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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A Nightmare Better Known As The Brock Turner Verdict

June 7, 2016

Incase you haven’t heard anything about the Brock Turner case over the past couple days; I will fill you in on the disgusting and deeply disturbing series of events. Brock Turner is a former Stanford University student, and star swimmer. More than a year ago, two witnesses found him assaulting an intoxicated, unconscious (I repeat, unconscious) female outside of a frat party on campus. Ever since last Thursday, when the judge sentenced Brock to an extremely lenient 6-month sentence and three-year probation period (when he was set to face 14 years), there has been an outrage across all social media channels and news outlets for good reason.

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In a bone chilling 12-page victim impact statement, the victim (who has withheld her name for privacy reasons), provides a detailed description of what this experience and trial has done to her life. What I took away from her statement is that every waking moment of her life since the night of the attack, has been absolute torturous hell (which is me putting it nicely). It was extremely tough to get through all 12 pages, as I felt both my heart aching in agony, and every inch of my body slowly fill with rage.

What I find to be so confusing is that the concept of this whole thing is really quite simple. So I’m sort of stumped as to why many people (including Brock, his father, his best friend, and Judge Aaron Persky) are having difficulty grasping this idea. If you murder someone, you are a murderer. If you steal something, you are a thief. If you rape someone, you are a rapist. Period. Rape is a criminal offence, and Brock doesn’t deserve to get away with a slap on the wrist because of his athletic ‘potential’. He should serve the time he rightfully deserves for committing such a despicable act. For me, it is extremely hard to swallow the fact that people are strongly defending someone who is so indefensible. As the victim impact statement pointed out:

You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty-six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt.

Aside from what happened on the night of the assault, there are a number of other deeply disturbing instances, which have resulted from this case. One, neither Stanford University nor Brock Turner issued an apology to the victim. Two, Brock Turner’s father, Dan Turner, wrote the most cringe-worthy and jaw dropping letter, which epitomizes and encourages rape culture. The letter details how the verdicts have shattered and broken his son. Hmm. His letter paints a picture of his son being the victim, with no consideration whatsoever of how the real victim’s life has been affected. He also mentions how Brock will never be the same…maybe your parenting should have included that lesson about how it is  explicitly unacceptable to rape an unconscious woman? Most disturbing of all, is this excerpt from the letter: “That [the verdict] is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life”. 20 minutes of action? It is absolutely heinous and downright insulting to classify something as serious as rape as “20 minutes of action”.

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What is extremely infuriating to myself, and the many others expressing outrage over this case, is the fact that if you are a star athlete at a prestigious U.S. university then everyone is quick to hop to your defence and work extremely hard to cover up the case, and get you off the hook. Do we not see that something is wrong here? Brock Turner’s extremely lenient punishment was based on the fact that he has “potential” as an athletic swimmer, rather than the crime he was found guilty of committing.

We saw the exact same thing happen with another high-profile university athlete rape case featuring Jameis Winston. Winston was a star football player and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State University, when he was accused of violently raping a female in the name of Erica Kinsman. Despite DNA evidence, and Erica filing separate reports with police and the university, the investigation was suspended for no reason. Erica’s case, unfortunately, is the sad reality of what actually goes on when victims try and report sexual assault to their educational institutions. There is a documentary titled The Hunting Ground, which reveals the lengths universities go to, to cover up and lie about rape cases in order to uphold the image of their school, and not deter prospective students.

These two cases, along with hundreds of thousands of others tell an extremely important story. These are not one-off events that happen once in a blue moon. There is an obvious pattern of campus rape, and the severity of this problem cannot continue to be overlooked. We cannot continue to let rape become a cultural norm – this is morally intolerable. Although sexualized violence against women is one of the world’s most common human rights offences, this isn’t an issue about just women. This is a basic human rights issue for males, females and transgenders alike. For all of the people who quickly hopped to the defence of Brock Turner, I personally guarantee your sentiments and statements would tell a much different story if this had happened to your own sister, daughter, or wife. The scary thing is, Brock Turner actually has a sister, Caroline Turner, and she also released a statement in his defence, which speaks volumes to the parenting job Dan Turner and his wife have done. It couldn’t be more crystal clear that the verdict of this case is utterly unacceptable for numerous reasons. The verdict explicitly violates the integrity the U.S. Judicial System is required to uphold, demonstrating privilege and extreme bias in favour of someone who has been proven 100% guilty.

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The grim results of this trial as well as the Jian Ghomeshi trial add more fuel to the rape culture fire. These verdicts aid in discouraging those who want to speak out, for fear of experiencing similar repercussions. This is extremely problematic because this can lead to many victims being more reluctant to report rape. This is not okay, and silencing survivors doesn’t make this issue go away.

Growing up as a female, both my school and my parents taught me how to avoid being raped, and what I should do when a male is attacking me or trying to sexually assault me. What’s ironic is that males are never explicitly taught or educated on why it is wrong to rape women, and this may be the root of the problem. It is something that goes unspoken. Parents talk to their sons about the danger of having unprotected sex, but not about the importance of consent. This is something that needs to change NOW. Because of what I have been taught about rape growing up, I have lived my teenage years and early adulthood somewhat paranoid about ever being in that type of situation, and always thinking about how to avoid it. If young teenage boys are taught that rape is a crime and are educated on the repercussions they would face if they were to rape a girl, perhaps they too would have carried around the same paranoia I did. Perhaps this paranoia would deter them from engaging in rape, or better yet, significantly reduce the number of rapes that occur.

I could honestly go on writing about this forever, and how white privilege plays a huge role in this, and that I find it no coincidence Judge Aaron Persky used to be a Stanford athlete himself. But instead, I would like to end this post on a more positive note. As I mentioned above, this post isn’t just about females. I am here to stand up for all the survivors of sexual assault: transgender, male and female. I want everyone to know that I am on your side, and I stand united in this battle to seek justice and put an end to rape culture and the judicial system’s encouragement of it. Know that I am actively fighting for you, and I will continue to do so everyday. No matter what you are told, or made to believe by your perpetrator(s) or an institution, you and your story ARE important. NEVER let anyone try to silence you, tell you your story is petty, or try and trick you into thinking that what happened is your fault – because it most certainly isn’t. Although you may feel weak at times, you are in fact not weak at all. You are strong, and courageous, because you are a survivor. You are no different than cancer survivors, or those who have survived war…you are just a survivor of a different type of battle, and for that I commend and honour you. Filed under my Sabatage Approved page, you will find some resources I have gathered regarding sexual assault, and reporting sexual assault. I intend to grow the list of links, and will continue to work on developing these resources. If you agree with the unfair verdict, there is a petition against Judge Aaron Persky you can find here, which has been drawing wide support. Please share this post, and feel free to leave a comment regarding other resources you may be aware of!

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