Book Review
Title: Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality
Authors: Dr. Gail Dines
Year Published: 2010
Main Topics Covered: Pornography, Gonzo Pornography, Sexuality, Hypersexualization of the Media
Written for: Anyone interested in learning more about the evolution of porn, and how porn may affect one’s socialization.
Recommended for: Clients and practitioners looking to learn more about pornography and how it may negatively affect their lives.
Perspectives taken: Researcher
Type of Resource: Educational
APA Citation: Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Book Overview: 

Coming from a sociological perspective, Pornland by Dr. Gail Dines explores the harmful effects of the growing porn industry, particularly on people’s sexuality.  Dines discusses ways in which porn has seeped into the mainstream through movies, shows, music, and video games and how these methods have been instrumental in normalizing the violence and dehumanization of women.

Dines emphasizes gonzo porn, which is defined as porn that lacks a storyline or plot and often involves aggressive males physically and emotionally abusing women.  It is important to note that the majority of discussions in this book focus on the heterosexual experience, regarding both porn and real-life experiences.  

Dines begins the book with an exploration of early magazines such as Playboy, Hustler, and Penthouse, and she suggests that these magazines groomed society to accept the dehumanization of women in future Internet porn.  Gonzo porn became more common with the advent of the Internet, which perpetuated the notion that women’s sole purpose is to serve as an object used for male pleasure.  Dines argues that these beliefs narrow both men’s and women’s agency in defining their own sexuality, as they are socialized to fit within the gendered norms portrayed in gonzo porn.

As more gonzo porn was produced and more people had access to it via the Internet, Dines highlights that other media sources began to portray women as sexual objects and men as violent sexual abusers as well.  For example, Grand Theft Auto often depicts women as prostitutes serving only to please men, and the female characters are often shot or run over by the protagonist male character.  Women have also been more subtly socialized by porn in ways such as waxing their pubic hairs, feeling obligated to engage in degrading, unsatisfying sex or hookups, and accepting derogatory labels (e.g., sluts and whores).  These ideas are prominent in female magazines (e.g., Cosmopolitan), shows (e.g., Sex in the City), and music (e.g., Britney Spears “…Baby One More Time”).

Dines also discusses the racist ideologies underlying porn, as people of colour are portrayed in stereotypical ways (e.g., Black women are ghetto and Asian women are “childified”). Black men are also often portrayed as sexually deviant and aggressive, which stems from a historical racist idea that black men defile white women when they have sex with them.  She concludes the book with a discussion of the suspected link between porn use and pedophilia.  Along with this, pseudo-child porn (i.e., the depiction and/or actual use of younger girls, 18+, in porn that is legal, but that portrays them in ways that make them appear much younger) desensitizes male users to the sexualization of young girls and sometimes even normalizes incestuous relationships.   

In sum, this book crucially discusses a topic that is not examined enough: how porn influences peoples’ sexuality.  Dines shows an underlying disapproval of the porn industry, as it has been instrumental in perpetuating detrimental gender norms and sexual expectations.  Practitioners may consider recommending this book to clients that are feeling confused or conflicted about how porn is affecting themselves or their loved ones.

 

About the Author:
Dr. Gail Dines is a professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.  In 2008, she co-founded the nonprofit Stop Porn Culture (SPC), which promotes education on the nature and effects of hypersexualized media and porn.  SPC was transformed into Culture Reframed.

You can find more information about this group here: https://www.culturereframed.org/

Written by Westland Researcher Sam O’Brien