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Does Porn Normalize Gender Stereotypes and Sexist Ideas?

By September 7, 2018 No Comments

Take a second and picture a healthy relationship based on mutuality, equality, and respect, where both individuals are free from negative or confining stereotypes.

When you think of these people, do you think the following ideas are the focus in their relationship?

Women are stupid and easily manipulated. Men should call the shots in any sexual scenario. Belief that women are only good for making sandwiches and sex. Belief that men are only good at domination and being rough. Women are ready to have sex at any moment with any man regardless of his personality.

Our guess is that we might hear a resounding “no,” that these themes don’t depict what we could imagine for the vibe of a healthy, respectful, and mutual relationship. Sadly, these issues are found as the focus in mainstream porn videos and often seen by consumers regularly.

When we see the hardcore content of mainstream porn, we have to ask one thing: How does this influence the understanding people have of sex and sexism, and how does it affect our larger culture?

Hypersexualized stereotypes

Since the widespread availability of internet porn, you may have noticed how our culture has become more hypersexualized than ever before.

From movies and TV shows [1] to children’s toys and video games, [2] sexualization has increased in many areas of our culture that children and adults are immersed in. Culture is conforming to an industry that has made shocking and explicit material a norm for entertainment. This fact is made worse when you realize the research says that average age of exposure to pornography is 9-11 years old, and that 1 in 10 visits to hardcore porn sites is from someone under the age of 10.

A couple facets of our hypersexualized culture to consider are sexism and gender stereotypes. By age 10, gender stereotypes are established in the minds of children. These stereotypes, especially when pushed to the extreme, often include men being dominating, unemotional, aggressive, and controlling, and women being submissive, emotional, weak, and subordinate. When these gender stereotypes are conformed to, research shows that there can be increased violent behavior and risky behavior for boys and depression and exposure to violence for girls.

Related: Can Watching Porn Make Someone More Sexist?

Likewise, these gender stereotypes seen in our culture influence sexual identity for young men and women. Dr. Gail Dines, a sociologist and porn industry researcher and writer, discusses in her TEDx Talk how advertisements and hypersexualized media sell the message to boys that women exist to offer themselves up, and it sells a message to girls that they have a choice essentially to be sexy or be invisible.

When we think back to how the average age of exposure to porn is between 9-11 years old, which is also when gender stereotypes are generally cemented in the minds of children, we see young men and women thrown into our hypersexualized world without quite realizing what they’ve gotten themselves into.

WATCH: Dr. Gail Dines Discusses Porn, Sexualized Media, and What Teens are Learning

Trigger warning for language, descriptors of porn scenes, and suggestive images.

How porn often capitalizes on sexism and exaggerated gender stereotypes

Pornography as an industry feeds into sexism and gender stereotypes by taking the stereotyped traits for men and women and amplifying them tenfold. Remember those porn themes from the beginning of this article? We see men who emotionlessly control and dominate women who are expected to simply take it and yield to their actions and desires. Not cool, right?

So porn might exaggerate these stereotypes, but does it actually influence porn consumers to see pornography that portrays such unequal and degrading content?

Unfortunately, studies have shown that past porn consumption and exposure to filmed sexual violence feeds into sexist attitudes, [3] makes people less empathetic for victims of sexual assault, [4] and makes people less satisfied with their partner. [5] Porn normalizes dehumanizing submission and not only changes people’s attitudes, but can alter behavior by increasing the likelihood of engaging in coercive, aggressive, and violent sexual acts. [6]

Related: Study Suggests Viewing Porn Fosters Sexist Attitudes

It doesn’t take an expert to realize that sexist attitudes and belief in harmful stereotypes are not conducive to healthy, mutual relationships or to positive self-image. So now we have to ask, is this what we want, not only for ourselves, but also if this is what we want for the next generation? Do we want to see a world in which our boys and girls are put into boxes where they are given toxic identities leading to poor self-images, damaging attitudes and actions, and unhealthy relationships?

It’s no secret that porn influences culture, and culture influences people. If we want a world that is less violent, less sexist, and promotes healthy relationships, we need a world that is free from porn-validated stereotypes.

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Citations

[1] Kunkel, D., Eyal, K., Finnerty, K., Biely, E., and Donnerstein, E. (2005). Sex on TV 4. Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
[2] Peter, J. and Valkenburg, P. M. (2007). Adolescents’ Exposure to a Sexualized Media Environment and Their Notions of Women as Sex Objects. Sex Roles 56,(5-6), doi:381–95.10.1007/s11199-006-9176-y
[3] Hald, G., Malamuth, N., and Lange, T. (2013). Pornography and Sexist Attitudes Among Heterosexuals. Journal of Communication, 63(4), doi: 10.1111/jcom.12037
[4] Weisz, M. and Earls, C. (1995). The Effects of Exposure To Filmed Sexual Violence on Attitudes Toward Rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10, 71-84. doi: 10.1177/088626095010001005
[5] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunction? A Review With Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Perry, S. (2016). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-Y; Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone Or Together: Associations With Relationship Quality. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. Doi:10.1007/S10508-009-9585-4; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations Between Young Adults’ Use Of Sexually Explicit Materials And Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, And Satisfaction. Journal Of Sex Research, 48,(6), 520-530. 8(6):520-30. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; Zillman, D., & Bryant, J. (2006). Pornography’s Impact On Sexual Satisfaction. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 18(5), 438-453. Doi:10.1111/J.1559-1816.1988.Tb00027.X
[6] Boeringer, S. B. (1994). Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Associations of Violent and Nonviolent Depictions with Rape and Rape Proclivity. Deviant Behavior 15(3), 289–304; doi:10.1080/01639625.1994.9967974; Check, J. & Guloien, T. (1989). The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, and Erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations (pp. 159–84). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; Marshall, W. L. (1988). The Use of Sexually Explicit Stimuli by Rapists, Child Molesters, and Non-Offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 25(2): 267–88. doi:10.1080/00224498809551459; Wright, P.J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. doi:10.1111/jcom.12201; DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings of Adult Pornography and Women Abuse: New Progressive Directions in Research and Theory. International Journal for Crime, Justice, and Social Democracy, 4(4) 4-21. doi:10.5204/ijcjsd.v4i4.184; Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., & Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure to Pornography and Acceptance of the Rape Myth. Journal of Communication, 45(1), 5–26. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1995.tb00711.x

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