“If porn performers truly don’t like what is happening to them, then the fantasy that users have erected about women and porn begins to crumble, and they are left with the stark reality that maybe these women are not ‘fuck dolls,’ but are instead human beings with real emotions and feelings. If this is the case, then users would have to admit to becoming aroused to images of women being sexually mistreated. For those men who are not sexually sadistic or cruel, this could well be psychologically intolerable, so they have to work very hard at maintaining the fantasy that porn women are indeed unlike most women they meet in the real world.”
“One key factor leading to this level of disconnection is that porn trains men to become desensitized to women’s pain. As one fan, Anon, explains to Another Porn Addict: ‘A few years ago I joined Maxhardcore.com to see what all the fuss was about and, while I found a lot of the girls really hot in their teeny outfits, Max’s attitude and actions in a lot of the clips left me feeling shellshock, sickened and dirty. Probably how you felt on watching that batch of DVDs.
But. Just as porn moves on, so did my tastes, and gradually I realised I was enjoying Max’s extreme scenes more and more – whether thats corruption or desensitisation I dont know. All I do know is that I’ve gone from being a one time Max hater to a Max Hardcore fan.’ Anon’s analysis is borne out by studies that show that the more porn men watch, the more desensitized they become. The words he uses to describe his feelings when he first watched Hardcore’s movies- ‘shellshock, sickened and dirty’- speak to a powerful negative reaction. Yet he then says his tastes moved on and he began to enjoy the scenes. It would appear that Anon became desensitized to the women’s pain since it is impossible to enjoy Hardcore’s images if you have any empathy for the women. They look so distressed and in such pain that it feels like you are watching actual torture.”
“What is of interest is not necessarily the overt message of one particular image but the cumulative effect of the subtextual themes found in the system of images, which together create a particular way of looking at the world. For example, one fashion advertisement may not be that influential in itself, but add up the hundreds of fashion ads that we encounter daily, and you begin to hear a particular story about women’s bodies, femininity, and consumeurism. Human beings develop their identity and sense of reality out of the stories the culture tells, and while pornography is not the only producer of stories about sex, relationships, and sexuality, it is possibly the most powerful.”
“Progressives have, for good reason, singled out the media as a major form of (mis)education in the age of monopoly capitalism in which a few companies dominate the market and use their economic and political power to deliver messages that sell a particular worldview that legitimizes massive economic and social inequality. But many of these same progressives argue against the view that porn has an effect on men in the real world, preferring instead to call anti-porn feminists unsophisticated thinkers who don’t appreciate how images can be playful and open to numerous interpretations. So now we are in a somewhat strange place where people who argue that mainstream corporate media have the power to shape, mold, influence, manipulate, and seduce viewers simultaneously deny that porn has an effect on their consumers.”
“Imagine what would happen if suddenly we saw a slew of dramas and sitcoms on television where, say, blacks or Jews were repeatedly referred to in a racist or anti-Semitic way, where they got their hair pulled, faces slapped, and choked by white men pushing foreign objects into their mouths. My guess is that there would be an outcry and the images would not be defended on the grounds that they were just fantasy but rather would be seen for what they are: depictions of cruel acts that one group is perpetrating against another group. By wrapping the violence in a sexual cloak, porn renders it invisible, and those of us who protest the violence are consequently defined as anti-sex, not anti-violence.”
“What my conversations with college students reveal is how conformity to porn culture is defined by young women as a free choice. I hear this mantra everywhere, yet when one digs deeper, it is clear that the idea of choice is more complicated that originally thought. To talk about women’s free choice is to enter into the tricky terrain of how much free will we really have as human beings. While we all have some power to act as the author of our own lives, we are not free-floating individuals who comes into the world with a ready-made set of identities; rather, to paraphrase Karl Marx, we are social beings who construct our identities within a particular set of social, economic, and political conditions, which are often not of our own making. This is especially true of our gender identity, as gender is a social invention and hence our notion of what is ‘normal’ feminine behavior is shaped by external forces.”
“Understanding culture as a socializing agent requires exploring how and why some girls and young women conform and others resist. For all the visual onslaught, not every young woman looks or acts like she take her cues from Cosmopolitan or Maxim. One reason for this is that conforming to a dominant image is not an all-or-nothing act but rather a series of acts that place women and girls at different points on the continuum of conformity to nonconformity. Where any individual sits at any given time on this continuum depends on her past and present experiences as well as family relationships, media consumption, peer group affiliations and sexual, racial, and class identity. We are not, after all, blank slates onto which images are projected.
Given the complex ways that we form our sexual and gender identities, it is almost impossible to predict, with precision, how any one individual will act at any one time. This does not mean, though, that we can’t make predictions on a macro level. What we can say is that the more one way of being female is elevated above and beyond others, the more a substantial proportion of the population will gravitate toward that which is most socially accepted, condoned, and rewarded. The more the hypersexualized image crowds out other images of women and girls, the fewer options females have of resisting what cultural critic Neil Postman called “the seduction of the eloquence of the image.”
“Conforming to the image is seductive as it not only offers women an identity that is in keeping with the majority but also confers a whole host of pleasures, since looking hot does garner the kind of male attention that can sometimes feel empowering. Indeed, getting people to consent to any system, even if it’s inherently oppressive, is made easier if conformity brings with it psychological, social, and/or material gains. Many women know what it’s like to be sexually wanted by a man: the way he holds you in his gaze, the way he finds everything you say worthy of attention, the way you suddenly become the most compelling person in the world. This is the kind of attention we don’t normally get from men when we are giving a presentation, having a political conversation, or telling them to do the dishes. No, this is an attention men shower on women they want sexually, and it feels like real power, but it is ephemeral because it is being given to women by men who increasingly, thanks to the porn culture, see women as interchangeable hookup partners. To feel that sense of power, women need to keep sexing themselves up so they can become visible to the next man who is going to, for a short time, hold her in his lustful gaze.
Those girls and young women who resist the wages of sexual objectification have to form an identity that is in opposition to mainstream culture. What I find is that these young women and girls tend to have someone in their life—be it a mother, an older woman mentor, or a coach—who provides some form of immunization to the cultural messages. But often this immunization is short-lived.”