Posted by Maria Gola | For Men, How to, Pornography Facts, Prevention, Recovery

The list of high-profile men being accused of sexual misconduct keeps getting longer and longer and it’s starting to freak me out. It’s one thing when it’s the cliché slimy politicians who you assumed have been doing that kind of thing all along, but it’s another when it’s comedians you grew up watching, musicians whose songs you’ve rocked out to, or the creators of and actors in your favorite movies and tv shows.

I feel like Keith David’s character in They Live. It’s like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is trying to get me to put on the sunglasses and I’m willing to get the ever loving crap kicked out of me to avoid putting on those things on, because I know when I do, I won’t be able to see things the same way ever again. It’d be easy to ignore all of this and go about my business, but I can’t do that anymore.

There is a problem here, and I don’t know how to fix it. That scares me.

Not to oversimplify things too much, but to me, the problem is that women are too often seen as objects; things to possess to make a man feel better about himself.

Where does this objectification come from? Well, a lot of places. And I do mean a LOT. But we can’’t ignore the fact that pornography is one of the worst offenders.

This is not to say that porn is the direct cause of all sexual harassment or violence. It’’s one of many factors, but one that should not be ignored. When interviewed about her experiences, Elizabeth Smart said that porn made her “living hell worse.” While her traumatic experiences perpetrated by an extremely disturbed individual may have occurred regardless of porn use, it intensified what was already going on and certainly didn’t help matters at all.

Porn Only Exists to Objectify

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think men are viewing explicit images with the intent of hating women. Not at all.

Objectification is, however, a byproduct of the porn use.

Like many things on the internet, viewing pornography provides a thin veil of unreality, where we see things without the emotional attachment of reality. This is the same thought behind internet trolls. We say things on the internet that we would never say to someone’s face because we don’t see them as real people. After repeated action, some of this bleeds into reality. Not all at once, but bit by bit. We might say a disparaging comment to a coworker about his political opinion because we’ve said the same thing to strangers online multiple times. By applying that same logic, perhaps casual sexual harassment, whether it’s catcalls, inappropriate touching, or even dirty jokes or stories becomes easier to stomach after repeated exposure to women as objects.

 

Most if not all internet pornography is not art, nor does it possess any cultural value. Its sole purpose is to present an image that will lead to self-gratification. It often accomplishes this by catering to a man’’s more base desires: dominance, power, selfishness, and sexual release, all at the expense of a woman.

 

Making the connection between repeated viewing of these images and the tendency to view women as objects seems obvious. There have been several studies highlighting the relationship between the two, but there are arguments to be had on both sides. While some believe that the connection between the two may be exaggerated, as stated above, it’s certainly not doing anything to erase the problem with objectification of women..

But there are things that can help.

Rediscovering Empathy

“How would you feel if someone did that to you?”

Do you remember hearing this line from your childhood? Even though most of us were taught from a young age to treat others in a way that we would want to be treated, it sometimes gets lost as adults. Empathy is the realization that other people have feelings just as real and deep as our own, and making an attempt at understanding them. Empathy is what fuels the connection between us.

Empathy is the direct opposite of objectification.

Having empathy and recognizing women as human beings shouldn’t be difficult. The harsh reality is that we have been surrounded by objectified women in popular media and pornography our entire lives. We have been conditioned to see women as things to possess, symbols of wealth and status, and prizes to be won after an adventure.

Congrats on not getting knocked out! Here's your Adrian!

Rocky didn’t even have to win to get his girl. What gives?

 

We see a slightly watered down version of this throughout popular media, but pornography takes it up a notch.

Studies have shown that when observers are presented with a sexualized image of a woman in pornography, she becomes less of a human and more of an object in the eyes of the observer.

Once more for those in the back:

 

Women are not objects.

Men are not objects.

We are people.

 

So how do we change this? How do we even begin to reject an idea that is being pressed upon us from every angle?

It’’s not something that will change overnight, but here are a few tips to help you get started.

Quick List of How to Treat Women as Friends Instead of Objects

  • Talk to Women: Sounds great. We like women. The caveat here is talking with them without expecting rewards of affection in return. Talk to them with the intent of understanding and developing friendships. I’m not advocating approaching strangers. Don’t be creepy, please. Call your mom and ask her what she’’s been up to lately. Ask your wife about the books she’s reading. Strike up a conversation with your daughter about her favorite friends at school. Which brings us to the next, and arguably most important, item on our list.
  • Listen: If there’s one sure fire way to sow the seeds of empathy and connection, is through listening. Ask questions instead of offering advice.
  • Watch What You’re Watching: We’ve established that the media floods us with images and portrayal of objectified women. Start by simply recognizing that this is happening. Begin to notice when women are being used as rewards or as tools to sell products. It’’s time to put on the sunglasses, man.
  • Break up with Pornography: Easier than it sounds, I know. But thousands of other guys have done it. It’’s not impossible. There are plenty of guides to help you through the process, including accountability software and replacing bad habits with good ones. Maybe check out this article on quitting porn by The Art of Manliness for additional tips.
  • Not all Jokes are Funny: Humor has changed a lot over the years. Certain movies I thought were hilarious as a kid are cringe-worthy to me now (*cough cough* Spaceballs *cough*). The same is true for joking around with friends and colleagues. Leave the juvenile “locker room talk” behind. Start to recognize that joking about a woman’s appearance or weight is really not all that funny, let alone appropriate.
  • Be an Example: As you start to become more aware of how women are objectified, start standing up for them. Check out the #heforshe campaign. Your words, even in casual conversation, can have far-reaching impact. Make that impact a positive one.

While it may feel like we’ve come a long way since the days of prevalent Mad Men-esque sexual harassment, we obviously still have a long way to go. Keep using a critical eye when viewing media, and let go of the pornography that serves to turn human beings into nothing more than flimsy imitations of reality. Change can and will happen, but it’’s up to all of us to help it along the way.