Girls Gone Wild visits campus

By Dan Mollison

Last week, a Girls Gone Wild tour bus came to the University, and parked itself directly in front of one of our sororities.

The president of the sorority asserts that there is no connection between her organization and Girls Gone Wild. This is probably true, given that the public parking space also happens to be conveniently located near two of our campus bars. But there was something about seeing the Girls Gone Wild bus parked nonchalantly on Wright Street that forced me to think about an area of our society that we don’t often discuss openly: pornography.

The Girls Gone Wild buses continuously tour the country to persuade young, intoxicated women to engage in acts on camera that range from showing their breasts to having sex with each other. A lot can be said regarding why there are so many young women in our society who seem willing to do this, and about the disturbing tactics that the Girls Gone Wild cameramen often use to persuade them. But when I was standing before the Girls Gone Wild bus, I found myself asking a much more direct question: Why do men buy, consume and masturbate to these images?

The pornography industry is among the most pervasive in the world. Sales of pornography top $57 billion per year, which amounts to more than the annual intake of the NFL, MLB, and the NBA combined. Every day 30 million people log on to pornographic Web sites, with the largest consumers of internet pornography being between the ages 12-17. The percentage of men who have admitted to using porn to reach orgasm at least once before is so close to 100 percent, that to assume pornography is not being consumed by men we know and care about borders on the absurd.

What does pornography offer men that is so attractive?

I recently took a class that was composed of fraternity men who came together each week to talk and learn about sexual violence. In a discussion about pornography, one of my classmates said that he uses porn because there is an aspect of fantasy to it. Porn offers him access to exciting sexual scenarios, he said, and it allows him to take a brief departure from his everyday life.

His explanation makes sense. It is human nature to have sexual urges, and to crave sexual variety and excitement at some level. But Girls Gone Wild thrives from selling us images of college women who are like the women we know. What happens to us men when we begin to fantasize about the kind of young women that we interact with on a daily basis?

As we men get off to these images, we become increasingly accustomed to looking at the women in our lives through the same “lense” that we use when we’re consuming images of them. It becomes harder for us to separate the women we know from their bodies, and as our fantasies begin to blend with reality, it becomes more and more difficult for us to have meaningful relationships with the women we objectify.

Because this behavior is so ingrained in us, many of us men consider it normal to objectify the women we interact with. Some of us even celebrate this. But what happens when the woman being objectified is someone that we care about? What happens when it is our sisters, our partners, or our close female friends that become the objects of other men’s fantasies?

As I stood before the Girls Gone Wild bus, the reality behind the women who appear in these videos sank in for me. I understood that these women aren’t any different from the women that I know. They too are sisters, daughters, partners, friends, and classmates to countless others who care about them. And for men to ignore their humanity only makes enjoying their own relationships with women that much more difficult.