The sexualisation of our society has had many incredibly detrimental and negative effects. The “pornification of women” has become so commonplace and so readily accessible, it is no small wonder 10 and 11 year old children are viewing porn on a regular basis. Pornography and those images which degrade women and the female body have become the sex-ed for the new generation.
Zoe Williams aptly likens the omnipresent sexist and pornified images of the female figure to air pollution:
I see pornographic images in mainstream spaces and I never give it much thought. Maybe it’s a copy of the Sunday Sport next to an offer on Maltesers, with a picture of a mostly naked woman in an auditioning-for-a-porn-film pose; or a T-shirt in the window of a high-street chain, with a picture of two naked women snogging; or a van going past with a picture of a pneumatic-breasted, inexplicably naked woman painted on to the cab. They’re such cliches, so pappy and unoriginal, that they’ve always washed over me, like the sound of Justin Bieber or someone reading the lottery numbers. However, in the past I’ve always thought that, because they made no dent on my consciousness, they didn’t matter. What should have been obvious is that, like air pollution, just because you can’t always see it, doesn’t mean it’s not poisonous.
In response to a GuardianWitness callout, Karla Willows sent in an example of Primark’s pornified idea of a T-shirt. She says: “In the Blue Inc shop, they were showing quite a degrading T-shirt of two lesbians. I went in and said to the girl: ‘Could you please explain this T-shirt to my four-year-old? Because that’s what you’re asking me to do by having it in the window.’ Poor girl, it actually wasn’t her fault. She got the manager, and their line was: ‘Well, we don’t have to have it in the window.’ But they’re selling these to men, and expecting it to be in the public space; they’re expecting men to be walking billboards for pornography.”
The poison of the porn industry and its marketing affiliates is being breathed in, not only by adults (which would be bad enough) but by small children.
BJ Stockman writes, in his article 7 Negative Effects of Porn:
Porn is a problem. It’s a personal problem for many and a cultural problem for all. You may think you have not been affected by porn, but you have because it’s embedded in the surrounding culture. The staggering size of the pornography industry, its influence upon the media and the acceleration of technology, paired with the accessibility, anonymity, and affordability of porn all contribute to its increasing impact upon the culture. Pornography affects you whether you’ve ever viewed it or not, and it is helpful to understand some of its negative effects, whether you are a man or woman, struggling with watching it, or simply a mom or dad with a son or daughter.
Pornography is no longer a secretly stashed magazine under your father’s bed or a DVD rented from a dark back room. It is out in the open, for all to see. Even women’s magazines cash in on the readily available and accepted sexism. Yes, we’ve taken to differentiating between “soft” porn and “hard” porn. I have yet to see an orgy appear on the television in a family-friendly restaurant. But I have seen plenty of degrading, pornographic images through advertisements and film. I prefer not to be bombarded by these things but, as Zoe Williams says, it’s easy to ignore after awhile. For the children in my life, however, it is more than a bombardment. It is an assault.
The lessons to be learned from such images may not appear beneath the industry label but the pornification of women is still teaching its audience – of any age. Women are commodities. The female body belongs to all. Slender thighs and enlarged breasts are the standard of beauty for which all who possess a female body must aim. Not only does it degrade women, it degrades those men who do not view the women in their life as pieces of flesh to be conquered.
Zoe Williams’ article continues:
You wouldn’t show porn to kids because it would be a shame, wouldn’t it, for them to start treating each other like pieces of meat before they even knew why. It would be a pity if, before they’d had a sexual awakening, they’d been saturated by a culture in which one gender is a trussed-up, passive sex toy for the other. But this is exactly what we’re doing with the rest of our public space.
Pornography has a history of destruction. Yet it continues to make its mark, leading to an acceptance of sexism and sexual violence, to addictions, and to the cheapening of both sex and personhood. Pornography ultimately incapacitates a person’s ability to be aroused by anything else – including their partner.
Why is it only children who we think might want to be protected from pornography? Do the rest of us have to live in this grossly objectifying and demeaning culture just because some people want access to porn? I find it interesting that objection to sexually explicit material finds a place as a parental issue – but it’s much wider than that.
Pornography cannot be simply a parental issue. It is an offense to humanity. Extreme? I think not. It covers the beauty of sexual intimacy with glitter and smut. It removes the emotional bond of two people enjoying one another’s bodies and creates an emotional-less, carnal, and consequence-free physical experience. It objectifies people – men and women. It glorifies violence against women.
Sexualised imagery is only due to grow worse. We owe it not only to our children but to ourselves and the valuable human beings around us to decry the offense of pornified society.
There are ways for us to act, aside from dashing around the town with black markers or scissors. Join Child Eyes in signing a petition to make the display of porn around children illegal. Join UK Feminista, Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis, and many others in demanding the removal of lad’s magazines from shops. Sign the No More Page 3 petition, which asks David Dinsmore to “stop showing topless pictures of young women in Britain’s most widely read newspaper, stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects.”
Related: “Why Naked Pictures Aren’t Harmless” by Soraya Chemaly