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Does Porn Objectify Both Men and Women? Yes, But in Different Ways

After examining popular porn videos, researchers concluded that porn does, in fact, objectify men, just in a different way than women.

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It’s no secret that porn objectifies women. But just because porn two-dimensionalizes women into sexual objects doesn’t mean it does any favors for men.

Consider how porn is produced with entertainment in mind, not education. It isn’t produced with the intention to accurately or safely portray healthy sexuality, either. But all of these powerful images clearly affect consumers.

The long-term studies paint a very different picture than what you might hear from pro-porn advocates. The preponderance of evidence from a dozen or more in-depth, longer-term studies consistently show porn consumption lowering relationship satisfaction, emotional closeness, and sexual satisfaction.Wilson, G. (2013). Studies Linking Porn Use Or Porn/Sex Addiction To Sexual Dysfunctions, Lower Arousal, And Lower Sexual & Relationship Satisfaction; Retrieved From https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/studies-reported-relationships-between-porn-use-or-porn-addictionsex-addiction-and-sexualCOPY 

Related: Study Finds Link Between Frequent Porn Consumption And Sexual Dysfunction For Both Men And Women

Also, studies continue to show that porn can influence consumers’ sexual tastes to be more extreme and it can result in sexual health issues for men like erectile dysfunction. It also leaves consumers feeling lonely and can fuel mental health issues.

But let’s rewind back to the objectification issue of porn. Yes, porn has all of these other documented harmful effects, but the objectification of people in porn is particularly harmful.

But does porn reduce men to objects like it does women? Is it possible and is there research to support that? Turns out, the answer is yes.

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam wanted to better understand and explore the actual content on porn sites. Their study analyzed three dimensions of gender inequality in porn, one of those being objectification.

There’s no shortcut to discovering what the content contains without watching it. After examining 400 popular porn videos, the study concluded that porn does, in fact, objectify men, just in a different way than women.

Related: How Early Porn Exposure Traumatizes Boys And Fuels Toxic Masculinity

What’s the deal with objectification?

Objectification (v): the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object.

Sexual objectification is treating someone as if they are merely an object, not a person. The phrase “a means to an end” is often used when describing a woman as a sexual tool, often for a man.

Sexual objectification occurs when people perceive others as sex objects, rather than complex human beings deserving of dignity and respect. In fact, in a review of research on sexual violence, two leading experts called sexual objectification the “common thread” that connects different forms of sexual violence.

Examples of everyday sexual objectification toward women include being reduced to a body and not viewed as a whole person—some tangible actions of this are being catcalled, stared at, harassed, or touched without consent.

Related: How Mainstream Porn Perpetuates Racist Stereotypes Of Black Men

Women from all nationalities and backgrounds have stories very similar to Tracy Clayton, a writer and podcaster, whose first experience with being viewed as just a body was when she was in her mid-teens:

I was walking down the street on my way home when a man came up behind me. He told me I was pretty and asked how old I was, what grade I was in. I told him; I didn’t feel unsafe because I was with friends. He floated me a couple of other innocuous compliments…. Then he said, as he walked behind me, ‘and I know that p— is good, too.’

I had been catcalled before, but that was the first time a man made me so aware of my body and all of its parts, made me feel ashamed for having them, made me want to just disappear into thin air. In that moment, I didn’t feel like a person; just flesh with no face, no name. I also somehow knew that it wouldn’t be the last time I would be made to feel that way.

Mediums that often sexually objectify women are pop culture, and pornography. So what about men? Can they be objectified, too, especially by porn?

Related: The Porn Industry Doesn’t Just Sell Sex, It Sells Violent Abuse Of Women

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How are men objectified in porn?

In the study from the University of Amsterdam, the conclusion was that women were more often seen as instruments of men’s sexual pleasure in porn, and evidence of this is the number of close-up body shots of women, but that “men were more frequently dehumanized” because their faces were rarely shown.

The truth is, a lot of porn videos are made for the male experience or even filmed from their perspective. When the male character’s face is left out, the focus is clearly…elsewhere.

In a YouTube satire series made by a major porn site called “PornSoup,” a female actress jokes about trying to cast a male porn performer When describing the male performers she says, “Your entire psyche sort of rests on whether you can get your d— hard, whether you have a bigger d— than everyone else.”

The series is meant to be comical—making light of typical situations that occur during porn production—but it rings true to the research. According to porn, a man’s value is based on the size and stamina of his genitalia, and that’s pretty much it. The focus is below the belt, not on him as a whole person.

Related: What Could Stop Men From Buying Sex And Watching Porn?

The pressure to literally be larger than life and long-lasting leads to popping Viagra and other medications that put the performer’s health at risk.

One former performer Chris Zeischegg opened up about his experiences in the porn industry, which included being treated “numerous times for painful, prolonged erections.” He was warned by doctors about possible long-term damage from his drug habits, which led him to re-think his career in such a brutal industry.

“Stunt cocks” are another alternative to covering up a supposed male shortcoming, when a performer can’t perform or isn’t “big” enough for the role. These refer to either a fake prosthetic penis or another man’s real phallus used as a substitute when filming, with creative editing required in post-production.

In a similar way, digital photography techniques are used to alter the appearance of the female body to an unattainable level, and these tactics for men continue to portray an exaggerated fantasy.

Why this matters

Just as women deserve respect as irreplaceable members of society, so do men. We cannot confuse porn predominantly aimed at men as a gift to them. The reality is, it is damaging to all people.

The people in pornography are often explicitly presented as objects, and porn videos are listed and labeled with the specific acts they perform or physical attributes they possess so the observer can “order” porn that fits their exact expectations. With so many people consuming pornography, is it any wonder that many are developing attitudes of sexual entitlement and objectification? Reducing people to physical terms and self-serving labels is the exact type of sexual objectification that sets the stage for sexual violence.Gervais, S. J., & Eagan, S. (2017). Sexual objectification: The common thread connecting myriad forms of sexual violence against women. The American journal of orthopsychiatry, 87(3), 226–232. https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000257COPY 

Related: This Study Evaluated 7,430 Porn Videos And Found Women Receive 97% Of Physically Aggressive Acts In Porn

Men and women are not and should not be viewed or treated as objects. Objectification breeds a type of extreme pressure on both sexes to live up to an unrealistic standard, and can pave the way for sexual violence. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression—not only to performers but also to consumers.

People are not products. This is why we prefer to choose love and build real relationships beyond a computer screen.

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