Coltrain: Pornography’s effects on consent

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Travis Coltrain

travis-coltrain@uiowa.edu

 

Pornography isn’t as taboo as it used to be. With smartphones and the Internet, pornography is easily accessible at almost anytime. This has created a new set of morals and ideals around pornography, which has made it into an almost trademark part of growing up because of its constant presence in not only everyday life, but popular culture as well.

I can’t remember a sitcom without an episode largely based on kids/pre-teens finding a “dirty magazine” or trying to see a “dirty movie.” To the characters in the show, seeing this movie or magazine somehow symbolized a transformation from child to young adult.

Pornography’s presence in popular culture is just one of the ways it has taken root in our lives. In the time of the Internet, pornography has risen to one of the largest reasons people use the Internet, according to a 2001 survey conducted by MSNBC that ranked viewing pornography as fourth in most common uses.

While the results of this survey might seem a bit far-fetched, a study conducted in 2016 by Alexa, an Amazon company, revealed Pornhub, a pornograpic website, was the 39th most visited website in the world, beating both Bing and Tumblr.

The 2001 MSNBC survey also found that 80 percent of the participants felt they were spending so much time on pornographic sites that they were putting their relationships or jobs at risk. A report conducted by Jeff Logue, who has a Ph.D., apparently showed that 40 million people in the U.S. watch porn regularly.

But no one knew just how mind-altering pornography could be until recent studies have come out highlighting such effects.

Psychiatrist Norman Doidge explores this issue further in his 2007 book, The Brain That Changes Itself, in which he showcases just how much porn has altered since the pin-up-girl era. He shows how during that era, hardcore porn was explicit sexual intercourse between adults. However, within the last two decades, that has completely changed.

Now, hardcore has evolved and is increasingly dominated by sadomasochistic themes, fusing sex with hatred and humiliation. Hardcore pornography now explores the world of fetishes and unhealthy ideas of sex, while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago.

This evolution created a change in viewers’ minds, Doidge says. He apparently found that all of the men he observed for his book reported that porn began affecting their desires in everyday life, making the intimate aspects of their relationships troublesome.

Doidge says similar to people who are alcoholics or gamble too much, porn addiction is a real thing. These men suffered from it, and he found that with most things, a tolerance can be built up. Many of his participants showcased this tolerance, saying magazines and some softer videos weren’t enough for them.

The men found themselves having new desires that changed the atmosphere of their relationships from loving to almost violent. These desires were more forceful and often one-sided. The men often said the partners didn’t necessarily like it but only did it to make them happy.

This is where the line is drawn between this behavior and communities such as BDSM, which (when done correctly) is highly based around consent. Doidge explains that this difference in sexual desires can often create a huge strain on the relationship, a difference that always lies in consent.

Clearly, the issue of consent in sexual relationships has yet to be truly understood or taken seriously, as can be seen by the leaked Hollywood tapes of our current president. While many said Trump’s comments did not involve sexual assault, many others said it did. Consent was certainly not at play.

Ultimately, pornography can create mind-altering effects if watched too much, while also creating unrealistic and sometimes sadomasochistic themes. While it would be a stretch to blame violence in relationships and toward women entirely on pornography, it is without a doubt responsible in a shift of consciousness that affects how people interact.

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