The Porning of America's first sentence, college professors Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott make clear that they are casting aside their usual “objective, intellectual, dispassionate” discourse to tackle a subject which clearly worries them. There’s evidence of a more conversational tone on the very next page.
They make an excellent observation that we don’t need to search for porn, that porn will come to us in one form or another. Paris Hilton, for instance, brings porn into our living rooms “via…a televised ad for Carl’s Jr. in which Hilton – it can only be described this way – performs oral sex on a hamburger.”
That’s the only description? Really? I’ve seen that ad. Maybe Scott’s and Sarracino’s oral experiences differ from mine, but wrapping your mouth around someone’s genitals and treating fast food like it’s Nine and a ½ Weeks–style foreplay ain’t the same thing.
I admit it’s a great line. Thankfully the book is not as glib as this early zinger implies (the later chapter which explores Hilton as one of the primary figures in what they call the porning of America hits the mark precisely). It’s a detailed exploration of how we arrived here, where we’re at, and where we might be headed. This book is my favorite kind of sociology; not too academic, but still thought-provoking.
Porning of America purports to be non-judgmental while judging how porn dehumanizes sex, and I think that is justifiable hypocrisy. Sex is important and good, and why not judge those things which debase it?
Of course, one person’s debasement is often another’s pleasure (or even the debasee’s); the authors understand and appreciate this. They are neutral and sex positive, wisely saving their gavel for products which sexualize children and the worst the internet has to offer. I haven’t seen a lot of what’s out there, but I’ve heard tell. I thought I knew about the worst, but some of the things Scott and Sarracino explore left my jaw open. I tell myself these websites are probably worse in my imagination, but I’m not about to find out.
Sarracino and Scott posit that we’re on our way to a sibling culture, where childhood is no longer singled out as a special developmental period, where everyone is judged by his or her value as a sexual object. It’s difficult to argue.
I was reminded of reading Rhoda Jansen's excellent Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, which touched upon the death of virginity. Our children are still literal virgins in that they haven’t had sex, but the classical sense of being untouched by - and unaware of - sex no longer exists.
The other day I was buying floss in the grocery section of a Targé when one of those all-oral porn video compilations caught my eye. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a box of mouthwash. I stood there for some time, trying to fathom in what world this was an acceptable cover shot for any product not meant for a brown paper bag, decided I didn’t want to live in that world, then went home and shot myself.
Here I am, blogging from the Great Beyond. Not even the grave can keep me from loving the sound of my own voice, and forcing it upon the world.
So I didn’t kill myself, but I was shocked. According to The Porning of America, this type of advertising is also an implicit ad for porn. Again, a simple observation I couldn’t argue with.
Looking at that mouthwash, I realized growing up in a culture which prides itself on ennui doesn’t make me un-shockable.