Listen, I am all about sexual expression and exploration. Find your kinks girls and boys! It’s a part of your sexual journey and I encourage it. However, there is a serious conversation we need to have about the nature of the pornography people are watching. I’m not talking about your average, vanilla sex, amateur tape of a couple getting down in the bedroom. What I am talking about is the most watched, most fetishized versions of porn: Violent, degrading porn.
And yes, this is the most watched and fetishized category of modern day pornography. As technology has advanced, the accessibility to and proliferation of porn has been steadily increasing, and with this comes increased social acceptance of these sexual images, a changing context for sexual conditions, and an increase in the obscenity of the content. Pornography has been, and is continuing to shift in an increase in the depictions of subordination, dehumanization, degradation and violence towards women.
The socially accepted view is this: watching porn is normal. It’s a part of our society and it’s a consensual display so it can’t be harming anyone. But the way in which society is consuming porn, is extremely disturbing and has extremely negative impacts on not only sexual interactions, but society as a whole.
Listen to this. After studying thousands of porn films, images, and platforms, the feminist scholar Gail Dines has found that the five most popular acts depicted in internet porn are the following:
Vaginal, oral, and anal penetration by three or more men at the same time
A female gagging from having a penis thrust into her throat
And ejaculation in a woman’s face, eyes, and mouth.
Ladies, does ANY of that sound pleasurable to you?
It is extremely disturbing to know that for women everywhere, the violation of female bodies and the depiction of women as inferior beings that are something to be used, is what men find the most sexually arousing. Studies show that boys are starting to watch pornography at younger ages as we move through time. Prior to any real sexual experiences, boys are watching and learning sex through harmful images of male domination and subconsciously internalizing this prejudice at a very young age. Boy’s attitudes and sexual desires are being conditioned from behind a screen to find certain things arousing and this consequently leads to this shared conception among men that this is the sex they demand, practice, purchase, and live out.
And that is so damn scary.
Violent, degrading porn is a clear visible presentation of misogynistic and patriarchial power, of male domination of women, in today’s society. Violent, degrading porn should NOT be sexy. What it does is it celebrates, promotes, authorizes and legitimizes degrading acts against women. What it does is creates an entire culture that sexualizes, normalizes and reinforces the violence, domination, dehumanization and degradation of women.
In the words of Gail Dines, it is the patriarchy’s perfect propaganda piece.
If you watch women being dominated, abused and degraded over and over it will eventually seem normal. And guess what, that’s the world we live in. That’s why domestic abuse is so widespread. That is why 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. That’s why sexual assault victims often get no justice. Repeated exposure to “role play” sexual domination and violence eventually lead to increases in the likelihood that people will take actual sexual violence less seriously.
The mass acceptance and consumption of degrading porn in our society highlights something much deeper about our society and its values. For men, porn functions as masturbation material. But for women, it functions as a public portrayal of how society feels about them. By accepting violent and degrading porn as a part of our society, as something normal, women are being implicitly told, and in a way warned, about how they are likely to be treated in society.
It impacts how women view their self worth and whether they avoid or participate in certain activities or behaviors in society. When women are consistently dehumanized as sexual objects or commodities, depicted enjoying rape or humiliation, or reduced to body parts penetrated by objects, it tells society (men and women) that “this is how men are taught, around here” and “this is what you are expected to do and receive”. We as a society need to consider the way certain portrayals of sex in porn and also mainstream media is polluting our social environment, and harming men and women globally.