PODCAST: From academia to pop culture to body hair, porn culture has permeated almost every aspect of our lives

Today, pornography is inescapable. It shapes our self-image, our relationships, our sexualities — even our body hair removal practices. In academia, many media scholars have taken a non-critical approach to porn and third wave feminists have embraced it. If it feels like the pornographers have won, it’s because in many ways they have.

A new book edited by Dr. Heather Brunskell-Evans explores the impacts of the porn industry on critical media studies, popular discourse, and on our bodies and sexualities. Featuring chapters by feminist scholars like Julia Long, Sheila Jeffreys, Gail Dines, and Meagan Tyler, The Sexualized Body and the Medical Authority of Pornography offers a wide-ranging analysis of the various ways the propaganda of the porn industry has shaped our culture and lives.

Heather is a social theorist, philosopher, and Senior Research Fellow at King’s College in London. She is a National Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party Policy on Ending Sexual Violence and co-founder of Resist Porn Culture. As a trustee of FiLia, a feminist charity that aims to bring about change for girls and women, Heather is helping to organize this year’s Feminism in London conference, which is taking place on October 14th and 15th.

In this episode, I speak with her about the book as well as about the way discourse around pornography has changed over the years.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • FierceMild

    During the discussion the question of what can be done to reach young women concerning pornography and it’s justifications keeps coming up. I think the very fact that porn keeps getting more and more painful, humiliating, and degrading for women will actually help with this. The plain fact the pain hurts and humiliation is humiliating is motivation enough for women to want to hear reasons to support a hatred of porn.

    • melissa

      I agree. But the relentless mainstreaming of BDSM by every feminist/liberal media, and a individualistic, laser focused, mindless emphasis on unquestioned “consent”, is doing quite well right now to close that door too.Not to mention Porn hub and liberals in general deflecting and going damage control mode with the whole “we just need good sex ed!” argument, instead of focusing on the criticism of porn.

      Having said that, its stilll not nothing. And you might be very right that this clearly gendered, hatefull narrative in porn has got to still provide *some* motivation to question and be against mainstream porn, regardless of all the cultural gas lighting and brainwashing.

      • FierceMild

        I see what you’re saying and sadly I think you have a point. What I was meaning to express is that when a young woman who has been inundated with porn apology *but physically hurt by porn’s effects* hears a radical feminist critique she may very well feel like she’s just been thrown a lifeline.

        Because the harms of porn have left the realm of the theoretical and are being literally perpetrated on the bodies of young women it makes this issue more directly pertinent to their lives. I think our younger sisters need us now more than ever. They need to hear that it’s okay to defend your body, to desire loving sex that feels good, to object to male violence in the bedroom just the same as we would to violence in any other context. That’s a powerful message and I believe they will respond because they need it. We all need it.

        • melissa

          Good points. I really wish this would happen, i wish it would happen as soon as possible.I also wish it never had or was allowed to get this far and turned so appaling to begin with.

          • FierceMild

            My god (says the atheist) I do too. It makes me so deeply sad. We women end up having to devote so much of our power and adulthood to healing and these young women will have even more to heal from. I don’t want that for any of us.

            I can see a world in which our powers and abilities are turned to other things. It is a changed world and a beautiful place.

          • Rachael

            “We women end up having to devote so much of our power and adulthood to healing…”

            This. It takes an inordinate amount of effort, once your eyes have been opened, to sort through all the crap you’ve been exposed to, as a woman, your whole life. Unfortunately I work in a very sexist environment and these days I’m finding it’s taking all of my emotional strength just to get through the work day.

            Still, I hope!

      • Tired feminist

        Well, to be fair, I agree that having good sex education would help a great deal, the thing is that good sex education must necessarily include criticism of porn and BDSM… which is obviously not what liberals mean.

  • Wren

    I was just thinking the same!! It’s actually horrifying. It looks like a dungeon, removed from all natural light, with a mummified mutilated female form, lifeless and expressionless except for its resignation to horror. The figure is truly “performing sexual liberation” as patriarchy intends. I’m seriously fucking emotional.

  • marv

    The wisdom of this age is founded in men’s thoughts. In place of falling in line with such knowledge, better to become seen as a fool in order to be clearly wise. Denial of acculturation is self-deception and futile.

  • FierceMild

    That’s right, but I believe and hope that it’s also becoming less accurate. I think people are ready to define the good and try to achieve it.

  • Wren

    “Most people do not actually believe that such a thing as morality
    exists. They think that our moral notions are merely arbitrary
    conventions invented and imposed by society”

    Yup. Although I think this mainly applies to westernized pomo peeps and certainly many many men.

  • Rachel

    I haven’t been able to listen to this yet but have flagged it to listen to on the way to work this week. I just needed somewhere to vent what I saw on TV before. There was an advert for some new reality TV show about couples getting married, and it showed this young couple arguing. It didn’t show the entire argument but I think the woman was upset and considering breaking off the marriage because the guy went to a strip club on his bucks night. She was basically painted as an insecure and ungrateful, controlling woman. He was “upset” and saying things like “it’s just a strip club! I’m not going to cheat on you. Stop being so controlling, stop being so insecure. I’m marrying you. Just Grow up!” Oh my god it just made me so angry! I would one hundred percent break if off with a guy that did that to me. I bet I know what happens though – she gets painted as the controlling bitch and gets bullied into marrying him and “getting over her insecurities”. I can just imagine the ending will have a shot of her laughing it off and being sheepish for being insecure and not trusting him. Another result of porn culture. Makes me sick.

    • Meghan Murphy

      So sick. The same argument is used against women who ask their partners not to use porn: they are accused of being jealous, insecure, controlling, etc. Gaslighting, man.

      • Morag999

        Yup. For every abusive man, there is a handy, custom-made diagnosis slapped onto the woman he harms. Some bitches are crazy. Others are shrews. The quiet ones are just doormats who practically ask to be treated like dirt. Any woman who is unable to properly handle, absorb and digest a man’s abuse is defective.

    • FierceMild

      I would dump him without remorse. It pays to be remorseless if you’re a woman. No second chances no rethinking.

  • FierceMild

    I’ve seen her work. I think what she’s doing is interesting, but I also read somewhere that she got labiaplasty. I’m trying to remember where I read that…

  • Rachel

    I find it even sadder when they’re well and truly adults – it shows how engrained it is in them. Not that it’s a positive thing for young people to have fallen for it either though, but at least there’s still a chance to guide them to change their views. Whether they actually want to change their minds is another story though I guess. Plus the amount of pornified media and ideas everywhere makes it even harder (no pun intended), and just reinforces what they’re doing. Very said. I heard today that there’s a Baywatch movie coming out this year. Never seems to stop.