CESE Online Global Summit: Growing up in porn culture influences hypersexualization and dehumanization of women

The American Psychological Association found that girls learn to self-objectify via porn, which leads to various mental and physiological issues


                            CESE Online Global Summit: Growing up in porn culture influences hypersexualization and dehumanization of women
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Pornography has become domesticated with the dawn of the internet. While earlier the first things that came to mind with regard to porn were Playboy, Penthouse of Hustler, now things have changed dramatically. Pornography is available to individuals at a click of a button. It constitutes the three As that drive demand, namely affordability, accessibility, and anonymity. So, how does porn culture influence upbringing? The National Center on Sexual Exploitation's annual Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation (CESE) global summit is being held virtually this year. In one of its comprehensive sessions, Dr Gail Dines, PhD, President, Culture Reframed, talks about the effects of porn culture on individuals. She explores 40 years if peer-reviewed research that shows how porn is an industrial product that shapes the way we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence, and sexual equality. 

Dr Dines drew focus to the dominant form of communication in modern times, that young people grow up with - the image-based culture. Images tend to impact a person in a way that print doesn't, hence why visual and auditory mediums are more successful in disseminating information than print. "It often bypasses that sort of rational part of the brain and lodges itself into place, which is very hard to engage in a critical dialogue with the image. And in fact, in a way, all images are true, whether they are telling lies or not," she added. In every sense of it, pornography is visually appealing to its audiences. Much of porn is free, unfiltered, and digital-based, which researches attribute to the estimated average age that person first views porn as being 11 years. A lot of the first time viewing is accidental and often occurs around ages seven or nine. Pornography ends up pulling kids into the web of sites, especially free porn sites, where kids tend to slip down the rabbit hole of pornography, very quickly.

Hypersexualization of women

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To understand the impact that porn has on a person, it is important to understand the content of mainstream heterosexual pornography. Most of the content of mainstream heterosexual pornography is body punishing sex acts designed to debase, degrade, and dehumanize women. It dehumanizes women as a sex class in agreement that they are not worthy of the same rights as men. "So it's a very powerful form of ideology," said Dr Dines. "Pornography in that it really embodies the belief that women are somehow subhuman." A study by Ana Bridges et al, Violence Against Women, that looked at 304 scenes of most watched porn video, found that 90 percent contained at least one aggressive act if both physical and verbal aggression were combined. 

The porn culture has dire consequences on girls, Dr Dines notes. They grow up in a hypersexualized porn culture, where every image presented usually depicts a white, blonde, technically enhanced, hypersexualized woman. The more these hypersexualized images of women are thrown at young girls, the more they become normalized and a part of their identity. The choice here is whether to conform or stay invisible, but there isn't exactly a choice to make. It's more of coercing girls into taking on and thinking of themselves as hypersexualized and pornified, Dr Dines observed. The American Psychological Association found that girls learn to self-objectify, which leads to increased levels of anxiety, depression, body loathing, risky sexual behavior, suicidal ideation, dropping out of school, early pregnancies, STDs, self-harming, sexual victimization and more. This offers them a very limited way of understanding and developing an identity that really fits with who they are, rather than this very industrialized form of feminity, based on consumption.

Deconstructing porn as an industry

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It is difficult to understand the porn culture, unless one has a thorough understanding of the porn industry, as a whole. "This is not just a collection of images that drop from the sky. It is a very, very sophisticated instrument," Dr Dines commented. Porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. So this is not a small little back-street type of an industry, rather an above-ground multi-billion dollar business. Andrew Edmond, CEO, Flying Crocodile, a multimillion-dollar internet pornography company puts it accurately when he says "A lot of people get distracted from the business model by [the sex]. It is just as sophisticated and multilayered as with any other marketplace. We operate just like any other Fortune 500 company."

Porn business like all businesses raise capital, undergo mergers and acquisitions, organize trade shows, have PR firms, have lobbyists, Free Speech Coalition. Most importantly they interface with banks, credit card companies, venture capitalists, and cable operators. This means that mainstream capitalist organizations have vested interests in the continuation of this industry. This is why it is often hard to get an acquisition out that criticizes pornography, because all these companies are knitted into the continuation of the porn industry. According to Adult Video News "The corporatization of porn isn't something that will happen or is happening. It is something that has already happened. It's Las Vegas all over again." In the 2000s, it was really a mom-and-pop type of industry, but today that's changed. 

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