Not Just Any Kind of Sexuality: The Pornography of Everyday Life

I have a thing for advertisements, especially when they portray sexism, gender stereotypes, or the pornification of sexuality. Elin and I frequently write about advertisements that we find disturbing, annoying, or just plain sexist. And there are many kinds to choose from, as different forms of advertising are everywhere. Some of my favorite analyses and discussions of popular culture and advertising are Jean Kilbourne’s series Killing Us Softly and Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. I also wrote about the documentary Orgasm Inc, concerning female sexual dysfunction.

The Pornography of Everyday Life (2007) is another (short, about 34 minutes) brilliant documentary that caught my eye. While the content and language used may be triggering to some, as it portrays sexual and violent scenes, the gruesome content is placed into context. What the documentary does so well, in such short amount of time, is to explain and give direct examples of  the central pornographic worldview–namely, that porn promotes the domination, submission, and humiliation of women, contributes to sexism, racism, homophobia, and even war and environmental destruction.

In the documentary, Jane Caputi, one of the producers and creators, states that pornography is not about the expression of sexual freedom; instead, pornography promotes hate, abuse, and the humiliation of women through ceremonies of degradation, where the treatment of women as objects is considered normal and even sexy. Another important part of the documentary is the discussion of rape. The depiction of rape in pornographic images and advertisements (not to mention movies) has become increasingly common. The depictions of women as submissive and longing for abuse, and as dirty women contributes to the normalization of rape, the tendency to blame the victim, and rape culture.

What I found very interesting about the documentary is that in such a short time we are engaged in discussions about gender, race, sexual orientation, class, patriarchy, and religion. The Pornography of Everyday Life manages to tie all these together and depict the harms of the pornographication of culture, while offering some ways in which we can try to change.

If you are interested in the impact of pornography on sexuality, and the mainstreaming of pornography, then I suggest the books Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry, edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray; and Selling Sex Short: The Pornographic and Sexological Construction of Women’s Sexuality in the West by Meagan Tyler. Also check out my Feminist Conversation with Tyler.

Photo with the words “Porn Puts Our Children in Harms Way” uploaded by flickr user hansol and shared under a creative commons license. 

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