Why is porn so pervasive?

As a ‘modern’ feminist, I struggle to reconcile a lot of my beliefs with things that are becoming increasingly normalised in society. I have never been as hardcore as my parents, and I respect them for their proactive anti-misogyny, traditional feminism and cult pro-womenness (I am aware I am making up words here… but who cares?). Recently I have been thinking about how I feel about my role as a woman, and about society more generally. I find myself acting mum in my house and I dislike that. I don’t want to be the kind of person that cleans up after people and eventually gets taken for granted. And yet I can’t deny that I cannot live in a pigsty. This is one place where my politics fail me.

Speaking to female friends about the normalisation of porn made me think about this. Men of my generation grow up surrounded by images of women in pornography – and expect to from a young age. It is an unspoken truth, and acceptable amongst most (not all) young men and boys, that porn is a rite of passage. Previously I have argued that pornography depicting consensual sex between two adults can be acceptable, perhaps when viewed critically, but I am starting to veer from that stance. Although I would refute the claim that porn directly makes young boys demand sex from their female peers, as was postulated recently on a BBC radio programme, being continually exposed to unrealistic images of women will no doubt influence boys’ opinions and expectations of sex. It is the same with advertising. Already thin models are airbrushed to look even more ‘perfect’ based on society’s understanding of what that should be. This representation of women is bad for women themselves, who are made to feel inadequate, and for men, who, consciously or unconsciously, expect women to look like this unattainable vision of ‘perfection’.

Porn among my generation is taken as a given. We live in the age of the Internet, where anyone can find almost any kind of pornography anywhere and any time, despite their age. Google has launched a new ‘incognito’ function to their browser, which essentially allows people to watch porn without their partners (usually) finding out. This is pretty overt, despite not being specifically mentioned. Buying someone’s birthday present without them knowing what it is, my arse. Why is this acceptable? Why is it OK to watch sculpted people having pretty graphic encounters? And why is it mostly men? Looking at advertising or pornographic depictions of women makes me feel awful about myself, and I’m sure a plethora of other women would agree. Yet there seems to be no comparable reaction among men. This makes me think that perhaps it is because pornography is essentially propagating a misogynistic portrayal of women, who are often shown to be submissive, objectified, and disposable. This is reflected in popular culture – the lyrics to some songs make me feel pretty bad about myself too. Humiliated even. You shouldn’t have to tune out the lyrics when you’re listening to something because what they are saying is horrible. Music is to be enjoyed. Take

Beyoncé, for example, who has described herself as a ‘modern day feminist’. However, she has recently changed tack from ‘girls who rule the world’ recently to ‘bow down bitches’. Not something I would call particularly feminist.  Has Mrs. Carter, as she is now calling herself, perhaps been influenced too much by pop culture and social expectations following her marriage?

A few things have prompted me to think about my reaction to this image of women in society. I have long questioned my own body image, and my reaction to the way women are shown in the media. I realise I am a classic example of how such representations of women in society have negatively affected young women. I am 20, and have grown up with a hugely sexualised media, readily available information on the Internet, and feminist politics. And yet, I would consider myself a casualty – I am aware that my notion of beauty is entirely warped, but at least I recognise it. I wish I could change my own perceptions, but no matter how hard I try, the seed is sown, and is reinforced every time I look at advertising, or walk through a city centre, or am on the Internet. I am starting to think that it is not only the media, but also porn, that is to blame. It acts as an underground reinforcement to unhealthy notions of what women should be, and my mind is at least set on that one.

 

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About shakkka

Londoner, climate scientist, extremist. All views are my own.

2 responses to “Why is porn so pervasive?”

  1. Sandy says :

    “Living Dolls” was written in reaction to the generalisation of porn, if you haven’t read it, do.
    http://m.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jan/31/living-dolls-natasha-walter

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