How do pornographic images shape gender and sexual identity? Sociologist and author Gail Dines answers this question in her TED Talk “Growing Up in a Pornified Culture.”
Today people live in an image-based society and no longer in a print-based society like some decades ago. In an article published in Details magazine, entitled “How Internet porn is changing teen sex,” pornographer Joanna Angel says: “The girls these days just seem to come to the set porn-ready.” In other words, the culture is socializing young girls to be ready for pornography whether they ever end up in a porn site or not. They have been taught to hypersexualize and pornify themselves.
When you look at the hypersexualized images surrounding us, from ads to magazine covers and music videos, they all come down to the image of a sexy, good-looking young woman. Since every image has a viewer in mind, who is the target here and what message is this kind of image sending out? The answer is simple. It targets men, and the message is: fuck me.
So, before a male growing up in this culture can even speak, he’s surrounded by images of females offering themselves to him. As for young girls, when they are developing their sexual identity, they learn they have two choices: they’re either fuckable or invisible. A girl then will most likely go for fuckable in order to fit in and feel appreciated.
The second factor in the culture that plays a big role for boys, of course, is porn itself. As society moved from print porn to online porn, everything changed. Here’s another quote from Details magazine: “There is an entire generation of young people who think sex ends with a money shot to the face.” In case you don’t know, money shot is ejaculation on the face—and just for the record, it can give the woman sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea in the eye.
The Internet made pornography accessible, affordable and anonymous, the 3 As that drive demand. According to The Huffington Post, in 2013 porn sites were already getting more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry backed up by other industries such as hospitality, IT and credit card services. Corporations traditionally not associated with porn are behind its distribution.
A study analyzing 300 porn scenes showed that 90% of the top watched scenes contained at least one aggressive act of physical and/or verbal abuse against the woman. Dines typed the word porn into a search engine to see what would come up for a boy seeking porn for the first time. Here’s what she found in a few seconds, with free access to anyone: “The major act on virtually all websites is gagging,” Dines explains. “This is when the men puts the penis so far down her throat that she gags almost to the point of vomiting. They put a lot of mascara on her face so that she’s actually tearing and you can see the rivulets of mascara running down. As she’s chocking, he grabs her hair, pulls her towards him and says, ‘Look at me.’ This is a kind of sexual psychopath. When you think that porn is a major form of sex ed, think about what’s gonna happen to the next generation of boys, most of whom are brought up on hardcore mainstream Internet porn.”
A 12-year old boy that seeks porn on the Internet for the first time is certainly not thinking about gagging. But the text that goes along with the images teaches him this is what he enjoys if he wants to be a man. Here’s what a popular site advocates: “Do you know what we say to things like romance and foreplay? We say fuck off. We take gorgeous young bitches and do what every man would REALLY like to do. We gag them til their makeup starts running … And then we give them the sticky bath.”
The next constant scene the boy is going to see is violent pounding anal sex. The promotional copy for the video Annally Ripped Whores, for example, goes like this: “We at Pure Filth know exactly what you want. Chicks being ass-fucked till their sphincters are pink, puffy and totally blown out. Adult diapers just might be in store for these whores when their work is done.” This is the violence present in regular mainstream porn, as Gail Dines points out. An introduction to sex that is disturbing and traumatizing to young boys.
A standard scene is one woman and three men performing oral, vaginal and anal penetration, pulling her hair, squeezing her neck, spitting on her face and calling her names. Women are dehumanized and become bitches, whores, sluts: insatiable objects with a set of holes whose only purpose is to pleasure males, and which men are entitled to use and abuse at will. Porn literally refers to women as “meatholes.” When men no longer see women as human beings just like themselves, all empathy is gone.
This is the sex education today across the world. Dines quotes decades of research showing that the younger boys get to porn, the more it limits their capacity for intimacy, the more it decreases their empathy for rape victims, the more it fuels depression and anxiety, and more likely they are to engage in distorted sexual behavior. Those boys will become our doctors, judges and teachers one day. Think about that.
It’s already happening in fact. In her TED Talk about rape culture, Brynne Thomas exposes what goes on in campuses. Both male and female students already reflect a rape culture in their daily language. For example, rape has become a synonym for something difficult, so they say they were ”raped” by a tough exam. And there’s more. Students at Miami University published a collection of jokes entitled How to Get Away with Rape. A chant in Yale included “No means yes, and yes means anal.“ And at Saint Mary’s, this is the chant sang by a large group of students to welcome hundreds of newcomers: “Y is for your sister, O is for oh-so-tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent…”
Don’t try this at home
We have a whole generation of boys desensitized. They need more stimulation to get aroused. Torture, rape, and sex with minors are common themes used for that end. Porn director Jules Jordan, one of the most hardcore in the world, says: “So many fans want to see so much more extreme stuff that I’m always trying to figure out ways to do something differently.” Pornographer Mitchell Spinelli explains that “People want more. They want to know how many dicks you can shove up an ass. It’s like Fear Factor meets Jackass. Make it more hard, make it more nasty, make it more relentless.”
Now mind you: when porn portrays violence against women, rape and pedophilia, it doesn’t matter if it’s just a “performance.” It’s still selling the notion that those acts are not only okay but exciting, pleasurable and desirable. That doesn’t mean all men are going to torture, rape and become pedophiles because they watch porn; but they get used to the idea and start to regard it as normal.
It’s not such a large stretch from thinking something is normal to acting upon it.
The brains of pornography consumers are being wired to associate sexual pleasure with causing pain to a woman. This association gets deeply ingrained in the brain because users are actively interacting with porn through masturbation and orgasm. Here’s AC Cream’s comment in an adult DVD forum with recommendations of titles centered in “painful ass fuckin”: “The most painful scene I’ve ever seen is Gang-Bang Auditions #3 from Diabolic. The scene with Aspen Brock … The guys start asking her questions like ‘You like that dick in you ass?’, but she is in such pain her answers are hard to understand. She tried to say something like ‘I looooove iiiit’, but then the tears started flowing … A porn chick not handling dick gave me major Bone-age.” In another thread, user mehlub92 says, “I am looking for clips or movies in which the pornstar in real breaks down and starts to cry, e.g. Taylor Rain in meatholes.”
This short video brings us clips of interviews with male users. They say they learn about sex through porn, they want to try out with their girlfriends the acts they see and may even force themselves on the girls. Some think porn teaches them what turns on a woman.
Let’s see what pornstar Kelly Shibari has to say about that: “If you tried porn sex at home, nobody would have an orgasm. The point of porn sex—well, most porn sex—is showing repetitive penetration in positions that never actually touch sexually pleasurable spots.”
Journalist and male sex educator Michael Castleman explains porn actresses moan in the throes of supposed passion but rarely have orgasms. “Porn is male fantasy. It has no interest in women’s sexual satisfaction. With its rushed, mechanical, nonsensual sex, it’s a rare woman who could come. No wonder so many men are in the dark about women’s orgasms and erotic satisfaction.”
On my next post, I’ll show what happens when a group of die-hard porn fans visit a real set to watch live action featuring a trio of female performers. You don’t want to miss that! Let’s find out what turns these girls on.