I saw the other day that a 16 year old boy had been convicted for raping an 8 year old girl. People are appalled - and it is appalling and wrong. But it is perhaps not surprising. This is what happens when we live in a pornified culture. When we live in a culture that sells women, that degrades women, that makes a good deal of profit from depicting women as sex objects, constantly available, simply waiting for your cock (or any other passing object) to be inserted into their vaginas and rectums, we should not be surprised when our upcoming generations believe women wish to be treated this way. 'Underage' children* will access porn and will be affected by what they see. I remember seeing a friend's brother's porn collection when I was primary school age. Those images, and what they meant for me, stayed with me. When I told the men who used and sold me that it hurt, they told me it didn't, that I'd like it - just like the women in the films they watched said.
I don't believe they liked it either, judging from the expressions of pain on their faces.
Defenders of porn say it's harmless fantasy. But it's not fantasy for the women who are used in it ('actress' and 'model' seems too sweet a label for the truth: fuck doll). Or for the women whose partners watch it and want them to emulate what they see, totally ignorant of intimacy and equality. Or for our children who learn about sexuality and relationship dynamics between the sexes this way. Porn is not about equal partnerships of needs and wants. It is about assertion of power and ownership, lies and misinformation.
Most hetero porn doesn't depict safe sex - in any sense. Rarely do the men use condoms, and women are shown being penetrated both orally, vaginally and anally (higher risk of infection) by multiple men. Or the same man fucks multiple women, one after another, sans johnny. 'Bare back' as the industry likes to call it. How often does porn show lube being applied? Or any sort of nod toward the welfare of the woman. She is there simply to turn the man on: the man shown fucking her; the one wielding the camera; the one making money selling her and the man on his settee wanking over it at home. Her wellbeing, physical or emotional, just doesn't feature.
So with both boys and girls often learning about sex via porn, we have a problem. Women feel that their needs and wants are invalid - there is no place for them. Women in porn have no needs or wants other than to be touched any way, fucked any way, fulfilling the man's requirements and demands. Girls growing up feel a weight of expectation. Boys feel that 'being manly' involves treating women as sex objects, being dominant, and fucking women with neither intimacy nor respect. It's hard to learn intimacy and respect in a culture of aggressive porn, especially when it's so mainstreamed. Fisting, gang bangs and DPs don't really go hand in hand with respect. And the presence of a camera and an audience don't exactly shout intimacy.
Human worth is out of the picture.
We should stop acting surprised when men or our younger generation of boys treat women like sex objects in the real world and take some responsibility for once. After all, if we condone women being treated like that in magazines and dvds, and defend it, cash in on it and laugh about it ('boys will be boys!'), why wouldn't that change how men treat women in everyday life and how women think about themselves? We need some consistent thinking, some ownership of our part in this and some definitive action to stop the sexual objectification of women becoming further normalised. Until we are prepared to act, to do things differently, we remain appalled. But unmoved.
* I find it bizarre that when a woman turns 18 her status somehow magically changes so that her exploitation in pornography becomes legal... Does reaching a certain number agewise suddenly make a human being less worthy of protection and dignity? Likewise with the age of accessing pornography - at 18 does it suddenly become okay to join in the buying of and abuse of women in porn? I am not arguing here that minors should not be protected but rather questioning why the concern for human welfare vanishes when a minor becomes an adult in the eyes of the law.