Women and Porn: Not Just a Guy Issue!

154188344When most people in our culture think about pornography and who is accessing it online, their thoughts automatically go to the male population. Would it surprise you to know that women represent 30% of the internet pornography consumers (Internet Pornography Statistics, 2008; Nielsen/NetRatings, April 2005)? It is time to stop with the “old school” thinking that it is just a “man” issue and take a look at not only the increased activity with women and pornography, but also the impact that it is having on them and their lives.

Women have greater access to information, laws, and resources that foster sexual health and expression, but we can’t be naïve not to acknowledge these advantages against other realities that women will face. Women today are introduced into a society with more sexually explicit messages that encourage risky and impulsive behaviors. Here are just a few examples of the powerful influences she will be facing as she surfs the Internet:

  • Sexualized messages
  • Sex crimes
  • Online sexual predators
  • Internet dating services
  • Sexualized cyber bullying which will make her world more sexually distorting, daunting, and aggressive than ever before in her early stages of her development

Women as Objects: What They View and Its Impact

So how is this happening and why are women becoming more and more consumed with Internet pornography? The sex industry and pornography are gaining greater acceptance and presence in our culture. What use to be culturally unacceptable has it become more of the norm? The rapid growth of Internet usage has been identified as the primary reason for the exponential increase in pornography use and production, as well as compulsive sexual behaviors related to pornography use.

Women are more saturated today with sexual messages and are buying into the distorted marketing that a provocative woman is ideal. For example, this might include pressure for women to make out with other females so that men think they are “open-minded” and “cool” at high school and college parties. These activities, among others, can send a normalizing sexual abuse acceptance because of seeing it eroticized in pornography. These are thoughts and activities that they would have never entertained in the past, but can now feel like it is necessary at times to be accepted.

Women as Consumers: A Growing Trend

Men use to be the main consumers of pornography and women were the objects of the images. It is now more common that women are producing, viewing and interacting with the sex industry than ever before in its history. Their time, energy, and thoughts are being seriously impacted as they too spend countless hours lost in the world of fantasy and also, at times, in shame hoping they can measure up to what they view.

Some of the consequences of the increase in women viewers are:

What makes some women willing to accept this more than others? Women who had suffered sexual trauma were more accepting of pornography than women who had not suffered sexual trauma (Broman, 2003). Of course, not all women who suffered sexual trauma ventured into pornography but it certainly opened the door to either have their boundaries become more tolerant that this type of behavior is normal based on what they experienced or to use pornography to numb the hurt they continue to feel from their trauma.

The Impact of Porn on Women

There are women, like some men, who will feel that there is no harm in viewing pornography and that their viewing patterns are controllable. What they might not consider is that once the door is open, they become more vulnerable to a potential addiction and an extensive array of other traumas that can stay with them the rest of their lives.

These statistics and facts are both alarming and sad but reinforce how dangerous it is for women to get caught up in the world of pornography:

  • Diminished trust in intimate partners, decreased desire to be sexual exclusively with a partner, increased risk of developing a negative body image, acceptance of promiscuity as a normal state of interaction, views love in a cynical manner.
  • In the US, one in four adolescent females (ages 14- 19) is infected with at least one sexually transmitted disease, and 15 percent have more than one sexually transmitted disease (Altman, 2008).
  • Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted (including rape, attempted rape and other sexually violent felonies), and every eight minutes, someone in the U.S. is raped (RAINN, 2008).
  • Women make up 80 percent of humans trafficked and 70 percent of these women are used for sexual purposes (e.g. prostitution) (McGinnis, 2007).

Conclusion

Those that think pornography is harmless entertainment or a martial aid have clearly never been exposed to individuals, couples, or families who are reeling from its devastating effects. Many women are seeking out mental health counselors for issues related to these trends and the manner that it affects their relationships, sexuality, self-esteem and their identity as women. The days of looking at pornography as only a “man” issue are over and it is time to step up and create awareness so that women can see how destructive and impactful this will be in their lives. Otherwise, we will be creating a culture where women lose their identity, value and worth for something that will leave them even more broken and hurt.

References:

  1. Altman, L.K. (March 12, 2008). Sex Infections Found in Quarter of Teenage Girls. In The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2008 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/science/12std.html?WT.mc_id=.
  2. Broman, C.L. (2003). Sexuality Attitudes: The impact of trauma. Journal of Sex Research, 40 (4), pp.351-357.
  3. McGinnis, E. The Horrifying Reality of Sex Trafficking. Retrieved June 13, 2007 from http://www.beverlylahayeinstitute.org
  4. RAINN (June, 2008). How often does sexual assault occur? Retrieved June 17, 2008 from http:// www.rainn.org/print/287

© Copyright 2010 by Janie Lacy, LMHC, NCC, CSAT, therapist in Maitland, Florida. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • dwayne

    dwayne

    May 24th, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    whoa!I never thought women could constitute as much as 30% of the viewers of pornography!I always thought there are very few women who watch porn and the numbers are far and few.this is a real eye-opener!

  • cathy G.

    cathy G.

    May 25th, 2010 at 7:50 AM

    I’m not surprised…I have quite a lot of female friends who watch porn.But what I’m surprised to read is that it affects them mentally…my friends are not addicted to it and watch it very rarely…I guess it would be wrong to generalize that it would lead to addiction or problems.

  • Amy

    Amy

    May 25th, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    Why even look at that trash if it’s gonna make you feel so bad about yourself? It’s one thing if you like to use with your spouse or whatever, that’s your business. But if you are looking at it and making you feel less thatn worthy then why even bother with it?

  • wendi

    wendi

    May 25th, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    most women who watch porn only do damage to themselves by thinking of how imperfect they are when compared to those women in the videos…but I strongly believe it is wrong! I mean come on…you see baseball players on TV…are you as good? No! Does it make you any less of a baseball player or fan? No!!!

  • Johnna

    Johnna

    May 26th, 2010 at 4:45 AM

    I guess I am kinda surprised too to read that so many women are actually watching porn online. It offends me that so many of us have obviously bought into the make market and mentality that this is ok and can be useful in the bedroom. Not!! I don’t have one friend who has anything to positive to say about this. We all tend to agree that it makes our husbands think they are the stud of the year but in turn makes us feel like we are never going to be able to live up to those “standards” for the female figure that these films and materials portray. Who could? I am tired of women being ashamed of who we are because we don’t match that Ideal of what is being presented to us. Honestly it just makes me want to sit down with a big bowl of ice cream and cry.

  • Gary

    Gary

    June 7th, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    I know many women who are video and written (literature) porn fans. Over the past few years I blieve that the increasingly permissive cultural freedom that women have enjoyed has expanded to areas previously never considered an interrest of theirs. Imagine our surprise to find women are indeed interested in very graphic sexual imagery. If you have any doubts, ask yourself how you feel about girls watching the MTV awards show and the kiss Sandra Bullock provided for all to see with another women. I can only imagine that out there in TV land some parents were scrambling to explain it all to their daughters – son’s too! It seems that there are varying degrees of porn, or rather “sexually explicit material” – and its uses are varied by user. Not all sexual material is harmful to everybody. Some is harmful to all, All is not harmful to some. Women have been empowered and the marches of the 70’s for women’s rights have brought us to the modern image of women… like it or not… as portrayed on “Sex and the City”. That program would have been run off the air in 1975! But that was a generation ago and times have indeed changed. What was clearly exploitation just a few years ago is now viewed widely as rightful empowerment.

    None of us, individualy, can really speak for an entire gender anymore – at least not and have credibility. Like it or not we have (cuturally) bent the sexuality and gender norms to the point where what IS or WHAT WE WANT, quickly becomes what IS NORMAL and MY RIGHT. We must beware of starting our comments by “All women …. or All men…… The cultural variances and expressed rights are to vast to be accurate.

    There is no going back now. The genie is out of the bottle and many women… and the PERSONS they love, want it that way.

  • Kay

    Kay

    April 12th, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    What about the study that says when porn is more widely available, rape rates go down?
    http://anthonydamato.law.northwestern.edu/Adobefiles/porn.pdf

    Porn isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is, and I’m insulted that you refused to use any of the good qualities porn has, such as women are able to explore their sexuality in a safer way.
    WE NEED TO STOP BEING SUCH A SEX NEGATIVE CULTURE. Vaginas aren’t scary – they are awesome and I’m super happy to have one. Period, the end.

  • mcgirl

    mcgirl

    July 5th, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    I am neither for or against porn but I am against poor arguments and badly written blogs. Seriously – how on earch could a woman watching porn increase her chance of being raped!?! You can’t just throw rape out as a catch phrase because it gets peoples’ attention. That is reckless and disrespectful. Watching porn is something most likely done in private in the privacy of one’s home. This does not impact the actions or behaviors of would be rapists. What affects that is the life and upbringing of the rapist. Are women still really being blamed for being rape victims? Have we learned nothing? And this on a site that is supposedly promoting healthy relationships!?!

    This whole article is just anti-porn but for some reason the author is not comforable with stating that stance, rather chooses to reference statistics about issues that are not caused by watching porn. Ummmm…sexually transmitted diseases? Last time I checked there had to be another person invovled for that to happen.

  • John

    John

    August 30th, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    To be honest, after looking around online and in porn shops, I’d say the numbers are more or less 50/50, these days, and they could be even higher in percentages applied to women – and for the money to be made as models, and not just participating as viewers. Married people should start asking themselves what their true gender values are, and have a heart to heart – before all hell breaks loose!

  • renee

    renee

    February 23rd, 2013 at 5:50 AM

    porn desensitizes people, because when they start believing “their real life loves” should be as crazy, no holds bared, exravagant,lusty & big breasted & demoralized as what the web shows- they are no longer satisfied with their real love. It does destroy what use to be called “making love to your partner or spouse”. It is a fact that “the average person cannot live up to the Fake expectations they show on live porn sites. It ruins relationships, marriages & what use to be know as “intimacy & faithfulness”.

  • Nick

    Nick

    March 13th, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    You are not proving any correlation between your conclusions and porn. (More porn = more rape?)

    “how imperfect they are when compared to those women in the videos”

    I strongly disagree. Amateur porn makes up a big portion of the market, and those women are not air-brushed perfect. Even the professional stuff has some pretty unattractive models. Yet, they are still sexy :)

  • Shannon

    Shannon

    December 3rd, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    This article is ridiculous.

    “decreased desire to be sexually exclusive with one partner” and a few other choice phrases…

    How 1950’s. Right, women don’t have sexual desires, shouldn’t be sexually experienced, should spend their lives with one man and they only watch porn to compare themselves to other women.

    I, and many women I know (who aren’t afraid to admit it), watch porn as a quick way to get off, and we think it can be sexy as well! Women like having orgasms too, women masturbate too, women watch porn too.

    Why should a woman have to be ‘exclusive’ with a man in order to enjoy herself sexually?

    Welcome to the 21st century, people.

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