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The Pornification of America: How Raunch…

The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture Is Ruining Our Society (edição: 2021)

de Bernadette Barton (Autor)

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Título:The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture Is Ruining Our Society
Autores:Bernadette Barton (Autor)
Informação:NYU Press (2021), 232 pages
Coleções:Untitled collection

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The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture Is Ruining Our Society de Bernadette Barton

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Rating: 3.25* of five, rounded down for what I felt were serious issues

There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Barton is on to a very important strain (term used advisedly) in late-stage capitalism. Chanel Miller's Know My Name has opened many people's eyes to the awful consequences of "raunch culture." It's inarguable that #MeToo has blown the closet doors off way more abusers' safe havens. And let me be the first to say that Paris Hilton shakin' her moneymaker all over a Bentley to sell burgers to boys was a wake-up call for me because, well, yuck.

I am much more willing to listen to stories outside my experience than ever before in my life. It is liberating to hear trans men talking about their pregnancies...to learn of the empowerment young women are taking from the female role models who have done so very much more than those people were led to believe that they could...should even aspire to. It is joyous to learn that women everywhere are just not listening to Old White Men in Authority with downcast eyes, that protests and awareness campaigns and lawsuits are growing apace with the dying convulsions of the old, bad days's bad law and worse policy. Our current Vice President is a woman in an administration that foregrounds women in more senior roles than ever, allowing the levers of power into better hands than they've been in in decades.

But there's another level of battle being fought against the old, bad ways: in the heads of young men raised with all the cultural reinforcement that their "natural rights" or "god-given authority" over women's bodies is being taken away from them. The culture reinforces the idea of male supremacy by using female bodies as props, set dressing, and sex toys. This is somehow twisted, in a hideous Jekyll/Hyde-ing way, into a celebration of women's empowerment and sex-positivity.

Author Barton calls out this arrant nonsense. She establishes her own credentials as a sex-positive feminist social scientist. But here is where I become less gung-ho about the book: It does feel to me like the author is not far from sex-work shaming at many points. I consider this a problem because it is a perspective that can very easily and quickly descend into controlling women's bodies, this time by women, but in the same repressive and restrictive "it's for your own good!" way. Women are the agents in charge of their bodies. No one has the right to tell an adult woman what she needs to be doing with her own self.

I have to agree very heartily with Dr. Barton that "sex education" is a pathetic shambles because religious nuts (my term, not hers) have built guilt into the minds of people as a means of social control; as a result, parents aren't willing or able to inform their children about the mechanics of the acts, or to allow schools to fill this gap. Again, this is presented in purely heteronormative terms, which is a deeply irksome thing to me. Acknowledging the harm that non-existent to catastrophically bad sex education does to gender non-conforming or sexual minority kids wouldn't have been too terribly out of the brief....

Part of what makes me wonder if that exclusion and that control isn't the way things are headed is the demographic of the author's interview subjects of both genders. They are almost all between nineteen and twenty-five or -six. I am not complaining about some perceived "lack of experience or perspective" to be clear. I fully understand that the raunch culture under discussion has reached new heights of awful in their lifetimes. And there is no absence of older feminists in the book, just that the focus isn't so much shared as sharpened on the younger women as almost all the older women are brought into the anti-porn crusading that has been a hallmark of TERF days.

(The author doesn't like the term TERF. If the shoe fits, wear it; these folks are their own worst brand ambassadors and I think they need to be called out for their very closed-minded thinking everywhere. So I'm using it here. And that was a whole half-star off my rating.)

Online porn. What should we do about porn? Why is most cishet porn violent? (This is an area I know nothing about. I don't read about, think about, or watch straight people having sex voluntarily.) Why are there clouds? There has been porn since forever (go look at some Attic pottery from the 600s BCE) and I suspect there always will be. The author does not wish this to be the case, and builds a damning argument against the continued normalization of violent porn.

I don't think for a second that it's porn spreading e-bile (such an excellent term for the horrific "social" media abuse spewed at women/minorities/gender-nonconformists!); I myownself think it's down to rampant abuse of anonymity. Disinhibition due to the facelessness of online interaction. And I am also pretty convinced online porn consumption would go down a lot if anonymity was curtailed. But there's no reasonable way to invalidate or even diminish the power of the author's data-driven analysis; I just feel it's a case of stopping too soon, ending the hunt before the prize got bigger. There went a star.

So my rating of three and a quarter stars seems, well, mingy? There can be no modern work about feminism's many battles that excludes transgender people. That is a massive oversight. There should be no work of modern feminism that does not include members of the QUILTBAG community in its entirety, because that inclusive culture feminism works to create isn't inclusive unless we're at the table, too.

Also? Hillary lost because they cheated. But that was five years ago. I myownself am outraged that Elizabeth Warren isn't in the White House. She was, and is, the best person for the job. But she wasn't the nominee and she's working with the present Administration...I'm taking my cue from a gracious loser. Let's accept that misogyny and reactionary billionaires did Hillary dirt and work on the many, many, many problems in front of us now. That little excursion into Hillary hagiography was the last quarter-star off the five the book started with.

I would recommend the read despite my deep reservations because this is a stirring, clarifying presentation of a very under-debated topic. I would encourage you to read it in the light of its presentation of part of the story, in a particularly readable way for an academic book. ( )
1 vote richardderus | May 14, 2021 |
Raunch Culture is the term used to define the use of what was once considered pornography into everyday life. It includes areas such as advertising in print and video, portrayal of people in movies and television, the way men look and speak about women and how the women react to them. In reality, Raunch Culture is demeaning, dehumanizing, and increasingly sexist.
As an examplek, Donald Trump nominated Andrew Pudzer to become Secretary of Labor. As the CEO of Carl, Jr.and Hardee’s restaurants, he ran advertisements showing barely clad women turning eating one of their products into a sexual experience.
Bernadette Barton, a professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Morehouse State University, based THE PORNIFICATION OF AMERICA on discussions in her classroom and interviews with students, using a lot of direct quotes as examples. One thing is very clear: Raunch Culture has gotten increasingly more prevalent during the past few decades, especially since 2016 with the election of Donald Trump.
A photo on page 6 is a shocking example of the situation. In 2019, the Harvard Lampoon published a photoshopped picture of a very busty woman in a skimpy bikini replacing her head with Anne Frank’s, a teen age victim of the Holocaust. After the complaints, began, the students involved apologized. They didn’t realize how offensive their action was. They thought it was a compliment.
Children begin to see porn on the internet at younger and younger ages, often accidently while looking at something else (e.g., a photo of Justin Bieber with a fan) and then hitting a tab that takes them to another site. As they get older, they think that is the way that people relate to each other: Men look at women as sex objects and women see themselves and other women as objects and that they must respond to those expectations. Too many young people think those portrayals are normal, that sex should be rough and women should physically abused during it. The woman’s needs and desires are not considered.
Ministers have referred to their wives as “smoking hot” from the pulpit. Teenagers, male and female, send nude selfies of themselves, often unsolicited, to prospective dates even before learning enough about them to decide if they want to date the person.
The attitude is so ingrained that one woman who makes a point of telling a woman she wants to compliment “You are f**king good at your job.”
At the conclusion of THE PORNIFICATION OF AMERICA, Barton offers suggestions of how to de-escalate epidemic including talking to children about the realistic facts of life. . ( )
  Judiex | Apr 11, 2021 |
Raunch culture is a self-explanatory term Bernadette Barton uses to describe the decline and fall of the USA in The Pornification of America. It means women are subservient and mere objects, men rule, and they are gauche, vile, rude, crude and cruel about it. Images of naked and near women are everywhere. And under the Trump administration, all this has become uncontroversial, normal, accepted and expected. It is the patriarchy gone wild.

It makes for a fast-paced, constantly evolving challenge of a book. There is much truth in it, and pulling it altogether makes for a consistent and dispiriting package that is American culture today.

Barton does first-hand research using her experience teaching gender issues at Morehead State University. She interviews women and men, many her own students, and extensively quotes their appreciation of the rather ugly world they inhabit and have grown up in. It is a world of unending ubiquitous porn, violent casual sex and bro culture where women can amuse men by trying to fit in, but they never really rate. They want to be bros. When it works, they are considered dudes. When they displease, they are bitches. The labels are assigned and changed at the whim of the men. Men rule at their fantasy-fueled whim. Women, offended, nonetheless dress and make themselves up for it, and routinely participate. Sadly, the alternatives are few for singles.

It has turned young women into wannabe dudes. They hang out with obnoxious men, and try to match them verbally, while dressing sluttishly and acting coquettishly. That is, if you consider that 40% of customers at strip clubs are now women, who often take off their own tops and sit in their miniskirts and stiletto stripper shoes, as coquettish. Barton says “I perceive raunch culture to be a big con, manipulating women into performing free sex work, into being naked and half-naked, gratis.” American women have become willing partners in their own downfall.

Why any self-respecting woman would dress like a stripper, learn to dance with a pole, swear like a Karen and submit to sexual abuse is what Barton explores. It is sadly pathetic. That it is so popular and uncontroversial is most sad.

She explores the new world of hookups - sex without dating, or what used to be called one night stands. Only today it is well-organized, a meat market where everything is free.

There is a chapter on the casual universality of naked or near naked women in advertising, from tv commercials to giant billboards and everything in between.

And there had to be a chapter on internet porn, a new outlet available to all, from toddlers to seniors. In her experience, it is all about violence, from spanking to spitting to choking, to beating. Basically anything to demean and cause pain. The modern man actually expects to dole it out to be a satisfactory partner, and the woman often expects to undergo it all, or what did she think she was getting into in the hookup scene anyway? Children simply grow up with it, sexting each other from pre-puberty on.

Barton finds that internet porn has dulled the senses something fearsome. There are men who think they must follow the script, and men who can’t reach orgasm unless they are watching porn while having sex with a woman. Porn, now freely available on mobile phones and seemingly innocent social media such as Instagram (a Facebook service), can be seen being mindlessly watched in public, on the streets, in the subways and in restaurants. It is eye candy that keeps men, and to an increasing extent women, from facing the world. It is another way of avoiding or substituting for a real relationship.

Barton adds tremendous color from the words of her interviewees. They have all had these experiences, and for many, this is the way of the world and they know of no other way. This rather shocking state of the union has changed the very nature of American life. It is part and parcel of living alone, as well as the permissiveness of foul language by everyone, and the media pushing to keep ahead of these trends, pushing them farther and faster. It is not so much a vicious circle as a race to the bottom.

There is also a chapter on the strange new tradition of dick pics. It seems men feel entitled to send women they don’t even know photos of their genitals in various states. Even when they do know them, the photos are usually unrequested, unexpected, and unwanted. Doesn’t seem to stop anyone. If it led to a new relationship, perhaps it could be considered worthwhile. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. It’s just an aspect of the raunch culture where such activities are the new normal. It is meaningless to men and offensive to women. In today’s thinking, that’s a win-win.

Raunch culture is not just vile, it is fraudulent. It “cloaks itself in the language of female empowerment, but it is Orwellian doublespeak. Hypersexualization is not sexual positivity,” Barton says. In other words, this is not feminism rising, it the patriarchy ever stronger. These kinds of insights throughout the book alter the reader’s perception of the scattered parts.

There seems to be no quarter for sane relationships in Barton’s world. Even pastors refer to their wives as hot, or worse. Right in their sermons. “Raunch culture and conservative religiosity are two sides of the same coin, promoting the patriarchy, controlling women’s bodies,” she says. Evangelicals use raunch culture extensively, telling the flock that sex is greatly improved for true believers and anything is permissible inside a hetero marriage. This is attractive to men, giving them carte blanche over their women. “Conservative Christian and raunch cultures work well in unison because both systems position women as inferior to men, and both seek to control women’s sexual expression,” Barton says.

Along with the visual, there is the verbal. Swearing is no longer just commonplace, it is a necessary part of speech. Especially during sex. Most of her interviewees use four letter words throughout their answers to their professor, for example. Barton appears to simply accept this, not attempting to teach anything about communicating effectively. She is a voyeur of the swamp.

She calls what appears in social media e-bile. The constant berating of women, the denigration and objectification is now totally normal. Women are less than hoes, they are holes. Women self-objectify, in a process we used to call being self-conscious. This takes it a few steps further, abandoning all hope of standing tall and instead conforming to the submissive stance required.

That any of this true is depressing. That kids today grow up knowing all this and positioning themselves to participate accordingly is most unfortunate. It does not bode well for the future. This is a society in rapid decline.

The one chapter I did not appreciate was on Hillary Clinton. Barton is one of those still massively bitter that she was not elected president. Barton goes on and on about how perfectly qualified she was for the job (especially compared to Donald Trump), how she was treated unfairly, how could this happen, what is wrong with everyone, etc. We’ve seen this all before, in more appropriate contexts, and Barton adds nothing to the argument or to her own book with it.

She is especially critical of Trump calling Clinton names, accusing her of crimes and so on – because she is a woman. This is incorrect. Trump is like that period, even with Republican males who don’t toe his line. It was not (purely) because she is a woman, but simply because she is a Democrat. That’s all it took to unleash all the vileness he could muster. Any Democrat would have received it, regardless of race, creed or sex. Barton clearly let her feelings overtake her otherwise fair analysis throughout.

Of course Trump himself is the poster child for all that is wrong in this new relationship-free dystopia. His own wife, a former escort, has famously posed naked for magazines. The exalted image of the First Lady of the United States is out the window. The first couple lives in separate apartments, both in Washington and in New York. They famously have no pets and do as little as possible together. There is nothing normal about their family. His pussy-grabbing comments, gestures to his crotch and claims that women who accuse him of rape are not his type all set the tone for the violent hookup culture he presides over. It reminds me of my favorite New Yorker cartoon of this presidency. A mother is chastising her ten year old son, saying Young Man, “we do not use presidential language in this house.” What better description of the Trump decline and fall can there be?

But what of the blame? There are three candidates for Barton. Parents have never done their duty explaining sex or how to relate to someone else. “The talk” parents are supposed to give their adolescent children mostly never happens.

Schools in America have abandoned any kind of sex education, relying on parents to keep it inside the family and the home, which does not happen. “Porn has to stop being the de facto sex-ed,” says Kayla, one of the student interviewees.

And women should support each other better. There is not just safety in numbers, but close relationships among women give them reinforcement.

None of these factors is new, unlike, say, dick pics and internet porn. It means that the fault is purely negligence, allowing a crazy weed to grow wildly out of control. The three factors (parents, schools and other women) have the ability to rein it in again, but history shows that is shall we say, unlikely.

Barton’s final say is over feminism, which she counts on for support, comfort, reinforcement, growth, protection and promotion. But as I read, I couldn’t help thinking this applies to everything. For example, substituting the term labor union for feminism throughout gives exactly the same result. Humans need outside influences, second opinions, available allies and trusted relationships. Any kind of human relationship would help minimize the current state of decline. It’s really not an issue of feminism. It’s bigger than that.

Same for online porn. Barton doesn’t examine it this way, but since she says the overwhelming majority of those connected to the internet dote on porn, we should recognize it as highly valued in people’s lives. Then perhaps we can deal with it, promote a healthier version of it, minimize the crazier parts of it, and maybe even manipulate it to help users, instead of crippling them in real life. Just a thought.

Hers is not an optimistic analysis, but it is thorough and enlightening. For those of us who have managed to develop close relationships involving love, trust and respect, The Pornification of America will be a revelation. The slimy ads gracing our televisions and billboards are the just the tip of a gigantic iceberg that is sinking the very nature of American society.

David Wineberg ( )
3 vote DavidWineberg | Nov 10, 2020 |
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