by Jordan Owen
It’s got to be tough to be Gail Dines. You grow up in a traditional, conservative Jewish home where the women are expected to be good wives and mothers (never mind that your parents still apparently sent you to school and paid for your asinine gender studies degree.) Everywhere you go you’re surrounded by reminders that you’re bottom-of-the-barrel in the looks department (all the while being blissfully unaware that you have a personality to match.) Seeing some feminist propaganda film convinces you on the spot that you need to devote your entire existence to stopping anyone and everyone everywhere from indulging in the high crime of watching sexy people fuck.
You have a son that you hold up as a prop his entire life to talk about how you know men aren’t born “johns” and your son is so embarrassed by it that he makes you sign a contract swearing to never speak at or within ten miles of his University. (Side note: if it had been my kid that tried that I would have said “I’ll stay away from your school when you’re the one that’s paying for it you ungrateful little shit.”) You sniff out a protégé that’s connected to one of Boston’s big power families. Said protégé loses faith when she realizes you don’t actually give a shit about actual sex workers and have a remarkable level of contempt for them.
You fire said protégé but your name is tied to her forever because she helped you write your trash polemic on the porn industry. Said protégé then goes on to become a hooker and aspiring pornstar. You get in good with Shelley Lubben only to find out that the once drug addled con artist is… still a drug addled con artist, only now with some bogus mail order theological degree. (A flagrant charlatan using organized religion to manipulate gullible rubes for money… who would have ever seen that coming???) Then your books, articles, and academic pieces are ruthlessly picked apart to the point that it’s irrefutably clear that you have no factual basis to stand on. You lose over and over again whether you’re debating fellow academics or mere pedestrians.
And worst of all, those pornstars that you maligned as being vacant washouts are revealed to actually be intelligent, articulate people that don’t need or want you trying to save them.
Then you align yourself with AIDS Healthcare Foundation right as that organization becomes embroiled in an ongoing legal battle to force the porn industry to proclaim the condoms-only message of its president. Then your former protégé commits suicide. Pretty soon your main gig becomes flying around Europe serving as an expert witness for extremist politicians looking to ban porn in their respective locales.
And then there’s this asshole in Atlanta that keeps reminding you of all of this.
Most people with any shred of dignity would, in Dines’ shoes, crawl under a rock and shrivel up. (Well, most people with dignity don’t accrue a track record like Dines’ in the first place.) It’s been a long, bumpy, constipated road for Gail Dines. She’s old enough now to be a dues-current member of the AARP and as she barrels headlong into her final years as the misshapen mole on the ass of Wheelock College, Gail has racked up yet another Epic Gail Fail: her latest bosom buddy, former porn producer turned evangelical Christian Donny Pauling, has been arrested and charged on multiple counts of felony child molestation.
It’s long been my belief that Donny was one of the anonymous defectors from the porn industry that fed Gail (mis)information when she was writing Pornland (the aforementioned polemic.) In writing and lectures, Gail has referred to a particular retired porn producer whose career seems remarkably similar to Pauling’s. I can’t speak to the certainty of this one way or the other, but whatever the case Gail stepped in another steaming pile when she appeared publicly with Donny Pauling. Video of the two riding together to a Porn Harms event shows Pauling at his slimy best, regaling both Gail and driver with the creepy details of his sleazy operation with the kind of smug flippancy one normally associates with Q from Star Trek.
When I learned that Donny had been arrested for child molestation I thought yes, and in other news the sky is blue and water is wet.
What’s amazing, though, is that through it all Gail’s message has remained constant, almost to the word. Her two most recent media outputs are a documentary film version of Pornland (which clocks in at a whopping 34 minutes) and an appearance at TEDx, the offshoot program TED put together to funnel wingnuts like Dines out of their more respectable official conferences. In both cases, the message is vintage Dines, so much so that I probably could have written the script verbatim from memory without seeing either piece. There’s very little new information to be covered- I’ve gone on at great length in numerous videos and articles about Gail’s failings as an academic and as a human being. What’s remarkable, to me, is how Gail apparently never tires of giving this same lecture over and over again. Year after year.
See, like a lot of musicians I know what it’s like to play a song over and over ad nauseam until you never want to hear it again. In the summer of 2003 I had a brief stint in the backing band of an aspiring teen pop sensation whose demo included a Britney Spears style rendition of Steely Dan’s “Peg.” Now, that’s a killer song off of one of the greatest albums ever recorded but twelve years later I still skip it when it comes up on the iPod. Similarly, one of my music theory teachers once told me a horrifying story about having to play “Sweet Home Alabama” AND NOTHING ELSE for three two hour sets at a Hell’s Angel dive bar. The point is, familiarity breeds contempt and even the finest things can become unbearable after a while.
So how does Dines keep at it? Well, Meatloaf toured the original Bat Out of Hell for seventeen years, so I guess anything is possible. This longevity, however, has been the ultimate showing of Dines’ failed argument. At every turn, she asks a rhetorical question which has gone from thesis statement to People’s Temple level mantra: “what does it mean for a generation of boys to be raised with violent, hardcore pornography as their sexual template?” (Slight variations abound in her lectures, but this is what she ultimately drives at.)
Well, this is the ultimate sticking point with Dines: she’s been giving this same lame lecture for about twenty years now. Multiple generations of boys have been raised up in the time that Gail has been harping this crap and we continue to see an ongoing drop in the numbers of sexual assaults and an all-time low for intimate partner violence. Like a doomsday preacher whose predictions never quite play out but remain perpetually imminent, Dines’ apocalyptic vision of a world where Clockwork Orange rape gangs prowl the streets whilst enabled by a bulwark of laws handed down by misogynist legislators who have nothing better to do than to find new and exciting ways to lord their patriarchal privilege over women never seems to become a reality.
So go on, Gail- keep quoting Details magazine opinion pieces even though Jesse Fisher told you to your face at Cambridge University that they aren’t a valid citation source. Keep right on declaring the average age of first viewing porn to be whatever the fuck you want it to be, even though the same academic told you to your face at the same venue that verifiable research put it at 14.
Keep on telling crowded lecture halls that Gag Me Then Fuck Me is one of the most popular porn sites on the web when the readily available empirical evidence of internet stats like those on Alexa show that it’s actually extremely unpopular and the few people that do check it out usually stay less than a minute (in other words, long enough to be put off by it and go somewhere else.) Oh- and please do go on and on about how the promotional copy for the Anally Ripped Whores series makes cavalier jokes about the women in the films possibly becoming incontinent due to anal dilation. I’ve been listening to Cannibal Corpse since I was in high school, so nothing you can come up with will ever nauseate me into submission.
But above all, Gail, make sure that rhetorical question I mentioned stays rhetorical, because the completely lack of evidence to support your fear-mongering and the forward march of time shows us that the literal answer to that question is simply “nothing.”
One fascinating moment from the TEDx talk though: Gail has long referred to the “fuck me” look, that glassy eyed “come hither” expression seen on the face of so many fashion models. Well, in the TEDx lecture, she actually tries to do it herself for one morbidly fascinating moment. Coming from Gail, the look doesn’t say “fuck me” so much as “how dare you kill off Misery Chastain, Mr. Sheldon?”
Jordan Owen is a writer, musician, and adult industry advocate living in Atlanta, GA. His 2012 novel Eros Empire explores the porn industry from a philosophical perspective. He is the producer of the upcoming documentary The Sarkeesian Effect, now in post production.