Posted by: joshjasper | April 27, 2009

What About Bob?

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to get to know Dr. Robert Jensen.  Dr. Jensen (Bob) was Riverview Center’s guest in Dubuque and provided a training to community members on the damaging effects of pornography and how it is related to violence against women and children.  For the past 20 years he has researched pornography, presenting his findings around the world.  Part of his presentation included screening a film titled “Price of Pleasure.”  Although I had seen the film a number of times before, it was still hard to watch in a large group of people.  The film focused on how pornography is not the Playboy centerfolds that so many people would describe as pornography but rather, porn today consists of the rape and torture of women.

I really enjoyed how Bob framed the effects of pornography and likened it to how humans across time rely on stories to learn from one another.  Early in his presentation he made clear that pornography does not cause rape.  It of course is not that simple.  His point was that throughout time, we have learned from one another through the art of storytelling.  Our attitudes and beliefs have been shaped in this way.  Pornography is yet another story that we share with each other.  With that said, we must ask ourselves what we are learning from these specific types of stories when the same “story” is carried out time and time again of men inflicting pain and suffering, and being placed in a position of power and control over women and children.

Bob stayed for our annual dinner that evening and spoke briefly about his work to our donors.  (no film at  dinner)  During dinner we spoke about each others work and the direction that we each were headed.  One of the things that struck me about Bob was that he is truly in this field for the work, not to get rich and famous, but to educate others on specific forms of violence and empower people to make a change.  I shared that I had recently begun traveling, providing presentations and trainings to communities on violence and the prevention thereof.  It was at that point that Dr. Jensen pointed out how all of this (traveling/speaking) can become seductive and provide people with a sense of false importance and that he is fortunate to have people around him that keep him grounded in reality.

His words struck a chord with me that night because I have felt that seduction, that pull to think that I am something I am not.  The discussion that evening was a great reminder for me why I am in this work and how sometimes you need to step back from the work and look at the bigger picture.  My individual contributions to work of violence prevention are merely a small piece to the feminist work that has been going on for decades and will continue on long after me.  It’s not about me, but rather the work.  It’s about Riverview Center’s vision of creating a community free of sexual violence for us all.


  1. Great post. I think men in particular need to stay aware of this. Occasionally men get more “cred” for being in this work, and since so few men are involved, more opportunity to speak about sexual violence in public… important to remember there’s nothing special about you, but there is something special about the work and the purpose.

  2. The training was great, Dr. Jenson had a lot of interesting points. I was glad I could make it, and to be able to share some of what I learned with my class.

  3. g-

    You hit the nail on the head about so few men being involved in this work and how the men that are active get more recognition than they should. It really speaks to the problem when people will get excited about a man simply speaking out about things that quite frankly, all men should be doing at a much larger level.


    I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the training. I am especially appreciative of the fact that you shared what you learned with your class. That’s where we have to start!

  4. I also had a chance to speak to Krystal before the training, I am looking forward to joining the training group in the fall!

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