BOOK REVIEW News Weekly
A time for truth
, October 1, 2011
BIG PORN INC: Exposing the Harms of the Global Porn Industry
edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray
(Melbourne: Spinifex Press)
Paperback: 310 pages
Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg
The message of this book is quite simple: porn is big business; porn is harmful; and porn must be resisted. In 40 substantial chapters written by 34 experts, we get this message hammered home clearly, cogently and convincingly. The authors make it quite clear that porn is now a big-time mainstream industry, and its greasy and destructive tentacles creep into every nook and cranny of life.
The Australian and international experts here provide a mountain of evidence on the reach of porn, the massive harm of porn, and the countless lives ruined by porn. Case studies along with academic essays combine to make a powerful statement on one of the most insidious and harmful businesses of our day.
Not only is there a copious amount of documentation here, but there are plenty of real-life stories and case studies which make for fascinating, if at times, sickening reading. Indeed, there is a lot of hardcore stuff here, but sometimes we need to be shocked out of our comfort zones and back into reality.
Porn is an ugly, nasty business which enslaves people, dehumanises people, abuses people, and destroys people. At least $100 billion dollars a year are generated from this industry, so one can clearly see why its defenders will fight to the death to keep it going.
The editors in their introduction say this: “We live in a world that is increasingly shaped by pornography…. Big Porn Inc documents the proliferation and normalisation of pornography, the way it has become a global industry and a global ideology, and how it is shaping our world and the harm this causes.
“Our book provides a powerful challenge to liberation conceits that pornography is simply about pleasure, self-empowerment and freedom of choice…. The global pornography industry shows little concern for subordination, degradation or human rights violations; indeed powerful elements in the industry market the violation of human rights.”
Like all destructive industries, it has nothing whatsoever to do with helping people or making society a better place. It is all about greedy and calloused people doing whatever they can to make a buck. And what they do to get rich quick is simply appalling. One writer examines 21 different porn sub-genres, and how readily available they are online.
Here are just a few, with the total Web pages for each: teen sex — 82 million pages; animal sex — over 50 million; bondage — nearly 30 million; crush sex (which involves the killing of small animals) — 8 million; vomit sex — 4 million; wired porn (involving electrical shock) — 1.7 million; snuff sex (involving actual death) — 1.3 million.
And all this is escalating and intensifying each passing day. Supply and demand feed off each other, and countless millions of people become trapped and addicted, even if they want to get off this destructive treadmill. It is as good a means to wreck individuals and ruin societies as any war has ever been.
If all the data and evidence presented here are not enough to convince the reader, then the personal stories should certainly be enough. We find one horrific and tragic story after another here, powerfully and graphically showing how porn damages women, children and others. It is pretty bleak reading.
Consider the story of Australian ex-stripper Stella: “Every day was long. Every day was hard. Every day someone forced me in some way…. My relationships suffered; I was becoming more and more isolated. I started using heroin to soothe the pain, all of the pain: the physical pain of my deteriorating knees and back; the emotional pain of being nothing, negative space, dirt, slut, whore, stripper, junkie. The fear and desperation rose.”
Or what about “Amy” who was sexually abused by her uncle, a heavy porn addict? “My uncle started to abuse me when I was only 4 years old…. At first he showed me pornographic movies and then he started doing things to me….
“Every day of my life I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures and recognise me and that I will be humiliated all over again. It hurts me to know someone is looking at them — at me — when I was just a little girl being abused for the camera.
“I did not choose to be there, but now I am there forever in pictures that people are using to do sick things. I want it all erased. I want it all stopped. But I am powerless to stop it just like I was powerless to stop my uncle.”
One writer, looking at the topic of pornography and animals, says this: “Some things are incomprehensible. Why would anyone derive sexual pleasure from seeing a video of scantily clad women in high heels squashing, stomping and torturing small animals (including puppies and kittens) who squeal in horror as they die?”
But critics will complain that these are “extreme” examples. What they do not want to admit is that the extreme cases always flow from the less extreme cases. Porn is like that: you get desensitised and bored with the soft stuff, so you move on to the harder stuff. That too soon becomes old hat and stale, and greater thrills are needed.
It is a downward spiral, and has happened to far too many people, including almost all of our sex offenders in prison. It begins with a few quick looks, but soon degenerates into a lifelong addiction, which gets worse and worse as the demands grow stronger and more diabolical.
Porn kills. And any critic who thinks that Big Porn Inc is some religious wowser book is quite mistaken. The publisher, Spinifex Press, is a secular feminist outfit, and the overwhelming majority of authors here would fit into that camp as well. Indeed, there is not a shred of religious argumentation to be found in this volume.
Fortunately, the book does not simply overwhelm us with bad news. A number of concluding chapters look at how Big Porn can be challenged head on. A number of examples are given of where this is already happening. So readers are left not in despair, but hope, by the time they reach the end of this helpful volume.
The editors deserve much praise for making this book available. Many of the individual essays alone make for a solid case against porn, but taken together this information and research offer an insurmountable argument: porn is bad, really bad, and it is time to reclaim women, men, children and society from its horrendous clutches.
Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at: www.billmuehlenberg.com