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Sophisticated women and porn

Mary Hasson

Are you sophisticated and mature? Free of insecurities about your looks and your body? (Or at least aspiring to be?) Watch out. The porn purveyors are aiming at women like you as they repackage porn as a product for savvy women.  What’s worse is that many women are buying into this twisted thinking. (If the trend hasn’t reached your corner of the world yet, visit Oprah.com to read the cultural clues.)

“Explicit sexual imagery,” they call it. (“Rebranding,” the marketers call it.) The push is on to normalize porn in women’s eyes—to make you think, “It’s not so bad,” and from there to sell you on buying it, for yourself or your guy. Now do these porn marketers really think most women have some secret desire to ogle anonymous naked men?  Or to share “explicit sexual imagery” with our husbands so that we can ‘enjoy’ together the ugliness of men using and abusing women, often in violent and degrading ways?

Not for a minute.  Their real goal is create an unfettered pornographic feast for men, to fuel a soulless hedonism that destroys intimate relationships and devastates real families—but generates millions of lust-fed dollars. But the only way that pornographers can really pull this off is to silence women—or better yet, convert them into customers. So the marketing campaign has begun: make porn palatable to women or at least neutralize our objections to it.  And once women stop objecting to this moral slop, and start buying it instead, just think of all the money these pornographers will make.

One of the most insidious tactics the pornographers use plays on our female tendency towards self-doubt.  As references to porn become a staple in movies, late-night comedy routines, T-shirt graphics, and advertising, the pop culture kings want to make you feel there’s something wrong with you if you find porn repulsive or immoral. After all, sophisticated women not only like porn, they devour it. They make it, star in it (why, even teen girls text naked pictures of themselves to classmates), and buy it for their men.  So the pornographers—aided by the cultural elite--aim to intimidate us into silence by an overwhelming roar of the crowd shouting, “Cool!”

How can you possibly object, after all, to something so “normal?”  I had dinner recently with a vivacious young woman, an Ivy League student, who shared that she is the only girl among her wide circle who thinks there is something wrong with porn.  The only one.  I might have expected a morally-minded young man to be outnumbered on this issue, but a young woman? Not even any Ivy League feminists around to stand with her?

Just who is persuading these young women that porn is not only a normal part of life, but a sign of sophistication as well? The guys, prompted by the money-hungry porn industry, of course.   “They need it,” as one young woman put it.  Others go further in defending their capitulation to male lust, saying things like, “It doesn’t bother me. I’m comfortable with myself.” Or “I can handle it.” The sad thing is that so many women are too insecure in their relationships to challenge rationalizations like that.  Or to help their husbands, boyfriends, brothers, and friends climb out of the pornographic sinkhole and onto the high ground of genuine intimacy and moral integrity. 

Are we willing to raise this issue with those we love? We women tend not to want to talk about things like porn.  Most of us have a natural reticence about sex and we instinctively recoil from the sordid, ugly, degrading world of pornographic sex.  Who wants to talk about that when we can talk about happy things (cute kids, a great promotion, a fashionable find on the summer clearance rack)?  But if we don’t talk about it, and strengthen our families against it, porn will permeate—and destroy—the fabric of our culture.  Like the sophisticated lady surrounded by a cloud of smoke in 1950’s cigarette ads, we’ll discover way too late just how damaging this kind of “glamour” really is.

Topics: Culture , Current Events , Pornography

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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