We Need To Talk About Porn

Content Warning: This piece contains graphic descriptions of mainstream pornography.

We need to talk about porn. We need to have a huge, comprehensive, massive undertaking of a conversation on the complex, contentious, divisive thing that is porn. What is not needed is relegating porn to something between children and their guardians, or something for teachers to deal with. It affects all of us, whether we like it or not. We all have a responsiblity to be part of this conversation, even if we are not using it. This thing is huge, and soundbites and one liners will never put a tidy lid on this sprawling mess.

Here are some search terms which I came across during a brief scroll around Pornhub.

Teen (353, 017 results)
Brutal sex
Punished teens
Exploited teens
Abused schoolgirl
Teen gives gagging BJ
Painal (‘painal’ meaning ‘painful anal’)
Ass to mouth
Messy ass to mouth
Teen painal
First time anal
Screaming anal (744 results)
Painful first time anal
Forced teens
Little teen takes huge fist
Facial abuse
Little teen slut swallows
Brutal anal gangbang
Crying anal
Crying gangbang
Abused teen f*ck
Step daddy
Abused teens
Painal to save her marriage
Sleeping teens
Used and abused
Abused gangbang
Brutal gangbang
Forced gagging
Forcedly f*cked
Extreme abuse
Drunk sex
Anal abuse
Abused teen anal
Abused girlfriends
Train abuse (where sexual assault and unwanted groping is sexualised)

You can’t read this not-exhaustive-by-any-means list of porn search terms and tags covering everything from pedophilia to abuse to incest to domestic violence to rape, without wondering what the f*ck is going on. How have we gotten to the point where men are getting off on abused schoolgirls? Grimly, the most popular porn search term is ‘teen.’ Another big porn search term is ‘step-daddy daughter’, which can only be a sign of the glorious times we live in.

I do not accept pornography as part of a sexually healthy, equal society because I do not accept the objectification of women’s bodies for male gratification (or anyone’s bodies, for anyone’s gratification), no matter where it takes place – in porn, on the street, in nightclubs, or on the train. I do not accept the objectification of women’s bodies (again, or anyone’s bodies – I’m aware I’m only focusing on heterosexual porn) even if an individual enjoys their objectification or consents to being objectified.


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I do not accept that ‘abuse’ and ‘exploitation,’ which actually happens and is widespread and which can destroy young teen schoolgirls’ lives, is turned into wanking fodder and then defended as freedom of sexuality. The key here is objective critical thinking. Critically thinking about pornography is not equal to calling for censorship, or being anti-sex. We need to consider the complexitites of porn in relation to the bigger picture of its impact on our society, without subjectively judging individuals or individual choices. Because as we all know that nothing grows out of a vacuum.

The type of pornography listed above, which is extraordinarily easy to find or stumble accross, is mainstream pornography. It is a recipe for rape, and it is a recipe for grooming. It is a recipe for violence. Not only does it reinforce the shitty attitudes some men have towards women, sex and sexuality, but it also teaches new attitudes. It ramps both beliefs and behaviours up. The violent scenes men and boys jack off to teach them to associate orgasm and arousal with with facials, with choking, with smacking, with gagging, with ‘painal.”. Porn teaches it’s acceptable, and it shows new ways their crappy attitudes can be played out. Porn doesn’t learn from sex, sex learns from porn.

Not only does porn reinforce the shitty attitudes some men have towards women, sex and sexuality, but it also teaches new attitudes.

With every ejaculation he is compounding his neural wiring to align ejaculation, pleasure, and sex with the acts he has witnessed. Pure objectification, lacking in love, compassion, and equality. It aligns sex with violence, abuse, manipulation, trickery and exploitation. The next stage is wanting to try these acts in real life. “I am not saying that a man reads porn and goes out to rape,” says pornography researcher Gail Dines, “but what I do know is that porn gives permission to its consumers to treat women as they are treated in porn.”

In the same article Julie Bindel writes: “In a recent study, 80% of men said that the one sex act they would most like to perform is to ejaculate on a woman’s face; in 2007, a comment stream on the website Jezebel included a number of women who said that, on a first date, they had, to their surprise, experienced their sexual partner ejaculating on their faces without asking.” This is sexual assault. Men are literally taking what they learn in porn into the bedroom with their sexual partners without consideration for them, because porn doesn’t teach us consideration for our sexual partners, it teaches us the opposite. I am deeply concerned with everything relating to sexual violence, and most of porn involves sexual violence, whether that violence is acted out, or not. A consensual smack is still a smack.

In one study (there are many) which involved scanning men’s brains as they watched porn, the results showed that the part of the brain which responded to the images was the part which deals with objects. Not people, or relationships, or emotions. Objects. And in porn, women, all people, are treated as such. It is my hypothesis that the ingredients of sexual violence – across the whole spectrum from street harassment to abuse to rape – is the potent combination of a sense of entitlement and dehumanisation/objectification of the target. This combination is what fuels a grope in a pub and a cat call and a smack across the face and all abuse. This combination is part of what fuels pornography.

A sense of entitlement meeting with the objectification of someone makes doing what you feel like doing to that person a lot easier than if you regarded them as a whole human being. As well as entitlement and dehumanisation, patriarchal traditional gender roles are made use of in pornography. It relies on the laziest stereotypes of women and men to propel the violence: women are passive, submissive, receivers, while men are active, dominant, strong, pursuers. It is these attitudes that also feed into other acting out behaviours – stalking, cat calling, and groping.

There are over 50 studies which show the connection between pornography and sexual violence.

There are over 50 studies which show the connection between pornography and sexual violence. Gail Dines says: “We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women.” Anecdotally, we see news reports appearing at a rapid rate of boys trying out sex moves they learnt in porn. Of course there are other variables involved. Of course there are. But pornography is one of them.

If what we see and hear didn’t effect us subliminally then advertising would not be the multi-million industry it is.  I am non-plussed at people who bemoan advertising aimed at women for its body shaming and diet prescribing messages, and out cry at images in advertising which depict rapeyness, but are A-Okay with men orgasming to brutally exploited teens and so on, because, what, they don’t want to offend anyone’s sexual tastes? They don’t want to ‘kink shame?’  Either the images we ingest affect society or they don’t. We don’t get to cherry pick.

If we are horrified by the thought of a man wanking to that rapey Dolce & Gabbana shoe ad, why are we not horrified by a man wanking to ‘facial abuse’ (“extreme hardcore face f*cking, cumshot showers, pure double penetration and all out throat banging the dumbest whores we can find”)? If we acknowledge that the shoe ad contributes to rape culture why does simulated rape in porn – literally eroticising sexual violence – not also contribute to rape culture?


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Why is porn defended so vehemently? Why is it a holy sanctuary above criticism just because it’s about sex? What makes sex as a behaviour so special and beyond critique, as opposed to fair trade coffee, fair trade clothing manufacturing, fair trade circuses, and so on. We make political choices in how we live our lives everyday – from where we send our kids to school to where and what we shop for, to who we organise with. Just because something involves our sexual organs does not eliminate it from a critical lens through which we view the world.  

Why do we care so very much about exploitation in other industries but when it comes to porn we shrug and use the popular words ‘consensual’, ‘adults’ and ‘choice,’ rather than looking a little deeper at the structures at play? Is the popular porn slur ‘dumb whore’ something we should all be right-on about because it’s related to men holding their penises? Is the newly coined porn term and genre ‘painal’ fine because to think otherwise would be to ‘shame’ some man’s sexual interests in causing a woman pain?

Sure #notallporn features all this grossness, all this explicit violence, and blatant leanings toward pedophilia and abuse, but 88% of it exhibits male violence against women. The same way we acknowledge that it’s irrelevant that #notallmen are violent when a significant number of them are, the crapness exists. The abuse exists. It exists and it needs to be addressed. Go to any of the many free porn websites and look at it. Then read what the research says about all aspects of it. Educate yourself on it and start thinking critically about it. And then let’s start talking about it.  


Guest piece by Mia Doring, originally published at Headstuff.org. Mia is a writer, facilitator, violence against women activist and psychotherapist. You can watch her excellent TED talk here.


Add your comment

  • Allison Havey
    commented 2017-05-12 08:27:58 +1000
    I am the co founder of The Rap Project, a UK based organisation that speaks in over 130 schools to teenagers aged between 12-19. We speak about sexual harassment and sexual assault, LAD-itude, or laddish, and how social media and hard core porn is influencing their attitudes, behaviours, body image and expectations. We promote mutual respect and mutual consent in a non judgemental way that they can relate to. We have reached over 26,000 teens and we are growing. We also discuss desensitisation and early sexualisation, and how porn is filtering into main stream media- advertising, TV, Music lyrics and videos etc. We ask teens to understand the narrative and what they mean. I would be happy to write about their reactions to our talks on your site. Our website is www.therapproject.co.uk
  • Richard Andrew
    commented 2017-05-10 09:44:39 +1000
    Brilliant article asking all the hard questions. The most poignant paragraph here is "Why is porn defended so vehemently? Why is it a holy sanctuary above criticism just because it’s about sex? What makes sex as a behaviour so special and beyond critique, as opposed to fair trade coffee, fair trade clothing manufacturing, fair trade circuses, and so on … " It will bring out the howlers of course. The problem is when people defend porn they are not thinking critically. At best the arguments are intellectual, devoid of any emotional connection to the reality. I could go on. Perhaps the first question a girl/woman needs to ask before going on a date is a) what is your porn history and b) what are your sexual expectations?

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