The Childification of Porn

And we’re back. The Pornography: Poison & Prey series has been one that taken unexpected turns and opened very full cans of worms. I have been so glad of the many contributors and of their hands in fashioning the content of the series. The conversations with people on so many sides of so many fences have been stimulating and challenging and have hopefully provided a better-rounded view of pornography and its cultural implications.

To end the series I felt I needed time to allow some thoughts to mature, to engage in some more discussion and delve into some more research.
The end product is not polished or at all resolved: pornography is a societal phenomenon that is ever-changing and to which our response demands reflection and adaptability.

This week, we will look at one more group on which porn seems to prey – children, with today’s post looking at the childification of porn.

We will look at the attitude of entitlement porn creates and the consequences of this as well as the thought that anti-porn equates to anti-sex in the middle of the week. I will then overview some of the ways forward relating to some of the issues the series has highlighted; and in the last post will answer the question most frequently asked of me throughout the series. Please continue to join in the conversation and add to it your very valuable insight.

So here we go. This is one post I really wish I wasn’t writing. We have looked in the series at the harm pornography causes to its performers, to its consumers, and to men and women in terms of societal gender roles. Children and the harm pornography causes them is something, however, that we haven’t yet addressed. I find much of the research on the harmful effects of pornography to be disturbing; but this is by far the most perplexing side to it.

It is worth noting that there are many angles from which to look at the relationship between childhood and pornography: I will look at only one in this post; another is the harmful early consumption of porn can be and how addiction is heightened when porn is viewed by children. There is much mainstream research available on this ‘pornification of childhood’ as it has made its way onto the agenda of many activism groups and into the press a considerable amount over the past year – I’d recommend looking into this in your own time.

Something we aren’t talking about a lot, however, is the childification of porn, perhaps because it infringes on what is thought to be sexual preference and fantasy.

The ‘childification’ of porn was a term first coined by Dr Gail Dines when referring to the childlike qualities of many female performers in the porn industry. Of course, some performers are indeed under 18 – this is not in reference to paedophilia, rather to the ‘adult’, mainstream porn industry. Others who may be of legal age take on childlike qualities, referring to their male co-stars as ‘daddy’, playing out teacher/student role plays, wearing school girl uniforms, taking on childlike personas.

Why is this? Has the porn industry invented these role plays? Not entirely. It helps to perpetuate these fantasies and the childified nature of some pornographic scenes; but Dines writes in her book The Sexualization of Childhood of the wider “visual landscape that surrounds us, a landscape that has become so pornographic as to not warrant even a second glance when we see sexualized childified women and sexualized adultified children…” The fashion industry uses girls in their early teenage years to model clothes for grown women; the beauty industry promotes plump lips, wide eyes and fresh skin teamed with more anti-aging products than common sense; the film industry glamorises typically experienced older men being involved with typically naive younger women. The prevalence of the sexualized, young female body is what we have become accustomed to, Dines suggests, and so what this generation of men will want in pornography will differ to that which their fathers craved. But at that, not only the young female form: the cultural undercurrent of schoolgirl fantasies and Anastasia Steele-types surely contribute to this worrying aspect of the porn industry.

Unfortunately, the childification of porn seems to the lead to the pornification of childhood. It takes it away from women dressed as girls and impacts the lives of young children who should be unreached by pornography. The demand for underage sex scenes (which appears to be very prominent in Northern Ireland as well as in many other countries according to my blog stats and search results) leads the role-play behind closed doors; to the world of paedophilic pornography – because really, ‘child porn’ does not accurately express what it really is, and child abuse.

If the concept of a spectrum on which the consumption of pornography through a screen is linked somehow to the consumption of sexual services in ‘real-life’ and the sense of entitlement to these is what links them; then the viewing of a porn scene with an adult star acting in some way like a child could lead to the desire for a porn scene with a child in it, which could than lead to the desire for sexual interaction with a child. This is not to say that everyone who views a school-girl fantasy scene will one day rape a child. Of course not – but I would suggest that the childification of porn is something which exposes children to a greater risk of being taken advantage of.

It is widely agreed that pornography should not be a part of anyone’s childhood. However, children should not feature in pornography either. This seems to automatically mean the lives of individual children being corrupted by abuse, as well as this portion of society suffering sexualisation and commodification in a way that threatens its very essence.

Children do not belong in porn, and porn does not belong in childhood.

One response to “The Childification of Porn

  1. On the topic and interesting to take note of, came across this ad and the complaints about it earlier today: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2231167/Fury-Kingsmill-advert-sexualises-children-Shows-skimpy-teenager-posing-provocatively-skimpy-school-uniform.html?ICO=most_read_module
    Perhaps you guys in the UK are familiar with it? Just discussed it with my flatmate, as my facebook peeps have not responded to my question regarding this yet. It is very subtle and I likely would not have thought of complaining about it myself. It is an old tv narrative: a dad telling his daughter she should dress better before she leaves home. But, when viewed while considering many of the other posts in the Pornography: Poison and Prey series, it is more clear why this girl is in the ad wearing ‘this’ uniform. Very subtle and seemingly harmless but usually it’s a girl on her way out at night, running off to a party, this one has the classic school attire on. The creators of the ad could have very likely not meant it in this way at all but the theme is so part of dress-ups and our thinking that the moving across the ‘spectrum’ Gemma wrote about happens very easily without anyone seeing it going there.

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