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The Pornification of America

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Did Not Finish at 27%
This book doesn't even deserve 1-star.

The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture Is Ruining Our Society by Bernadette C. Barton is a missed opportunity about the oversexualization that is plaguing the media. When I went into this book, I was expecting one thing, but the content of this book was problematic and handled an important topic rather poorly. The writer had oversimplified matters and based most of her content around statements and interviews of a certain niche of people. Where I ended up finally putting the book down, there had been mostly interviews of white people of a certain age demographic (Millennial and Gen-Z) as well as people who were straight and/or cis. This was an uncomfortable aspect because it excluded so many individuals who are affected by the oversexualization of society.
I felt like the writer had poorly researched some of the things she'd mentioned. In one statement she'd stated: Perhaps you've seen kindergartners twerking, or puzzled over the sexual violence portrayed in shows like American Horror Story. This is the "pornographication" of the culture once reserved for the sex industry filter into mainstream. For example, consider the following products, activities, and body modifications now commonly marketed: twerking, fake nails, breast implants, push-up bras, long dyed hair, smoky eye makeup, plump lips, Brazilian waxes, platform stiletto shoes (or "stripper shoes"), pole dancing classes for exercise, thongs, and hairless bodies.
Okay, I'm only going to mention a few things about this; twerking is thought to have originated in West Africa, pole dancing is thought to have originated in India, dyed hair has been around for a long time with signs of Ancient Egyptians having used henna in their hair, false nails has origins dating back a long time as well, used as symbols of status, thong underwear as we know it was a 70s design, but other evidence of thong-like undergarments can be dated back to BC as a traditional Japanese undergarment favored by sumo wrestlers and divers - you see a pattern here?
I felt like no research was done. The writer made comments that came off racially insensitive to me. There was a distinct anti-sex work feel to the narrative. There was a cis and heterosexual normative to the narrative. There were some comments that felt like they were bi/pan/ace erasure.
The writer came of as anti-porn and also anti-sexy in a sense. The way the writer phased things made it feel like she felt like anything a person does (even if it's for themselves) was inherently playing into the patriarchy, whether it was consciously or subconsciously. The writer generalized women and what they like in the bedroom and considered certain acts as body punishing when there are people who enjoy certain acts.
When I did a search of the book, no where is the term asexual mentioned, meaning an entire demographic was not given a voice on this matter. And the writer stated that she hated the word TERF because it undermines the message of radical feminism. The moment you start talking like that is the moment you come off as a TERF.
While there is a lot I can say about this book and the content I'd read up to 27%, I'm ending it here because this book was just a major miss.
I wish I could have given it a full read, but the undertones of the narrative was just too problematic, oversimplified and generalized for me to continue.
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Overall this book did such a great job exploring the sexual exploitation of femme presenting people in our society and raising important questions concerning how femme presenting people choose to express themselves. Certainly an important and necessary read.
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DNF'd at 40%. While I do think this book brings some relevant and interesting perspectives to the discussion about raunch culture and its influence across all our lives, I found it oversimplifies certain aspects. It's also written in a somewhat academic language that grows tedious after a while. I would love a "poppier" version of this book though.
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My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The gist of Bernadette Barton's position is that we are all  a product of social brainwashing.  These days, sex sells. just about every commodity - even burgers!

In these sexually enlightened times, are we truly choosing to pursue, express or flaunt our sexuality as freely as social media would like us to believe, or are we mainly  falling victim to a degenerate marketing scheme?  Bernadette Barton makes a powerful case for the latter in this book.

I truly believe we humans have messed ourselves up.  We have slaves to fads and fashion.  We are addicted to labels and brands.  No matter what the cost, we have to have the latest clothes, cars, phones, monster homes....  Everyone literally wants to be a millionaire and be the star of their own on-line reality show.  When someone tries to discuss the moral or psychological implications of raunch culture, they are accused of being oppressively religious or judgemental.  

Ultimately, to thine own self be true:  make sure that the choices you are making are not being dictated by the media or your peer group.  Once again, we are exhorted to think before embracing widespread "norms."   I'm rating this well-written and well-presented book a 4 out of 5.
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I've watched this happen to the country since the 1960's.  I was only a child back then, and had nothing really to relate it to. But as the 70's came and went, I did have a background to the pornography and what it was doing to society. It has been interesting watching it grow with every decade. Not sure exactly how it all started, but I really miss some human decency these days. This book was very readable by the average person, it's not written for an academic audience, so I didn't really feel it needed as many footnotes (or endnotes!).  I did worry about the culture shift back in the mid-80's of allowing young girls (pre and grade school) to wear makeup and dress like name scantily clad teen idols of choice here. Sexualization of children of children was really wrong, and I wondered about the parents who allowed it! Belly dancing was risque in the 60's and 70's, now it's a norm. Pole dancing is now the norm, too.  Language had become more obscene in public.  Clothing more casual and baring.  Internet is a vast land of porn and no one seems to be thinking twice about posting porn of  themselves. I have no idea how basic human self respect seems to have vanished in so many people. Now sure where it ends. But books is spot on in many instances. Needed to be written. Hope lots of people step up to right the wrong.  Kudos Bernadette Barton! Well written.
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I would like to thank NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book for review purposes. 
There are a lot of very solid points made within this book, and it is certainly an interesting dive into raunch culture for those not previously familiar with it, however, oftentimes things get bogged down with anecdotal evidence, and concepts are often structured poorly. There are a lot of interesting topics covered within the book, but so much of it seems to come from a very small group of interviews. And while a lot of her points are well made, there are a lot of sections that seem to imply that most of the actions women make are based on society telling them to do so, or trying to appeal more to men. Such as the section on Instagram that implied that women complementing each other's pictures or bodies were done in order to impress men. Additionally, the section on the male gaze felt like it could have been explained better. While I was already familiar with the term, she repeatedly mentioned how when teaching, this was the topic that she was able to convey the easiest, however, it seemed as though that got lost a bit within the change of format from in-person lecture to book. 

Overall, it's an interesting book, and it's worth a read, but there are definitely some things that should be taken with a grain of salt.
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DNF at 16%

I'm so frustrated by this book. It's talking about something really important, but it does so in a way that oversimplifies everything and it also has an uncomfortable anti-sex work undertone. There's also this tacit assumption throughout what I've read so far that any decision a woman makes regarding, say, looking "sexy" (whatever is meant by that, as everyone is going to interpret it differently) is because society and men tell her to, whether consciously (and reluctantly) or unconsciously, but as I said before I think this is an oversimplification.

Again, this book is talking about something very important, I just don't think it's doing so very well.
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“The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture is Ruing Our Society” (2021) is a highly interesting, informative, and fully illustrated book of the meaning of Raunch Culture, the widespread influence and how deeply ingrained Raunch Culture is in American society, and why it matters. This is the third book written by Dr. Bernadette Barton Ph.D., she is the Professor of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies at Morehead State University, KY.

The book is a lively narrative and features class discussions throughout the book based on interviews of students, mostly Millennial and Generation Z.  Professor Barton is a popular lecturer that rarely hesitates to engage in controversial topics. It is notable that the book was written during the Trump administration, there were numerous bikini clad, thong wearing Trump supporters/MAGA with the sole purpose of “looking hot”. The “Bro Culture” encouraged women not only to “look hot” and “proudly display their bodies” to please men, but also to act like and fit in with men, and judge other women sometimes in a negative and harsh manner. 
Female students noted how porn had infiltrated their intimate relationships. Some women dismissed “porn sex” as unavoidable with a shrug; others ended relationships when their boyfriends acted out porn scenes that included slapping, spitting and choking. In his book: “Killer Triggers” Joe Kenda (2021) warned that choking must never be done and can lead to death. According to media analyst Gail Dines the choices for women in the porn nation are to be sexually appealing or invisible and “ashamed” of their bodies.
Centered around patriarchy and “Toxic Masculinity” many young men felt entitled to act out in harmful and demeaning ways. The demoralizing examples of Donald Trump were far from honorable presidential behavior:  hush payments to a porn actress, his wife Melania Trump appearing in the *“G.Q. Naked Supermodel Special” (G.Q. January 2000). Trump has also been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by 24 women. He has appeared on the show of “Shock Jock Howard Stern” 39 times between 1993-2015. 

Feminism can serve as a powerful force against Raunch Culture, according to Barton. With the Covid-19 pandemic people are examining the effects of inequality and injustice like never before. Feminist legislation— in all areas of climate change, employment, politics, health science, economic justice, human rights and more offer a positive change and renewed hope for all people across the globe.  (3.5*GOOD)  ** With thanks to New York University Press via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.
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Well...this was an interesting take on the situation and factors evolving from raunch porn and while I found myself agreeing with certain statements and ideas, I was turned off by a few points and can only view this as an interesting read rather than one that's revolutionary, mind-changing, or inspiring.

There's a distinct target audience here and I don't think it's as all-encompassing as it needs to be.  First, where are the implications and effects of this type of porn on the Trans community?  One interview?  That's it?  Not enough and to find that this book is very cis focused was disappointing.  How about people in their 30's?  That generation is one that wasn't born into the raunch porn culture, but rather one that grew up alongside it as it was evolving.  And how about older generations that saw its inception and could offer some kind of comparison as the industry changed?  There were talks about those changes, but the sample size of the population interviewed and studied was far too narrow to give a truly comprehensive understanding.

So while these aren't my only complaints they were glaring enough to frustrate me.  I'm not saying the book is bad, the message bad, or the study bad, it's just not what I was hoping for and didn't find myself yearning to discuss it with others beyond posting this review.
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This book was an interesting perspective to think about.. As a sexualities scholar and intersectional feminist, I find some of the generalizations within to be troubling. It seems to delegitamize sex work and sex-positivity. It does raise very important questions about pornography and the immersion of sex into daily life. I appreciated the discussion of sexism and, indeed, much of pornography is sexist. However, there was not much, if any, attention paid to feminist sex-positive perspectives on pornography or sex work. 

Given this, I would be hard pressed to assign this work to my students.
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What started as a feminist movement to empower females to have the same sexual options as males has turned into The Pornification of America.

Raunch culture is everywhere! It’s in advertising, movies, social media, and even music. This book attempts to explain how we got here and why this environment is so toxic to women.

The new sexual freedom of women was supposed to empower them to control their own lives. But now instead of being the perfect 1950s housewife, all women must be the porn bot of every man’s fantasies. Ever since the 2000s, there are impossibly high standards for female beauty (and sexiness) set by the surgically enhanced Kardashians and their Insta copycats. Who has the time and money to reach that level? And why does everyone want to look like twins? How boring is that?

The book looks ever deeper into raunch culture from Insta models performing free sex work to how the prevalence of violent porn is changing men’s sexual expectations to toxic masculinity like Trump’s “locker room talk” becoming pervasive. I agree with the author that once you hear about the “male gaze” you won’t be able to stop seeing it literally everywhere. The book occasionally may go a few steps too far. However, overall The Pornification of America is an eye-opening read. 4 stars!

Thanks to NYU Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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One senses Bernadette Barton doesn't have a lot in common with Rick Santorum, but I couldn't help but wondering what the foremost social conservative politician of the 2000s would think of his book. "The Pornification of America" explores how "raunch culture" has come to dominate American society in a way that Santorum would have similarly decried two decades prior, and it would have been interesting to hear Barton engage with critics of explicit pornography, overtly sexual commercials, and rampant sexual misconduct on college campuses from the right. As it is, this book is a blend of in person interviews and cultural observations that serves as a great primer for anyone who doesn't believe the American approach to a consent-based criterion of morality is inherently flawed. Her suggestions of what to do about it don't seem to match the scale of the problem she describes;  but they are worth exploring nonetheless.
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In my Grade 11 and 12 English class for adult learners, I always try to do at least a week on media literacy. We talk about bias and stereotypes, particularly as they relate to race, gender, and disability. One of my favourite activities regarding gender stereotypes involves examining ads and asking students to identify stereotypes present in those ads. It always provokes enlightening and interesting conversations from them. The hypersexualization of women as sex objects, and the positioning of men as sex subjects, is indisputable no matter where you turn. So I was definitely interested in reading The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture Is Ruining Our Society (what a clickbait title) and appreciate the review copy from NetGalley/New York University Press.

I did go into this book with some reservations. The last time I read about raunch culture, I didn’t much enjoy the way the subject was evaluated and the conclusions drawn. Indeed, this book is in some ways a spiritual successor to that book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, by Ariel Levy—Barton mentions the book a couple of times in the introduction. Whereas that book was a journalist’s dive into raunch culture as a phenomenon, Barton’s focus as a gender studies professor is more sociological and attempts to bring more data to the party. In that sense, I like this book much better. Levy’s approach to the topic felt heavy-handed, whereas Barton approaches the topic with much more nuance. And of course, this book is as up to date as it can be, including some of the emboldening effects that the Trump presidency has had on raunch culture.

So I started to feel more comfortable and optimistic with this book’s approach to the subject. Let me be clear: raunch culture is absolutely a problem. I just find some analyses of the issue to be far too fraught with generalizations. For example, a lot of blame for raunch culture is (rightly) laid at the feet of porn (hence the title of this book). And I always get nervous when feminists start discussing porn in an entirely negative light, because then we’re veering into anti–sex work territory in general. So to my relief, Barton’s analysis is far more nuanced. She establishes herself as sex-positive out of the gate (and offers a great explanation for how raunch culture has co-opted the language of sex positivity without actually being sex positive, particularly for women). Her condemnation of the negative consequences of easier access to increasingly violent, absurd Internet porn is balanced with the acknowledgment that porn is not going way, and that some people use porn in healthy ways as part of their sex life. Barton says, “What we need in place of internet pornography, or at least alongside it, are more conversations about women’s sexual pleasure.” Yes, so much this!! Blanket condemnation and calls to ban porn disguise the issue. Unlike Levy, Barton acknowledges that “feminist porn” exists, but she makes the excellent point that you will never see it unless you seek it out—it is the structure of the porn industry, and the discoverability of it online, that is the problem. If porn were more centred on women’s pleasure, and if it weren’t relied upon for sex education because schools are too moralistic to talk about that stuff, then it would not be as large a contributing factor to raunch culture.

In a similar vein, Barton approaches numerous topics with sensitivity and an eye for teasing out the actual relationship between the topic and raunch culture. She does this through quoting from numerous interviews, citing studies, and supplying personal anecdotes from her teaching experience. As a result, the book builds up this overall picture of the ubiquity of raunch culture within American society. This isn’t just a porn problem or an advertising problem or a political problem: it’s everywhere.

In the final chapter, Barton tries to offer, if not solutions, than a framework that could help us dismantle raunch culture. I appreciate that she admits to the limitations of her work here. Confronting raunch culture is a difficult task and one that must be furiously intersectional and anti-capitalist to succeed (earlier in the book, Barton observes that raunch culture is closely tied to white people in particular, and it is likely an outgrowth of white supremacy’s hegemonic role in our society). This book is quite depressing at times with the picture Barton offers us, but it is also forthright and honest.

A couple of critiques before I go!

First, a correction: Barton says that Twitter employees created Tay, an AI bot released on Twitter that was supposed to learn from its interactions with Twitter users. In fact, Microsoft created (and subsequently … decommissioned) this ill-fated experiment. This error has no substantive impact on Barton’s analysis.

Second, Barton’s cozying up to radical feminism made me uncomfortable at points. It was one thing to say, “You know, the anti-pornography feminists had a point,” earlier on in the book—I understand and can appreciate that perspective. Much later, though, Barton proudly recounts a time she challenged a friend for using the term TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) because she views it as besmirching radical feminism. Which … yeah. I get it, and I admit the term TERF isn’t great—not because it reflects poorly on radical feminism, but rather because if your feminism is trans-exclusionary, it ain’t feminism. This just seemed like a very unnecessary digression that caused me, as a trans person, to bridle. I am going to continue to “trash TERFs” all I like, thank you very much, because they literally do not want me to exist.

On a similar note, this book is quite cisnormative. Barton does interview a non-binary person. However, acknowledgment of how raunch culture affects trans people as a category is absent from this book. We are mentioned only a small handful of times, and usually in passing, such as this sentence from the conclusion: “Despite a loud and at times violent backlash, trans and non-binary people are changing the culture….” From this I can conclude, thankfully, that Barton is not herself a TERF and is quite supportive of trans people and willing to include us in this discussion. Rather, this feels more like an oversight—either unintentionally as a result of cis privilege, or intentionally out of the idea that, as a cis person herself, she shouldn’t be the one to speak on these issues. If it’s the latter (and I want to assume the best intentions), I wish at least some kind of disclaimer had been made to this effect—but more importantly, cis people need to stop “it’s not my place” as an excuse to erase and ignore us. Yes, it is true that cis researchers should not make trans issues their primary area of focus. But Barton could easily have interviewed more trans people, just to help round out her sample, for instance. Raunch culture affects me so much as a trans woman, because of its relationship to ideals of femininity and sexual expression, but my experiences are nowhere to be found here.

Anyway, I needed to bring that up, but I also don’t want you to think this is a deal-breaker for me. On the whole, The Pornification of America turned out better than I expected. I appreciate that there is a more academic look at raunch culture, updated for this decade, that we can refer to as we unpack and attempt to dismantle this aspect of our patriarchal, white supremacist society. Barton does good work here, even if I have some critiques of it. In particular, I recommend anyone who hasn’t read a lot about this issue, but wants to learn more, to dive into this. Its overview is thorough, thoughtful, and comprehensive.
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Definitely an interesting look into what society expects of women. I think some of what Bernadette Barton says is a little too extreme and maybe a reach but I understood the point she was trying to make.
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As a young woman who grew up in exactly this culture, this book was deeply uncomfortable to read, simply because every single word is true. Many of my students have told me similar stories that confirm what Barton writes.
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Fabulously written. Such an interesting topic. Enjoyed every page. Highly recommend. Thank you for the opportunity to read this.
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The Pornification of America is a provocative yet thought provoking journey about how ‘Raunch Culture’, a term coined by the author, has impacted our everyday lives. This oversexualization in media, the violence against women, how sexual assault gets silenced in politics, this author explores our obsession with sex and how raunch culture is becoming more wide spread.

I thought this book had really great points, a lot of the ideas presented vibed with me and my values. I could understand why raunch culture is toxic and why it needs to be spoken about more. The author brought up a really good point about being a sex positive feminist but still being outspoken about raunch culture and it made me really think about how raunch culture has affected my life.

My downfalls with this book is that it was not very well organized nor was it insanely accurate considering most of the data collected is from opinion. The main ideas of the chapters were skewed over many different sections of the book and yet when past ideas were referenced they had nothing to add to the idea at hand. Also, most of this book is full of opinions from straight people, a small sliver was left to anyone who identifies with the LGBTQIA+ and it makes me wonder how this book can claim to be ‘feminist’ when you are only supporting a fraction of the people who are at disadvantage because of the patriarchy. And finally, she had to defend the term TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminist) under the guise of this slanderous term to be demeaning to the roots of radical feminism and to this I say:
The TERFs out there are falsely using the feminist movement in order to spread their transphobia and I would never consider them feminist in any circumstance, the reason the term TERF is used because it identifies these ‘false-feminist’ and how they have wrongfully used ‘radical feminism’ to spread hate. We should be focusing on how these literal trash humans have gotten away with being coined ‘radical feminist’ in the first place, not their feelings about being called TERFs. 

Overall, this book had some really great ideas but the execution and word choices were subpar. I would like to see this as a revised work in the future and maybe a little more researched, (i.e how raunch culture can also affect those who identify other than straight).
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Fascinating, eye-opening, informative. It's hard for me to not feel guilty as to how oblivious I was to some aspects of raunch culture before this book. The aspects that I did recognize were those that I would never have known how to talk about, so the assertion that we are ill-equipped to have these conversations must be somewhat true. And the harsh reality, as portrayed throughout the book, is disheartening. How can we really overcome the new incarnations of sexism? It starts with education, and however little one person can do, I know I'll be drawing on some of this content when I need to have these conversations with people.
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Raunch culture is a self-explanatory term Bernadette Barton uses to describe the decline and fall of the USA in The Pornification of America. It means women are subservient and mere objects, men rule, and they are gauche, vile, rude, crude and cruel about it. Images of naked and near women are everywhere. And under the Trump administration, all this has become uncontroversial, normal, accepted and expected. It is the patriarchy gone wild.

 It makes for a fast-paced, constantly evolving challenge of a book. There is much truth in it, and pulling it altogether makes for a consistent and dispiriting package that is American culture today.

Barton does first-hand research using her experience teaching gender issues at Morehead State University. She interviews women and men, many her own students, and extensively quotes their appreciation of the rather ugly world they inhabit and have grown up in. It is a world of unending ubiquitous porn, violent casual sex and bro culture where women can amuse men by trying to fit in, but they never really rate. They want to be bros. When it works, they are considered dudes. When they displease, they are bitches. The labels are assigned and changed at the whim of the men. Men rule at their fantasy-fueled whim. Women, offended, nonetheless dress and make themselves up for it, and routinely participate. Sadly, the alternatives are few for singles.

It has turned young women into wannabe dudes. They hang out with obnoxious men, and try to match them verbally, while dressing sluttishly and acting coquettishly. That is, if you consider that 40% of customers at strip clubs are now women, who often take off their own tops and sit in their miniskirts and stiletto stripper shoes, as coquettish. Barton says “I perceive raunch culture to be a big con, manipulating women into performing free sex work, into being naked and half-naked, gratis.” American women have become willing partners in their own downfall.

Why any self-respecting woman would dress like a stripper, learn to dance with a pole, swear like a Karen and submit to sexual abuse is what Barton explores. It is sadly pathetic. That it is so popular and uncontroversial is most sad.

She explores the new world of hookups - sex without dating, or what used to be called one night stands. Only today it is well-organized, a meat market where everything is free.

There is a chapter on the casual universality of naked or near naked women in advertising, from tv commercials to giant billboards and everything in between.

And there had to be a chapter on internet porn, a new outlet available to all, from toddlers to seniors. In her experience, it is all about violence, from spanking to spitting to choking, to beating. Basically anything to demean and cause pain. The modern man actually expects to dole it out to be a satisfactory partner, and the woman often expects to undergo it all, or what did she think she was getting into in the hookup scene anyway? Children simply grow up with it, sexting each other from pre-puberty on.

Barton finds that internet porn has dulled the senses something fearsome. There are men who think they must follow the script, and men who can’t reach orgasm unless they are watching porn while having sex with a woman. Porn, now freely available on mobile phones and seemingly innocent social media such as Instagram (a Facebook service), can be seen being mindlessly watched in public, on the streets, in the subways and in restaurants. It is eye candy that keeps men, and to an increasing extent women, from facing the world. It is another way of avoiding or substituting for a real relationship.

Barton adds tremendous color from the words of her interviewees. They have all had these experiences, and for many, this is the way of the world and they know of no other way. This rather shocking state of the union has changed the very nature of American life. It is part and parcel of living alone, as well as the permissiveness of foul language by everyone, and the media pushing to keep ahead of these trends, pushing them farther and faster. It is not so much a vicious circle as a race to the bottom.

There is also a chapter on the strange new tradition of dick pics. It seems men feel entitled to send women they don’t even know photos of their genitals in various states. Even when they do know them, the photos are usually unrequested, unexpected, and unwanted. Doesn’t seem to stop anyone. If it led to a new relationship, perhaps it could be considered worthwhile. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. It’s just an aspect of the raunch culture where such activities are the new normal. It is meaningless to men and offensive to women. In today’s thinking, that’s a win-win.

Raunch culture is not just vile, it is fraudulent. It “cloaks itself in the language of female empowerment, but it is Orwellian doublespeak. Hypersexualization is not sexual positivity,” Barton says. In other words, this is not feminism rising, it the patriarchy ever stronger. These kinds of insights throughout the book alter the reader’s perception of the scattered parts.

There seems to be no quarter for sane relationships in Barton’s world. Even pastors refer to their wives as hot, or worse. Right in their sermons. “Raunch culture and conservative religiosity are two sides of the same coin, promoting the patriarchy, controlling women’s bodies,” she says. Evangelicals use raunch culture extensively, telling the flock that sex is greatly improved for true believers and anything is permissible inside a hetero marriage. This is attractive to men, giving them carte blanche over their women. “Conservative Christian and raunch cultures work well in unison because both systems position women as inferior to men, and both seek to control women’s sexual expression,” Barton says.

Along with the visual, there is the verbal. Swearing is no longer just commonplace, it is a necessary part of speech. Especially during sex. Most of her interviewees use four letter words throughout their answers to their professor, for example. Barton appears to simply accept this, not attempting to teach anything about communicating effectively. She is a voyeur of the swamp.

She calls what appears in social media e-bile. The constant berating of women, the denigration and objectification is now totally normal. Women are less than hoes, they are holes. Women self-objectify, in a process we used to call being self-conscious. This takes it a few steps further, abandoning all hope of standing tall and instead conforming to the submissive stance required.

That any of this true is depressing. That kids today grow up knowing all this and positioning themselves to participate accordingly is most unfortunate. It does not bode well for the future. This is a society in rapid decline.

The one chapter I did not appreciate was on Hillary Clinton. Barton is one of those still massively bitter that she was not elected president. Barton goes on and on about how perfectly qualified she was for the job (especially compared to Donald Trump), how she was treated unfairly, how could this happen, what is wrong with everyone, etc. We’ve seen this all before, in more appropriate contexts, and Barton adds nothing to the argument or to her own book with it.

She is especially critical of Trump calling Clinton names, accusing her of crimes and so on – because she is a woman. This is incorrect. Trump is like that period, even with Republican males who don’t toe his line. It was not (purely) because she is a woman, but simply because she is a Democrat. That’s all it took to unleash all the vileness he could muster. Any Democrat would have received it, regardless of race, creed or sex. Barton clearly let her feelings overtake her otherwise fair analysis throughout.

Of course Trump himself is the poster child for all that is wrong in this new relationship-free dystopia. His own wife, a former escort, has famously posed naked for magazines. The exalted image of the First Lady of the United States is out the window. The first couple lives in separate apartments, both in Washington and in New York. They famously have no pets and do as little as possible together. There is nothing normal about their family. His pussy-grabbing comments, gestures to his crotch and claims that women who accuse him of rape are not his type all set the tone for the violent hookup culture he presides over. It reminds me of my favorite New Yorker cartoon of this presidency. A mother is chastising her ten year old son, saying Young Man, “we do not use presidential language in this house.” What better description of the Trump decline and fall can there be?

But what of the blame? There are three candidates for Barton. Parents have never done their duty explaining sex or how to relate to someone else. “The talk” parents are supposed to give their adolescent children mostly never happens. 

Schools in America have abandoned any kind of sex education, relying on parents to keep it inside the family and the home, which does not happen.  “Porn has to stop being the de facto sex-ed,” says Kayla, one of the student interviewees. 

And women should support each other better. There is not just safety in numbers, but close relationships among women give them reinforcement. 

None of these factors is new, unlike, say, dick pics and internet porn. It means that the fault is purely negligence, allowing a crazy weed to grow wildly out of control. The three factors (parents, schools and other women) have the ability to rein it in again, but history shows that is shall we say, unlikely.

Barton’s final say is over feminism, which she counts on for support, comfort, reinforcement, growth, protection and promotion. But as I read, I couldn’t help thinking this applies to everything. For example, substituting the term labor union for feminism throughout gives exactly the same result. Humans need outside influences, second opinions, available allies and trusted relationships. Any kind of human relationship would help minimize the current state of decline. It’s really not an issue of feminism. It’s bigger than that.

Same for online porn. Barton doesn’t examine it this way, but since she says the overwhelming majority of those connected to the internet dote on porn, we should recognize it as highly valued in people’s lives. Then perhaps we can deal with it, promote a healthier version of it, minimize the crazier parts of it, and maybe even manipulate it to help users, instead of crippling them in real life. Just a thought.

Hers is not an optimistic analysis, but it is thorough and enlightening. For those of us who have managed to develop close relationships involving love, trust and respect, The Pornification of America will be a revelation.  The slimy ads gracing our televisions and billboards are the just the tip of a gigantic iceberg that is sinking the very nature of American society. 

David Wineberg
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