I’ve been getting a lot of weird looks from friends, family, and colleagues lately every time I mention porn. And I’ve been talking about it a lot lately. You might even say I’m obsessed.
At first blush it might seem that I’m an enthusiastic consumer of the media. But really, I’m concerned about it as an intellectual subject.
Recently I’ve come to learn that porn is probably the world’s largest unregulated industry. It dwarfs all professional sports leagues combined with annual gross revenues that have been estimated to exceed $60 billion. Funny, then, that there’s no Porn section in the daily newspaper.
More and more, through its more moderate content and spinoff products, porn targets an ever-younger consumer. 11 is now the median age at which boys begin to use porn habitually; for girls it’s just a year later.
Porn is a disruptive force on so many aspects of contemporary society. I believe it’s pushed mainstream media, such as broadcast television and popular cinema, to become more explicit in their portrayal of sexual activities. Like a poisonous weed, we have let it grow in our cultural garden and its taste now runs through every food we eat.
Porn affects the behaviour of its consumers who tend to become more antagonistic towards and disconnected from their friends, family, and colleagues. There is a statistical increase in risky sexual acts such as anal sex amongst teens.
Research finds a strong link between pornography and sex-based crimes. For example, there is a correlation between films that promote pedophilia and a growth in child sexual abuse.
And porn manufactures a self-propagating feedback loop. Many porn stars cite early exposure to pornography as a reason they considered a career in the industry. Many others cite sexual abuse they’ve experienced, acts that were inspired by porn. Porn begets porn.
And once inside the pornography machine, it’s very difficult to get out. Many prominent porn stars, including Jenna Jameson and Belladonna, have shared their stories of repeated failed escape. Too many porn stars end up choosing suicide as a way out.
I believe, despite pornography’s strong influence on contemporary media and society, we tend to avoid analyzing and discussing it. Sex is an uncomfortable topic. When we talk porn, we drape it in euphemisms like “adult content” and make simplistic arguments about free speech. But pornography goes much deeper than that.
Pornography is more than an industry; it is a system of abuse and violence against women.
Pornographers produce with almost limitless constraints, without any sense of discretion and certainly almost no government or industry regulation.
Their products are destructive: on performers, consumers, families, and community. The only people who experience a net-positive benefit from porn are the producers and distributors of the content; everyone else suffers by it.
As a society I think that we have to ask ourselves to what extent we are going to let a burgeoning medium like pornography continue to influence our culture, our lifestyles, and our relationships. At what point do we recognize its size and power and draw a line? When will we regulate pornography? When will we establish mechanisms that control and limit the damage that it does?
Arguments of free speech and censorship aside, society needs to build a sense of balance into this medium so that performers are no longer victimized and its net-negative social and societal impacts are neutralized.
And that’s what I’m going to explore in coming months. I’ve reserved every fourth week of my new Yukon News Geek Life column for subject matter related to media, and until year’s end I think I’ll focus on pornography. I’m hoping to build some general awareness on the big-picture impacts of pornography, and also on how it works as an industry. I want to explore the human side, from every angle: producers, performers, and consumers.
To be frank, it’s a sickening topic to research. I’ll have to learn how to manage my time. I spent about 8 straight hours researching the industry the other day and was physically ill at the end of that long session. I’ll have to learn how to filter the information I discover for general consumption while struggling to remain somewhat objective. That’ll be tough.
In the end I’m hoping that my work will have a positive impact of some kind. Because we need to better understand the general impact of this medium on our society and culture, and learn how to manage that impact before it’s too late.
Wish me luck! (Or curse me, as many will. I get the feeling this is a Pandora’s Box many don’t wish to open.)