Women In Pornography: Empowering or Degrading?

Women In Pornography: Empowering or Degrading?

It's a bigger problem than you'd think.
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A response to an academic analysis on pornography in United States sexual culture called "Pornland" by Gail Dines.


Along with the increasing availability and consumption of pornography in society has come increased complexity within modern day perceptions of sex acts. The complexities that have evolved around the role (or rather, lack thereof) of the woman in sex reaffirm the notion that women are meant to serve men in their sexual practices.

Specifically, in regards to the changing norms of how a woman should maintain and present herself, certain aspects of gender expectations reaffirm the sexual inequalities that women face in opposition to men. Just as pornography has affected our sex lives, there is correlation to the rise of digital media usage and its impact on our relationships.

In our highly influenced culture, it is a combination between an inability to create truly organic, uninfluenced relationships and a preference to participate in hookup culture that the porn industry has infiltrated our modern day conceptions of heterosexuality and sexual reality.

The modern conception of sex and romance, and more importantly, what makes good sex is built on our society’s insane consumption of porn. It’s no secret that the dating lives of the millennial generation are on the decline, and that is in part due to the perpetuation of an intense hookup culture and a devaluing of intimacy. In particular, it is interesting how the mass consumption of pornography has aided in the proliferation of an intense hookup culture.

Some argue that the reason that millennial tend to opt for non-committal relationships is because they are facing many high-pressure situations in regards to their futures- the national economy has plummeted, they’re drowning in student loans, social oppressions are recognized now more than ever, etc.

However, with data suggesting that nearly 70% of teens 15 to 17 years old will come across porn in their youth, it’s evident now more than ever that the casualization of the porn industry is infiltrating the ways that millennial generation will come to make sense of sex and romance.

Dines suggests the most dramatic shift in younger persons behavior in regards to intimate relations with another person is the complete rejection of intimacy, connection, and relationships- as she describes, “sex is what you expect, and sex is what you get.” She ties this casual approach to sex back to the porn industry, asserting that the sex that we see in the porn-film industry is the sex we see in hookups- that is, verification of masculinity and completely devoid of emotional connection.

The recent success of online dating sites has allowed for the millennial generation to further engage in dating scenarios that further their hookup culture. When online dating first emerged, it gained a clear, negative stigma; online dating wasn’t to be taken seriously and oftentimes the relationships that were created on the web were delegitimized. However, I saw the usage of online dating, especially among millennials, to be a social occurrence that was bound to happen.

We live in an incredibly digitized and technologically based society, in which our main social connections are maintained online, in chat rooms, on friend’s Facebook walls, and in their feeds. It was only a matter of time before our ability to maintain friendships transpired into our ability to create new ones on the web. Online dating could even be seen as easier for millennials.

It allows for the ‘messy’ stuff in the relationship to be skipped over; you can find out what a person wants from you and what they are and are not comfortable with without even meeting them. We can find out everything we want to know about someone at the push of a button- it’s convenient.

When you pick a Tinder picture, you pick the ones that are meant to elicit a physical attraction from the person swiping. I’ve gotten the opportunity to scroll through some of my male friend’s Tinder matches and check out just what it is I’m “competing” with, after all my face is just one of several thousand. I see boobs, butts, and half-naked, perfectly maintained bodies.

I see pictures that mimic if not actively try to imitate pictures out of a ‘Playboy’. While women are conforming to these pornographic expectations of how they should look, men are being reminded of the pornographic content they have already viewed since they were in their pre-teens. They are reminded of the scenarios and the naked bodies and the oily skin, and they want their chance to stand in the spotlight.

And while many forms of millennial, online dating mimic pornographic expectations and assist in the purveyance of hookup culture, pornography has affected our conceptions of human sexuality. According to a report commissioned by Congress, over 70 million individuals access and view porn each week, and about 11 million of those individuals are younger than 18. It’s safe to assume that with the average age a person loses their virginity in U.S. at 17 years of age (under the assumption that virginity qualifies the absence of penetrative sex practices), most individuals are exposed to pornographic material before they actually experience sexual intercourse. The exposure to pornographic content greatly misleads viewers, a largely male-based audience.

In heterosexual relationships, young boys grow into men that believe that women genuinely enjoy and receive great pleasure from participating in borderline abusive, hard-core, and subservient sexual roles (i.e. "gonzo" porn). Their increased exposure to pornographic content sexually destructs them, leads them to have distorted conceptions of heterosexuality, and to go into their sexually active lives de-prioritizing female satisfaction and upholding the values of male ejaculation that their pornographic education taught them.

‘Sex and the City’ is an excellent example of forced female subservience as a result of the casualization of porn-reflected sex. The character, Samantha Jones, is disguised as being an excellent role model for female sexuality and experimentation; she never shies away from her sex life and is very open about her promiscuity.

While most viewers see her as an idol for sexual liberation, I see her as one of the most well masked examples of female subjugation to male-preferred porn sex on primetime television. Samantha likes sex, that’s her thing, that’s what she does, and she loves it and all the show’s viewers love her for having sex. However, what most people fail to notice is that even this female sex machine was subject to the atrocities of porn-culture in the bedroom.

Her sex life was characterized by the approval of men, the scenes that showcase her involvement in hookup sex and porn scenarios rarely showcase her experience and enjoyment but always find a way to hone in on the facial reactions, body movements, and sounds of the men she is with. Her sex life was always characterized by the men she was sleeping with and her character comments on how she is “competing” with the younger women who are willing to throw their legs up and try anything to keep the attention of a man.

And that’s the primary indicator of how dependent Samantha’s character was on men, she kept her mind open to sex and she evolved as sex evolved, all to keep the interest of the men, not always for herself. Her pleasure and orgasm would come as a result of the man’s satisfaction. The character of Samantha Jones exemplifies how even when women are given symbols of female sexual liberation and empowerment, they are still exposed to them within the guidelines of pornography.


It is evident that the rise of the porn industry has impacted our society’s conceptions of sex and has permanently altered our perceptions of what is normative and accepted within sexual relations. And while porn may act as a one-stop shop for individuals to make sense of their sexuality from a younger age than ever before, it is also proving to be incredibly destructive in our ability to connect with each other individually.

Most of all, I think that we shouldn’t be asking ourselves why it is that pornography has gained such a large viewership over the years, but rather, we should be trying to figure out what has happened to our society that we have become so susceptible to the dehumanization and desensitization of sexuality.

Unfortunately, the answer to that is not just a click away.


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Clocking In: The 9 To 5 Feminist

Jane Fonda, #MeToo and Fashion
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She puts the finishing touches on her makeup, so they say she is in dress code. She buttons to the top of her blouse, so they don’t stare. She smiles and asks politely, so they won’t call her uptight. She doesn’t smile too much though, so they don’t think she’s flirting. She doesn’t question her salary, so they don’t report her. She doesn’t tell anyone what her creep of a boss did, so they don’t fire her. Just another day at the office.

She is not alone. The modern woman is forced to deal with workplace discrimination and sexual harassment in silence. Even her dress code, from the makeup on her face to the heels on her feet, is designed with a restrictive double standard.

Despite past efforts to combat such inequality, this has largely remained the status quo. However, 2017 marked a turning point in the fight for a workplace equality with the viral social media campaigns #MeToo and #TimesUp, which are aimed at combating sexual harassment and sexist double standards.

These campaigns amplify the forceful rallying cries of working women and shines light on the unspoken reality of their experiences in the workplace at the hands of men. These protests echo the feminist movement of the 1970s which was in part influenced by its representation in film, an iconic example of which is Jane Fonda’s trailblazing production of “9 to 5.”

Taking inspiration from her friend’s Boston organization of female workers “Nine to Five,” Fonda sought to bring to light the untold stories women in the office often experienced in a way that was palpable to the public: comedy. The 1980 office satire “9 to 5,” starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Fonda herself, addresses the wage gap, sexual harassment and blatant sexism through the lens of three women fed up with their villainous, misogynistic male boss.

In “9 to 5,” the boss subjects the feminist trio to different aspects of the same sexist narrative. He calls the new girl stupid and incapable. He demands his secretary to turn around and bend over for his viewing pleasure. He takes the credit of the only female office manager to further his standing with the company. The sexist dynamic between him and the trio is reflected in their attire and connects the events of the movie to the feminist movement as a whole.

Stereotyped as the weaker sex, the female employees of “9 to 5” adhere to a strict dress code characteristic of 1970s workplace apparel of below the knee skirts, silk ties, blouses adorned with bows, heels and a full face of makeup. The physical restrictiveness and beauty standards imposed on women by their male superiors shows the subtlety of sexist workplace culture.

Outside the office, women of the 1970s were embracing comfort and function in their casual fashion. Denim jeans, loose-fitting shirts and flat Oxford shoes reflected the growing movement of women to make their own choices and live as they please, free from the limitations of the patriarchy. Within the walls of the office, however, it was still very much a man’s world.

The requirement that women maintain feminine standards of beauty in the office ensures that the standard of acceptable clothing for working women is decided by the men. As a consequence, men use this double standard to solidify ideas that women are incapable of a man’s job and are not to be taken seriously. Sexist ideas like these supported the wage gap and kept women from advancing, despite having the qualifications to do so.

By the film’s end, however, “9 to 5” rejects this pervasive narrative that women’s capabilities are limited by their clothing. Following a series of bumbling mishaps, the trio find themselves in charge of the company and replace the sexist status quo with a progressive and equal workplace, fulfilling the goal of the feminist movement.

In showing the efficiency and progressiveness of a female-run workplace, the film shows that women are equally capable of a man’s job (and that they can do it better). “9 to 5” redefined working women as competent and equal to men, shedding the stereotypes of how they should dress and behave to appease the sexist status quo.

Considering the current political climate of social regression, despite changes in clothing and office technology, the dynamic between men and women in the office hasn’t changed much. Women still earn less than men. Men hold most positions of power. The goals of the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements mirror the fanciful aspirations of “9 to 5.”

But what’s changed? What has made the contemporary feminist movements so much more powerful and influential than any before them? Deemed radical for its time, the progressive themes of equality and a workplace free of harassment are now contemporary feminist staples. The era of inclusion is fast approaching. Thanks to the current feminist revolt and the trailblazing of the past, men in positions of power are no longer able to use their influence as a shield to silence women or hide behind the public eye.

In a symbolic exchange of the unending struggle of the feminist movement at the 2017 Emmy Awards, Fonda reminds us that “back in 1980, in that movie, (Parton, Tomlin and I) refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” Tomlin reminds us of the challenges that lie ahead in the final push for equality. “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

Cover Image Credit: Rob Young

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To The Students Walking Out On April 20th

Build the change. Push the change. Be the change.
Cali C.
Cali C.
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Dear students participating in the national walkout on April 20th,

On March 14th, you walked out of your schools for 17 minutes to remember the 17 innocent lives that were brutally taken at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On March 24th, you marched in one of the 800+ marches around the world to demand long-overdue change and you stood up for those who cannot anymore due to gun violence.

You may have been ridiculed for what you did. You may have received ill-mannered remarks from your peers, and surprisingly (but not really, if we’re being honest here), adults. Some of your schools’ administrations even punished you for protesting peacefully. Some people said that what you were doing "won't change anything." The list of negative expressions towards the walkout and the march could go on and on, unfortunately.

However, all if not almost every historical national movement also faced criticism. But they kept going. And their voices were heard. And change happened.

On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, you will walk out again to remember the victims of that day (it’s daunting how many events correlate to that statement) and to tell the world that silence is no longer an option.

You will no longer go to school, a concert, the movies, the mall, church, anywhere and have the fear that you may not make it home that day. You will no longer live under laws that remain unchanged after far too many lives have been taken by something that should have been taken care of a long time ago.

You will no longer tolerate the cycle of “shooting...thoughts and prayers...debate...no change in anything...life goes back to normal.”

You’ve probably heard this everywhere these past two months, but do not stop after that day. Because this is so much more than just a walkout. This is so much more than just a march. This is so much more than the hashtag and the videos and photos you’re seeing on social media.

Educate yourself on issues that matter. Go to your town hall meetings. Get involved in your school, city, and state organizations. And most important of them all - register to vote. If you are too young to vote, that does not mean that your voice does not matter. Volunteer at the polls. Discuss current events in your community. Practice civic engagement. Whatever you do, do not stop contributing to this turning point in history.

You are the future. You are the leaders we need.

It's about damn time something is done to end gun violence, and it starts with you.

The world is going to be a better place because of you, and don’t you dare let anyone convince you otherwise.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram
Cali C.
Cali C.

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