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'Pornography Is What the End of the World Looks Like'


'Pornography Is What the End of the World Looks Like'

Chris Hedges

BOSTON—“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the book and the movie, is a celebration of the sadism that dominates nearly every aspect of American culture and lies at the core of pornography and global capitalism. It glorifies our dehumanization of women. It champions a world devoid of compassion, empathy and love. It eroticizes hypermasculine power that carries out the abuse, degradation, humiliation and torture of women whose personalities have been removed, whose only desire is to debase themselves in the service of male lust.


About 20yrs ago Frontline, I believe, did an expose on the then current porn industry. The piece focused on a female porn actress turned director/producer. Her specialty was making pseudo snuff flicks. She would talk her porn star girlfriends into participating, and in the process have their jaws and arms broken. She claimed her girlfriends actually liked it. Asked if she thought this was all OK this dim bulb said “Yea, I guess, I made a lot of money.” Also exposed in this Frontline piece was the fact that GMAC was heavily involved in bankrolling and distributing these products, along with many other “respectable” large corporate interests.


Thanks for noting that. Here is a link to the listings page for Frontline on the pornography industry

I’m reminded of the parallel to obscenely marketed pharmaceuticals industry and denial of the roots of medicinal paradigms of indigenous peoples and health as socially integrated with environment. The process exploits and removes sustainable balance. For instance the coca leaf, which is rich in minerals and has a millennial application in traditional communities is decontextualized and turned into a physical and social poison.

This construct is applied to ecological concerns (having been already decontextualized for marketing purposes) in the REDD carbon trading schemes. Frontline about 8 years ago took an early look at this subtly predatory element in The Carbon Hunters.


I fully agree that what Chris Hedges and Robert Jensen say about porn applies to the great majority of commercial porn which is savagely misogynistic. But I wish that they had at least added the caveat that when they use the word “porn” they are not referring to all erotic videos images or literature. For example, there are (admittedly mostly lesbian or gay) erotic sites on the internet that are not violent or exploitative in the least (one example, at risk of me getting censored, ifeelmyself(dot)com). If the anti-porn left cannot make this caveat, then they are basically joining side of the puritanical right and censorship.


Further comment…

I give this a re-read, and it find myself disagreeing with it more all the time. Where is this evidence that a majority of young men are being turned into dysfunctional sex predators through porn? It’s all hyperbole and speculation, isn’t it? You could take this article and replace word-for-word “porn” with “Islam”, or in an earlier era “marijuana”, and it would be suitable for publishing in the National Review.


The mainstream media - movies, tv, radio and the press - are doing its best to see that US society is authentically degenerate.

The media are the governors of US culture, controlled by an oligarchy that wants a fearful, docile, corrupt, immoral and easily manipulated population of sheep.

Profits are a secondary consideration. It’s control of the popular mind that is most important to the oligarchy.

A weak, debilitated, hedonistic, competitive, confused and easily-led population makes it much easier for capitalism to function.

The antidote to this travesty is the development of a sane, cooperative socialist mentality in the population.


I think you point out out an interesting aspect of how we view context in a media dominated phase of human life. As benign as the sites you cite might be, there remains, in my view, a subtle concern. That is that all of these occur in a dissociated context. Real respectful interaction is supplanted by ‘virtual’ reflection that is ‘supposed’ to replace real life. The LGBT community faces an ideologically based repression as do all of us.


Hedges’ pieces are becoming curiouser and curiouser. First it was the quixotic apologia for vegetarianism. An approach to life completely appropriate for those who choose it, but hardly a pose likely to attract a mass following to the point of becoming a plank in any popular political movement. This piece brings to mind Keats’ "“Ode on a Grecian Urn.” There might not have been erotic images on the Urn Keats wrote about, but he surely was aware of them, for there are untold examples of explicit sexuality on Urns and other artifacts of ancient civilizations, are they pornographic? Exploitation of women, or of men for that matter, is not to be accepted. I assume sadism isn’t the main subject matter of most of these images and videos. Mortimer J. Adler, a dry but brilliant, Aristotelian/Thomistic philosopher said if people say they experience a pleasure in pain as long as it is between consenting adults, so be it. East and West, North and South, ancient and contemporary, civilizations have and continue to create erotica, some of it quite public, see Jeju Loveland Korea. I suspect very few become addicted to pornography, because most is not erotic. As an aside, a controversy arouse over Keats’ final paragraph in which he said truth is beauty, it isn’t.in MHO.


There is nothing inherently wrong with pornography. Sex is natural. Opposition to porn is based on the idea that sex is bad/immoral.

No? The porn industry exploits its workers?

Okay, if anyone is being forced into doing something it should be addressed and if it’s systemic then it should be addressed systemically.

But if you’re simply calling it exploitative because people are being paid to have sex on camera, as opposed to being paid to play non-sexual roles on camera, then all you’re objecting to is sex.

Sex is natural. Being excited by sexual images is natural.

And it isn’t going away.


Thank you, Chris Hedges. In this gripping, astute essay you connect the dots that so few dare to connect, although I’ve been stating much in the way of these points for a long time. Most Feminists who do are bullied or treated with hostility.

A society where Love is present is not a society that makes war–not on other lands or nature, itself–possible.

I’ve contended for some time that the emphasis on this type of porn that actively degrades women is to take the love out of men (and society) in order to make war possible, if not inevitable.

I’ve termed this dis-ease the fruit of Mars-rules.

Paeans and tributes to war, machismo, and indifference to life (seen as weak or sissy-like behavior) are celebrated while decency, justice, and Truth’s tellers are demonized.

It’s important to go deeper than today’s porn washing over the collective unconscious like raw sewage to the roots of patriarchy, itself; that system which established man as worthier and holier than woman; and thereby more destined to privilege, influence, and sovereignty within society. And that system began in the Bible–its ruthless rape of nature all but assured in the false adage that: “God gave MAN dominion over the earth and all creatures therein.”

Most of the world’s horrors began with the lie that they were done due to God’s will. Until a full examination of the type of deity long worshipped is made and a more liberating set of spiritual precepts–ones equally deferential to the Feminine half of Creation–are widely embraced, the rape of Woman and Nature will continue.

Lastly, I am not sure that it’s the Left that asserts the legitimacy of porn on the basis of free consumer choice. That sounds far more kin to a right wing Libertarian argument. Same with guns. In both instances, violence is championed under the rubric of liberty regardless of what violence–widely practiced–means to the overall well-being (or lack of same) of said society.


Interesting take on the Hedges article Yunzer. I find myself also rereading the article and trying to wrap myself around certain phrases such as “all porn leads to child porn” and other provocative statements. Yet I find that Hedges is correct in that porn dehumanizes intimacy or that most porn is of a violent nature. To be honest I ordered Dines’ book after reading this as I feel I need to explore this issue further before forming an educated opinion, but I’m not ready to dismiss the article as just “hyperbole and speculation” just yet.


I think too often people find solace in that phrase “between consenting adults” as if this is the see all/end all of discussions on this topic. It reminds me of the time Laurence Fishburne discovered that his daughter was doing porn. His heart was broken and his daughters reply was… " I’m not ashamed about my body" as she couldn’t understand why her father was so upset. Would we object if school guidance counselors offered our children advice on getting a job in porn because it pays well? Or if job fairs had booths promoting prostitution or lap dancers as a way to get ahead for young people, would we accept this as nothing more than employers exercising their freedom of speech? After all, porno actors/actresses are nothing more than prostitutes in front of a camera. They perform sex for money, but only while a camera is filming the act. Their careers are short lived and often end in tragedy. As for the producers, they only have one rule to follow, that the acts occur with the willful participation of everyone, a rule that is nevertheless pushed to its limits everyday. Financial insecurity is usually the most alluring aspect of porn, which is unfortunately a cornerstone of American contemporary society.
As a Progressive, personal freedoms sometimes have to be curtailed in the name of egalitarian benefits that span the entire community. Your right to play loud music versus the rights of your neighbours to enjoy peace and quiet are examples of such compromises. If porn therefore is nothing more than a manifestation of corporate exploitation, what should an appropriate societal response be?



Most of the disassociating effect you refer to is a consequence of the internet and smartphone - aggravated by the suburban environment where people interact only remotely with other poeple, some strange reason, via text instead of voice, from smartphones in cars, instead of face-to-face on sidewalks and cafes (I miss the city - and now my employer is proposing moving even further out to the suburban wastelands, but I digress). The idea that porn threatens to replace real life intimacy has little merit. Nobody picks erotic film or literature over a real intimate relationship. But such relationships are increasingly difficult to find - especially as one gets older and unattractive.


Not all, or even most, erotic video found on the internet is done under the conditions you describe. Much of it is voluntary and even home-amateur for no pay - notably lesbian and gay but also some hetero erotica. I would never do it myself but some people feel secure enough about their bodies and selves to do it.


Aha! That’s what they call diversification! :wink:


For me, the thing that bothers me about Hedges discussion is the concept of free will and his lack of any discussion concerning it. I have a free will and so I choose not to view, or encourage porn; granted, I have no idea what younger people think about free will [or even if they realize they have it too] but isn’t it up to we parents and grandparents, etc to show our children/grandchildren that they possess the ability to think for themselves? And no, if they aren’t learning this in school I don’t believe it absolves those of us who have children, teenagers, and young adults in our lives of making sure we guide them. This is not to say that I don’t recognize there are far too many ‘attractive nuisances’ out there for all of us to partake in, I just think that more needs to be said about how all halfway ‘normal’ beings have the ability to think for themselves – I think that’s what’s missing in this article.


Hmmm. I know many a therapist who has worked with male teenage porn addicts whose relationships with girls are based upon the models presented in those movies who would disagree with your assessments of how harmless smut is.


the books and the film are an erotic love story. It’s about consensual sex. Bondage/domination is consensual and erotic. It can go as far or as little as the submissive allows. This story is not just about the “kinky:” sex, it is ultimately a love story and is about a relationship that evolves into a “normal” one. I cannot believe the negativity that the movie has generated. My wife is as vanilla as they come. She is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. If this movie were at all off base she never would have seen it or allowed me to see it. She concedes that kids under 18 shouldn’t see it as the sex could be misconstrued as a power thing for the dom. B/D is very much consensual, a contract and safe. in this story, Christian Grey is very much in love with Anastasia and not into degrading her at all. One might not get this from the first movie, or book. I highly recommend reading the trilogy before seeing the film.

I suppose the sub could become sadistic and want to be beaten. but this is not the case with this film.


Alcohol is bad for teens too. Are you going to ban alcohol because teens can get it illegally?


Opinion and speculation are fine things but I went to the trenches and listened to teen-age females in the USA. Porn and its effects on teen-age boys are a problem for teen-age girls and other young women.