Speaking to a near-capacity lecture hall filled with students and faculty alike, Dr. Robert Jensen spoke on a wide array of subtopics within the feminism sphere, from Hugh Hefner to pornography. The talk coincides with his recent book, “The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men.” Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, traveled to North Central to deliver a speech titled “The Pathology of Patriarchy.”
Dr. Macek — the chair of the department of communication which co-sponsored the event along with Cultural Events and Gender & Woman’s Studies — introduced Jensen and reminded the audience this was Jensen’s return, having spoken at North Central a decade ago after publishing “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity.” Jensen later quipped the book was so popular it’s out of print. Macek noted that Jensen’s trek was not an easy one: he woke up at 3 a.m. to be at the airport at 5 so he could not only deliver his talk, but also attend a handful of classes throughout the day.
Jensen opened his lecture acknowledging the obvious elephant in the room: a white, middle-class man talking about feminism. “I’m looking out at a room with a large number of women and I’m going to explain feminism to you,” he joked. He shared how he had been transformed from an ignorant man “who thought feminists were women who couldn’t get dates” through the readings of Andrea Dworkin, a radical feminist who became a leading critic of pop culture.
He then delved into what exactly the patriarchy is, a sort of buzzword usually reserved to radical feminists. At its simplest form, he described it as institutionalized male dominance. He noted this obviously didn’t take the same form as it did thousands of years ago, pointing to the way men lay claim to women’s bodies through reproduction and sexuality as evidence of the patriarchy today. This he compared to race, where an element of white supremacy is still embedded in society, 150 years after the end of slavery and 50 years after segregation.
His next subtopic was sexual assault, a topic which was all too relative for a college audience. Jensen noted it’s because of feminism that we talk about sexual assault and things like date rape. Fifty years ago, he said, it was understood that ‘deviant’ individuals carried out such terrible acts. Feminists helped society look at the issue as a pattern, rather than as individual cases. Jensen says that 100 percent of women have experienced some degree of sexual intrusion, a spectrum that extends from catcalling to sexualized murder.
Jensen finished by spending some time talking about pornography, something he’s written extensively on, as did Dworkin. The problem, he said, with porn was that it essentially sexualizes male domination. He says the result is men whose perceptions of sex have been altered by porn. He also noted that adolescents’ first exposure to sex oftentimes comes from porn, which sets them on a dangerous path towards accepting male domination.
After talking for more than half an hour, Jensen fielded questions from students and professors, who asked questions such as how to raise boys to be responsible and conscious, to understanding where progress in the next few years would come from.