Having once worked for a short time in my younger days in the porn industry, I have slightly more than just the usual prurient interest in the way that porn is marketed to the masses. Marx defined commodity fetishism as the overarching need of capitalism to turn everything into a commodity so that it can be bought and sold for profit. This seems like an appropriate means of defining the way that under capitalism sex is bought and sold to the masses by online web based businesses that run the gamut from simple home based businesses that use web store type software to market and sell their product to the vast multi-billion dollar a year business run by such persons as the porn king of the world Fabian Thylmann the German born porn industrialist who owns the porn site pornhub.com and MANWIN. Thylmann’s commercial porn enterprise is the world leader in mobile device/phone porn. His commercial porn enterprise employs over 500 people world wide.
How does one go about effectively describing the sociology of porn that is both fair and objective while at the same time considering its overall impact on an often too hungry sex starved society that routinely exploits sex for a myriad of commercial purposes chief of which is probably its use in advertizing? The other question one might want to ask concerns values. Does porn have any real positive value for either the individual of the society where such material is commercially available to consumers?
There seems to be near complete agreement that porn appears to have some positive social value as the two articles that I have provided links to indicate. These two articles, however are not either carefully controlled research studies or any other kind of research study that would bring science of some sort to bear in making any kind of a scientifically valid research study that would have value for the psychological profession as well as the other allied mental health profession that have to deal with this issue in some form or another. The two articles that appeared in both Scientific American and alternet.org do however base their conclusions on some studies that they cite. Therefore these two articles that appeared in the popular press do have credibility.
A better way of getting some form of scientific insight into this question regarding the efficacy of using porn that perhaps takes the place of a human relationship and also the efficacy of using porn while in a relationship with a significant other is also addressed in these two articles published by the popular press for a general audience.
The University of Hawaii study should be read by anyone seeking to explore this topic in depth and is familiar with research jargon. It is these sort of studies conducted under usually rigorous testing conditions that have the most value for the various allied mental health professions that may be called upon to deal with such an issue as “addiction” to pornography, that is if one is willing to accept what many consider to be the overly broad definition of addiction that may not be really all that appropriate in trying to construct an acceptable framework to examine such issues as some would call “addiction” but perhaps others would find some other DSM label. For the non professional or student who has never read a research study before or the busy professional hasn’t the time or inclination to want to read through all the technical jargon, the part marked “conclusions” at the end will suffice.The efficacy and usefulness of porn is born out by the University of Hawaii study.
I was first introduced to pornography at a relatively late age for such things according to today’s standards. I was in my mid twenties and living in a rooming house in my old hometown of Collingswood, New Jersey. A former high school classmate by the name of Larry R. and another Collingswood High School grad had made a small fortune for themselves peddling smut back in the day when the first so called “adult bookstores” hit the scene. The other Collingswood High School grad was a year or two my junior although his obnoxious older brother Carl was in my graduating class of 1968. The younger Gary P. who unlike his older brother had something approaching what people commonly accept to be a personality was the other partner along with Larry R. to make a killing in smut.
The long and the short of things is that I ended up running one of these smut palaces located in Toms River New Jersey along the main drag. The mainstay of the clientele were military service people from nearby Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. In 1975 the nature of this industry consisted of rows and rows of glossy porn magazines that lined the walls as well as the display tables throughout the store. There were glass cases where all sorts of perverted sex toys were sold that included items that in my opinion at the time had me convinced that no normal person would want to have anything to do with. There was a long display case filled will vibrators of all sorts, some in the shape of actual penises both black and white depending upon such niceties as racial preference. Before being dropped into this world the only thing that I had ever seen that even approached the level of debauchery I saw on display at Toms River was the occasional Playboy Magazine complete with the scandalous and ever titillating centerfold.
As a result of running such an emporium for a few months on my own with practically no help from anyone else, I got the education in sex that I should have gotten somewhere else although I am hard pressed to say precisely where. There was a brief era of sanity and normality in America before the religious fundamentalists took over the scene when sex education became part of the high school and even primary school curriculum. The advantage to that was that kids growing up in that kind of a socially progressive atmosphere would not have to get their sex education in the mean and nasty streets where love was a vulgar word. The cool words that had value on the street and made us all feel like big men and therefore better about ourselves due to our real lack of both knowledge and experience were words like fuck that never seemed to go out of style and are still used by many tough guys and wantabe hard asses as means of punctuating their sentences and adding the needed emphasis to such street corner conversations.
In the back of the store were a row of viewing booths were guys could see all sorts of porn some of which was gay porn and enjoy the privacy needed to jerk off in comfort. Each booth contained a roll of toilet paper not to be used to wipe one’s ass but to bust a load of hot cum into. Needless to say some of these dirt bags missed and it was my job after hours to clean it off the walls and floor and every other imaginable surface that it hit. That had to be one of the true low points of my life that I have had to more or less suffer in shame and blame myself for my own stupidity in ever having gotten myself involved with such a low down rotten mafia run business run by a guy I knew from high school who was probably laughing all the way to the bank about me and my naiveté.
My maturity in regard to such things was purchased at a high price in terms of my personal pride and self regard. I learned about a lot of things much later than my piers but that probably had more to do with the nature of my mental disability that I have spent a lifetime trying to recover from.
The next phase of the porn industry in New Jersey or rather more precisely South Jersey as it was called, i.e. the area of New Jersey south of Trenton stretching all the way down to Cape May and over to Atlantic City in the east and Philadelphia in the west was the introduction of hot young women who would show it all and do it all for a price in these closet sized booths where they were separated from their horny customers by a plate glass window that naturally one could see through. Of course the inevitable roll of toilet paper was supplied gratis by the emporium to keep the cum off the floor, walls, and ceilings but often to little avail. The sanitation requirements required to maintain the proper non stinking upkeep of such a sleazy establishment must have been enormous and quite time consuming. The mild to strong smell of disinfectant was always in the air in these sex emporiums one of which was located on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden and the other in Mt. Ephraim. Both were a few miles away from where I was unfortunately living at the time with my party going no longer involved mother and my homicidal younger brother who was actually much bigger than myself and used such physical advantage as nature had bestowed on him to regularly punish me for the sins of my childhood that I had committed against him in some way or that in his meth intoxicated mind imagined that I had committed against him.
I first got laid in Ireland at the age of 27 so that you could say that I was a late cummer to sex although stateside I had been exploring the kind of commercial sex that was readily available at the time in the US when the usually uptight sexual mores of the nation seemed to be relaxed a bit. Of course this relaxation in social mores only lasted a brief time until the traditional hard hearted and socially damaging cruelty of religion masquerading as politics shut down what little bit of sexual freedom that had in the late 1960s and early 1970s developed. This swinging era of sexual freedom was the last hurrah of the so called sexual revolution that was basically beaten to death with the bloodied bibles of the psychopathic religious extremists who made religion into the mainstay of contemporary politics in America.
Even in a country like Ireland where the Catholic Church has wielded an oversized amount of political clout in regard to its feudalistic doctrines on birth control and family planning, a culture of both freely available and commercially available sex for all was more the order of the day than was the case in the US. This seemed to me to be a rather bizarre contradiction that I was hard pressed to be able to explain to myself. The sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s was alive and well in Ireland although it was part of a kind of underground counter-culture that reveled in such things as American style jazz and other such means of its own form of artistic expression. One had the sense of life being held back in some way by the dark shadows of religiously based cruelty and oppression but nevertheless refusing to die in such a kind of sweet and mellow way that it almost bought tears to my eyes to think of it. Life was eternal it seemed to say and sex was the way that it expressed itself, indeed sex was an affirmation of life that was serenely surrendered to as opposed to any kind of “objectification” of sex or women/people as sex objects that was not a part of this spiritual conversation.
It was there in Ireland that I finally found the end to a kind of meaningless suffering that had held me in its grip for too many years. What I found was the wholeness and completeness as a person connected to the larger Cosmos that I had never really known before this time of either discovery or rediscovery. I had experienced a kind of spiritual awakening that had nothing to do with religion. It was an experience that I had in spite of religion that was older and more timeless than even the most Ancient of Days. I had been exposed to some variants of Buddhist thinking and meditational practices and the term Nirvana was one that sort of came to mind but even that term which stood for someone else’s experience of the ineffable felt like a shoe that didn’t fit right. I was happy to have found my home after all those years of wandering in the wilderness of ideas, actions, and the turmoil and torture of the ever present moment called the now that I had been incapable of apprehending until that point in my life where something had changed in me because something had changed in the outer world.
Another way of looking at it was that I had in fact discovered the philosophers stone there in the Celtic lands of Arthur and Myyrlyn the first and last of the Christian Druids who were able to combine the ever ancient and eternal with the forever new and equally eternal. The sword that one finds in that stone of Scone is an awesome force that few have ever known or ever will know. I do not count myself amongst those lucky few but only say that I had a sense of that which is somewhat different and more unexpected than anything that I had ever known before that point in my life.
That sense of the holy as a sense of the whole, of the complete, of the unity of all opposites is that same affirmation of life that one can indeed find in sex which itself is a unity of opposites operating in an ever immediate and perhaps ever eternal physical space if one is capable of understanding the psychological and spiritual value of what psychologists call set & setting. The translation of this means the mindset of the participant(s) and the mindfulness or suggestibility of the setting in which such an encounter takes place. I’m not so sure that commercial venues lend themselves that well to the realization of such an experience. Perhaps maybe taken in the aggregate such perhaps peak emotional and/or psychological experiences could have real value for the individual who is seeking without knowing it some chance encounter with the ineffable. For me the commercial side of sex only helped to confirm in me that it could never yield to me that for which I was seeking, however, at the same time it was not a hindrance either and may even to some extent been somewhat of a facilitator.
The other side of the porn debate that should be seen and thoughtfully considered would be the kind of Feminist perspective presented by Gail Dines in the following lecture that contains a wealth of details on the industrialization of sex in the contemporary capitalist culture of the West. Details regarding Fabian Tylmann the largest porn industry tycoon in the world are given in this approximately one hour lecture that I found to be essential for any honest and forthright discussion on the porn industry.
I will be posting further links to websites after reviewing them from this same perspective. Such a humanist perspective ( I prefer not to use the term Feminist because of the us vs. them, i.e. women vs. men perspective that this so called “movement” has created) to describe the kind of sociological perspective developed by the lecturer Ms. Gail Dines. In spite of some ideological differences I am quite persuaded by the cogency of her theory in regard to the way that boys and young men are being socialized by the purveyors of the commercial sex industry.