Dear Gail Dines: Don’t use that tone with me

23 May

Gail Dines

There are certain ways of speaking that I just can’t hear. For example, the anti pornography campaigner Gail Dines, currently doing the rounds of talk shows, Writers’ Festivals, and I believe appearing on Qanda tonight, speaks in a tone that I find so aggressive, so arrogant and so unrelentingly certain of her absolute rightness, that I can’t hear what she’s saying for the tone in which she’s saying it.

In an effort to be fair, I resorted to reading transcripts of her interviews with various media. Even reading what she says left me in a state of numbed exhaustion, and feeling as if I’d been held captive in a small cage stark naked and with Glenn Beck spitting on speed. This woman knows everything. She has no uncertainties. She takes no prisoners and brooks no argument. She is rude, she is bombastic, she has no respect for anyone who dares to disagree with her, and if you ask her where to find the evidence for her radical position on pornography she tells you to buy her book. If you offer another perspective she tells you you’re like a climate change denier, refusing to pull your head out of your arse and face up to the catastrophe that’s coming at us head on (so to speak) from Internet porn.

Dines damns porn of every variety and according to her it’s all “Gonzo”, that is hard core, brutal and degrading. And here we immediately come up against the dangers of accepting a single perspective on what is considered pornographic. There is no room in Dines’ world for dissent about this. She knows that men who watch pornography are, and I quote, “amoral life support systems for erect penises.”

Paedophiles, she further claims, adopt their unsavoury practices because they become “bored” with adult women,  and to alleviate this boredom watch pornography in which adult women dress like schoolgirls. According to convicted child rapists Dines interviewed in jail, six months after viewing porn they started to rape children. This notion was entirely abhorrent to them, Dines claims, prior to their exposure to Internet porn.

How the hell, I ask, do we account for the raping of children prior to the Internet then? But Dines’ theories on this are so ridiculous it doesn’t do to dignify them with serious questions. Her only sources appear to be convicted paedophiles, who are no doubt only too happy to avoid responsibility for their actions by claiming the Internet made them do it.

People who think they know everything get right up my nose. They’re a variety of particularly unpleasant and noisy bully. They might also know a great deal, but I don’t care.  I especially hate it when they wag their fingers at me, and so many of them do that. I would really like to smack them upside their heads, but I’m too civil. As I’m not prepared to raise my voice and compete, I resort to silence. This is exactly what they want. Even when they’ve temporarily exhausted their argument, by the time you open your mouth to respond they’ve recovered and you might get out one sentence before they drown you out again. I hope Tony Jones is on his toes tonight.

This is how bullies function – by silencing everyone else, and Dines is a masterful bully. Listening to her on a panel recorded by ABC Radio National at the Writers’ Festival last evening I was thoroughly impressed with the grace, respect, and restraint with which the other panelists dealt with her aggression and  barely disguised contempt for them.  Leslie Cannold was exceptional as moderator.

I would have flown out of my chair and slugged Gail Dines. I would have chucked a Glenn Milne at the Walkleys.Well, I probably wouldn’t have actually done that. I’m not good at physical violence except in my fantasies, and then only well after the event.

Dines is flogging some appalling garbage. Some important and interesting material might well be in there somewhere. But the combination of  garbage and the manner in which it is delivered is too much for me. Surely the issue of violent and degrading pornography  on the Internet, and what we can do as responsible adults to protect children from accessing this, is too important to be hijacked by this self – promoting flogger of pseudo sociological snake oil?

It’s all bad in Dinesland. If you visit, don’t stay there too long.

31 Responses to “Dear Gail Dines: Don’t use that tone with me”

  1. Mikey Bear May 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I heard Gail Dines on Radio National last week (Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality). I struggled to agree with anything she had to say. To the best of my understanding her argument seems to fall especially flat on the topic of gay porn, as from personal experience, being a somewhat regular gay porn appreciator, I can’t make sense of what she says. I don’t know that many heterosexual men who appreciate porn would care for much of what she says either.



    • Jennifer Wilson May 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

      Dines doesn’t go anywhere near gay porn – she thinks if SHE doesn’t mention it doesn’t exist


      • Mikey Bear May 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

        I imagine there are plenty of women who are grateful their male partners are busy having “gentleman time” with a porn magazine or DVD and not bothering them for sexual favours. Imagine if these randy men didn’t use porn, but rather demanded sex when their partner didn’t want it.


  2. Mikey Bear May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    Oops. The link in my previous comment was supposed to be >> this <<


  3. gerard oosterman May 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Well, keep her away from me. She even looks formidable and that pinched look between those eyes doesn’t bode well for any engagement.
    Not as much as a twinge from this side of the computer.


  4. Luke May 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I find it dissapointing that people are missing the point of Her work. Internet pornography is a serious problem in our society and Gail is at the forefront of the anti movement. The fact that people are so polarised by this subject is ultimately Gail’s failure.

    This article is dismissive of Gail’s arguments because of her tone not her substance. The world is full of different kinds of people. Maybe we could be a little more tolerent.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

      No, I’m dismissive of many of her arguments, the ones linking paedophilia with Internet porn, for example. I’m also dismissive of her need to portray all pornography as gonzo – and I find her total refusal to acknowledge the existence of gay and lesbian cultures extraordinary. Who is it you think should be a little more tolerant?

      Some Internet porn is a serious problem – making it all out to be catastrophic doesn’t help us deal with what is a real problem.


      • The_AL_360 May 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

        “amoral life support systems for erect penises” she also used that line on last nites QandA.

        I was struck by just how anti-male she is


  5. Arved May 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Even some of the ‘extreme’ acts she talks about for the shock value can be okay in a properly respectful, negotiated relationship. (ie safe, sane and consensual.) Q and A wasn’t terrible, the others on the panel, even though none of them are experts, called her on a lot of things. At one point she was called a liar (to much applause) when she claimed that men want women to be raped.

    While it wasn’t mentioned on Q and A, I do find it ironic that one of her research assistants felt so oppressed by Dines that she left to become a sex worker.

    Charlie Glickman put it well, I think:

    There certainly are issues involved with some pornography. They do deserve to be addressed and examined, especially in light of the near universal dreadfulness of what constitutes most people’s sex and relationship education. However, putting all pornography in the same basket marked evil, and then everyone who experiences pornography in the same basket marked misogynist just sets up everyone to be defensive and makes the discussion unnecessarily adversarial.

    As a slight aside, one issue she brought up as evidence of the problem of pornography is the issue of near universal expectation of dehaired pubic regions. It seems to me this is a fashion, and one that seems to be going out of style, like 70s sideburns, or the 80s big perms. But what I really don’t understand is why the issue of men shaving is never brought up in this context. Particularly for young men, not being clean shaven can make it very difficult to be attractive while dating. Doesn’t that then belong in the same discussion?


    • Jennifer Wilson May 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

      The issue of men shaving totally belongs in the same discussion, Arved. I agree with you that de-haired pubic regions (not gender specific, men de-hair as well, I’m told it’s agony) is a fashion because human beings, especially young ones, are curious and inventive and want to try something different. It can be read as a desire for innocence, before everybody sprouted pubes,but I don’t see anything dangerous in that. Dines would argue that desiring shaved pubes leads directly to child rape, I’m sure.

      Haven’t watched Qanda yet, recorded it but am pleased to hear she was challenged.


      • Gregg braddoch October 15, 2014 at 5:31 am #

        She actually does. I watched a Penn & Teller (I know they aren’t exactly intellectual giants, but I already knew Dines was nuts, so I wanted to see what they made of her) “Bulls*t!” episode on porn, and they included a clip of her stating that shaved genitalia (specifically vaginas, I guess it doesn’t really matter whether men do it or not in her world) leads to pedophilia.

        The episode is available from multiple channels on youtube (with the adult sections censored of course)

        I can’t help but find it funny that a lot of so called ‘progressive’ or ‘left-wing’ people (such as Dines) who are against the moral puritanism of the ‘right’ are now becoming the objects of their dislike, in order to stay relevant. It is fun to watch her respond to anyone asking her “Isn’t what you are advocating strikingly similar to extreme-right moral values?” She doesn’t have anything to say except “I’m sure they’re not reading my book” or “they never get back to me when I try and schedule an appearance” – all while having been on Christian shows to speak against porn.


  6. Matthew May 25, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Putting aside Gail’s many contradictions and her misandry, it seems really odd to me that while she rightly says that porn is a really poor substitute for sex education, she never seems to say that there should be better sex education.

    I think she really plays upon people’s fear and ignorance of sex and (mostly) women’s lack of exposure to pornography. It ain’t all gonzo (thank god) and gonzo don’t necessarily mean rough or degrading sex. Luke, I’d be far more tolerant of Dines’ views if she wasn’t so damn judgemental on certain sexual practices and seemingly thinks that sex should be only done within a “loving relationship”.

    As for porn addiction and the mystical problems that porn supposedly causes, where are they? In my life time I’ve seen heard the PMRC rabbit on about the evils of rock and pop music, and moral panic epidemics like Satanic Panic and Rainbow Parties. All of this stuff was either proved to be fictitious or over exaggerated. Seeing as we’ve had porn in the mainstream since the early 1970’s, why are we only now hearing about addition to porn and the other vague supposed problems it brings? Where are all the addicts? Colour me rather sceptical.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 25, 2011 at 7:29 am #

      What always intrigues me about moral panics is that it’s impossible to avoid spreading knowledge of the alleged dangers further and wider in the process of calling for their censorship and spreading the panic. Far better, I would have thought, to concentrate on providing common sense sex education to children, and software to assist parents to make the nasty stuff as inaccessible as possible on the home computers.

      These campaigns such as Dines runs and MTR and others are like oxygen for the very things they so desperately oppose. They can’t stop these things, nobody can, so the obvious solution is to find ways to manage life around them and to minimise their potential impact. It’s only a question of protecting and educating children – when a child attains adulthood they have the right to view what they want. Hopefully, with the exception of those who will fall into the category of dangerous people no matter what, children who’ve been sensibly educated won’t find gonzo stuff anymore than fleetingly interesting.

      Or am I just being too hopeful? I just don’t see the point of all this fuss – it’s not rocket science to figure out ways to protect kids from inappropriate exposure. Apart from that, leave it alone – it’s adults.


  7. gerard oosterman May 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Still, while porn might give light hand-relief to some, you wouldn’t want your mother to catch you behind the computer with pants around RM Williams. I thought Dine was overbearing but her moments on the Israel question was pretty good. ( give praise where due etc).
    I think the addiction to watching sport can be far more damaging, especially when combined with alcohol. Watching those hard core rugby fans on the sporting arenas, all shouting and worked up with all those blokes rolling about, yuk.
    Strange that there are no women getting upset about that, because like hard porn, sport watching is used by males much more than women, although some women use sport watching too.
    Of course, outdoor chess is a kind of soft sport and OK.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 26, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      Just got around to watching Qanda, and I agree with your comment on Dines re Israel, Gerard.
      Bit chilly for outdoor chess – indoor bowls?


  8. john smith May 27, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Essentially Gail Dines is a feminist shock jock. She is simply using the subject of porn and men, as a medium in which to express her heterophobia.


  9. PAUL WALTER June 8, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    How did I miss this thread? Dines is a New Dworkin? The original Dworkin at least had the virtue of being original and a pioneer of sorts as to inquiry, when these “new” historically-thrown issues were first pulled from underneath the rug, from the seventies. and not surprising the anger, when you consider her personal adventures, altho you suspect some of that is actually unconsciously self-directed, for having as a result of youthful inexperience, for having gotten into these situations.
    So, this original Dworkin, in the tradition of much American thought, became contrarian, then adversarial and separatist, but in the mean time triggering a fascinating and long term debate in society about on things gender and sexual, including amongst feminists themselves.
    I suspect Dworkinites past and modern do both much good in drawing attention to nasty issues and the driving traits that create them, then swept under the carpet by “the system”, but also exhibit rather too much contempt prior to investigation (if any); too much judgementalism eventually, which is lazy and no substitute for a real think about society and the human psyche in a socially (re)produced sense. But then I can say this from the fortunate position of someone who has not been abused in substantial ways, as occurred with Dworkin.
    In short, another person who makes people, men most of all, uncomfortable for what she reveals about the darker aspects of the male (human?) make up; yet who’s understanding of men as flawed, reactive to reality human people like themselves, seems lacking and who’s understanding of male sexuality is as flawed to the negative, as men’s own over idealistic rose coloured notions of our personal subjectivity and sexuality.
    What “worm in the rose”, so embittered this woman that she could ONLY see the dark; opposite to others who ONLY see good where much suffering and evil exist, as with the US Right? Was such a creature itself a product of society?And how did she end up supporting the very system that creates sexual dysfunction and power relations?


  10. michael August 25, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    Other irritating things about her: she acts as though she knows everything, but makes fundamental errors, such as using the word “Gonzo” totally wrongly – it is just a category referring to the fact that the photographer is a participant, nothing to do with how degrading it is. Which other confident assertions are, in fact, nonsense?

    Also, she pretends to be concerned about the impact of porn on men – but in the next breath, she seems to hate men, and be totally uninterested in our experience, or how we see things.

    I would like to engage in more reflection about the impact of porn – but people like her make it harder. In fact it makes me glad she’s on the losing side of this argument – but then I realise that’s petty of me.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi Michael – IMO we’d be a whole lot healthier if we had far more public discussion about the impact of porn, or even the definition of porn as a starter – but I’m not holding my breath.


  11. Matthew August 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Jennifer, sorry for bringing this one up again, just found this interesting critique of Dines book from the Violence Against Women Journal;

    tldr version; anecdotal information is not evidence, the book is crap. I’m wondering how “Big Porn Inc” will fare, but I really don’t want to support Tankard Reist, Bray or Spinifex Press, so I’m not buying it.

    The term gonzo porn has me having visions of Hunter S. Thompson having sex…


    • Jennifer Wilson August 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

      Thanks for that link Matthew – will check it out –
      Yes, I know, I always think of him when I hear the word “gonzo”. But I don’t really want to think of him having sex….
      Get your local library to get Big Porn Inc. I haven’t read it yet but intend to.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 1, 2011 at 7:04 am #

      I just read the review and it’s everything I hoped it would be! Thanks heaps for that link, Matthew.


  12. Matthew September 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I wonder if this is indicative of the (poor) quality of MTR and Bray’s book; Man look at that language, are they blowing that Christian conservative dog whistle so hard or what? While I understand that some women might get upset if they find out their partner has been looking at porn, is it really necessary to go to a marriage counselor? And she’d prefer that he’d had an affair than looked at porn? Wha…?

    “[…] viciously invading my sexual identity […]” and “But where does another’s supposed right infringe upon mine?”. Uh right, because you invaded your husband’s privacy by deliberately searching though his browsing history (and the back of his wardrobe for old copies of Playboy) and going to the webpages he visited, it’s invading your sexuality and infringing on your rights? So her rights extends into controlling what her husband wants to do in his spare time, which was perfectly legal and seemingly not interfering with the relationship (until she stated invading his privacy)? I think it’d be rather frightening if your partner wanted to have complete control over your sexuality, sexual desires and seemingly any erotic thoughts. Men will still masturbate regardless of what kind of relationship they’re in. It’s a fact. Then in the second last paragraph there is the blaming of the “industry” for those poor men who’s private wanking kills the relationships (evidence not required). Damn you Jenna Jameson! Somehow I think this book is even more unhinged than Dines’.


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