Something that appears time after time in this conversation is just how widespread porn is; that is, that many things, more than perhaps what we’d initially though, have been reached by porn and thus, “pornified”.
One such aspect of culture that has been undoubtedly affected by pornography is the music industry. Here, Annie, a 22 year old recent journalism & media graduate, shares her thoughts.
“So Adele managed to shift a few hundred thousand records literally without stripping off, throatily professing a love for bondage, or pretending to be a lesbian. Abort mission, Germaine Greer. The battle is won… When did mainstream success as a female artist become so synonymous with sexuality? How did we get to a point where Adele managing to sell records and yet not pose in her delicates is heralded as ‘radical’?”
In 2011, after Adele had proved to the world that she wasn’t going to let her choices to remain modest in a society which demands sex, NME asked these questions. The problem of women being pornified to gain success started long before 2011 but, sadly, hasn’t really come on to the radar of the general public until recently.
In 1998 a reasonably naive Britney Spears topped the charts with debut single …Baby, One More Time and the music video was plastered across TV screens for the world to see. At this point in her career Britney was reasonably PG-13 and all together quite inoffensive, but this may have just been the real beginning of what can now be referred to as the pornification of the mainstream music industry. Spears was suggestive; …Baby, One More Time was all about implication, but if we fast forward to 2011 and look at the videos for Rihanna’s S&M, Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass, or Katy Perry’s California Gurls, it’s quite obvious that no one is just suggesting anything anymore, these videos openly depict sexual fantasies.
But the scariest thing about the mainstream music industry isn’t simply that it depicts sex; it’s probably that it is beginning to depict, far more regularly, hardcore, violent sex, the sort of sex that very few people actually partake in on a regular basis.
Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked Our Sexuality, said in an interview that “pornography now looks nothing like it did 10, 15 years ago — that it is now brutal and cruel and is absolutely based on the degradation of women… Even the industry said that many women have a hard time being in the industry for more than three months. Why? Because of the brutalization of the body.”
Looking more directly at Rihanna’s video for S&M and at the song itself, I’m a little shocked that this even made it past the censors. The video is brutal, explicit; it makes BDSM out to be something normal, something every day, while the lyrics go something like this: “Cause I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it, sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.” To add insult to injury the majority of the song is made up of “na-na-na-ing” and “come on, come on, I like it”; it doesn’t exactly scream lyrical genius, further minimising the possibility of people believing that Rihanna could possibly be any more than just a body used for sex. As Dines suggests, pornography is “based on the degradation of women”, but so is the music industry. Very few women in the industry these days are allowed what now seems to be the privilege of keeping their clothes on or singing about much other than sex and men if they want to be successful.
Even Rolling Stone magazine (est. 1967) are jumping on the bandwagon. The University of Buffalo did a study entitled ‘Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualisation of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone’, which “found that images of women were nearly 90 per cent more likely to be sexualised in the 2000s than in the 1960s, but for men that figure is just 55 per cent.” The study further states that, “Sexualised portrayals of women have been found to legitimise or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys. Such images also have been shown to increase rates of body dissatisfaction and/or eating disorders among men, women and girls; and they have even been shown to decrease sexual satisfaction among both men and women.”
The media seems to have no problem with pushing these pornified images on people, regardless of all the studies that are done which prove the extent of the negative effects that they have on people. Both genders are affected; no one can hide from this, so why do we still allow it? Do the people who take these photos and who airbrush them to make them look perfect ever wonder how the people who see these images will react to them? Surely those within the music industries who encourage the artists to strip off to gain success, know why they’re doing it and realise it sells because the fans think this is what the world wants?
// We are leaving this post fairly open-ended because we’d love to hear what you think. Is the music industry to be blamed for its own pornification? What is and is not its responsibility? If the main ‘issue’ with pornography is, as Dines suggests, the brutalization of the female body, do female musicians/stars pornify themselves and their gender by partaking in the industry? How can we change it? If our voice as consumers is loud, what message should it be shouting?