Lifestyle

Let’s Talk Porn

With a pervasive business model and a captive audience, as a social worker, I was intrigued to understand the link between pornography and the effects it has on its audience of college students. But first, I took a look at the kinds of representations of sex and sexuality that pornography portrays to understand the nature of its content. In pornography, over 90 percent of the content featured a minimum of one aggressive act, both physical and verbal. If that sounds reasonable because of the trend toward the extreme, I discovered that there are an average of 12 acts of aggression per scene. And the acts of aggression we’re discussing are largely toward women, because men and women in these scenes are devoid of equality and respect. In fact, men are almost always portrayed as dominant and powerful, the recipient of sexual gratification, while women are portrayed as sexual objects.

Although many agree that these are negative representations, it is common to believe that users aren’t conditioned by the stories they tell. However, that’s not the whole story. “When men turn to porn to experience sexual arousal…the stories seep into the very core of their sexual identity.” John Foubert found evidence to support this theory in a research study he conducted.

In the study, 62 percent of the fraternity population at a Midwestern public university were surveyed on their pornography viewing habits and the ways it influenced behavior. The findings found a link – men who view pornography are more likely to commit sexual violence than those who do not. Foubert sums up his study with an alarming discovery: “Men who view pornography are significantly less likely to intervene as a bystander, report an increased behavioral intent to rape and are more likely to believe rape myths.” So perhaps the aggressive behavior and negative portrayals of men and women in pornography are indeed the byproducts the audience absorbs.

For women, pornography viewing yields the same addictive qualities, as well as sometimes causes a negative view of their sexual identity. Often times women who view pornography associate sexual victimization as a natural part of their experience. So it’s not just that women are often degraded in pornography, it’s that they sometimes believe this is the norm in sexual relationships. And this kind of normalized behavior has the potential to weave itself into the social fabric of schools and universities.

Despite these alarming facts, there is a lot students, parents and college administrators can do to create a culture of awareness and equality. For students, it starts with practicing mutual dignity and respect for their fellow student from all walks of life. Often times, all it takes is for a student to speak out to stop the destructive cycle brought on by the pornography industry. And students at schools across the country are empowered to use their voice in Student Affairs programs, student government and orientation and resident life programs. Go to your college or university’s homepage and click on “Student Affairs,” “Health Services” or “Counseling” to find out how you can be an advocate in this arena.

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