The Victims of Pornography
By Chris Hedges
This excerpt is taken from Chris Hedges’ newest book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
The Pink Cross booth has a table of anti-porn tracts and is set up in the far corner of the Sands Expo convention centre in Las Vegas. It is an unlikely participant at the annual Adult Video News (AVN) expo. Pink Cross is a Christian outreach program for women in the porn industry, run by ex-porn star Shelley Lubben.
In a convention exalting the pornography industry, Lubben’s table is not overrun with visitors, most of whom are male and middle-aged with cameras around their necks. The few men who make it to the far corner of the convention centre look curiously at its pink banner and walk past. The expo is filled with more alluring fare. There are numerous booths for porn producers and distributors, many with women in tiny skirts and bras who, often clinging to stripper poles, gyrate and bend over and spread their legs for groups of men. They simulate masturbation and flash their breasts for crowds of onlookers. Huge banners hang from the ceiling promoting new releases such as Slutty and Sluttier 6.
A local escort service, VegasGirls, has a booth about 100 feet from Pink Cross. There is a homemade wooden wheel with a flipper that looks like a middle-school shop project on its table. Those who spin the wheel can get various discounts or even a free visit by a “stripper” to their hotel room. Small, glossy cards are fanned out on the table, showing women in evocative poses and not much clothing, all with a first name, the agency’s phone number and the phrase “actual photo” emblazoned on the side of the card.
“You want to take a picture of my boobs, then you have to take my card,” a woman in front of the booth tells a camera-wielding, middle-aged man.
“If I call this number, is it you who will come?” he asks.
“Here, baby,” she says, giving him the card. “I will come.”
Many of the booths at the Sands Expo feature well-known porn stars. There are long lines of men waiting for a signed photo and the chance to have a picture with stars from the Wicked Pictures studio, including Kaylani Lei, Kirsten Price and Jessica Drake. The men usually wrap their arms around the women for the photo, always taken by a friend or someone in line. As they hug the women’s waists, the women sometimes playfully grab the man’s crotch or lick their lips. Huge plasma screens placed in the booths run nonstop porn, often featuring the stars having anal sex with multiple partners or giving blow jobs. The sheer volume of porn blasted throughout the convention floor by the sea of giant screens becomes, very quickly, numbing.
The porn films are not about sex. Sex is airbrushed and digitally washed out of the films. There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality.
The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men, especially if that desire involves the women’s physical and emotional degradation. The lighting in the films is harsh and clinical. Pubic hair is shaved off to give the women the look of young girls or rubber dolls. Porn, which advertises itself as sex, is a bizarre, bleached pantomime of sex. The acts onscreen are beyond human endurance. The scenarios are absurd. The manicured and groomed bodies, the huge artificial breasts, the pouting, oversized lips, the erections that never go down, and the sculpted bodies are unreal. Makeup and production mask blemishes. There are no beads of sweat, no wrinkle lines, no human imperfections. Sex is reduced to a narrow spectrum of sterilized dimensions. It does not include the dank smell of human bodies, the thump of a pulse, taste, breath—or tenderness. Those in the films are puppets, packaged female commodities. They have no honest emotions, are devoid of authentic human beauty and resemble plastic. Pornography does not promote sex, if one defines sex as a shared act between two partners. It promotes masturbation. It promotes the solitary auto-arousal that precludes intimacy and love. Pornography is about getting yourself off at someone else’s expense.
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