Has Pornography Heightened Or Hijacked Our Sexuality?

My father sent me a link to a public radio interview program, AirTalk, featuring Gail Dines and Shira Tarrant, feminists on opposing sides of the debate on whether pornography can be healthy or harmful toward our sexuality: “Has pornography heightened or hijacked our sexuality?”

I think it’s worth a listen; the discussion touched on many thought-provoking points. For instance, are women who express skepticism about porn automatically labeled “prudes”? How do we discuss whether porn is harmful if we don’t have a good definition of “harm” in the first place?

Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. You can also make friends with us on Facebook.

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.

  • anonymoose

    I think that mass produced porn CAN lead to sexual and romantic isolationism and feeds into introversion. A man or women (or teen) everyday of the week can masturbate to porn videos on their computer. They imagine that one of the males or females is actually having sex with them and then they get the big physical and mental release. Thus, they may never feel the need to develop the skills to go out and find a real mate, or make their relationship with their current mate better or dump their current mate and start fresh. I think that this would be a good starting definition of harm.

    When I think of porn, I think of that scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke senses that this particular cave is strong with the dark side. He wants to enter the cave and asks Yoda what is in the cave. Yoda replies, “Only what you bring with you.” Meaning, if you have fear in you, that is what is in the cave. If you have hate in you, that is what is in the cave. I think this is the same with porn. Porn is the cave but it only has what you bring with you.

  • http://bloketoys.co.uk/Fleshjack-Vibro-Pink-Bottom-Cyclone Fleshjack

    I think this is simply one of those things that will never be resolved through debate. It’s entirely about personal opinion, because I have seen no evidence to suggest that pornography or the use of it has ever actually altered society or activity in any way.
    For instance, many in religious circles claim it is harmful to society, but there is no evidence of this manifestation. And where there is any rise in sexual violence or crime it could also be attributed to population increase, drug abuse, poor law enforcement or many other factors.

    In the same way, access to pornography has only increased, while birth rates also climb and the transmission of STD’s is certainly not lessened. Therefore pornography has clearly not affected sexual activity.

    If anything, I would suggest that pornography and the increased ease of access to it (with the advent of the internet) has opened society up more in terms of what is “normal”. It allows people to explore sexual ideas, fetishes and fantasies.
    Where before many would think they were strange for desiring something “unusual” (which could be anything depending on your social environment and upbringing) many can now explore whatever they desire with freedom. Surely that can only help our society and the psychological health of any population?

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I think your starting definition of harm is neat–the idea that if a person cannot function normally in a sexual relationship, then porn has done some harm to that person. Not that everyone has to end up in a sexually-active, heterosexual, monogamous relationship… but if you’re uninterested in that due to the misleading influence of pornography, then that could be problematic.

    I also agree that porn–like most artistic materials–is very open to interpretation due to the viewer’s perspective on things. I think the viewer/audience brings their issues with them, and if they’ve been instilled with a fear of sexuality as evil/degrading/etc. then they’re likely to view pornography as such.

    In short, I like the cave metaphor! :)

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    Your notion that greater access to porn has opened up more possibilities for sexual freedom is intriguing, and I’m inclined to agree that more exposure to different ideas about sex (various fetishes, orientations, etc.) is healthier in the long run. My main concern is that pornography isn’t providing an unbiased perspective on sexuality–mainstream porn is trying to sell sex of a certain kind to a specific audience, and so other possibilities get lost in the mix because they don’t have a mainstream appeal or whatever.

    The debate is tough because, as you say, personal preference is a personal thing and there’s little evidence about how pornography affects society as a whole or as individuals. Clearly, more research is needed!

  • http://bloketoys.co.uk Mens Sex Toys

    Absolutely agree. I think it’s improving though. Just as we’ve seen a shift in music because of the availability and accessibility of unsigned artists, I think adult media will follow.
    While now it is seemingly dominated by buff and perfectly formed models, there are more niches opening up. I think that will continue as more and more people find ways of putting their OWN pornographic endeavors out into the internet world.
    There has been some research recently into male sexuality that showed more heterosexual men were exploring same-sex activities in porn, and this wouldn’t have been open to them without sites like xtube.
    As said though, I think more exploration of sexuality is needed, I firmly believe that the labels of gay, bi and straight don’t adequately encompass fetish for same-sex activity (for example) and any increased availability of widely varying pornography can only help to improve diversity and sexual enjoyment.

    I predict an “open source” do-it-yourself business will start up soon allowing people to start their own niche site, kind of an extension to xtube.
    That diversity can only help water-down the bland, gym toned, one-dimensional and stereotypical adult media saturating the market right now ;)

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I agree that porn, like many expressive forms, is moving toward a more open-source model. A friend told me about a site like Youtube but for porn (I think it’s called Youporn?) which is meant to be uploaded by/for the people who make it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, and if people will try to enforce copyright like about porn the same way they do with music, etc.

    I’m also with you on the inadequacy of traditional labels (straight, gay, bi) since they’re founded upon a binary system that is imposed socially, and may not describe people’s lived experiences except insofar as people have internalized those norms. Then again, I’m a social constructionist when it comes to most things, so go figure!