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Does Porn Normalize Harmful Gender Stereotypes and Sexist Ideas?

“Women are ready to have sex at any moment with any man regardless of his personality.” This sexist idea is just one that mainstream porn normalizes and reinforces.

By September 30, 2020No 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 of their relationship?

Women are stupid and easily manipulated. Men should call the shots in any sexual scenario. The belief that women are only good for making sandwiches and sex. The 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.

Related: How Porn Warps Ideas About Sex

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?

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Hypersexualized stereotypes

Since the widespread availability of internet porn, most kids in this digital world have been exposed to toxic gender stereotypes long before they enter their first romantic relationships.

A study of adolescent porn use concluded that the major messages presented by porn are male domination, hypermasculinity, and making male sexual pleasure the top priority. [1] This fact is made worse when you realize that the estimated average age of exposure to pornography is around  9-11 years old.

Consider how, by age 10, experts say 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 that are 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 the first 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 we’ve gotten themselves into.

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

Trigger warning for language, descriptions 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 stereotyped traits for men and women and amplifying them tenfold. Remember those porn themes from the beginning of this article? In porn, consumers see men who emotionlessly control and dominate women, and women who are expected to enjoy abuse and yield to men’s actions and desires.

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

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Unfortunately, studies have shown that past porn consumption and exposure to filmed sexual violence can feed into sexist attitudes, [2] make people less empathetic for victims of sexual assault, [3] and make people less satisfied with their partner. [4] Porn normalizes dehumanizing submission and not only can change people’s attitudes, but can alter behavior in extreme cases by increasing the likelihood of engaging in coercive, aggressive, and violent sexual acts. [5]

Related: Study Suggests Viewing Porn Fosters Sexist Attitudes

It doesn’t take an expert to realize that sexist attitudes and a belief in harmful stereotypes are not conducive to healthy, mutual relationships or to a positive self-image. It’s also no secret that porn influences culture, and culture influences people. If we want a world that is less violent, less sexist, and a culture that promotes healthy relationships, we need a world that is free from porn-validated stereotypes.

Bottom line: porn is sexist trash, and you deserve better.

Citations

[1] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half the Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study of Pornography Use Among a Sample of Urban, Low-Income, Black and Hispanic Youth. Journal of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908
[2] Hald, G., Malamuth, N., and Lange, T. (2013). Pornography and Sexist Attitudes Among Heterosexuals. Journal of Communication, 63(4), doi: 10.1111/jcom.12037
[3] 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
[4] 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
[5] 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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