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During her visit to Australia for the 2011 Sydney Writers' Festival, academic, activist and social critic Dr Gail Dines stirred strong debate with her radical feminist position. Particularly controversial is her critique of the pervasive influence pornography wields over the mainstream of contemporary media culture, as articulated in her book Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. Following a passionate discussion on ABC TV’s Q&A program, Dines speaks with writer and fellow feminist Monica Dux.

Dines opens by expressing her astonishment at the ease of access to major media outlets in Australia compared to larger countries, where some have predicted her book wouldn’t be read by anyone other than academics. She explains her views on porn’s relationship with popular culture, beginning by tracing the history of its development and following the movement of creative talent between porn and the mainstream. (Later, she adds in response to an audience question that, at its core, our fetishisation of female purity has strongly contributed to the rise of porn.)

Dines goes on to say that she “can actually tell, when I’m watching a movie or something, just how much the guy who created it is into porn.”

Briefly pondering a link with Jim Henson, Dux asks Dines to explain what she often refers to as gonzo porn, the primary target of her critique. Dines unflinchingly describes the violent, debasing acts commonly seen in the genre, including ‘ATM’.

An avid researcher, Dines shares a story from her encounter with ‘Real Dolls’, an unfortunate source of otherwise scarcely found tenderness in porn. She describes interviewing convicted paedophiles and the ‘pseudo child porn’ which they say led them to their transgressions. She also expresses her disappointment with the failure of “left-wing men” to rail against the inequality and violence of pornography, despite their ardent opposition to many other exploitative capitalist institutions.

As for the argument that porn acts as a kind of catharsis, satisfying and thus managing perverse desire and fantasy, Dines maintains it’s not fantasy, it’s real. A more legitimate fantasy, she continues, would take the form of a more positive, inclusive and generous sexual culture.

Dux articulates her difficulty in believing that so many men prefer graphic gonzo films. The desire for depictions of degrading sex is not innate, Dines agrees, but is results from how the screen manipulates male sexual desire.

On the the West’s apparent love affair with “death-loving sexuality”, Dines doesn’t advocate banning pornography but holding the indsutry to account. Yet she also confesses: “As a radical, I don’t believe that industries within capitalism can be changed… Certain industries are too rotten to be salvaged. Slavery was one of them… same with pornography. It’s too rotten to the core, it’s too corrupt and it can’t be changed.” She adds that “we have to figure out what authentic sexuality looks like outside of a corporate, capitalist, industrialised, generic, roboticised imagery.”

Dines concludes by noting that as an educator, radical feminism continues to awaken and inspire a new generation of women in ways that other sub-types such as liberal feminism cannot.

Dr Gail Dines was in Australia as a guest of the Wheeler Centre and Sydney Writers' Festival.

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Posted:

01 Jul 2011

Filmed on:

27 May 2011

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7 comments so far:

This is such a lazy interview - Dines is trying to claim "gonzo porn" is a mainstream thing and no-one is calling her on it. She keeps setting up totally incorrect ideas and the interviewer should call her on it - basically we're getting lies and blatant misrepresentation presented as fact. I expected more from the Wheeler Centre, to be honest. Do you have David Icke coming up too?

Samantha Galt
01 July at 12:38PM

Quick question Samantha — do you watch porn or browse it on the internet?

Harold
01 July at 01:08PM

Quick question Samantha — do you watch porn or browse it on the internet?

Harold
01 July at 01:08PM

Sorry about the double post!

Harold
01 July at 01:09PM

Seconding Harold's question. Gonzo is mainstream, everyone who has ever taken a look at free porn sites knows this.

kurukurushoujo
06 July at 03:02PM

Samantha, where is your evidence that it's not mainstream? Gail presented hers, seemed pretty convincing.

Thanks to the Wheeler Centre for holding this event.

Jason
13 July at 11:39AM

Samantha, your question is lazy. Gail presented her evidence about Gonzo being mainstream at around 20m30s, do you have evidence to the contrary?

JasonL
09 October at 12:18AM

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