'The Porning of America' Looks at Sexualized Mainstream

BOSTON — Adult has new competition. The new performers and webmasters have made their debut at malls and toy stores; in bathroom medicine cabinets and drug store shelves. They have graced the covers of TV Guide and Elle. These new adult players greet us in video games and offer advice on YouTube. We see them everywhere because they are everywhere.

They have names like Bratz Dolls, Carl's Jr., Clinique and Johnson & Johnson. NBC Universal, Comcast and AOL are the new adult producers and webmasters. They are the companies we see every day.

In "The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go From Here," Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott introduce a cast of porn stars with names that normally would illicit brand awareness, if not warmth, security and affluence.

Their premise is both simple and profound. Marginalized porn has become so mainstream that the previous divisions have been eliminated and are now being used to market everything from cosmetics to children's toys.

The authors, Sarracino and Scott, are dads, professors and suburban Pennsylvanian husbands. The book is not anti-porn, as a few recent mentions in Newsweek and other mainstream publications have noted. The critical point of the book is that the adult industry's influence on popular culture should be taken in context . "Porning" offers an exhaustive history of our cultural exploration of sexual imagery. Starting with the establishment of the secret "Pornographic Collection" at the National Museum in Naples to exhibit Pompeian artifacts to the current Internet advertising, the authors delve deeply into how our culture has responded — and might respond in the future — to our newly broadened sexual vocabulary.

The authors also realize that porn has been, and always will be, part of our culture. Although extreme examples such as the children's dolls that look "like little hookers" and kiddie porn are righteously scorned, the book is overwhelmingly sex- and industry-positive. Included in the long list of interviews are insightful talks with "porn exemplars" Russ Meyer, Snoop Dogg, Jenna Jameson and Paris Hilton. Sarracino and Scott round out the current porn landscape with chapters touching on MySpace, craigslist and Abu Ghraib.

"Porning of America" is released by Beacon Press and is available now at booksellers and online retail sites.