Mainstream Porn Subjects Women To Unique Suffering

To the editors:



Lucy M. Caldwell ’09 dismissed a powerful and insightful speaker in her last column, “The Politics of Porn” (Dec. 4). Even if we accept, as Caldwell reminds us, that women are not forced to star in porn, this does not permit us to consume porn without regard for how these women are treated or how their work affects them both physically and psychologically. “Dines’ concern is tantamount to worrying over the burger-flippers of the world, who are victims of the fast-food industry,” Caldwell writes. But mainstream heterosexual porn, the subject of Gail Dines’ talk, subjects women to unique forms of suffering. Dines characterized pornography as a “body-punishing industry” in which male actors with chemically supported erections test the limits of the female body. The women involved pretend to love it—most men, Dines admitted, are not sadists and will not enjoy porn that smacks of suffering—but afterward they are left to inspect themselves for the kinds of tears and ruptures that commonly result. Actresses are prone to Chlamydia of the eye from the semen that is sprayed on their faces in a mocking and malicious spirit—one’s face is, after all, the place of personality, so what better thing to plaster over with ejaculate if the objective is degradation? Caldwell’s comparison to fast-food workers doesn’t quite hold up.

Caldwell calls Dines’ anti-porn stance “a strange collision of puritanical morality and radical politics,” but Dines’ speech was far from puritanical. She said repeatedly that she is not anti-sex, but anti-porn, and we must not conflate the two. Porn is not sex, but a violent and industrialized imitation.

Caldwell lumps Dines with a movement of “activists who wage war on the rights of individuals and corporations to take part in commerce,” but is Caldwell advocating a society in which commercial exchange of all kinds goes unrestricted? Dines was appealing to consumers of porn—college students in particular—to assert their right to reject a product that is inherently violent. What statistics does Caldwell need to imagine a porn star’s anguish on and off the set?



AMARY WIGGIN ‘09

Cambridge, MA

December 5, 2007