The Truth about #MeToo, Rape Culture, and Porn

You may or may not have heard, but women lately are tired of being sexually harassed. Ok, this is a bad time for sarcasm, let me start over. Obviously, women don’t want to be sexually harassed. But, luckily, the world has finally gotten to a place where rape culture is something we can talk about, and especially with important movements like #MeToo, a bright light is being shone on the messed up world women are forced to live in. With plenty of Weinstein’s and Spacey’s to go around, even men like Aziz Ansari who are supposedly incredibly “woke” to issues of feminism and minority oppression are getting called out for their mistreatment of women.

75th Golden Globe Awards – Photo Room – Beverly Hills

In a nutshell, it’s become incredibly obvious that our society needs to reexamine the way we think about sexual harassment. Because the problem isn’t that people are walking around thinking, “I’m gonna rape someone”; the problem is that the perpetrators are walking around thinking, “What I did wasn’t sexual harassment,” or worse, the victims are walking around thinking “What happened to me was normal, and there’s nothing I can do.”

Now when Aziz was publicly called out for his sexual harassment scandal, I wrote that I disagreed with the way “Grace” handled the situation, and I still do. I don’t think that publicly shaming men who make mistakes but are honestly trying to do the right thing is the healthy way to treat this issue. So what is the answer? How do we deal with a problem that is so systemic and widespread? Well, sadly, the answer is incredibly simple yet simultaneously vehemently resisted: get rid of porn.

Now please, before you go huffing away at my clearly absurdist nutball religious fanaticism, hear me out.

For years, the argument in favor of pornography has been that what a person does in their private space during their private time is of no concern to anyone else, and that pornography has no effect on anyone besides the individual. Well, as more and more studies are done on the effects of pornography, we are realizing with greater clarity that nothing could be further from the truth.

To better understand what is happening with the world of pornography, let’s take a look at an eerily similar situation from not too long ago: smoking.

40c9604c51924006b9cf1c4c7e06fd62--learning-bad-girlsBefore the 1950s, few people, if anyone at all, believed smoking to be harmful. It was a fun leisure activity that, at worst, smelled bad for those not participating. It was very similar to views on pornography today: it’s got nothing to do with anyone besides me. If you don’t like it, don’t do it, but you won’t stop me from doing something I enjoy that isn’t harming anyone else.

Well, before long, the links between smoking and lung cancer started to appear. In 1954, the first widely acknowledged scientific report on smoking’s harm was published in England. What was the immediate response from the public and the tobacco companies? Mostly the public thought it couldn’t be all that bad, and the tobacco companies sought to cover up the harmful effects of their products with media campaigns depicting smoking as not only normal, but cool and hip, and that non-smokers were prudish.

Yet even as the scientific facts of tobacco’s harms became more accepted, people who continued to smoke justified the choice in saying that it wasn’t harming anyone but themselves, and they had a right to do so. Then, in the 70s, once research about second-hand-smoke (also known as “passive smoking”) started to make circles, the tobacco companies got really worried and pushed their media campaigns harder than ever before. At the time, smoking was still cool, and they wanted to make sure it stayed that way.

Well here we are, 40 years later, and smoking is now seen by most of the developed world as a seriously unhealthy (and gross) habit, and governments have passed laws against smoking in public places because they recognize the harms smoking has not only on the individual, but on society at large. Huge PSA campaigns tell us of the harms of smoking and offer hotlines, support groups, and therapy for helping people quit smoking. And what a difference it’s made: groups like the Mayo Clinic record huge drops in heart attacks and lung cancer in areas where public smoking is outlawed.

Now, lets get back to porn.

404_love_tip-1002509-TwoByOneIn a similar way to the light shed on the once believed to be benign smoking habit, new studies are being published every day that show the harmful effects of pornography on the individual and on society at large. I could write pages and pages of articles on how pornography addiction has measurably deformed people’s brains, or how the chemical imbalances created by pornography users are nearly identical to the chemical imbalances created by hardcore drugs, but many great people have already done that for us. There is no question anymore that pornography addictions are harmful to the individual.

But here’s the kicker: porn doesn’t just hurt the users. Porn use has been very clearly linked to harming all relationships in the users life, from romantic relationships to family ones, and has been proven to very heavily fuel the demand for sex trafficking around the world.

In addition to all that, porn warps our ideas of sexuality, and here is where we get back to Rape Culture and #MeToo. Listen to this:

In a recent study published by Middlesex University and the University of Surrey, researchers presented men with various quotes and asked them to see which group of quotes they identified with more. The quotes were taken from two sources: statements by convicted rapists, and porn magazines. Not only were the men unable to successfully identify which statements came from which source, but the majority of men said they identified more with the statements by the rapists than with the quotes from the porn mags.

If this doesn’t immediately shock you into a frenzy, it should. This is no longer just a personal choice. Our society’s normalization of pornography is directly tied to our society’s rampant sexual harassment issues. Pornography has warped our views of sexuality so much that we can no longer identify the differences between statements made by actual rapists and those written for titilation in porn publications.

Another recent study examined the scenes of over 300 of the most popular porn scenes and found that 88% of them contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal abuse, with the average scene containing 12 physical or verbal attacks. And in those scenes, 95% of the the victims (almost always women) responded to the abuse with either neutrality or pleasure.

Is it really any wonder that so many men are being accused of sexual harassment when the pornography they watch every day tells them that sexual harassment is not only normal, but sexy? Is it any wonder that so many women tell themselves that the harassment they suffered “wasn’t that bad” and go on accepting it when the pornography they watch tells them that’s true?

Publicly calling men out for their harassment and encouraging women to stand up for themselves is a powerful first step, but it only treats the symptoms of the problem, not the cause of it. At the root of this sickness is the unhealthy ideals of sexuality perpetuated by pornography. And like any sickness, until the cause of the illness is properly dealt with, the symptoms will keep coming up.

If we claim to be a society that is against sexual harassment, then we must necessarily also be a society that is against the pornography that has so consistently and so effectively conditioned us to accept it.

Please SHARE this article to help fight the normalization of sexual harassment and abuse spread through porn.


For more information on the harms of pornography on individuals, relationships, and society at large, or for help quitting a pornography addiction, please visit Fight the New Drug. 

 

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