July 19th, 2012 - Dr. Chauntelle and Lydia Lee talk about the very first BBW (Big Beautiful Women) Fan Fest, Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC segment on pornography, Gail Dines, "shock" pornography, and Bree Olson's new music video.
I spent a long time on the phone with [Melissa Harris-Perry]’s producer talking about my research on the harms of porn and the ways women in the industry—especially women of color—are financially exploited and physically and emotionally dehumanized and debased. Given MHP’s feminist politics and her scholarly work on the representation of African American women in U.S. history, I was excited to do a show with an interviewer whom I expected would be engaging and thoughtful, in contrast to the usual adolescent sniggering I get from the male journalist who suddenly finds himself in the awkward position of interviewing a feminist who doesn’t think porn is fun.
But by the middle of the week things started to go very wrong. My last conversation with the producers was on the Sunday before the show, and I was told that I would get a call by Tuesday to confirm my travel details. Wednesday came, and no call. On Thursday, I got an email saying that the “segment is changing,” so they won’t need me. “Changing”… not canceled. To the uninitiated this might seem like splitting hairs, but I am an old hand at dealing with the media, and I have been in this position more times than I can count.
Let me explain how it often plays out: I get a call from a producer to do a show about porn, and in our pre-show discussion the producer is shocked to hear about what really goes on in the porn industry. He or she had no idea that hardcore porn (called “gonzo” by the industry and fans) is now mainstream on the Internet, that choking with a penis, slapping, hair pulling, and verbal abuse is the norm. The producer is horrified to hear that women in porn suffer repeatedly from rectal prolapse (because of pounding anal sex), and get diseases such as clamidia of the eye, gonorrhea of the throat, and fecal throat infections (because of the ATM act in which the penis goes from the anus to the mouth without washing). As we talk, I know exactly what is going on in the producer’s mind: they see their fun, hot-ratings-driver segment going down the tubes, and they are suddenly in the not-so-fun territory of cruelty, violence, and economic exploitation.
As if this weren’t enough, their would-be guest at the other end of the line uses the dreaded word “capitalism,” because, of course, there is no way to talk about the porn industry without a thorough analysis of how this predatory industry actually interfaces with credit card companies, banks, information technology, hotels, venture capitalists, and—wait for it—mainstream media. And now we are at a fork in the road. Either the interview is quickly terminated, or the producer is intrigued and I am booked. But I know that until the moment the camera rolls, there is no guarantee that I will actually be on the show. Most galling is that if I’m replaced, it’s usually by some porn shill spouting on about porn as fun, feminist empowerment.
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