Pornstream: Is Porn Okay?

Pornstream: Is Porn Okay?

Illustration by Kitty Luo

Tim’s ’18* mom walks into his room as Pornhub.com was displayed on his computer screen. He quickly shuts it as his face begins to feel hot and turns bright red with embarrassment. He nervously disregards the pornographic video as a random pop-up. While his mom’s face erupts in anger, Tim is confused as he had never been told that watching these videos is destructive.

“I didn’t really understand what was so bad about [watching the video] at the time. Nobody had ever told me that it was taboo and supposed to be kept a secret,” Tim said. “My mom didn’t really talk about it and just said not to do it again and left it at that.”

Many students like Tim have never had a formal education on how to approach porn. However, at the junior class assembly Feb. 22, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College Gail Dines brought attention to the issue of porn and sexual violence’s profound effect on our culture.

“I would argue that that violence [in porn] is causing a mass generation of trauma because it is so traumatic to see those images, and you don’t have anyone to speak to,” Dines said. “This is a terrible thing to do to your sexuality. You have the right to be the author of your own sexuality, yet [porn producers] have come in and hijacked it for profit.”

Tim began watching porn online when he was 13 years old and believes that it should be restricted for children under that age.

“I felt like Gail Dines had some extremely valid points about the actual porn industry and the hyper sexualization of our society; however, with regards to the violence she depicted in porn, although it can be found, it isn’t an overarching theme in porn,” Tim said. “I felt like, with that respect, she was almost overemphasizing it. However, it is there, and it can be found, and it could lead some people to be more violent.”

Although he said he has never accidentally come across violent porn, he believes that it is easy for other people to access.

“I feel that although kids are watching it, I think they would be too afraid to go through with [a violent sexual act],” Tim said. “It might have an impact, and it might not. For example, a ton of kids play violent video games, yet only one or two of them will actually become violent. Most of them will not [carry out a violent act] and realize that there is line between video games and reality. I think it is the same with [porn].”

Tim is one of the many boys across the country who watch porn several times a week. According to a 2007 American Psychological Association study, approximately 42 percent of 1,500 surveyed kids between ages 10-17 have viewed porn.

Boys are more likely to watch than girls as 38 percent of 16 and 17-year-old male Internet users deliberately visited porn sites, while only 8 percent of girls did, the study found.

“I’m not sure that it’s ever healthy to watch porn,” Upper School Chaplain James Young said. “Coming at it from that point of view, the younger a person is, the more I’m going to be opposed to it because I’m not even sure if a 30-year-old should be watching porn. If I had a 12-year-old kid, I would be very concerned if they were watching porn.”

When he was younger, the only accessible pornography was Playboy magazine, which minors could not purchase, making it more difficult for younger kids to view these images, Young said.

“It saddens me to think that we are probably raising a whole generation of younger kids who have the same degree of sexual knowledge that I didn’t have until I was 17, and here they are 10 or 12 [years old],” Young said. “I can’t imagine that doesn’t have some effect on them, but I don’t pretend to know what that effect that would be. For children at a young age to lose their naivete about sex is certainly a societal shift.”

Violent porn normalizes that type of behavior, Young said. However, not every person who watches violent porn will sexually assault someone, he said.

In a recent Chronicle survey of 397 students, 59 percent of students report having watched some type of online porn, while 22 percent of students have viewed violent porn.

“I think that one of the fallouts from porn, whether it is violent or not, is definitely the fact that it normalizes certain kinds of behavior,” Young said. “I’m sure studies have been done to indicate that there is a link between people who watch violent porn and people who commit sexual assault. There are certainly people who would watch something and think ‘Wow, that is really horrible. I would never do that,” but nevertheless, I would bet that you can plot some sort of a statistical correlation.”

For Ella* ’18, watching porn relieves stress, and she watches once a week. She thinks that violent porn should not be available to anyone since it can negatively impact their idea of a healthy sexual relationship.

“I think it is relative to every person,” Ella said. “When someone watches porn, they generally start in middle school, and it is the only type of sexual thing they are exposed to, so when they think of sex, that kind of sex is what they think of, the violent sex and boys being dominant. If that’s what they learn sex is, that is what they are going to expect, whether or not it is violence in porn or just porn in general,”

Teens should be able to watch porn as long as they are doing it in a responsible way, she said.

“If you watch [violent porn] constantly or you have repeated exposure to this type of violence, then it will eventually be in your head,” she said. “I think it is possible because most people in the world watch porn, and if you consistently watch anything violent, you can be more influenced by it.”

According to Ana J. Bridges from the Department of Psychology at University of Arkansas, porn increases negative attitudes towards women. Many videos depict women as subordinates, existing for male sexual pleasure, she wrote in her study, Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships.

“Pornography increases negative attitudes to women. Media depicting women as objects, existing for male sexual pleasure, and as subordinates, negatively affects the users’ attitudes and behaviors toward women,” she wrote.

In her study she references Luis T. Garcia’s study in The Journal of Sex Research, which stated that a group of surveyed male college students use of porn that was non-violent did not affect their attitudes towards women. However, this study showed correlation between watching porn and men expecting their partners look have a “traditional” female appearance and be less assertive.

Rob ’18 who has accidentally stumbled upon violent porn said he finds it funny since it is so detached from his life.

“I think that it depends on the situation, and I think that when you bring together the factors of watching porn, it’s a lot different of an environment. I don’t think that the videos themselves are ok, but I don’t think it is Constitutional to put a ban on them,” Rob said.
Rob watches porn about twice a week and said he think it’s possible that sexual assault correlates with violent porn.

“I don’t think porn has affected my relationship in any way. However, I think that porn definitely promotes sexual assault. If crazy people who watch it decide to act on it, it has the same effect that watching a movie does. It causes people to want replicate those actions,” Rob said.

*Names have been changed.

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