FF 2016 Day 12: Porn

This post contains descriptions of sexual violence and rape, which may be upsetting and disturbing. Please take care while reading.

Sexual objectification and violence in porn
Effects of porn use
The porn industry: who wants in?
‘What about the good porn?’

 

Porn is now a part of life: it’s incredibly accessible and has been widely normalised. There is a vast range of genres and subthemes (including ‘Woman Friendly,’ which should tell you something about porn as a whole). The post is going to look at the state of the porn industry and the effects of porn both on consumers and those involved in its production.

 

Sexual objectification and violence in porn – on screen and in the making

Of 304 scenes analysed, a 2010 study found that 88.2% of scenes in the most popular porn videos contained physical aggression, the aggression being carried out against a woman in 94.4% of cases. In 2014, abuse porn websites averaged 60 million hits. This is mainstream porn: violence against women, made into sex. Women in porn are sexually objectified to the most extreme level- porn tends to focus almost entirely on male pleasure- and are degraded and dehumanised through verbal and physical abuse.

One argument which is often used is that this is alright as long as the women in the videos consents to being treated this way. The thing is, even if an individual woman in a particular video enjoys being objectified, abused or degraded, her enjoyment isn’t the product on sale. The product is the video of a woman being degraded, and the person getting off on that content doesn’t know or care whether she enjoyed it. The titles of the most popular videos and genres of porn show us that consumer demand is overwhelmingly for the abuse and exploitation of women.
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“One of the more popular sites is literally called “ExploitedTeens.com.” The “consensual adults” line pushed on us by liberal media is laughable when you acknowledge what it is that consumers really want: exploited, non-consenting, underage girls who are not enjoying the acts inflicted on them. They don’t want empowered adult women. Men don’t look at porn to see sexually liberated, powerful women.”

–  Documentary Hot Girls Wanted

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“None of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality. The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men, especially if that desire involves the women’s physical and emotional degradation.”

Chris Hedges

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On popular porn sites, you find the rape category next to the abuse category and the humiliation category. Producers acknowledge that there is a demand for this kind of violent content and do their best to supply;  porn producer Bill Margold makes this explicitly clear, saying “I’d really like to show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that.”
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“To keep the legions of easily bored male viewers aroused, porn makers produce videos that are increasingly violent and debasing. Extreme Associates, which specializes in graphic rape scenes, along with JM Productions, promotes the very real pain endured by women on its sets. JM Productions pioneered “aggressive throat fucking” or “face fucking” videos such as the “Gag Factor” series, in which women gag and often vomit. It ushered in “swirlies,” in which the male performer dunks the woman’s head into a toilet after sex and then flushes. The company promises, “Every whore gets the swirlies treatment. Fuck her, then flush her.””

Chris Hedges

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This isn’t just about the sexual objectification of women through the images porn produces, or the way it affects women in everyday life by sexualising violent misogyny; the violence and objectification in the porn industry are very real, and many women have spoken out about the abuse they were subjected to within the industry.

One thing which demonstrates without doubt the cruelty women face in the porn industry is the fact that the breakdowns of women “behind the scenes” have become a genre of their own. Porn websites have turned videos of women vomiting, having panic attacks or mental breakdowns, or bursting into tears, into another form of “entertainment.”

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Effects of porn use

Representation has been mentioned several times so far in this project- it’s not exactly contentious to say that all groups deserve realistic and positive media representation. 70% of men aged 18-28 regularly visit porn sites, and so they’re regularly seeing women represented to them as sex objects being physically and verbally abused in the name of sex. Just like we acknowledge that unrealistic beauty standards in advertising or movies have a negative effect, we need to acknowledge that this kind of representation is also harmful.

A meta-analysis of 46 published research studies, with a total sample size of 12,323 people, on the effects of porn use on sexual perpetration, attitudes regarding intimate relationships, and attitudes regarding rape myths found that exposure to porn puts one at increased risk for committing sexual offenses, experiencing difficulties in one’s intimate relationships, and accepting rape myths (i.e. beliefs that trivialize rape or blame the victim for the crime). They found an average 22% increase in sexual offence perpetration, a 20% increase in negative intimate relationships, and a 31% increase in believing rape myths. Another meta-analysis examined 30 different studies with a total of 2,040 participants and found that exposure to pornography increases behavioral aggression.

Exposure to porn has been found to produce:

  • Greater acceptance of violence against women
  • More self-reported likelihood of rape and forced sex acts
  • Greater likelihood of actually forcing a woman sexually or committing rape
  • Creating more sexually violent fantasies in order to become aroused
  • Increased engagement in sexual harassment behaviours
  • Increased estimates of how often other people engage in violent sex

In this video, Gary Wilson talks about the physical and mental effects of porn use for men, including addiction and sexual dysfunction:
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Porn use has also been found to produce self-objectification and anxiety in girls and women; requests for labiaplasty have tripled in just over a decade in young women aged 15-24, largely due to the unrealistic body standards promoted by porn. Girls feel pressure to undergo ‘Brazilian’ waxing, as the hairless bodies of porn stars have become seen as the norm. Use of online porn is providing a sex education for young boys and girls which presents a warped idea of sexuality; this is increasingly resulting in injury to girls through porn-inspired sex.

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The porn industry: who wants in?

Statistically: very few women. Many ex-porn stars have spoken out about the coercion and exploitation which is everywhere in the porn industry. Unsurprisingly, those women who have managed to leave the industry are those more likely to be vocal about its harms- women currently in the industry are much less likely to speak out about problems, as biting the hand that pays you isn’t a good survival tactic in any industry, let alone one which relies on coercion for so much of its “supply.”

Many women in the industry, and organisations who work with survivors, have also spoken out about the huge prevalence of substance abuse among porn stars, most testimonies stating that this is usually needed just to cope with the trauma of the “job.” This isn’t just physical injury, but mental trauma- the percentage of women in the sex industry with PTSD is the same as (and in some places, higher than) the percentage of veterans of combat war with PTSD.

  • “[Porn actresses] have high rates of substance abuse, typically alcohol and cocaine… [many] have to be drunk, high or dissociated in order to go to work.” – Dr. Mary Anne Layden
  • “Almost all, if not all the girls, go to their shoots high on something. Whether it’s painkillers, weed, ecstasy, or cocaine. So that’s why when people watch [porn] it looks like the performers are having a blast but in reality they’re just dissociated and don’t even want to be there.” – Jessie Rogers, ex-porn star (link goes to video)
  • “People in the porn industry are numb to real life and are like zombies walking around.” – Jessie Jewel, ex-porn star

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The porn industry today, as part of a vast and sprawling sex industry, relies on sex trafficking to meet demand. An overwhelming amount of porn being made today involves teenage girls, which is trafficking by definition. There are 116,000 searches for child pornography made online every day, and 100,000 websites which offer illegal child porn. In a study across nine countries, 89% of women in the sex industry stated that they wanted to escape the industry but had no other means of survival. It’s not a free choice if you don’t have any other choice.

As well as physical coercion, economic coercion, intimidation and blackmail are all prevalent in the porn industry as means of exploitation.
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“You know, most of these films are made in private locations, and private mansions, or hotel rooms where’s there’s no government access. So it’s like two young girls, 18, 19, 20-year-old girls on a mostly older male set. The producer’s male, the crew’s male…so of course, we’re intimidated into doing scenes we don’t wanna do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve showed up and they said, ‘You need to do this scene,’ [and] I said, ‘No, that’s not what my agent said,’ or ‘That’s not what I was told to do,’ and they’re like, ‘Well, you’re gonna do it or we’re not gonna pay you, we’re going to sue you.’ And now with the Internet they tell the girls, ‘If you don’t do this scene, we’re going to send your porn to your family members, we’re gonna ruin your reputation, you’re never gonna work again, we’re gonna take away your finances, we’re gonna physically hurt you,’ or they threaten to sue them. This is sex trafficking. Every porn star has been trafficked at least at one time or another in the porn industry.”

Shelley Lubben, ex-porn star (8 years in the industry)

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Coercion doesn’t allow for free, enthusiastic consent. And here is the thing: you cannot know which porn is filmed under coercion. There’s no label, no sticker, no ‘Fairtrade’ sign which tells you that what you’re watching is free of exploitation or coercion, nothing to show you what is happening off-screen.

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‘What about the good porn?’

Throughout this post I’ve been referring to mainstream porn, the porn which exist in vast quantities, mostly online, and which statistically speaking most men (and a lot of women) are watching. A lot of arguments I’ve seen in defence of the porn industry refer to hypothetical ‘good porn’- porn that could be made one day, or perhaps has been made, by empowered and egalitarian men and women, without coercion or objectification. A few times I’ve heard claims that the ‘good porn’ could be a sex education tool. I’ve been told personally several times that activism against the porn industry is oppressive of those porn stars who enter the industry enthusiastically and enjoy what they do.

My problem with all versions of the ‘good porn’ argument is that it seems a lot like someone looking at a factory which is on fire, pointing to the one small room which is not currently on fire, and saying that it’s oppressive to evacuate all the workers, because not all of them are in danger and they’re enjoying their work.

“Not all porn” sounds suspiciously like another phrase we seem to hear a lot these days.
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“When someone complains that anti-porn activists only focus on “the bad parts”, what they’re really saying is that somewhere “good parts” exist, and that an ethical judgment about the value of the pornography industry cannot be made without considering those “good parts” and weighing them. […] And with that in mind, let’s ask: What do pro-porn folks have to hang on the other side of the scale, balancing out this endless stream of brutality, abuse, humiliation, and hurt? […]

When you take someone on a tour through the endless parade of dead-eyed cruelty that is the modern pornography industry, and their first response is to criticize you for only focusing on the bad parts and ignoring the good parts, what they’re really saying is simply, Yeah, that’s true, but maybe her rape was worth it.”

Jonah Mix

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Supporting the porn industry for the sake of the small minority of people enjoying what they do just isn’t justifiable. No one has a right to orgasms (or even a right to do something they feel is empowering) which outweighs other people’s right to safety from coercion, abuse and rape.

 

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