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|Hayley Matthews • 5/13/16|
The 411: As a professor of sociology and women’s studies, an internationally acclaimed speaker and author, and a feminist activist, Dr. Gail Dines has established herself as the world’s top anti-pornography advocate, inspiring a radical change in the hypersexualization of our culture.
Dr. Gail Dines has been a feminist from the moment she was born.
Even as a child, she was constantly aware of the injustices young girls and women endured, and it was when she took her first women’s studies course in college that she realized exactly how she was going to make a difference.
“It was like ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life. This explains everything,'” Dines said. “It’s one thing to have the feeling and emotion that something’s wrong. It’s another to have the concepts, the ideologies, the theories that help it all slot into place.”
During her college years, Dines focused specifically on violence against women and also worked at a rape crisis center where she saw the results of violence firsthand.
But it wasn’t until she saw a presentation by an American feminist that she understood where a large source of the violence comes from: porn.
That was the night that changed her life forever.
“I literally couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. I couldn’t believe men got off on that violence,” she said. “I knew about misogyny, I knew about patriarchy, but nothing quite delivered the message of misogyny quite like pornography. It delivers it in its most crisp, clean, unambiguous form.”
Dines immediately called her adviser and changed her dissertation to be a cultural analysis of pornography, and the rest is certainly not history.
We spoke with Dines to get some insights into how she teaches, fights for, and encourages women and men to join the cause against the “pornification” of our culture and the ways we all can stop pornography from objectifying and degrading women.
When writing her thesis, Dines often took inspiration from the works of radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan, and Susan Brownmiller, who were some of the first people to start talking about and analyzing pornography and its effects.
“It was especially Andrea Dworkin’s book on pornography that really crystallized my ideas. She was the first to really get underneath what’s going on with pornography, and that had a huge impact on me,” Dines said. “And that was part of a feminist movement. There was a vibrant feminist movement at the time. Pornography and violence against women was becoming a big issue in the movement, so it was not done in isolation. It was done with other feminists.”
Dines took that sentiment to heart and started her own feminist organization while living in Israel called “Woman to Woman,” or “אישה לאישה” in Hebrew, and hundreds of women couldn’t wait to join.
Over the years, perhaps some of Dines’ most important work has come from the lectures she holds across the world, sharing her wisdom and listening to stories — from women who don’t know how to cope with men’s sexual requests to guys who struggle with porn addictions, situations that have become more common thanks to college hookup cultures.
“They’ve been thrown into a porn culture. I’m talking about males and females,” she said. “When they get a critical feminist analysis of porn, the men realize this isn’t who they want to be. They don’t want to be guys who just bang away at a woman’s orifice without any connection. They want intimate sex, but the porn has really impacted their capacity to develop a connection.”
Dines added that she’s certainly not advocating for abstinence or saying people should only sleep with someone if they’re going to be with them for the rest of their lives. What she’s trying to do is open up sexuality.
According to Dines, sex is not the one-size-fits-all model that porn makes it out to be, so getting to know the people we sleep with and learning their wants and needs is what makes sex enjoyable, fun, and creative.
“I always say porn is to sex what McDonald’s is to food. It’s stripping away all the nutrients, all the interesting things, and it’s handing you an industrial product. It’s so tedious and boring and formulaic and generic,” Dines said. “I often get accused of being anti-sex because I’m anti-porn. My argument is I’m anti-porn because I’m pro-sex. You can’t be pro-sex and pro-porn.”
Dines’ strives to show women and men that real change can only happen if they come together and work as a group, and she does that in a variety of ways, including launching organizations like Stop Porn Culture and Culture Reframed, as well as writing books like “PornLand: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality,” “Gender, Race and Class in Media,” and “Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality.”
Her future endeavor will be a public health program for parents, therapists, youth counselors, and more to teach them how to have conversations about pornography with children without being overprotective and making them feel ashamed. Dines said this program should launch by the end of the year.
“We’re developing programs with public health experts to help parents build resilience and resistances of kids to the porn culture,” she said. “Our children have the right to develop their own sexuality. They have a right to a sexuality that they author, that they create, that is meaningful to who they are and their experiences in the world.”
Overall Dines’ message is about how porn destroys people’s capacity for intimacy and ability to truly connect to other human beings. If generation after generation of men continue to be brought up on porn, the vicious cycle will only continue, and those men will soon be put into positions of power that affect the way women and their children live their lives.
“If we don’t do something quick — and I mean quickly, really quickly — then we are laying waste to an entire generation of boys,” Dines said. “When you lay waste to a generation of boys, you lay waste to an entire generation of girls, and when you lay waste to a generation of girls, you lay waste to the culture.”
To learn more about Dr. Gail Dines and her impactful work, visit gaildines.com.