One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Porn and Society: a domestic violence perspective September 7, 2010

Filed under: domestic violence,porn — Johnson Intern @ 2:16 pm
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In her new book, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality, author Gail Dines takes aim at the porn industry’s recent shift towards so-called “gonzo porn,” a shockingly brutal and misogynistic genre that is marketed exclusively to heterosexual men. Initially a niche market, the advent of the internet has propelled gonzo porn into the mainstream, supplanting so-called “feature porn,” generally favored by women and couples.  From a DV perspective, this shift is significant in two ways.  First:  gonzo porn’s effect on women; specifically the way it shapes society’s treatment and expectations of women—and the pressures placed on women to meet these demands in real life.  Second,  perhaps most concerning from a DV perspective, is gonzo porn’s effect on its male consumers, and its ability to skew the perceptions and expectations of men in unrealistic, unhealthy, and potentially dangerous directions.

Both shifts stem from the fact that porn producers are already forced to become more and more “creative” in an increasingly saturated—and desensitized—market, and the fact that pornographers frequently find themselves in a “race to the bottom,” producing ever more sordid,  and violent, images in order to remain competitive.  This “race to the bottom” has the effect of creating unhealthy social perceptions of what is considered desirable and acceptable behavior.  And when a society becomes numb to brutal and demeaning images, it can also become numbed (and “normed”) to brutal and degrading behaviors. From a DV perspective, this is significant, because once a society begins treating manipulation and degradation as not only normal, but a form of “erotic entertainment,” there is little to stop such attitudes from morphing into an actual tolerance for real violence, rape, and abuse.

Dines is quick to point out, however, that she has little patience for the tired, histrionic position that “porn causes rape”  argument. Rather, much like how racist themes in pop culture reinforce racist stereotypes in society, so too does sensationalist gonzo porn create increased pressure on women “to conform to the porn-style expectations of their boyfriends and hook-up partners”—even at the expense of their own sexual and emotional fulfillment.  This is attitude is particularly dangerous, because it often discourages victims of real abuse from seeking help, or even recognizing that a relationship has become violent and abusive. And once women become accustomed to–or even expectant of–abuse as a normal or  “erotic” behavior, individuals who perpetrate such abuses can continue to do so.

Dines also notes a similar effect in men, as pervasive porn use is not only habit-forming, but also alters their own perceptions of realistic expectations and appropriate interpersonal behaviors—both for women, and for themselves:

“Whether it was their inability to bring their girlfriends to a screaming orgasm, their need to conjure up porn images in order to reach orgasm themselves, their ‘too small’ penis, or their tendency to ejaculate ‘too quickly,’ [men are] using porn sex as their yardstick—and they all failed to measure up.”

This is of particular interest because studies show that poor self-esteem in men, combined with romantic/sexual frustrations and an inability to socialize, are all strongly correlated with an increased tendency towards manipulative and abusive social behaviors.  And while not necessarily a predictor of violence, frequent and recurrent sexual frustration and an inability to relate positively to women (all of which could be seen as a consequence of skewed “porn-style” expectations) have also been correlated with a propensity towards violence, abuse and sexual misconduct.

Indeed, far from liberating individuals’ sexuality, Dines notes how pornography impairs both sexes’ ability to form healthy, lasting relationships in many ways. As Dines puts it:

“The porn industry doesn’t just have contempt for women; it also has little respect for men and their desires for non-exploitative sex, intimacy and connection. Not only has porn distorted men’s relations with women, but it also has affected their sense of themselves as good people who care about social justice and basic human dignity.”

Thus, in addition to relegating women’s social status to that of sexual commodity, Pornland illustrates how porn not only desensitizes individuals and society towards exploitation and victimization, but actually pressures women to conform to these behaviors as both appropriate, and to be expected.  Additionally, it promotes unhealthy behaviors and attitudes in men, specifically the notions that sexual exploitation, violence and manipulation are normal, “manly,” and erotic, in addition to other unrealistic expectations that promote a poor image of self, and even poorer images of women.

Taken together, these phenomena place undue stress and anxiety on both men and women, and have the ultimate effect of creating a toxic social/sexual landscape that is mutually-frustrating at best, and potentially dangerous at worst.

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One Response to “Porn and Society: a domestic violence perspective”

  1. marco Says:

    Sorry, what does DV stand for?


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