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Joe Ziegler

6/10/14, LSP200
Prof. Moody-Freeman
Don Jon and Pornography
Fiction offers up a unique way to detach oneself from the tedium of everyday life. It gives
one the ability to move away from whatever consumes their day-to-day; a release of obligation
and priority. However, this fiction may become so immersive and worthwhile that it ultimately
outshines real life. It can take many forms, but very rarely does anything come close to the
fictitious nature of modern pornography and the effect it has on those who pursue it.
Pornography has become much more accessible over the past decade, correlated with its average
acceptance across age demographics. This increase in the acceptance of pornography is
characterized by a near doubling of those who find pornography morally acceptable when
analyzing the last three decades (Wilke and Saad, 2013). This can be attributed to technological
advancements, and changes in the system of production within todays political economy. Along
with new technologies comes a new perspective of what porn really means, and the effect it has
becomes much more layered as a result. Pornography instills unreal ideologies of relationships,
gender, and sex which aim to make real life seem relatively substandard when directly and
immediately compared. One movie in particular is adept at showing this to full effect; Don Jon
(2013) illustrates this point completely through the protagonists journey in and out of porn
Pornography is described as showing the obscene realistic illustration of anatomic
peculiarities of intimate body parts, either frankly or implicitly, making it sexually explicit and
contradictory to common moral standards devoid of any artistic or scientific value (Regional
Network Information Center, 2013), a definition which explicitly undermines any real positive
about pornography as a whole. If this is the case, what makes pornography so appealing lies

outside of moral, artistic and scientific standards and appeals to something much more carnal.
By appealing to the raw attractions and specific sexualities of those who enjoy pornography, it
takes on a much greater role in the viewers psyche concerning gender, sex and relationships as a
whole. The film Don Jon (2013), accurately portrays how pornography can skew perspectives on
such principles while simultaneously offering up a new understanding of the definition of
pornography as a whole.
Don Jon, directed, written and starred by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is an excellent example
of how pornography can shape perspective and overall outlook on life. The protagonist, Don Jon,
finds himself consistently turning to pornography in an attempt to escape the failed relationships,
bad sex, and tedium of his life. It is important to note however, that Don Jon isnt some closeted
pervert who turns to pornography to live out his sexual fantasies; he is a fairly normal person,
who has obligations, friends and a family to care about. Pornography instilled ideologies about
how sex should be to Don Jon, and as a result, he is constantly let down when it fails to meet his
expectations (Don Jon, 2013). This growing addiction seems to be curbed later on when he meets
Barbara Sugarman (played by Scarlett Johansson), who is depicted as the extremely attractive
and outspoken love-interest throughout the movie. Scarlett similarly isnt without her vices
relating to fiction; Barbara finds solace in romantic movies. One scene in particular emphasizes
this point, shown by how Barbara seems to lose herself in a movie theyre watching. She
becomes so enamored by the concept of romantic love that it seems to permeate into their
relationship, and quickly becomes a recognizable trait within Barbara. In comparing both Don
Jons porn addiction, with Barbaras movie addiction it becomes clear that not many
differences are present in their effect on each respective individual. One could argue that the
definition of pornography moves away from its basic conception, which is simply sex on a

screen, and becomes more generally what we find to be so carnally attractive that it ultimately
standardizes real-life. Although Barbaras addiction doesnt deal directly with pornography, or
the general thesis of this argument for that matter, it is an important parallel to draw in
understanding the many forms of attraction and its varying effects on an individual literal
pornography just happens to be the worst perpetrator.
It is quickly apparent to anyone who has seen Don Jon, or at least the first fifteen
minutes, that he has very particular ideologies concerning gender, relationships and sex. Don Jon
trivializes the female body just as porn has taught him to do; treating women simply as
disposable pleasures, as hes ready to solely engage physically but not pursue anything else. This
pattern of constantly finding new females to bring home showcases Don Jons insatiable
appetite to find what only pornography can offer, yet tries in real life. Don Jon doesnt
understand the point behind a having a meaningful relationship because he minimizes its entire
purpose to just sex, which he argues is better on the computer screen anyway. Jane Caputi offers
up a reason for this behavior by stating that pornography kills off, and then substitutes itself for,
the erotic the life force, the earthly and ethereal force of growth, fruitfulness, exuberance,
ecstasy, connectedness, and integrity. Pornography severs eroticism from intimacy and empathy
and bonds it to voyeurism and objectification (of the self and of another) (Caputi, 2004). So
basically, pornography taught Don Jon that sex is the ultimate motive of a relationship,
trivializing the natural and worthwhile emotional connection to another human being.
Additionally, there is sufficient evidence to not only argue that pornography inspires promiscuity,
but that it creates a compulsion to seek out more sex in those who take the fiction to heart. The
flood of visual stimulation in pornography alone is enough to amplify mens desire for casual
sex, and creating an unconscious bond with how they view sex in pornography, versus the

expectations of sex in real life (Mens Health, 2012). Pornography in itself makes real
relationships, seem substandard when compared to pornographic renderings, driven by a
compulsion created by images themselves and the relative ease of finding exactly what one
sexually desires, than in another person. Not only does pornography trivialize the basic
conception of relationships to one another, but aims to enforce a growing dichotomy of gender
Don Jon, a name which he gave himself, speaks to how he views himself in regards to
women and other men. The meaning of don to Don Jon is someone who literally takes the bull
by the horns so to speak; he exhibits a domineering mentality and overly masculine nature. One
could argue that this type of male aggression and perceived gender role is a result of his
excessive porn viewing, because of how pornography inspires a growing gender dichotomy than
anything else. Jane Caputi continues to write that [pornography] sexualizes and genders
domination and submission, from the bedroom to the war room, making domination masculine
(even when a woman plays that role) and submission feminine (even when a man plays that
role) (Caputi, 2004). Pornography instills ideologies about how a man should act, and how a
woman should behave ideologies that have no moral standing in the conversation of gender
equality. Pornography, under this light becomes a hegemonic product, catered by men, and for
men; pornography is a product that aims to keep men in the domineering position of not only
sex, but in various societal roles and expectations.
Through Don Jons character, the true face of pornographys effects on relationships,
gender disparity and expectations of sex become alarmingly clear. Pornography instills false
ideologies about a gender dichotomy; domination in relation to masculinity, and femininity
relating to submission. It teaches a learned compulsion because its much easier to find exactly

what one sexually desires on a computer screen, than in another person. Through the use of
Although Don Jon doesnt usually take itself seriously at times, the effects of pornography are all
too real to be labeled as a fantasy.
Caputi, Jane. Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power and Popular Culture. Madison,
WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. Book.
Don Jon. Dir. Jason Gordon-Levitt. Perf. Jason Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johansson. 2013.
Motion Picture.
Kellner, Douglas. Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics Between the Modern
and the Postmodern. London: Routledge, 1995. Book.
Men's Health. "Is Porn Harmful?" 16 October 2012. Men's Health. Web Page. 2 June 2014.
Patton, Cindy. "Hegemony and Orgasm - Or the Instability of Heterosexual Pornography."
Oxford University Press (1989): 100-113. Journal Article.
Regional Network Information Center. Definition of Pornographic Material or Objects. 29
August 2013. Web Page. 2 June 2014.
Wilke, Joy and Lydia Saad. "Older Americans' Moral Attitudes Changing." 3 June 2013. Gallup
Politics. Web Page. 2 June 2014.