Words by Anna Aguilar
A few weeks ago the internet browser of my laptop started acting up, and every single person I mentioned it to instantly made a joke about it being a result of downloading porn. The reality is that streaming pornography online has become completely normalised and it is now socially acceptable to discuss or joke about in public, even with someone you’re not extremely familiar with. The taboo is dead, something that would’ve seemed surreal before the rise of the internet, which has made porn so readily available. However, the background of extreme abuse is still present both behind the scenes and on the screen. Both male and female viewers are demanding increasingly violent videos. Several studies have inconclusively analysed the correlative effects of porn on rape and abuse. Similar to the correlation between violent video games and aggressive behaviour, it is most likely that the individuals acting violently are already predisposed to such behaviour. 7 out of 10 male viewers claim they would never carry out the acts they search for in porn. Yet the issue is not in the explicitly abusive categories such as double anal or gag-inducing oral sex (although they don’t help), but rather in the underlying use of predominantly male force that permeates throughout a vast spectrum of content.
“pornography is normalizing sex acts that most women do not enjoy and may experience as degrading, painful, or violating.”—Lyn Harrison
Porn is inherently dehumanising. Both men and women are stereotypically categorised—fiery Latinas, complicit Asians, dominant Blacks—and lesbianism (one of the most popular categories) is portrayed not as a sexuality but as a performative fetish. Although there is an argument for the empowerment of female sexuality, it is completely hindered by its one dimensional portrayal: women are always happy to fulfil the male’s fantasies and desires.
Robert Jensen concludes pornography permeates the following three assumptions on women in pornography:
“(1) All women at all times want sex from all men; (2) women enjoy all the sexual acts that men perform or demand, and; (3) any woman who does not at first realize this can be easily turned with a little force, though force is rarely necessary because most of the women in pornography are the imagined “nymphomaniacs”about whom many men fantasize.”
The argument for pornography’s educational content is precisely why the above statements are dangerous. Although it is possible to distinguish sex in porn with real life dynamics and utilise it solely for its instrumental use, it has been shown to influence—whether consciously or unconsciously—male and female views on sexuality. This is particularly relevant in young women (the average child watches porn for the first time at the age of 11), who can grow unaware of their right to stop sex if they’re not enjoying, rather than feeling the need to fulfil their partner’s desires. Pornography may reduce a woman’s resistance to unwanted sex. The choice of rather ‘waiting for it to end’, as horrific as it may sound, it something that I have come to realise is far more common in young women than you would expect.
Although these opinions on pornography are often labeled as backwards or conservative, I would argue the contrary. Pornography continues to permeate traditional male-dominant views on sex and sexuality which hinder the liberation of both sexes’natural desires. By indoctrinating a certain way of sexual dynamics from a young age, sexual relations can be, and are being, easily manipulated by the media.
Read more from Anna on her blog Underlying Violence in our Contemporary Society