Content warning: This article refers to violent sexual practices and pornographic material. Please read with caution.
Analyzing our society and the means used by the system to oppress and control each one of us has always been a tough job. It’s necessary, however, to understand the ways we’re being influenced and how society is shaping our minds. We can all agree that in a capitalist society there are huge influences pressuring us; So, if we agree that the food industry influences the way we eat, or that the fashion industry influences the way we dress, how could it be that the sex industry would not influence human behavior?
Pornography has, in fact, existed for a long time – and it will always do. What we need to discuss, however, is the porn industry. This discussion, considering the system we live in, is especially important because it helps us understand not only how capitalism can work together with sexism, but also the ways that gender norms have be established and how the social construction of masculinity is molded.
Let’s try by making an analogy: think about alcohol and all the companies profiting from it. Now, our society can take away from people their sense of identity and trick people into seeing alcohol as a way of becoming whole again or as a way to alleviate bad situations. Despite the countless adverse effects of alcohol on our bodies, marketers make sure that we don’t feel guilty for buying and drinking it by giving us a reason or something to believe in.
Now, apply the same principles to the porn industry. Today, porn can be identified as one of the main, if not the main source of sexual education – especially for teenagers. The porn industry and the material being sold has become more extreme over the years and today, we can easily find violence being portrayed in porn videos.
But how do we make sure that this material, violent towards women as it is, can continue to be watched and sold? How can we make people believe that they can get pleasure out of watching something like this? We give them a simple reason to do that, an excuse; that the women experiencing that violence in the porn industry are “different” and not worthy of respect. As long as those women are not seen as actual human beings, the consumer will have no regret while consuming the material.
The harsh reality
“Do you know what we say to things like romance and foreplay? We say f*** off. We take gorgeous young b***** and do what every man would REALLY like to do. Make them gag until their makeup starts running (…)” – extract from the porn website “Gag and then f*** me”
Today in the porn industry, classifications such as soft or hardcore porn don’t exist anymore. Pop culture is the new softcore porn – the hypersexualization in our media would have been porn 15 years ago. What we have today is a much more violent and harmful type of porn, previously classified as hardcore. It’s important to point how this industry can also influence teenagers (especially teenage boys) who are making their first contact with porn and sexuality in general, using the ideas of toxic masculinity, as we can see in the text from the website “Gag and then f*** me”:
“We take gorgeous young b***** and do what every man would REALLY like to do.”
A young boy who’s still building his idea of masculinity will get this message: apparently, “REAL men” like that. This gets much more worrying when we consider the fact that an study from the University of Montreal found out that the average age when boys are first exposed to porn is 10 years old.
We can also see how pornography and misogyny in general is connected with vulnerability in women: one of the most searched terms in porn is “teen”. The porn industry, however, isn’t only a weapon in the hands of sexism, but also in the hands of racism, lesbophobia, and many other oppression systems; the objectification of women of colour and the sexualization (aimed at men) of lesbians are clear examples of that.
In the statistics of the porn industry we find that 228 porn stars have died from AIDS, drugs, suicide, homicides, accidental and premature deaths since 2003; the average life expectancy of a porn star is 36.2 years; a recent analysis of the 50 best-selling porn videos revealed that 48% of the 304 scenes contained verbal aggression, and more than 88% showed physical aggression. You can read more data (and its sources) on the links in the “Further Reading” section below.
What to do?
While not all of porn is about violence and lately there have been some attempts in its regulation (mainly in the US), violence is still a large part of something that should attempt at praising sexual activity, as it should be and not convey negative messages. Japan was largely successful at regulating the lucrative porn industry and it seems as if directors are more and more willing to take a step into elevating porn and making it aesthetically pleasing, where the actors will be seen as equal. However, the problem still remains and needs to be addressed soon. Promoting sexism is equally as bad as using it to make money. Regulating porn should aim at making sure that misogyny and degrading treatment have no place in pornography, since sexual intecourse should only be between equals, not a master and an object, in this case, women, and the way they are treated.
Analyzing and realizing the purposes and harmful influences of the porn industry can take time to digest. However, we need to understand the reasons why women (mostly women in difficult financial situations) enter this industry, the harm it’s causing them, how it’s perpetuating many harmful systems and oppressions, its role in misogyny and abuse, and what we can do to change all of this. We need to raise awareness to the things porn industry is causing and how big and lucrative it is. We need to reclaim human sexuality.
- Documentary: Pornland – How the Porn Industry Has Hijacked Our Sexuality: http://stoppornculture.org/2014/09/24/pornland-how-the-porn-industry-has-hijacked-our-sexuality-a-documentary-trailer/
- 25 Facts about Porn: http://list25.com/25-shocking-facts-about-porn/1/
- Porn data from the ex porn star Shelley Lubben website: https://www.shelleylubben.com/stats
- Anti-porn activist Gail Dines’ website: http://gaildines.com/