Since Stop Porn Culture changed its feminist coat for a Christian cloak to team up with religious organizations and declare “War on Pornography” last week in Washington, it seems appropriate to examine their perennial strategy in “shock and awe” military battlefield terminology. Tactics to shock your audience into agreeing with your position can be effective, though they don’t make for a solid argument. As we see in the above clip from 2008 (when Stop Porn Culture launched) Penn and Teller unpack the “shock and awe” put into anti-porn presentations and theories, which categorically claim that porn viewing causes rape and child abuse — usually bracketed with extremely graphic descriptions (or pictures) of decontextualized BDSM or fringey shock porn. The idea behind “shock and awe” is to paralyze the adversary’s perception of the battelfield (in this case, the audiences’ perception of porn as a whole via nonconsensually shocking audiences outside of their comfort zones), and destroy the will to fight or challenge (here, the capacity to question the information being presented). It also creates an atmosphere which discourages dissent in the form of social pressure.
These tactics can be clearly seen in anti-porn presentations by Gail Dines from the past several years and are a template for creating a “for the terrorists or against the terrorists” environment. This effectively polarizes any and all discussion about porn. More importantly, this makes anyone who might question the information appear sympathetic to people who commit sexual crime, or suggest the questioner may be a rapist, child moletster, or helpless and victimized sex worker. The most recent presentation by Dines last week in Washington presented the same “shock and awe” template. The language and tone asserts the viewers’ agreement that all pornography is the same, that sex workers are victims of sexual abuse, that sex work could not possibly be consensual, that all men are “sleeping” rapists until triggered, and that most sex is rape.
In my opinion, this is a “rapid dominance” form of conversation, but typically does not survive debate as it is one-sided. Upon examination, it is also incredibly offensive to rape survivors, child sexual abuse and sexual trauma survivors, men in general, and of course, porn performers. It’s important to remember the “shock and awe” tactic when speaking to media; this is something I tell sex educators to stay on alert about so they don’t get off-topic when “shock jock” interviewers attempt to provoke emotional responses. There is nothing here from, for or about female porn viewers, LGBTQ porn and porn performers, and most especially the gay porn industry and its substantial consumer base.