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More often than some might expect, the storylines portrayed in porn mirror someone’s real-life nightmare. Let’s dive into one terrifying but well-known example.
The Steubenville Rape Case
On the night of August 11, 2012, a 16-year-old girl—we’ll call her “Jane”—went to a party in Steubenville, Ohio. She then went to a second party just after midnight, drunk, with 4 high school football players. There Jane was witnessed going outside, “out of it” and sick.
The same group left to go to a friend’s house. In the backseat of the car, one of the boys, Trent Mays, undressed Jane and raped her while his friends recorded videos and took pictures.
Once in the basement of the house, Mays again assaulted her. Jane passed out and was stripped, then raped by a second boy, Ma’lik Richmond, while the other boys took more photos. Three witnesses took the photos back to the second party to show their friends.
The boys tried to cover up what happened in the days that followed, claiming that the girl had given her consent. Mays sent text messages pleading with the girl not to press charges because doing so would damage his football career.
Jane confirmed she had no memory of those 6 hours in which the rapes occurred, and only has a foggy memory of getting sick outside. She does remember waking up the next morning naked in a basement with Mays, Richmond, and another boy—confused, ashamed, and missing her underwear, flip-flops, phone, and earrings.
People at the parties traded photos of her and shared them on social media, including an Instagram post showing Jane, unresponsive, being carried by her wrists and ankles. One student tweeted, “Some people deserve to be peed on,” which was retweeted by several people, including Mays. A 12-minute video was posted on YouTube, where students joked about how she deserved what happened to her.
Hundreds of text messages were also recovered as evidence. In messages to friends, Mays described the girl as “like a dead body” and admitted that a photo circulating of the girl lying naked in the basement was taken by him and that the semen on Jane’s body was his.
Porn depicts lack of consent as sexy and normal
Sounds like a nightmare, right? But it also sounds like the plot points of what anyone can find on a mainstream porn site.
Let’s use just one example, comparing the Steubenville rape case to some of the most popular genres and storylines on just a few mainstream porn sites. These are real titles that can be found with a simple Google search:
Drunk s— degraded and gets what she deserves
Girls getting p—ed on
Drunken girl gets peed on at a party
Passed out drunk teen
Real unconscious drunk girl rape
Girl at party passed out and f—ed
Unconscious teen covered with c—
Way too drunk to refuse a—
Passed out drunk girl taken advantage of
Unconscious drunk teen f— by stranger
Sleeping unconscious girl assaulted after crazy party
Unconscious wasted girl has no clue who is f— her
Boys use a chance to f— wasted nearly unconscious girl
Sound familiar, like what happened the Steubenville case?
We want to make something clear: we’re in no way saying that everyone who watches porn will become a violent rapist. Even so, there is a significant amount of research linking porn to sexual violence, aggression, lack of empathy for victims, and even child-on-child sex abuse. This evidence cannot and should not be ignored.
Of course, there’s no way to know the individual stories of Mays and Richmond in the Steubenville case and the exact role porn played—if any—in their rape and assault of a drunk 16-year-old. What we do know is there are undeniable similarities between this real-life horror story and the fantasized storylines consumed by millions of people every day on mainstream porn sites. And, unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident—more and more rape and sexual assault cases are reported all the time with chilling parallels to mainstream porn.
Sure, we probably all watch things that would be disturbing in reality, like murder mysteries for example. So what’s the big deal with consuming porn? Well, there’s a key difference: porn isn’t passive entertainment.
Murder isn’t necessarily glorified or celebrated in murder mystery movies, while lack of consent is the very selling point that makes porn arousing and exciting. Porn sells disturbing scenarios as sexual fantasy—as something to be desired and even emulated.
So here’s the question: is it impossible to see how people could think lack of consent and taking advantage of someone sexually is acceptable when porn video after porn video shows them that it is?
The consequences porn doesn’t show
The problem with porn is that it sells the fantasy, but leaves out the consequences.
See, porn really doesn’t give consumers the entire story. The storyline might be, “drunk girl passed out and taken advantage of,” and that’s where the video ends. It shows one-sided pleasure, maybe a few laughs, then *end scene.* The cameras stop rolling. But does that even illustrate the seriousness of the abuse that was just committed?
So where did the story end for Mays and Richmond—the perpetrators in the Steubenville rape case? They were tried as juveniles and each found guilty and each sentenced to a minimum of a year or two in jail. Mays was also charged with and convicted of distributing child pornography because the girl whose abuse he documented and shared was a minor. Both boys were put on the sex offender registry.
How’s that for the reality of abuse that porn so conveniently neglects to include?
What this could mean for society
It’s a fact that lack of consent is one of the biggest selling points in porn. But what’s especially disturbing is the demand for videos of rape and sexual assault that are actually real.
When someone consumes porn, they become desensitized to what they consume, and as a result, seek out more hardcore content over time. In some cases, consuming eventually isn’t enough, and they want to act it out on a real person. Maybe even someone they know in reality.
Consumption drives pornographers to create more extreme content that meets the demand. So where do they draw the line? The answer is, there isn’t one. There’s no limit to how far pornographers will go when it comes to staying on top of the game and making a profit from shocking consumers.
Think about it: what does this mean for society? Many people start watching porn when they’re young, and it carries through adolescence and into adulthood. They’re being taught by what they consume that consent doesn’t matter, and a lack of consent is actually sexy and something to be desired. Consider how harmful this really is now, and for our world in the future.
So what can we do? A good place to start is educating about the consequences. That’s what we do at Fight the New Drug—share the facts about how porn is harmful so people can make educated decisions in regards to consuming it. We can emphasize what healthy relationships really look like—built on trust, love, and mutual consent.
Normalizing abuse is never normal—join us in spreading the word.