Pornography can be defined as explicit content intended to sexually arouse. Viewers intentionally invite themselves to be entertained, influenced, and seduced. As a result, their attitudes, behaviors, and brains are often affected.1 Regarding attitudes: 53% of boys and 39% of girls believe that pornography is a realistic depiction of sex.2 As for behavior: Several resources indicate that over 85% of sex buyers, imprisoned sex offenders, pedophiles, and sexual assault predators regularly use pornography.3 Since men predominately engage in these behaviors, this discussion will focus on men who view pornography. This article will show what pornography is doing to our culture, why porn is incongruent with healthy sexual relations, and why we need a new and different kind of feminism.
Porn screws women
Most pornography does not model authentic sex and reduces sex to bodily pleasure. Insert violence into pornography and we have a culture that struggles with kindness, love, respect, dignity, and generosity. Porn depicts the treatment of women as trashy, not classy. Porn objectifies women. A high percentage of men who view porn prefer graphic images and sex sites, and of 3000 respondents in a 2016 Barna Group survey, 44% didn’t think that pornography that’s demeaning is wrong.4 20% of individual pornographic texts (sexts or sexting) are photos of girls under age 16 and 88% of the most popular downloaded pornography materials contain violence against women.5
Habitual porn use not only alters brain functioning but hardens the heart.6 Women do not want to be ejaculated on the face. Choking a woman does not bring ecstasy to a woman, or man for that matter. The porn user who thinks this is erotic has been duped into believing it constitutes normal sexual arousal. The same is true for other degrading and unpleasant acts.
40 million people in the United States regularly view pornography. We can’t ignore the possibility, and probability, that all this porn viewing influences sexual relations between men and women. In the documentary “Raised on Porn,” many of the experts agree that pornography has created a mental script on how to relate to girls. A college age woman broke up with her boyfriend after she was asked to engage in sexual behavior that included ejaculating on her face and punching her in the nose (“cherry sundae”).7 Many studies report that heterosexual anal intercourse (HAI) has risen exponentially over the past decade. These studies also show that women who consent to painful sex acts feel the need to drink alcohol or take drugs before the activity.8
Women are more than a sexual vessel or object, made for men’s pleasure. We need to remind, teach, and show men respectful, loving, kind sex.
Misplaced Sexual Pleasure and Activity
Jim O’Day, Executive Director of Integrity Restored, an organization designed to help recovering pornography addicts, states, “Pornography creates and fuels behaviors and creates a new normal environment which we otherwise might not accept. As men and women increasingly view pornography and especially as pornography becomes the ‘sex ed’ of choice for our kids, our cultural attitudes will increasingly shift towards more violent, debauched sexual norms.”9
Boys and men who view porn often request sexual acts from girls and women that aren’t appealing or desired by women. Repeated exposure influences thoughts and behavior. Pornography suggests ideas for activities which were previously unconsidered or undesired, and in the minds of its viewers, reduces women to objects. That’s because pornography is directed toward individual sexual fulfillment, devoid of unitive sex, or sex that unites two people on a deeper level. The result is that men are motivated to act out what they see in pornography, and unitive sex is seldom a consideration. Porn viewers use people and objects for sexual release, and in the end, they are being used by an industry that doesn’t care about them.
Although sex robots aren’t projected to become as commonplace as once suspected, 56,000 are sold worldwide for an average price of $3,567.00.10 In addition, the sex toy market skyrocketed, especially during COVID-19. In 2020, global annual sales were $32 billion, and it’s expected to rise to $54.6 billion in 2026. The United States, China, Japan, and Canada constitute a large percentage of sales, with single women and the LGBTQ community contributing to the increase.11
Woody Allen’s 1973 movie “Sleeper” depicted a booth-like contraption, called an “Orgasmatron,” where a couple or individual enters for a minute, and exits in a post-orgasmic, euphoric state. Pornography, sex toys, robots, and virtual reality are appealing to people who no longer want to make the effort for real, human sexual relationships. Virtual Reality Porn (VR) Porn is expected to be a $1 billion business by 2025.12 Many people will be seduced by the idea that sexual fulfillment can be found without having to engage in sexual activity. It will feel real when it’s not.
Babies are created via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy, and a child can be raised by one parent. Men and women don’t need each other sexually, but the allure of solo sex without the hassles of real relationships will likely result in emptiness, unfulfillment, detachment and loneliness.
“Pornography consumption has been linked with a wide range of harms: mental health issues, sexually risky behavior, gender-based violence, gender stereotypes, unrealistic expectations, body image issues, poor relationships, bodily shame, sexual coercion, sexual aggression, sexism, and sexual objectification.”13 In “The Relation of Sexual Attitudes to Hypersexuality and Problematic Pornography Use,” Lewczuk, Wizla, and Gola found a significant correlation between attitudes and problematic sexual behavior.14
Numerous studies have cited that Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED) has been affecting young men at increasing rates. Robert Weiss, Ph.D.,MSW says, “Thanks to heavy porn use, growing numbers of men are suffering from sexual dysfunction, be it ED, DE, or anorgasmia. Even worse, male sexual dysfunction affects not just men but their romantic partners.”15
Married couples should be alarmed by the statistic that a porn using partner is 300 times more likely to engage in extramarital affairs than a porn free partner. Divorce attorneys have noted that up to 60% of divorces involve some degree of porn use. Pornography consumption should be avoided. Even if there existed ethical porn or respectful porn, it’s a voyeuristic, inauthentic approach to engaging in intimate sexual relations. We also cannot forget that sex trafficking is often involved in the making of pornography. Porn, sex toys (also called sexual wellness products), and sex robots used as foreplay or a replacement for real sexual relations does not enhance what should be the most intimate form of physical communication between two people. Emphasis on pleasure for the sake of pleasure is a form of immaturity, and invites sexual detachment, less effort and sacrifice in relationships, less marriages, and less committed relationships. Less commitment translates to less security and stability.
In Porn Free: How to Decrease the Demand for Pornography, I discuss a view of human sexuality in which a couple relates to each other, face to face, taking cues as to what satisfies each partner.
Violence is Acceptable in Pornography and in our Culture
We must talk about violence when we talk about pornography. Dr. John Foubert says the odds that porn and sexual violence are not connected are very, very low. “While porn is by no means the sole cause of violence toward women, and not even close to every porn consumer will become a perpetrator, porn certainly plays a role in fueling and perpetuating violence against women. Porn dehumanizes women and when someone is dehumanized, it’s easier to commit violence against them. Porn normalizes violence against women by packaging it as entertainment and selling it as an arousing fantasy, and porn has been shown to eroticize the very acts of violence women have been victimized by.”16
If we insist on less violence, we can start with ourselves. We must not tolerate violent words or violent behavior. We should try to eliminate the consumption of violent entertainment and guard our minds so that we don’t risk becoming desensitized to violence. Continuous and frequent violent images, thoughts, and stimulation are bound to affect the heart, mind, and actions. Violence in all forms must be carefully considered. Women allow violence to occur in their womb when they decide to have an abortion, and some men feel relieved that an unintended pregnancy can be eliminated.
Women often feel disempowered to report sexual assault and domestic violence. We should encourage women to report sexual assault, especially by “superiors” and when women feel a power imbalance. There’s a lot at stake for girls and women to publicly acknowledge and accuse perpetrators because there is often a lot at stake (threats of future violence to themselves or family members, jeopardy of grades, job, position, or future career, to name a few). We need to enforce sexual assault laws and aim to increase criminal convictions. If we are to create a less violent world, we must not tolerate violence to our body and mind.
A Different Kind of Feminism
What is needed is a different kind of feminism, one in which we can lead men back to placing women on a pedestal and revering our power, rooted in our biological uniqueness. Whether or not we choose to use our childbearing and breastfeeding capacity, we are the life-givers of nature, and we are the direct line to the life force. This is worthy of respect. But we must act dignified, being careful to not act as sexual objects. We must expect impeccable treatment as a “whole person.” Similarly, we can encourage, guide, and expect men to act honorably.
Women aren’t responsible for men’s pornography use, habits, or addictions, but can serve as helpers to avoid or recover from pornography. Porn can be viewed as an arousal addiction but is ultimately an individual choice by the user.
Sexual activity is a private, individual matter. Pregnancy is often a major concern among sexually active people. The Fertility Awareness Method, artificial contraception, and abortion are options sexually active women can employ if they don’t desire a pregnancy or baby. At first glance, it seems like contraception and abortion are liberating. What if birth control not only liberates, but enslaves? Women are free to have sex without the burden of conceiving a baby, while at the same time, women can choose to use men for their physical gratification, and men might expect women to be available sexually. Women and men are now reduced to objects. Pornography reduces men and women to objects. The sexual landscape has not only been littered but damaged from the effects of pornography.
Selfish sexual behavior requires little responsibility and commitment. Consensual sex is part of personal freedom but can invite men and women to use each other for bodily pleasure. Is this the type of freedom to which we aspire?
We are sexual beings. Sex is not only for procreation, and everyone must come to terms with their beliefs and values regarding sex. If we place pornography in the context of human sexuality, and if we agree that pornography influences sexual behaviors and relationships, we need to ask the following questions: What is the purpose of porn? What is the purpose of sex? Whose business is it? If we agree that there is widespread discontent, mistreatment and brokenness surrounding sexual relations, can we do anything about it and if so, what? How can we create a more respectful view of women and men? Feminism can address these questions so that we can create a more fulfilling, sexually healthy, and loving world.
1. (Martellozzo, E., Monaghan, A., Adler, J.R., Davidson, J., Leyva, R., & Horvath, M.A.H. (2016). 'I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it'. A quantitative and qualitative examination of the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people. London: Middlesex University. NSPCC. Retrieved from https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/media/1187/mdx-nspcc-occ-pornography-report.pdf) andStruthers, William, Ph.D. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. 2009, InterVarsity Press (IVP Books), Downers Grove, Illinois.
4. www.CovenantEyes.com, 2018 Porn Stat Report.
6. “Brain, Heart, World” 2018 docuseries from Fight the New Drug, www.brainheartworld.org
7. “Raised on Porn.” 2021, Magic Lantern Pictures.
8. “Perceptions of Anal Intercourse Among Heterosexual Women: A Pilot Qualitative Study.” Lyndsey S. Benson, MD, MS, Kelly C. Gilmore, MPH, Elizabeth A. Micks, MD, MPH, Erin McCoy, MPH, Sarah W. Prager, MD, MAS. International Society for Sexual Medicine. Sexual Medicine, Volume 7, Issue 2, June 2019, Pages 198–206, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esxm.2018.12.003
9. “Porn Slaves.” Jim O’Day, Integrity Restored. www.IntegerityRestored.com
10. “It’s 2023, where are the sex robots? They will probably never be as huge as everyone thinks.” Tory Shepherd, The Guardian, Jan. 13. 2023.
11. “Global Sex Toys Market Report 2022: Market to Reach $54.6 Billion by 2026.” Businesswire, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, Jan. 17, 2022. ResearchAndMarkets.com.
13. “What have we learned from 50 years of studying porn? Heterosexuality is essentially broken.” Tory Shepherd, The Guardian, Sep. 2, 2022.
14. “The Relation of Sexual Attitudes to Hypersexuality and Problematic Pornography Use.” Lewczuk, Karol, Wizla, Magdalena, and Gola, Mateusz. Archives of Sexual Behavior, National Publishing Group, Jul 27, 2022.
15. “Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction: Can pornography impact male sexual performance?” Robert Weiss, Ph.D., MSW, Psychology Today.
16. “5 Studies that Show How Often Porn Normalizes Violence Against Women.” www.fightthenewdrug.org.
Lynn M. Griesemer, is the author of Porn Free: How to Decrease the Demand for Pornography and 12 other books on marriage, childbirth, and public speaking. www.lynngriesemer.com