Porn and Beauty Ideals

Another issue many people have with the representations in pornography is that they depict men and women who reflect unattainable beauty and physicality ideals.

The world of porn is filled porn starwith small-waisted, big-breasted (mostly white) hairless women who can fold their legs behind their heads, and well-built (mostly white) men with six-pack abs and 8-inch penises who can seemingly have sex for hours. But the actors in porn are just that — actors. They are professional men and women who have worked to get into shape, who sometimes have particular skills that set them apart, and who have often had plastic surgery to enhance their appearance.

These men and women reflect a beauty ideal that is common to all porn star maleentertainment media in Western society — not just porn. And as with other forms of popular media, depictions of overweight, differently-abled or racial minorities (other than those discussed) are rare. So again, while there’s concern that porn reflects unattainable beauty ideals, and watching it can lead to problems such as low self-esteem or eating disorders in men and women, porn is merely a symptom of a larger cultural obsession with perfectly sculpted, white, able bodies, not a cause. Understanding that porn is an industry dealing in representations of sex as opposed to reflecting the reality of sex, is the first step towards engaging with porn for pleasure, without being negatively affected by it or having it shape your worldview.

Just remember — although porn might show one bodily ideal for men and women, in the “real” world, difference is normal and beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. If you have questions or concerns about whether your body and your genitals are “normal,” check out Planned Parenthood’s page on Bodies, or watch the short clip below.

Go to next page: Feminist Porn

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