Slide show presents critical view of porn

By Brittany Abeijon

Kim Rice, sexual health educator at McKinley Health Center, and Ross Wantland, rape prevention educator, hosted a program in Gregory Hall Monday night that asked the same question of the viewers.

The slide show and discussion examined a feminist analysis of pornography and the increasingly pornographic culture.

Rice and Wantland, also co-authors of the Buzz’s weekly sex column “Doin’ It Well,” analyzed contemporary pornographic images in order to criticize the messages they send about sexuality, arousal, gender and race.

The slide show was written and produced by Feminists Against Pornography, a feminist activist group. The presentation was edited by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Wantland and Rice commented.

Aside from the gender difference of the two speakers, Wantland said he has a different stance on porn than Rice.

“I am much more anti-porn,” Wantland said. “Kim is interested in what porn does, what it tells us about healthy sexuality and what positive sex looks like.”

According to the Family Safe Media Web site, the estimated revenue for the pornography industry in the U.S. was more than $13 billion in 2006, while the box-office revenue for mainstream films was $9 billion.

Online porn has recently become the most popular, Rice said, as 12 percent of all Web sites are pornography and 25 percent of the daily total of search engine requests are for porn.

“The average age of first accessing online pornography is 11, and most kids do not receive accurate sex education in school or at home,” Rice said. “I think it’s critical to examine what young people are learning about sex from pornography.”

Another porn medium, video porn, comes in two types: features and gonzo.

Feature video pornography mimics mainstream movies with plot, characters, and dialogue, while gonzo video pornography qualifies as “amateur,” often displaying violence as a means of what a woman wants from her sexual partner.

“(Women) are verbally abused, but expected to say how much they like it,” Rice said. “Here, violence is eroticized.”

Porn production company JM Productions features a movie series entitled “Gag Factor,” which refers to women as victims, demonstrating that pain is part of the appeal.

In the U.S., at least one woman is raped every minute, according to “Rape in America: A Report to the Nation,” a study by the National Center for the Victims of Crime. The messages that violent porn is sending links porn to rape, Rice said.

Another relationship is that of pornography and race. The majority of images are “disproportionally white,” Wantland said. “There are few Latinas, even fewer black women, and Asian women are portrayed as being slavishly obedient.”

“It’s less acceptable in our society now to be blatantly racist or sexist and the porn industry is an outlet for that,” Rice said.

Rice said the “porn star” image sends messages to women that affect their sense of self.

“It becomes less about how they feel and more about how they look,” she said. “(Sex) becomes a performance for men.”

Wantland said our society has been text based for hundreds of years and image based for far less, but “we don’t live in a society where we can deconstruct images,” he said. “We take away the humanity in people when they are in an image being consumed.”

Badi Morris, senior in Engineering, said he thinks men who consume porn are condemned into a category of their own, but disapproves of the criticism.

“Our goal was not to shame men or women, but to show that this is what’s out there,” Rice said.

“We aren’t saying if you use porn, you should be slapped on the wrist; it’s more complex than that,” Wantland. “It’s about taking back our sexuality.”