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David Loftus - Nathan
September 28th, 2003
06:07 pm
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David Loftus
This week's book event was at the Harvard Coop, where David Loftus read from his new book Watching Sex: How Men Really Respond To Pornography. I like the premise of the book - that both the anti-porn and pro-porn movements in this country have hypothesized and made accusations about the thoughts and actions of men (the primary consumers of porn) without doing much research into the validity of those hypotheses. In particular, he singles out the feminist movement that he once identified with as asserting a women's right to define reality for herself, instead of having it defined for her by the patriarchy, and then turning around and (rhetorically) denying that right to men who use porn. So far, though, what bothers me about the book is its entirely anecdotal nature. It admits up front that it is not a scientific study or a statistically representative sample, but I fear that its bias toward the more affluent and educated (90% of the interviews were conducted by email) undermines many of its points, or at least calls out for more research. I do hope that it will bring out some behavior options that were considered not to exist, or at least demonstrate that there is a demographic that can and does enjoy porn without apparent ill effects on themselves or their relationships.

I was a bit surprised by the audience. It was a full crowd (which at the book-reading area of the Coop is about twenty people, and the Coop staffer running the event told me that even filling that out was unusual), and I had expected a generally positive reaction. Apparently I have been hanging out too much at Grand Opening! and their porn events at the Coolidge; possibly a quarter of the audience was openly hostile to the idea that porn was anything other than woman-destroying trash. To stereotype a bit, all the people in that category appeared to be Harvard undergrads, with a feminist bent. Their complaints were based on the idea of "objectification of women" and supposed links between mainstream porn and the worlds of sex slavery and sexual tourism. They didn't have a lot of backing for those ideas; they fell back on a lot of "everybody knows". I had a discussion with one of them afterward, and we had a difficult time establishing common ground. Part of her concern involved the fact (undisputed by me) that most porn does not flesh out (nyuk nyuk nyuk) the characters portrayed by the actors, and hence she concludes that the male viewer perceives the female performer as a piece of meat, with no possibility of humanity. I don't agree that the failure to explain a character implies a total non-existence of character or humanity. We also had a disagreement that was difficult to figure out about the relationship between thoughts and actions; she seemed to be angling for the idea that sexual thoughts about unknown people (the girl on the street) are inappropriate, independent of the behavior of the thinker, and that since porn encourages thinking sexual thoughts about random people, it is therefore bad. I don't buy that, either. The book's preface actually cites Judith Martin on this tricky philosophical issue, firmly on the side of judging by behavior rather than thought.

Mr. Loftus, however, said afterward that he had hoped for an even more hostile audience (including "I wish the Christian Coalition would picket my condo"), because it helps sales :)

He said that I was the first person at a book reading to ask to take his picture, although he had taken a picture of the audience himself :)

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Date:September 29th, 2003 12:41 pm (UTC)
yet another case of "Nathan dresses remarkably similarly to the author he's hearing"

I like these reports. Keep 'em up :)
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