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Porn Stars & Sinners in Grand Rapids: A Feminist Interpretation

October 22, 2012

Yesterday, MLive posted a story about “porn star” Ron Jeremy’s visit to a West Michigan church.

The article talked about how the pastor at Daybreak Church invited Jeremy to share the stage with him and “guest pastor Craig Gross, an anti-pornography pastor who Jeremy counts as a close friend.”

Jeremy and the Daybreak pastor discussed how everyone is a sinner and is in need of saving. Ron Jeremy also apparently said that lots of “porn stars believe in God.” The bulk of the article provides lots of commentary from Jeremy who acknowledged that he still makes pornographic films.

So what can one make of this visit to West Michigan by Ron Jeremy? Well, it’s not the first time he has been here or the first time he has appeared with Pastor of XXX Church, Craig Gross.

The two men have “debated” pornography before in West Michigan, but their debates, like Jeremy’s recent visit, is rooted in the idea that pornography is wrong because it promotes sex outside of marriage.

Talking about pornography in a religious context is also a way to attract younger churchgoers, which the XXX Church is known to do, with its hip graphics of youth sporting tattoos and wearing shirts that say, “Jesus Loves Porn Stars.”

Such an analysis, or lack thereof, of the pornographic industry omits what many feminists believe to be the more important and relevant analysis.

Ever since Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin began to challenge pornography from a feminist perspective, the discussion about pornography has shifted from just sex to harm. These two fierce feminists paved the way for many others since then, such as Jane Caputi, Diana E.H. Russell and Gail Dines to use a feminist analysis of pornography so that instead of just talking about frivolous sexual behavior, we could talk about pornography as a means of objectification, exploitation, violence and global capitalism.

This changes the very nature of the false debate between the like of Ron Jeremy and Craig Gross, two men who want to moralize pornography instead of thinking critically about the impact of one of the most profitable media industries.

According to the work of Gail Dines and Robert Jensen, the estimated profits from global pornography is $57 Billion. Comparatively, Hollywood films make roughly $23 Billion annually from global sales. In addition, there are roughly 4.2 million pornographic websites and 68 million daily porn searches.

Beyond the shear amount of pornography now available in the digital age, the issue of the harm done is what Dines and Jensen focus on. In the film The Price of Pleasure, feminist critics of pornography point to the dehumanizing nature of the current mass-produced pornography. Most pornography is produced by and for men, thus women’s bodies are merely to be consumed and tossed aside. Dines and Jensen have interviewed hundreds of porn producers and other people who have worked in the industry and what they have come to find as the norm is reflected in the following comment:

Women were born with three holes for one purpose: To cram a cock deep inside every cuddly cavity!  Like true cock sockets, our whores subject their beautiful bodies to the nastiest 4-way debauchery ever lensed.”

– Cover description of Zero Tolerance: No Holes Barred (DVD)

Women who have been consumed by the porn industry are tossed aside once they no longer fit the necessary role as object of male fantasy.

However, what Dines and Jensen have also done is looked at the harm done to men who consume pornography. Both argue that it negatively impacts men’s ability to enjoy healthy sexual intimacy with their partners, since they have become accustomed to the instant gratification of non-consensual and male pleasure-focus imagery of pornography. Here are other consequences of regular porn consumption by men:

Much more could be said about this topic, which is a perspective you will not get from porn stars like Ron Jeremy, despite his willingness to visit churches in West Michigan.

Lastly, here is an interview we did with Robert Jensen when he visited West Michigan in 2008, while on book tour with Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Christian permalink
    October 23, 2012 9:49 pm

    Great post, Jeff. The feminist perspective on pornography is absolutely essential.

    I can’t speak for Gross, but I suspect he’s equally concerned with pornography as a means of “objectification, exploitation, violence and global capitalism.” It is unfortunate, however, that religious discussion about pornography centers mostly on the act of extramarital sex, and not the objectification and exploitation of women.

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