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5 Things Porn Labels as “Fetishes” That Are Actually Normal

Body types, body hair, relationship types—some of the most normal things about people are disproportionately represented and packaged as “fetish” genres in porn.

By September 3, 2021September 20th, 2021No Comments
TRIGGER WARNING
Content warning for brief descriptions of porn categories.

When it comes to sex and the human body, many people turn to porn as a primary educator when they have natural and valid questions and curiosities.

Studies show that most young people are exposed to porn by age 13, and according to a nationally representative survey of U.S. teens, 84.4% of 14 to 18-year-old males and 57% of 14 to 18-year-old females have viewed pornography.Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. J.Health Commun., 1-8. doi:10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980COPY  What’s consumed in porn is often processed as reality. One study shows that approximately 45% of teens who consumed porn did so in part to learn about sex.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCOPY  Similarly, survey results also show one in four 18 to 24-year-olds (24.5%) listed pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7COPY 

But what if the porn consumed, although specifically crafted and powerfully convincing, isn’t an accurate or representative depiction of real relationships and real people?

Related: 10 Things Porn Gets Completely Wrong About Real Sex

Among the many extreme genres or fetishes in pornography today, oddly enough, some of the most normal things about people are disproportionately represented and packaged as “fetish” genres.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of five completely normal things that porn fetishizes.

1. Body hair

Humanity has a weird relationship with body hair, and particularly with body hair on women.

Though body hair is natural, normal, and sometimes beneficial, it is a cultural norm in many cultures to remove most or all body hair, and the practice can be traced back to ancient Rome and Egypt.

Nonetheless, it was not a common practice in the modern era until the 20th century, when media like Playboy came onto the scene of our cultural landscape. In Playboy, the models went from hairy in the beginning, to completely clean-shaven. And as pornography began to switch from magazines to movies, and then to entire websites filled with videos and pictures, removal of body hair—particularly pubic hair—was necessary to achieve better “visibility” of sex acts.

Related: Porn Is Inspiring Teen Girls To Undergo This Invasive And Painful Cosmetic Surgery

Because of porn’s status as showing the “ideal” images of beauty and attractiveness and pornography’s widespread base of consumers, the general consensus in society on body hair completely plummeted.

Largely due to the influence of porn, body hair of any kind is commonly seen as “weird” or “gross,” and the thought has become it isn’t “normal” if someone keeps their body hair or if someone likes body hair.

Grooming habits are a wholly personal issue, and body hair or no body hair are both legitimate options. The issue isn’t body hair itself, but the cultural expectation that people, women especially, need to be hairless to be sexy.

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2. Interracial relationships

The porn industry didn’t invent racism, but it certainly profits from it and perpetuates racist stereotypes.

In pornography, people of color are rarely portrayed as the “norm” for a sexual encounter or relationship, unless it’s a fetishized scene.

In video titles, race is often mentioned when one or more of the performers is a person of color—which, in and of itself, is a signal that the porn industry is feeding into a cultural idea of “other-ness” by constantly labeling people of color by their race.

Related: Why Does The Porn Industry Get Away With Racist Portrayals Of Black People?

Unfortunately, the actual content of the videos goes even further than perpetuating harmful racial divides. Commonly, scenarios filled with racial stereotypes and slurs are sold as sexual entertainment across dozens of different mainstream porn sites.

Because of how the general pornography industry approaches race, specifically interracial relationships, they perpetuate the idea that these relationships are an “exotic” and “taboo” fetish. But this is blatant racism and dehumanization, and it’s not acceptable.

We should all care because no multi-billion dollar business should sidestep scrutiny after they play on and cash in on racially harmful images. The fact is, interracial relationships are not a fetish or a taboo, though porn sells them as such.

Related: How Mainstream Porn Normalizes Violence Against Black Women

3. Genital size/shape

In case you hadn’t noticed, mainstream media often sets the precedent for beauty standards. These norms of what’s attractive have been heavily influenced by pornography, and especially so when it comes to genitals.

But the average body often does not measure up to porn’s standards—and that is completely okay. Even if someone’s anatomy does measure up to porn’s standards, that’s okay, too. The issue is not with genital size or shape, but with the expectation that a vulva or penis needs to look a certain way to be the “sexy” ideal.

Like everything else with the human body, no two genitals will be alike. They exist in different sizes and shapes, and just because someone might not look like a porn performer doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. Pornography, of course, has set unrealistic standards for what genitals should look like: penises in porn are often circumcised and much larger than average, vulvas have little to no inner labia, and both are often trimmed or hairless like we mentioned before.

If genitals differ from these unrealistic standards, they are often labeled as a fetish—like “tiny penis humiliation” or uncircumcised porn categories, or “long labia fetish” videos.

Related: Uncovering The Trend Of Porn-Inspired Plastic Surgery For Men

The genital standards set by porn culture can create deep insecurities in consumers around body parts that are actually completely normal.

Having genitals that don’t look like a porn performer’s is very, very normal—but with the way porn disproportionately shows specific types of human genitalia, some average genitals have become fetishized.

Normal is not a fetish.

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4. Various body types

Just like with body hair and genitals, porn has shaped our culture’s unrealistically high standards for bodies in general.

Of course, pornography is not completely responsible for the issues our world has with body image and beauty, though it certainly perpetuates unrealistic standards.

Consider this: The standard female performer is of average height and average chest size, but is nearly 50 pounds lighter than the average American woman. Male performers are also of average height but are about 27 pounds lighter than the average American man.

Related: How My Porn Obsession Fueled My Self-Harming And Made Me Hate My Body

So what does this tell us? We know this goes without saying, but the people in pornography are not representative of all people, and definitely not of all body types. But as long as porn is regarded as the sexual ideal in our culture, it will influence consumers’ sexual and physical expectations.

By featuring similar body types in porn, and while porn is considered the sexual “ideal” in our culture, diverse body types can be fetishized or else seen as “unattractive” or “gross.”

Porn sells the idea that large women and thin men are fetishes, and that their counterparts are the ideal—but body types can and should be loved, without being seen as less-than when in comparison to porn.

5. Marginalized minorities

In porn, marginalized individuals are often portrayed in very specific ways or made out to be objects or objects of a fetish rather than real, normal people who are deserving of love and respect just as they are.

For an industry that is often culturally thought of as being allied with the LGBTQ+ community, the mainstream porn industry’s depictions of LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships often make it seem like they are less interested in accurate representation and more interested in profiting at the expense of LGBTQ+ people.

Regardless of any diversifying factors, people do not deserve to be abused, fetishized, tokenized, misrepresented, or exploited for “entertainment.” It shouldn’t be societally normalized for any industry or medium to misrepresent, exploit, or fetishize LGBTQ+ folks and their relationships—yet the porn industry certainly does, and unfortunately often gets away with it.

Related: How Porn Can Misrepresent And Fetishize LGBTQ+ Individuals And Relationships

Porn producers, including many who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community, are creating content that they are promoting as being catered to an LGBTQ+ audience—though the content itself often misrepresents LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships, promotes derogatory terms, and is generally intended for a cisgender, heterosexual audience.

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For example, in “lesbian” porn, exaggerated and inaccurate caricatures of female same-sex relationships are the focus of an objectifying fantasy in these videos. These “girl on girl” scenes aim to fetishize a sexual orientation and play up stereotypes that often misrepresent what lesbian relationships are truly like.

Portraying a person’s sexual orientation as a fetish is a dehumanizing misrepresentation.

No one deserves to be abused, fetishized, or tokenized—regardless of any diversifying factors. It’s unacceptable for the mainstream porn industry to exploit LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships for “entertainment.”

Related: 5 Marginalized Groups Of People Porn Has No Problem Fetishizing

You are normal, even if the porn world says you’re a fetish

Long story short, porn is not the gold standard when it comes to bodies, sexuality, and relationships.

We know many consumers don’t approach porn with the mentality that it portrays reality accurately. Still, it’s worth mentioning that the unrealistic fantasies and ideas it portrays are still toxic when viewed even just for entertainment purposes. And again, consider that survey results also show one in four 18 to 24-year-olds (24.5%) listed pornography as the most helpful source to learn how to have sex.Rothman, E. F., Beckmeyer, J. J., Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2021). The Prevalence of Using Pornography for Information About How to Have Sex: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey of U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 50(2), 629–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01877-7COPY  Included in that low-quality education about how sex works are unrealistic body standards, too.

Related: 10 Things Porn Gets Completely Wrong About Real Sex

To put it simply, porn sells harmful misinformation regarding sex and what’s “normal” for people. You deserve better than the standards porn sets and the bodies and relationships that are often labeled as “fetishes” rather than normalized.

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