Porn and Misogyny

man's world

Misogyny, in its simplest meaning, is literally “the hatred of women or girls,” but it can also refer to a general disrespect for the feminine, an assumption of male superiority or a devaluing of female perspectives or experiences. And much of the pornography available online does indeed depict men behaving in a misogynistic way — a hateful way — towards women. Women are often shown being physically assaulted, verbally abused, bound and gagged, rendered completely helpless and in some cases, sexually used while unconscious. Themes of non-consent run throughout the world of online porn, but what really upsets many opponents of pornography is that the women in these films are often depicted as enjoying this misogynistic treatment.  In the world of pornography, women want to be treated badly and the men around them are only too happy to oblige.

The fear, of course, is that men and women (and teenagers) who watch this relationship play out onscreen will think that this type of treatment is normal and okay. There is concern that teenagers will internalize these ideas — take them in and integrate them with their own identities — so that a hatred of women and the view of women as nothing more than objects will become their everyday perspective.

suffrageWhat the opponents of pornography do not always address is the reality that our culture is itself misogynistic and the porn industry — with its assumed audience of mostly men — is simply reinforcing the ideas about women that already exist in society today. Western society is steeped in a long history of hating and fearing women — prior to 1918, women in Canada were not allowed to vote and it wasn’t until the feminist social movements of the 1960s, that issues of domestic violence and sexual assault were considered important causes. Women were also limited in the opportunities they had for education and employment, and a woman’s place was thought to be “in the home,” caring for children and creating a nice environment for her husband.

Even today, with all the strides that have been made in women’s rights, women still do not receive equal pay for the work they do, continue to have to fight for their reproductive freedom (their power to decide if and when it is the right time for them to have a baby), magazineand are told by police officers not to “dress like sluts” if they don’t want be sexually assaulted. And being “feminine” is still heavily associated with being attractive to men — not accomplishing positive things for yourself or your community. Indeed, it could be said that hating women is built into the very fabric of our culture, and it is no surprise that porn — as a cultural product — draws on this common theme for its subject matter. Porn, therefore, certainly doesn’t create misogyny. But if you don’t understand where the idea that women are objects comes from, watching porn certainly doesn’t help.

This clip from the Media Education Foundation talks a bit more about misogyny in the media.

Go to next page: Porn and Racism

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