. In
2007, about four hundred Stickam-member live webcams were
online at any given moment, increasing to seven hundred or more
at night.
     Webcam broadcasters have the option of restricting viewing ac-
cess to selected visitors by, at any time they choose, designating
their room as private. The designation private often indicates that
the webcam broadcaster will strip (known as "showing" or, if done
130                                             The Porning of America

very briefly, "flashing") or engage in solitary or partnered sexual ac-
tivity. Further, those who enter a room can display their own nude
webcam images, in a small format, on the host's page.
     Craigslist, another mammoth Internet presence, exemplifies a
somewhat dierent form of porned advertisement. Craigslist con-
sists of a vast bulletin board of advertisements of all sorts, the over-
whelming majority of which are not in any way sexual. Among
its oerings, however, are personals ("women for men," "men for
men," and so on) and "services," which includes a category labeled
     The personals category typically contains, among postings
from real people seeking face-to-face sexual encounters, "cloaked"
ads the intention of which is to shunt respondents to phone-sex
lines or subscription cam websites. The erotic services category,
however, is another matter.
     For most big cities (one logs on to Craigslist by city designa-
tions), clicking the "erotic" link instantly summons a lengthy list of
sex workers of all sorts, from those oering massages "with happy
endings," to fetishists peddling, for instance, the worship of their
feet, to mistresses specializing in domination and/or bondage
(with varying degrees of sadomasochism, from light spanking to
whipping), to full-service providers (who sometimes refer to them-
selves as GFE, for "girlfriend experience," if they are willing to
kiss mouth-to-mouth). Full-service providers, whether GFE or not,
oer vaginal intercourse as well as sexual specialties (coded as
"languages spoken," such as "French," for oral sex, and "Greek,"
for anal).
     As we saw in Chapter 4, between 1968 and 1970 Al Goldstein,
of Screw magazine fame, was arrested nineteen times, partly for
publishing in his magazine ads for escort services and independent
prostitutes in New York City. In the porned America of the twenty-
first century, on the other hand, the erotic services section of
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                               131

Craigslist publishes such ads with impunity, including ads featur-
ing pornographic pictures.
     Many sex-specific sites on the Internet publish ads by prosti-
tutes, including e-mail addresses and phone numbers. On Craigs-
list, however, one can shop for jobs and apartments in, say, Boston,
and at the same time locate the specific erotic services one might
hope to find there. Lumping together sex shopping with other
kinds of shopping removes the stigma from the sex trade, making
Craigslist a prime example of the porning of America. The site re-
inforces the commodification of the body and sexuality by includ-
ing them as items for sale in the vast marketplace we all browse.
     The Craigslist online community adds to the normalization of
the sex trade by, for instance, referring to the women and men that
advertise their services there not as prostitutes, but as providers,
substituting a neutral, or even positive, term (providers are, after
all, simply answering a call) for a stigmatized one. And the men
who hire providers are not johns, another stigmatized term, but
rather hobbyists, innocuous as, say, stamp collectors. Further, list-
ings on the site regularly include reviews, in which a hobbyist who
has done business with a particular provider oers other hobbyists
an assessment of the provider's services--a sort of informal con-
sumer reports of the local sex trade.

from myplace to everyplace
As we've suggested, if the porning of America describes a process,
the final stage of that process would be the disappearance of porn
altogether, not through its absence but rather through its ubiquity.
When porn is totally absorbed into a culture, when its styles, vo-
cabulary, and behaviors are completely normalized, it is no longer
visible as porn. We are not yet at that stage. And we might not ever
get there, since cultural developments do not always extend into
the future in a linear way. But we are not far from that stage, either.
132                                          The Porning of America

    In the 1980s, when professional porn was typically shot in
35-mm-film format and featured stars, on sets, with a director and
sometimes even a script, a pornographer named Mark Krinsky,
under the pseudonym Ed Powers, used handheld video cameras to
produce a series he called Bus Stop Tales and, later, Dirty Debu-
tantes. (The "debutantes" were making their sexual debut on cam-
era.) In these films, Powers interviewed women he picked up on
the street, and then videotaped himself having sex with them. Pow-
ers is often credited with having invented amateur porn.
    Ed Powers was not, in any real sense, an amateur, but rather an
innovator within the porn industry. He marketed his videotapes
widely and so successfully that many imitators began using the
videocamera and nonprofessional women to produce a high-profit
product. Innumerable Internet websites still feature the Powers
style of "amateur" porn, including the impromptu interview fol-
lowed by videotaped sex.
    In the past few years, however, a true amateur porn has
not only emerged, it is rapidly becoming the most popular form
of porn, as evidenced by burgeoning websites, magazines, and
DVDs. In the opening chapters of this book, we described a cul-
tural convergence: porn stars had become more like us (as was
epitomized in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's XXX exhibit), and we,
in turn, had become increasingly like porn stars, imitating their
physiques (both via the gym and plastic surgery), their fashion
styles, their language (a fuck patois, to again use Tom Wolfe's
term), and their anonymous, no-strings style of sex.
    At a certain, inevitable point in this convergence, porn stars
and ordinary people so closely resemble one another that the former
become superfluous, obsolete, the dinosaurs of a porned culture.
Simply put, who needs them anymore? To this question, true ama-
teur porn emerges as the answer: "We don't need them. We are
    College porn magazines, while not the purest manifestations
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                              133

of amateur porn, are perhaps the most surprising. The New York
Times Magazine feature "Campus Exposure," referred to earlier in
this chapter, examined these publications. If one considers the
stereotype of the women and men in early American porn--mar-
ginalized, drug addicted, disadvantaged--one can hardly imagine a
more complete opposite than, say, the students of Boston Univer-
sity. But in fact Boink, an outright porn magazine (that is, unlike
some other college sex magazines it describes itself as "user-
friendly porn"), was founded in 2005 by Alecia Oleyourryk, then a
senior at BU. Boink is completely staed by college students, and
features only actual students from BU and other nearby colleges
and universities. Its sales, however, are not confined to the cam-
pus: it retails for $7.95 in its hardcopy form (single copies or sub-
scriptions are also available in online versions), with a press run of
ten thousand copies.
     Other similar college magazines operate on a smaller scale,
and many disdain the porn label. The oldest of these, Squirm ("a
magazine of smut and sensibility") has been published at Vassar
since 2000. In 2004 students at Harvard began publishing H
Bomb, followed by Vita Excolatur at the University of Chicago, and
Outlet at Columbia University.
     College students, then, in significant numbers are comfortable
in highly sexualized situations: posing nude, masturbating, and
having partnered sex (in the case of Boink) on camera, writing
erotic fantasies as well as reviews of vibrators and other sex toys,
giving explicit advice on sexual techniques, and so on. The long-
running series Girls Gone Wild features college girls on spring
break (currently comprising about sixty DVDs), with titles such as
Extreme Orgy (in three volumes), Extreme Sex, First Timers (also in
three volumes), and, as discussed earlier, Doggy Style (hosted by
Snoop Dogg). In a 2006 book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, author Ariel
Levy chronicles the ease with which camera operators for Mantra
Films, the production company, find young women who--for no
134                                            The Porning of America

more compensation than a T-shirt or a hat with the GGW logo--are
willing to flash their breasts, their bottoms, deep kiss one another,
and engage in other sexual activities (with girl-on-girl action a
     Shane Enterprises, a porn film company founded in Van Nuys,
California, in 1996, shoots "reality based" movies around the
country (Small Town Sluts, for example), including some on college
campuses using porn stars (in one movie--almost inevitably--
Ron Jeremy appears) along with students. The series is called
Shane's World College Invasion. The company's website currently
oers nine such DVDs, packaged in three three-volume sets.
     Porn featuring college students received frenzied media atten-
tion in 2002 when Shane shot a porn movie in a freshman dormi-
tory, Teter Quad, at Indiana University in Bloomington. Shane
Enterprises reportedly sent out a casting call for their porn movie on
the campus radio station and hundreds of students, male and fe-
male, responded. The Fox News Network's show The Factor, hosted
by Bill O'Reilly, aired footage of crowds of would-be porn stars car-
rying on lasciviously for the news cameras as they lined up to in-
terview for possible inclusion in the porn movie.1
     Even allowing for media hype, the student response was lively,
at least, and su~cient to result in a movie that featured credited
cast members such as Drunky the Bear, Belladonna, and other
students "playing themselves." In that same year, another College
Invasion by Shane (called Frat Row Scavenger Hunt 3), filmed at
Arizona State University in Tucson, somehow drew little media at-
tention, even though, according to the New Mexico Daily Lobo, the
student newspaper of the University of New Mexico, two teams
of ASU students composed of fraternity members and females
searched for sex toys hidden around campus and then earned
points for finding and performing sex acts with them. The Daily
Lobo reported that the student body president and vice president
did not see the production of the video as "a big deal."
Would You Like Porn with That Burger?                              135

     Further, many websites, such as CollegeFuckFest, purport to
show porn featuring only college males and females, usually in o-
campus party settings. The complete picture of college porn, then,
from student-run magazines to professional production compa-
nies and Internet websites specializing in college students is a very
big picture indeed.
     Most of what we have mentioned regarding college students
appearing in porn is more or less on the Powers model of amateur
porn. The phenomenon is significant in the porning of America,
however, simply for its scope: clearly, many college men and
women regard themselves as de facto porn material, as porn stars,
and are willing, for very little or no financial compensation, to
present themselves publicly that way. The sophisticated produc-
tion facilities and distribution of many of the endeavors we have
cited here, and their high profitability, especially GGW, make
them, however, decidedly nonamateur.
     The most genuinely amateur porn consists of ordinary people
of all adult ages, from the very young to the elderly, posting online
video clips of themselves having all manner of sexual activity. In al-
most all cases, the product is technologically very basic: a webcam
or digital video recorder is set up and pointed at the participants,
who simply turn it on and then perform for the camera.
     They then select a clip, from a minute or two up to twenty
minutes or so, and send it electronically to the host site, such
as YouPorn, PrivatePornMovies, or YourAmateurPorn, where it is
available for viewing as a link. The phenomenon is nothing less
than an Internet wildfire, with such sites multiplying exponen-
tially with every passing month.2
     Those who create the websites do so for profit. Many are free to
viewers and make their money selling banners and links to adver-
tisers. Others sell subscriptions. But those who create the porn it-
self on these truly amateur sites are not paid at all.
     Who, then, are these people? They are truly a cross-section of
136                                           The Porning of America

the American population, and as such they have democratized the
notion of the porn star. Older performers are referred to as "ma-
tures," ranging in age from forties to seventies, and, though this is
rare, even older. Hardbodies occasionally appear, including silicon-
breasted females and eight-pack-abs males, but most do not re-
semble the porn star template at all, with sagging breasts and thick
middles more the norm than the exception. Sometimes the cam-
era angle deliberately leaves the faces of the performers unseen,
but such was more often the case even just a couple of years ago
than now. As the stigma of porn recedes more and more com-
pletely into the past, the amateurs are bolder in facing the viewing
public, facing the camera, as they perform.
    Amateur porn clips in many ways resemble the home videos
we all know, sometimes out of focus, the picture shaking, the ac-
tion occasionally interrupted so the camera can be repositioned.
Indeed, we half-expect the performers to lean in close and smile
and wave for the camera. Like the individuals featured in our own
home movies, we know these people. They're our moms and dads,
cousins, nieces and nephews. They're us.
6. The Nexus of Porn
   and Violence
     Abu Ghraib and Beyond

If the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was a trench-coated national visit
to a blue movie house, the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal was
a furtive venture down to the room under the room, for pornogra-
phy too disturbing to be made light of on late-night television.
     In late April 2004 the CBS television program 60 Minutes II,
followed in May by articles by the journalist Seymour M. Hersh,
online and in print for the New Yorker, revealed several of the now
infamous Abu Ghraib photos. The story of the highly sexualized,
brutal treatment of detainees by American soldiers would con-
tinue to develop after those first weeks following the unveiling of the
photos. Our sudden realization that the flower of American youth
were purveyors of violent pornography and snu films was an-
other in a long line of losses of American innocence.
     By that time, we'd sat through lengthy televised discussions of
a president's semen. Heard the news reports of female teachers
having sex with their schoolchildren. Videos of celebrities in fla-
grante delicto had become ho-hum. We were unshockable.
     The first batch of photos from Abu Ghraib ranged from the ex-
plainable all the way to the horrifying. Some photos were of naked
Iraqi detainees bound at the wrists and ankles and lying on the
ground. Others included a hooded Iraqi forced to simulate oral sex
with another prisoner, and the now totemic image of a hooded man
hooked up to electric wires while balancing precariously on a box.

138                                            The Porning of America

     In the days following the graphic revelations, some discus-
sions of Abu Ghraib became de facto conversations about porn in
general and Internet porn in particular. Dozens of print, television,
and online news reports and commentaries covering the scandal
described the photographs in terms of pornography. Indeed,
pornography and America's porn-infused culture became the most
common targets of a feverish eort to find someone, or some-
thing, to blame.1
     Writers as ideologically dierent as the liberal intellectual Susan
Sontag and Rebecca Hagelin, vice president of the conservative
Heritage Foundation, agreed that pornography and a violent and
lascivious culture were at the root of the sexual abuse and torture
at Abu Ghraib. Sontag, in one of her last pieces of writing before
her death in 2004, sounded notes dear to the hearts of conserva-
tives when she cited violent video games as an important factor in
preparing young Americans to commit these kinds of atrocities.
One wonders what she would have made of the revelation, in the
summer of 2005, that one of the most popular and most realisti-
cally violent video games ever, Grand Theft Auto, included an ani-
mated porn "Easter egg," a secret component of the game. Players
in the know, or those with enough Internet skills to find out how,
could unlock and run the program, which allows the player to have
simulated sex with a digital prostitute.
     The events at Abu Ghraib became the subject of a national dis-
cussion in which Americans tried to come to grips with how our
soldiers, the good guys, we like to think, could commit acts that
ranged from abuse to torture--and even to murder. (The death of
Manadel al-Jamadi, whose corpse Private Charles Graner and Spe-
cialist Sabrina Harman happily pose over, thumbs up, in separate
photographs, was ruled a homicide by the military.)
     Most porn, as immoral and destructive as many Americans
believe it to be, is still less frightening than what we saw in those
photos. Describing the photos as porn condemned them at the
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                  139

same time that it placed the acts they document in the realm of
the merely distasteful rather than of war crimes. Rush Limbaugh,
for instance, all but pooh-poohed the controversy, describing the
events as "fraternity hazing" and calling the photos "standard good
old American pornography," as if there was a place reserved for
"American porn" right beside Mom and apple pie.
    Limbaugh's intention was to minimize the growing damage to
public support for a war begun by a Republican president, but in ac-
tuality his assessment was valid. Good old American pornography,
of a particularly violent and degrading sort, provided the source
and structure of the photographs that continued for months to
trickle out through a variety of magazines and websites.
    Porn was a crucial factor in the scandal, and over the next
few months the national conversation about Abu Ghraib became a
conversation about porn; real porn, fake porn, amateur porn, and,
if we believe the pundits, all manner of rhetorical porn. The story
of Abu Ghraib became a porn story, in the events themselves, in
the immediate aftermath, and in the cultural response.

porn as the language of control
In the hubbub of commentaries about the scandal at Abu Ghraib,
and in several well-publicized announcements by conservative
figures like the Christian broadcaster Charles Colson and organi-
zations such as Concerned Women for America and the Family
Research Council, porn was identified as indeed a cause, if not
the cause, of the events at the prison. The porn industry was al-
ready reeling when the Abu Ghraib photos surfaced--a highly
publicized rash of AIDS diagnoses among performers had led
some companies to shut down temporarily. Now accusing fingers
pointed at it from every direction.
    As details continued to emerge, it became clear that the guards
at Abu Ghraib were intensely involved, on a daily basis, in porn.
The military police at Abu Ghraib apparently organized much of
140                                            The Porning of America

their professional and personal lives around porn while serving in
the prison.2
     Originally brought to Iraq to serve in more routine jobs like di-
recting tra~c, the reservists of the 372nd Military Police Company
(of the 320th MP Battalion) found themselves involved in dramati-
cally more intense and complicated duties as prison guards. Ac-
cording to the investigative report of Major General Antonio M.
Taguba, the soldiers were undertrained (having in fact received no
training for work in a military prison) and subject to too little over-
sight. Further, the prison was understaed, and these were all fac-
tors in the abuse and torture. Despite the nationwide search for
root causes, actual factors turned out to be relatively banal.
     Taguba's report, and subsequent investigative journalism, has
shown that military intelligence (MI) personnel encouraged the
guards to "soften up" detainees for interrogation (a directive pro-
hibited by Army Regulation 190­8). Further, Hersh's New Yorker
article "The Gray Zone" argued that the type of abuse and torture
that detainees were subjected to was part of a program of intelli-
gence gathering code-named Copper Green, which was based on
the idea, confirmed by Arab scholars, that because of cultural fac-
tors making masculinity and honor the highest priorities of Arab
men, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation. Such a
program, then, turns sex into threat. And porn into policy.
     The military and the CIA have denied the existence of Copper
Green or any such program. Multiple credible reports in sources
such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, however,
have documented the pressure put on military intelligence to get
information out of the prisoners, often through interrogations
conducted by the CIA. The practice of "ghosting" security detain-
ees to keep them out of the eye of human rights groups seems also
to have been common. According to Hersh's article and other
sources, military intelligence, planning an interrogation the next
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                   141

day, would instruct guards to, for example, "Make sure this guy has
a bad night" or "Loosen this guy up for us."
     Also well documented is the use of civilian contractors as in-
terrogators. MI o~cers appear in some of the abuse photographs,
which were put up as screen savers in areas used by guards and MI
     Finally, the confession and conviction of MI Specialist Armin
Cruz, the testimony of Graner that MI o~cers directed him to use
sexual humiliation, and the release of internal government docu-
ments (through the Freedom of Information Act) show the in-
volvement of Department of Defense operatives in these kinds
of interrogation tactics. These reports and others provide credibil-
ity to Hersh's core thesis that the military police did not think
up this type of abuse and torture independently. The reason that
soldiers of the 372nd participated in the torture at Abu Ghraib is
fairly clear: they did what they were told. Then they expanded on
the orders.3
     But how to explain the sexual humiliation the photographs
show? Why was the visual language of violent and degrading
pornography brought to the goal of extracting information from
prisoners? And why did the sexual humiliation of prisoners extend
beyond those detainees suspected as insurgents? Subsequent re-
ports have shown that most of the victims at Abu Ghraib depicted
in the circulated photographs were ordinary criminals, not security
detainees likely to have information about the insurgency. This
fact makes much of the inflicted abuse and torture recreational, or
"for entertainment," as Cruz is reported to have said. Army captain
Chris Graveline, who prosecuted Graner, made the assessment
that "it was for sport, for laughs."
     So while the MPs were o~cially directed to loosen up de-
tainees for interrogation, the abuse caught on as entertainment
and developed a momentum of its own. Much of what the public
142                                          The Porning of America

has seen in these photographs, then, was sexual degradation for
the fun of it.
    What did this degradation include? The following list of
"sadistic, blatant, and wanton abuses" is from General Taguba's

 · Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their
   naked feet
 · Videotaping and photographing naked male and female de-
 · Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit posi-
   tions for photographing
 · Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them
   naked for several days at a time
 · Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear
 · Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves
   while being photographed or videotaped
 · Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on
 · Positioning a naked male detainee on a MRE Box with a sand-
   bag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and
   penis to simulate electric torture
 · Writing "I am a Rapest" (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to
   have raped a fifteen-year-old detainee, and then photographing
   him naked
 · Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck
   and having a female soldier pose for a picture
 · A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee
 · Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate
   and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and se-
   verely injuring a detainee
 · Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                   143

Taguba also reported as credible accusations that MPs had broken
chemical lights and poured phosphoric liquid on detainees, threat-
ened detainees with rape, and sodomized a detainee with a chemi-
cal light and "perhaps a broom stick."
     Since the scandal broke, further reports, some deriving from
testimony at military hearings and others coming from eyewitness
accounts of the seventeen hundred additional photographs and
videos shown to Congress behind closed doors, have surfaced,
adding to the list and increasing the detail.

  · Detainees forced to masturbate into the mouths or onto the
    bodies of other detainees
  · Detainees handcued together in poses of homosexual sex
  · Female detainees forced to bare their breasts
  · Male detainees forced into homosexual acts
  · A detainee forced to use a banana to simulate anal sex
  · MPs videotaping the rape of a fifteen-year-old detainee by a pri-
    vate contractor

Some reports cite multiple instances of young Iraqis being raped.
In a 2007 interview with Hersh, Taguba added that he saw images
of "a naked detainee, lying on the wet floor, handcued, with an in-
terrogator shoving things up his rectum," and "a video of a male
American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee."
    Some of these acts clearly borrow from the kind of porn many
Americans can imagine, such as that depicting bare breasts
and masturbation. But many derive directly from that growing
segment of the porn world catering to the desire, overt and
unashamed, to degrade and humiliate a victim. Often the means is
    Was pornography responsible for what happened at Abu
Ghraib? Surely this is not the whole story. Rather, lousy training,
144                                           The Porning of America

poor leadership, bad orders, and a variety of other systemic flaws
created a situation in which soldiers--several of whom astonished
their family, friends, and previous commanders with their ac-
tions--could indulge the kind of dark impulses that find full ex-
pression in violent pornography. Porn was not the cause of abuse
but rather the language of abuse at Abu Ghraib--a language in
which these young soldiers were fluent.

turning crime into porn
The reasons that degradation porn became the language of de-
tainee abuse at Abu Ghraib are perhaps too complex to examine
here in their entirety. As discussed in Chapter 3, pornographic use
of the military figure has a long history, though it evidently now
needs to be expanded to include both genders. And the military
has long suered from sex scandals, with the 1991 Navy Tailhook
convention being the most famous of recent ones.
     In its very conception, a military is based on the premise that,
when necessary, one nation asserts its will--and its identity--over
another. That philosophy necessarily and understandably trickles
down to the individual soldier. But it becomes especially problem-
atic when such domination involves sex. The history of warfare is
rife, for example, with accounts of the victorious soldiers' rape of
the women of the conquered people.
     The theme of asserting one's will over another is also found in
most porn, fascinated as it is with narratives of the exploitation of
power dierential. Doctors and dentists seduce patients, teachers
and tutors seduce pupils, city slickers, sometimes traveling sales-
men, seduce farmers' daughters, and innumerable other such sce-
narios. The prison guard/prisoner fantasy has been popular in
porn for decades, in print and film.
     Also, soldiers at work in their primary purpose, waging war,
have to engage in a psychological distancing from the objectified
enemy, "us versus them," that is similar to what happens in most
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                    145

porn narratives--someone is on top, in control, of a more passive
"other" (the patient, the student, the farmer's daughter, the pris-
oner). The viewer is generally discouraged from identifying with
the weaker, more passive, player in the drama.4
     Built into the military mindset, then, is a more general process
that scholars call "othering." This refers to the social and psycho-
logical processes by which a group in power defines, usually in op-
position to itself, a less powerful group. In the specific case of the
military, the less powerful group would typically consist of the de-
feated enemy, the vanquished. Othering serves simultaneous pur-
poses: first, it justifies whatever actions the dominant group feels
it needs to use to control "them," the weaker group, and second, it
rea~rms the superiority of the dominant group. Othering is on
full display in the Abu Ghraib photos, as it is in all violent pornog-
raphy. To their tormentors, the detainees at Abu Ghraib prison are
clearly nonentities.
     But the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison did not simply reflect bru-
tality. The photos and videos did not just record the torment and
torture, separate from it all. Rather, these materials were in fact
an integral, defining part of it: sexual sadism turned into violent
pornography. The visual images, carefully posed and even staged
with some complexity, turned a crime into porn--and that got
everyone's attention. Reports of abuse, after all, had been leaked to
the public well before the storm of scandal broke in the spring of
2004. Until the photos surfaced, and the story took on the patina of
porn, few Americans knew or cared about how prisoners were be-
ing treated in a prison whose name even most reporters couldn't
     As indeed became clear, a culture of porn existed among the
soldiers involved in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. An Army Criminal
Investigation Command investigation report, written in 2004 by
Special Agent James E. Seigmund, compiled all of the images col-
lected from the prison--more than 2,800 photographs and videos.
146                                          The Porning of America

As it turned out, 660 of these were images not actually from Abu
Ghraib, but were, rather, professional pornography likely collected
from websites by the MPs and passed around, on the same discs,
with the violent pornography they created themselves.5
     These soldiers created for themselves a world that integrated
porn into their lives and jobs, and that took pornography as the or-
ganizing principal of othering the detainees in their charge. The
soldiers themselves have described the environment in the prison
as "chaos," a "hodgepodge," and the "Wild, Wild West." Indeed,
the stories that have surfaced suggest a mix of teen sex comedy,
porn movie plot, and horror movie. "Almost everyone was naked
all the time," one congressman reported after seeing seventeen
hundred of the classified photos and videos, a report confirmed
both by soldiers and detainees. According to Taguba's report, beer
was smuggled in to the prison and soldiers regularly got drunk,
which also contributed to the sexual free-for-all that developed. An
o~cer sexually propositioned a female subordinate, prostitutes al-
legedly had regular bunks in the prison, soldiers sneaked into o-
limits areas of the prison to have sex with one another, and, in a
scene straight out of Porkies, an Army captain photographed fe-
male subordinates without their knowledge while they were show-
ering in outside stalls.
     While beer-soaked orgies, clumsy passes, and peeping toms
might sound more like Animal House than like serious crime, they
were part and parcel of the same broken military command--poor
leadership, insu~cient supervision, vague orders--that produced
the worst of the abuses. Colonel Ralph Sabatino, who visited Abu
Ghraib at the time the events took place, reported in a deposition
that he saw the name of the porn star Ron Jeremy written outside
the cell door of a prisoner who had evidently been given the nick-
name by guards. "It didn't strike me at the moment, but after hear-
ing the allegations, I understand very clearly why they perhaps
used that nomenclature to describe that particular prisoner."
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                  147

     Sabatino's testimony shows that the guards themselves saw
what they were doing as pornography, and not only in this case but
in the preponderance of cases of abuse described their actions in
the language of porn. Jeremy is a heterosexual porn star, but we
know that some of the guards involved in the abuse, to more eec-
tively sexually degrade male Iraqi detainees, forced them to dress
like women and treated them sexually like women. In a May 3,
2004, Associated Press story, one detainee, Dhia al-Shweiri, was
quoted as saying that he would rather be beaten and tortured than
sexually humiliated. "We are men. It's OK if they beat me. Beat-
ings don't hurt us, it's just a blow. But no one would want their
manhood to be shattered. They wanted us to feel as though we
were women, the way women feel and this is the worst insult, to
feel like a woman."
     The deep irony in al-Shweiri's complaint lies in its dependence
on the cultural beliefs, common among Arab men, and especially
so with the kind of men attracted to reactionary Islam, that women
are fundamentally less than men and should naturally be in a po-
sition of submission. The further logical implication of these views
is that to be a woman is to be, by definition, degraded.
     The guards structured their behavior around these assump-
tions. In their actions, the male and female American guards cre-
ated an ongoing violent porn movie, or a series of such movies,
with themselves in the role of the dominant male performers, and
the Iraqi detainees, male and female, in the role of the female per-
formers--which is to say, the degraded, passive victims.
     When Armin Cruz, along with others, handcued male de-
tainees together in a sexual position and put his boot on their but-
tocks to simulate anal sex, he "feminized" the detainees. In the
ideology of al-Shweiri and in the view of the guards as well, shaped
by violent porn, women are inferior, weak, passive. Only women,
then, can be raped. To degrade a male, you must first turn him into
a female by raping him.
148                                            The Porning of America

    Twenty of the photographs show a guard with a swastika
drawn between his eyes, recalling the misogynistic Nazi imagery
of the men's adventure magazines discussed in Chapter 3. The
swastika represented, in those images, absolute authority main-
tained through sexual violence. The guards at Abu Ghraib, like the
adventure magazines of old, and like the violent porn movies of to-
day, recognized only two possibilities with no middle ground: one
was either the torturer or the victim. The torturer enjoyed a firm
sense of identity and value. The victim had neither. In Abu Ghraib,
the guards made their choice.
    Intermixed in the hundreds of photographs shown to Con-
gress were dozens of shots of the soldiers themselves. The justifi-
cation several of the soldiers gave when the scandal broke--that
they were just following orders, or doing what they assumed their
superiors wanted--evaporated once this fact emerged. One female
soldier, reported in many newspapers to be Lynndie England, had
sex with several dierent partners in front of both still and video
digital cameras, sometimes in front of Iraqi detainees. This "ama-
teur porn" demonstrated the kind of violence characterizing the
abuse of prisoners. England and Graner, reportedly her boyfriend at
the time, recorded their own mock violent, sadomasochistic sex. It
is hardly surprising, given that these were public acts, that the sol-
diers made use of the digital technology of the Internet to distrib-
ute such pictures and videos among themselves, like trading cards.
    By enacting pornographic scenes with their peers in front of
the detainees, the soldiers communicated clearly to the Iraqis, who
may have been unfamiliar with porn, a sexual template of the posi-
tion the prisoners were in vis-à-vis the guards: they were the
women--or, rather, the "bitches" and "sluts" that populate most
pornography--and they were going to get fucked. No news
sources have reported whether the sadomasochistic sex between
England and Graner was performed in front of detainees, but
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                       149

whether it was or not, it reinforced the guards' own sense of their
absolute authority and power over their charges. In that sense, the
guards performed, documented, and later viewed the violent sex
photos and videos as a reproducible rehearsal of sorts for their
treatment of the detainees.
     When they copied and distributed these pornographic images
to one another, they completed a circle, integrating porn that they
had created "on the job" into their everyday lives, but now in the
guise of "entertainment." Once their mundane lives, which in-
cluded the torment and torture of detainees, was in this way trans-
formed into material for entertainment, they could further exploit
it for its potential to produce even more porn. The fun of it all, the
sheer joy evident on the faces of the guards in so many of the pho-
tographs, may have been the most startling, to many Americans,
aspect of the images.
     Imagine for a moment a guard's night of pornographic enter-
tainment at Abu Ghraib. The soldier sits down at his computer,
onto which is loaded a variety of the photographs and videos that be-
came familiar to us once the scandal was exposed. The first button
he (or she) touches on the computer will automatically remove
from the screen abuse photos used as screensavers. (The heap of
naked Iraqis was apparently a favorite.) Now, if he wants to be titil-
lated, he can view some pornography. He could go to the Internet,
the source of the vast majority of violent pornography today, or he
might simply call up the amateur porn files created by the guards
themselves, featuring one another as "actors." These would have
been transferred to him by compact disc. (Graner evidently en-
joyed spreading the photographs around on disc, sending some to
Sergeant Joseph Darby, who eventually turned the abusers in.) In ei-
ther case, the porn files exist side by side with abuse files, setting up
an easy-to-imagine evening of entertainment: a little porn, a little
abuse, a little more porn, a little torture, and then some more porn.
150                                           The Porning of America

Given the pleasure taken by the guards in both their homemade
porn images and those of detainee abuse, such evenings, depress-
ing as it is to contemplate, almost certainly were routine.

porn as reality, reality as porn
At Abu Ghraib, the interspersion of traditional heterosexual porn,
often featuring the guards themselves, with sexual degradation
and violence against Iraqi detainees can be said to reflect that seg-
ment of the professional porn world that mixes sex with (usually)
simulated violence. And just as the guards at Abu Ghraib imitated
the world of porn in their treatment of detainees at the prison, the
world of porn soon began imitating the guards. However unwit-
tingly, the mainstream media participated in this faux Abu Ghraib
porn by publishing samples in newspapers and on television news
    On May 1, 2004, the Daily Mirror of London published several
purported prisoner abuse photos, including one showing a man in
a British military uniform urinating on a bound captive--a com-
mon fetish in hard-core porn. The photos were quickly exposed
as fakes created by Stuart MacKenzie, a private in the Territorial
Army. For days, however, the hoax photos were a constant pres-
ence in the British and American media, and even now they main-
tain a presence on the Internet.
    Even more important, the Boston Globe, on May 12, 2004, pub-
lished photographs of men, presumably American servicemen,
raping and abusing Iraqi women. The images were extremely
graphic, showing genitalia. The women wept and grimaced in
pain. These images, too, however, were fake. Or, rather, they were
genuine porn.
    The photos, as it turned out, had been under discussion on In-
ternet news and blog sites for days. On May 4, the online news site
World Net Daily exposed the fact that violent pornography from
two porn websites, Sex in War and Iraq Babes, was being pre-
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                    151

sented as documentary on Arab websites and used as anti-Ameri-
can propaganda. Demonstrating the momentum that online arti-
cles can gather, the anti-American story and images spread across
the Internet like kudzu.
    On May 11, the day before the Globe ran with the story, Boston
city councilman Chuck Turner held a press conference and pre-
sented the photographs as legitimate. The next day, the Globe's
page B2 story about the press conference, written by Donovan
Slack, was accompanied by a large photo of Turner holding up sev-
eral of the photos for display. The "abuse" photos within his photo
were clearly visible: women screaming, crying, and writhing. That
these women were later found to be performers was understand-
ably disturbing to Bostonians. (Later editions of the newspaper
minimized the photograph, but left it on the page.)
    World Net Daily contacted Slack and informed her of the
source of the bogus photos. Embarrassed for herself and the
Boston Globe, she said, "It's insane. Can you imagine getting this
with your cup of coee in the morning? Somehow it got through all
our checks. Our publisher's not having a very good day today."
Actually, in her story, Slack expressed some doubt about the au-
thenticity of the photos. Her verbal skepticism was, of course, over-
whelmed by the powerful visual images.
    The intersection of porn and reality became evident to Slack
when she was directed to the Sex in War website. "This is ridicu-
lous," she said. "I'll be working at Penthouse soon."

finding abu ghraib in the u.s.a.
The Boston Globe scandal was sorted out within a few days, and the
Iraq Babes website shut itself down because of the anti-American
use of their images. Sex in War was eventually bought by tamer
porn producers. The photographs of fake Iraqi rapes, however, are
still available on a number of free Internet sites. In fact, photos
from the defunct Iraq Babes site appear now mostly on jihadi web-
152                                            The Porning of America

sites or in leftist American blogs--some of which repeat the accu-
sation of GIs raping Iraqi women and use the images as proof.
    Given the fact that Taguba's investigation documented various
brutal acts, including the rape and sodomizing of prisoners, belief
in the fake photographs is understandable. Indeed, in the summer
of 2006 five soldiers stationed in Mahmoudiya were charged in
the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and the mur-
der of her family, including a five-year-old girl.
    In researching the intersection of the Abu Ghraib story and
pornography, we found that Google searches on the prison scandal
regularly returned porn sites alongside news venues like the New
York Times, the Washington Post, and Fox News. As it turned out,
when the media began reporting the additional hundreds of pho-
tographs and videos kept classified by the government, the law-
makers who viewed them described them with many of the same
terms that violent porn sites use to promote their product. The
most popular adjective such sites use to describe their product is
    On Google, a search using the keywords Iraq, brutal, and rape,
yielded 333,000 possibilities, and about half of those (of the first
several Google list pages we took time to read) were for violent
porn sites, with the rest fairly evenly divided between news sites
and blogs. Some of the listed sites were examples of an Internet
marketing strategy in which a site consists solely of a list of terms
likely to be searched attached to another list of links to commercial
sites. On the first such portal site we visited, Iraq was nestled be-
tween girls raped and gay young teen boys getting raped. The links,
drifting down the long page, were a Dantesque descent past "violent
sex movie" and "teen rape movies" to "illegal pedo rape." The link-
age of Iraq to these sites suggests a belief on the part of the site
producers, at least, that their target customers are likely to connect
it with a catalog of sexual violence. Given the events at Abu Ghraib,
such ideas cannot be dismissed.
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                     153

     According to Bill Asher, president of Vivid Entertainment, one
of the largest producers and distributors of hard-core pornography,
fetish porn (which he sees as including violent porn) is the fastest-
growing segment of the porn industry. It is worth repeating that
our goal in this book is to investigate the growing dominance of
porn in our culture without, as much as possible, passing judg-
ment on the morality of its production or consumption. It is
di~cult, however, to delve into the subindustry of violent porn
without coming away disturbed. Given the presence of porn in
their lives, it seems likely that the guards perpetrating the abuse at
Abu Ghraib deliberately imitated the violent porn that now thrives
on the Internet.
     The other possibility is that such images of domination and
cruelty--of standing on and urinating on prostrate victims, of
bondage and torture, violent rape, and strangulation--are sunk
in a Jungian collective unconscious, just waiting an opportunity to
emerge, like creatures from a black lagoon. If this is the case, both
the anarchic freedom of the Internet and the near-chaos of an Iraqi
prison would oer such fertile opportunities for emergence. This
seems to us the darker possibility.
     After all, the imagery of Abu Ghraib is readily available online,
with actual women instead of male prisoners playing the role of
"woman, the object of abuse." In two popular subgenres of violent
porn, prison porn and military porn, the porned images of Abu
Ghraib have filtered back into pornography in fairly direct ways,
adding realism to the violent imagery.
     One of the most popular violent porn sites on the Internet is
Scream&Cream, dedicated to all forms of "violent extreme forced
sex fantasies." Despite the fact that sites such as Scream&Cream--
and there are many others--use words like fantasy, every eort is
made visually and through accompanying text to heighten the "re-
ality" of the rape narratives to which the site oers access. Much
like an Abu Ghraib video that Seymour Hersh and others allege
154                                           The Porning of America

shows the rape of a teenage Iraqi boy, Scream&Cream promises
that their online videos include all the sounds of rape, in the high-
est audio quality.
    Indeed, the uncountable sites that provide violent porn have
entered into a realism race. The premise of the website Violent-
Russians, a popular site, is that women are first stalked and then
raped. Despite enlarged "fantasy" disclaimers added in the sum-
mer of 2005, the videos make use of the gritty film techniques that
Hollywood directors have chosen to convey "realism" (ambient
lighting, film stock, and camera movement, for example). The site
imparts to the viewer a sense of the lived reality of the onscreen
stalking and rape.
    Sites like Scream&Cream depend on free online tours to con-
vince viewers to pay the subscription fees (usually around $30 per
month), tours that show explicit stills and excerpts from videos.
The "fantasies" these sites oer highlight pain and fear even more
than they do hard-core sex. Camera angles focus on faces, goggle-
eyed and streaked with streaming mascara. Mouths are open in
screams sometimes silenced by large ball gags. The rapid intercut-
ting between shots of penetration and terrified faces makes the lo-
cus of "pleasure" clear.6
    Sites like Rotten and Goregasm (its tagline: "Where bones
meets boners") present a mix of photos and videos of actual vio-
lence and gore with hard-core pornography. Within a number of
such sites one can easily go back and forth from violence to porn,
navigating from rape pornography to videos of American hostages
being beheaded in Iraq, from the homemade porn of "my wife's
hot pussy," to hundreds of photos and videos of the bodies of
American soldiers and Iraqi men, women, and children mangled
and killed by gunfire and bombs.
    It should surprise no one that the murder of Nicholas Berg, an
American civilian taken hostage in Iraq, is widely available online,
and that some watch it for entertainment. But the fact that violent
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                      155

porn sites became the most common purveyors of the video sug-
gests that those site producers understand that a linkage does exist
between staged rapes and actual beheadings, that simulated vio-
lent sex and actual violence are not only appealing separately, but for
certain viewers gain in appeal when brought together, side by side,
so that one can easily go from one to the other and back again.
    What these gore sites do, then, is provide the Internet con-
sumer with the opportunity to relive the activities of the Abu
Ghraib prison guards, who similarly moved back and forth in their
daily activities between porn, including violent porn, and the vio-
lence of beatings and abuse. Sites like Scream&Cream, Goregasm,
and Rotten make commercial use of the same dehumanization
that was literally on display at Abu Ghraib.

what is porn when it ceases to be fantasy?
The exploitation of dehumanization is abundantly evident in the
violent pornography of Extreme Associates, a company that at-
tracted a good bit of public attention after its production of the
porn film Forced Entry was featured on the February 2002 episode
of PBS's investigative news program Frontline. Extreme Associates
is owned by Robert Zicari and Janet Romano, whose "porn names"
are Rob Black and Lizzie Borden. The two were charged by the Jus-
tice Department in the first major obscenity prosecution in ten
years, in August 2003.
    Romano's description, on Frontline, of the plot of Forced Entry
makes clear what sort of enjoyment is to be found there. "A girl [is]
being kidnapped, being forced to have sex against her will, being
butchered at the end and spit on. She's being degraded." The
butchering that Romano mentions is the cutting of the character's
throat, after which she dies in a pool of blood. (After a series of ap-
peals and setbacks, the Justice Department's prosecution was on-
going at the time this book went to press in late 2007.)
    On the Frontline segment, Zicari openly challenges the govern-
156                                            The Porning of America

ment to "come after us for obscenity!" Even more notable was the
admission by Romano, who directed the video, that the film's star,
Veronica Caine--Romano's real-life best friend--was unaware of
the punishment she would take during the filming of the video.
The kicking and punching inflicted on Caine were not fake, but
real. The fleshy sounds of smacking and pounding are real, the
cries of pain real. The entire beating was filmed by the Frontline
crew until, overwhelmed and distraught due to the graphic nature
of the scene, they made the decision to leave.
     The Extreme filmmakers are perfectly aware of the expecta-
tions customers bring to their videos. Zicari claims that porn con-
sumers are simply bored with typical industry fare, an argument
that resonates ironically with the Christian conservative view that
porn becomes an addiction requiring ever greater, darker thrills.
     Romano's understanding of her personal motivation in pro-
ducing violent pornography is surprisingly insightful, and can be
applied to the situation at Abu Ghraib. "When I was a child, my
stepfather was an alcoholic, so I think I have, like, deep issues, and
this is kind of therapeutic for me, and takes my aggression out on
other people. So, in a way, I'm exploiting people. I'm taking all my
inner demons and aggressions [out] on them, but . . . it's good for
me. So I guess that's all that matters."
     What Romano describes here as therapy is an assertion of the
self through the negation of the other, a feat accomplished through
physical abuse, sexual degradation, and, simulated in Forced Entry,
murder. In making this argument for herself, she makes it, by ex-
tension, for the guards at Abu Ghraib as well.
     Unlike Forced Entry's female victim, in Abu Ghraib the posi-
tions of "male" and "female" became performed roles rather than bi-
ologically gendered ones. The guards found their own identities
thoroughly under assault at Abu Ghraib, by cultural displacement,
an unclear mission, insurgent attacks on the building, inexcusable
laxity in oversight, and contradictory instructions from superiors.
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                    157

Their response to this deep confusion about who they were and
what they were doing was to reassert themselves through the phys-
ical and sexual abuse and torture of the detainees at the prison.
The Iraqis, male and female, collectively became "female," and the
guards, male and female, collectively the dominant "male." The
guards not only used pornography as the visual language of physi-
cal abuse. More important, they adopted the ideology of violent
pornography: the brutal "male" using sex to degrade the weak
     The degradation of detainees at Abu Ghraib was of course real,
not pretended. Violent porn increasingly crosses over the line from
pretense into reality as well. Just as Veronica Caine faced actual vi-
olence in Forced Entry, more and more porn depends on real degra-
dation. Though the Justice Department's prosecution of Extreme
Associates centered on Forced Entry, four other movies were also
cited that included, for instance, scenes in which a woman was
made to drink bile, vomit, and the results of her own colonic (from
Cocktails 2).
     Actual degradation is certainly not new to porn. Midlevel porn
producers have long depended on "First Anal!" editions that high-
light a performer's introduction to the sexual practice. The pain
she experiences in her first experience with anal sex, depicted in a
still photograph on the cover of the video, is the real money shot of
this genre. (Rarer and even more prized in the industry is the "loss
of virginity" video, with the same purpose.) Similarly, videos rang-
ing from the "rough sex" genre to the likes of Scream&Cream and
Extreme Associates have long depended on images of women hav-
ing their heads pushed so far down while performing fellatio that
they repeatedly gag and even vomit.
     In the past several years, however, hard-core pornography, es-
pecially on the Internet, has gravitated toward humiliation and
degradation that cannot be defined as acting or "performance" in
any sense. Take, for example (and only if you have a strong stom-
158                                             The Porning of America

ach), pinkeye and ATM. (We forgive the readers who might want to
skim this section.)
     On the website Pinkeye the male not only ejaculates on the
woman's face, long a popular porn practice, but holds her eyelid
open so his ejaculate will irritate and inflame her eyeball. Deliber-
ately ejaculating into a woman's eye is certainly not a sensual act, but
one having to do with violence and humiliation. The attraction for
the male is simply the psychological kick of causing the woman
discomfort. Whatever pleasure the viewer takes from the scene de-
rives from the pain and humiliation inflicted on an actual woman.
     Similarly, ATM, which stands for ass to mouth, locates the
center of pleasure in degradation. In ATM, a man engages in anal
sex with a woman, pulls out, and is immediately fellated by the
woman. At least by suggestion, she "eats shit." Feces is, in general,
increasingly present in humiliation porn. It also was one of the
favorite mechanisms for degradation at Abu Ghraib, where de-
tainees were handcued, smeared with shit, and made to stand for
hours and pose for photographs. Porn videos that involve pinkeye
or ATM or "colonic cocktails" do not even attempt to suggest that the
women enjoy these acts. Indeed, the opposite is emphasized. The
viewer is openly encouraged--through the liberal use of terms like
bitch, slut, and cunt--to find satisfacton in their displeasure, their
humiliation. Like the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, these women are
being reduced, here to their bodily excretions.
     In the 1982 book Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, the
psychoanalyst and philosopher Julia Kristeva describes the process
of abjection as defining one's identity through "casting o" that
which was once, in reality or symbolically, a part of oneself. Feces,
urine, blood, hair, saliva, and semen are all physically part of us,
but are rendered repulsive when separated from our bodies. Simi-
larly, violent and degrading pornography, by smearing or filling
women with these substances, renders the female body repulsive
and entirely separate from the male body. The "female" is cast o
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                       159

and only the identity of the powerful and dominant male remains.
The sexual abuse and defilement of Iraqi detainees similarly ren-
dered them as utterly "other" to the American soldiers perpetrating
the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
     Anti-pornography activists have for decades described porn as
angry and hateful toward women, a claim we don't think is true of
all porn. Over the past decade or so, however, violent porn has ad-
vertised and sold anger and hate in increasingly actual--that is,
not pretended or scripted--ways. It is as if the resentful anger un-
derlying the men's adventure magazines discussed in Chapter 3,
with misogynistic Nazis bayoneting bound and bleeding women,
has returned to the surface of American popular culture in a new
form. The male audience for violent pornography seeks literally to
injure, through physical violence and humiliation, the flesh and
spirit of American women.
     In this sense, violent porn is perhaps no longer even porn at
all, but something else, quite sinister, that exists not in an imag-
ined world, but in the real world. For what it sells is not vicarious but
actual: not the fantasized experience of sex with an attractive
woman, long the hallmark of masturbatory porn, but the viewer's
involvement in and responsibility for, through the sustaining
financial support of his subscription to such sites, her bodily in-
jury. The viewer's pleasure, then, is for the most part psychologi-
cal, not sensual--a sadistic gloating over the female's actual blood
and tears.
     But Janet Romano--"Lizzie Borden"--is herself a woman, the
object of victimhood in violent porn, isn't she? In an important
sense, no. As Romano memorably put it, her exploitation of
women is therapeutic. This is achieved through a kind of trans-
gendering: through violent porn she becomes male. In fact, as the
director of violent porn movies--controlling all the action--she
becomes the dominant male, with the victims of degradation, as
always, the females. Using male actors as her proxies, Romano
160                                            The Porning of America

becomes a version of the Nazi torturer well known from the covers
of men's adventure magazines.
     Violent porn implicitly accepts power as the male trait. Further,
it views male power in only one way: dominating others through
sexual violence. This is precisely the dynamic on display at Abu
     But if the story of violent porn were confined to Abu Ghraib
and the movies of Janet Romano, it would be a fringe phenome-
non, isolated, certainly disturbing in itself, but not relevant to this
book. Unfortunately, the story goes well beyond Abu Ghraib and
Romano and is quite relevant to this book, because via movies and
the Internet, violent porn has begun to seep into the mainstream,
much as happened in the 1970s with traditional porn through
films like Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door.
     As we made clear in Chapter 1, the porning of America
happened, first, because porn became mainstream by imitating or-
dinary people and ordinary life, and second, because the main-
stream in turn began to imitate porn--in styles of dress, language,
and behavior. We maintain that when porn becomes mainstream,
the mainstream becomes porned.
     To what degree will violent porn enter the mainstream? In
what ways will fans imitate what they see in violent porn in their
ordinary lives, in reality? Short of torture and murder, there re-
main many possible ways to inflict pain and humiliation on oth-
ers, and to take sadistic pleasure in it. To put it another way, we
have seen the porning of America. Will we now see the violent
porning of America?

the cool theater turned chill . . .
In the summer of 2007, we visited the movie theater to watch Hos-
tel: Part II on its opening day. Hostel: Part II extends the premise of
the first Hostel (2005), in which members of an exclusive Slova-
kian club purchase kidnapped travelers (Americans are particu-
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                     161

larly prized) in order to torture and kill them in grisly and bizarre
     Viewers of films like Hostel: Part II are a savvy audience in that
they know the conventions of the genre well, and can not only im-
mediately spot the eventual victims, including the likely "final girl"
(the requisite sole survivor of most horror films), but also predict
the order in which they will be dispatched. In the first five minutes
of the movie it is obvious to everyone that the homely girl will
die first.
     Lorna has been kidnapped and clubbed. She awakes, gagged
and whimpering. Slowly the camera begins to rotate and zoom
out, and we realize that she is naked and upside down, suspended
by her ankles from the ceiling, hands bound behind her. We are
treated to long looks at her body, her breasts taking on an odd
appearance in her upended state. Unlike in most pornography,
the acting is superb, and Lorna's abject terror and despair are
     Director Eli Roth clearly wants us to feel doubly excited by
the fearfulness of the threat Lorna faces as well as its sexual com-
ponent. A Mrs. Bathory enters, disrobes, and lies down in a large
tiled sunken bathtub. She picks up a scythe, first just to terrorize
Lorna, but soon begins cutting her, causing blood to flow down
Lorna's body and onto her. She then cuts Lorna's gag, so that she--
and we, presumably--can savor all the sounds of Lorna's terror,
every gasp, whimper, and shriek. Finally done with foreplay, Mrs.
Bathory slits Lorna's throat, and the blood gushes down on her in
a torrent. Drenched, massaging blood over her breasts, she writhes
in orgasmic ecstasy.
     The scene is disturbing enough in itself, combining riveting
images of violent pornography with the torture depicted in men's
adventure magazines. For us, however, sitting in the theater, by far
the most frightening part of it all occurred not onscreen but in
the audience. As the torture scene progressed, increasingly blood-
162                                          The Porning of America

ier with every laceration of the scythe, a steady, throaty laughter
from young men in the audience rolled through the theater. This
wasn't buoyant laughter rising up from an audience, that almost
luminous enveloping mirth, but instead a heavy staccato of laughs
coughed out, filling the dark rows like smog. In the Abu Ghraib
photos in which guards are pictured laughing--if we could hear
them, this would surely be their laughter.
    Then, at the moment Mrs. Bathory slits Lorna's throat in a
shower of blood, in the theater a sudden, cooing chorus--Ooooooh!
For us, the cool theater turned chill.
    The orgasmic response of many of the men in the theater
that afternoon renders irrelevant the countless defenses of "torture
porn" or "gorno" (gore plus gonzo) movies oered by the genre's di-
rectors. Eli Roth has acknowledged that he was in fact inspired by
the images of Abu Ghraib. But he has argued in many interviews
that his films should be seen as social commentary, as critiques of
American arrogance and ignorance about the rest of the world.
    On the surface, his claims work. In Hostel, which earned ten
times its $4.8 million budget, we watch two Americans and an Ice-
landic friend explore the seamier areas of Amsterdam. Outside a
brothel, Paxton, one of the Americans, sees a prostitute through
a window and says, "God, I hope bestiality is legal in Amsterdam
because that girl is a fuckin' hog."
    The young men, of course, enter, "paying to go into a room to
do whatever you want to someone," as the reluctant Josh, the other
American, puts it. His description ironically foreshadows their
own fate.
    All well and good. We see the arrogance and ignorance. But we
see something else as well, and it is more in the foreground. For
the men in the theater with us watching Hostel: Part II, the film
was not a horror film at all. Their orgasmic responses expressed a
very dierent emotion. It was erotic joy.
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                     163

      Interestingly, though these movies are known for gore and tor-
ture, there is often much less of it than one might expect. In Hos-
tel, there are two scenes, both only a few minutes long, in which we
see blood and exposed flesh. In one, Paxton escapes danger by hid-
ing on a cart with severed body parts, and in the other, he and a
young woman, Kana, evade recapture after she has had her face
burned with a blowtorch. The scenes in which we watch actual tor-
ture--damage done to flesh--total only about ten seconds in the
entire film.
      Rather, the "pleasure" the audience derives from films like
Hostel is in the close-ups of the victims' terrified faces--as it is in
pinkeye and ATM. The murder of Josh, for example, is Hostel's set
piece. He is bound to a chair and gagged with a ball gag common
in violent porn and in BDSM. The only damage we actually see,
though, is a close-up of a drill bit piercing flesh, a shot that lasts
less than two seconds. He is drilled at least three more times, has
his Achilles tendons cut and his throat slit, all of which occurs
oscreen. What makes his murder the center of the film is the ter-
ror the actor conveys, and the focus on bodily fluids, especially
pain- and fear-induced vomit.
      The film is in fact obsessed with sexualized excretions of every
variety. When Paxton's turn for torture arrives, he spews bile,
vomit, and blood, but his rescue of Kana epitomizes the sexualiza-
tion of pain and bodily fluids. We do not see the blowtorch on her
face, but after Paxton shoots the torturer, we see her ruined, drip-
ping face and an eyeball hanging out of its socket. When Paxton
uses scissors to cut it o, a white, pus-like fluid oozes out of the
socket, a scene that Roth has called an "eyegasm."
      Captivity, also released in the summer of 2007 and directed by
Roland Joé, created heated controversy well before its run with an
ad campaign that rendered the genre's pleasures explicit. The ad
is divided into four panels, labeled "abduction," "confinement,"
164                                             The Porning of America

"torture," and "termination." The images emphasize the sexiness of
the victim, especially the termination panel, which centers on one
of her breasts.
     The premise of the film is simple: a crazed fan kidnaps and tor-
tures a fashion model, at one point forcing her to drink pureed
body parts. The connection of such images from Hostel, Captivity,
and Cocktails 2 with the shit-smeared detainees at Abu Ghraib is
     The sexuality of the scenes of brutalization and murder earns
these movies membership in the torture porn genre. In Hostel,
the man who will eventually torture Kana tells Paxton--who is pre-
tending to be a customer of the club--that torture and killing is the
natural next step in his search for a fulfilling sexual experience.
But the fulfilling sex that characters in these films seek goes far be-
yond sensual, physical pleasure and crosses over into violence and
killing. Violent, sexual murder becomes the language of domi-
nance and power, an assertion of self that requires the utter denial
of the humanity of the other.
     Turistas (2006) develops this theme in a scene in which a
young woman, dressed in a bikini through much of the movie, has
her organs harvested by an angry doctor who sees her as the sym-
bol of--you guessed it--American arrogance. Intercut with shots of
her naked body are long, loving shots of her opened abdomen and
of the organs as they are removed. In the final shot, the camera
pulls back to show her extracted kidney wrapped in gauze lying
next to a still-beautiful breast.
     This is vivisection porn. If violent porn in general is filled with
anger and hatred directed against women, in vivisection porn that
negativity is used like a scalpel on female erotic power. As we see re-
peatedly on the beaches of Brazil in Turistas, a beautiful woman
in a bikini holds ogling, horny men in the palm of her hand--the
male characters in the film as well as the males in the audience.
The vivisection then constitutes the literal deconstruction of fe-
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                   165

male allure: The beautiful abdomen? Watch as it is slit opened to re-
veal a tangle of intestines and bloody, unlovely internal organs. A
breast may still be beautiful with a kidney beside it, but the juxta-
position reveals the truth behind the illusion: a beautiful woman's
body, after all, is blood, bile, excretions of all sorts, and wormy,
pulsing, slimy organs. On the Internet, many sites (such as
Allinternal) accomplish virtual vivisection not with scalpels but
rather with tiny cameras mounted on dildos and inserted deep into
vaginas and anuses.
     Violent porn, then, is very much about stealing away power,
and gaining it. The idea that torture oers the ultimate masculine
power is most clear in Hostel: Part II. Except for Mrs. Bathory and
her scythe, the main dealers of pain are two American men who
discuss how killing young women will reclaim for them their
power over women. Beginning with their bidding on young female
victims, we follow them throughout their murderous reclamation
of power. Todd has his victim dress up in lingerie before he uses
a circular saw on her face, and Stuart selects his because she re-
minds him of his emasculating wife.
     The movie exists in "Abu Ghraib world." Todd crosses the
guards, and they sic attack dogs on him, reminding us of several
frightening images of the prison. When Stuart attempts to rape
Beth as part of her torture, she turns the tables on him and ties
him to the torture chair. Throughout the movie, Beth has been de-
picted as rich and smart, but lacking confidence. When the guards
of the torture club arrive to investigate the commotion, however,
she has large scissors around Stuart's penis and uses the obvious
threat to negotiate her release.
     Informed that no one can leave without killing someone, she
immediately cuts o Stuart's penis ("Let him bleed to death") and
hands it to a guard, who throws it to ravenous dogs. Having com-
mitted sexual murder, Beth becomes confident and strong, strid-
ing away full of purpose and power. For her, sexual violence works.
166                                            The Porning of America

     The message is not, however, as Eli Roth has widely claimed,
feminist. Instead, the clear message is that sexual murder makes
the murderer not only a "man," but, indeed, "the man," the alpha
male. Castrated Stuart--like vomit-spewing Josh and Paxton from
the first film--becomes the "woman," or, using today's popular,
porned lexicon, the bitch.
     Many reviewers of torture porn movies see in the genre the
coming fall of Western civilization. We can't say that we agree. But
neither can we call these critics Chicken Littles. It is true, and un-
settling, that the last time a Western society depended so much in
its media and entertainment on sexual violence and murder was
during Germany's Weimar Republic (1919­1933).
     Unlike Weimar Germany, the United States has not recently
lost a world war (though the 9/11 attacks, the failure of the Iraq
war, and awareness of a world turned against us have created a
sense of victimization for many Americans). We haven't suered
through periods of civil unrest and violence that threaten another
civil war. Nor have we experienced the hyperinflation that de-
stroyed the German economy and rendered much of the country
     We do share with the Weimar period, however, a growing fac-
tionalism and extremity in our politics. So intense is the personal-
ized fighting between the forces of the right and left that rational
political argument is nearly impossible. As we discussed at the end
of Chapter 4, political commentary has become a porned enter-
tainment, in which the desire is to humiliate and degrade political
opponents, making them completely other. Both sides insult,
ridicule, and taunt. A liberal commentator wishes for the death by
assassination of the sitting conservative vice president. A conser-
vative commentator calls the liberal former vice president a faggot.
And so it goes. Much of the country seems to have joined in this
ugly fun.
     German culture during the Weimar period responded to the
The Nexus of Porn and Violence                                   167

contention and uncertainty of the era by developing a fascination
with lustmord, or sexual murder. In its fiction, film, art, and jour-
nalism, Germany worked out its anger and insecurity through im-
ages of mutilated women. In this we share an eerie similarity to
the nation that would become Nazi Germany. Over the last twenty
years or so, sexual violence and murder have proven highly
profitable in fiction, film, and television, with torture porn movies
merely being the most recent and extreme examples. Our willing-
ness to see men too as appropriate victims of lustmord might
seem to represent a perverse brand of equal opportunity, but the
position of the victim remains "the woman," and the purpose of
the murder remains the "masculinization" of the perpetrator.
    Again, we are not suggesting that our own fascination with
lustmord will turn us into the next Nazi Germany. Rather, it seems
likely to us that a culture that takes so much pleasure in images of
sexual violence and murder, whether in its military prisons or its
movie houses, is a culture that has lost its sense of strength and is
searching desperately to recover its former authority.
7. Women and Porn

"A single book or a single picture," wrote Anthony Comstock well
over a century ago, "may taint forever the soul of the person who
reads it." And there we have it in a nutshell, the key issue in the ar-
gument against porn.
     But is it true? Does pornography taint us? Does a dirty picture,
once seen, skulk about deep in our consciousness and lay back
trails connecting our polluted libidos to our feelings toward people
in general? Or toward our lovers, or even our spouses?
     Comstock certainly thought so. A former postal inspector, he
was appointed by the New York City YMCA to chair its New York
Society for the Suppression of Vice. No zealot before or after Com-
stock has been nearly so successful a suppressor. In 1873 he lob-
bied the U.S. Congress to pass the Comstock Act, which bars, to
this day, the use of the mail to deliver obscene material. Though
the definition of obscene has clearly evolved, in modern times the
ban on sending obscene material through the mail was used by
anti-pornography crusaders to pursue the likes of Ralph Ginzburg,
Al Goldstein, and Russ Meyer, and many writers, including Henry
Miller, whose Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn could not for
a time be distributed to booksellers through the mail.
     Even in his own day, however, many critics hooted at the prud-
ery of Comstock and his allies. They coined the term Comstockery to
describe his overreaching antiobscenity movement, the targets of

170                                            The Porning of America

which came to include condoms and contraceptives, aphrodisiacs,
"marital aids" (sex toys), and even anatomy textbooks.
    Yet Comstock's belief that porn taints the soul remains rele-
vant today. In fact, the arguments over pornography all have, at
their core, one position or another on this supposed defilement.
For Comstock, the taint was fundamentally moral. Over the last
several decades, however, not only moral crusaders but groups with
social and political allegiances have lobbied against pornography.
    Of all these groups, women, the putative victims of pornogra-
phy, have overwhelmingly dominated the public discourse on the
subject since the 1950s. And since the growth of women's libera-
tion as a powerful social movement in the 1970s, feminism has set
the terms of the debate.

arguing the taint: a short history
During the postwar years, the debate over pornography paralleled
the opposition to comic books. Many of the same groups organ-
ized national and local eorts against both porn and comics, such
as the GFWC and NODL, discussed in Chapter 3. In fact, the 1954­
1955 Kefauver Senate hearings lumped comics and pornography
together as contributors to juvenile delinquency. As fervently as
Comstock himself, the Kefauver panel believed in the taint of
    In identifying juveniles as the victims of this taint, the Kefauver
panel foresaw a future in which damaged children would become
the damaged adults running society. Not only the Senate panel, but
also a growing antidelinquency movement led by women similarly
saw pornography as potentially destructive to society.
    These campaigns touted themselves as the guardians of the
future of American masculinity. Focusing on boys as the most
vulnerable victims of pornography, the female campaigners feared
that pornography would turn their sons into sadists or sissies.
Women and Porn                                                     171

Porn in all its forms would, the argument went, lead young men
into homosexuality and sadomasochism, which were seen as
     As previously noted, Cold War American propaganda issued
both a clarion call for male power and a fervent warning about
male violence. America wanted men ready to fight against com-
munism, but it also worried that such men might grow too violent
to fill their domestic role in the home.
     The first modern anti-pornography campaigns, then, spear-
headed by the Kefauver panel along with antidelinquency groups,
sprang from deeply conservative roots, promoting the father-led
nuclear family and strong patriotic values. Again, boys and men
were identified as profoundly vulnerable to the taint of pornography.
As such, they were likely to cause social turmoil, a libido-driven an-
archy, with women bearing the brunt of their sexually damaged
     These premises would underlie the dominant argument about
pornography for the next forty years. In the mid-1970s, as the Ke-
fauver panel and the antidelinquency groups of the 1950s faded
into history, the feminist movement took over the fight against
pornography. Working from the same premises of male vulnera-
bility and the consequent danger men posed to society, the femi-
nists of the 1970s saw porn's frightening potential to dehumanize
and subjugate women.
     Despite more than a century of earlier eorts by women to cre-
ate an equitable society, pop history usually bestows upon Betty
Freidan the credit for beginning the modern feminist movement.
Freidan first shocked the culture with The Feminine Mystique in
1963. When, three years later, she founded, with others, the Na-
tional Organization for Women (NOW), which she also led as its
first president, Freidan set many of the terms in the social debate
about women's liberation.
172                                           The Porning of America

    The Feminine Mystique challenged the dominant ideology of its
era that the home provided women with their surest path to happi-
ness and fulfillment. The "mystique," as Freidan identified it, was
a complex set of cultural, social, and personal forces that conspired
to convince women to participate in their own subjugation. NOW
brought the matter of female subjugation to the public arena, as-
suming that many elements of the "feminine mystique" could be
addressed by the group's social and political activism. NOW spent
much of the 1970s, for instance, promoting ratification of the
equal rights amendment (ERA).
    At the same time that NOW began lobbying for the ERA, the
pornography industry enjoyed what is still referred to as its golden
age. Legal and cultural changes opened the door for a string of
porn films and actors to gain a level of popular fame previously at-
tainable only by Hollywood movies and stars.
    Critics of porn thought they had a major victory when the
Supreme Court, in Miller v. California (1973), made it more di~cult
for obscene material to gain First Amendment protection. Such
material would need to be acceptable according to "contemporary
community standards." But standards were changing fast in the
1970s, and relatively few communities took firm stands against
porn. Prosecutors and police often felt unsure of their mandate.
The overall result: porn proliferated.
    For a while, feminists remained otherwise concerned. The
Supreme Court legalized abortion with its Roe v. Wade decision
in 1973, and, in general, American feminism focused on such
specific causes. Until the mid-1970s, men, for the most part, led
the anti-porn campaigns, from the point of view of decency and
morality. Indeed, in 1975 a major anthology on the topic of pornog-
raphy, The Pornography Controversy, edited by Ray C. Rist, a senior
policy analyst at the Department of Health, Education, and Wel-
fare, included figures such as Earl Warren Jr. but not a single
woman contributor.
Women and Porn                                                      173

"porn is the theory, rape is the practice"
All that changed in 1975. In that year, Susan Brownmiller pub-
lished Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. Rape, she argued,
functioned as a social mechanism of control by which men main-
tained sexual supremacy over women. As a result, all men, even
nonrapists, enjoyed the benefit of rape.
     Brownmiller further contended that pornography was essen-
tially rape on paper. "There can be no `equality' in porn . . . [which,]
like rape, is a male invention, designed to dehumanize women, to
reduce the female to the object of sexual access, not to free sensu-
ality from moralistic or parental inhibition."1 Pornography, like
actual rape, benefited all men, whether or not they were partici-
pants. Its very existence, then, constituted a de facto harm against
women. Identified in this way as a crucial part of male oppression,
porn became an urgent and compelling feminist issue.
     The self-described radical feminist Robin Morgan famously
stated, "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice." That sim-
ple formulation became a slogan of the feminist anti-pornography
movement, and appeared regularly on placards in the hands of
women protesting in front of peep shows and porn shops. Further,
an assumption that pornography depended upon violence against
its female performers, which in turn led to violence against women
in general, became the core belief of the movement.
     The heat and scope of the protests startled the liberal establish-
ment, traditionally committed to free speech and its First Amend-
ment protections. Brownmiller articulated what for years to come
would be a pivotal contention between feminists and many liber-
als: the unwillingness to consider the possibility that some speech
could, in itself, constitute an act of violence against women. As
such, porn should be subject to censorship.
     Brownmiller's book, and its tumultuous reception, electrified
the women's movement. As if on cue, in early 1976 the porno-
graphic film Snu was released in New York City; with it, Brown-
174                                            The Porning of America

miller's argument seemed to have been handed all the compelling
evidence it could ever need. Arriving on the heels of citywide ru-
mors that the NYPD had confiscated South American porno-
graphic movies in which women were killed during sex, Snu
caused a powerful stir.
     Originally produced in 1971 as a C-grade slasher film, then
called Slaughter, it was loosely based on the Charles Manson
killings. The title of the film was changed to Snu when its distrib-
utor (the sometime pornographer Alan Shackleton) tacked on a
startling finale. As the film ends, the camera pulls back to reveal
the final scene as it is being shot on a movie set. A "script girl" and
the director talk about the film and then have sex--during which he
kills her, and then proceeds to dismember and eviscerate her. As
the screen goes black, we hear broken bits of talk, including "Shit,
we ran out of film" and "Let's get out of here," lending it the air of
documentary. The marketing for the film suggested the shocking
possibility that the murders of the women, including the script
girl, were real. (The film's tagline: "A film that could only be made
in South America--where Life is CHEAP!")
     Shackleton had, as part of his marketing of the film, actually
hired protestors to picket theaters where it was being shown. Soon,
though, women's groups took up the action in earnest. Laura Led-
erer, the editor of the influential anthology Take Back the Night:
Women on Pornography (1980), describes the film as "the powder
keg that moved women seriously to confront the issue of pornog-
raphy." In response to Snu, women across the country formed
protest groups, took legal action, and shut the film down in several
venues. Over the next few years, groups like Women against Vio-
lence against Women (WAVAW), Women against Pornography
(WAP), and Women against Violence in Pornography and Media
(WAVPM) took on many other films and magazines, broadening
their target to include soft-core advertisements and even events
like the Miss America pageant.
Women and Porn                                                  175

    WAP set up its headquarters on Forty-second Street in New
York, then a hotbed of porn and prostitution, from which mem-
bers staged protests and led tours of the area for everyone from
housewives to nuns. In 1978 WAVPM organized a national con-
ference, "Feminist Perspectives on Pornography," and, in conjunc-
tion with the conference, the first Take Back the Night March in
San Francisco's pornography district. Even today such marches
continue throughout the United States.
    The first march through a pornography district, however, had
occurred a year earlier in New York, as the result of a call by An-
drea Dworkin. Dworkin and legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon
would become the voices of the feminist anti-porn movement.
Over the next fifteen years or so, Dworkin and MacKinnon, whose
work together permanently linked their names, gave the anti-
pornography movement a coherence and public prominence un-
equaled before or since.
    Dworkin and MacKinnon took over the leadership of the anti-
pornography movement at an oddly propitious moment. The
golden age of porn was in part brought to an end by the election of
Ronald Reagan and the political ascendance of the religious right.
In 1985 Reagan appointed his attorney general, Edwin Meese, to
head a commission to study the eects of pornography. Stocked
with anti-pornography activists, the commission released a mas-
sive, vague report acknowledging that clear evidence of harm
caused by pornography was unavailable--but assigning such
harm anyway. The odd bedfellows--anti-porn feminists and the
Reagan administration, along with much of the religious right--
eventually created more long-term trouble for the feminists than
short-term benefit.
    Meanwhile, though, support for the dictum "pornography is
the theory, rape is the practice" kept coming. In 1980 Linda Bore-
man, who had appeared under the stage name Linda Lovelace in
the 1972 film Deep Throat, published Ordeal, in which she claimed
176                                            The Porning of America

that her then husband, Chuck Traynor, had used violence and
threats to force her into prostitution and pornography. She would
tell the Toronto Sun, "When you see the movie `Deep Throat,'
you are watching me being raped. It is a crime that movie is still
showing; there was a gun to my head the entire time." Steinem,
Dworkin, and MacKinnon (who would represent Boreman until
her death in 2002) worked with Boreman during the promotion of
her book, and together they developed the strategy of using civil
rights laws to sue Traynor. When they discovered that the statute
of limitations on such violations had elapsed on Deep Throat,
Dworkin and MacKinnon continued to develop the "violation of
civil rights" approach to combating other pornography.2
     Bringing in the matter of civil rights focused the zealous but
scattered anti-pornography movement. Feminists had grasped
immediately that their campaign against pornography could not
depend on the old arguments, morality and decency, because tra-
ditional concepts of morality and decency belonged to the same
conservative ideologies that had led Freidan to write The Feminine
Mystique in the first place. As a result, most of the successes of the
anti-pornography movement up to this point avoided morality ar-
guments altogether, relying instead on the simple force of protest-
ing the sexual violence done to female victims. The feminists, in
other words, lacked an overarching conceptual cause, some idea or
principle around which feminists could rally as conservatives had
rallied around morality and decency.
     Dworkin and MacKinnon provided exactly that conceptual
cause in civil rights. In regarding porn as a violation of the civil
rights of women, they were proposing nothing less than a systemic
legal change in the way society handled pornography and other im-
ages of violence against women.
     Between 1983 and 1992, they worked with local o~cials in
Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Boston trying to pass
anti-pornography civil rights ordinances. Their model ordinance
Women and Porn                                                    177

defined pornography as "the graphic sexually explicit subordina-
tion of women through pictures and/or words."
     At the center of their approach lay the idea that pornography
is improperly--incompletely--regarded merely as speech. There-
fore, free speech protections should not be brought to bear. Just as
Comstock, more than a hundred years earlier, considered pornog-
raphy a happening, an event, that forever changes for the worse--
taints--those who view it, so Dworkin and MacKinnon proposed
that porn is in itself an act that harms women in measurable ways.
Notice in their definition above that porn does not, say, "advocate"
or "lead to" the subordination of women, it is the subordination of
women through pictures and/or words.
     Free speech, sacred to liberalism, does come into play, but in
an unexpected way. Dworkin and MacKinnon argued that porn, by
participating in a social system that perpetuates the inferiority of
women, dehumanizes them and thus robs them of their own right
to free speech.
     Dworkin and MacKinnon testified at various hearings in sup-
port of the civil rights ordinances, along with a host of other ex-
perts of various sorts. Boreman, for instance, who had appeared
anonymously and under many pseudonyms in countless porn
films and loops, testified that coercion and rape were standard
practice in the pornography industry. Prominent sociologists such
as Edward Donnerstein and Diana E. H. Russell testified to a link
between pornography and violence against women.
     The hearings, despite their local settings, were national events.
The testimony, often riveting, captured the public's attention.
Dworkin was a brilliant polemicist, and MacKinnon a noted legal
scholar whose first book, on sexual harassment, remains the most
influential text on the subject.
     But the ordinances all failed, one after another. Some went
down by executive veto, others by court decision, and the rest were
voted down by the citizens of the locale.
178                                           The Porning of America

     In other important ways, though, Dworkin and MacKinnon
were dramatically successful. They had raised public awareness of
the dark side of pornography, especially through Boreman's testi-
mony. As Linda Lovelace, she was, after all, the most famous porn
star of the most famous porn movie, and her celebrity was wide-
spread. Johnny Carson, a gatekeeper of the cultural mainstream,
admitted to seeing Deep Throat, and other celebrity giants praised
it. She had appeared in interviews in the media and on the covers
of popular magazines, including Esquire. Her fame was now
brought to bear against pornography. If anybody knew the world of
pornography from the inside, she did.
     Dworkin and MacKinnon succeeded in mounting a com-
pelling case against porn not on moral grounds, but rather as a
crucial part of the oppression of women and a violation of their
civil rights. Feminists and others would continue this approach in
the fight against porn. And, most of all, the two anti-porn feminists
had succeeded glowingly in bringing porn to the forefront of femi-
nism's principal struggle for social advancement in the face of
male oppression.
     But all was not well. MacKinnon and Dworkin came to be seen
by many, both in and out of the feminist movement, as rigid and
doctrinaire. Critics even took to calling them MacDworkin, an
eective epithet that dismisses even as it comments on the pair's
monolithic take on pornography. In 1987 Dworkin published In-
tercourse, an angry, abstruse book that engages in such lengthy dis-
cussions as the warlike symbolism of sexual penetration, and led
to a popular understanding of her thesis as "all sex is rape."
     Dworkin's actual, more nuanced point was at least arguable:
that in our unequal society, sex is impossible to think about, or to
have, apart from gendered notions of submission and domination.
But apart from the question of whether or not Dworkin was claim-
ing that sex is rape, she and her allies promoted a leery view of sex
that left very little room for any "approved" sexual activity at all.
Women and Porn                                                  179

Moreover, both in practice and in the public consciousness,
Dworkin and MacKinnon had taken over the feminist argument
about porn, and the public increasingly saw them as angry and ac-
cusatory. Many of their readers, including most of the next genera-
tion of feminists, came to reject what they saw as MacDworkin
     Right from the beginning, some feminists worried about
Dworkin and MacKinnon's type of activism. Even Gloria Steinem,
who participated in the anti-pornography civil rights approach,
had identified a "clear and present" dierence between pornography
and erotica as early as 1978. Steinem wanted to keep feminists
from being labeled as neo-Puritans and prudes. Anti-porn too of-
ten bordered on anti-sex, and seemed to quash any possibility of an
active and healthy sexual life for women.
     Within the women's movement, resistance to the anti-pornog-
raphy cause grew during the 1980s. Some, including Freidan, saw
in the civil rights approach a misguided assault on free speech that
could easily be turned against the feminist project itself. Others,
assuming that the courts would continue to overturn any bans that
might be legislated, preferred a return to the simpler and more di-
rect street protests against pornography. Further, many feminists
were dismayed, especially during the Indianapolis hearings, that
self-described "militant feminists" were standing shoulder to
shoulder with conservative religious figures who were foursquare
against pornography--but also foursquare against abortion and
the ERA.
     Resistance to MacKinnon and Dworkin also resulted rather in-
evitably from the shifting demographics of feminism. A growing
number of young women joining the women's movement simply
disagreed with the way earlier feminists had framed the issue of
sexuality and pornography. These "pro-sex feminists," generally
less academic and less theoretical than the anti-pornography
group, argued that sexual self-determination should be a founda-
180                                            The Porning of America

tional part of feminism. And such self-determination meant that a
woman might choose to view pornography, or even perform in it.3
     With Dworkin and MacKinnon as figureheads, feminism had
earned a reputation as anti-male. Pro-sex feminists wanted to re-
verse that. A few, such as journalist and author Wendy McElroy,
attacked the core idea of the anti-pornography movement--the no-
tion of harm (or we might say, after Comstock, the damage caused
by "tainted" men). The real harm, they argued, would come from
censoring pornography, and such censorship itself would stifle the
growth of women's equality. The debate, often called the sex wars
or the porn wars, grew bigger and more heated throughout the
1980s. By the decade's end, the porn wars had seriously damaged
feminism as a coherent national and international movement.
     In the 1990s the conflict between feminism and pornography
took an entirely new shape. Staggered by charges that second-wave
feminism (identified mainly with Freidan and, later, Dworkin
and MacKinnon) had been exclusively concerned with the lives of
upper-middle-class white women, the movement now welcomed
the voices of poor women and minorities. This openness to new
causes removed pornography from feminism's crosshairs.
     But it was gay and lesbian activists and scholars, increasingly
in the public eye throughout the 1980s, who radically changed the
dynamics of feminism and porn. Gays and lesbians had adopted
much of their rhetoric and ideology from feminism--but not on
the matter of porn. Homosexuals had long been aware that sex was
for them a political act, in that gay and lesbian intercourse was still
illegal in many places and considered immoral in many more. Sex,
then, including pornography, became a crucial part of their ac-
tivism and writing. And the porn industry responded by producing
more target-marketed gay porn.
     A shrinking number of anti-pornography feminists continue
to fight on. Scholars such as Gail Dines and Robert Jensen have
expanded the anti-pornography arguments, pointing out, for in-
Women and Porn                                                    181

stance, the racism common in the products and rampant in the in-
dustry itself. In their view, pornography shares in the oppression
and imperialism that underlie Western thought. Further, it's a
toxic expression of a much larger problem: our capitalist, media-
saturated society.
    But even to educated audiences, the language of anti-pornog-
raphy feminism has grown impossibly academic, abstruse, and
foreign. And, as was true under Dworkin and MacKinnon's leader-
ship, the movement remains dogmatic and intolerant of dierence
or dissent. For example, a 2007 national conference on pornogra-
phy at Wheelock College invited only work clearly identifiable as
anti-porn and excluded porn performers, sex therapists, and any
consideration of recent developments like feminist porn.
    For most feminists, however, the conversation has moved on
to a new stage. Scholars like Laura Kipnis, Lynn S. Chancer, and
Linda Williams have approached pornography not as a one-dimen-
sional destructive force, but rather as a collection of the many ways
a variety of groups have presented their own sexuality. For some of
these groups, such as gays, porn can be a subversive act against the
same straight male supremacy Dworkin and MacKinnon decried.
    Most third-wave feminists, which is to say those at the fore-
front now, classify themselves as pro-sex, and have turned the
conversation about pornography in new directions. For example,
in one of the most influential feminist books of the 1990s, The
Beauty Myth (1991), Naomi Wolf investigated the ways in which
images of beauty dominate women's perceptions of themselves. In
slavishly trying to measure up to male-derived ideals of beauty,
Wolf argues, women perpetuate male supremacy even as it is in
    Anti-pornography scholars and activists resent the third-wave
feminists' description of themselves as pro-sex, implying, as it
does, their own status as anti-sex. To many surviving second-
wavers, the third-wavers oer "fuck-me feminism," a retrogres-
182                                           The Porning of America

sion in which women confirm old gender stereotypes either by
claiming to "choose" traditional roles, or by finding female power
through adopting male behaviors, such as casual sex. Feminist de-
fenses of pornography fall into this second category, they argue.
    Some third-wavers, such as Naomi Wolf, also find pornogra-
phy troubling, but not because of the supposed harm inflicted by
tainted males. Rather, pornography connects good sex exclusively
with the Barbie-like bodies of porn stars, and so interferes with or-
dinary women's enjoyment of sex--something that is very impor-
tant to the third-wavers.
    In Promiscuities (1997), which is in part a sexual memoir, Wolf
examines the di~culties girls and women face in developing a
healthy sexuality. And she finds a place in such development--if
not quite for pornography--for erotica.
    Most recently, the feminists garnering the most widespread at-
tention have been young, nonacademic women trying to repair the
divide within feminism created by the porn wars. For instance,
Ariel Levy, an editor at New York magazine, argues in Female Chau-
vinist Pigs that young women, many of whom identify themselves
as feminists, dress, talk, and behave in ways derived from "raunch
culture"--of which the Girls Gone Wild videos are a good example.
Levy neither praises nor condemns pornography, though it's clear
she doesn't like most male-centered porn. Mainly, though, she is
upset that so many young women have failed to find a way not cre-
ated by men to enact their self-possessed sexuality.
    Jessica Valenti, executive editor of the website Feministing, has
a dierent project. With Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's
Guide to Why Feminism Matters (2007), Valenti wants to welcome
everyone into a kind of big-tent feminism. Indeed, most young
women are feminists, she argues, whether they know it or not, and
even if they want to avoid the "F-word."
    Moreover, in Valenti's view young women, especially, should
prize their feminism because it provides them with the orientation
Women and Porn                                                   183

and ideas they will need to achieve the kind of lives they desire.
And to Valenti, pornography of the right sort can certainly be a part
of that life.
    On that point Levy and Valenti are far from complete agree-
ment. The logo for Feministing is the same silhouette of a naked
woman (famous from truck mud flaps) that appears on the cover of
Levy's book as an example of the raunch culture she is concerned
about. But the two women are alike in searching for a new ap-
proach to feminism that acknowledges women's sexuality, and
even the desire to be sexy, while at the same time remembering the
fine line between sexiness and objectification.

the big questions
Though anti-porn activists have had little long-term success in dis-
couraging the dissemination of pornography, they raised the ques-
tions that remain in the public consciousness. Here, we address a
number of these questions, with attention to the most current re-

Does pornography cause violence toward women?
This is, of course, the blockbuster question. If it could be proven
that pornography causes sexual assault, then censorship would be
inevitable. Since the mid-1970s, women's groups, with support
from many academics and scientists, have answered the question
with a resounding yes. Sociologists and psychologists, however,
have oered a more tepid response: pretty much, no.
    Recent statistics oer no evidence that porn has spurred vio-
lence against women. According to the U.S. Department of Justice,
rates of rape and sexual assault dropped 68 percent between 1993
and 2005, a period during which, thanks largely to the Internet,
porn boomed. Further, over time the Internet has made available
porn of every imaginable stripe, including an increasing amount
of porn dedicated to violence and degradation. The fact that specifi-
184                                          The Porning of America

cally violent porn thrived while actual sexual assaults plummeted
suggests that for the vast majority of men, at least, pornography
does not in any legal or scientific sense cause sexual aggression.4
    But the issue is not quite so easily resolved. Beginning in the
1980s, an enormous amount of research investigated every possi-
ble connection between pornography and violence. Here are the
results, in brief:

 · There is no compelling evidence to suggest that "normal" men
   (those who have no history of sexual aggression and do not dis-
   play hypermasculine, aggressive personality traits) become
   more likely to commit sexual aggression because of exposure to
   violent or nonviolent pornography. In fact, porn does not ap-
   pear to change their general attitudes toward women in any
   long-term way.
 · Some studies of men have shown short-term increases in sex-
   ual callousness as a result of exposure to images of sexual
   violence and "rape myth" stories. (Rape myth stories show
   women experiencing pleasure in being victimized.) But the
   same change occurs when men watch films that are simply vi-
   olent, without the element of porn, suggesting that the prob-
   lem is with the violence rather than the explicit sex.
 · There is a strong correlation between sexual aggression and
   the use of violent pornography. That is, rapists and others who
   are sexually aggressive tend to be users of violent pornography.
   Men who commit acts of sexual aggression display a general
   set of personality traits--such as hostile masculinity, sexual
   promiscuity, and pornography use--in excess of men who do
   not commit sexual assault. Indeed, a 2007 study found that
   pornography was predictive of sexual aggression only in men al-
   ready at high risk of sexual aggression. The use of pornogra-
   phy, then, may well be a part of the sexually aggressive profile
   rather than a cause of sexually violent behavior. Research psy-
Women and Porn                                                   185

   chologists have been searching for ways to isolate and measure
   the influence of porn so that they might answer the critical
   question of just how important pornography is in the eventual
   turn toward violence.
 · One possible connection between porn and sexual aggression
   is that men so inclined could perhaps be "activated" by their ex-
   posure to pornography. Research shows, however, that sexual
   oenders generally have neither earlier nor more intense ex-
   posure to pornography. This suggests that pornography is not,
   then, a significant cause of the development of their sexual ag-
   gression. Rather, something quite dierent seems to be the
   case: preexisting hostile sexual attitudes toward women tend
   to determine how men respond to pornography.5

In summation, pornography will not transform a psychologically
healthy man into a violent sexual abuser. But porn does play a dis-
turbing, if uncertain, role in the lives of men predisposed toward
sexual violence.

Do women watch porn?
Yes. And though dependable precise figures are impossible to
come by, women are watching in increasing numbers.
     For years, the industry claimed that roughly 20 percent of visi-
tors to porn shops were heterosexual couples, meaning women
made up roughly 10 percent of browsers, with a few percent more
browsing alone. It has, though, reported the number of couples as
high as 50 percent at upscale porn stores increasingly popular in
major cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles.6
     Porn statistics have always been di~cult to come by and harder
to trust, for obvious reasons. (Some critics of industry-derived sta-
tistics have noted that it is a business that exaggerates the size of
everything.) Over the last twenty years, though, pornography for
couples has become a growing market. Porn for couples is often
186                                           The Porning of America

code for "tolerable to women," or "tailored to women's tastes." But
how many women watch porn not just to satisfy a partner, but en-
tirely for their own pleasure, or even alone by themselves?
     According to a 2007 story in AVN (Adult Video News, the trade
publication of the adult entertainment industry), "No one disputes
the fact that the women's market may be small, but just about
everyone is convinced it's growing." Nielsen Media Research,
in 2003, found that one-third of visitors to porn websites were
women, which came out to more than 9 million a month. On the
other hand, a 2004 ABC News survey found that only 10 percent of
women have visited Internet sex sites (compared to a third of men,
and more than half of all men under thirty years old).
     Producers of porn for women say that the growing market is
driving their success. They are struggling to keep up with demand,
they claim, and an increasing number of movies, websites, and
retail stores whose primary audience is women backs that up. Play-
girl TV and Inpulse TV, the first pay-per-view porn channels for
women, have been steadily added to cable systems, and are now in
15 million and 5 million homes, respectively. According to the retail
chain Hustler Hollywood, 60 percent of its clientele are women.
     Even in our own experience as professors, we have noticed that
many young women now speak openly about their use of pornog-
raphy. For most it's a lark, some version of "We get together with
friends, get a pizza, put on some porn, and just laugh at it." It is
easy to see, in such gatherings, that "laughing at porn" could be-
come a lighthearted, accessible way for these young women to
work out and even conquer some of their uncertainties about sex,
as well as uncertainties about how to live as "in charge" young
women in a porned culture that sees them first and foremost as
sexualized objects.
     It should come as no surprise to us that many young women
talk openly of watching porn with their friends and lovers. This is,
Women and Porn                                                 187

after all, the generation of Facebook and MySpace, and they have
been trained to think in terms of personal display. They are famil-
iar with cloaked pornography. Even AVN agrees that "the Internet,
the relative muting of anti-feminist porn rhetoric--so much in
everyone's face back in the day--the popularity of Sex in the City
and other racy programs" can take much of the responsibility for
bringing more women into porn.
    This isn't to say that young women who like porn are merely
the dupes of a porned culture. The women's porn market is grow-
ing for the same reason that all businesses grow, it has begun to
produce the kind of product that women want to buy.

What kind of porn do women watch?
Well, lots of dierent kinds. But much of the most popular porn
for men is decidedly not on the women's list.
    Until the 1980s, even those within the porn industry believed
that women just didn't like pornography, and so porn was designed
with only men in mind. One woman changed all that. If there is a
pioneer of women's pornography, it is Candida Royalle.
    A feminist activist in the early 1970s, Royalle (born Candice
Vitala) began with nude modeling and then moved into the porn
scene, appearing in twenty-five movies. Dissatisfied with the
crudeness of the industry, she left the business. But in 1984 she
returned, creating her own production company, Femme Produc-
tions. Faced with industry resistance, she began distributing her
movies as well, and the enterprise became increasingly popular
and lucrative. Femme Productions remains one of the top produc-
ers of women's porn.
    Royalle explained her motivation to AVN in 2007: "The most
bottom line reason was to put a woman's voice to adult movies.
I could sense that women were curious, they were interested, but
there was nothing out there for most of them." She has directed
188                                          The Porning of America

most of the films in her oeuvre, though she has hired a few other
women directors.
    At the core of her corporate philosophy is sexual mutuality, and
the exploration of women's fantasies. That is to say, the women do
not just service the men. Their own pleasure is every bit as impor-
tant as their partner's, and women's fantasies, which can be quite
dierent from men's, occupy the center of every film. Royalle, a
founding member in the 1970s of the activist organization Femi-
nists for Free Expression, sees her approach to porn as an exten-
sion of her early feminism. She even agrees with much of Levy's
Female Chauvinist Pigs. Like Levy, Royalle believes that women, not
men, should create and shape female sexuality, and then find their
own ways to express it. For Royalle, giving in to the images of
women found in most of the porn made for men is an abdication
of women's rights, especially the rights of women to self-posses-
sion and sexual pleasure.
    Royalle sees her work in porn as a continuation of her female
activism in its own right. For instance, mainstream, or high-end,
porn generally remains a racially divided genre, with the occa-
sional exception of Asian women. In 2007, however, Royalle
launched Femme Chocolat, "Erotica of a Dierent Flavor," a line of
porn intended to be ethnically diverse. AfroDite Superstar (2007) is
its first release, and the film's star, Simone Valentino, won Best
New Star at the Feminist Porn Awards in 2007.
    Feminist porn? Well, yes, women in the business use that term
and confer that award, though not in a lock step way. Like most
commercial enterprises, women's porn is not monolithic, and a
good bit of variety does exist. There are, however, several charac-
teristics that express female preferences.

 · A lot of porn looks like it was shot with a video camera bought
   at Wal-Mart twenty years ago. Women, however, want clear im-
Women and Porn                                                    189

     ages, nice lighting, and, often, beautiful surroundings. A pop-
     ular convention, usually placed early in the film, is to focus on
     fashion, often, for instance, setting a sex scene backstage at a
     fashion show.
 ·   Women tend to be less interested in the mechanics of sex, and
     more interested in the relationship between the participants.
     So there are few films with the money shots typical in men's
     porn of piston-like penises in vaginas, and few cumshots.
     Rather, women's porn focuses on seduction, on the chemistry
     between the sex partners.
 ·   Women want to watch real orgasms. Women can tell when
     female performers are faking it, and they prefer to see other
     women enjoying real pleasure.
 ·   There is a growing audience for fetish material in women's
     porn, especially bondage, but it must be obviously about power
     "play"--that is, about enticing ways to play with sexual power
     --and not about male dominance and disempowerment of
 ·   Women prefer more realistic body types in women perfor-
     mers, as opposed to the pneumatic blonde that still dominates
     men's porn. Yet women often reverse the poles, focusing on at-
     tractive, bu young men (seldom a priority in men's porn).
 ·   While the anthology format is popular in men's porn (a series
     of sex scenes with no connecting storyline), most women's
     porn develops a storyline. According to Carol Queen of Good
     Vibrations, a sex toy company, "Women would like to know
     just why these people are fucking" (again, not generally a pri-
     ority in men's porn). Further, the women's porn industry is
     unanimous about what women especially do not want to see,
     and therefore never show: women mistreated. Shauna Cover-
     dale, an Oregon retailer, explains, "We don't like to see women
     with their mascara running."
190                                          The Porning of America

    The roadway that Royalle opened has seen a veritable rush
hour of tra~c. A host of women now hold positions of power in
the porn industry as directors, producers, and corporate leaders.
Much of their success comes from a closer relationship with their
customers. When Susie Bright, one of the most famous pro-porn
feminists, convinced the company Good Vibrations to distribute
women's porn, the customers "treated the video collection so rev-
erently and oered their opinions about each one. It was like a lab-
oratory that made money."
    For women in the business, the connection of women's porn to
other sexual products is, well, intimate. Overwhelmingly, they see
women's enjoyment of porn as merely a part of their exploration of
their sexuality. Online and at brick-and-mortar shops, women tend
to spend more money on sex toys and novelties than they do on
pornography, but both parts of the industry are growing.

Does pornography harm the women in the business?
This remains a di~cult question. Without any doubt, women have
achieved a level of prominence within the porn industry they never
before commanded. Yet despite porn's mainstream success, the in-
dustry remains tarnished, and the mistreatment of women within
the business is a principal reason.
    The history of pornography is fairly clear on this issue. As the
Meese Commission reported, organized crime was intimately in-
volved in the porn industry through the 1980s. The Mafia allegedly
bankrolled the making of Deep Throat and used the profits for a
variety of illegal purposes, including funding drug smuggling.
Whether or not a gun was put to her head, it is easy to see why
Susan Boreman (Linda Lovelace) would have felt pressured, at
the very least, to perform as she was told. Like Boreman, many per-
formers came into porn from prostitution, with their pimps re-
taining power over them.
    The current state of women in pornography is more complex.
Women and Porn                                                    191

The Mafia's influence faded in the same decade, the 1990s, that
the industry enjoyed wider freedom from government oversight
and gained the Internet as a new venue. Since then, the industry
has worked hard to improve its reputation as a legitimate business,
which means, for one thing, more transparency regarding the
treatment of female performers.
    The growth of the porn industry and the mainstreaming of
its product have been an important part of the improvement
of women's place within porn. While Linda Lovelace achieved na-
tional fame and appeared on major magazine covers, she benefited
very little from her participation in the most profitable porn film
ever made. On the other hand, Jenna Jameson, as we have shown,
chartered her own career within porn, becoming the most famous
porn star ever and selling her own company, Club Jenna, to Playboy
Enterprises for untold millions. While she is easily the most suc-
cessful woman in porn history, the list of women following her ex-
ample is large and growing. And she is far from the only woman to
achieve real riches from porn. Ever since Danni Ashe in the 1990s
modeled the transition from porn movies to the Internet, women
who earn porn fame in movies can add further riches online.
    Porn performers regularly appear at conferences and scholarly
round tables to discuss their business as sex workers. Books like
Naked Ambition: Women Who Are Changing Pornography create cul-
tural profiles for porn performers and producers that are entirely
new. When we hear women like Jameson and others, articulate
and obviously in charge, talk about their successful and highly lu-
crative business enterprises, it's easy to conclude that the tide has
    But they are an elite, small portion of the whole industry, and in
that sense not representative. The vast majority of female porn per-
formers have a very dierent kind of career than Jenna Jameson,
and produce a dierent kind of porn. A walk through an average
adult video store or an hour spent online browsing the virtual
192                                           The Porning of America

shelves makes the internal class structure of the business of
pornography painfully clear.
     Most women are in the business for a short time, and this is
for a reason. Unlike the porn elites, the run-of-the-mill female per-
formers lack distinction of any kind. They are generic, utterly in-
terchangeable, and usually appear in anthology movies along with
other interchangeable performers. Watching their DVDs makes
the anti-porn feminists' claims about the degradation of women
suddenly convincing, if only until we regain our larger perspective.
Unless they quickly leave the porn world, they are whisked along
the entire dark highway of its sex acts, always with the same series
of stops: as we have seen, they start with girl/girl, then move on to
girl/boy with oral and vaginal penetration, then to anal penetra-
tion, followed by "double penetration," then on to interracial, and
finally they are dumped at the grimy end of the road, "pinkeye"
and abuse porn. An entire "career" often lasts less than a year. Six
months is not unusual.7
     Also, the expanding market for degradation porn compro-
mises defenses of pornography as a healthy career choice. In
degradation porn, "harm" doesn't happen secondarily, it's the
specific point of it all. Harm to women is the very reason men buy
such DVDs. The violence in Janet Romano's Forced Entry is a mix-
ture of acting and reality. But the women in degradation porn
movies are not paid to act at all. All the pain and humiliation
is real.
     On the other hand, the growth in women's porn is in part a di-
rect response to the ways porn harms women in the business. Can-
dida Royalle explains that she chose to focus on more realistic body
types because, first of all, it's good business: women do not want to
watch performers who have become virtual cyborgs. But in addi-
tion to that, the performers themselves shouldn't have to submit
their bodies to a variety of painful surgeries designed to please
unrealistic male fantasies. Even worse, Royalle continues to hear
Women and Porn                                                     193

from younger performers who elsewhere in the industry have had
to submit to the casting couch in order to get work. This may not be
the same kind of force that Boreman wrote about in Ordeal, but it
is coercion nonetheless, which women's porn aims to remedy.

What effect does a porned culture have on women?
Without repeating here the history of the feminist arguments
about porn, su~ce it to say that we feel women have had good rea-
son to feel personally oppressed by the direct eect pornography
has on their lives, or by porn's general power in the culture.
    We will focus here, though, on what the country has been
learning in the past few years about the way our porned culture is
aecting young women. In 2007 the American Psychological As-
sociation released "Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexuali-
zation of Girls." Through this process of sexualization, girls (the
study looked at females ranging in age from seven to college age)
are stripped of all value except for the sexual use to which they
might be put. They are, to use an old and familiar term, nothing
more than sex objects.
    The APA panel drew on clinical experience, a survey of cultural
influences, and the research of dozens of studies. Their conclu-
sions are chilling, documenting damage to girls ranging from
psychological problems such as eating disorders to cognitive im-
    The panel found that the sexualization of girls and women was
indeed pervasive and increasing. Through cartoons, music, maga-
zines, clothing, advertisements, toys, and a host of other products
and images, girls are told indirectly and directly, over and over, that
their only value is their sexuality. Living with this cultural mantra,
girls begin to self-objectify: they begin to see themselves as others
see them, as objects of desire. When a girl accepts sexualized im-
ages as personal ideals she must live up to, and sees herself always
through the eyes of others, she is in trouble.
194                                           The Porning of America

     Sexualized girls and young women face several potential pit-
falls. Some, constantly monitoring their appearance with constant
disappointment, develop depression, low self-esteem, and eating
disorders. Others may come to believe that the cultural stereotypes
about female worth are perfectly natural and right--a highly toxic
     The APA report lists a host of other damaging consequences
of sexualization, some quite surprising. For example, according
to several studies, the process of self-objectification can result in
decreased intellectual performance, specifically in such areas as
mathematics and logic. Also, sexualization at a young age has been
shown to lead to unhealthy sexual behavior during the teen years,
such as sexual passivity and the decreased use of condoms.
     Another recent study, titled "Sexy Media Matter" and pub-
lished in Pediatrics in April 2006, gauged the precise impact on
adolescents of sexual content in music, movies, television, and
magazines. Girls, aged twelve to fourteen, with a high consump-
tion of media with sexual content, are 2.2 times more likely to have
sexual intercourse over the next two years than those with a low
diet of the same material.
     In Chapter 2 we talked about universal sexualization, and how
in our porned culture everyone--both genders, individuals of all
ages, classes, and professions--is increasingly seen primarily in
sexual terms. We might argue which professions have been most
aected, or which classes. Boys have surely also been sexualized,
and, again, we could argue about how (in the absence of a great
body of research) sexualization aects them.
     But research, cultural analysis, and common sense lead to
one indisputable conclusion. It is simple, glaring, and impossible
to avoid: we have created a culture that puts our daughters in grave
danger and leaves them there to fend for themselves.
8. Where We Go from Here

One thing is certain about where we go from here: we do not go
back. Not to the 1950s, not to the nineteenth century, not to any
idealized notion of the good old days.
    In the second half of the twentieth century, culminating a
struggle that began in the nineteenth, Americans managed to
throw o long-standing sexual proscriptions rooted in ignorance,
sexism, and bigotry. Our sexual freedom was indeed hard-won,
having to prevail on the one hand against religious fanatics who
warned, for instance, that masturbation damned one to eternal
hellfire, and, on the other, against secular zealots who claimed that
all manner of physical and mental debility derived from "self-
abuse." In the middle of the nineteenth century, James Caleb Jack-
son and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, to cite two such secular zealots,
created competing grain-based wafers, or flat biscuits (which Jack-
son called granula and Kellogg, granola) that were intended to di-
minish sexual appetite--though Kellogg found the application of
carbolic acid to the clitoris, and, for males, circumcision without
anesthetic, to be highly eective as well.
    In 1856 Walt Whitman was so moved by the needless anguish
of young men and women coming into normal sexual maturity
that he wrote "Spontaneous Me," the first poem in American liter-
ature about masturbation. Notice, in the section below, Whitman's
reassurance to his young male and female readers that he himself

196                                          The Porning of America

feels the same natural urges as they, and that indeed so does every-
one. That everyone experiences sexual desire seems to us, in 2008,
hardly worth stating, but in America's hypocrisy-laden Gilded Age
this was news, if not exactly of the earthshaking variety, certainly
seismic enough to rattle a few teacups.

      The curious roamer, the hand, roaming all over the body--
         the bashful withdrawing of flesh where the fingers
         soothingly pause and edge themselves,
      The limpid liquid within the young man,
      The vexed corrosion, so pensive and so painful,
      The torment--the irritable tide that will not be at rest,
      The like of the same I feel--the like of the same in others,
      The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young
         woman that flushes and flushes,
      The young man that wakes, deep at night, the hot hand
         seeking to repress what would master him;
      The mystic amorous night--the strange half-welcome pangs,
         visions, sweats,
      The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encir-
         cling fingers--the young man all color'd, red, ashamed,
         angry. . . .

Who among us does not, on behalf of red-faced adolescents every-
where, cheer these lines loudly? More generally, we, the authors
of this book, cheer all the writers, artists, feminists, comedians,
straight and LGBT activists, researchers, publishers, and others
who were part of the long struggle to claim sexuality as a normal,
natural part of human experience--and, more than that, as one of
life's surpassing joys.
     For decades now, certainly since the early 1970s, Americans
have enjoyed enormous sexual freedom, which porn played an im-
Where We Go from Here                                              197

portant part in winning. Pornographers such as Al Goldstein and
Russ Meyer were in the legal trenches fighting for First Amend-
ment rights that extended well beyond porn, opening up the topic
of sexuality for treatment in mainstream movies and novels as
well. Sex, thanks in part to their eorts, became something ordi-
nary people could begin to talk about openly and frankly.
    Also, the content of porn, which has remained much the same
over vast intervals of time, and much the same in cultures far re-
moved geographically, prods even the reluctant among us to ac-
knowledge a simple fact about ourselves: we are, all of us, sexual
beings. Denial of that fact leads only to repression that breeds
hypocrisy and sexual dysfunction at the very least.
    In extreme cases, such denial gives rise to communities of fa-
natics, such as that at Wellville, in Battle Creek, Michigan, around
the turn of the century. There, treatments such as daily multiple
enemas and the wearing of wet diapers were prescribed to heal the
sickness of sexual desire. This facility was run by Dr. Kellogg, who
as previously noted found that pure carbolic acid applied to the cli-
toris was an eective depressant of sexual appetite. If such thinking
seems safely behind us, consider that today in parts of Africa and
the Mideast young girls are commonly forced to undergo the sur-
gical removal of the clitoris and the sewing shut of their labia to en-
sure chastity.
    When conservatives praise the good old days of sexual inno-
cence and restraint, they describe a fantasized and sentimentalized
past in which the real suering caused by ignorance and bigotry
are conveniently forgotten. It can also be argued, quite contrary to
the view of "lost innocence," that the porning of America has re-
sulted from the surfacing of attitudes and values regarding women
and sex that had long been submerged in American life and cul-
ture, consigned to locker rooms, neighborhood bars, fraternity
houses, and men's clubs of various kinds, and manifesting as in-
198                                            The Porning of America

numerable dirty jokes and smutty wisecracks, stifled guaws and
innuendo, the nudge in the ribs exchanged by men when an at-
tractive female walked by in a tight sweater.
     Porn today is no longer, as it was in the past, the dirty secret
men think they are keeping from the good girls. The secret is out.
In becoming mainstream, porn has stepped out from the back
rooms of men's smokers and into the light of day. Before this out-
ing, we could look away, culturally speaking, and pretend not only
that porn didn't exist, but that the universality of sexual desire, the
reduction of women and men to body parts, the no-strings ideal of
uncommitted sex--none of this existed. Now we have to face porn,
and all that porn carries in tow. We have to deal with what is liber-
ating about porn as well as what is limiting, even damaging.
     In dealing with it, however, whereas many on the right senti-
mentally call for a return to a never-never land past, many on the
left, for their own political reasons, fail to look critically at our
porned culture and in eect accept without question the current
expression of sexual freedom that is based on the styles, values,
and behaviors of porn.
     In this final chapter, then, we have two main purposes. First, as
a way to get our bearings, in a sense, and decide where porned
America goes from here, we will undertake just such a critical ex-
amination of porn. Because the trend is so disturbing, both in
itself and in its rapid growth on the Internet, we will further exam-
ine here the dark porn discussed in Chapter 6, the porn of degra-
dation, humiliation, and torture. We will connect it now with the
broader, related issue of the devaluation of human life in the media.
     Having done that, we will conclude the chapter, and the book,
by again turning our attention to one critically important aspect of
the porning of America, the problem of sexualization. Sexualized,
as we have shown, does not mean hypersexed. It means, rather, that
a person, female or male, young or old, is divested of all other qual-
ities he or she may be said to possess--intelligence, spirituality,
Where We Go from Here                                              199

sense of humor, athleticism, compassion, talent--and reduced to
an outward husk, utterly empty but for a single potential, the abil-
ity to satisfy someone else's sexual needs.
     Today as in Whitman's time, sex is at the heart of much confu-
sion, emotional turmoil, and anguish. The sexualization of girls,
as well as what we have called universal sexualization, is much to
blame for that contemporary anguish.
     These negative aspects of a porned America must be ad-
dressed, but, frankly, it is not clear to us in many cases how to
proceed. For, without some kind of censorship (which we would
oppose), how can the sheer volume of porn on the Internet--
which in itself trivializes sex--be reduced? How (again without re-
sorting to censorship) can the porn of humiliation and torture be
kept from slowly seeping into more mainstream porn (as seems al-
ready to be happening), and from there into the culture at large?
     The tendency for people, in hearing the word problem, is to
word-associate solution. For this reason, dark porn should perhaps
not even be called a problem, as it is far too unwieldy and complex
to be addressed via any particular solution. Dark porn is perhaps
better described as bundles of problems, tied, nailed, and stuck to-
gether. The necessary first step in dealing with it, then, is simply to
begin to open the bundles, sifting through and describing the con-
tents as clearly as possible. That step in itself might not reveal
where we go from here, but it is a start.
     Fortunately, not all of the problems we associate with the porn-
ing of America are intractable. We in fact see sexualization, despite
all the grief it causes, as remediable, and we conclude our book
with some specific recommendations.

a critique of the "fleshy catastrophe"
We reject the oft-posited "innocence" of eighteenth-, nineteenth-,
and early-twentieth-century America because this conception re-
lies on a puritanical denial of the body and of all things sexual. But
200                                            The Porning of America

as we've discussed, we find the same ethic of bodily denial and sin
in pornography. Like Puritanism, the world of porn frames or pres-
ents sex as evil, bad. The women on Internet porn sites, for in-
stance, are described as "sluts," "bad girls," "whores." Sex itself
is described as "nasty," "filthy." Shame, central to Puritanism, ap-
pears in porn in acts of sexual humiliation that form the core
oering of many websites. The main dierence, then, between Pu-
ritanism and porn is that instead of fleeing from sex, porn, pro-
ceeding from the same premises, indulges in it transgressively and
    The sin and shame of both Puritanism and porn are land-
mines in the sexual landscape we all traverse. But they are not in
any sense a necessary or inescapable part of human sexuality. In
Nepal, for instance, there exists an ancient tradition called tantra
that is earthy, sensual, and uninhibited, but absent the sense of sin
and transgression permeating porn.1 In the ritualistic sexual exer-
cises of tantra, the male partner plays the role of a Hindu deity,
Shiva, and the female takes on the role of a Hindu goddess, Shakti.
In some of the enactments, for example, the male paints the fe-
male's body with various scented oils and colored pastes as a way to
highlight and celebrate her beauty and sexuality. The two recite
erotic verses to each other that are as explicit as anything found in
porn, but rather than a stigmatized, demeaning vocabulary, the
language of tantra is joyful, playful, and celebratory. The partners
join in yoga-like postures and positions designed to enhance sex-
ual arousal and ecstasy.
    Such ritualized tantric sex is not intended to replace the more
improvised, spontaneous sex that is typical of our ordinary experi-
ence. Rather, tantric practices are meant to carry over into daily life
in a broad way, including sex but also extending beyond sex, to
sharpen and enliven all perceptions and sensations, thereby infus-
ing ordinary experience in general--sexual and otherwise--with
heightened awareness and the spirit of praise. In tantra, then, we
Where We Go from Here                                              201

see an approach to sexuality that is not only dierent from but in-
deed the opposite of Puritanism and porn.
     We are not proposing that everyone become a tantric yogi (in-
deed, we do not make such a claim for ourselves). Rather, we cite
tantra as one specific example of what is more generally possible,
and much to be desired, in human sexuality: an indulgence in
complete sensuality, an abandonment of inhibition, with neither
the wallowing in guilt and shame of Puritanism and its modern
derivatives nor, in the case of porn, the rebellious sexual transgres-
sion that depends on--and thereby holds firmly in place--that
same guilt and shame. And tantra models other positive sexual
possibilities that ought to be achievable even outside of this formal
tradition: an emphasis on giving as well as receiving pleasure,
along with an aectionate and playful respect for one's partner.
     In a telephone interview with the authors in April 2007, Al
Goldstein, one of the exemplars of porn profiled in Chapter 4,
reflected on Internet porn: "What streaming porno video does, and
the porno I see, it desensitizes us, it makes it more boring, it does
not maximize the potential to be better."
     Goldstein's point, which he reiterated in various ways through-
out our interview, is that with just a few clicks of a mouse, one can
surf endlessly from porn site to porn site, deluged with images of
sex acts, the sheer quantity of which reduce sex to the point of triv-
iality and boredom. Goldstein concluded--sadly, given his decades
of legal battles and the resultant cost to him in dollars and health
--that the porn of today is a "fleshy catastrophe." In imitating
porn, Goldstein said, people are imitating "the worst possible kind
of sex."
     When, as is the case in much of contemporary porn, we reduce
human sexuality, a universe in itself, to the sex act, and thereby
turn it into a kind of glandular aerobics, what results is the shallow,
superficial sexuality of the hookup. And shallow, impersonal cou-
plings in the real world may often fall victim to the same problems
202                                            The Porning of America

that beset Internet porn sites featuring exactly such sex: the sheer,
repetitive volume can become boring. To quote again from our in-
terview with Goldstein: "The people who make it [Internet porn]
are as bored as the people watching it."
    Internet sites respond to boredom by raising the shock bar. In-
stead of mere fellatio, for instance, they move on to something in-
creasingly evident on porn websites: rough oral sex in which the
erect member is forced down the female's throat, causing her to
gag. And they invent shocking sexual practices designed to pro-
voke the gag reflex by other means.
    Since, as we have seen, viewers imitate porn, we then have the
strange eect of entertainment imperatives driving sex in the real
world.2 For those so driven in their real lives by the entertainment
imperative constantly to outdo what came before, simple male-
female couplings begin to seem old-fashioned, quaint, like holding
hands on a porch swing. As is abundantly evident if one monitors
porn chat rooms, threesomes of various combinations, bondage
and domination, sadomasochism, group sex, public sex, and so on,
become the new standards of sexual excitement. That is, they be-
come so until repetition dulls them as well, and the shock bar is
then necessarily once again raised.
    With the exceptions of true amateur porn and some women's
porn, it is certainly true, as Goldstein observes, that Internet porn
especially reduces sex to what is called in the industry "mechan-
ics": close-ups of genitals in action, culminating in visible ejacula-
tion. The sex is impersonal, and one bit of evidence that ordinary
people, especially the young, are indeed imitating porn is found in
the postcoital question of the typical hookup: "What did you say
your name was again?"

the devaluation of human life
The most disturbing trend in contemporary porn is the growth of
porn focusing on abuse, humiliation, and torture. Dark porn is
Where We Go from Here                                               203

of a piece with a more general media devaluation of human life
that has leeched into the populace and seems to be spreading. We
see this devaluation of life in the growth of extreme, graphic vio-
lence increasingly available on the Internet and on DVDs, and also
to a lesser extent on network and cable television, where in fact it be-
gan. Like sex, violence has also been driven in recent decades by
the entertainment imperative to continually outdo what came be-
fore, to go farther, more graphically, into more extreme violence.
     Many factors have combined and overlapped to energize the
devaluation of human life that manifests as a violent or sexual (and
sometimes both) humiliation and debasement of men and women
for entertainment purposes. Some are simply too large and com-
plicated in themselves to allow for full examination here, but we
will note them nevertheless.
     The first is the cultural breakdown of the wall between public
and private, or perhaps we should say the wall shielding private
events. Everything about a person's life has become public to us, or
potentially so. We are quickly losing respect for the very idea of pri-
vacy, even for the most elite in society. Paparazzi catch celebrities in
every kind of private moment, the photos splashed across tabloids
and television screens. Even presidents are not o-limits. Presi-
dent George H. W. Bush was, during his tenure as chief executive,
photographed vomiting at a banquet in Japan, and more recently
breaking down in tearful sobs as he talked about his love and sup-
port for his son, President George W. Bush. President Clinton's sex
life was examined publicly in intimate and minute detail, right
down to a semen stain on a young intern's blue dress. The privacy
of ordinary people is even more under assault.
     The practice, however, of keeping some things about ourselves
private and protected--perhaps narratives of a personal struggle
that we share only with friends and family, perhaps revealing, inti-
mate anecdotes about family members that, again, we share only
with family, perhaps our deepest aspirations and insecurities, our
204                                            The Porning of America

religious and spiritual beliefs and doubts, shared only with one or
two most trusted friends--the protected privacy of such elements
of our personal lives invests them with importance and value.
     When that protection disappears, and everything about us
becomes public, personal life is emptied of content, or at least of
valuable content. The idea of the personal life erodes, and the value
of what is left--human life turned inside out, with every debased or
trivialized detail exposed--is consequently diminished.
     How did this happen? Beginning in the 1970s, countless
hours of television talk shows toppled the bricks of the privacy
wall. Our traditional cultural sense that the personal is private was
undermined by talk shows on which guests revealed the most per-
sonal things imaginable. These were led by Phil Donohue, and
continued through the 1980s and 1990s with Oprah and a host of
lesser luminaries (Geraldo Rivera, Ricki Lake, Montel Williams,
Maury Povich, to name a few) and culminated in that parody (in-
tentional or not) of the tabloid talk show, The Jerry Springer Show. On
Donohue and Oprah, and on numerous other such shows, tearful
guests would talk about, apparently, anything--their childhood
sexual abuse, addictions to drugs/alcohol/gambling/sex, aairs
with family members or neighbors, guilt over placing an Alzhei-
mer's parent in a poor-quality nursing home, men who liked to
dress in women's clothes--whatever. No topic was "too personal."
Confessions and revelations in intimate detail were made to studio
and television audiences, which is to say, to complete strangers.
     To achieve the outrageous in such an environment, a typical
Jerry Springer show of the 1990s consisted, for instance, of a young
woman's boasting that she had taken revenge on an unfaithful
boyfriend by having sex with all his friends, including a man's best
friend, his dog.3
     The tumbled bricks of the wall of privacy--as an idea, a cul-
tural ideal--were ground to a powder by the appearance in 1992
of MTV's The Real World, in which seven strangers lived together
Where We Go from Here                                           205

in a house for months with cameras everywhere recording almost
everything that happened. The private, or the private turned inside
out, was indeed the subject of the show. The show was the first of
the popular genre of reality shows in which ordinary people, often
strangers to one another, as well as celebrities (Ron Jeremy, Anna
Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton have all appeared), lived under the con-
stant surveillance of cameras.
    The crossover in 1996 from television to the Internet removed
the need to censor the very few still o-limits private events that
happen in the bedroom and bathroom. A Dickinson College stu-
dent, Jennifer Ringley, then nineteen years old, installed a webcam
in her dorm room. What could not be shown on MTV's Real World
was indeed shown on JenniCam, including Jennifer sleeping
nude, masturbating, and having sex with her boyfriend. The web-
cam phenomenon has so dramatically expanded in the decade
since JenniCam that one can choose now from tens of thousands of
webcams in a variety of formats and venues, including cameras
placed around toilet bowls, known as toiletcams.
    In recent years one of the most rapidly expanding areas of porn
on the Internet has been amateur porn. As discussed in Chapter 5,
there are some decidedly positive aspects to true amateur porn.
But there is no question that when ordinary people, many in com-
mitted relationships, post video clips on the Internet of themselves
having sex, the ideas of "privacy" and "personal life" have signifi-
cantly eroded.
    Increasingly, not only those who choose webcams but all of us,
whether we like it or not, are subjected to surveillance that under-
mines the very notion of the private and personal. Cameras are
everywhere in cities and even in small towns, as part of crime pre-
vention and terrorist detection: on light poles, inside and outside
public and private buildings, in parking lots. In the U.K., there
is now one surveillance camera for every fourteen people in the
country. The U.S. seems headed in the same direction. As a New
206                                            The Porning of America

York Times article, "New York Plans Surveillance Veil for Down-
town" (July 9, 2007), reports, "By the end of [2007] . . . more than
100 cameras will have begun monitoring cars moving through
Lower Manhattan, the beginning phase of a London-style surveil-
lance system that would be the first in the United States. The
Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, as the plan is called, will re-
semble London's so-called Ring of Steel, an extensive web of cam-
eras and roadblocks designed to detect, track and deter terrorists."
     In 2007 Google Earth published on its webpage a photo of
a woman in the front seat of her car. Turning and bending inside
the vehicle, the woman's awkward motion had caused her pants
to be pulled down in back, revealing her thong and buttocks--
photographed, quite unknown to her, from a satellite in space. It
was a photograph not only of this particular woman, but also of
these particular times we live in. Here was a woman on a quiet res-
idential street in her car alone. (Or so she thought.) What could be
more private? But in actuality at the very moment that she turned
and bent over, maybe fussing with something in her purse, a cam-
era in space was recording and broadcasting her every move--and
her ass was ogled and Googled for the world to see! Google Earth
will soon have the technology not only to photograph our homes
in detail from space, but to creep right up, so to speak, and peek in
the windows.
     Human death and suering, also traditionally granted the pro-
tection of privacy, have also moved into this public sphere. Real
TV, a television show from 1996 to 2001, featured mostly home-
made videos of actual accidents (a girl loses a leg in a shark attack,
drag racing teens crash into each other, killing one), along with
surveillance videos of crimes (thieves rob a jewelry store and shoot
some of the clerks), mixed in with a smattering of cute videos for
comic relief (kids sing the "Oscar Meyer wiener" song in tryouts
for a commercial). Later syndicated video-clip shows, World's Scari-
est Police Chases in 1997 and World's Wildest Police Videos, produced
Where We Go from Here                                            207

from 1998 to 2005 (though both shows are still aired), included
pursuits and other confrontations that sometimes ended in death,
though the actual moment of, say, a criminal's being struck by po-
lice bullets was usually (but not always) edited out.
     As with sex, the crossover to the Internet meant shaking free
of all taboos. Many websites show horrific videos and still photos
of every imaginable kind of human suering and death. Two such
videos on many sites, viewed countless millions of times, show the
terrorist beheading of Nicholas Berg, a contract worker in Iraq,
and the execution by hanging of Saddam Hussein. Some websites,
such as Rotten, online since 1996, revel in the morbidly grotesque:
a suicide jumper embedded headfirst in the roof of a car, a Taliban
soldier shot in the face with a 40 mm round, and so on.
     The more mainstream sites YouTube and include
all sorts of videos in a vast catalog, including some showing
graphic violence and death. Still other sites, such as HumorON,
mix porn videos with graphically violent film clips.
     When privacy goes, the personal life is emptied and left vacant.
When personal life is a cipher, human life in general becomes triv-
ial, with formerly distinct, unique individuals reduced to faceless
members of abstract categories, as happens in dark porn.
     And so it is on the website Pinkeye that young women, all in
the "slut" category, are humiliated for our amusement: with the
women's apparent consent, men hold back their eyelids and ejacu-
late into their eyes. There are many such sites on the Internet on
which women are humiliated in various ways, and some far worse
than what we have described here: websites, and DVDs as well, on
which women are brutally beaten and tortured.
     History shows that humans are capable of doing anything,
no matter how horrible, to people seen as faceless members of
abstract categories, "Jews" in Nazi Germany, for example, and
"slaves" in the antebellum South. Specialists dealing with kidnap-
pings, terrorist and otherwise, have learned to instruct potential
208                                            The Porning of America

victims to try to get their captives to see them as individuals, as
"real people" rather than abstract entities. Experience shows that
those victims that manage to be recognized by their captors as dis-
tinct individuals--perhaps by calling attention to a medical prob-
lem or talking about their children and families--are often spared
the most brutal mistreatment, torture, or even death.
     How far will porned America go down this path of dark porn?
How many more such websites will spring up in coming years?
How extreme the violence and degradation? To what degree will
more mainstream porn sites be aected? How much of the per-
verse "fun" of humiliating others will seep out into the culture at
large? The prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib might have been
an anomaly, or it might be--as we think it is--a red flag warning
us of the danger that a particular type of porn poses to our very
     At the heart of the human objectification that dark porn de-
pends on is the sexualization of girls and young women, and, more
generally, the sexualization of all members of our society, or what
we have called in these pages universal sexualization.
     It is di~cult to argue against sexualization and the trappings
of sexualization--such as slutwear--without sounding prudish or
anti-sex. The distinction, however, between sexuality and sexual-
ization is crucial and must be understood clearly. One can enjoy
sexuality without being sexualized. One can be sexualized and not
enjoy one's sexuality. (In fact, we would argue that the sexualized
person likely does not enjoy her or his own sexuality, since that sex-
uality is so much in the service of others--the perceptions of oth-
ers, the judgments of others, the enjoyment of others, the approval
of others.)
     In the words of the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexual-
ization of Girls, discussed in Chapter 7, sexualization causes a per-
son to feel that his or her "value comes only from his or her sexual
appearance or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics."
Where We Go from Here                                             209

In a New York Times article, "For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Per-
fect, Too" (April 1, 2007), for instance, Kat Jiang, a student with a
perfect 2400 score on her SAT, confesses in a quoted e-mail, "It's
out of style to admit it, but it is more important to be hot than

where we go from here
Let us begin by thinking about where girls and women go from
here in a porned America, for they are without question the most
sexualized groups.
     Relatively new to the landscape of porn in America, having ap-
peared in significant numbers only in the past few decades, is the
female viewer. Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but AVN
(Adult Video Newsletter), an industry source, cites women's porn, or
porn produced specifically for female viewers (as discussed in
Chapter 7), as one of the fastest growing segments of porn.
     Young women in 2008 are very much of the "anything you can
do I can do better" mindset, having heard the incantation "You go,
girl!" since childhood. Many are Title Nine athletes who were in
soccer leagues and camps at age four, and now excel in soccer, bas-
ketball, track and field, lacrosse, and indeed almost every formerly
males-only sport. Many are heading for, or are already in, careers
in medicine, law, engineering, and other professions that were un-
til recently male dominated. These females are, to understate it,
not shrinking violets. It is not surprising, then, that in significant
numbers, these young women have responded to the culture of
porn by rolling up their sleeves, so to speak, and jumping in. Porn
is one more item girls have lined out of the "boys only" playbook.
     The reason they have done so has no doubt been in part defen-
sive. A familiar tactic that oppressed groups have long relied on to
diminish the arsenal of weapons they face is to co-opt as many of
those weapons as possible. In this way, for instance, some African
Americans use the word nigger in conversation with one another,
210                                           The Porning of America

and gay men the term queer. And in this way also some young
women in porned America describe themselves, and friends, as
"sluts." Some go further and purposefully wear slutty clothes. And
some go even further and engage in slutty behavior, such as serial
hookups, as a way of battling the sexual double standard.
     Joining in, however, for whatever reason, is only at best a par-
tially eective female response to the porned culture. A good deal
of research indicates that young women, from preteen to college
age and beyond, are not doing well psychologically and emotion-
ally in porned America. In this regard, the Report of the APA Task
Force on the Sexualization of Girls is of landmark importance. The
APA report lists a number of problems related to the sexualization
of girls, including body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-
esteem, and depression.
     And yet, many of the young women that Ariel Levy talked with
in connection with her book Female Chauvinist Pig, as well as some
college women that Laura Sessions Stepp interviewed for her book
Unhooked, seem to revel in rather than suer from their own sexu-
alization.4 They flash their breasts for Girls Gone Wild cameras,
for instance, because, as the girls themselves put it, they have such
beautiful breasts to flash. Far from feeling exploited or victimized,
they say, they positively enjoy putting themselves on display in
skimpy clothes at bars and clubs. On first consideration, such rev-
eling in the reduction of oneself to an attractive body might seem
like the healthy exercise of a newfound freedom, sexualization as

no country for old men . . . or women
When both men and women endorse the cultural ideal of the nine-
teen-year-old body as not only the highest good, but in eect the
only good ("to the exclusion of other characteristics"), they eec-
tively undermine themselves. We would call attention to a further
inevitability, even for those young women who embrace their own
Where We Go from Here                                             211

sexualization: No one struts the nineteen-year-old body forever. Or
even for very long.
    And here is the salt rubbed into the wound of that fact: there is
always a new crop of nineteen-year-olds coming along. Soon--too
soon--the women who not long ago flaunted their own sexuality
stand in the shadow of the up and coming, failing now to measure
up to the one-dimensional standard of personal worth that they
themselves helped institute. Data from the American Society of
Plastic Surgeons cited in the APA report oers a glimpse into
the struggles of aging women to remain young looking. Between
2000 and 2005, Botox injections rose from about 750,000 per
year to almost 4 million, an increase of 388 percent. Tummy tucks
increased from 62,713 to 134,746, an increase of 115 percent. But-
tocks lifts rose from 1,356 in the year 2000, to 5,193 in 2005, a 283
percent increase. Most stunningly, in that same five-year period
upper arm lifts increased by 3,413 percent, and lower body lifts by
4,010 percent.
    The numbers speak volumes, but Plato said it best: "Beauty is
a short-lived tyranny." Sexualized women in general go through
the same exalted-and-trashed cycle that we see in the careers of
sexualized celebrities: elevation to a pinnacle, followed soon by an
inevitable and swift descent and crash. In 2005, for example, the
Comedy Channel sponsored a roast of the sex symbol Pamela An-
derson. The graphic jokes about her (as the roasters would have it)
aging, worn body--her drooping breasts and stretched-out vagina
--were tasteless and cruel, even by the reversed standards of the
roast in which it is understood that the more savagely attacked the
guest, the more highly honored.
    Baywatch, nicknamed Babewatch in its prime, was a hugely
popular television show, largely because of Anderson's blond
bombshell body, adoringly photographed in revealing swimsuits
from every possible angle. No longer in possession of quite so
young and gorgeous a body, she was presented in the Comedy
212                                            The Porning of America

Channel special as the object of ridicule, the roast's obligatory
good sport, braving nonstop anatomical and sexual insult.
     The spectacle was in some ways stunning, occurring less than
a decade after Anderson's last Baywatch appearance in 1997. But
it was also revealing of our cultural glee in attacking and debas-
ing former sexual icons. The show drew the Comedy Channel's
biggest-ever audience, 16 million viewers.
     We love our blond bombshells--we love to watch them, we
love to watch them age and decline, and then we love to watch
them blow up. On a sofa near Pam Anderson sprawled Courtney
Love, like a loose assemblage of shrapnel.
     As we write, on the heels of the quasi-necrophilia of the tele-
vised deathwatch of Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears oers the
latest evidence of the culture's perverse delight in the dissipation
of sexual allure. The Internet is replete with photos of Britney with
a flabby belly and shorn head, Britney making out drunk in clubs,
"upskirts" of Britney's shaved genitalia. One YouTube video, a typ-
ical example, opines in a text lead-in that "Brittney [sic] spears is a
Has been Skank."
     The potent images of the dazzling nineteen-year-old Britney
are in a sense the short-fused dynamite blowing up the still young
and, by any sensible standards, still very physically attractive
mother of two. It is reasonable to speculate that much of our de-
light in trashing former sexual icons might be rooted in our per-
sonal resentment of the ravages time deals each of us. Powerless to
do anything about what we see happening to our own bodies, or
what we anticipate will happen to our bodies and our sexual attrac-
tiveness, we take it out on those celebrated cultural symbols of
erotic allure when they, like our own fated flesh, begin to fail us.
     In any case, the progression from hottie to skank, from virgin
to hag, is just a hop, skip, and a jump if one accepts what sexual-
ization stipulates: that the most important thing about a person--
in fact, the only important thing--is sexual attractiveness. Never
Where We Go from Here                                            213

mind how gifted an athlete--how hot is she? Never mind how
smart--how hot is he?
    This fact is especially problematic because surveys of young
women and men consistently show that marriage and family re-
main the goals for the overwhelming majority. Even that preemi-
nent party girl Paris Hilton, in an interview with Larry King shortly
after her release from jail in June 2007, said that she looked for-
ward to meeting and marrying "the right guy" within a couple of
years and having kids. In an otherwise wooden and flat interview,
it was one of the few moments when she smiled and appeared an-
imated, with no apparent awareness that the bright prospect she
contemplated was completely at odds with everything else about
her sexualized life.
    Even for ordinary young women and men, having grown up
sexualized surely adds layers of di~culty to the already formidable
challenges of being a wife, a husband, a mother, a father. For one
thing, how does one make the transition from the hookup culture
to monogamy? For another, on what basis does one make such a
transition when relations with the opposite sex have up to this
point been deliberately confined to the superficially sexual? (Can
marriages made on the basis of superficial sexuality be expected to
last?) And how does one continue in the marriage when sexual ex-
citement, the basis of the union, is compromised by the demands
of raising kids? Or, as is inevitable over the years, when the sexual
attractiveness (defined in totally physical terms) of the partner di-
minishes? Most of these questions touch on matters that have al-
ways been vexing. But the sexualization that marriage partners
have grown up with nowadays only adds to the vexation. Research
by professors from the University of Southern California and the
University of Wisconsin at Madison indicates that recently mar-
ried couples preserve the happiness of their sexual union for about
three years.5
    Any path to a healthy, worthwhile sexual future, then, must
214                                            The Porning of America

avoid the desert of sexualization, for males as well as females. Put-
ting aside the problems men face from their own sexualization (as
boytoys and studs) they too struggle in many ways with the sexual-
ization of women.
    To take just one example: boys and young men mistakenly read
the sexualization of young women as a green light for inappropri-
ate behavior. Isn't a girl in slutwear inviting sexual comments and
behavior? If not, why is she dressed that way?
    In the past few years, the popularity of slutwear, among other
concerns, has led many public middle and high schools to con-
sider the adoption of uniforms. One of the authors recently
attended a public hearing on school uniforms in a generally con-
servative district in south central Pennsylvania. A middle school
teacher told of often having to send girls home--seventh- and
eighth-grade girls--because they showed up in class wearing pa-
jama bottoms (a fad at the time). The sheer bottoms, often silk,
were see-through in direct sunlight. Boys in class would stare,
make sexual comments and jokes, and sometimes even touch the
girls inappropriately or grab them.
    The oending boys were disciplined, as they should be. Boys
of course need to learn unequivocally that no style of female dress
excuses bad behavior. But if what we wear, all of us, signals others
in society about how we see ourselves (as discussed in Chapter 2),
slutwear (in itself, apart from any behavior) indicates, in the words
of the APA report, that girls dressed this way "exist for the sexual
use of others." Slutwear does not justify rudeness or sexual as-
sault, but simply punishing the boys for bad behavior does not sat-
isfactorily put the matter to rest. Let's consider a parallel example.
    If someone walks the dark streets of a high-crime neighbor-
hood with twenty-dollar bills sticking out of every pocket, whoever
mugs that person commits a felony that warrants the full punish-
ment of the law. The victim's display of cash in no way excuses the
Where We Go from Here                                             215

crime of robbery. Still, it might be a good idea for someone to point
out to the victim that he should stop walking around with twenty-
dollar bills sticking out of his pockets if he doesn't want to get
mugged again.
    Of course, the victim might argue that he likes walking around
with visible money, that he is within his rights to do so, and that he
simply wants potential muggers more closely policed, or better ed-
ucated about the rights of those who walk around with visible
money, so that they don't commit crimes against him. We might at
that point think that he is correct about his rights but hopelessly
missing the point.
    Similarly, the issue of slutwear is often framed in terms of
the wrong argument. There is no question that women have the
right to wear any style of clothing they choose. But whatever they
choose, whether slutwear or a burka, inevitably signals others
about who they are, or who they want to be. The question, then, is
not "Don't I have the right to wear a micro-miniskirt and belly
shirt?" Or, "Can't I wear low-slung pajama bottoms with the top of
my thong visible if I want to?" The more precise and pertinent
questions are, "What do I want my clothes to say to the world about
me? Do my clothes in fact say what I want them to say, so that oth-
ers will be more likely to treat me as I want to be treated?"
    Confusion arises, along with consequent problems, when girls
and women choose slutwear without much thought, simply fol-
lowing fashion. Girls so attired who do not believe that they exist
"for the sexual use of others" are surprised and upset when, for in-
stance, some boys in school hallways treat them this way. Hearings
on the proposed adoption of school uniforms are filled with such
    For this reason, the messages murkily implicit in sexualiza-
tion need to be brought into the light of full consciousness. Boys
and girls, especially, need to think clearly about what else, besides
216                                            The Porning of America

sexuality, is important about themselves, and how these qualities
might find expression in their personal styles of dress.
     Given the universal sexualization that exists in a porned Amer-
ica, we need to think beyond the sexualization of females. What are
the eects on all groups--on males and females, children and the
elderly--of being treated as if sexuality is the exclusive value of a
person? What happens to the very idea of childhood when children
are sexualized? What happens to our views of the elderly when
they, too, are sexualized but necessarily consigned, since they are
the furthest from the nineteen-year-old ideal, to the bottom rung
of the ladder of social status? (Porn sites regularly feature elderly
men and women, but they do so under headings such as "old
pervs," "grannies," and "old hags.")
     The pervasive sexualization in our culture is not a hopeless sit-
uation, though at times it might seem so when we begin to fathom
the enormity of the problem. The kinds of questions we just asked,
above, can, as the APA report recommends, be raised in the home,
as well as in comprehensive sex education classes that go beyond
the biological basics and the need for condoms.
     It's to be expected that, as educators, we believe in the power of
ideas and rational discussion. But our belief is solidly grounded in
empirical evidence that destructive, unhealthy attitudes and values
can be reshaped in positive ways. Try, for instance, walking away
from a running tap with a school-age child in the bathroom. The
child will--we have had this experience with our own kids--
almost immediately turn o the faucet with a reprimand about not
wasting water. In general, the ecological awareness of the young is
very high, thanks largely to education, to classrooms in which the
need to respect and protect the environment has, for some years
now, been presented clearly and emphatically.
     We see similar kinds of change for the better with other social
problems that were brought into the classroom, such as racism.
Where We Go from Here                                                217

Racism remains a major problem in America, as does protection
of the environment, for that matter, but the movement in a positive
direction, thanks largely to education, is undeniable. For example,
the truly unspeakable word in contemporary America is not a sex-
ual obscenity, the F-word, but a racial obscenity, the N-word. Dr.
King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" has been required reading
in middle schools and high schools for decades, along with, for in-
stance, such books as Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird
Sings, and slave narratives, such as Frederick Douglass's A Narra-
tive of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In social studies and in history
courses the evils of racism have been discussed and exposed.
     Political correctness is a term of derision, but the matter is a bit
more nuanced than the silly examples usually cited would have
us believe. The term often describes educational eorts to undo
racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and other negative stereo-
types that our culture is unquestionably better o without. As a re-
sult of such political correctness, the young know, even better than
their elders, that it is not cool, for instance, to tell jokes making fun
of African Americans, Jews, Italians, Poles, and others, or to use
insulting slang terms for ethnic, racial, and LGBT groups.
     Along formal and informal educational lines, the problems
of sexualization can similarly be confronted. For example, parents
need to watch television shows with their kids and comment on,
let's say, ads for Bratz dolls, and other examples of sexualization,
whether in ads or in the shows themselves. Even very little girls,
three, four, or five years old, can be guided in ways to countervail the
messages of such ads. We, the authors, tell our own five-year-old
daughters, for instance, that we don't like the way the Bratz dolls
dress. And that we don't like the makeup they wear--makeup is for
much older girls. Simple as that. There is usually no need for ex-
planation or justification at the age levels to which the Bratz ads,
and others like them, are pitched. After all, the ads themselves do
218                                             The Porning of America

not in any way explain why the dolls are supposed to be cool, or ar-
gue for their coolness. They simply present the dolls, and drawing
on the persuasive power inherent in the medium of television it-
self, in eect tell kids, "Bratz are cool." Parents, then, using the
equally potent persuasive power inherent in being that child's
mom or dad, can simply tell their young daughters, "Bratz are not
     At later ages, these kinds of discussions will of course be more
intellectualized, for instance, in terms of how girls and boys are
harmed when the clothes they wear reduce them to just their sexu-
ality. But the sexualization of children begins very early in the lives
of the kids themselves, and so must be counteracted very early.
     Through formal instruction in the classroom as well, girls and
boys need to gain what the APA report on sexualization calls "me-
dia literacy." The report focuses on girls, but boys as well need to de-
velop skills enabling them not merely to view ads passively and
naively, but to see through them--to see the underlying assump-
tions, the implicit and encoded messages, in commercials on tele-
vision as well as in Internet and magazine ads.
     Ads that might otherwise successfully shape the attitudes and
values of passive, naive viewers can be openly, clearly discussed
and challenged. Is it really, for instance, more important to be hot
than smart? Can you be smart and still be sexy and attractive? If
you have to be stupid to be attractive (we're thinking of Pink's song
"Stupid Girls" here), is that a trade-o worth making? Can you be
sexy and attractive even if you are not stick thin? Is it more impor-
tant that you be pleased with the way you look or that others be
pleased? And so on. Many of the messages implicit in sexualized
advertisements and television shows are utterly flimsy and even
transparently foolish when made explicit.
     Clearly, we think that sexualization is an unmitigated harm
to all. Yet that is not our position on porn. Porn, as we have shown,
Where We Go from Here                                             219

is not one thing, but a wide spectrum of possibilities. Some porn
is toxic, beyond oensive, most especially violent porn, but also
porn in which women ("sluts") exist only to service the sexual
needs of men. Some porn, however--what Larry Flynt calls
"vanilla sex"--is more or less unobjectionable, except perhaps
from the point of view that a glut of it may trivialize sex. And still
some other porn, such as women's porn and true amateur porn,
may in fact oer viewers something positive and a~rming about
     Again, to be clear about this, we are not in any sense champi-
ons of porn. Rather, we are making a realistic, practical point: porn
has been so thoroughly absorbed into our culture that it is not go-
ing away any time soon, no matter how ardently thoughtful anti-
porn crusaders might wish it to disappear. Therefore, rather than
quixotically and indiscriminately campaigning against it, as if porn
were monolithic, we intend to instigate a cultural dialogue on the
subject of porn and the choices that confront us. We want to point
out directions in porn that are absolutely poisonous, such as tor-
ture porn, or gorno. We also want to point out that other direc-
tions, however, are not only "less bad," but may actually in tangible
ways oer something positive for our collective sexual values and
     Most women's porn and true amateur porn, for instance, min-
imalizes, even eliminates, sexualization. Personal appearance is a
critical part of sexualization: having a slender, toned, tanned body,
and showing it o in revealing clothes. But in women's porn we of-
ten find "realistic" bodies, and in true amateur porn we find all
adult ages and body types represented, often far indeed from the
"porn star" ideal.
     Another defining characteristic of sexualization is nearly
anonymous, impersonal, unfeeling sex, which mirrors the sex in
the male-oriented "anthology" porn movie--a disconnected series
220                                            The Porning of America

of sex scenes, each with no, or almost no, plot. On the other hand,
in women's porn the storyline is crucial. Women want to know
why a particular couple is having sex, what their relationship is,
why they are so attracted. In true amateur porn, the partners usu-
ally know and at the very least seem to like each other, as is evident
in the eye gazing, grins, and other gestures of aection we some-
times see there (and almost never see in professional porn). Many
are in committed relationships, even married, which suggests re-
gard for the other beyond their momentary sexual utility.
     We should point out that these categories of women's porn and
true amateur porn are in themselves enormous, so generalizations
need qualification. To be more precise: we find that the kind of
porn we are praising here is available within these categories,
though not consistently, not uniformly. (There are, for instance,
true amateur sites with names like "slut wives," and so on.) Per-
haps the kind of women's porn and true amateur porn we have
described above should be extracted and, to distinguish it from
the rest of porn, be labeled dierently. Perhaps it is best termed
     In any case, what we see on true amateur sites, especially, is
sensual enjoyment and real pleasure--again, generally absent
from professional porn and for that matter probably from most
sexualized sex (the hookup) as well. The partners might be older,
they might be overweight or out of shape, but they are enjoying
great sex!
     And that genuine enjoyment is enormously appealing, attrac-
tive, and arousing--exceeding, even, the appeal of the anatomical
perfection of highly sexualized porn. What else but the attraction
of real enjoyment can account for the astonishing growth of true
amateur sites on the Internet?
     And so, true amateur and most women's porn return sexual
pleasure to the real lives of most people, many of whom felt that
Where We Go from Here                                        221

glamorous porn had co-opted it. Rather than watch physically per-
fect specimens go through the motions, an enormous number
of viewers would rather see ordinary-looking men and women,
persons as flawed as themselves, truly excite one another to real

Our thanks to Elizabethtown College for supporting our research
and writing. Specifically, we thank Chris Bucher, dean of the fac-
ulty, and Louis Martin, chair of the English Department, who were
supportive and helpful with money and time to complete this
project. We have been lucky to work with an extraordinary editor,
Gayatri Patnaik, who believed in this book from the outset. She
always knew when to leave us alone to do our work, and when to
step in and steer us back on course, and she made these shifts
adroitly. Thanks to our research assistants, Molly Campbell and
Katie Blackman, and to our wives, friends, and innumerable stu-
dents who discussed some of these issues with us openly and
frankly and gave us important insights.


    1. We realize that sex worker may be considered preferable to prostitute
as a less stigmatized term, but in its traditional associations, prostitute more
effectively calls to mind the specific style of dress and makeup characteris-
tic of the Bratz dolls. In this book we use the term prostitute when the in-
tention is to convey such associations, as well as in historical context.

1. normalizing the marginal
    1. The following books, from which we draw in this chapter, provide a
detailed examination of the early history of pornography in the West: Wal-
ter Kendrick's The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture (New
York: Viking, 1987); Isabel Tang's Pornography: The Secret History of Civi-
lization (London: Channel 4 Books, 1999); and Julie Peakman's Mighty
Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England
(Houndmills, Basingstoke, U.K., and New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
    2. Certainly these facts have a social and historical underpinning. A
Puritan couple typically observed a long betrothal, and so were in effect
"married" before the formal ceremony. And life in the colonies was so ten-
uous, and death rates so high, that survival itself required speedy remar-
riage to maintain the necessary production rate of offspring. Our point
here is simply that the Puritans had undeniably active sex lives.
    3. The original "girl gone wild" in America (at least from the point of
view of the earliest settlers) was Pocahontas. When she visited the settle-

226                                                                    Notes

ment at Jamestown (which was not a Puritan community) as a young girl,
she shocked the colonists by turning cartwheels in a scanty leather skirt.
      4. The best study of prostitution and pornography in the Civil War,
from which we have drawn some examples of period pornography, is
Thomas P. Lowry's The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War
(Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1994). Lowry, an MD, also has
some chilling descriptions of venereal diseases and their often ghastly
      5. The word hooker has been traced to General Joseph "Fighting Joe"
Hooker, who permitted prostitutes to encamp near the soldiers on the the-
ory that it was better for soldiers to deal with boredom and release pent-up
energy with prostitutes than to get drunk, fight, and gamble. Another the-
ory on the origin of the term is that prostitutes used to fall into step with
prospective clients and "hook" an arm through the arm of the male.

2. a nation of porn stars
      1. In the summer of 2005,Yahoo shut down the user rooms because of
allegations that the sites were being used for child pornography. Initially,
they were unclear about whether such rooms might be reopened, with
some corrective modifications, but as of this writing they have not reap-
      2. Tom Wolfe, Hooking Up (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
2000), 7.
      3. Ibid, 8.

3. popping rosie's rivets: porn in the good old days
      1. Scholars have created a rich trove of histories of women in postwar
America. Two of the best are Sherna Berger Gluck, Rosie the Riveter Revis-
ited: Women, the War, and Social Change (Boston: Twayne, 1987), and Mau-
reen Honey, Creating Rosie the Riveter: Class, Gender, and Propaganda
during World War II (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984).
Postwar labor statistics can be found in Howard N. Fullerton, "Labor
Force Participation: 75 Years of Change, 1950­98 and 1998­2025,"
Monthly Labor Review 122, no. 12 (December 1999), 3­12.
      2. Much like our understanding of Puritanism, our glossy view of sex-
Notes                                                                   227

ual relations during the World War II and Cold War eras is not always con-
sistent with reality. See Jane Mersky Leder, Thanks for the Memories: Love,
Sex, and World War II (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2006).
    3. For discussions of modern porn's Cold War forebears, see Al Di
Lauro and Gerald Rabkin, Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag
Film: 1915­1970 (New York: Chelsea House, 1976); Liz Goldwyn, Pretty
Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens (New York: Re-
gan Books, 2006); and Richard Foster, The Real Bettie Page: The Truth
About the Queen of the Pinups (New York: Citadel, 2005).
    4. Two very different but excellent histories of the comics are Mike
Benton, The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History (Dallas: Taylor,
1989), and Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of
Youth Culture in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
    5. See Trina Robbins and Catherine Yronwode, Women and the Comics
(Sonoma County, Calif.: Eclipse, 1985).
    6. As a result of such efforts, EC is widely regarded by historians as
the producer of the most complex explorations of American culture and
the human psyche in comics of the golden age. Of course, sometimes a
zombie is just a zombie, and the writers and artists of horror comics com-
peted to produce the most extreme images. One artist described it as a
"contest to see how many running sores you could get on a guy's body be-
fore you lost your lunch" (Howard Nostrand, quoted in Benton, The Comic
Book in America, 47).
    7. Vintage men's adventure magazines have grown in popularity in re-
cent years, thanks in part to eBay, and a site search using the terms "Nazi
bondage" will turn up dozens of old copies for sale. For information on the
MAM phenomenon, see Max Allan Collins and George Hagenauer, Men's
Adventure Magazines in Postwar America (Cologne, Germany: Taschen,
2004), and Adam Parfrey, ed., It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Maga-
zines, the Postwar Pulps (Los Angeles: Feral House, 2003).

4. porn exemplars: advancing the front lines of porn
    1. Al Goldstein is, however, the subject of an excellent documentary,
Porn King: The Trials of Al Goldstein (Lancaster Associates, 2005), directed
228                                                                    Notes

by James Guardino. Goldstein's autobiography, I, Goldstein: My Screwed
Life, written with Josh Alan Friedman, was published in 2006 (New York:
Thunder's Mouth Press).
      2. There are a number of good biographies of Russ Meyer, the best of
which is Jimmy McDonough's Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography
of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film (New York: Crown, 2005).
      3. Ibid., 111.
      4. Goldstein made a copy of the article, "An Al Goldstein History Les-
son: The Wichita Trials," available to the authors.
      5. Al Goldstein and Josh Alan Friedman, I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life
(New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006), 30.
      6. Telephone interview with the authors, April 2007.
      7. After his Pyrrhic victories in federal courts in 1974 and 1975, many
costly lawsuits, including several divorce settlements, lay ahead for Gold-
stein throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Screw folded in 2003 and, soon af-
ter, Goldstein declared bankruptcy. Deteriorating health problems, along
with arrests for harassment (for which he spent prison time on Rikers Is-
land) and for shoplifting sped a general decline that left him wandering
the streets of Manhattan, homeless. The performer Penn Jillette (of Penn
and Teller fame) began paying Goldstein's rent for an apartment in
Howard Beach, New York, and in 2007 Goldstein had returned to porn as
a blogger on the website Booble.
      8. Camille Paglia, "Madonna--Finally, a Real Feminist," New York
Times, December 14, 1990.
      9. Madonna, SEX, edited by Glenn O'Brien (New York: Warner
Books, 1992), 40.
      10. Madonna also found success in the 1990s reaching outside of her
earlier, bubblegum, image, with cover stories in several mainstream, status-
conferring magazines, such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. No profile, however,
had more long-term impact on her career than a two-part interview, in
1991, for the Advocate, the most popular gay magazine.
      11. Snoop Dogg, with Davin Seay, Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials,
and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg (New York: William Morrow, 1999), 77.
      12. This is not to suggest that interracial pairings in porn are never
presented in a positive light. But the degradation theme has been utilized
Notes                                                                   229

so frequently in porn featuring black male/white female sex that it has be-
come almost a given within the industry. Within women's porn and in true
amateur porn, this trend is changing.
    13. On March 3, 2007, addressing the Conservative Political Action
Conference in Washington, D.C., Coulter also called John Edwards, for-
mer senator from North Carolina and a 2008 presidential contender, a
faggot. The Huffington Post website the next day featured perhaps a har-
binger of things to come. The Huffington Post is a generally liberal site fa-
voring the Democratic Party, and among the readers' comments on the
article reporting Coulter's insult was this post: "Every year Coulter raises
millions of dollars for the Repiglican Party by happily serving as a bukakke
centerpiece at their private fund-raisers. Repiglican insiders say she's
never happier than when she has dozens of `deposits' on her face."
    Bukakke is a group sex act in which masturbating males surround a fe-
male and together ejaculate on her face. Publicly calling a vice president or
a U.S. senator a faggot only skims the surface, we fear, of the dark waters
yet to be plumbed in porned political commentary.
    14. As a cultural metaphor, porning extends beyond politics, also de-
scribing the direction of many professional sports, perhaps following the
example of pro wrestling-- never a legitimate sporting event in America
--which is porned in both literal and metaphorical senses. Pro wrestling
is, of course, pure entertainment, but increasingly the main attraction in-
volves watching gorgeous women rip off one another's clothes down to
thong and bra, and prematch interviews replete not only with the familiar
vulgar insults, but with explicit and extremely graphic sexual taunts and
    Boxing is becoming more and more a porned entertainment, begin-
ning with Muhammad Ali's rap-like taunts before, during, and after his
fights, which often got as much attention as the bouts themselves (and
which, of course, have nothing to do with the sport of boxing itself). Pre-
fight trash-talking soon became a regular feature of impending bouts. In
recent years, the prefight weigh-in, traditionally simply a ritual, has be-
come an entertainment event in itself, progressing from "stare-downs"
with muttered insults and tentative shoves to (sometimes scripted, one
suspects) screaming matches and brawls.
230                                                                   Notes

      Professional football, too, has gradually been surrendering the ideals
of sportsmanship and fair play that elevated it above mere entertainment
and invested it with culturally important values (such as team play, char-
acter-building persistence in the face of setbacks, and so on) and, like pro
wrestling and boxing, has degenerated into pregame, game, and post-
game trash-talking. Increasingly common and increasingly theatrical sack
and touchdown "celebrations" have nothing whatsoever to do with the
sport of football and exist simply to humiliate opponents and entertain

5. would you like porn with that burger?
      1. In 2004 Indiana University at Bloomington was back in the news
when "Kiera," a freshman, launched a website, Teenkiera, featuring nude
photos in her dorm room and shower. She was quoted in the Indiana
Daily Student, the student newspaper at IU, "It kind of helps pay for
school and living next year."
      2. In an article in Conde Nast's Portfolio (November 2007), Claire
Hoffman reports on a meeting between Stephen Paul Jones, from
YouPorn, and Steve Hirsch, founder of Vivid Entertainment Group, the
largest producer of porn videos in the world. Jones offered to sell YouPorn
to Hirsch for $20 million, a proposition whose feasibility rested on the
skyrocketing growth of Internet amateur porn, and the decline of profes-
sional porn DVDs. The article reports that professional porn DVD sales
have dropped by 50 percent since 2004, and industry insiders believe that
the worst is yet to come. On the other hand, YouPorn went online in Sep-
tember 2006, and just nine months later, in May 2007, had logged more
than 15 million visitors. Jones claims that its growth is a phenomenonal
37.5 percent per month. (At the time of the publication of Hoffman's arti-
cle, however, YouPorn had not been sold.)

6. the nexus of porn and violence:
   abu ghraib and beyond
      1. The list of news reports and commentaries that discussed the Abu
Ghraib photographs and the culture that led to them in terms of pornog-
raphy is too long to include here, but nearly every major news outlet is
Notes                                                                     231

represented: the New York Times, the National Review,, the
Chronicle Review, CBS News, Newsweek, and the Christian Science Monitor.
A simple Lexis/Nexis search reveals that media outlets of every political
philosophy and purpose weighed in on the issue.
    2. That insurgents used the events at Abu Ghraib as a public excuse for
terrorist activity and justification for the accusation that America is an im-
moral society is to be expected. The fact, however, that the American occu-
pation opened up Iraqi culture to porn, now sold on street corners, lends
an unfortunate credibility to their complaints. See "A Glimmering of
Hope--Iraq, a Year On," in the Economist, March 20, 2004.
    3. Hersh's reporting is perhaps more responsible than any other
source for keeping the investigations--both journalistic and governmen-
tal--of the Abu Ghraib scandal going. This chapter owes most of its de-
tails of the events at the prison to Hersh's work. In 2004 the New Yorker
published his articles on the prison on May 10, 17, and 24, and it pub-
lished his profile of General Taguba on June 25, 2007. Also see his Chain
of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (New York: HarperCollins,
    4. Though we feel like curmudgeons for pointing it out, the military
has long promoted a similar kind of sexual distancing from objectified
women in its famous USO shows, which have regularly featured Holly-
wood starlets and such iconic symbols of male fantasy as the Dallas Cow-
boy cheerleaders. In March 2005, female military personnel complained
about the Purrfect Angelz, a review show that toured Kuwait and Iraq. The
Angelz show is essentially a series of provocative dances, with the per-
formers wearing bikinis, lingerie, or similar gear. We do not mean to insult
or belittle the performers (who are usually motivated by a patriotic desire
to entertain the troops) when we say that they encourage their audience to
see them as sexual objects. And, clearly, neither the USO shows nor any of
the Purrfect Angelz should be identified as causes of what happened at
Abu Ghraib. Their presence does demonstrate, however, that despite the
fact that 15 percent of the armed forces are women, the military remains a
traditionally masculine environment.
    5. For the most complete description of all the materials collected
from Abu Ghraib, see Mark Benjamin, "Salon Exclusive: The Abu Ghraib
232                                                                      Notes

Files,", February 16, 2006,
      6. Oddly, though the videos available on such sites are cheaply pro-
duced, the acting of the female performers is far more convincing than we
find in high-end, more mainstream, porn. This may suggest that it is eas-
ier to convey pain and terror when making violent porn than to convey ec-
stasy when making professional heterosexual porn.

7. women and porn
      1. Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New
York: Simon and Schuster, 1975), 443.
      2. Boreman's accusations have been contradicted by several associates
who worked with her on Deep Throat and other porn films. The 2005 doc-
umentary Inside Deep Throat includes refutations by Harry Reems, who
costarred in the role of the doctor, and Gerard Damiano, who directed the
film. For the major statements on pornography from Andrea Dworkin,
see Intercourse: The Twentieth Anniversary Edition (New York: Basic, 2007),
and Pornography: Men Possessing Women (New York: Perigee, 1981). Also
see Dworkin's coauthored work with Catharine MacKinnon, Pornography
and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality (Minneapolis, Minn.: Or-
ganizing against Pornography, 1988), and In Harm's Way: The Pornography
Civil Rights Hearings (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
      3. Many anti-pornography activists resent the use of the term pro-sex,
because it implies that they are anti-sex. It should be said, however, that
those who self-identify as pro-sex generally have a significantly broader
notion of what constitutes healthy or acceptable sex and sexual material--
including fetishism--than do anti-pornography activists.
      4. See the U.S. Department of Justice Bulletin, Bureau of Justice Statis-
tics: Criminal Victimization, 2005 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of
Justice, September 2006),
      5. Pornography, and its effects, has long been of particular interest to
research psychologists and sociologists. Studies used in this chapter in-
clude Robert Bauserman, "Sexual Aggression and Pornography: A Review
of Correlational Research," Basic and Applied Social Psychology 18, no. 4
(1996), 405­27; Kimberly A. Davies, "Voluntary Exposure to Pornography
Notes                                                                    233

and Men's Attitudes toward Feminism and Rape," Journal of Sex Research
34 (1997); Jeffrey A. Golde et al., "Attitudinal Effects of Degrading Themes
and Sexual Explicitness in Video Materials," Sexual Abuse: A Journal of
Research and Treatment 12, no. 3 (July 2000), 223­32; P. A. Lopez, W. H.
George, and K. C. Davis, "Do Hostile Sexual Beliefs Affect Men's Percep-
tions of Sexual-Interest Messages?" Violence and Victims 22, no. 2 (2007),
226­42; Neil M. Malamuth, Tamara Addison, and Mary Koss, "Pornogra-
phy and Sexual Aggression: Are There Reliable Effects?" Annual Review of
Sex Research 11 (2000), 26­91; Esau Tovar, James E. Elias, and Joy Chang,
"Effects of Pornography on Sexual Offending," in Porn 101: Eroticism, Por-
nography, and the First Amendment, edited by James Elias et al. (Amherst,
N.Y.: Prometheus, 1999), 261­78; and V. Vega and Edward Malamuth,
"Predicting Sexual Aggression: the Role of Pornography in the Context of
General and Specific Risk Factors," Aggressive Behavior 33, no. 2 (March­
April 2007), 104­17. Many more such studies are available.
    6. As stated, trustworthy statistics regarding porn usage and about the
porn industry are difficult to find. In 2007, however, Adult Video News at-
tempted to determine women's level of porn consumption in their report
by Jared Rutter, "The Women's Porn Market," AVN (February 2007), 56­
67. The quotations in this section from women's porn producers and dis-
tributors derive from this article.
    7. Many porn insiders (performers, producers, directors) have Inter-
net blogs in which they discuss their experiences in the industry. For a dis-
cussion of the short career of porn stars, see Sam Sugar's (Sugarbank
.com) blog for February 5, 2007, "The Short Life of a Porn Star."

8. where we go from here
    1. The Tantric Way: Art, Science, Ritual, by Ajit Mookerjee (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1977), is a thorough and scholarly exploration of the
philosophy and artistic expressions of tantra. It is not a guide for practi-
tioners, but in avoiding an undue focus on sexuality, it offers a broad per-
spective on this ancient yogic practice and approach to life.
    2. For an insightful examination of the imperatives of the world of en-
tertainment, and a devastating assessment of the effect of electronic media
on our lives, including public discourse, see Neil Postman, Amusing Our-
234                                                                   Notes

selves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York:
Viking, 1985).
      3. The Jerry Springer Show is still running, featuring women in the
audience flashing their breasts to earn "Jerry beads," audience members
(both female and male) pole dancing, and, of course--one of its most
long-standing features--fistfights among guests, audience members, and
sometimes between guests and audience members.
      4. See Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose
at Both, by Laura Sessions Stepp (New York: Riverhead, 2007), for a criti-
cal analysis of the culture of the hookup, derived mainly from interviews
with outspoken young women. Also, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the
Rise of Raunch Culture, by Ariel Levy (New York: Free Press, 2006), is par-
ticularly good on young women who flaunt their sexualization, especially
in such venues as Girls Gone Wild videos.
      5. Sam Roberts, in "The Shelf Life of Bliss," New York Times, July 1,
2007, notes, regarding this research, that the "analysis, which included
unmarried, cohabitating partners but not gay couples, was based on the
National Survey of Families and Households, a national sample of 9,637
racially diverse households conducted by the University of Wisconsin
Center for Demography and Ecology."
      6. Some writers on porn are contemptuous of the term erotica, believ-
ing it to indicate nothing more than elitism. Material that would otherwise
be deemed porn, the argument goes, becomes "erotica" in the hands of
elites. Class does figure in the story of porn, but we think there is a sub-
stantive difference separating women's porn and true amateur porn from
most professional porn.

Abbott, Richie, 102                  adulthood, disappearance of,
Abercrombie & Fitch, 28, 125            34­44
abjection process, 158­59            adventure magazines. See men's
abortion, 172, 179                      adventure magazines (MAMs)
Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse            advertising: by Abercrombie &
   scandal: and culture of porn,        Fitch, 28, 125; of Bratz dolls,
   145­50; and "female" role of         217­18; Calvin Klein ads, 22,
   prisoners, 147­48, 157; Google       23, 119, 125; by Carl's Jr. fast
   searches on, 152; and guards'        food chain, x, xvii, 123­24; chil-
   role confusion, 156­57; Hersh's      dren as sex objects in, 22, 23;
   reports on, 137, 140­41, 143;        Clinique ad, 117­20; and com-
   hoax photos of, 150; and Inter-      modification of bodies and
   net violent porn sites, 150­60;      sexuality, 124­26, 130­31;
   Limbaugh on, 139; list of            and Craigslist, 126­27, 130­31;
   abuses, 142­43; newspaper            education to counteract, 218;
   coverage of, 150­51; and other-      eectiveness of, 123­24; and
   ing, 145; photos from, 137­39,       Facebook, 126, 187; in men's
   145­48; and porn as language         magazines, xvii; and MySpace,
   of control, 139­44; Sontag on,       xvii, 126, 127­30, 187; nudity in,
   138; and strategies of military      125; Old Spice ad, 119­21, 122;
   intelligence (MI) personnel,         Orbit gum ad, 121­23; by prosti-
   140­41; Taguba's investigation       tutes, 131; and Rosie the Riveter
   of, 140, 142­43, 146, 152; and       image, 51­52; of sexually
   turning crime into porn, 144­        charged products for children,
   50; and violent porn, 150­60,        28­29; and slutwear, 124­25;
   162                                  Snoop Dogg in GM commer-

236                                                                 Index

   cial, 102; Steve Madden's big-     Australian women's soccer
   headed-girl campaign, 24­25;         team, 42
   and two-dimensional preening,
   123­31                             Baby Doll, 85
African Americans: and interracial    Bakker, Jim, 40
   porn scenes, 105­7; nigger as      Bardot, Bridget, 113­14
   term used by, 209; and pornog-     Battle Cry, 71
   raphy, 100­102; racism against,    Baywatch, 211­12
   181, 217                           BDSM. See bondage/domination/
AfroDite Superstar, 188                  sadomasochism
Against Our Wills (Brownmiller),      Beatty, Warren, 95
   173                                The Beauty Myth (Wolf ), 181
AIDS, 92, 97, 139                     beauty pageants for little girls,
Allure, 25, 27                           22­23
amateur porn, xii­xiv, xviii­xix,     Bedtime Stories (Madonna), 97
   46­47, 132­36, 148, 205,           Behind the Green Door, 17, 19, 85,
   219­21                                160
American Bandstand, 93­94             Berg, Nicholas, 154, 207
American Psychological Associa-       Bertolucci, Bernardo, 19
   tion Task Force on the Sexual-     The Best Years of Our Lives, 54
   ization of Girls, xix, 193­94,     Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,
   208, 210, 214                         86
Anderson, Pamela, 211­12              big-headed-girl advertising cam-
Anderson, Paul Thomas, 2                 paign, 24­25
Andress, Ursula, 114                  blacks. See African Americans
Angelou, Maya, 181, 217               Blame It on Rio, 20, 21­22
anti-pornography civil rights         The Blob, 55
   ordinances, 176­80. See also       The Blue Lagoon, 21
   feminists                          Bly, Robert, 34, 38
APA Task Force on the Sexualiza-      Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 85
   tion of Girls, xix, 193­94, 208,   bodies: bu bodies of males, 45,
   210, 214                              132, 189; as commodity, xvii,
Arizona State University, 134            124­26, 130­31; excretions of,
Art museum, xiv­xv                       158­59; and plastic surgery,
Ashe, Danni, 191                         10­11, 132, 211; and process of
Asher, Bill, 153                         abjection, 158­59; realistic body
athletes, female, 41­42                  types in women's porn, 189,
ATM website, 158, 163                    192­93, 219; women's bodies
Index                                                                  237

   in comic books, 63­65. See also    "Can You Control Yo Hoe" (Snoop
   sexuality                              Dogg), 102­3
Boink, 97, 133                        Capp, Al, 82
bondage/domination/sado-              Captivity, 163­64
   masochism, 59, 95­98, 114,         Carl's Jr. fast food advertising, x,
   130, 163. See also Abu Ghraib          xvii, 123­24
   prisoner-abuse scandal             Carradine, Keith, 21
Boogie Nights, 2                      Carson, Johnny, 17, 178
Boreman, Linda, 13­17, 104, 175­      Cash, Johnny, 103
   78, 190, 191, 193. See also Deep   Catholic National Organization
   Throat                                 for Decent Literature (NODL),
Boston Globe, 150, 151                    71, 77
Bradford, William, 5                  Catholic priests, 40
Brando, Marlon, 19                    Chambers, Marilyn, 17, 18
Bratz dolls, ix, x­xi, 24­25,         Chancer, Lynn S., 181
   217­18                             Channing, Stockard, 37, 207                     chat rooms, 42­44, 47
Bright, Susie, 190                    Chatropolis, 43
Brokaw, Tom, 54                       cheerleaders, 42
The Brothers Karamazov (Dosto-        childhood: and clothing, 28, 34­35;
   evsky), xx                             disappearance, 31, 33; historical
Brownmiller, Susan, 173­74                development of concept of, 31;
Bruce, Lenny, xvii, 87, 90                and innocence, 32­33
Brueghel, 31­32                       child pornography, xiii, 20­21
Buchanan, Pat, 90                     child prostitution, 20­21
Buckley, Jim, 89                      children as sex objects: in advertis-
burlesque movies, 59, 60                  ing, 22, 23; American Psycho-
burlesque striptease, 58­59               logical Association report on,
Bush, George H.W., 203                    xix, 193­94, 208, 210, 214; and
Bus Stop Tales, 132                       beauty pageants for little girls,
                                          22­23; and clothing, 28, 35;
Cabaret, 57                               in movies, 20­22; and Olsen
Cage, Nicholas, 19                        twins, 23­28
Caine, Michael, 21­22                 CIA, 140
Caine, Veronica, 156, 157             civil rights ordinances and pornog-
calendars. See nude calendars             raphy, 176­80
Calvin Klein ads, 22, 23, 119, 125    Civil War soldiers, 6­7
Canby, Vincent, 20                    Clark, Dick, 93­94
238                                                                    Index

Clinique ad, 117­20                     Concerned Women for America,
Clinton, Bill, 38­39, 137, 203             139
clothing: on college campuses,          Condit, Garry, 39­40
   35­36; and hooking up, 45; life      Confessions Tour (Madonna), 96, 98
   stage and social status reflected    Connery, Sean, 36
   in, 34­35; and pimpin', 99;          Corliss, Richard, 17
   stripper look/slutwear, 28,          CosmoGIRL!, 28
   109, 124­25, 208, 210, 214­15        Cosmopolitan, 28
Club Jenna, 104, 105, 106, 191          Costner, Kevin, 95
Cold War propaganda, 49­50, 55,         Coulter, Ann, 114, 115
   171                                  "couture porn," 107­8
College FuckFest, 135                   Coverdale, Shauna, 189
college porn magazines, 132­33          Craig, Larry, 40
college students and porn, 132­35,      Craigslist, 47, 126­27, 130­31
   205                                  Crane, Dan, 39
Colson, Charles, 139                    Crips and Bloods, 99, 102
comic books: and Comics Code            cross-gendered sexuality, 95
   Authority, 62, 70; female char-      Cruz, Armin, 141, 147
   acters of, 62, 63­69; golden         Cusack, John, 38
   age of, 62­67; "good girl" art in,   Customs Acts (1842, 1857), 7
   63­64; horror comics, 67­69;         cybering, 43
   Kefauver hearing on juvenile
   delinquency and, 60­61, 170;         dancing. See dirty dancing
   masculinity in, 69­70; opposi-       Darby, Joseph, 149
   tion to, 60­61, 170; readership      Dare, Yvette, 58
   statistics on, 61; sales of, 62;     Davis, Sammy, Jr., 14
   women's bodies in, 63­65             Davison, Doe Mae, 58
Comics Code Authority, 62, 70           Deep Throat: Dr. Young in, 14­15,
Commission on Pornography, 8,              38; financial profits of, 84;
   175, 190                                harm to Linda Boreman in
commodification of bodies and              making of, 16, 175­76, 178;
   sexuality, xvii, 124­26, 130­31         humor in, 14­15; Mafia involve-
communism. See Cold War propa-             ment in, 190; persona of Linda
   ganda                                   Lovelace in, 15, 16­17; plot of,
Comstock, Anthony, 8­9, 169,               14­15; popularity of, 85; release
   180                                     date for, 11; significance of, 11,
Comstock Act (1873), 8, 169                13­14, 18­19, 22, 160; and sub-
Comstockery, 169­70                        theme on bourgeois life, 92
Index                                                                   239

Defense Department, U.S., 141              exceed itself, 113­14, 202. See
devaluation of human life, 202­9           also films; porn films; televi-
Digital Underground, 101                   sion; video games
Dines, Gail, 180­81                     Entrapment, 36
dirty dancing, 42                       equal rights amendment (ERA),
Dirty Debutantes, 132                      172, 179
Disappearance of Childhood (Post-       ERA (equal rights amendment),
   man), 31­33                             172, 179
Dogarama/Dog Fucker, 15­16              Eros magazine, 87
Doggystyle, 100­102                     erotica, 182, 187­90, 220. See also
dolls. See Bratz dolls                     amateur porn; porn; women's
domination. See bondage/                   porn
   domination/sadomasochism             Erotica (Madonna), 96, 98
Donnerstein, Edward, 177                Esquire, 15, 16, 54, 56, 57­58, 59,
Donohue, Phil, 204                         178
Dostoevsky, Fyodor, xx                  excretions, bodily, 158­59
Douglass, Frederick, 181, 217           Extreme Associates, 155­56, 157
Dr. 90210, 10­11
dress. See clothing                     Facebook, 126, 187
drugs, 16, 99, 101, 102                 Falwell, Jerry, 90
Dualstar Entertainment Group,           Family Research Council, 139
   23­24                                Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of
Duke, 58                                   Pleasure, 87
DVD/video rentals and sales, 17         Faster, Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill!, 86
Dworkin, Andrea, 175­81                 fast food advertising, x, xvii, 123­
Eastwood, Clint, 36                     Faulkner, William, 71
Ebony, 57­58                            Fegley, Richard, 15
EC (Entertaining Comics), 67­70         Female Chauvinist Pigs (Levy),
elderly, sexualization of, xiii, xvi,      133­34, 182, 188, 210
    36­37, 216                          The Feminine Mystique (Freidan),
Elle, 28                                   171­72, 176
ElleGIRL, 28                            Feministing website, 182­83
employment of women, 51­54,             feminist porn, 188­90
    55, 67                              feminists: beginning of feminist
England, Lynndie, 148                      movement, 171­72; on erotica,
Entertaining Comics (EC), 67­70            182; and feminist porn, 188­
entertainment: and imperative to           90; and "fuck-me feminism,"
240                                                                   Index

    181­82; Paglia on Madonna as,       Full Frontal Feminism (Valenti),
    94; on pornography, xv, xviii,         182­83
    173­83; resistance of pro-sex       Full House, 23
    feminists to Dworkin and
    MacKinnon, 178­80; third-           Gaines, William, 67
    wave feminists, 181­83              gangs, 99, 102
Feminists for Free Expression,          gangsta rap, 99, 102, 103
    188                                 gays. See homosexuality
Femme Chocolat porn, 188                General Federation of Women's
Fiction House, 66, 70                       Clubs (GFWC), 61, 71, 77, 170
films: burlesque movies, 59, 60;        Germany: Weimar Republic of,
    exploitation films of 1950s, 82­        166­67. See also Nazis
    83; Hays Code for, 50, 61; Nazi-    GFWC (General Federation of
    ploitation films, 78; nudity and        Women's Clubs), 61, 71, 77, 170
    sexuality in mainstream films,      GGW (Girls Gone Wild) porn
    84­85; science fiction films, 55.       films, 6, 101, 133­34, 135, 182,
    See also porn films; and specific       210
    films                               Ginzburg, Ralph, xvii, 87, 169
First Amendment protections of          girlie magazines, 57­58. See also
    free speech, 87, 88, 172, 173,          Playboy
    197                                 Girls Gone Wild: Doggy Style, 101,
Flynt, Larry, xvii, 81, 219                 133
Foley, Mark, 40                         Girls Gone Wild (GGW) porn
Forced Entry, 155­56, 157, 192              films, 6, 101, 133­34, 135, 182,
Forty Thieves, 59                           210
Foxe, Fanne, 39                         Gobie, Stephen, 39
France, 56, 57                          Goldstein, Al, xvii, 81, 87­92, 130,
Frank, Barney, 39                           169, 197, 201­2
Franken, Al, 115                        Gonzalo, Julie, 37
Freedom from Want (Rockwell), 35        "good girl" art, 63­64, 72
free speech protections of First        Goodman, Martin, 70­71
    Amendment, 87, 88, 172, 173,        Good Vibrations sex toy company,
    197                                     189, 190
Freidan, Betty, 171­72, 176, 179,       Google Earth, 206
    180                                 Gore, Al, 115
"friends with benefits," 44             Goregasm website, 154, 155
"fuck buddies," 44                      Grand Theft Auto video game,
"fuck patois," 109, 132                     28­29, 138
Index                                                                241

Graner, Charles, 138, 141, 148, 149      adventure magazines (MAMs),
Graveline, Chris, 141                    70­79; and Naziploitation
Grdina, Jay, 106                         films, 78; in 1950s, 57­62, 82­
Greenfield-Sanders, Timothy, xvi,        83; and "organization man"
   1­3, 10, 46, 132                      of 1950s, 54­56; pinup girl,
Gutenberg, Johannes, 32                  56, 59; and Puritans' view of
                                         sexuality, 4­6; and Rosie the
Hagelin, Rebecca, 138                    Riveter, 51­54; and taint of
Hahn, Jessica, 40                        pornography, 170­72; and video
Hanes, W., 8                             porn, 78­79; and World War II,
Haper, Valerie, 21                       56, 57
hard-core porn movies, 85­86          "Holiday" (Madonna), 93­94
Harman, Sabrina, 138                  Holmes, John, 88, 104
Hart, Gary, 39                        homosexuality, 92, 95­97, 180,
Hartley, Nina, 2                         181, 210
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 5               hookers, 45. See also prostitution
Hays, Jessie, 50                      hooking up, 44­46, 109, 118­19,
Hays Code, 50, 61                        121, 122, 132, 201
Health, Education, and Welfare        Hoover, J. Edgar, 87
   Department, U.S., 172              Hope, Bob, 17
Hefner, Hugh, xvii, 12­13, 14, 20,    horror comics, 67­69
   72, 77, 81. See also Playboy       Hostel: Part II, 160­66
Hemingway, Ernest, 54, 71             "Human Nature" (Madonna), 97
Heritage Foundation, 138              humor of porn, 14­15, 82, 88
Hersh, Seymour M., 137, 140­41,       Hunt, Chad, 2
   143, 153­54                        Hussein, Saddam, 207
Hilton, Paris, x, xvii, 81, 108­13,   Hustler Video, 100
   114, 123­24, 205, 213
Hilton, Richard, 111                  Iacocca, Lee, 102
hip-hop music videos, 100­102         Ice-T, 101
history of pornography: blue          The Immoral Mr. Teas, 82­86
   movies, stag films, and smok-      incest, 86
   ers, 34­35, 57, 60; and bur-       The Incredible Shrinking Man, 70
   lesque striptease, 58­60; and      Indiana University, 134
   Civil War, 6­7; and comics         Inside Deep Throat, 13­14
   industry, 60­70; and Comstock      Intercourse (Dworkin), 178
   Act, 8­9, 169­70, 180; girlie      Internet: Abu Ghraib photos on,
   magazines, 57­58; and men's           150­51; amateur porn on, 46,
242                                                                   Index

   135­36, 205; ATM website, 158,      Jameson, Jenna, xvii, 2, 11, 81­82,
   163; on, 207; Chat-       103­8, 110, 112, 191
   ropolis on, 43; ClubJenna web-      Jenna's American Sex Star, 105
   site, 104, 105; College FuckFest    Jensen, Robert, 180­81
   on, 135; Craigslist on, xvii, 47,   Jeremy, Ron, 2, 134, 146, 205
   126­27, 130­31; Facebook on,        The Jerry Springer Show, 204
   126, 187; Feministing website,      Johnson, Michelle, 21­22
   182­83; Google Earth on, 206;       Justice Department, U.S., 155­56,
   Paris Hilton having sex on             157, 183
   Internet video, 108­9, 111; Iraq    "Justify My Love" (Madonna), 96
   Babes porn website, 150­52;
   murders and executions on,          Keating, Charles, 86­87
   154, 207; MySpace on, xvii, 126,    Kefauver, Estes, 59, 60­61, 170, 171
   127­30, 187; and nude calen-        Kellogg, John Harvey, 195, 197
   dars, 42; Olsen twins on, 24,       Kelly, R., 101
   25; Pinkeye website, 158, 163,      Kendrick, Walter, 8
   207; porn chat rooms, 42­44;        King, Larry, 213
   porn sites on, x, xiii, 201­2;      King, Martin Luther, Jr., 217
   prostitutes' advertising on, 131;   Kingsley, Ben, 36
   Rotten and Goregasm websites,       Kipnis, Laura, 181
   154, 155, 207; Scream&Cream         Knievel, Evel, 113
   website, 153­54, 155, 157; Sex      Kosinski, Jerzy, 89
   in War porn website, 150­51;        Kournikova, Anna, 41­42
   Stickam on, xvii, 47; violent       Krinsky, Mark, 132
   porn sites on, 150­60; Violent-     Kristeva, Julia, 158­59
   Russians website, 154; World        Kubrick, Stanley, 21
   Net Daily on, 150­51; YouTube
   on, 207                             Lake, Ricki, 204
Invasion of the Body Snatchers,        Lane, Diane, 37­38
   55                                  Last Tango in Paris, 19
Iraq. See Abu Ghraib prisoner-         Leaving Las Vegas, 19
   abuse scandal                       Lederer, Laura, 174
Iraq Babes porn website, 150­52        Lennon, John, 88
Irons, Jeremy, 21                      lesbians. See homosexuality
                                       Letourneau, Mary Kay, 40­41
Jackson, James Caleb, 195              Levy, Ariel, 133­34, 182, 183, 188,
Jacobs, Alexandra, 126                    210
al-Jamadi, Manadel, 138                Levy, Chandra, 40
Index                                                                243

Lewinsky, Monica, 38­39, 137            mannequin sublime, 119
Life magazine, 62, 71                   Mansfield, Jayne, 85, 113­14
Like a Virgin (Madonna), 93, 94         Man's Magazine, 73
Li'l Abner, 82                          Manson, Charles, 174
Limbaugh, Rush, 114­15, 139             Man to Man, 71
Lincoln, Abraham, 7                     Mantra Films, 133­34
Lohan, Lindsey, 114                     Marston, William, 63
Lolita, 21                              Marvel Comics, 71
London Daily Mirror, 150                masculinity: bu bodies of males,
Lorna, 86                                 45, 132, 189; in comic books,
Love, Courtney, 212                       69­70; in entertainment indus-
Lovelace, Linda, 13­17, 104, 175­         try, 92; and men's adventure
     78, 190, 191, 193. See also Deep     magazines (MAMs), 70­78;
     Throat                               organization man of 1950s, 54­
Love Moods, 59                            56; pornography as threat to,
Lowry, Thomas P., 7                       170­71; Schlesinger on, 54­55,
lustmord (sexual murder), 167             67; in Snoop Dogg's hip-hop
Lynn, Gina, 2                             videos, 100­102
Lyon, Sue, 21                           Mason, James, 21
                                        masturbation: and Abu Ghraib
MacKenzie, Stuart, 150                    prisoner-abuse scandal, 142­43;
MacKinnon, Catharine, 175­81              Goldstein on, 90; and Madon-
Madden, Steve, 24­25                      na's Blond Ambition tour, 125;
Madonna, xvii, 81, 92­98, 114, 125        nineteenth-century view on,
Mafia, 190­91                             xii, 195; and Quakers, 4;
magazines. See girlie magazines;          twenty-first century views on,
   men's adventure magazines              xiii; Whitman's poem on, xii,
   (MAMs); Playboy; "skin"                195­96
   magazines; and other specific        Matildas soccer team, 42
   magazines                            Maxim, 111
Maher, Bill, 14, 114, 115               McDonough, Jimmy, 84
Mailer, Norman, 14                      McElroy, Wendy, 180
Malle, Louis, 20                        McLuhan, Marshall, 12, 13, 17
MAMs (men's adventure maga-             Meese, Edwin, 8, 175, 190
   zines), 70­79                        Memphis Belle bomber, 56
manhood. See masculinity                men's adventure magazines
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,         (MAMs), 70­79
   54, 55                               metaphorical porn, 113­15
244                                                                 Index

Meyer, Eva, 73                        Nabokov, Vladimir, 21
Meyer, Russ, xvii, 73, 81, 82­87,     Naked Ambition, 191
   113, 169, 197                      National Museum of Naples,
Midnight Blue, 87­88                     xiv­xv
Midnight Cowboy, 85                   National Organization for Decent
military: and Abu Ghraib prisoner-       Literature (NODL), 71, 77, 170
   abuse scandal, xvii, xx, 137­67;   National Organization for Women
   Nazis in men's adventure mag-         (NOW), 171, 172
   azines (MAMs), 65, 74­78, 148,     Navy Tailhook convention scandal,
   159, 160; psychological distanc-      144
   ing and othering by, 144­45;       Naziploitation films, 78
   sex scandals of, 144               Nazis, 65, 74­78, 148, 159, 160,
Miller, Henry, xvii, 87, 90­92, 169      167, 207
Miller v. California, 172             The New Devil in Miss Jones, 112
Mills, Wilbur, 39                     New Man, 74­76
misogyny: and "female" role of        The New Yorker, 12, 137, 140
   Abu Ghraib prisoners, 147­48,      New York Times, 97, 140, 152,
   157; and Jameson's porn films,        205­6, 209
   108; and Nazi imagery, 74­78,      New York Times Magazine, 126, 133
   148, 159, 160; of Snoop Dogg,      Nichols, Mike, 14
   99­103                             Nicholson, Jack, 88
Missing Tooth (Rockwell), 34­35       Nixon, Richard, 89­90
Modern Man, 57                        NODL (National Organization for
Monroe, Marilyn, 111, 113, 114           Decent Literature), 71, 77, 170
Moore, Demi, 21                       normalizing the marginal, 1­29,
Morgan, Robin, 173                       81­82, 160
Moss, Kate, 125                       NOW (National Organization for
movies. See films; porn films; and       Women), 171, 172
   specific movies                    nude calendars, 42
Mr., 57
Mr. Sterling, 105                     obscenity: antiobscenity legislation
Mulroney, Dermot, 37                     in nineteenth century, 7­8;
music videos: by Madonna, 93­98;         arrests of Lenny Bruce for, 87,
   by Snoop Dogg, 100­102, 113           90; and Comstock Act (1873),
Must Love Dogs, 37­38                    8, 169­70, 180; Extreme Asso-
MySpace, xvii, 47, 126, 127­30,          ciates charged with, 155­56, 157;
   187                                   Goldstein charged with, 87, 89;
Mystikal, 101                            mailing of obscene materials,
Index                                                                  245

   7­8, 89; Supreme Court on,             Lovelace photo layout in, 15;
   73­74, 77, 87, 88, 172                 magazines similar to, 57­58;
O~ce of War Information (OWI),            and mainstreaming of porn,
   51­52                                  12­13; nude women in, 40, 57,
Old Spice ad, 119­21, 122                 59, 60, 114; Pretty Baby com-
Oleyourryk, Alecia, 97                    pared with, 20; refusal of
Olsen, Mary-Kate and Ashley,              drugstores to sell, 72; sexually
   23­28                                  charged products marketed by,
"Open Your Heart" (Madonna), 95           28; "Twins and Sisters" website
Orbit gum ad, 121­23                      of, 26­27
Ordeal (Boreman), 175­76, 193          Playboy Channel, x, 18, 105
O'Reilly, Bill, 134                    Playboy Enterprises, 105
"organization man," 54­56              PlayStation Portable game con-
Ortiz, Tito, 106                          soles, 28
othering, 145, 207­8                   Plummer, Christopher, 37
OWI (O~ce of War Information),         political commentary, 114­15
   51­52                               political correctness, 181, 217
                                       political sex scandals, 38­40, 137,
Page, Bettie, 59­60, 64                   203
Paglia, Camille, 14, 94                "pony play," 98
Patrick, Tera, 2                       porn: amateur porn, xii­xiv, xviii­
pedophilia, 40                            xix, 46­47, 132­36, 148, 205,
People magazine, 36                       219­21; authors' view of, 218­
Perkins, Michael, 88                      21; and college students, 132­
Philbrick, Nathaniel, 4                   35, 205; critique of, xix, 201­2;
piercings, 125                            culture of porn at Abu Ghraib
pimping, 99­100                           prison, 145­50; definition of,
Pinkeye website, 158, 163, 207            114; distinguished from
pinup girl, 56, 59                        pornography, xiv­xvi; examples
Pirates, 107                              of porn culture, ix­xii; feminist
Piss Orgy, 16                             porn, 188­90; as humorous,
plastic surgery, 10­11, 132, 211          14­15, 82, 88; and imperative to
Plato, 211                                exceed itself, 114; as language
Playboy: compared with men's              of control, 139­44; metaphori-
   adventure magazines, 71, 72­           cal porn, 113­15; and Puritan
   73, 77, 78, 79; format of, 12­13;      attitudes, xix, 5­6, 199­200,
   founding of, 11, 72; Goldstein         201; torture porn, 160­66,
   interview in, 89­90; Linda             202­3, 219; variety within, xiii­
246                                                                    Index

   xvi, 219; video porn, 78­79,            stars, xvi, 1­3, 10, 46, 132.
   103; violent porn, xiii­xiv, xvii,      See also Deep Throat; violence
   78­79, 150­67, 173­74, 192,             and sex
   202­3, 219; women as viewers         porning of America: attitudes
   of, 185­90, 209­10; women's             underlying, 197­98; definition
   influence on, as consumers              of, 9; final stage of, 131; impact
   and producers, xiii­xiv, xviii;         of, on women, 193­94; and nor-
   women's porn, xii­xiv, xviii,           malizing the marginal, 1­29,
   107­8, 187­93, 219­21. See also         81­82, 160; as process, 131
   erotica                              pornography: and blacks, 100­102;
porn chat rooms, 42­44                     as cause of violence toward
porn films: "anthology" porn               women, 183­85; child pornog-
   movies, 189, 219­20; Behind             raphy, xiii, 20­21; as civil rights
   the Green Door, 17, 19, 85, 160;        violation, 176­80; definition of,
   blue movies, stag films, and            177; distinguished from porn,
   smokers, 10, 15­16, 57, 60;             xiv­xvi; feminists on, xv, xviii,
   career arc for porn stars, 105­6,       173­83; financial earnings of, 9,
   192; and college students, 133­         104; harm to women in indus-
   35, 205; Dogarama/Dog Fucker,           try of, 16, 176, 190­93; origin
   15­16; financial profits of, 84;        of term, xiv, 45; in postwar
   Forced Entry, 155­56, 157; hard-        1940s and 1950s, xvi­xvii; and
   core porn movies, 85­86; The            shame, xix, 5­6, 12, 199­200,
   Immoral Mr. Teas, 82­86; inter-         201; as stigmatized, xiv­xv;
   racial scenes in, 105­7; Jame-          taint of, 169­72; and visual
   son as porn star, xvii, 2, 11,          images, xiv­xv. See also history
   81­82, 103­8, 110, 112, 191; by         of pornography; porn films
   Russ Meyer, 82­87, 113; nudie-       Pornography, Commission on, 8,
   cutie films of Russ Meyer, 84­          175, 190
   87, 113; Pirates, 107; Piss Orgy,    The Pornography Controversy (Rist),
   16; on PlayStation Portable             172
   game consoles, 28; police raids      porn stars. See porn films
   on, 83; porn stars as culturally     Postman, Neil, 31­33
   accepted, 11; prostitutes in short   Post O~ce Department, 57
   porn films, 10; The Provocateur,     Povich, Maury, 204
   107­8; snu films, 78­79, 137,        Powers, Ed, 132, 135
   173­74; on television, 18, 33;       Powers of Horror (Kristeva), 158­59
   XXX exhibit of Greenfield-           Pretty Baby, 20­21, 114
   Sanders photographs of porn          privacy, 203­7
Index                                                                  247

Private Parts, 105                     rape porn, 78­79, 153­54
PrivatePornMovies website, 135         rap music, 98­99
Promiscuities (Wolf), 182              Reader's Digest, 62
Promises! Promises!, 85                Reagan, Ronald, 175
prostitution: advertising of, 131;     Real TV, 33, 206
   child prostitution in Pretty        The Real World, 204­5
   Baby, 20­21; hooking up com-        Rebozo, Charles (Bebe), 89­90
   pared with, 45; male prostitu-      religion and sex scandals, 40
   tion ring operated by Gobie, 39;    Rey, Robert, 10­11
   nineteenth-century view on, xii,    Rice, Donna, 39
   12; pornography associated          Ringley, Jennifer, 205
   with, xiv, xv, 6­7, 12; in short    Rist, Ray C., 172
   porn films, 10; Snoop Dogg          Ritchie, Guy, 98
   and pimping, 99­100                 Rivera, Geraldo, 204
The Provocateur, 107                   Rockwell, Norman, 34­35, 38, 52
Psycho, 85                             Roe v. Wade, 172
Puritans, xix, 4­6, 199­200, 201       Rolling Stone, 25, 27­28, 99­100,
Quakers, 4                             Roman art, xiv­xv
Queen, Carol, 189                      Romano, Janet, 155­56, 159­60,
racism, 181, 217. See also African     Rosie the Riveter, 51­54
   Americans                           Roth, Eli, 161, 162, 166
Ramsey, JonBenét, 23                   Roth, Philip, 88­89
Rangers Comics, 63­67                  Rotten website, 154, 155, 207
rape: of Abu Ghraib prisoners,         Royalle, Candida, 187­90,
   143; feminists on link between          192­93
   pornography and, 173­78; on         Russell, Diana E.H., 177
   Internet violent porn sites,
   150­54; pornography as cause        Sabatino, Ralph, 146­47
   of, 183­85; and rape myth sto-      sadomasochism. See bondage/
   ries, 184; relationship between        domination/sadomasochism
   pornography and, 173­78, 183­       Salomon, Rick, 109
   85; research on pornography         Sampson, Savanna, 2
   and, 184­85; showering by rape      Sarandon, Susan, 20, 21
   victims, 122; statistics on, 183;   The Saturday Evening Post, 12, 52,
   by victors in war, 144; and vio-       62, 71
   lent pornography, 184­85            scandals. See sex scandals
248                                                                   Index

Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr., 54­55, 67        200­201; twenty-first century
science fiction films, 55                  views on, xiii. See also bodies
Scream&Cream website, 153­54,          sexualization: American Psycho-
   155, 157                                logical Association Task Force
Screw magazine, 87­90, 130                 on the Sexualization of Girls,
The Seduction of the Innocent              xix, 193­94, 208, 210, 214; of
   (Wertham), 61                           cheerleaders, 42; of children,
Seigmund, James E., 145                    xvi, xix, 20­28, 193­94, 208;
Seka, xvii, 88                             critique of, xix, 201­2, 208­21;
Sex and the City, 117, 187                 definition and characteristics
Sex in War porn website, 150­51            of, 198­99, 208­9, 219­20;
SEX (Madonna), 96­97, 98, 114              and dirty dancing, 42; distin-
sex scandals: in military, 144; and        guished from sexuality, 208­9;
   ministers and priests, 40; in           education to counteract, 217­
   politics, 38­40, 137, 203; and          18; of elderly, xiii, xvi, 36­37,
   teachers, 40­41, 137                    216; and nude calendars, 42;
sexual assault. See rape                   and sex scandals, 38­41; and
sexual double standard, xiii               sibling society, 38; universal
sexuality: anal sex, 105­6, 158; as        sexualization, xvi, 31­47, 194,
   commodity, xvii, 124­26, 130­           199, 216
   31; cross-gendered sexuality, 95;   sexual molestation and abuse of
   distinguished from sexualiza-           children, 40
   tion, 208­9; of female athletes,    Shackleton, Alan, 174
   41­42; female sexuality, 188;       shame, xix, 5­6, 12, 199­200,
   and "friends with benefits,"            201
   44; and "fuck buddies," 44;         Shane Enterprises, 134
   and hooking up, 44­46, 109,         Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, 62
   118­19, 121, 122, 132, 201; and     Shields, Brooke, 20­21, 22, 114,
   infidelity in 1940s, 56; nine-          119, 123
   teenth-century views on, xii,       Shock SuspenStories, 69
   195­97; oral sex, 118­22; Puri-     Shue, Elisabeth, 19
   tans' view of, xix, 4­6, 199­       Shuster, Joe, 62
   200, 201; of Quakers, 4; and        al-Shweiri, Dhia, 147
   sexual double standard, xiii;       The Sibling Society, (Bly), 34, 38
   and sexual freedom in Amer-         Siegel, Jerry, 62
   ica, xix­xx, 195, 196­97; and       Sinatra, Frank, 14
   shame, xix, 5­6, 12, 199­200,       "skin" magazines, 77
   201; tantra and tantric sex, xix,   Slack, Donovan, 151
Index                                                                 249

slutwear, 28, 109, 124­25, 208,      Take Back the Night March, 175
    210, 214­15                      Take-Two Interactive Software,
S&M. See bondage/domination/             28­29
    sadomasochism                    Talese, Gay, 89
Smith, Anna Nicole, 111, 205, 212    tantra and tantric sex, xix, 200­
Snoop Dogg, xvii, 81, 98­103, 113        201
Snoop Dogg's Hustlaz, 101­2          tattoos, 125
Snuff, 173­74                        teachers and sex scandals, 40­41,
snu films, 78­79, 137                    137
Sontag, Susan, 138                   television: Comedy Channel on,
Sony Computer Entertainment, 28          211­12; and disappearance of
South Park, 110                          childhood, 33; E! cable channel,
Spade, David, x                          105; hotel or motel in-room
Spears, Britanny, 97, 109, 114,          pay-per-view, 18; Midnight Blue
    212                                  on, 87­88; in 1950s, 50; Play-
Spice Channel, 18, 33                    boy Channel, x, 18, 105; porn
"Spontaneous Me" (Whitman), xii,         films on, 18, 33; reality shows
    195­96                               on, 33, 204­7; sitcoms on, 37;
Stag magazine, 70­72                     Spice Channel, 18, 33; talk
Starsky and Hutch, 99                    shows on, 204. See also adver-
St. Cyr, Lili, 58­59, 72                 tising
Steinem, Gloria, 176, 179            Timely Comics, 71
Stepp, Laura Sessions, 210           tittyboom, 82
Stickam, xvii, 47                    torture porn, 160­66, 202­3,
stripper look of clothing, 28            219
striptease, 58­60                    Tousley, M.G., 7
Studds, Gerry, 39                    Traynor, Chuck, 176
Superman, 62                         Tropic of Cancer (Miller), xvii, 87,
Supreme Court, U.S., 57, 73­74,          90, 91, 169
    77, 87, 88, 172                  Tropic of Capricorn (Miller), 90, 91,
Swaggart, Jimmy, 40                      169
Swain, Dominique, 21                 True Crime, 36
"sweats" (men's adventure maga-      True magazine, 71, 77­78
    zines), 70                       Truth or Dare (Madonna), 96
                                     Turistas, 164­65
Taguba, Antonio M., 140, 142­43,     Turner, Chuck, 151
   146, 152                          twin porn, 24­28
Take Back the Night (Lederer), 174   Twist, 28
250                                                                    Index

Unhooked (Stepp), 210                   Vivid Entertainment, 18, 153
United Auto Workers, 53                 vivisection porn, 164­65
universal sexualization. See sexual-    Vixen, 86
University of New Mexico, 134           The Wackness, 36
                                        Walk on the Wild Side, 85
Valenti, Jessica, 182­83                WAP (Women against Pornogra-
Valentino, Simone, 188                     phy), 174­75
Vanity Fair, 98                         War Advertising Council, 51
Vargar, Alberto, 56                     Warren, Earl, Jr., 172
Varietease, 59                          Washington Post, 140, 152
Vidal, Gore, 14                         WAVAW (Women against Vio-
video/DVD rentals and sales, 17            lence against Women), 174
video games, 28­29, 105, 138            WAVPM (Women against Vio-
video porn, 78­79, 103                     lence in Pornography and
violence and sex: and Abu Ghraib           Media), 174, 175
   prisoner-abuse scandal, xvii, xx,    websites. See Internet
   137­67; and Captivity, 163­64;       Weimar Republic of Germany,
   and Extreme Associates, 155­            166­67
   56, 157; in Hostel: Part II, 160­    Weird Science, 69­70
   66; Internet violent porn sites,     Wertham, Fredric, 61
   150­55; in men's adventure           Whitman, Walt, xii, 196
   magazines (MAMs), 73­78; in          Whyte, William H., 55
   Meyer's films, 86; and porn          Williams, Linda, 181
   generally, xiii­xiv, xvii; pornog-   Williams, Montel, 204
   raphy as cause of violence           Winfrey, Oprah, 204
   toward women, 183­85; and            Winslow, Josias, 5
   Snoop Dogg, 103; Snuff, 173­74;      Wolf, Naomi, 181, 182
   and Turistas, 164­65; and video      Wolfe, Tom, 44, 109, 122, 132
   games, 28­29, 105, 138; and          women: American Psychological
   vivisection porn, 164­65. See           Association Task Force on the
   also rape                               Sexualization of Girls, xix, 193­
violent porn, xiii­xiv, xvii, 78­79,       94, 208, 210, 214; and erotica,
   150­67, 173­74, 192, 202­3,             182, 187­90; fantasies of, 188;
   219                                     harm to women in pornogra-
ViolentRussians website, 154               phy industry, 16, 176, 190­93;
The Vital Center: The Politics of          impact of porned culture on,
   Freedom (Schlesinger), 55               193­94; pornography as cause
Index                                                                    251

  of violence toward, 183­85; and      Wonder Woman, 63
  slutwear, 28, 109, 124­25, 208,      World Net Daily, 150­51
  210, 214­15; as viewers of porn,     World War I, 9
  185­90, 209­10. See also femi-       World War II, 51­54, 56, 57, 62
  nists; women's porn                  World Wrestling Federation, 41
Women against Pornography              wrestling, 41, 105
  (WAP), 174­75
Women against Violence against         XXX exhibit of porn stars, xvi, 1­3,
  Women (WAVAW), 174                     10, 132
Women against Violence in
  Pornography and Media                YouPorn website, 135
  (WAVPM), 174, 175                    YourAmateurPorn website, 135
women's employment, 51­54, 55,         YouTube, 207
women's porn, xii­xiv, xviii, 107­8,   Zeta-Jones, Catherine, 36
  187­93, 219­21                       Zicari, Robert, 155­56

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