Last week, we reported that 1 in 3 women admit to viewing pornography. That means that although the majority of pornography consumers are still men, women are incredibly influenced by it. It got us thinking: How is it affecting them? How is a woman’s experience different from a man’s? These are giant questions, ones that need more time and space for exploration than we are able to get into here.
From the research we have done, however, it is clear that pornography affects women differently. Often, it informs their beliefs about what they deserve in sexual relationships which can be devastating to their self-image, intimacy, and health.
Women are Watching Violent Pornography
First off, according to a study conducted by a team of academics, pornography use is still considered a gendered activity that is, that “men are far more likely to watch pornography and more likely to have engaged or want to engage in pornographic sexual behaviors.”The study specifically looks at whether or not people who watch pornographyincluding violent and deviant videosare more likely to practice what they see in their own bedrooms.
Before discussing the findings of study, it is important to note a few more statistics.
Statistic #1: Psychology Today has this to say about the relationship between female pornography users and the types of pornography they view:
- Most women don’t like porn
- But those women who do, tend to like the same kind of porn that men do.
These two facts are important, because they refute a common stereotype: That women who like pornography like “soft-core” or “erotica” type videos. Perhaps some women do but according to studies, women who watch are watching the same things men are.
Statistic #2: In her book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality, Gail Dines reports that 88% of pornography videos contain violence against women. She says that “women of porn world seem to enjoy having sex with men who express nothing but contempt and hatred for them.” Together, these two statistics suggest that women watching pornography are watching primarily violent pornography, and this causes a real problem.
In Pornography, Women Suffer that Violence
Back to the original study, researchers found that overall, male and female pornography users are more likely to have tried or have an interest in trying sexual behaviors most frequently seen in pornography. They indicate that many of those sexual behaviors involve “some level of aggression ranging from light slapping to choking,” which are almost 100% of the time enacted on the female partner.
Women in pornographic films rarely act upon their male counterpoint. Studies show that women are “most often the targets of the sexually aggressive behavior or are engaged in a sex act that is more taxing on their body.” (Really, we do not need research to confirm this). Typically, women are acted upon, and often with multiple male and/or female partners, sometimes in humiliating group scenarios where their bodies are used for often degrading and physically damaging acts.
Furthermore, according to Mary Anne Layden, a professor of sociology and women’s studies, pornography”changes beliefs about rape and sexual violence ” a man may learn that there is no need to pay attention to a woman who is resisting, crying, screaming, struggling, or saying no, because ultimately she wants it and will enjoy it. Making violence”sexy” through pornography changes the way women who watch it understand what they, themselves, deserve and can expect in their own intimate lives.
So what happens?
Women Feel Humiliation and Degradation
A sexual script of female humiliation and degradation takes its part on a woman’s psyche. It alters her perspective of what she believes she should do and what she feels she deserves. Layden says that “the more pornography women use, the more likely they are to be victims of nonconsensual sex.” This and other previously mentioned studies indicate that women hooked on pornography are more inclined to tolerate emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and are more likely to be victims of rape, humiliation, and degrading acts. They are also more likely to experience dissatisfaction in the bedroom, as most pornography acts focus solely on male pleasure and satisfaction.
Women Experience Real Health Consequences
Researchers find time and again that for women who watch pornography, the sexual behaviors they are more willing to try present real health problems, sometimes culminating in death. In May of 2016, 33-year-old Lynette Daley died following a session of violent sex with two men. According to police reports, the cause of death was blood loss following “blunt force genital tract trauma.” A simple Google search reveals pages and pages of disturbing stories like this and worse, where women die or are maimed from violent sexual encounters with men–encounters sometimes initiated by women themselves. Again, women are most often the targetsof sexually aggressive behavior, which means that they alone deal with lasting physical marring. Dines explains how pornography reduces women to “nothing more than a collection of holes.” Her unflinching description is a chilling reminder of how pornography abuses women’s bodies, which can severe health problems.
Women who are hooked on pornography risk a higher tolerance for sexual abuse. The violent nature of most pornography alters their perspectives about acceptable sexual practices which may hurt them physically. Women may initiate violent sexual behavior, such as strangulation, after being exposed to pornography, which suggests that women who consume pornography regularly accept sexual violence against women.
What To Do If Youre Hooked
If you are a woman struggling with a pornography problem, we want to ask you to seek counseling or therapy and try to reach out to a trusted family member or friend who you feel safe talking about this with. Opening up to someone can help alleviate some of the burden as bringing secrets to light tends to do. Check out safe spaces Dirty Girl Ministries, and Fight the New Drug for forums and resources and to ask questions.
We also want to know: What can we do to best help women? We know accountability works, but we also realize that pornography takes a different toll on women as opposed to men. If you are a woman hooked on pornography, please take a minute to complete our anonymous survey, which we hope will help us understand how to better face this problem head on.