Does pornography make men more sexist?

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The general consensus among single people on the dating circuit these days is that porn has greatly affected the way humans interact with each other, sexually speaking. Anecdotally, sexual interaction in 2013 seems to be rife with the sort of bedroom activity it once took partners months to build up to sheepishly asking each other about.

Concrete evidence on the matter, on the other hand, tends to be harder to come by (as it were), as airtime is usually split between anti-porn rhetoric and “sex positive” campaigning, with precious little objective material in the middle. Is it a harmless marital aid, or contributing to the inevitable downfall of human relationships?

Two new studies seem to be leaning heavily towards the latter.

The first, conducted by Indiana University researchers Michelle Funk and Paul Wright and published in Psychology Of Women Quarterly, found that “people who admitted to watching pornography were less likely to support affirmative action for women in a subsequent interview”. Yes, people: the interviewees included women, and the downtick in support for affirmative action was recorded in responses from both genders.

As the researchers noted of the results, they “suggest that pornography may be a social influence that undermines support for affirmative action programs for women”.

In an otherwise dismissive piece about the “Department of Duh study”, Jezebel’s Erin Ryan wonders whether the sort of porn watched in turn affects the viewer’s stance on gender politics, citing old-fashioned ‘70s porn and feminist erotica as potentially producing a different result to the bleaker and more hardcore fare on offer today - and whether there is something else at play entirely. “If all porn affects audiences equally, then maybe overarching cultural attitudes about gender in the context of sex are to blame for the results of this study — maybe it's not porn's fault; maybe it's inescapable cultural prudery.”

However, in another study released this past week, it was less prudery that could be at play than plain old fashioned sexism. Research undertaken at the University of Copenhagen found that repeated exposure to pornography did in fact make heterosexual men more sexist, but only when they were “low in agreeableness” (or, to use the Daily Mail’s more convenient parlance, “mean”; the Times went with “unpleasant”) to begin with.

In the researchers own words, “personality (agreeableness) was found to influence the relationship between pornography and sexist attitudes so that it was only among participants low in agreeableness that pornography was found to increase sexist attitudes”.

Therefore, one takeaway from these studies is that pornography can have a place in a healthy relationship among adults who are not complete dropkicks about gender politics, which isn’t really telling us much that we didn’t already know. What the studies instead seem to be able to agree on, somewhat more sadly, is that continued exposure to porn reinforces the sexist attitudes of men who could probably benefit from being removed from those kinds of thought patterns.

So, in other words, we’re no closer to being able to agree on exactly where pornography will fall, in terms of its cultural impact, in the annals of history. Maybe it’s time to do a comprehensive study of people on the dating circuit. I’m sure ButtLover69 will provide some truly illuminating statistical data. 

 

74 comments

  • With the advent of file sharing, the evolution of the internet, smart phones etc, porn has become much more available than ever. Surely, if porn is as damaging as many people including myself, alongside this evolution, and presumably the rise in the consumption of porn, we would have seen a corresponding rise in social issues. Have we seen these? Are things worse than ever?

    Commenter
    Inner Northbourne
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 18, 2013, 7:42AM
    • One study has shown that internet porn prevents rape: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/everyday_economics/2006/10/how_the_web_prevents_rape.html

      "The general consensus among single people on the dating circuit these days"

      Unless they have been dating continuously since before the rise of the internet and have maintained the same market value and search criteria it would be difficult to prove this. Most people dating today weren't dating in the mid-90s. Many things have changed since then in the dating market.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      September 18, 2013, 11:00AM
    • Something like 'a rise in social issues' is always going to be extremely difficult to prove conclusively.

      However, anecdotally there is a lot of evidence that this is the case. In the bedroom for starters - many men are growing up nowadays thinking that porn is how you have sex. As a man you receive oral, then insert yourself into the instantly aroused woman, and make her climax just by the old in-out (which always works), and then you finish on her face - which women just LOVE. Forget about giving oral to the woman, that's gross. And what the hell is a 'clitoris'?

      And girls are growing up believing the same, meaning they find it harder to say no.

      Pornography also ties in to rape culture, where 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted and often blamed for it.

      I am definitely not anti-porn. Both my girlfriend and I enjoy it from time to time. But it's problematic, and everybody watching it needs to acknowledge that.

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 18, 2013, 11:30AM
    • Paul - Anecdotal evidence is usually code for "stuff I just made up". How on Earth do you come to the conclusion that this is what men and women do in the bedroom now?

      Commenter
      Roog
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 11:21AM
    • Remember when you were a teenager, and someone would find a porno mag in the woods, and you'd all run to go look at it?

      Commenter
      Jim Moriarty
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 6:33PM
  • Perhaps it is effect not cause? Perhaps people attracted to porn already have a lower regard for women? Sounds like erotica rather than porn is the way to go, just in case it is the cause.

    Commenter
    Lisaaa
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    September 18, 2013, 9:43AM
    • Indeed they made no claims to causation. Either Bastow ignored (or didn't research this) or it doesn't exist. My inclination is that sexist individuals are attracted to sexist material. Seems reasonable to me.

      The real issues to me is and always has been education, over-generalisation of porn, and society's seemingly inability (or is it fear) to discuss sex with minors. If we (society) don't teach kids properly about what is and isn't acceptable (and I don't juts mean mechanics) they will learn from porn.

      Commenter
      JJ
      Location
      Pakenham
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 1:22PM
  • "feminist erotica"

    I've seen that before...there seemed to be a lot of women in pointy boots stomping on men's more delicate areas.

    Commenter
    Tim the Toolman
    Date and time
    September 18, 2013, 9:43AM
    • I don't know about anybody else, but there was a lot of hardcore stuff in the 1970s! One example: check the web for old Vanessa del Rio videos... She was often in gang-bangs and she did it all (very well I might add).

      The only problem with today's porn is that a lot of the focus is on sexual violence and S&M. "Hit me. Harder." "Choke me". Ridiculous.

      Commenter
      Justafella
      Date and time
      September 18, 2013, 9:48AM
      • How do you go about establishing cause and effect here? I watch porn and so does my girl-friend, but we don't fit into these categories you mentioned. Surely it depends on the type of porn that gets you going. I personally find porn that degrades women a serious turn-off, so I don't watch it.

        I'd suggest guys who do like that kind of stuff and are anti-social and sexist watch degrading porn because they're misogynists to begin with.

        Commenter
        Dan
        Date and time
        September 18, 2013, 9:58AM

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