Pornography: Promoting the Plight of Women Today

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July 6, 2016

Something you will soon learn from subscribing to the Sabatage is that I am never afraid to discuss touchy topics, but I never want to offend anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable by writing about certain things. Rather, my aim is to address serious and pressing issues that some people have difficulty bringing up in conversation. Pornography is definitely one of those issues.

Nancy Jo Sales, author of “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers”, was the one who opened my eyes to the reality of what’s really happening in the lives of teenagers today, in terms of porn. In both her book and a discussion I attended to hear her speak on the topic of sexuality of teens and social media, Sales highlighted the fact that while porn is not new, what’s new is the fact that the porn itself has changed. Both the accessibility and the constancy of porn have changed dramatically in recent years, and the porn teens (and even kids) are watching today is very, very different in nature, when compared to the porn of the past.

If we rewind to the dinosaur times of having no Internet, accessibility was much more limited, and it was very difficult to access any type of hardcore pornography if you were underage. But with the Internet, came the elimination of many barriers, leaving access to all types of pornography at the fingertips of any child with a computer or mobile phone. Now being observed, is the heightened popularity of a type of hardcore porn called “extreme porn”, which can best be defined as exceedingly violent, degrading, and fetishtic pornography. I did some research on my own to learn more about what this porn really encompasses, and my findings were both shocking and deeply disturbing. To paint a clearer picture, some of the tags used on these videos include: “violent”, “brutal”, “extreme hardcore gangbang”, “extreme teen abuse”, “crying”, “puke”, “forced” and “painful”. There are even a number of sites, which cater specifically to the category of “rape porn” (which actually makes me feel nauseous even typing).

My research also led me to confirm that Google Trends analysis supports the reality that many desire watching this type of porn, and searches for “extreme porn” and “teen porn” continue to rise at rapid rates. Obviously this is troublesome for several reasons, but I would like to identify four reasons in particular.

1) Boys now believe that sexual violence, force, and rape is acceptable.

This quote from the introduction of the American Girls book summarizes the severity of this issue perfectly in two lines:

In a study of Canadian teenagers with an average age of 14, there was a correlation between boys’ frequent consumption of pornography and their agreement with the idea that it is acceptable to hold a girl down and force her to have sex…Among U.S. boys and girls aged 11 to 16, greater exposure to R- and X-rated films was related to stronger acceptance of sexual harassment.”

Where do I even begin? The fact that these behaviours are becoming commonplace, and regarded as “acceptable” is so appalling I can’t even find the right words to describe how this makes me feel. This is very, very disturbing evidence. It is so easy to see the connection between extreme porn and the promotion of rape culture, that I am so shocked I never identified this link prior to reading Sales’ work. The quote above reminds me of everything that was wrong with Brock Turner’s verdict, and his father’s statement defending and downplaying non-consensual, forced rape. It is a chilling reminder that this is what reality looks like now, and we can no longer continue to ignore these grim issues, or brush them under the rug.

2) Boys are being taught it is okay to disrespect women.                                                       

This is a no-brainer, and a direct consequence of #1. Constant consumption of this type of pornography, lends a hand to desensitizing boys to violence and disrespect against women, and also encourages the notion that it is okay and acceptable to disrespect women. How horrible is this? Porn works to encourage and instil patriarchal values and attitudes from a young age, rather than encouraging values of respect, and gender equality. Additionally, becoming desensitized to disrespecting  women from a young age, helps foster the likelihood of imitating and mimicking the disrespectful actions they observe pornstars engaging in. This also increases the chances of males behaving in such a way in future intimate relationships. 

3) Pornography dehumanizes women by portraying women as objects.

Extreme pornography aids in dehumanizing women, by sending a message that women are inferior objects designed for being used and abused by males. The dehumanizing nature of porn also ends up turning the act of sex into something that is self-serving for males. “When we encourage males to include dehumanizing acts in sex and teach women to accept various forms of violence against them as a “natural” part of sexual activity, we are condoning violence against women.”

4) Extreme porn is a dangerous form of sexual education.

Extreme porn does an excellent job of providing misinformation to all those watching it. While adults are better able to differentiate between scenarios that are unrealistic and inappropriate, young, impressionable teens are unable to do so in the same way. It is a known fact that pornography is typically how adolescents are introduced to sex, and where many turn, in order to learn more about sex. Consuming extreme porn from a young age not only provides misinformation of what sex really means and represents, but more concerning, it helps to create an appetite for deviant, violent, sexual relationships and unrealistic expectations of males. Extreme porn programs the brain from a very young age to be attracted to unrealistic sexual deviance and sexual violence, rather than be attracted to healthy, safe, respectful sexual relationships.

Many parents feel uncomfortable talking to their kids about pornography, or neglect to acknowledge the fact that their child may be consuming pornography. This is an issue that requires immediate correction. Just as parents talk to their children about safe sex and the dangers of unprotected sex, it is now necessary for parents to begin engaging in conversations with their children about porn from a younger age than most feel comfortable doing. Parents need to be having these conversations with their kids; educating them on the fact that pornography is not anywhere close to a real representation of sex, and that violence against women inside and outside the bedroom is 110% UNACCEPTABLE…no matter how it is portrayed. While this post primarily focused on how pornography is affecting boys, please stay tuned for a follow up post discussing how pornography affects girls. Has anyone noticed this trend firsthand, by experiencing a male saying or acting in a way that showed he believed it was okay to disrespect a female? Please comment below!

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The Best Attitude is Gratitude

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June 9, 2016

Growing up, my mother always instilled the importance of counting your blessings, and doing so especially when nothing seems to be going right in your life. When I was a teenager, none of this made sense to me. I would complain and whine about everything and anything, and my favourite thing to do was throw around the phrase “I hate my life” like it was nobody’s business. Every time I would complain about how horrible my life was or how unfair something was, my mother would pay me no time of day. Her response was always: “you are healthy, you have a roof over your head, there is food on the table, you have all your limbs, you have a family who loves you, and you have the privilege of attending school. There’s a lot to be thankful for Saba”. This line always made me cringe, and instantaneously triggered a dramatic eye roll on my behalf, and the most theatrical exit you could imagine (loud stomping included). But as I grew older, and a wee bit smarter, this idea became ingrained in my DNA, and I am so thankful I have since shifted my mindset to think like my mother.

imageIt is way too easy to get caught up in counting all the things we hate about our lives and all the things we don’t have. This is an extremely toxic practice. Whether it’s money, the latest fashion must-have item, clearer skin, a boyfriend, or your idea of the perfect body, there will never be a shortage of things we don’t have. All of us, myself included, could easily make lists that go on for days of everything we don’t have, and maybe some of you are thinking about these things right now. DON’T!!! The problem with focusing on everything we don’t have is that in this process, we forget about all the things we do have, and all the things we should constantly be thankful for. We might beat ourselves up about our arms not being toned enough, but consider this. Consider a woman who lost one of her arms in a tragic accident, and with each and every day that passes, all she thinks about is what she would give to have her arm back. If you put yourself in her shoes, then those arms of yours that may be a little less toned than you would like, seem pretty darn good don’t they?!

imageGrowing up in such an amazing country like Canada has definitely spoiled me, and sometimes I take my privileges of being a Canadian citizen for granted, without even noticing. I am reminded of this every time I hear about my friends experiences growing up in different parts of the world, where the basic rights and luxuries I take for granted everyday, simply do not exist there. I think we are all guilty of taking certain things for granted, but if we take a step back from our hectic lives and reflect on what we have, we learn how lucky we actually are.

imageNo matter how bad our lives may seem at certain times, we all have so much to be thankful for. The point I’m trying to get across here, is that it is extremely important to remember to be thankful for what you have, because despite what you may think, somewhere around the world there is someone who would die to be in your shoes. From time to time our brains are bound to wander to this negative ungrateful space, and this is natural. When this happens, be mindful of not dwelling in this space, and correct it. Refocus your thoughts on at least one positive thing you have going for you, and start to think about some of the things you are lucky to have. Whether it’s your health, access to food and clean water, supportive friends, a stable job, a talent or skill, or a home, whatever it may be there is certainly something to be grateful for. When you learn to be grateful and appreciative of the things you have, rather than upset over the things you don’t have, you start to live a much happier life.

Try to keep this post in mind, or better yet, keep this page bookmarked for the next time you are feeling down, and revisit it to help inspire some positive thinking! Although I myself am not Muslim, I am aware that the month of Ramadan began four days ago on June 5th, and I think this can be nicely tied into this post. A large part of Ramadan involves fasting, and this month-long practice is to instil and cultivate gratitude for what you have, and to realize what life is like for those less fortunate. Thinking about the lives of those less fortunate than you, or actually experiencing how those less fortunate live, can really help to open your eyes and also teach you to appreciate what you have. To the over 2 billion Muslims celebrating this month around the world, I would like to wish you all Ramadan Mubarak (which translates to a ‘Blessed Ramadan’). Regardless of practicing a religion or not, please stay positive, thankful, and remember to always be appreciative. Gratitude is the best attitude!

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