Column: Pornography: a vicious cycle

By Dan Mollison

What part of the entertainment industry is bigger than the NFL, the NBA and the MLB combined?

You guessed it – it’s pornography. The porn industry has grown into a $10 billion a year business, with some of our nation’s best-known corporations – including General Motors, AOL Time Warner, Marriott, Hilton and Westin – silently raking in big profits from pornography without mentioning it in their company records. Pornography has become so pervasive that in 2003, Americans spent more money on porn than they did on going to see Hollywood movies.

Even though pornography stretches into the homes of millions of Americans, we don’t openly talk about it much. We’re even less likely to discuss how those who use pornography – who are primarily men – might be affected by seeing these images. I recently had the opportunity to be part of such a discussion, and I came away from it with a new perspective on how the men in my life, including myself, have been impacted by our exposure to pornography. When men choose to use porn, their lives and relationships pay the price.

I was at Indiana University for a men’s conference on sexual assault prevention last weekend, and we talked about pornography’s influence on men. We focused on the type of pornography that is consumed the majority of the time, the graphic material that depicts a man – or men – sexually dominating a woman. These films usually include a standard series of sex acts including oral, vaginal and anal penetration, which are often performed while the men call the women by a multitude of derogatory names. While they’re being penetrated, women are expected to say over and over again how much they like the sex. And when the man reaches orgasm, he will typically ejaculate on the woman’s body, sometimes on her face.

These sex scenes convey to viewers the idea that women are not human but rather are objects to be used by men to satisfy male sexual desires. In order for a man to get pleasure from watching a woman being verbally, sexually and sometimes physically abused, he has to deny the woman’s humanity. If he’s thinking about the fact that this woman has the same feelings, relationships with loved ones, dreams and aspirations as his mother, his sisters and his female friends, there is no way he would be aroused by a scene in which a man treats a woman like garbage as he’s penetrating her; he’d find it sickening. Pornography dehumanizes women, and when a man is exposed to it for a long period of time, it becomes easier for him to ignore the humanity of the women in his life.

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One of the men at the conference shared how his past experiences with pornography have had a deep impact on his life. Like many of his peers, he was first exposed to pornography in middle school, years before he would have his first serious sexual experience with a woman. Pornography offered him a rare glimpse into the world of sex that nobody was talking about, and because he wasn’t given accurate information about what sex was like, he started to believe that the acts he had been witnessing in pornography – of men sexually dominating women – is what sex is supposed to be. He then carried these beliefs into his romantic relationships, and caused his partners, and himself, a lot of undue grief.

This experience has become a downright common one for men, and it’s truthfully a hard bind to be in. Pornography offers men a taste of something they can never have, a feeling of being completely in control. But when men return from these fantasies to a world that doesn’t always go their way, they crave the feeling of being powerful even more; and they may even seek it out in their relationships.

To me, being a man means accepting that I won’t always get my way in life. It’s difficult to escape from the trap that pornography sets on men, but it will always be more satisfying – and more manly – to respect women, rather than use them.

Dan Mollison is a junior in LAS. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].