3 Reasons Mainstream Pornography Is Not Empowering To Women

porn

A new study reveals that women in porn are the targets of far too much aggression and degradation.

What feelings are stirred up for you when you hear about pornography? Many feminists feel anger that this topic is even addressed. They would argue that porn is empowering to women and it is a woman’s choice as to whether she participates in acting in adult film. Others feel scared to share their true beliefs.

As for me, porn is problematic.

A Google search with the keywords “Porn is good” reveals mixed reviews of popular culture beliefs ranging from “A short word about porn: Good” (PsychologyToday) to “10 Reasons You Should Quit Watching Porn” (GQ).

This discrepancy is in part due to a sector of third-wave feminism arguing that pornography is not degrading to women but rather an empowering expression of a woman’s sexuality.

However, a recent study contradicts this popular idea that women are empowered in pornography. Over 304 scenes from the top 250 selling and rented porn movies (according to the Adult Video Network) were analyzed to provide insight on sexual practices in these top selling porn films.

An analysis of the films revealed that only 10.2% of scenes did not contain aggressive acts. A total of 3,375 verbal and physical aggressive acts were observed with 980 accounts of spanking, 795 accounts of gagging, 614 accounts of insulting, and 408 accounts of open-handed slapping being the most frequently observed. Women were nearly all the targets of the physical and verbal aggressive acts (94.4%). When women were perpetrators they frequently were aggressive to other women (17.7%). Men were victims of aggressive acts in only 4.2% of scenes, and male-to-male aggression was present in 0.3% of scenes.

After reading these statistics what feelings come up? I know I did not feel empowered. I guess that begs the question, what is empowerment?

One definition commonly used with regards to social justice issues is: “a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society.”

After reading a definition of what empowerment is, I thought of several points related to the aforementioned study.

First, 90% of the scenes had aggression. Of that 90%, 94% had aggression directed toward women. I believe that aggression is not part of a process that helps individuals gain “control over their own lives” but rather aggression is often used in a process to put one’s interests or aims above another person’s.

Second, spanking, gagging, insulting, and open-handed slapping are not acts that help people “foster power in their own lives” but rather are means to subdue people.

Third, aside from man-to-woman aggression, the next highest depiction of aggression was woman-to-woman. In order to be truly empowering to women, other women should be encouraging each other, not tearing each other down (physically or verbally). By showing women engaging in degrading acts to other women, it nurtures the stereotype that even we, as women, do not care about each other enough to lift “another sister” out of an abusive situation. Rather, we knock down our fellow women.

I understand women have been sexually oppressed for decades. However, I do not believe the way women are currently depicted in pornography is empowering. It’s the opposite: degrading.

So where do we go from here? There must be a better, more liberating way we can stand together united as women.

Renae Regehr is studying a Masters of Counseling at the University of British Columbia and is passionate about how women are represented in the media. She grew up in a egalitarian home that celebrated women as intelligent and beautiful, however as she grew older and looked to societal depictions, found incongruence in mainstream media in the way women were celebrated and portrayed! She started studying the issue, and the rest is history. Follow her and let her know what you think on her website at http://www.moretoher.com and on Instagram @moretoher

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