I distinctly remember the first time I ever saw porn. I was in middle school and I barely understood what sex was, let alone was I interested in partaking in anything remotely sexual. A boy in my class had pulled it up on his phone. He and his friends laughed hysterically in the back of classroom as two fists shoved their way inside an anal cavity. I remember being disgusted and looking away as a crowd of preteens gathered in curiosity.
What I don’t remember, is being confused as to why the woman in the video seemed to be in visible and audible pain and somehow that was OK. Because, while I didn’t understand the intricacies of sex, I did understand that it was something that happened to women — for men.
The porn industry promotes this kind of thinking. It furthers the notion that women are sexual beings only to the extent that men want them to be. We exist purely for the pleasure of others and, in the process, are brutalized, overly sexualized and demeaned.
It has become almost universally socially accepted that men, specifically young men, consume porn at excessive rates. Because it is so normalized, this is often many people’s first exposure to sex and people spend hours online viewing pornography before ever actually engaging in any sexual acts themselves.
Being introduced to sex through porn allows the online world to write the norms of sexual culture. Men begin to expect what they view online to be reflected in their actual sex life. Porn is not only seeping into our own sex lives, but it is determining what they should be.
The porn industry is produced by men, for men. It is important to understand that an entire industry that only uses women and does not in any way reflect their wants, needs or images of themselves is not one that is beneficial to society. This is shown in the kinds of porn men tend to consume — porn that features female subordination, as well as violence. Then, they categorize that violence by race, age and body parts, which is the ultimate degradation.
It certainly isn’t a huge jump in the social sphere to assume or acknowledge that young men watching porn are seeing women branded as sluts, bitches and whores, while violence committed against them is accepted as mainstream. This ultimately leads to those men not only believing that their sex lives should mirror that of the modern male porn star, but that they are justified in disrespecting and even hurting women.
The evidence that porn consumption does ultimately lead to violence, rape and murder continues to grow. This violence should not exist online, but if it is going to exist in the depths of the internet, it is naive to believe that it will not be amplified in real life.
I reject the notion that porn depicts sexually liberated women, because if it did more women would watch it. The reality is that porn perpetuates a view of women not as sexual beings, but as means to a pleasurable end.
I don’t believe the solution is to ban porn, as restricting sexual depictions would undoubtedly have effects on art, culture and necessary conversations. I instead advocate for an acknowledgment that porn should not be socially accepted and will inevitably have adverse effects on the ways in which women are perceived and treated. To continue to watch porn is to ignore women in sexual culture.