The way they talk about girls and women is a little horrifying

David Simon, creator of The Wire, has a new series about the birth of the porn industry in the 70s.

Simon also has a lot to say about pornography. Whereas his critically lauded The Wire was ostensibly about the drugs trade in Baltimore but subliminally about race, The Deuce could be seen as ostensibly about the sex industry in New York but subliminally about gender.

Pornography “affected the way men and women look at each other, the way we address each other culturally, sexually,” he says. “I don’t think you can look at the misogyny that’s been evident in this election cycle, and what any female commentator or essayist or public speaker endured on the internet or any social media setting, and not realise that pornography has changed the demeanour of men. Just the way that women are addressed for their intellectual output, the aggression that’s delivered to women I think is informed by 50 years of the culturalisation of the pornographic.”

He admits: “I don’t have any real way to prove that, but certainly the anonymity of social media and the internet has allowed for a belligerence and a misogyny that maybe had no other outlet. It’s astonishing how universal it is whether you’re 14 or 70, if you’re a woman and you have an opinion, what is directed at you right now. I can’t help but think that a half century of legalised objectification hasn’t had an effect.”

I think he got entangled in his negatives in that last sentence – he clearly means he can’t help but think the legalised objectification has had an effect.

Simon’s collaborator George Pelecanos also sees it that way.

“Personally, I think pornography has had a crude effect on society,” he says. “I’m a first amendment [freedom of speech] guy but I really feel it’s kind of like racism in the last few years: we’ve had a wake-up call because everybody thought, ‘Wow, it went away’. Same thing with misogyny, right?”

Pelecanos, 60, thinks about the two sons he raised and the conversations he overheard when their friends came to the family home. “The way they talk about girls and women is a little horrifying. It’s different from when I was coming up. It’s one thing what was described as locker-room talk, like, ‘Man, look at her legs. I’d love to…’ – that kind of thing. But when you get into this other thing, calling girls tricks and talking about doing violence to them and all that stuff, I’d never heard that growing up, man. I just didn’t.”

It’s not a little horrifying. None of this is a little horrifying.

“I think the culture’s changed because of the way women are depicted in popular culture. Pornography’s a big part of that. You can say nobody’s getting hurt, it’s just a masturbation fantasy and all that stuff, but these women are trafficked, man.”

He believes there is a through line to Trump’s stunning victory in last year’s presidential election. “There’s no doubt if Hillary Clinton had been a man, she would be president now. The code words that were used against not just her but female journalists and everybody that was involved peripherally in the campaign was awful. Never seen anything like it.”

And the actual president of the US is a guy who brags about grabbing women by the pussy, and tells us all that’s “just locker room talk.”

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