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Maggie Mayhem at Yale Sex Week: “pornography can be a creative and liberating exercise”

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from www.yaledailynews.com – Diverse feminist views collided Saturday in a panel discussion about the ethics of pornography.

Three feminists from a range of professions spoke about the industry and its impacts on women before a mostly student audience of about 60 people. The talk continued Sex Week 2012’s dialogue on controversial social issues as the panelists shared their views on how the industry has shaped modern attitudes toward sex and become more socially acceptable.

“Pornography is a pervasive commodity on campus and in society,” Sex Week co-director Paul Holmes ’13 said as he introduced the speakers.

Gail Dines, a professor of sociology at Wheelock College in Boston and anti-pornography activist, argued that pornography can be understood through a Marxist lens. Likening the porn industry to those of food and fashion, which she argued shape how people eat and dress, Dines said the porn industry determines the power dynamics and economics of sex.

A strong opponent of porn, Dines condemned the industry for “selling humans.” She added that porn productions demean women by portraying them as sexual objects, and also often exploit the actresses involved.

“Nothing explained patriarchy to me like pornography,” she said.

Independent porn producer and actress Maggie Mayhem [pictured right] defended her industry, arguing that pornography can be a creative and liberating exercise for both actresses and viewers. Mayhem said actresses can use porn as a manner of self-expression. She likened acting and producing porn to authoring a novel, while she compared watching porn to reading and interpreting the work.

“No one perspective should be allowed to dominate the entire discourse,” she said. “Instead of taking away images, I want more voices.”

Mayhem, who stars in her own porn productions, said she went into the field to “immortalize her youth” in her work.

Carolyn Bronstein, a professor of communications at DePaul University in Chicago and author of “Battling Pornography: The American Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, 1976-1986,” brought a historical perspective to the discussion. Bronstein suggested that pornography helps people of alternative sexualities ­— those whose sexual preferences are not “married, heterosexual and procreative” — discover desire and find others similar to them.

She added that the rise of the Internet has made anti-pornography efforts unlikely to achieve wide success.

“We’ll never eradicate porn,” Bronstein said.

As the discussion concluded, the panelists encouraged audience members to continue debating the issues when they returned to their dorms.

Chris Pagliarella ’12, who said he considers himself “anti-porn, generally,” said he found the event to be a “stimulating intellectual conversation.” Pagliarella said he agreed with Dines’ claim that porn abuses women both physically and ideologically.

The Economist reported in October that the proportion of Google searches with the word “porn” had tripled between 2004 and 2011.

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