Testimony in Massachusetts: Porn Confuses Young Men about How to Behave

Massachusetts legislators heard testimony about peoples’ encounters
with porn at a hearing on March 16, 1992. This account appears in In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings (p.404-405).

Testimony of Jackson Katz

My name is Jackson Katz, and I’m the founder of a group called Real Men, which is an anti-sexist men’s group. The purpose of our group is to get men to start taking responsibility for the outrageous level of sexism and sexual harassment and sexual violence and all forms of violence against women in society. I’m also a graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education…

One thing that we really haven’t delved into is how men are affected by pornography, that is, men who are the consumers of pornography and what that does to the way that we deal with women. I think our generation has grown up with more pornography than any generation in human history, and it’s an absolutely central aspect of the conditioning of young boys. It’s hard to overstate how important pornography has been in the past twenty-five years in terms of my generation and young boys who are growing up today. That’s where they’re learning about sex, and that’s where they’re learning about women…

There’s a professor of psychology at UMass Boston who has done his doctoral dissertation and subsequent research on sexual aggression among young college males, and he’s found that in dozens and dozens of interviews that young guys will sit there in a room with him, and they’ll admit to or talk matter-of-factly about, “I did this to her, I did that, and we did this and that,” and they never once refer to themselves as rapists, of course, and they never once refer to the behavior that they’ve engaged in as raping behavior, or in any way criminal. But this psychologist will tell you that he knows that if they were under oath in the court of law, they would be admitting to first degree felonies, but they think it’s normal, perfectly natural herterosexual relations.

I travel around the country and speak to college audiences, both male and female, and mixed audiences, and one thing I find over and over again, in frank discussions, is that pornography is extremely influential in the lives of young boys growing up today, and girls, but specifically I speak to guys. This blizzard of images of women in degrading and humiliating positions, guys just come to think of that as normal.

There was an article in the New York Times last week about sexual harassment in schools, how there’s a whole new area of litigation that’s opening up with young girls who are sexually harassed. If you read that article on the front page of the Times last week, you’ll find that guys are saying that they don’t know what to do, what they can do and what they can’t do, what’s acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. As I read that, I said to myself, it’s obvious where they’re learning on one level what is and what isn’t acceptable. In other words, you could take some of the dialogue out of these kids’ mouths right out of a discussion of pornography that I’ve had on numerous occasions.

Pornography is a subtext to relations between the sexes, young boys and young girls today.

See also:

American Association of University Women
According to the report [“Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School (2001)”], based on a national survey of 2,064 public
school students in 8th through 11th grades conducted by Harris
Interactive:

  • 83% of girls and 79% of boys report having ever experienced harassment. 
    • The
      number of boys reporting experiences with harassment often or
      occasionally has increased since 1993 (56% vs. 49%), although girls are
      still somewhat more likely to experience it.
    • For many students sexual harassment is an ongoing experience:
      over 1 in 4 students experience it “often.”
    • These numbers do not differ by whether the school is urban or suburban or rural.

  • 76% of students have experienced non-physical harassment while
    58% have experienced physical harassment.
    Non-physical harassment
    includes taunting, rumors, graffiti, jokes or gestures. One-third
    of all students report experiencing physical harassment “often
    or occasionally.”

People on the Left and the Right Share Blame for the Sexual Miseducation of Americans

Jackson Katz:
I want to mention a chapter in the book called, “Guilty Pleasures: Pornography, Prostitution, and Stripping”. In this chapter, I look at the ways in which the pornography culture, and the prostitution and stripping industries, if you will, are helping to shape boys’ and men’s attitudes toward women and girls and their sexuality as well as men’s sexuality. This is a national conversation that is long overdue. You asked what my dream was about the book–well, one piece of the dream is that I hope my book helps to catalyze a more thoughtful conversation between men, as well as between women and men, about pornography, prostitution, and stripping. Ideologically, these are enormously influential industries. I think there has been very little thoughtful conversation about them in male culture, and certainly even in the academy. My friends and I are very frustrated by either the lack of or the superficiality of the conversation about them. For example, pornography is by far the most influential form of sex education–or sex (mis)education–in the United States. There is so little quality sex education in the schools in our sex-crazed country. The right has successfully squelched the responsible sex education movement that arose in the seventies. In the void, you have this enormous multi-billion dollar industry that has profit as its motive, not education. The pornography industry is serving as the vehicle for so many boys’ and men’s sexual socialization. And the level of brutality that has been normalized in mainstream pornography, the level of sexist brutality, is just astounding. Many people have not been paying attention, but I think they need to pay attention. It’s very disturbing, I think, for a lot of people to see–with eyes wide open–what boys and men are masturbating to. But I think it needs to happen. Sadly, in recent years many feminists have been leery of going down this road because this issue is seen as divisive, and fraught with both ideological and interpersonal conflict. I think that’s really sad because the industry hasn’t slowed down one bit–in fact, it’s only been accelerating in the last few years.

Young New Yorkers Talk about Porn’s Effect on their Relationships (explicit language)
“Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says.
“I mean, in school, it was just, ‘Here’s a gigantic wooden dildo, and
now we’re putting a condom on it,’ whereas on the Internet, you had it
all. I remember the first time I had sex, my first thought as it was
happening was, Oh, this is pornography. It was a kind of out-of-body experience. I was really uncomfortable with sex for a while…”

Testimony in Minneapolis: With Growth of Porn, Rapists Show Less Remorse
[L]iterally hundreds of women have mentioned to me the anger and
despair they feel when their husbands, lovers, or other male partners
press upon them specific sexual acts which these men learned from
pornographic materials–acts of bestiality, sodomy, “swinging”, forced
group sex, etc. The men feel such pressure on women is acceptable
because porn is acceptable, and pornography was the so-called
“educational” source…

[T]he work of Dr. Natalie Shainess (psychiatrist of New York) and Dr.
Frank Osanka [sic] (psychologist and child-abuse specialist, Chicago)
show that convicted rapists who, even five to seven years ago,
expressed remorse about their acts of violence, recently show no such
remorse and often cite as a reason for their guiltlessness that
“everyone knows women want to be raped; all the porn stuff proves that.”

Canada: Rural Teens Even More Likely to View Porn than Urban; Parents, Sex Ed Somewhat Oblivious to Childrens’ Porn Viewing Habits
A total of 429 students aged 13 and 14 from 17 urban and rural schools
across Alberta, Canada, were surveyed anonymously about if, how and how
often they accessed sexually explicit media content on digital or
satellite television, video and DVD and the Internet. Ninety per cent
of males and 70 per cent of females reported accessing sexually
explicit media content at least once. More than one-third of the boys
reported viewing pornographic DVDs or videos “too many times to count”,
compared to eight per cent of the girls surveyed.

The Creation of a Pornography Addiction
“In a majority of my cases, the earlier the exposure to pornography,
the deeper the client’s level of addiction. In most cases I see
involvement with pornography starting between ages ten to fourteen…
[C]hildren and teenagers are faced with sexual decisions before they
fully understand the consequences of their own sexual behaviors.”

2 thoughts on “Testimony in Massachusetts: Porn Confuses Young Men about How to Behave

  1. There wouldn’t be any need for porn if women were willing to join the human race and open their legs more often. Gay men don’t need porn. There is no equivalent in gay society for fraudulent psychology like “porn addiction”. I don’t look at naked women in videos. I just look around me everyday and see what cretinous slime they are. Why do men abuse them? Why not!

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