Porn Degrades Women

MYTH: “Porn Degrades Women”

For most people, the idea of a woman being shamed, degraded or sexually harmed for someone’s viewing pleasure is not acceptable, nor arousing.

This is especially true for porn viewers. However, a frequent accusation is that watching porn, participating in porn, and creating porn are all facets of directly degrading – devaluing – women in a sexual context. As the Internet gives us freer access to find out what the lives of porn performers are like, how they think and feel, and the same for manufacturers and consumers of pornography (of all genders and orientations), it is difficult to believe this very old myth holds water in commercially available porn.

Some people have strong convictions around pornography and women, and believe that graphic erotic images of women are harmful, from cartoons to “tube”-style videos — regardless of the participation level of the woman in the imagery, or the intent of the viewer. Another perspective sees porn as an industry that forces women, physically, emotionally or economically into sexual slavery. After all, no woman would voluntarily do something like that. Nor would any woman like it. Or would she?

People who make statements saying that porn (all porn, including feminist and homemade porn) degrades women are making a lot of assumptions about the people in porn, and the people watching it. And no one is asking the women in the “degrading” images how they feel about it. What does “degrading” mean? It means to lower, make inferior, drag down moral character.

Porn degrades women if a woman’s only inherent value is measured by sex

So, whose standards are we talking about here, if we’re saying a woman’s value is measured by sex?

* This posits as fact that the woman is ashamed of what she is doing — or she should be.

* This claims that she isn’t enjoying it, or that women as a class can’t, don’t or should not be allowed to enjoy certain kinds of sex.

* This states that penetrative sex makes you less than human, and a helpless victim.

* This states that the viewer is always male (and always non-gay).

Degradation is in the eye of the beholder. To say that you feel degraded by seeing women behaving in graphic ways (in ways specifically offensive to you), that is reasonable and you should not see things that make you uncomfortable.

Being tolerant and supporting female sexual expression that is different that yours does not mean that you have to like everything. Don’t look at, send traffic to, or condone things that make you feel this way.

It’s important to note that pornography does not negatively impact the mental health of those who view and enjoy it. An academic study last year examined in Psychology Today – Pornography: Beneficial or Detrimental? – looked at the impact of consuming porn on the psycho-sexual health of individuals. Did it make them feel inadequate, victimized, insecure? These issues were among the researchers’ questions:

In their survey of 688 young Danish adults (men = 316; women = 372), Hald and Malamuth found that respondents construed the viewing of hardcore pornography as beneficial to their sex lives, their attitudes towards sex, their perceptions and attitudes towards members of the opposite sex, toward life in general, and over all. The obtained beneficial effects were statistically significant for all but one measure across both sexes. Now here is the kicker: A positive correlation was obtained between the amount of hardcore pornography that was viewed and the impact of the benefits reaped. This positive correlation was found for both sexes. In other words, the more that one watched porn, the stronger the benefits (for both sexes).

Women must be free and able to decide for themselves

At the same time, it is impossible to know how other people are feeling or reacting to what you are seeing. There are women who are having the opposite reaction to yours. And it is doubly impossible, unless you ask them, to know if the women in the porn you are seeing are being degraded by what they are doing.

You cannot make decisions for other women. Find out the story behind what you are seeing before you decide to tell that person’s story — or you risk being wrong, or worse.

Each individual must be allowed to decide what is healthy for her or him: no one else can decide that for you, or another person. And remember: many porn performers are successful because they make their work look like it’s not a job.

Contrary to the popular fables about pimps and helpless, lost little girls who need someone to save them; today’s porn performers are feminist-identified, strong-minded CEO’s of their own multi-million dollar companies. And they do not appreciate being labeled “degraded.”

A 2012 study has put to bed the perception that female porn stars have low self-esteem, have been sexually abused as children and are less psychologically healthy compared with other women. The study, which was published in the Journal of Sex Research, said it found no evidence to support the “damaged goods hypothesis” that actresses involved in the porn industry come from abusive backgrounds. Rather, the researchers found the women have higher self-esteem, a better quality of life and body image, and are more positive, with greater levels of spirituality.

Here’s the study: The damaged goods hypothesis posits that female performers in the adult entertainment industry have higher rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), psychological problems, and drug use compared to the typical woman. The present study compared the self-reports of 177 porn actresses to a sample of women matched on age, ethnicity, and marital status. These findings did not provide support for the damaged goods hypothesis.

The statement that porn degrades women completely discounts the experience of gay men — and there is a huge worldwide gay porn industry. If all porn degrades all women, then who does gay porn degrade? By the same token, who is degraded by genderqueer or feminist porn?

In fact, the roles of women have been greatly distorted by opportunistic media reports. Now that the internet allows us access to women’s voices and stories, we get first-person confrontations about what women do and experience in porn – and we can decide for ourselves. In The Las Vegas Weekly, Feminists Gone Wild: A Response to Gail Dines by Lynn Comella tells us firsthand what the changing landscape for women is like in porn:

(…) As scholar Shira Tarrant notes in a recent review of Pornland, Dines fails to address counterevidence that might complicate her story of porn. According to Tarrant, “Dines is silent about feminist porn. She presumes that women who watch are coerced by the men in their lives or duped by a culture that rewards women for exploiting themselves.” Dines omits any discussion of queer and gay porn, and makes broad claims about porn’s hold on men’s psyches that are difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

(…) Had Dines actually been in Vegas and attended the women’s seminar this year, she might have learned a thing or two about the women’s market for sex toys and pornography, including the fact that female entrepreneurs have helped bring a concern with quality products, sex education, ethical porn production and alternative sexual imagery to the adult industry. Overlooking these things or, worse, pretending they don’t exist is like narrating a history of college athletics without any mention of Title IX.

More than just a niche, the women’s market has been at the forefront of adult industry trends for the past decade. Feminist porn producer Tristan Taormino, who directs her own line of films for Vivid Entertainment, the biggest porn company in the world, is a case in point. Taormino is a multiple AVN Award winner. She prioritizes safe, respectful and positive work environments, which includes collaborating with performers about whom they want to work with and what their scenes will consist of. Her films feature hot and sweaty sex, female orgasms and, yes, genuine intimacy. (…)

The stories from, about and by performers are even more interesting, and reveal that the idea of degradation is one largely assigned by the viewer – typically, viewers who prefer their sexualized females to be victims. Read more and decide for yourself: and be sure to read the writing of women speaking for themselves, and life in the current porn industry. Start with Sex for money, not love: hardcore performer Lorelei Lee explains the difference.

2 Responses to Porn Degrades Women

  1. tintagel_xo says:

    I believe women in the present porn industry enjoy being seen naked and having sex on camera. The advent of the internet has clearly demonstrated the girls entering today’s Jizz Biz are intelligent, or every day next-door types who embrace the work. Porn is now thankfully so mainstream it undermines the arguments of degradation. While I am not advocating adult recruiters show up at your daughter’s high school on “career day”, a decision to enter the porn industry should not be discouraged either. We now have had several decades of sex education in the schools which I believe have also help lessened the unfair stigma attached to porn. To the contrary; as a male, the more I watch porn, the more I admire, value and respect the opposite sex.

  2. Andrea says:

    I’d like to say that when it comes to gay porn, whether male or female, they are the same gender and therefore more equal in their emotions. Heterosexual hardcore pornography can give a more humiliating image to women, if not all the time, often enough. I saw some where the women are being insulted, given names like they were just objects, and I find it really offensive. I asked some men what they thought about this and did agree with this opinion, while they found gay porn more tender, which is interesting indeed.
    I met some perverted men holding disgusting views on women as a result and that is completely wrong and disturbing, if you ask me. Although I find tasteful erotic movies enjoyable, I am not sure hardcore is such a good thing, unfortunately…
    Now I don’t want to criticize or judge, as long as everyone involved is respectful towards each other no matter the scenario they are following for their performance, my concern is how the majority of men feel towards women while watching these.

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