Pornography: A Desensitising Poison.

In the last of the posts looking at the poisonous nature of pornography and before moving into an exploration of who porn attacks with this poison – its prey – we’ll look at the desensitising aspect of pornography.

Pornography is addictive, and its insatiating taste goes hand-in-hand with this. What is a very dangerous shared consequence of these poisons is the desensitisation of the user/consumer.

When discussing desensitisation, is important to add one more thing (I promise, this is it!) to the mix. In addition to addiction/insatiation, researchers add the notion of the brain creating pathways and responses tailored to the objects of pornography after repeated use/consumption. This means that desensitisation is increasingly possible, due to women/men/children/sex/etc… being seen in a consistently *fill-in-the-blank* light. The blank: Degrading? Violent? Commodified? Objectified? In short, the porn user becomes used to seeing something in a certain way, making desensitisation as a result of addiction and insatiation more acceptable to them.

Anyway – here we go: let me introduce you to the notion of a spectrum, a concept to which we will refer in later posts. The spectrum begins with ‘softcore’ pornography: a still image, a video of mutually consenting, ‘loving’ intercourse. As the user becomes addicted to the chemical and emotional consequences of viewing pornography, and unsatisfied with what they first were turned on by, they seek a ‘stronger’ hit or dose of the drug. And this is where they begin their journey on the spectrum.

The pornography industry is smart. It knows people become addicted to porn, and that people become unsatisfied by their first ‘hits’. It knows people become curious, and easily attracted to a flashing link or bold print. And it knows about the spectrum, throughout which the thread of desensitisation runs. And it is waiting, full-handed, willing, twisting porn addicts/users into viewing “the hard stuff”

And what is this stuff? The online pornography industry offers you almost anything you can imagine. Penetration into any bodily orifice, incest, sadomasochism, orgies, underage ‘actors’, and role plays to suit the sickest of minds. And why not? There’s certainly room for it. There are over 4.2 million ‘adult’ websites live right now, which is approximately 12% of all websites. In one of his studies, Jerry Ropelato found that in the US,  a new pornographic video was created every 39 minutes. The industry offers variety, something for each little piece of the spectrum.

But the spectrum is not contained within the porn industry. Sometimes, it grows a branch towards something else. It has no respect for territory. It takes no prisoners. A lull which before the user is aware of it has brought him or her further than where they intended to go.

Certainly, we see sex in a different way since the expanse and prevalence of online pornography (some would argue this is positive. What do you think?) But where I start to clench my fists and raise my voice, and where I suggest you do the same, is when pornography leads to desensitisation that leads to things like sexual violence, sexism, sex having become a commodity, the ‘sexualisation’ of childhood. I don’t wish to suggest that every person who uses pornography becomes a child rapist, or even a ‘casual’ sexist joker. But these things are linked and this is an introduction to the spectrum, the slope. And the slope is slippery.

In later posts, we will be exploring this spectrum; the links between pornography and relationships, the pornification of society, the childification of pornography, etc… I would love to hear your thoughts as we progress into this. Please do get in touch and join what has already been a stimulating, diverse conversation.

// This coming Monday, Robin Peake sheds light on the reality of ‘porn stars’. On Wednesday, Jonny Pollock will look at the “erotica vs pornography” debate. And on Friday, Paul Robinson looks at some of pornography’s prey: men. // 


2 responses to “Pornography: A Desensitising Poison.

  1. Thanks again Gemma! I can believe that some people think it’s positive that we see sex in a different way since the expanse of online pornography. However, my initial (and probably not hugely informed opinion) is that online pornography will surely distort the way we see sex. What in the world are their arguments? and What do you think?

  2. Again gret points that hit home every time. I think the route to desensitisation was when media figures and managers started demanding “more and better sex”, as Scots commentator Muriel Gray once put it in Scotland on Sunday.

    She made her remark in the late 1980s, but I reckon the media took on the motto that “sex sells” during the 1960s, when middle-class hippies sought to find themselves through free love, which generally meant passing round women like party favours or, more insinuously, persuading women that they could find themselves by passing themselves around. In other words the same misogyny that has dogged society for centuries, but on an industrial scale.

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