There is nothing new about looking at porn; or is there?

By Cordelia Anderson

In one week, in four different meetings, I heard four people who happened to be men say some variation of the statement,  “Let’s face facts, people (boys) have always looked at porn. They always will. There is nothing new about it.”  The argument often continues that, while the Internet is new, it is just another way to look at the same old porn. And, like those who were beaten as children and still fiercely believe in physical punishment may say, “I turned out just fine – no harm to me, so no harm in porn.

I feel a need to take a deep breath in such situations, and pay attention to my reaction and why I react that way. What bubbles up amidst many other headlines and findings from recent studies is the idea that “Just because it is the way it has always been, it’s not the way it should be.” Then the ever-growing list of reasons why I vehemently beg to differ with such thinking starts to arrange those headlines and findings in my brain. There is a lot new and a lot different in today’s mainstream heterosexual porn.

  1. Ease of access through technology and the Internet creates more opportunity to look at more porn. Additionally, today’s porn is far more graphic, violent, and illustrative of body-punishing sex, increasing the degradation to women.  Ease of access also means that youth interested in sneaking a peak at porn no longer need to serendipitously  look through what they understood to be the adult male’s stash – hidden from their view, not for children’s eyes, and not something adults were obvious about using. Adults who may have hesitated buying a magazine or going into a store now also have 24/7 ease of access; just what those who profit from it all had in mind.
  2. Young people (and adults) are exposed to porn whether looking for or at it or not. Yesterday’s porn is today’s mainstream media.
  3. Young people are looking at porn at younger and younger ages. Earlier access means more kids are seeing more at ages and stages where they have no meaning or context for what they are seeing. The exposure at younger ages raises the bar about the impact of pornography and the pornified culture on gender socialization, and sexual and brain development.
  4. The expectation that all boys need and want to look at porn feeds the idea that a male who doesn’t like such images – especially when they are violent, debasing, or depict children – has something wrong with him, instead of their being anything wrong with the porn. It also feeds the idea that female sexuality and arousal is less important or powerful than a male’s.
  5. The normalization of sexual harm and the sexual objectification of children is more accepted which children are referred to in mainstream, legal pornography. It legitimizes the hyper-sexualization of children for adult arousal.
  6. Normalization of sexual harm, including pornography and the pornified culture, has led to the shift in social norms toward it becoming so accepted and expected that anyone who questions the impact is called out as having a problem.
  7. There has always been, and still remains, a gross gender inequity in porn – men are not generally displayed as sexual objects and commodities to be consumed, abused, or exploited by women who believe they are entitled to treat men as such. Today’s porn has far more of a fusion of whatever “sex” was depicted with violence and degradation. The gender inequity continues but with higher stakes – with the message being that males are supposed to have power and control over women, and women’s needs are not relevant next to the need of men to be sexually serviced by them.  In heterosexual-focused porn, it is not the males who have semen shot in their eyes or all over their faces, or being multiply penetrated by objects or body parts or made to look as if they enjoy the pain and debasement.
  8. Porn is no longer the domain of males. Females are increasingly looking at it at younger and younger ages. The initiation is often to find out what it is boys are so interested in and looking for, or to show that they are not up tight or hung up about sex and sexuality like “those girls” who are not into it.
  9. Children are exposed to pornography through intentional and unintentional searches. They may be initiated by older siblings or friends, or even key adults in their lives. Even if they don’t look, studies show they are affected by the impact of pornography on other children who do consume it.
  10. What continues to be true is that we, as adults and as a culture, continue to neglect teaching about healthy, positive, loving sexuality and neglect to create enough alternative images to porn.  Pornography has too much of a monopoly on the market and on the culture.
  11. Pornography is the main sex educator of our youth, and that is a sorry statement as to the sexual integrity and vitality of the culture. There are not nearly enough images that show the sensual, erotic possibilities in real, non-body altered human beings of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and races. There are not nearly enough images that show the potential of erotic passion in a caring, loving relationship, and mutual pleasure and mutual arousal.
  12. The answer is not censorship, but instead to no longer be silenced and dare to question. We need to ask: How much is too much? When does the content cross a line to being violence against women, hate speech, and child sexual abuse? What is the difference in violent vs. non-violent content in terms of impact on users? What is the desensitization effect? How does pornography affect intimacy or shape arousal? Do we want our children to learn about sex and sexuality from pornography, or to want to act on what they saw and were aroused by from it?

It is time to inspire a change of heart through respectful dialogue. It is time to pay attention to emerging data about the impact of pornography on children, youth, and culture. It is time to demand that we have the opportunity and right to opt into pornography instead of having to opt out of it. Do we really want our children to learn more about MILF’s, ATM’s, multiple penetrations, and getting off at the expense of another person than intimacy, love, holding hands, hugging and kissing, and caring about one’s partner and their needs? It is time to demand that children, young people, and adults have a right to accurate, comprehensive information about sex and sexuality.

Related article:

What to Do If Your Child is Looking at Porn


3 responses to “There is nothing new about looking at porn; or is there?

  • Hayashi

    “The answer is not censorship”

    censorship is always applayed when it comes to racism,anti-semitism,etc,why in relation on women´s right the feminits refuse to claim for it?? How can feminists say they defend us women if they don´t want to ban such materials??

    That sounds senseless.

  • Cordelia Anderson

    I’m glad you raised this. This is an important issue I continue to try to think through as we strategize on how to best counter the harm…

    Limits and regulations to harmful imagery makes sense especially those that are in and of themselves violence against women and children and hate speech, etc. Some material can also clearly be blocked because it is recognized as illegal rather than free speech such as child pornography already is, and actual documentation of a sexual assault of all types may eventually be. However total censorship is a first amendment issue. It can backfire especially when so many now view it as a fundamental right and entitlement no matter how vile the content. Such a direction can also be used to block other types of sexual imagery or any positive alternatives to harmful imagery and messages. In reality, there already is too much censorship of healthy and realistic sexual imagery and relationships while the pornified is lavishly marketed.
    .

  • Paul Cameron

    Thanks for taking the time to write this piece. We have linked to it from our facebook page. I am involved in running an anti-porn/ porn education campaign and a lot of the points you highlight here are the ones we want to highlight. See more here: https://www.facebook.com/ThePorcupineCampaign

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