—Bernadette C. Barton
Welcome to the pornification of America—when the United States has devolved into a Hustler fantasy. Naked and half naked pictures of girls and women litter every screen, billboard, and bus. Pole dancing studios keep women fit while men airdrop their dick pics to female passengers on buses, planes, and trains. Christian pastors compliment their “hot” wives from the pulpit, and we have whole television programs devoted to “the girlfriend experience”—a specialized form of prostitution. People are having sex before they date, and women make their own personal porn to share on social media.
And this week, Netflix went “viral” when its Twitter account asked followers, “What’s something you can say during sex but also when you manage a brand twitter account?”
what’s something you can say during sex but also when you manage a brand twitter account?
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 5, 2019
Brands responded with such enthusiasm and creativity that I wish we could harness this energy to tackle climate change. For example, Ben & Jerry’s official Twitter responded, “Do you wanna take a lick?,” Doom the video game, “hurt me plenty,” Tazo the tea company, “Sometimes it helps to blow on it first,” Rolling Rock the brewing company, “We’re Rock hard,” Kettle Brand Chips, “You can go elbow deep in me,” and many, many more. While the twitter-sphere celebrates its own wittiness, I think it is worth observing that we are living in a culture arguably drawn from the horny imagination of a science fiction nerd writing pulp fiction in the 1950s.
My forthcoming book Porn in the USA: How Raunch Culture is Ruining America examines the current pornification of everything. It’s on our phones; in the mall; in magazines, movies, and television; in music lyrics and videos; in comedy specials and on stage; in memes and gifs; on billboards, busses, subways, and bumper stickers; on t-shirts; in video games and comic books; in hookup culture: at parties and nightclubs and in our conversations; and certainly on Twitter. Perhaps you have noticed a creeping bombardment of provocative, half naked women in advertisements, social media feeds, and television programming, and wondered what is going on? Have you fended off any porn bots? If you shop for girl’s or women’s clothing, tops are tighter, and skirts are shorter in comparison to clothing norms of the 1970s and 80s.
Try entering a Halloween Express store and finding a costume for a girl or woman that isn’t “sexy” nurse, “sexy” cat, or “sexy” anything. Maybe you’ve seen kindergarteners twerking, or puzzled over the sexual violence portrayed in shows like American Horror Story.
Perhaps you noticed Americans elected a man whose idea of an “entertaining” weekend is himself, billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and 28 young women flown to Mar-a-Lago Golf Club.
This is raunch culture, what it looks like when the attitudes, behaviors, and accoutrements once reserved for the sex industry filter into the mainstream. A little bit of raunch culture could be a saucy treat, but a whole society filtered through the lens of pornography is tiresome, monolithic, repetitive, and sexist. The latest evidence is corporate brands engaging in promiscuous, public Twitter sexting about blow jobs and fisting.
Bernadette C. Barton is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Morehead State University, and author of three books. Look for her forthcoming book from NYU Press in 2020—Porn in the USA: How Raunch Culture is Ruining America.