Maggie Hays of Against Pornography: My Story (explicit language)

Radical feminist Maggie Hays has launched a major new website to combat pornography, She has kindly permitted us to reprint this portion of her article, “My Story–From First Encountering Pornography to Becoming a Radical Feminist”.

I was raised in a poor, working-class, Catholic, and rather dysfunctional family, living in a suburban house. I was the only child in the house. My parents were going to the church every weekend, and were often screaming at each other during the rest of the week. My dad usually started the arguing — by shouting about money, bills, debts, etc… My mom continued the quarrel, in defense of herself.

I was first exposed to pornography when I was 12 years old — in 1992. My dad was out of the house, which gave me an opportunity to look through the collection of videos he had in his room. Most of these videos were adventure movies I had already seen but, here, there was a tape with a strange title at the corner of one of the video shelves. I pulled it out and noticed the photo of a young and scantily clad Asian woman on the box cover. It was also specified on the back cover that the film was “XXX” or “porno”, and should not be viewed by minors (“people under age 18”). “So what?,” I thought, “This couldn’t be any worse than the sex scenes you saw in the middle of many Hollywood movies, right?” I popped the tape into the VCR — and now that I think about it, it was such a racist movie, as well as a sexist one, and it was also promoting prostitution and sex tourism. The plot was about a rich white man visiting the brothels of Thailand and picking his favorite “Asian compliant slut”. One of the first scenes showed the Asian woman knelt down while performing fellatio on the man. Seeing all those close-ups, I realized straight away that it wasn’t like in the Hollywood movies, and I thought: “Do they really make films like that in this world?” I was very shocked, just like many other girls would have been seeing a porn video for the first time. I stopped the tape after ten minutes and decided to ask a friend some information about what I had just seen because I felt kind of bewildered…

This friend was my next door neighbor, a little boy of the same age as me. One day that my parents were out, I took him to the house and we started watching the same tape. “Oh, yeah… That’s a porn video,” he said. “Looks a bit like the magazines that my dad has in his room… Although, this stuff looks a bit more extreme.” We watched the video for longer than ten minutes, and I remember that I thought of two words when I was looking at this film: “mechanical” and “inhuman.” No doubt this was aggressive — for a girl, anyway — although the only word I would use to talk about it after that was “dirty.” We heard my parents entering the house and we stopped the tape after forty minutes. I never touched that tape again after that day.

This pornographic video was not the only time I was exposed to pornography during my adolescence. Neither was it the only time that I was aware of my dad’s porn-using. He was going to the church every Sunday, but, for sure, he used a lot of porn! On his bookshelves I could find many pornographic books. Among these were, notably, The Story of O, Emmanuelle, and Nine and a Half Weeks. The Story of O and Emmanuelle were written in a too “artsy” fashion or had too many complicated words in them for me to understand them when I picked them up. At 14 years old, I hadn’t read that many books in my life. Nine and a Half Weeks contained sexual parts which seriously disturbed me (the book is a lot more explicit than the film). These passages represented an “unequal power” relationship between a man and a woman, which I didn’t like at all. I once asked my mom what she thought of those books that my dad had in his book collection. She said that some parts of Emmanuelle and Nine and a Half Weeks bothered her, but she particularly hated The Story of O. She said she wished she could burn that book. I wondered why.

Once I found a Playboy lying in my dad’s room. It was one of the two issues that had La Toya Jackson on the cover. I opened the magazine and looked at La Toya naked. My dad also had a “porn stash” in the basement, where I found old porn magazines and comics. Within them were pornographic cartoons depicting about everything — including adult sexual activity with children. I also knew that my dad regularly rented pornographic videos too because my mom had told me about that. She also told me that once he had paid a prostitute for sex — since they were married — but had promised not to do it again. I once asked my dad what he thought of the women who posed naked in magazines. “They’re empowered. There’s nothing nicer to look at than the female naked body,” he said. Another time, I asked my dad what he thought of prostitutes. “They are usually poor and uneducated women,” he said.

While I was in junior high school, I could sometimes overhear the boys’ conversations when they were talking about the latest porn videos they’d been watching at home, comments such as “You seen that girl in the porn movie; she had one dick in her pussy and another in her ass.” And they were all laughing. Other times, boys were using pornographic scenarios to terrorize us as girls — and, in some cases, to “shut us up.” This went from telling us what they had seen in a porn movie — things like “Hey, I saw this film yesterday. In it, there was a girl with a cock in her cunt, one in her ass, and one in her mouth at the same time.” — to telling us pornographic stories they invented with us and them included in this stuff they were saying, like “You suck my dick,” “I take you up the ass,” etc… This was pretty degrading but, still, the only word I could think of was “dirty.”

Nevertheless, I had nothing against sexuality. I was raised in a religious family, but sex was never a taboo subject between my mother and me. She told me about the different sexual things that happened between men and women, the ones she thought were okay, the others she thought were degrading. The particular thing that was really taboo in my religious family though was homosexuality. My dad was homophobic and my mom thought that sex between two persons of the same sex was “not right.” I could sometimes notice that I was attracted to female humans, but would never talk about it to anybody at that time, for fear of someone misjudging me.

Part of my sex education came from those “teen girl” magazines that I was buying regularly. In them, there was always a section on sex and “things you could do with your boyfriend.” I found that very exciting. Another part of my sex education was sexual images that I saw in the mainstream media, such as mainstream films for instance. No doubt parts of this “sex education” made me eroticize male domination and female subordination or passivity somehow, although I had always dreamt of an egalitarian and romantic sexual relationship, when I thought about the time when I would finally date.

I had heard that there used to be a time when women were kept in the home and did not have the right to vote, or even speak. And I thought, “This time is over! Women are equal to men now! We live in post-feminist times!” About rape, I thought it was a rare thing. It is true that I had seen some particularly realistic representations of rape in the media, such as rape scenes in “The Accused,” with Jodie Foster, and in the autobiographical movie “What’s Love got to do with it” based on Tina Turner’s book. Nevertheless, I thought that rape was a rare thing which was committed primarily by strangers and usually happened in dark alleys at night.

In high school, I hung out with the same group of girls. Guys sometimes harassed us with nasty comments, but they had somewhat calmed down — or kept their remarks to themselves, for when girls were not around… In my group of friends once, while we were having a chat between two classes, a girl brought up the subject of pornography. She said she had woken up in the middle of the night not so long ago and had seen her brother and father in the living room; they were watching a porn video. She said she felt upset at seeing a woman being doubly penetrated by two men on the screen. This made me feel bad too, as she told me.

Similarly, one day, my mom told m
e that she had played one of my dad’s porn tapes in the VCR. She hadn’t done this intentionally: she had thought the tape was a mainstream movie because it had been misplaced in a mainstream film box cover. She was also very upset, like that friend of mine had been, at seeing a woman being doubly penetrated by two men. My mom said to me: “This is not nice a woman being taken that way; this is unfair!” I thought: “Go and tell that to those who watch porno…” And I sighed…

Another time, I was with a school friend, walking around the town. We were near the video store (the one where my dad was renting his pornos and where my mom and I were sometimes renting mainstream films) when I said to my friend, “Hey, that’s my family video store! let’s go have a look at the new movies they’ve got inside.” So, we got in and looked around a bit. I knew there was the porno section hidden at the back of the store. That section made me feel ill at ease. While pointing toward it, I asked my friend: “Hey, do you know that there’s the porn section back there?” She replied: “So? Do do you really think I’m the kind of girl who enjoys herself watching those fucking porn films?” Then I replied back: “No, but I bet you’re scared of that section!” I was trying to be cheeky. “I’m not scared of that stupid section!” she said defensively, “You wanna bet?” Then I said to her: “I bet you’re not capable of walking to that section with me, standing in the middle of it, and looking at all the dirty covers!” She said: “Let’s see.” So we walked over to the “adult” section. I felt my stomach churn as we were turning around the corner from the “slasher” films to the porn section. When we got to the middle of the “adult” section, we felt our sight being assaulted by those images. We quickly covered our eyes with our hands while moaning: “That’s disgusting.” We ran out of the shop nauseated but laughing nervously — the store clerk looking at us weirdly. “Gosh, these films are dirty!” we agreed…

However, we could not bring up any other words apart from “disgusting” or “dirty” when describing them. But obviously, pornography, to me, was something else apart from “dirty.” There was something else to it, something I could not quite describe, something that I refused to see, or something which this culture did not give me the right language to be able to describe what I saw when thinking about pornography.

It is true that I had seen, read or heard plenty of other images, words or messages in the mainstream media, which were either denigrating or cruel to women, or were eroticizing male domination and female subordination.

To quote just a few examples in the mainstream movies: in the musical film “Saturday Night Fever,” after agreeing to have sex with a man on the back seat of a car while she was drunk and depressed, a young woman is then raped by his friend “who wanted to fuck too” and she is subsequently called either a “whore” or a “slut” by the main character of the film; in the Brian DePalma film “Body Double,” a woman gets roughly attacked in her house by a man who eventually kills her with a huge drill — there is a camera shot from behind the killer in which the drill appears between the guy’s legs as he is standing while the woman has been kicked to the floor and then he’s running this massive drill through her body; in the thriller “Basic Instinct,” a woman gets callously handled sexually by the main male character before she gets raped from behind on a couch — during the whole sequence, you can notice the scene has been made in a way that is supposed to be sexually arousing to the viewer; and in the slasher “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a young girl gets grabbed by a man and then gets her back impaled on some sort of a meat hook. (Nowadays they make “slasher” movies which are even more denigrating and cruel to women, such as “Hostel,” “Cabin Fever,” and “Saw 3.”) It is true I had seen those images, but in pornography, there was something I just didn’t want to see, something too real, like an underlying structure or something… With the mainstream movies, at least, you could go to your bed and think: “It’s only a movie… That’s not real.” You couldn’t do that with pornography. There was something else to it which was all too real…

It is also true that sometimes while I was reading a mainstream fiction book, I found a sexually explicit passage in it, which I would now consider pornographic. You can sometimes find these domination/subordination dynamics in many song lyrics; you often hear women singing things like “take me,” “I want you,” “I am yours,” “I give you all,” etc; and men singing “I’ve got what you need,” “I wanna take you,” “You’re mine,” etc… People often say that as long as the music is good, you don’t care about the lyrics. As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that if the the music is really good, you internalize the messages from the lyrics even quicker! I had also noticed that women in music videos were becoming increasingly unclothed. Seeing the girls in bikinis in one video, I caught myself thinking: “What’s going on? Women are increasingly being represented as sexual objects in the media?” Then I thought: “No, there’s probably nothing wrong with it; it’s probably just a continuum of sexual liberation.”… I just wanted to rest easy, that’s all…

Some of the messages I had certainly identified in this culture were: (1) Men had to have sex all the time; if men didn’t have sex frequently — or in the way they wanted — they were not “real men;” (2) If a woman was not sexual — or not doing a particular sexual thing — with a man, she was a “prude”; (3) If a woman was sexual — or doing a particular sexual thing — with a man, she was a “slut”; and (4) if a woman was saying she was going to be sexual — or do a particular sexual thing — with a man but then changed her mind, she was a “tease.”

Early Adulthood

I met this man, when I was eighteen. He was a bit older than me. We didn’t live in the same area but he often phoned me or came to my neighborhood to see me. We started having a relationship together. We were merely going out and talking together at the beginning. He told me he was a real fan of pornography. I didn’t like that much. He said it was probably because I hadn’t seen that many porn movies, and if I watched more of them, I would learn to like them. I didn’t think so.

He wasn’t the sort of man who hid his pornography use from his girlfriend and, once, for a short minute I did wonder: “Could these porn movies influence their viewers into wanting the stuff that was in them?” But then I thought: “No, that’s not possible.” I used to watch violent movies on T.V., and never would they make me kill someone. I didn’t give a critical thought (at the time) at the way the degradation and violence in pornography are represented in a context that condones them and makes them sexually arousing, which makes them separate from the violence which is found in other parts of the media.

My first boyfriend seemed nice, apart from the fact that he used pornography, and I had found somebody of the opposite sex whom I could talk to. He talked a lot about sex though. I talked a lot about it too. Those women’s magazines and the rest of the raunchy culture had primed me a lot to do some sexual talking.

But was I ready for any action? I had already had sex once, at a party, due to peer pressure: Many girls of my age had been losing their virginity one after the other and had been socialized to see any girl who hadn’t done it yet as “inexperienced.” Thus, I had only had sex once and it was a total fiasco. I was just immature and had been culturally trained to “go out and do it to be just like the others.” It was awful.

So, I told my first boyfriend I wasn’t ready for it yet. Then, once, he invited me to his house for a two-week stay. I agreed to go there as, in my home, the atmosphere was “not the best” due to all my parents’ screaming and shouting. During the stay at my boyfriend’s house, I kept delaying the “moment” when sex was supposed to happen betwe
en us to the next day, and the next day, and the next day… It is true I had talked about sex a lot with him because there was something in the culture — implicit and explicit — that socialized you, trained you to do so.

So, I felt trapped. I realized that I had talked about sex a lot and I didn’t want to hurt him, I didn’t want him to call me a “tease,” or be sad or angry at me, but truthfully: I did not want to have sex, I wasn’t ready to have sex again, and I really didn’t want to have sex! At the same time, I couldn’t tell him that: he was gonna be angry, and I liked him. It felt like a “double-edged sword” type of situation.

On the second week of the stay, he got really mad. We’d come back from a movie; and I so much did not want to have sex that I had kept my jeans on and gone to bed. He turned the light on, lifted the blanket, and shouted angrily: “Are you fucking kidding me or what? You said we were gonna do it!” I could see by the way he was looking at me that he was making me understand that he was “the man there” and I was a woman so I had to “give him what he wanted.” So, I said: “Calm down, it’s okay.” Then I reluctantly and slowly took my clothes off, bit by bit. I really felt that things were going to be worse if I said no, much much worse — and I was still away from my home…

I can still remember unbuttoning my blouse while thinking “I don’t wanna be here!” as if it had happened yesterday, although I only remembered all this recently (more on that later). I so much did not want to have sex that, throughout the experience, I tried to make him understand through “body language,” through my sad eyes, my tears, my lack of enthusiasm, etc., that I didn’t REALLY did NOT want to have sex. That did not work. He didn’t seem to be able to see my pain, or only thought about his own satisfaction and pleasure. Simply put: he was not going to show any empathy for me that night. He even pressured me into doing some kinds of “foreplay” on him that I was not quite ready to do at the time. When the intercourse came, it was terribly painful, and there was nothing to it. I did not want it. In short, this whole sexual experience was very painful for me, morally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

I remember the next morning. It was too painful, too awful, etc. I blanked it all out. It just was not me: I was not this “young victimized girl who had been pressured into having sex,” no way! So, I quickly came to think that what had happenned to me was “just life” — that sex was meant to be that way for a girl if you hadn’t done it a lot. And there was nothing to it. Men just had to have sex after all. I even stayed with the same boyfriend for a while. He was “alright” after all, apart from that night. He took me around town. He bought me dinner, bought me stuff. And he was the only person who seemed genuinely interested in me at the time when I felt lonely.

One night, he suggested that we watch a pornographic movie together. I agreed once. The shock I had had from the first time I’d seen a porn movie had kinda worn off. It had been four years ago… I told him I didn’t want to see anything too “extreme” though. He put a video on, and sure as hell it was “phallic supremacy” being displayed on the screen: the setting was in the woods where a woman was kneeling down to suck on a man’s penis as if it was such a “tasty treat” and another woman, hidden behind a tree, was watching them and masturbating to it; the man then took the woman from behind and the other woman carried on masturbating while watching them… I felt bothered to watch that with my boyfriend. He obviously showed me that because he wanted me to perform some of the stuff that was in that movie. “I’d really like you to do this and do that, or take the same position as her there,” he said. I said: “I don’t want to watch any more of this.” I remembered either shutting my eyes or turning away from the anal sex scenes in particular, as I really didn’t want to watch them and I was scared he was gonna try to pressure me into agreeing to this kind of thing if I watched. “Can you try to watch the scene please? Even if you don’t like it?”, he said. “No, I can’t!” I answered.

I know he often watched and masturbated to those movies, as he told me very often. He even convinced me to try some of the positions that were in the X-movies after persistently asking. He also showed me a few porn magazines he had in his room. There was that drawing in Penthouse, in which a woman was lying on the sidewalk saying “Encore” after being raped by a stranger. My boyfriend found that funny. I really didn’t. He also said something once that somehow shocked me. He said that he could understand rapists. If those guys couldn’t get sex, he said, he could understand their actions then.

Because I wouldn’t watch the porno videos with him anymore, he would then tell me, over the phone or while we were talking in person, what he had seen in the porn movies he’d just watched in the past week, especially the scenes which involved bondage, facial ejaculations, oral or anal sex in them. I told him that telling me about those films bothered me, but he kept putting them in the conversations when he could. One of the scenarios I can remember was in a porn movie where a man eventually convinced his wife to agree to anal sex, saying it was not disgusting as long as they loved each other. That made me think that pornography could sometimes use the word “love” to get the female character to do something to “please her man.” Another scenario I can think of was scarier, it was about a man who was going to take his girlfriend from behind, making her believe it was going to be a vaginal penetration, but he then penetrated her anally. My boyfriend found that funny. I really didn’t. In describing these scenarios to me, when I’d made it clear I didn’t want to hear them, he was obviously inflicting an unwanted sexual experience on me, by telling me those stories.

He actually got me to agree to try bondage once, after he had asked me over and over. It was very painful on my wrists, and I was terribly scared during the experience. I didn’t want to do it again. Once he asked me if it would excite me to be called a “bitch” or a “slut” during sex. It really shocked me. I wondered: “Why would he think that this kind of language would arouse me?”

One night, we went to a party at one of his friends’ house. At some point, the guys put a porn video on. I was really mad. I didn’t want to watch one of those films again. Plus, this one was harsher than the ones before. It was one of those “gonzo” films, I think. In it, you could see a couple of men who were wearing some sort of black hoods or tights on their heads to hide their faces; they were breaking and entering a woman’s house and then doubly penetrating (raping) her. She was then represented, in the film, as enjoying the attack… I went away to the backyard while they were carrying on watching that awful movie. I felt pretty bad. I first thought: “I wish those films didn’t exist… What’s wrong? Is it just sexual liberation going too far?” Then I thought: “Well perhaps there’s just something wrong with me… Perhaps those films are merely a form of sexual expression or whatever… Perhaps things were meant to be that way in this unfair world”

Another thing I wanted to say about this man who was my first boyfriend was that he seemed to have a particular interest in prostitutes. He said he’d love to go to Thailand someday and buy himself a “lovely little submissive Asian doll.” That comment was so racist, now that I think about it. Once, when we were visiting a big city, he insisted that we go to the district where the prostitutes were — just for a walk to see them standing. I was a bit curious to see what they looked like somehow. I had never seen a prostitute in my life. I had seen “Pretty Woman” a few years before that and, despite what my father had been saying to me about prostitutes, I had this image in my head of “a smiling woman proudly standing on a street corner.” When we arrived, I saw
that it was clearly not the glamorous image I had expected. The prostitutes were standing all along the sidewalk. Most of them were women of color. I remember looking at one of them while we were walking past. Her eyes looked so sad… I said to my boyfriend: “Let’s go.” He said: “Wait, I want to chat them up a little.” I said: “No, we’re going.” And we went.

I stayed with this man for a little while until I broke off the relationship. He was becoming too demanding. He wanted me to shave my genitals and to try bondage again. He was often putting his hands all over my body when I had no desire to be touched by him. And he was always trying to get me to do things I really didn’t want to do. I got fed up and went. But it was hard doing so. He was always trying to get back in a relationship with me. After, I left him, he kept on phoning me, and coming up to my house when not invited. I eventually had to leave the parental home and move to another address so he couldn’t find me.

Then later, when I was twenty-one, I met my second boyfriend. I had moved to another city, and it was not the same with this one. I loved him — I didn’t really love my first boyfriend, I just felt lonely and I was happy that someone seemed to be attracted to me. I knew this second boyfriend too was watching pornography. He had told me about some stuff he had downloaded off the Net and watched with his friends. The beginning of the relationship was wonderful. He wasn’t the kind of guy who tried to pressure me into doing things I didn’t want to. He seemed lovely. Then, one day, he left me. I felt so depressed because I loved him. So he came back to me a few times. Each time, he was making me believe that we were going to be in a serious relationship again, just to sleep with me and go.

I became really mad at men at that point. “They’re only after one thing,” I thought. It’s at that point that I started dating women. I’ll never forget the first time I kissed a woman. It was so subversive. We were alone; there was no man around. Then I shared an apartment with a woman of my age for a couple of years. During this time, neither of us were really looking for a serious relationship with a man. We’d been both hurt by men and we didn’t want to get too close to them by fear of being hurt again. At this time I started changing my appearance. My roommate was regularly frequenting the “nightclubbing” scene and going to parties. We liked the same types of music and we had just gotten cable television. So, we could watch MTV and other music channels and look at the girls in the videos, the way they were dressed, the make-up they wore, the way they danced. I started dressing in very short, very tight clothes. My roommate and I were going to nightclubs every weekend and just having fun. As one of the female characters said in the TV show “Sex and the City”: “You can bang your head against the wall and try to find a relationship or you can say screw it and go out and have sex like a man.” We followed that ideology for a while. We went out, we got drunk and sometimes had casual relationships with women and men. I used to believe in the kind of illusory “empowerment” of having casual sex with men — like the illusion of “using them for sex” or “controlling them.”

I really liked women. They were so sweet, so tender. You could trust them and even be friends with them. It didn’t seem to be the same with men. You couldn’t be friends with a guy without him wanting to “fuck” you. That’s another reason why we wouldn’t get too close to men, in spite of the fact we had casual affairs with them sometimes.

A thing I had noticed over the years was the increasing sexual pressure that men put upon women. Sometimes I had very intimate conversations with some of my girl friends and I asked them things like: “Has it ever happened to you a guy handling you roughly during sex? Turning you over to get you to do some positions he wants to do, regardless of you’re in the mood for them or not? Trying to push your head down for oral sex?, etc.” I was surprised to find out that so many women had had the same type of sexual experiences as I had.

Some of my women friends were also often pressured into doing sexual acts they did not really want or like. They said it often was about men wanting anal sex from them, but not always. Sometimes, it was about men wanting them to swallow the semen after oral sex, men wanting to tie them up, or men wanting them to shave “down below.” My girl friends felt really bad about the things they sometimes had to do to “please their man.” Me, I couldn’t get on with that program. I often got dumped by boyfriends when I sometimes dated someone again occasionally because there were sex acts that I wouldn’t do due to the fact that they felt very demeaning to me.

There were other things that I noticed about men when I used to go out clubbing and partying: First, I could not have a lesbian relationship in peace, without a man somewhere trying to “get to watch.” Sometimes they tried to follow us home after the club or party. I wondered where they’d got the idea of invading the privacy of lesbians from? There were a few gay men in my circle of friends. Well, never would it come to my mind to try to invade the privacy of some gay friend. So, why were heterosexual men so nosy about seeing two women together? Second, men liked buying you so many drinks to try to get you loaded so they might have sex with you, or try to get you to do things you didn’t want to… One night, I was so drunk that I nearly got raped. My reactions were slow, but I shouted: “No!” in time… Another night, a group of men showed me and my girl friends pornographic films in their living room when we were drunk at a party. “That’s how you should learn how to perform this sexual practice… and that one… Girls, get some skills!”, one of the guys was saying to us while pointing at the T.V. screen. We didn’t like to see that porno stuff; it made the atmosphere aggressive. We felt uncomfortable with those men and their porn so we went away… And another night, a man took advantage of my roommate while she was drunk. She got pretty sad about it…

One day, she moved out. She was going back to her hometown because she knew somebody back there. I stopped going to clubs and parties at that point. I was getting older — nearly twenty-four — and I was dating a man again. He eventually moved in with me. I had stopped drinking. He didn’t drink. He was absolutely lovely at the beginning. He never drank, not even later. He had some pornographic magazines lying around, and he had his computer. But I thought: “Boys will be boys; let them watch what they want…” Then later I became a victim of domestic verbal abuse. I came home and had to “take all his shit.” He was calling me all sorts of names. When there were bills to pay, he didn’t want to pay his part. He shouted that I should shove them… I didn’t understand how this man, who was so lovely to me at first, had become this kind of an asshole. What had happened to him? He was continuously accusing me of cheating on him while there was no reason for him to think that. Then one day, he pushed me. He shoved me so hard against the corner of a table that I had a pretty nasty bruise on my back, and I was hurting. I called the police. They got him out of the house. And then there was a restraining order…

It was hard to date again after that. I had “taken a lot of shit” from men… Nevertheless, one day I started a relationship with the man I am with now. He didn’t use pornography. He said he had looked at it once or twice, but that he wasn’t interested in it…

Maggie’s story continues here. As you read it, please keep in mind that members of the anti-pornography movement approach the issue from many different angles. Some favor “obscenity” approaches, others do not. Some would like to assign civil liability for the harms of exposure to porn, others do not. Three special areas of contention are marriage, religion, and the capitalist
system. NoPornNorthampton’s position is that marriage is a good idea for most people, that religion can be an important part of a good life, and that capitalism, while in need of oversight by the state, is fundamentally no worse than the other economic systems we’re aware of.

Generally speaking, those who oppose pornography are united in the belief that porn is harmful, that people should avoid it, and that entering into an intimate relationship with a porn addict is risky.

It is certainly true that some religious regimes can be oppressive, or that some members of a religious community may not put its tenets into practice. On the other hand, religion’s potential to bring people together and empower the weak should not be ignored. Jesus and Buddha made a point of reaching across lines of tribe and class to lift up the downtrodden. Modern society, secular and faithful alike, can build on this to lift up women and children from our pornographic culture.

See also:

My Boyfriend Loves Porn – What Should I Do?
ok, i am 15 years old and i have a bf that is 19…in the past year or so, i have noticed that he has been watching alot of porn…every time i catch it on his computer we get into a huge argument and i really hate it. he doesnt feel bad about it at all while im makeing a huge fuss out of it because i feel as if he is looking at other women because i am not good enough. he tells me its not like that at all, that it is just a quick way to get his urge over with…should i be upset or just let him continue to do it and let myself get hurt?

…Unfortunately porn has become something that is more and more accepted in the world today. Men, and some women, think it is something to be thought of as “normal” and acceptable and even healthy! Nothing could be further from the truth… Porn is as addictive as some drugs. This is because an orgasm releases the exact same chemicals in the pleasure center of the brain that heroin does… [Porn] causes them to see women as objects for their personal gratification and not as beautiful creations to be loved. Often the man wants the woman to act out what he sees in the movies. You are responding as almost all women do that email me on this subject. Women internalize the man viewing porn as if there was something wrong with them. It is not true. You are fine… You appear wise by not wanting this in your life. I would be highly cautious having a relationship [with] this man if porn has been such a part of his life… You do not want to marry a porn addict and then suffer the consequences for years to come.

Young New Yorkers Talk about Porn’s Effect on their Relationships (explicit language)
Over beers recently, a 26-year-old businessman friend shocked me by casually remarking, “Dude, all of my friends are so obsessed with Internet porn that they can’t sleep with their girlfriends unless they act like porn stars.” A 20-year-old college student who bartends at a popular Soho lounge describes how an I-porn-filled adolescence shaped his perceptions of sex. “Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says…

Jill was in love. It was the late nineties, she was a sophomore at a competitive state university, and she found herself smitten with Kyle, a junior with a confident strut who also happened to be the editor of the school newspaper, which won him instant parental approval. By the end of that year, they were a serious couple. Jill knew that she had discovered not only true love but, to put it bluntly, great sex as well.

So when, after a year, she learned that Kyle spent quite a bit of time looking at pornography—first online, then, eventually, on videos too—she wasn’t immediately put off, despite being a psychology major who seriously questioned the morality of porn. “I was the kind of girlfriend who was up for anything sexually,” says Jill, who is 25, has hazel eyes, and works in PR. “When we were having sex, he’d call me his porn star, and I thought that was hot.”

In time, this changed. Kyle would sometimes e-mail her links to sites “he thought were really hot,” which made Jill more than a little uncomfortable. Sometimes, she’d drop by his house for a surprise visit and he’d have already “exhausted himself” with the computer…

They have since broken up, and have stopped talking. “He was a lot more innocent when he was younger,” she says. “He was looking for love and companionship. Now he just wants a good lay. I’m sure he’s looking for some huge-breasted, tight-assed bitch…” These days, she feels “very jaded about love and sex,” but every so often, she finds her cynicism dissolving… “I think it will be really rare, and hopefully it will happen, that I can meet a guy who will be happy with only me.”

Salon: Porn Isolates its Users, Erodes Civility and Love
…whether you approve of porn in theory or not, its effect will be to displace [the mate of the porn addict]. Like crack, it tends to take over, to push out other hungers that tend to nurture the human community by making us dependent on one another. Since we are dependent on each other we must be civil and loving. If we are not dependent on each other then we needn’t be civil and loving. We needn’t have community and family. That is the way in which any drug breaks down family and community by isolating its user. Porn isolates its users also, meeting their needs outside the social compact. The social compact becomes a commercial compact between anonymous people, while those in the actual human community are relegated to bystander status. It introduces a third party into the erotic economy of a relationship…

Porn Use Correlates with Infidelity, Prostitution, Aggression, Rape-Supportive Beliefs
In 2002, researchers reported in Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy their findings from analyzing a sample of 100 personal letters posted to 4 different Internet message boards by spouses, fiancés, and girlfriends of men perceived to be heavily involved in pornography. The sample was taken between November 1999 and September 2000. “Analysis of women’s letters posted online revealed two themes regarding pornography consumption and its impact on sexual desire. First, many of the women believed they were no longer sexually attractive to their partners and this was the reason why sexual relations had diminished. Secondly, in relationships where sexual relations had continued despite the partner’s pornography use, women believed they were viewed more as sexual objects than real people in the relationship…”

In 2004, researchers also reported in Social Science Quarterly that “Individuals who have had an extramarital affair are 3.18 times more likely to have used Internet pornography than individuals who did not have affairs.”

In 2005, a survey of 718 Swedish high school students found that “Seventy-one percent of adolescents surveyed believed pornography consumption influenced others’ behavior, and 29 percent believed it affected their own behavior.” Reported in International Journal of STD & AIDS.

The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Revi
ew of the Research

The marital relationship is a logical point of impact to examine because it is the foundational family unit and a sexual union easily destabilized by sexual influences outside the marital contract. Moreover, research indicates the majority of Internet users are married and the majority seeking help for problematic sexual behaviour online are married, heterosexual males. The research indicates pornography consumption is associated with the following six trends, among others:

  1. Increased marital distress, and risk of separation and divorce,
  2. Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction,
  3. Infidelity
  4. Increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices,
  5. Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing,
  6. An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual behaviour.
These trends reflect a cluster of symptoms that undermine the foundation upon which successful marriages and families are established…

Mulac, Jansma, and Linz [2002] studied 71 men interacting with women in problem-solving dyads after watching one of three types of films: (1) sexually explicit and degrading to women, (2) sexually explicit but nondegrading, and (3) non-sexual. Results showed that the men who viewed either of the sexually explicit films displayed more dominance and anxiety, ignored the contributions of their partner more often, touched their partner for longer periods of time, and averted gaze more than the participants who had viewed the non-sexual film. The researchers concluded the impact of sexually explicit material on behavior is more complex than is often assumed in pornography research, but that a negative impact exists…

[In a meta-analysis of 46 studies published in various academic journals,] Oddone-Paolucci, Genuis, and Violato found that exposure to pornographic material puts one at increased risk for developing sexually deviant tendencies [e.g., excessive or ritualistic masturbation], committing sexual offenses, experiencing difficulties in one’s intimate relationships, and accepting rape myths. In terms of the degree of risk, the analysis revealed a 31 percent increase in the risk of sexual deviancy, a 22 percent increase in the risk of sexual perpetration, a 20 percent increase in the risk of experiencing negative intimate relationships, and a 31 percent increase in the risk of believing rape myths…

In North American culture, it is most common for people to select a marriage partner according to romantic love as opposed to family arrangement or economic necessity. Research by Roberts (1982), Davis and Todd (1982), Davis (1985), and Bergner (2000) is useful in clarifying what romantic love entails from a social science perspective. They found that romantic love embodies the following characteristics: (a) investment in the well-being of the beloved, (b) respect, (c) admiration, (d) sexual desire, (e) intimacy, (f) commitment, (g) exclusivity, and (h) understanding…

…when there are violations to these characteristics and the violations are sufficient in magnitude, partners will commonly conclude that they are no longer loved as they once were and re-evaluates their place in their partners’ world. As Bergner and Bridges (2002) point out, many women who discover a partner’s intense involvement with pornography engage in just such a reappraisal of their relationship…

Maurer found three common traits that distinguish sexually satisfied couples from unsatisfied couples: (1) acceptance of one’s own sexuality, (2) listening to one’s partner and being aware of a partner’s likes and dislikes, and (3) open and honest communication.

Moreover, according to data from the General Social Survey in 2000 (N = 531), people who report being happily married are 61 percent less likely to report using Internet pornography compared to those who also used the Internet and who had completed the General Social Survey in 2000…

…the following observations were made by [the 350 attendees of the November 2002 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers] polled with regard to why the Internet had played a role in divorces that year…56 percent of the divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites…

Whitty (2003) also found that both men and women perceive online sexual activity as an act of betrayal that is as authentic and real as offline acts and that Internet pornography use correlated significantly with emotional infidelity (N = 1,117; 468 males and 649 females)…

“Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women”
Many female participants in the study by Bridges et al. (2003) noted a diminution in their partner’s sexual desire for them and believed that their partners had come to prefer the pornographic models to them… They reported a decline in the intimacy of their relationship, a diminished sense of their partner’s commitment to them, strong feelings that their partners failed utterly to respect them or understand their emotional distress concerning the pornography, and lastly, a sense that they were living a shameful lie by presenting themselves to others as a loving and committed couple… More often than not, the woman blames herself for losing her partner to his pornographic interest. She believes that if she were a ‘good’ enough woman, she would have been able to keep her husband’s attentions and affections and her loss would never have occurred…

Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography on Family Values; Women’s Desire to Have Daughters Plummets
Pornography consumption had a most powerful effect on evaluations of the desirability and viability of marriage. Endorsement of marriage as an essential institution dropped from 60.0% in the control groups to 38.8% in the treatment groups…

…the desire of females for offspring of their own kind…after consumption of pornography, shrank to one third of its normal strength…

Video Presentation: A Content Analysis of 50 of Today’s Top Selling Porn Films (explicit language)
Ana Bridges: “…I’m going to begin to talk about what it is that we found after looking at these 304 scenes in these 50 top selling pornographic films. In total in the 304 scenes we coded a total of 3,376 acts of aggression. That ends up averaging…to an aggressive act every minute and a half. The scenes on average contained eleven and a half acts of verbal or physical aggression…”

“We also coded for, what…we’re calling loosely in this talk, ‘extreme acts’ (of sex acts). The only sexual sequence that we coded, which is…when one thing follows another, was something called ATM…’ass-to-mouth’. This literally involves anal penetration followed by oral sex…she is literally eating her own shit. That occurred in 41% of the scenes that we coded…

“So how many scenes didn’t contain aggression? About 10%…

“For verbal aggression, by far namecalling and insulting were the most common types. They were seen in almost half of scenes…

“…in couples research we know that couples, even couples who fight a lot, as long as there’s a lot of good in the relationship, about five times more good than bad, they actually do pretty well.

“Less than 10% of the videos showed any kind of a positive act, and that included kissing… caressing happened maybe twice. Something like a verbal compliment, ‘Gosh, you look pretty’, not, ‘Slut bitch, come over here,’ that happened maybe five times in the 304 scenes. So we have a ratio of positive to negative behaviors of 1 to 9, which is not a sustainable, happy relationship.”

Gail Dines Presents: Pornography and Pop Culture (explicit)
Example Magazine: Boink from Boston University

Article: “The Donkey Punch”

“When [Boink] started, women were clamoring to get into this… What is going on in this culture that so many female students from BU want to go into this?… Now this is a story on the ‘donkey punch’… This was some sex tips in the first edition of Boink, and the donkey punch is a sexual technique developed specifically by men because women
have the potential to become ‘loose as a goose’ and it’s hard to do what you want to do, i.e. ejaculate. So let me tell you what this suggests. This suggests you enter her from behind, and if she’s loose as a goose then what you do is pound away, and then, at the pivotal moment, you smack her hard on the head. She’ll get a shock, pull her muscles up, and then you get to ejaculate…

Another one was called I think ‘Riding the Bull’. And it said again you enter her from behind, hold her breasts very firmly, and then at [the] pivotal moment, you get your friends to come in to take a picture. She’ll jump up and you hold on to her breasts… So this is not fun. This is about a magazine of how to sexually assault and rape women.”

Lizzy Borden: We don’t shoot “all the lovey-dovey stuff that there’s not a big market for” (explicit language)
“Yeah. She’s really going to get hit. She likes it. It’s good. Sometimes, it makes you more horny when you’re getting hit. It makes you more, like, more tingly down in your genital area. You should try it. You should hit your wife a little bit…”

Testimony in Minneapolis: Porn and the Death Spiral of a Marriage
…we would have incredible arguments with each other. I would tell him I loved him, I only wanted to love him, I wanted to be a good wife, I wanted our marriage to work, but I didn’t want to be with these other people. It was he I wanted to be with, and no one else. He told me if I loved him I would do this. And that, as I could see from the things that he read me in the magazines initially, a lot of times women didn’t like it, but if I tried it enough I would probably like it, and I would learn to like it. And he would read me stories where women learned to like it.

Statement of Rev. Susan Wilhelm: “…the sex became especially abusive after he started using pornography” (explicit language)
He exposed me to the pornography, too. Once we saw an X-rated film that showed anal intercourse. After that, he pressed me to try it. I agreed to once, but found the experience very painful. He kept trying periodically. He told me my vagina had become as sloppy as an old sow’s and he could not get pleasure any other way. He also used to pinch and bite me. When I said “it hurts,” he would say, “no, it doesn’t.” I became numb. I lost track of my own feelings. One time, he said in reference to himself sexually, “it’s supposed to hurt.”

Laurie Hall, An Affair of the Mind
Over the years, I’ve spoken with other women who have had similar experiences. They tried extra hard to be attractive to their husbands; but the year-after-year battering of constant comparisons with other women and the continual attack on their desirability as a sexual partner wounded their spirits to such a point that they gave up and became the exact opposite of the firm, gorgeous, beautifully made-up women their husbands kept trying to force them to become. Ironic, isn’t it, how pornography creates the exact opposite in real life of what it promises in fantasy life?

Testimony of Wanda Richardson, Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter
If you look at a lot of pornography, it shows women being beaten, humiliated, tied up. It shows women tied and stabbed, poked, prodded and abused by devices, assaulted by several men or animals, and many ugly and degrading things. When you see a woman being battered, you see a lot of the same ugliness and violence at the same time. Not only do they portray women as liking and deserving this sexual abuse, it shows them as enjoying it, deserving it. And that is what one of the great myths of battery is, is that women deserve to be battered and that they enjoy it. If they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t stay…

Testimony from Northampton Shelter for Battered Women: Half of Abusers Use Pornography as a Part of the Abuse (explicit)
We have recently begun to formally ask the battered women who call us whether the abuser uses pornography and from this we conservatively estimate that at least 1/2 of the abusers use pornography as a part of the abuse. Battering is based on an issue of power and control, with the abuser using all kinds of methods to continually assert his power and control over the woman. Throughout, he is persistently working to deny her of her ability to make informed decisions about her life and through threats, coercion, and continual terror succeeds at clearly establishing himself as “in control”. We frequently hear a woman say that she feels like a prisoner in her own home, and in fact, she is.

Testimony in Massachusetts: My Experiences with Men, Porn and Domestic Abuse (explicit)
I’m testifying under a pseudonym, Karen Harrison. I live in the New Bedford area. I’ve had many experiences with sex discrimination directly linked to pornography. Some of these were harmful to my physically, but all of them were harmful to me emotionally. I’ve had six abusive relationships and four of these six involved pornographic indignities…

The second relationship was with a man named Jim who worked in a bookstore warehouse supply company in the New Bedford area… They had a poor inventory control system. He stole porn magazines and books by the boxload. There were stacks and stacks of them on both sides of the bed and out in the rooms where guests, including my parents, could see them. He would refuse to move them and got violent when asked to…

He made no secret of needing these magazines to get turned on enough to touch me. I was forced to participate in a bondage episode that he read about. He forced me to pose nude for a photographer, playing with myself, in Rhode Island for money, all of which he kept because he could not keep a job at this time. He collected these magazines religiously and hurt me if I moved, touched or acted wrongly in any way. I was beaten so severely while I was pregnant by this man that I miscarried…

My…final relationship was with a man named Patrick, a police officer…

He would force me to watch porn videos with his son in the next room and then would rape me and use the language heard in the videos. For example, I can’t forget, he told me was going to split me in half with his cock and I was a bitch and I was forced to admit I loved it and if I didn’t say this, he would hit me and rape me harder. He always spanked me during sex and pulled my hair very hard like in the movies we watched…