The Sporadic Beaver

It's Complicated

January 24, 2013

Tags: Linda Lovelace, Eric Danville, Deep Throat, Andrea Dworkin

In an earlier post, Throat, I'd written about Eric Danville reading from his book The Complete Linda Lovelace. The event was a celebration of Deep Throat's 40th anniversary and the reissue of the book. I'd said that the upcoming film, Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried, was based on the book.

I'd like to issue a correction. As Danville reported on his blog yesterday, the just released Lovelace is not based on The Complete Linda Lovelace, though it was originally supposed to be based on the book. As for what happened and what the film is based on, well, it's complicated, and Danville explains it at some length in his own post.

Suffice it to say, lawyers were involved, producers were involved, demands were made, and most telling of all, the late Linda Lovelace’s “confidant and advisor” Catharine A. MacKinnon was involved. MacKinnon, as I explain in Beaver Street, is a radical feminist lawyer best known for her association with anti-porn activist Andrea Dworkin, who’s best remembered for dedicating her life to outlawing pornography and for equating sexual intercourse with rape. In 1980, Lovelace (her real name is Linda Marchiano) denounced Deep Throat and became an anti-porn crusader.

This should give you some idea of what Lovelace is about. So, if you want to see what sounds like, according to critics, an OK movie set in the world of XXX, then see Lovelace. But if you want accurate history, then read a book. May I suggest The Complete Linda Lovelace by Eric Danville.

Blog's in Your Court, Ms. Breslin

October 19, 2011

Tags: Susannah Breslin, They Shoot Porn Stars Don’t They?, Slate, pornography, Beaver Street, Orrin Hatch, Andrea Dworkin

A few months ago, I wrote a series of reviews about five articles that Slate had cited as "great writing" about the porn industry. Some of these articles, I thought, were hardly examples of great writing, and one of them was barely about the porn industry.

Recently, one of the writers I critiqued responded on her Forbes.com blog to my review of her porn book and to general criticism of her work. In a piece called “This Is Why You’re Stupid, or How to Deal with Criticism on the Internet,” Susannah Breslin took issue with anonymous posters who’ve called her a “c***,” a “f***ing moron,” and a “festering boil.” Her conclusion: Don’t blog if you don’t have a thick skin, and it’s better to get a vicious reaction than no reaction at all. I couldn’t agree more, especially about the thick skin.

I’ve written similar pieces myself, most recently comparing two Nowhere Man reviews that appeared on Amazon the same day, one a five-star rave (in Italian) and the other (since deleted) a one-star hatchet job. I pointed out that this is a microcosm of the type of criticism that Nowhere Man has been subjected to for the past 11 years, that it’s as if the critics had read two different books, and that it’s always the most ignorant critics who post the most vicious comments.

In any case, Breslin devoted a good portion of her blog to analyzing my criticism of her book They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?. She didn’t like my comparing her to the late Andrea Dworkin because Dworkin, she said, was “passionately anti-porn” and she isn’t. She thinks it’s unlikely that Senator Orrin Hatch will use her book as evidence in his anti-porn crusade, as I predicted. She disliked the fact that I called her writing “humorless” because, she insisted, she has a sense of humor. And she said I seemed to suggest that Beaver Street is a better book than They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?.

Well, I’ve reread my critique of Breslin’s book, and I think it still stands up. Breslin might not be like Andrea Dworkin, the person, but her book is definitely anti-porn in a way that Dworkin would have liked. And Breslin’s thesis—that porn is bad, stupid, ugly, and violent—plays right into Orrin Hatch’s hands, confirming everything he says about the industry and the need to investigate it more vigorously. (His crusade appears to have stalled for the time being, which may be why he hasn’t yet presented Breslin’s book as evidence.)

I didn’t say that Breslin doesn’t have a sense of humor. One can indeed be detected in “This Is Why You’re Stupid.” I described the mood of They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They? as “grim and humorless”—because it is.

And finally, I didn’t suggest that Beaver Street is a better book than They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?. I said only that Breslin covered some similar material in her book, specifically, “the predilection of conservative administrations, like Bush II, to declare war on porn, often with embarrassing results.”

Ms. Breslin, I feel as if we’re playing tennis, and the blog’s back in your court. But before you return my serve, perhaps you should decide for yourself how Beaver Street stacks up against They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?. U.S. pub date is March 23, 2012. Review copies are available now, and, in my opinion, you’re more qualified than most people to review it. Beaver Street, I might add, is very much up your pink slip and recession alley.

The Body-Punishing Sex of Gail Dines

September 16, 2011

Tags: Gail Dines, Pornland, Andrea Dworkin, Ron Jeremy, Vanity Fair, Porn Report

Gail Dines, anti-porn gadfly.
At first glance, Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, appears to be a more rational version of the late Andrea Dworkin, who believed that watching porn led to rape, and that sexual intercourse was the equivalent of rape.

But I've found that after watching Dines debate Ron Jeremy; watching a few of her lectures on YouTube (in one she calls Vanity Fair magazine "pornography"); and reading a couple of her articles, my sympathy for her point of view is rapidly diminishing, even though I tend to agree with some of what she says. (Yes, some pornography is abusive and disgusting.) It simply grows tiresome to listen to a woman whose favorite phrase, repeated ad nauseum, is "body-punishing sex."

An article by Dines, “Time to Start Telling the Truth About the Porn Industry,” posted on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Website, offers a concise summary of her views. In the piece, Dines takes on the authors of the Australian Porn Report, whom, she says, want to “sanitize porn as a bit of harmless fun” and “seem willfully detached from the realities of how porn functions as a global industry and as a storytelling device.”

In other words, these Australian “academics, public intellectuals, and plain old pornographers” disagree with Dines’s suggestion that, according to her research, the most popular porn sites display a “mind-numbing repetition” of “gagging, slapping, verbal abuse, hair-pulling, pounding anal sex, women smeared in semen, sore anuses and vaginas, distended mouths, and exhausted, depleted, and shell-shocked women.”

Or, to put it simply, “body-punishing sex.”

The Great Porno Debate: Ron Jeremy vs. Gail Dines

August 17, 2011

Tags: Ron Jeremy, Gail Dines, The Joy Behar Show, pornography, Andrea Dworkin

The most frightening thing about last night's debate between Ron Jeremy and Gail Dines, on The Joy Behar Show, is that the porn star who's appeared in nearly two thousand XXX-rated movies, and the anti-porn author of Pornland both sounded more sane than any of the Republican presidential candidates did in their debate last week.

I hardly agree with everything Gail Dines says. She has, for example, classified Vanity Fair magazine as pornography. But she clearly does a lot of research—she said on the show that she gets her information from Adult Video News—and unlike, say, the late Andrea Dworkin, she traffics in facts and presents them in a non-hysterical way.

The heart of Dines’s “porn is bad” argument is that the bulk of smut you find on the Internet is “body-punishing cruel sex, women being gagged by penises, women being penetrated by four men,” and that watching this kind of thing affects how men relate to women.

Jeremy, of course, disagrees. Citing a study in Scientific American magazine, he said that porn is not harmful and that “fifty percent of all porn is produced and directed by women.”

Dines said that the porn women produce is even “more violent.”

The debate, an abbreviated version of which you can watch by clicking on the above photo, was civilized. Though there was one amusingly petulant moment, which doesn’t appear in the edited video. Jeremy kept referring to Dines as “this lady.”

“I am not ‘this lady,’” said Dines, interrupting. “I am Gail Dines!”

Bottom line: If Jeremy or Dines were to run for president (Dines can’t because she was born in England), I’d vote for either one of them before I’d vote for Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry.

The Business of Smut: Critique #3

June 16, 2011

Tags: Slate, Susannah Breslin, They Shoot Porn Stars Don’t They?, Andrea Dworkin, Orrin Hatch, Beaver Street, Jim Powers, Ryan Hunter, Martin Amis, smut

Next up in my critique of great “smut” writing recommended by Slate is a 10,000-word excerpt of a self-published book, They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They? (2009), by freelance journalist Susannah Breslin, who also blogs about being downsized for Forbes magazine.

A collection of interviews and reportage conducted on the sets of various X-rated videos, the piece is a classic example of the Andrea Dworkin School of Anti-Porn Writing. And it’s hard to say who might consider it “great” other than Senator Orrin Hatch, who will undoubtedly use Breslin’s book as evidence in his quest to persuade the Justice Department to launch a vigorous investigation of the porn industry.

I’ve no doubt that Breslin did an enormous amount of research and reporting. But to present her findings as “typical” strikes me as a gross distortion. The essential problem with the piece, I think, is that the author lacks any genuine sympathy for the people she’s writing about. Clearly she finds them interesting, but she never lets the reader forget that she’s not one of them, that she’s above it all, that pornographers are some other species, not quite human.

Yet, Breslin also displays far less ignorance than many others writers I’ve read who’ve done similar stories. And she explores a number of issues that I cover in Beaver Street, such as the predilection of conservative administrations, like Bush II, to declare war on porn, often with embarrassing results.

Thumbnail Critique
Thesis: Porn is bad. Porn is stupid. Porn is ugly. Porn is violent. Blame it on the recession and free Internet porn.
Mood: Grim and humorless.
Highlight: Breslin interviews Jim Powers and porn star Ryan Hunter as he directs her in Fuck Machine 5, a video in which the “costar” is an “animatronic phallus” rather than a human male.
Sample Quote: [A man interviews a porn star on camera] “So, what do you do for a living?”
“I work in porn.”
“Whore?”
“Of course.”
“Absolute whore, right?”
“Yes.”
“What kind of whore?”
“Dirty whore.”
“Piece of shit whore?”
“Piece of shit whore.”
Also See: “A Rough Trade” by Martin Amis

The Business of Smut: Critique #2

June 15, 2011

Tags: Natasha Vargas-Cooper, The Atlantic, Andrea Dworkin, Slate, Martin Amis, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Gail Dines, anal sex, smut

Allow me to begin my critique of “Hard Core,” by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, which ran in the January 2011 issue of The Atlantic, by saying that the author, judging by the photo on her website, is an exotically attractive brunette. Though looks are, of course, irrelevant to a writer’s ability, when a writer, male or female, writes about their sex life, one can only wonder: What does he or she look like? Well, Ms. Vargas-Cooper is no Andrea Dworkin. She is an LA-based freelance writer and former union organizer. And her 4,000-word essay, which Slate included on their list of great “smut” writing, can best be described as a quasi-academic, post-feminist, semi-personal thought piece that quotes from the likes of Martin Amis, Susan Sontag, and Pauline Kael.

Thumbnail Critique
Thesis: The prevalence and instant availability of Internet porn has transformed sexuality.
Highlight: A one-night stand with a “polite,” “educated” man who can only get aroused if he has anal sex with the author.
Sample Quote: “You could be poking around for some no-frills Web clips of amateur couples doing it missionary style, but easily and rapidly you slide into footage of two women simultaneously working their crotches on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo, and then all of a sudden you’re at a teenage-fisting Web site.”
Also see: Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, by Gail Dines