Note: I’m telling this story from a heterosexual viewpoint, because I am one, but I feel pretty certain it’s basically the same, regardless of your sexual preference.
This one is tough to write. It makes me uncomfortable, but I’m hoping it leads to a bigger conversation I think is worth having.
When you’re a guy, the pull of pornography is a strong one.
It starts even before puberty, the looking at “nasty pictures” of naked girls. It’s not about stimulation then, it’s about just being naughty. It’s in our teenage years that the motivation behind looking at them changes.
Now they’re stimulating. Now they’re exciting. And they’re naughty.
Those pictures, along with our now hormone-fueled brains, inform the way we look at every nubile female in our line of sight. What were once germ-infested, alien life forms suddenly become objects of overwhelming, insatiable lust.
And we tend to look at them that way for the rest of our lives.
As if that’s not bad enough, porn is the gasoline we sometimes like to throw on that fire.
And, I believe, is what has gotten us to where we are in our attitude about women, which has produced this whole culture of sexual assault.
Because the appeal of porn for guys, of course, is the vicarious thrill of having any woman, anytime, anywhere, for any sexual encounter. And since society largely finds porn to be, at the very least, distasteful, there is the additional appeal of engaging in something forbidden, taboo. We all like to be bad sometimes, don’t we?
Well, is it any stretch to think that if some guy watched enough of that, it would carry over into how he viewed women in real life? How he treated them? How he regarded them sexually? No doubt, he would feel justified in having any woman he damn well wanted.
Because, as far as he’s concerned, they all want it. Even the ones who say no.
And that’s what sexual assault is about. Not the actual sex. It’s about the feeling of power, of control.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying every guy who looks at porn wants to go out and rape a bunch of women. But, it’s not tough to see how one behavior can lead to another. In fact, there’s plenty of research to suggest that sexual objectification of women often leads to aggressive behavior toward them.
And yet, women who are sexually assaulted are seldom believed, often grilled and, in one instance, mocked by the President of the United States, of all people. Society seems to have this twisted idea that the woman must have asked for it, in her manner, in her wardrobe, something. Why is it so hard to believe she could be telling the truth?
Does our culture now view women to generally be horny, sex-crazed sluts who want it all the time, even when they say they don’t?
And what part has pornography played in shaping that view?
So, back to my original point:
As I said at the beginning, pornography has a strong attraction to guys, like the sirens of Greek mythology, whose seductive singing from the shoreline lured many a sailor to certain shipwreck on the rocks. There’s probably not a man alive – myself included – who hasn’t, at some point succumbed to its attraction. And no matter how much they tell themselves that it’s demeaning, and degrading, and disrespectful of the women in their lives, the sirens remain in their ears.
Not that men are totally helpless. Self-control does still exist. But when even some mainstream advertisements skate right on the edge of soft-core porn, and push their products using objectified images of women; when pornography is so much more accessible on cable TV and the Internet; when, besides topless and nude bars, we now have these chains of “breastaurants”, intentionally staffed with curvaceous women in deliberately revealing outfits…
It sure does make resistance tougher, you know?
Now, just as an aside, if porn is used by couples to help/enhance their sex life, as long as both partners are on the same page about it, that’s different. Where porn becomes harmful, as it does in many relationships, is when it’s a secret, when one partner is unaware of the other’s indulgence. Because, if and when the secret comes out, it makes for serious strife, damaging the relationship badly, perhaps irreparably.
I apologize; I got a bit long-winded. But, as I said at the outset, I think this is something we need to talk about if we’re going to bring change to our culture that is more respectful of women.
And, I feel pretty safe in saying, unfortunately, that’s gonna be a slow process. So, we need to get started right away.