November 4, 2010

Pornography & Pop Culture: Pushing the Limits, Sexualizing Our Youth

As we continue to reflect on White Ribbon Against P-rnography (WRAP) Week , we are highlighting features from the Enough Is Enough® (EIE) blog, and commentary and testimony from other experts examining the harms of pornography and the need to enforce existing obscenity laws.  In our Internet safety work at Enough Is Enough® (EIE) we have found that Internet pornography is one of the primary dangers children face, and parents must be involved.  For resources, tips and educational videos to help protect your children from online pornography, please visit our site

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Pornography & Pop Culture: Pushing the Limits, Sexualizing our Youth

Cris Clapp Logan, Director of Communications, Enough Is Enough®


I recently came across Cosmopolitan's 2010 Sex Survey, which reported that 36% of women use pornography as a "sex enhancer".  In another Cosmo article, the magazine essentially begs its readers to explore the many "benefits" of pornography.  One standout paragraph said:

"While one must be aware of the dangers of porn addiction, [pornography] can be used as a healthy tool to stimulate one's sex life. Caution: much of the material out there isn't for the fainthearted. But then, Cosmo chicas don't really need that warning, do they?"

While statistics vary wildly regarding the actual percentage of men, women and children viewing pornography, the theme is consistent: pornography use has become normalized in our culture.  Porn stars are now mainstream icons; little girls wear the Playboy bunny with pride on their t-shirts; our music industry continues to push the limits of "sexual expression" to the point that today's music videos resemble the "soft-core" pornography of yesteryear; and, as author Gail Dines describes in her new book, Pornland, shows like 'Girls Gone Wild' (GGW) have positioned themselves "not as a porn product, but rather as hot, sexy fun that pushes the envelope of mainstream pop culture." 

The accessibility to soft-core pornography, "user-generated" pornography, and T.V. shows like GGW and Girls Next Door, has filled a gap for the pornography Industry where, as Dines explains, "in the place of scripted and carefully crafted scenes of hard-core porn" viewers witness 'real' women creating porn and engaging in porn-inspired acts as a "sexy" part of a normal woman's everyday life.  Using 'real' women in pornography "socialized users to believe that everyday women are sexually available" and experimental, and continues to make most visible the sense that a young woman's identity is one that emphasizes her as "a sexual being at the exclusion of anything else".  As Dines continues, the pornography industry has worked carefully and strategically to "sanitize its products by stripping away the 'dirt' factor and reconstituting porn as fun, edgy, chic, sexy and hot."  

Unfortunately, once a user scrapes beyond the soft-core surface of the pornography industry, they will dive into the "anything goes" world of hardcore pornography, filled with fetish, violence, bestiality, genital torture, barely legal content and group 'gang-bangs'.  In one analysis of fifty best selling adult titles, half of the 304 scenes surveyed showed extreme verbal aggression and over 88% included extreme physical aggression.   I took a quick look at this year's Adult Video Network (AVN) award categories, which include: "Best Orgy/Gangbang Release", "Best Young Girl Release", "Best Squirting Release" (female ejaculation), and "Best All-Girl Group Sex Scene" (which must include sex scenes between four or more women).  The titles of last year's winners in these categories are too graphic for me to include. 

Some of you may be quick to tell me that pornography is fantasy, and sensible adults can distinguish the difference.  Unfortunately, the pornography 'fantasy' is spilling over into almost every corner of our culture--pushing powerful messages about human sexuality, sexual relationships, women's bodies, sexual expectation, sexual norms, and how men and women should relate.  A recent study about the Social Cots of Pornography(SCoP) suggests there is empirical evidence that "pornography today is qualitatively different from any that has gone before in its ubiquity, the use of increasingly realistic, streaming images and the increasingly 'hard-core' character of what is consumed".  

The study continued to explain that the peculiar nature of Internet pornography makes addiction more likely, and that today's consumption of pornography can harm women and children in particular, adding that "modern trends in pornography consumption and production, sexualized media, sex crime, online sexual predators, Internet dating services, and sexualized cyber-bullying, have created a world more sexually disorienting, daunting and aggressive than every before" where our children are exposed to pornographic and sexual content at earlier and earlier ages in developmentally damaging ways.  Is it any wonder that our children are creating self-produced child pornography?  Is it any wonder that schools cancel dances for fear their tweens and teens will "hook-up" on the dance floor? 

Unfortunately, our children,our young boys and girl, are not safe from the impact of the pornification of our culture.  They have free and easy access to pornography via the web, and habituation to pornographic imagery predisposes our adolescents to engage in sexually risky behavior.  One study found a strong association between pornography consumption and engaging in oral and anal sexual intercourse among adolescents.  

The pornography 'fantasy' has had real-life implications on our adult society and on our children.  Sensible adults-doctors, lawyers, and pastors-have lost their families, professions and life to hard-core pornography use.  Our tweens and teens do not know how to relate to one another sexually in positive, supportive, safe and healthy ways. We live in a culture where pop princesses dance in sexified versions of Candy Land with doughnut-covered breasts; where 17-year old teen celebrities are celebrated for openly talking about masturbation and pornography use.  Our pop culture and pornography culture have pushed the limits to the point of breaking.  Our future generation's sexual and relational stability are at stake, and no child is immune to being impacted by the floodtide of these messages.

Fortunately, you can make a difference.  

Please fight back against the misguided, pornified sexual messages pervasive in our culture by setting a strong example for the children under your care.  Protect them from accessing this harmful content online and via mobile devices to the best of your ability by using Internet Safety 101SM Rules 'N Tools® as they grow and develop. And please consider contacting your Congressman to tell them you want our existing obscenity laws enforced. 

As Internet Safety 101SM featured expert and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Jill Manning highlights in our Internet Safety 101SM teaching series, "healthy sexuality includes many things: boundaries, self-care; how do we take good care of our bodies, our minds and our spirits?  How do we develop self-respect and respect for other people?  How do we communicate in a loving and constructive way with one another.  We need to step out of this limited box that the sex talk is a one-time event.  That day is gone... We need to decide whose voice is going to win out... the pornography industry's voice or our voice."