Book Review: PORNLAND by Gail Dines. A Tragical Mystery Tour Through Porn Hell

PORNLAND How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines is a well-written examination of Internet porn that is both educational and alarming.  What Dines describes in grisly detail are sexual aberrations that most of us couldn’t imagine.

The book is well-researched and impeccably footnoted.  As a professor of sociology and women’s studies, Dines has examined porn for over 20 years.

Her main concern is that Internet pornography has jaded our nation’s men. According to Dines, young boys are “catapulted into a never-ending universe of ravaged anuses, distended vaginas and semen-smeared faces.”  “When men turn to porn to experience sexual arousal and orgasm, they come away with a lot more than just an ejaculation because the stories seep into the very core of their sexual identity.”

So, how did this sordid state of affairs come about? Dines gives a step-by-step progression.  The following, in order of appearance, are the items she tackles.

Dines begins by pointing to those ancient skin-mags Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler. She states that these relatively innocuous (compared to the stomach-churning stuff she describes later in PORNLAND) publications opened the floodgates to the tidal wave of smut that she says we are now drowning in.

Regarding Playboy, Dines passes along significant information about 83-year-old Hugh Hefner’s sex life: “…Hefner would have unprotected sex with a number of women, one after another, but regardless of how many women he penetrated, he could orgasm only by masturbating to pornography.”  (Hey, Gail, give the guy a break.  He’s 83!) Her reason for including this intimate detail, I believe, is to augment her description of how porn has affected men.

She laments “reality” shows such as Girls Gone Wild that further the “porning of our culture.”  Dines writes  “…the young woman’s behavior is frozen in time on tape; they can’t take it back, hide it or deny that they did it.” “Ellen started college with the hope of being a business major but after the tape of her having sex with her friend was shown at a frat party during the first semester, she dropped out of school…Tricia told me that ‘my life will never be the same.  I had so many plans and look at me now, a dropout with no future.'” (I feel that Dines should place more blame on our judgmental society for saddling these young women with such opprobrium.  But saying that might run counter to her theme of how our culture blithely accepts porn’s leadership in creating sexual “new normals.”)

As an example of porn’s degradation of its actresses, Dines offers up Jenna Jameson.  This porn queen is introduced with an anonymous blog post as having breasts “‘scarred from having her breast implants removed…her face looks like it collapsed…It’s a good thing she retired because this is one old slut that needs to be put down.'”  After that opening, PORNLAND recounts Jameson being gang-raped as a teenager and being so desperate to land her first gig that she “removed her braces with a pair of pliers.”

Dines says, “Before Jameson there was no woman in porn who had a lifestyle that was in any way desirable.”

Has this author who has studied porn so closely never heard of Nina Hartley?  Nina’s lifestyle, while unconventional (having both a husband and a wife), was–and presumably still is–happy and…desirable.  (Neglecting to mention Hartley in a book covering porn is like writing about 1920s baseball and leaving out Babe Ruth.)

Though Dines has studied modern porn intensely, her knowledge of porn’s distant history might be lacking: In addition to neglecting to mention Nina Hartley, she states that The Devil in Miss Jones was directed by Greg Dark (DMJ was directed by Gerard Damiano, who also helmed Deep Throat).

Supporting her claim that mainstream television celebrates porn, Dines laments that on Rita Crosby: Live and Direct, where she appeared with Vivid Entertainment’s Steve Hirsch, he got 50 minutes, while she only got 10. (The reason, of course, is that Vivid is a big-time player in porn. She isn’t.)

Dines decries porn’s widening influence by listing companies that, she claims, are mainstreaming porn.  Among them are media giants Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Comcast, DirecTV and Rupert Murdoch’s EchoStar Communications Corporation.  She lists the hotel chains Holiday Inn, Marriot, Hilton, Sheraton, Radisson, and Hyatt.  Her list of smut supporters even includes Microsoft.

In the second half of PORNLAND, Dines carves into the real meat (sorry) of the book when she details that outer limit of Internet porn known as “gonzo (wall-to-wall sex, no story).”

(I’ll admit I wasn’t up to date on gonzo. SKINFLICKS describes the porn world circa 1970-1999.  Beyond that era, I haven’t kept up. [Nothing makes you tire of porn faster than shooting it.]  For a retired old-time producer like me, PORNLAND provided an education–and a Cook’s tour for perverts seeking the grossest stuff imaginable.)

It’s no surprise that weirdos wield websites.  For small investments, slavering psychopaths worldwide can put their fevered fantasies out there, safe from American prosecutors who can’t reach them. (As First Amendment attorney Clyde DeWitt said, “Technology is the worst enemy of the censor.”)

In examining the most degrading of these sites, Dines inevitably falls into the conundrum that most anti-porn scribes do: giving these “entrepreneurs” free advertising, such as… proves that their girls are real virgins by “stretching open a vagina so the user can get a clear view of the internal genitalia, which depicts, the site claims, an ‘intact hymen.'”  This tissue is then “‘stretched and ruptured by an erect penis…$38 a month…”

She blames the 2002 Supreme Court decision allowing women over 18 to portray teens under that age for precipitating a rash of PCP (Pseudo Child Porn) sites like, a website that features “Pissing Teens, Drunk Teens, Teen Anal Sluts, Asian Teens…”  Dines also provides graphic descriptions of such sites as, and

Reviewing the Internet-taught techniques of seducing young girls, the author turns to one of her favorite villains: sadistic producer/actor Max Hardcore.  Dines describes how, in Cherry Poppers, volume 10, Hardcore, who spent two years in prison for his rough-sex videos, “seasons” a young girl.  Dines includes the testimony of FBI child porn expert Ken Lanning, who vouches for the accuracy of Hardcore’s methods. Dines adds “…and man [sic] watching him may find pointers on how to season a child.”

When Dines confronts the dichotomy of men who desire sex only with adult women, yet are attracted to child porn, this social scientist is at her best.  She accurately describes the process of desensitization: the rapidly developing boredom that forces the pornophile to seek ever more bizarre thrills.  (In SKINFLICKS, I quote UCLA psychologist Neil Malamuth who said “Our research shows that every time there is a satiation of themes, people to some degree lose their ability to be aroused by it.  Therefore, newer themes are introduced, breaking new taboos.”)

As bored viewers become disgusted with the phony moans and fake orgasms of professional porn stars, they yearn to see women in the throes of real emotions.  And nothing is more real than pain.

Here, PORNLAND dives into the sewers of sleaze. The examples below include text from their websites.

  • “‘bitches wouldn’t be able to walk for a week after the utter anal demolishing.'”
  • (Two white men rape a black woman.) “‘…we destroy ghetto hoes, and it be showin’ like a mutha fukka!'”
  • (In bukkake porn, a group of men ejaculate on a woman’s face. Though it seems legally daring, this genre of porn was actually created to conform to Japanese law, which forbade showing genital penetration.)  “‘…you’re guaranteed to get off when you see their dripping faces full of cum.'”
  • “‘We make them gag till their makeup starts running, and then they get all other holes sore–vaginal, anal, double penetrations, anything brutal involving a cock and an orifice.'”

Having seen “many Max Hardcore movies,” Dines presents the gloating sadist’s boast: “‘I also created the technique of cuming in a girl’s ass, having her squeeze it out into a glass, and then chuck the load down…I started pissing down their throats several times during a scene, often causing them to vomit uncontrollably while still reaming their throats.'”

Ye gods. And Dines makes a living studying this stuff.  (I hope she doesn’t become like Sargent Lloyd Martin of the LAPD Administrative Vice detail who became so obsessed with child porn that he kept a garage filled with it–just to show people how evil it was. As related in SKINFLICKS, the LAPD eventually fired him.)

Perhaps Dines’ ongoing studies of gonzo porn influenced her writing style. Here’s how she describes Caucasian male fans of the popular genre of black men screwing white women: “As the white man unzips, he steps out of the socially constructed cage of whiteness and into a thoroughly debauched world of huge, semen-filled black penises out to rip, tear, pummel, and hammer white women into the utter subordination of becoming a fuckee.”

Then there’s Dines’ correlating the film King Kong with the white man’s myth of black sexuality, calling the movie, “…the most dramatic rendering of black masculinity that this country had ever seen…”

Gosh. When I saw King Kong as a kid, I thought he was just an over-sized ape.

I would venture to say that when you study extremes of pornography for years on end, you begin to see its influence everywhere.  You become like someone who buys a yellow VW Cabriolet and suddenly starts noticing all these yellow VW Cabriolets on the road.

Dines writes,“We are so steeped in the pornographic mindset that it is difficult to imagine what a world without porn would look like.  It is affecting our girls and boys, as both are growing up with porn encoded into their gender and sexual identities.”

As examples of porn’s influence, Dines writes, “Whether it be thongs peeping out of low-slung jeans, revealing their ‘tramp stamp (a lower back tattoo just above the butt crack),’ their waxed pubic area, or their desire to give the best blow job ever to the latest hookup, young women and girls, it seems, are increasingly celebrating their ’empowering’ sexual freedom by trying to look and act the part of a porn star.”

I disagree.  I think they’re just expressing themselves as sexual beings.  We’ve come a long way from the Hays Office prudery that ruled Hollywood from 1930 to the mid-’60s.  And rightly so.

But Dines is correct about the need to somehow regulate the most extreme elements of the Internet. Left totally unchecked, the final step in pornographers’ race to be the most outre would be to emulate the Roman Coliseum and toss maidens to lions.

So, ultimately, what does Dines recommend?  She’s too savvy to slide down the Dworkin/MacKinnon slope of trying to ban pornography.  Instead, she invites readers to access her website, where two slide shows can be obtained for free.  Her aim is to unite people in a grassroots movement to battle porn’s excesses.

In the book’s concluding paragraph, Dines writes, “As long as we have porn, we will never be seen as full human beings deserving of all the rights that men have…in a just society, there is no room for porn.”

Hmm.  I Googled (or rather “Norton Safe Searched”) “Countries where women have the most equality.”  Answer: Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.  (In Sweden, child porn was legal from 1971 to 1980.  Recently, a Swedish man was convicted of “aggravated child pornography [shackled children being raped].”  His sentence? Only one year in prison.)  In these Scandinavian countries, porn is freely available–though Iceland has a strong movement to ban the the most extreme “gonzos,” such as those described in PORNLAND.

Next, I Norton Safe Searched “Countries that stop Internet porn.” Answers: Bahrain, China, Iran, Kuwait, North Korea, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar.   Hardly bastions of female equality.  And all pornography is illegal in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.

Despite my differences with parts of PORNLAND, I believe that this is an important, educational and grimly entertaining book.  For anyone seeking an information-rich look at the “brave new world” of Internet pornography, without having to access its grand guignol of websites, I highly recommend PORNLAND: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.

Next:  While doing my own research, I came across a strange fact. The European country with the highest rate of rape is Sweden.  That doesn’t sound like the Sweden I enjoyed visiting, where sexual freedom under the midnight sun kept Swedish men happy.  But there is a demographic development in Sweden that has become a growing crisis.

Next post: Sweden Raped