The idea for a book about porn culture came to Kevin Scott the day his daughter decided she absolutely had to have a Bratz-doll pony. For months, the 5-year-old had begged him for a Bratz doll"clad in spike heels, fishnets and miniskirt, enormous puppy-dog eyes protruding from her oversized head. Her sexy look seemed a little too sexy for a preschooler, so he and his wife bought her a different doll, which she was happy with. Except that a few months later, Bratz came out with Bratz Babyz. "If Bratz had looked like Barbie hookers, these looked like baby hookers," Scott says. Again, he convinced his daughter that My Little Pony was just as cool"and for a moment, the conversation ended. Until, of course, the Bratz came out with Bratz Ponyz. And then, says Scott, an English professor at a small college in Georgia, "I realized porn culture and I were in a death match for my daughter's soul."
In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn't take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives. Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.
But it isn't just sex that Scott is worried about. He's more interested in how we, as a culture, often mimic the most raunchy, degrading parts of it"many of which, he says, come directly from pornography. In "The Porning of America" (Beacon), which he has written with colleague Carmine Sarracino, a professor of American literature, the duo argue that, through Bratz dolls and beyond, the influence of porn on mainstream culture is affecting our self perceptions and behavior"in everything from fashion to body image to how we conceptualize our sexuality.