Pornography is what the end of the world looks like
To start off my lectures to college audiences about pornography, I often ask students to ﬁll in the blank in the sentence ‘Pornography is – ’ It’s a simple exercise designed to get people to articulate their understanding of the subject and reﬂect on the role such material plays in their lives. To try to elicit the most honest responses, I jokingly tell them that they can respond the way they would ﬁll in the blank, or with words that others they know might use. That gives them plausible deniability: if people around them cast a negative glance at their answer to the ‘Pornography is’ question, they can say, ‘Well, I certainly wouldn’t say that, but my brother/friend/roommate would.’ The responses are predictable: Pornography is ‘awesome’, ‘hot’, ‘sexy’, ‘a turn-on’.
It’s also ‘degrading’ and ‘disgusting’ to some. And pornography is ‘big business’, ‘proﬁtable’, and ‘everywhere’. People recognize that pornography is effective in delivering sexual stimulation to the mostly male viewers, while some people, especially many women, reject the misogyny of the genre. Everyone understands that a lot of money can be made selling pornography, which is part of why there is so much pornography so readily available in so many places. With those responses out on the table, I give folks my answer. After twenty
years of research on the pornography industry, the products it produces and consumers’ use of them, I explain that I ﬁll in the sentence this way: