By Kamsi Iloeje, Staff Writer
Before the age of the Internet, there was limited access to explicit sexual material and pornography. With the rise of technology in recent years, however, followed the rise of the pornography industry. As it became more available to the general public, pornography became a major influence in modern society. Pornography’s ubiquity leads one to question its effects on people, especially because of its availability to younger audiences. A recent report in the Pediatrics journal revealed that 42% of children between ages 10 and 17 have viewed Internet porn, and these numbers are steadily rising. A concern for many is the influence of pornography on the lives of its consumers, especially in relationships — that is, the lessons that porn teaches, its effect on the brain, and the morals that pornographic material presents.
Pornography is often used a means to feel happiness and fulfillment outside of genuine human interactions. This reliance leads to issues such as socially inept individuals. Humans are designed to interact and form relationships with one another; pornography provides individuals with a substitution for relationships, diminishing an individual's skills in physical and emotional intimacy in the process. The effects of watching porn can lead to an addiction in the same way someone can become addicted to cocaine. Pornography is primarily used as a mechanism to induce feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, flooding the brain with dopamine. The more pornography consumed, the more regular this release of dopamine becomes and its effects on the body weaken. Thus, more aggressive and extreme content is required to achieve the same levels of euphoria. Although pornograpphy has become normalized, many still see it as a shameful deed in society. Struggling with the guilt of having such an addiction can then also induce feelings of extreme self loathing, often resulting in using pornography as a means to ease negative emotions.
Pornography also impacts relationships through its propagation of negative gender and racial stereotypes. Portrayals of a wild promiscuous black woman, the wildly aggressive black man, and a meek and subordinate Asian woman are images that play on gender stereotypes and racism, images that have been fetishized and sexualized for hundreds of years.
In Patricia Hill Collins’s essay titled “Pornography and Black Women’s Bodies,” she analyzes the exploitation of such racial and ethnic disparities, specifically between black and white women. She wrote, “The treatment of Black women’s bodies in 19th century Europe and the United States may be the foundation upon which contemporary pornography as the representation of women objectification, domination, and control is based… African American women were not included in pornography as an afterthought, but instead, form a key pillar on which contemporary pornography itself rests.”
Collins emphasizes the idea that black women were and still are objectified and hypersexualized through the porn industry, a tool utilized to display the dominance held over black women and the lack of personal control that they hold. Through such portrayals and hundreds of other harmful ones, pornography has become an industry of ignorance and misinformation, one with unhealthy portrayals of certain groups of people with no consequences.
Pornography is also utilized as a mechanism to sexualize and profit from portrayals of unhealthy relationships. AJ Bridges, a professor at the University of Arkansas, conducted a study on aggression and sexual behavior in pornography. After analyzing 304 popular pornography scenes, the research concluded that 88.2% had examples of physical aggression (gagging, slapping, etc.) and 48.7% involved verbal aggression. The aggression was mostly perpetrated by men and their targets were almost always women. The danger in such situations is that they show the women responding with signs of pleasure to physical, emotional, and mental abuse, celebrating the very aspects of any relationship that should be avoided. In this way, porn normalizes unhealthy toxic relationships.
Within romantic relationships, pornography can lead to a lack of emotional/physical intimacy, which can lead to dangerous sexual experiences and arguments between partners. According to research published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, there exists a noticeable gap in heterosexual relationships concerning male and female pornography usage. For women in serious relationships, 60% reported that they would never watch pornography. 65% of married women also reported likewise. In men however, the numbers were significantly lower. 25% of men in serious relationships said they would never watch porn and only 37% of married men said the same.
Furthermore, pornograpy can also induce sensations of loneliness and depression. Dr. Gary Brooks, a scientist who has worked with and studied porn addicts for many years, said, “Anytime [a person] spends time [engaging with] the usual pornography usage cycle, it can’t help but be a depressing, demeaning, self-loathing kind of experience.” Pornography displays many images of men and women with unrealistic bodies and personalities, making those who don’t look or behave the same feel inadequate and disappointed in the way they are. The worse people feel about themselves, the more porn they are likely to use to seek comfort, creating a potentially infinite cycle of self-hatred and pornography consumption.
Pornogropahy is a multi-billion dollar industry that won’t go away or change its content anytime soon. We must work to contextualize the influence of porn and notice its profitability off of its harmful depictions of genders, races, sexualities, and other oppressed groups. Pornography and its effects have ruined relationships, have fostered addiction in various individuals, and created numerous unhealthy relationships.
The industry is a force to be reckoned with, but not necessarily one to be feared. Despite its overwhelming portrayal as a negative force on society, there are statistics that stand to dispute such claims. Since porn became available online, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the nation’s syphilis rate has declined 74%, gonorrhea rates have decreased 57%, and that teen sex has declined, and teen birth rates has fallen 33%. Nevertheless, it’s continuously on the minds of citizens and an essential aspect of modern American culture that dominates the media. Its effect must be understood, not just for the sake of an individual, but also as a means to enact changes to assist those experiencing the negative oncequences of pornographic usage.