Growing up in Pornland: Australian girls have had it with porn-conditioned boys

sexting

“[I want] better education regarding sex for both boys and girls [and] information about pornography, and the way it influences harmful sexual practices.”

These are the words of Lucy, aged 15, one of 600 young Australian women and girls who took part in a just-released survey commissioned by Plan Australia and Our Watch. The survey, conducted by Ipsos, gathered responses from the girls and young women aged 15-19 in all states and territories.

In the survey report, entitled “Don’t send me that pic,” participants reported that online sexual abuse and harassment were endemic. More than 80 per cent said it was unacceptable for boyfriends to request naked images.

Sexual bullying and harassment are part of daily life for many girls. Young people are speaking out more and more about how these practices are connected to pornography — and so they should, because they have most to lose.

Pornography is molding and conditioning the sexual behaviours and attitudes of boys, and girls are being left without the resources to deal with this reality.

My own engagement with young women over the last few years in schools around Australia confirms that we are conducting a pornographic experiment on young people — an assault on their healthy sexual development.

If there are still any questions about whether porn has an impact on young people’s sexual attitudes and behaviours, perhaps it’s time to listen to young people themselves. Girls and young women describe boys pressuring them to provide acts inspired by the porn they consume routinely. Girls tell of being expected to put up with things they don’t enjoy.

Some see sex only in terms of performance — where what counts most is the boy’s enjoyment. I asked a 15-year-old about her first sexual experience. She replied: “I think my body looked OK. He seemed to enjoy it.” Many girls seem cut off from their own sense of pleasure or intimacy. That he enjoyed it is the main thing. Girls and young women are under a lot of pressure to give boys and men what they want, to adopt pornified roles and behaviours, with their bodies being merely sex aids. Growing up in a pornified landscape, girls learn that they are service stations for male gratification and pleasure.

Asked, “How do you know a guy likes you?” a eighth grader replied: “He still wants to talk to you after you suck him off.” A male high school student said to a girl: “If you suck my dick I’ll give you a kiss.” Girls are expected to provide sex acts for tokens of affection. A 15-year-old told me she didn’t enjoy sex at all, but that getting it out of the way quickly was the only way her boyfriend would settle down and watch a movie with her.

I’m increasingly seeing seventh grade girls who seek help on what to do about requests for naked images. Being asked “send me a picture of your tits” is an almost daily occurrence for many. “How do I say ‘no’ without hurting his feelings?” girls ask.

As the Plan Australia/Our Watch report found, girls are tired of being pressured for images they don’t want to send, but they seem resigned to how normal the practice has become. Boys use the images as a form of currency, to swap and share and to use to humiliate girls publicly.

Seventh grade girls ask me questions about bondage and S&M. Many of them have seen Fifty Shades of Grey (which was released on Valentine’s Day). They ask, “If he wants to hit me, tie me up and stalk me, does that mean he loves me?” Girls are putting up with demeaning and disrespectful behaviours, and thereby internalizing pornography’s messages about their submissive role.

I meet girls who describe being groped in the school yard, girls routinely sexually harassed at school or on the school bus on the way home. They tell me boys act like they are entitled to girls’ bodies. Defenders of porn often say that it provides sex education. And it does: it teaches even very young boys that women and girls are always up for it. “No” in fact means “yes,” or “persuade me.”

Girls describe being ranked at school on their bodies, and are sometimes compared to the bodies of porn stars. They know they can’t compete, but that doesn’t stop them thinking they have to. Requests for labiaplasty have tripled in a little over a decade among young women aged 15-24. Girls who don’t undergo porn-inspired “Brazilian” waxing are often considered ugly or ungroomed (by boys as well as by other girls).

Some girls suffer physical injury from porn-inspired sexual acts, including anal sex. The director of a domestic violence centre on the Gold Coast wrote to me a couple of years ago about the increase in porn-related injuries to girls aged 14 and up, from acts including torture:

“In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender. With offenders not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, believing women are ‘up for it’ 24/7, ascribing to the myth that ‘no means yes and yes means anal’, oblivious to injuries caused and never ever considering consent. We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent.”

The Australian Psychological Society estimates that adolescent boys are responsible for around 20 per cent of rapes of adult women and between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of all reported sexual assaults of children. Just last week, Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs argued that online pornography is turning children into copycat sexual predators — acting out on other children what they are seeing in porn.

A 2012 review of research on “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents” found that adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as “sexual playthings eager to fulfill male sexual desires.” The authors found that “adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed.”

I have asked girls what messages they might like me to pass on to boys. So far, these messages include: “Stop telling us we are wet,” “Stop commenting on our bodies,” “Stop demanding pictures,” “Rape jokes are never funny,” and “Sex before the age of consent is illegal.”

The proliferation and globalization of hypersexualized imagery and pornographic themes makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible. Sexual conquest and domination are untempered by the bounds of respect, intimacy and authentic human connection. Young people are not learning about intimacy, friendship and love, but about cruelty and humiliation. As a recent study found:

“… Online mainstream pornography overwhelmingly centered on acts of violence and degradation toward women, the sexual behaviors exemplified in pornography skew away from intimacy and tenderness and typify patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity.”

It is intimacy and tenderness that so many girls and young women say they are looking for. A young woman told me that on dating sites she lists under “fetish” wanting to stare longingly into someone’s eyes and to take sex slow. She said if she didn’t put these desires in the “fetish” category, they wouldn’t warrant a second glance.

But how will young women find these sensual, slow-burn experiences in men indoctrinated by pornography? Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says of young men: “They don’t know the language of face to face contact … Constant arousal, change, novelty excitement makes them out of sync with slow developing relationships — relationships which build slowly.”

It is wrong to leave sexual formation in the hands of the global sex industry. We need to do more to help young people stand up against warped notions of sexuality conveyed in pornography.

Fortunately, the ill-effects of the pornographic experiment on relationships and sexuality are being named out loud. A groundbreaking Australia-first symposium on the issue was held at UNSW last month, to a standing room only crowd, and a current Senate inquiry is gathering evidence of the distorting harmful impacts of porn on our young people.

Most importantly, it’s young people themselves demanding change. Josie, 18, is quoted in the Plan Australia/Our Watch report:

“We need some sort of crack down on the violent pornography that is currently accessible to boys and men. This violent pornography should be illegal to make or view in Australia as we clearly have a problem with violence and boys are watching a lot of pornography which can be very violent… This is influencing men’s attitude towards women and what they think is acceptable. Violent pornography is infiltrating Australian relationships.”

Girls like Lucy and Josie deserve our response.

Melinda Tankard Reist is a writer, speaker and co-founder of Collective Shout. She co-edited Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global porn industry.

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  • Farnsworth

    I agree. Malestream. We need to be really firm in dictating what women do and do not with their own bodies and also what they should or should not find enjoyable. We need to condemn female porn stars and shame these women who think it is ok to engage in sexual acts on film that I personally find objectionable.

    “Sin qua” is a very tasty vegetable (google it), but it is phallus shaped so probably bad as well.

    • will

      Do you realize that you are spouting predictable and dissociated tropes that have been mocked upthread? Is being a sock puppet really that much fun? Try reading the article and using your very own brain to think about it. You might even like it (the thinking part, I mean).

      • Rachel

        Right, Will?! It’s really boring after a while. It’s the same trope we’ve read time and time again, and defended our stance against time and time again. Yet we still get these “enlightened” ones coming on explaining to us how wrong we’ve got it. When the reality is, their thinking stopped right at where they were In a position of power and popularity. Ours went further until we saw the truth.

  • Robert Davidson

    Ahem, misuse of the bible I hope you mean

    • I cannot speak for her, but I think she really means the Bible (and similar texts). I do not think “wives submit to your husbands” (a line from the supposedly more benevolent New Testament) or verses commanding that women who are not virgins on their wedding night be stoned to death are open to interpretation. Neither is jamming a penis down a woman´s throat until she vomits. Liberals and reformists have a way of refusing to see what is right in front of their eyes if doing so will compel them to say things which might make them unpopular. I think any institution focused on maintaining domination and submission dynamics (religion is without a doubt among such institutions, as is the sex industry) should be abolished unless it can prove that it is absolutely necessary. Yeah, I am an uncompromising radical who consistantly applies leftist values whether the mainstream likes it or not. Deal with it.

    • oneclickboedicea

      No Robert, I meant the Bible, the one that divides women into virgin mothers – impossible to achieve – or whores. The one that says women brought evil into the world by being the first to seek out and eat the apple from the Garden of Eden, which was probably because they weren’t fashioned in the image of God like men are, but made out of a bit of bone and developed to be a sex toy by God for Adam. Would you like me to continue with the Bible’s definition of women as sexual beast of burden, responsible for all evil? Religion used to be the thing to shame women for being born, and now its porn. Both of them propoganda for male supremacists, which you appear to be one if you cant see the hate speech towards women dripping out of that book and movement.

  • Rachel

    I’m so proud of the girls speaking up and pushing through the expectations of them to be a “cool and hip and sexy chick”. I don’t know how most women and men can carry out relationships, let alone young girls just coming into the years where relationships and sex is an interest. My heart bleeds for them with disgusting things they are expected to overlook and be cool with. It was hard enough when I was a teen coming to terms with the “all men have their porn magazines of naked or near naked women”, let alone the extensive, graphic and violent things they are being exposed to now, and having to bear the consequences of. I could never get my head and heart around even the magazines and images we would now call “soft porn”, actually we probably wouldn’t even label it as porn anymore because it’s all over the TV, billboards and magazines on display. Now what we’re dealing with is incomprehensible. How anyone can even justify any of this is dumbfounding. Josie was spot on when she said we need a crack down on violent porn that’s available to men. I would take that further and say any porn (including scantily clad women posed for men’s viewing pleasure) but I guess we need to start somewhere. I’m sick of women’s bodies being referred to as “porn”. We are not porn. We are human.

    Lib fems are you listening? Are you listening to what these girls are having to deal with? Are you looking at the increasing sexual assaults on women, which are barely even being reported as assaults anymore because they’ve become the norm? Are you looking at the increasing rates of mental health issues in young women? The body image disorders? The anxiety and depression? I’m just waiting for some idiot to come and trample all over these brave girls and tell them they’re just “insecure” or “prudish” like I heard time and time again as a teen. Fuck them. We can’t let that happen.

    • Spark658

      “We are not porn. We are human.” As obvious of a statement as it should be, reading this made me tear up.

      • Rachel

        I know, it’s so disheartening isn’t it. I understand that the porn available these days is much more of an issue than the old school soft porn stuff. I just don’t want people to forget the issues with even the “soft” porn. Mainly because it’s become so engrained in our culture to excuse sexualised images of women everywhere, that it’s not even seen as porn. Except for the fact that it’s still used as porn by the “good” people who don’t bother with the “hard stuff” thinking they are better. As I was thinking about it though, and reading more, I realised that even the most benign images that are everywhere still encourage people to see women as objects (which has been demonstrated in studies), and it just occurred to me, that hang on. Why is it ever ok to encourage people to see women as porn. As you said, it’s such an obvious statement, but it’s actually so hard to actually put your finger on in so many instances, because it’s just so socially acceptable now. Naked/bikini picture of a woman = masturbation tool (last time I checked, that means porn). Naked (very rare to see)/ bloke in jocks = human (aka male). Sigh. I have to stop thinking about this, it’s depressing me too much.

  • DeColonise

    This was a great read!

    While its sad to see the implications of porn I’m also happy that more and more young people (esp young women and girls who clearly are on the front line) are putting down the foot against porn.
    This is clearly an industry that don’t bring anything to the table of common good in society.

    But reading article such as this one makes me see there is some light in the dark tunnel and hopefully this pornbeast can be tied down. Step by step.

  • Lucia Lola

    This is the discussion everyone should be having. This is what is going on out there, this is what the younger generation immersed (more like bombarded) by media are wading through and trying to make sense of. It’s horrific. This has been my reality and I am only now starting to come up for air. More of this, please.

  • No Comment

    We’ve come a long way from my day, when you had to sneak a copy of your dad’s “Playboy” – which only showed nudity, not even soft-core sex acts. Much less the kind of vids these kids have access to today, that show things you wouldn’t do to a barnyard animal!

    I miss the patriarchy. “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” look pretty good in hindsight. What was that old proverb about being careful what you wish for?

  • therealcie

    This sort of thing is nothing new, but it’s gotten worse. I was both branded a prude and had rumors circulating that I was a slut back when I was in junior high and high school in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The slut rumors may have been a backlash to the fact that I wouldn’t “put out.”
    Guys thought it was perfectly okay to grab girls’ breasts and buttocks. There was one who was a particularly bad offender until I gave him a hard kick to the groin. When he told me I was being childish, I responded that I would be downright infantile if he ever touched me again. He never did.
    When we complained to teachers or the principal, all we ever got was a “boys will be boys” excuse. Anything short of penetration wasn’t considered sexual assault.
    At least we weren’t expected to rip the hair out of our labia in the “good old days.” However, for those who think hookup culture is something new, it’s far from it.
    I remember once I was sexually active, I had a boyfriend who expected me to be able to deep throat him. He’d seen it in porn, so he expected me to do it. I told him there was no way, and if he asked again, we were done. He never asked again, but I ended up breaking up with him anyway. He wasn’t a bad guy overall, I doubt he would ever have forced himself on anyone. He was, however, emotionally immature, and his ideas about sex had been colored by porn.

  • Cassandra

    Yup. The Bible/The Koran/organized religion are and always have been a form of hate/control propaganda against women. All those “sacred” books were intentionally written that way and are intentionally interpreted that way most of the time. It really is disgusting how men on the left act like they’re different while defending the hate propaganda that’s porn. You know this of course, but it’s funny how quickly the #notallbibles show up.

    • will

      “#notallbibles” Ha!

  • Hi everyone, I am back online, for now.

    I am thrilled to see that something is finally happening in Australia. It is a pity it is only happening now that I have left. I will be back one day though. Not soon enough for me, but too soon for the liberal feminists there, LOL.

    I find the fact that “more than 80 per cent said it was unacceptable for boyfriends to request naked images” surprising. You talk to high school and university students in Australia and it seems like everybody is cool with it. Maybe they are terrified of being censured by liberals as well.

  • maskedghoul

    I hope for the same, but they’re not listening to us. They’re listening the men paying their bills and they want to see women being brutalized. I’m glad I’m celibate

    • corvid

      Then why are we bothering to raise our voices against porn? We do it the hope of having an effect on men’s thinking and consumption habits. Which would lead to the erosion of the industry’s bottom line.

  • maskedghoul

    I don’t think the violent stuff should be legal at all. It’s having a direct, measurable affect on the minds of young boys that have been groomed to think this stuff is ok. I can’t even stomach the idea that there is a genre dedicated to women having panic attacks and crying and there are people out there getting off on it. Makes me sick.

  • calabasa

    I realize that a recent boyfriend I had (who claims not watch porn, and, after falling “totally in love with me,” freaking me out with his talk of marriage and babies after three weeks, then dumping me because I got a little weird with him/insecure after that–now, after telling me he hadn’t been dating, comes crawling back, and AFTER sleeping with me again tells me he should be “upfront” and say he’s slept with 6 women in a 2-week period, having created a Tinder account–I was disgusted, he said “you didn’t ask”–I consider that lying by omission, he is equivocating that “sex isn’t dating” though these women certainly wanted to date him, because he is aggressively charming/good at pretending–I consider that so disrespectful and putting me at risk–he says insultingly I “should have said no” to his coming over, despite still being in love with him–compliments all the specific sexual things he missed about me, asks me if I missed this or that about him, making me tell him “I missed YOU, you idiot”–and yes, saying the kinds of things these girls don’t like to hear, that he considers complimentary/showing sexual excitement for someone but I feel a little weird about, like it is objectifying; then when I tell him I don’t know, after his behavior, if I ever want to see or talk to him again, he calls me, abject, that night, and asks to come over; I let him; he just wants to cuddle; he apologizes for being such a fuck-up, tells me how in love with me he is, how he is sorry he can’t give me what I want, is incredibly vulnerable, says “I miss you, I miss you”–the truth coming out–doesn’t even want sex, just to cuddle, which I didn’t quite realize, thinking men always want sex–a problem of mine, he was obviously tired, and vulnerable–so when we do, he is all about me, putting aside even his own comfort–not at all selfish–even though, I realized halfway through, he was not feeling well, and stopped, and said “you’re sick, you didn’t even want sex did you? Why didn’t you tell me?” And he says, “no, I was just going to go to sleep and hold you, but I wanted you to be happy;” usually this was the opposite way around–I did things I didn’t want to, with him, to please him; so I felt bad about this turn of events; I told him in the morning he turns sex into a performance and it wasn’t even about pushing my boundaries–which he did, even the night before when he came over and failed to tell me about his recent behavior–knowing I’d never agree to sex if he did–pushing my boundaries aggressively and objectifyingly, despite knowing my history–but how he made his sexual needs clear/all about him, even my orgasm was a performance for him later, which made me very anxious/unable to come; and I never made my sexual needs known–which were for intimacy–the way he was at first with me–which I think became, later, for him, too scary, and he had to turn it into this pornified thing) was basically stopped at age 14, emotionally.

    THAT was what I was picking up on and didn’t trust in the relationship, and alarmed me early on, when considering him as a partner, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Early trauma, coupled with early sex/sexual acting out with girls–constantly–and, I think, a porn habit/a habit of pleasing himself (while thinking of himself as a good lover) has left him incredibly selfish, emotionally immature, and unable to sustain true bonds with a woman. I feel sorry for him, and am cutting him out of my life one hundred percent (despite all we have in common, his good qualities, the fact he does love me–maybe more than I love him–how observant, talented and smart he is, our uncanny similarities, etc.; none of it is worth this selfishness, fear of love and vulnerability, hiding it with juvenile or mean antics, this emotional immaturity). He will be very sad about it, as he wants my “energy and passion” in his life and is trying to force a friendship on me (when clearly we can’t be friends, at least right now; and knowing what I know about him I am not sure if ever). I feel very sorry for him. As I do for all men raised in the porn generation, and the women who have to put up with them.

  • calabasa

    I think the entire internet is a massive experiment in human brain chemistry and psychology. The clutter and clickbait, the banner ads–so many visual things going on–article-jumping, multiple tabs open, constant googling, smartphones, information at our fingertips (I know it’s been said before but as it’s related to porn and even sexual relations in the age of Tinder it’s worth saying): it changes our brains, our attention spans, our ability to go deeply into ANYTHING–a book, an idea, another person. I know my brain has been changed; I read constantly on the internet but am not nearly the bookworm I used to be (though I’m a writer); I get distracted easily, reading a novel (unless it’s for class, and I have a deadline–I should join a book club). The brain does actually change–biochemically–but fortunately for us, because of the brain’s plasticity, it can revert back fairly easily. If I can have a little self-discipline I’ll get offline for a while and get back to better reading habits. Here’s hoping (knock on wood).

  • calabasa

    I just had a relationship that I think was better than years of therapy. I just hope he is going to be okay.

    I realized something: men’s desires are natural, and women need to learn how to set the sexual tone in relationships. So many women (like me)–because they grow up with these ideas that they should please men (because of porn, because of society)–just do what men want, when they don’t want to, and then resent the men for it (and sometimes they LIKE it–as in masochism–but feel confused about it or like it’s unhealthy; I think in the context of a solid relationship, or at least a sexual situation of trust–even if it’s a FWB relationship–all sorts of things could be play-acted; of course I would draw the line at violence, but there is nothing wrong with rough sex per se, it should just not be the NORM; but of course men expect it; they’ve been conditioned by pornography–and all of society, really–to want it/see women that way; and also men’s desires are pretty uncontrollable sometimes, and women can be very confusing–I want it/I don’t–because we feel very confused, like we need to please men, but cannot sometimes express our deepest desires–which are sometimes, exactly as one young girl said, simply to gaze into our partner’s eyes during sex; for me, I realized I need to start out lovingly, romantically–it can still be passionately–but can’t get into any rough stuff or taking out the trials of the day and sins of the past onto each other until at least a little later on in the relationship, until trust-building has happened and I feel rock solid; but that’s me, and it’s something I need to make clear; I need to make boundaries clear–what feels objectifying to me, and how it’s okay when it’s a spontaneous offer, made out of a gift of love to please my partner–or hell, simple horniness–but not okay when it’s an offer made because of constant pressure;–and I need to make my needs clear, especially when he makes his clear–when I need more time, more foreplay, more intimacy, the order of things, etc.). And he may think his needs are clear–especially, I think, very experienced men, who’ve been around (or young men who’ve viewed too much porn)–but sometimes they are not; sometimes maybe it’s what he thinks he wants–for all sorts of reasons (his past, social conditioning)–but he maybe really also wants a little real romance, sometimes. Everyone likes to fall in love but no one likes to feel vulnerable. It’s a problem.

    I remember this partner talking to me about “sexual compatibility,” how it was imperative to sleep with women right away before dating them to know if you are “compatible” because he doesn’t want to “teach” anyone, and doesn’t want to waste time–in response to a question about what’s wrong with falling in love with someone first, before you ever have sex; I understand the obvious importance of sex to him in a relationship, but to me–personally–it should be more about the person–I guess I am a sapiosexual? At least when it comes to love, not sex–and that also sounds super-selfish–like, it’s my way or the highway; what about what she wants? So he wants to find someone who wants sex exactly like he does–which is often kind of fast/animalistic/performative/aggressive? How often does that happen in the real world anyway–that two partners are exactly sexually compatible (particularly when for women sex and orgasm are so often psychological–does he want to be with someone who is sexually compatible with him in his later aggressiveness because she gets off on self-abasement? Because she’s been abused? She’s a “freak” in bed–“good” in bed–and “naturally” wants EXACTLY what HE wants?) And how does he know the woman is not pretending for him because she likes him? I think it’s important for men–and women–to learn to be sexually flexible and open to their partners’ needs and desires; to negotiate, to communicate, to try something different than just what they’re used to. Different is not necessarily bad. But yes, in the age of pornography and the internet, it seems like people–particularly men, but women too–need more, more, more: more stimulation, more changing of positions, more of this sexual act, more of that…like it has to be every time; some things are more fun on special occasions…as it says in the article…they can’t just slow it down and take it face to face, sometimes.

    And how many men are into this stuff too because of feelings of aggression toward women–because they’ve been hurt (or because they are afraid of romance, afraid of love–afraid to make love, rather than have sex?) And I’m sure this goes for many women too. I don’t want to generalize (and I think porn–and the changing state of gender relations–has made this even more of a problem: men AND women taking out their aggressions in the bedroom).

    I think women do have SO much control, when they are with good men (and a lot of horny men who can get a bit aggressive or who have pornified ideas are otherwise good men, which is what is confusing). We all suffer in our relationships because of the awfulness of gender roles and stereotypes–the patriarchy, basically. And a lot of men I think have no one to talk to. I think it’s hard for “buddies”–even good buddies–(not to stereotype, but quite often)–to admit how hurt they’ve been, by women (while men might more readily talk to women, at least sensitive men, or women they have a bond with). It’s sad, for example, if you break up and the only people you have to talk about your feelings of heartbreak with are your ex-girlfriend or your therapist (I have tons of friends willing to talk this stuff over with me, and I with them…and is there an internet site such as this for men out there, who support each other? I mean, a non-MRA forum, without all the misogyny?)

    I think I’m finally realizing the effect women can have on men, sexually and emotionally, in relationships, and how that can also make men scared/angry–they are used to having to be invulnerable, and become so vulnerable, when in love with someone (in fact that is exactly what he said to me, before breaking up with me–I feel so vulnerable to you)–and how expectations of masculinity as well as porn as well as men’s natural desires all come together in the perfect storm to make them act like confused, wounded jerks sometimes. (And how women’s experiences growing up of victimization/sense of victimhood can make US act like confused, wounded jerks sometimes).

    The very reason I am trying to develop a system of sexual and romantic ethics (for myself) is not only because I have been hurt but know I have hurt men too (and sometimes it happens accidentally, for myriad reasons–timing, lack of compatibility–and of course that’s going to happen; you hurt people when you move through the world, but it should never be intentionally, callously/selfishly, or to exorcise your demons). Of course like everyone else trying to be ethical I will fail at this much of the time, but I’m going to try. I need to stop seeing myself as a victim and start realizing that, although I was victimized quite a bit through no fault of my own (apart from an aura of vulnerability, perhaps) when I was younger, and put myself in situations to be victimized again when I was older–what Freud calls “repetition compulsion”–I am no longer that person; and in fact I have hurt others, since, with my anger/projecting my feelings of victimization onto them, and even brought out the aggression in them…I am surprised some men in bad relationships were not meaner or more aggressive than they were to me (though I guess I have some good qualities too, which confuses them, because they still like me even though I’m so angry). My most peaceful, least dramatic relationships recently have been in fact ones in which the men were less experienced, so had fewer demands, and sex developed more naturally between us; then again, it’s also true it was less exciting (and they had trouble lasting)–which didn’t bother me, it is about the person; but it is nice to be in passionate relationships. I have to learn how to be in a passionate relationship in which sex does not become a power issue between us (again, boundaries and needs, open lines of communication, and making myself very clear in that communication).

    Anyway, I need to realize I am not that person anymore, approach sex–whether casual or in a relationship–ethically and openly; and girls at a young age, to avoid victimization, need to be taught, perhaps, how to shut that gross or objectifying shit down (or whatever it is they don’t like and makes them feel bad); taught sexual agency–not this false “empowerment” of self-objectification, but real sexual agency, how to stand up for themselves, and be clear about what they want and don’t want, sexually; and boys should be deprogrammed as much as possible from the harms of patriarchy and pornography. Non-profits starting campaigns and classes for boys and girls to talk about issues of sexuality (like the group talks conducted in this article, which were so cathartic) is a great idea.

    And part of pornography–as somebody else mentioned on here but I don’t see in the main body of the comments (only on Disqus)–part of pornography is simply the internet. We have the internet, we have film, men are men–that is, they are primal sexual beings raised in a culture that casts women in the role of sexual objects (which is why I think it’s so weird, for good men in the world, dealing with their conflicting feelings about this, interacting with women as human beings, trying to avoid the temptation of porn, which is so bad for them, psychologically, biochemically, relationally)–men will exploit women (and women will exploit themselves, and exploit other women, and sometimes, yes, women will exploit men) to make this product, in a world in which everything is for sale and everything is a click away.

    The internet is a great social experiment that has brought us all closer and so much farther apart. It’s hard for so many busy/lonely/isolated people to meet people naturally and normally; if a person is not extremely outgoing it’s hard to go out and create friend groups, and people can get isolated with long hours at work, and the impersonal nature of modern culture (especially of big cities). (Hence the phenomena of internet dating and smartphone hook-ups with strangers, which I have mixed feelings about). With our scattered attention in the age of social media and information overload it’s hard to go deeply into anything–an idea, a book, a person. Nowhere are the detrimental effects of the internet on society clearer than in pornography.

    TL;DR: Men and women need to discuss sex and sexuality, and the harmful impact of pornography on sexual relations (whether gay or straight, but this applies particularly to heterosexual relations and male-female gender relations in society), both within relationships, openly and clearly; but also in guided discussions with adults, at a young age.

    • Rachel

      I agree with what you say, both men and women are harmed by porn. The whole reason men don’t open up and talk as much, and have a hard time being vulnerable is because of the patriarchy. They are acting on expectations from men, not expectations from women. They can barely even relate to women as anything other than objects, which means they can’t have a fulfilling relationship with women easily, and find it hard to be vulnerable and not in control. However, I disagree with the part about men’s sexual needs and nature being anything different from a woman’s in an organic sense. If we strip away the cultural conditioning, there is no research that backs up these ideas. In fact there is far more difference with the sexes than there are between the sexes. To see men as “naturally” having a stronger sex drive, or see them as more visual than women, and more predisposed to porn consumption, is to play into the idea of masculinity that they are taught as children. Men in African tribes have no issues with constantly viewing boobs causing them to walk around with raging boners that thy just have to masturbate. The construct of the male and female sex drive is culturally shaped. It’s no wonder women appear to need love more, and sex less than, men. We haven’t been taught since we were children to objectify men, and to embrace hypersexuality as the norm. In fact, we’ve had the very opposite taught to us – that we want to be loves first and foremost by a man, we need to be an object to get that attention, we need to feel threatened by other “objects” aka women, and we need to pander to men’s sexual “needs” because they are somehow stronger than our own. I do completely agree that men are harmed by the patriarchy, and really have nothing to gain by being hypersexualised, agressive jerks. However, there is nothing to back up that they are biologically more like this. Even studies into testosterone aren’t conclusive that it’s stronger than estrogen in creating a greater need for Sex. And studies have shown women are in fact more visual than men (so why aren’t we more inclined to use porn?), women are turned on by a greater variety of material in more ways, and get bored with the same images more easily than men (again, logically this would create more desire for porn). However, we seem to be functioning without caving to these “needs”. Because humans are complex, and you can’t underestimate the great influence that social learning has over us. It’s very hard to undo our conditioning that we are not sexual.

  • Alienigena

    It is not just oneclickboedicea’s interpretation. The bible does not present women in a very flattering light. I have read it cover to cover a few times. I have been a member of bible study groups and Lutheran confirmation classes (all voluntary, I was a bit of a spiritual seeker as a child and adolescent) and even a wannabe believer like me could not stomach a lot of the content. When I read Paul’s various letters to followers/early Christians (e.g. Ephesians) explaining how women were ill equipped for leadership positions (I had this impression when I was 13 years old, I had read no feminist literature at that point) I was pretty disgusted. Then there is the Song of Solomon’s fixation on the perfect female (unblemished body, no scars and no doubt unblemished virtue). Women are often just a means to an end in the bible (e.g. Mary, vessel and incubator for Jesus) not fully human.

    As to your claim that “every single person here commits sin” … people do rotten things, doesn’t necessarily make them evil … but to call it sin is to demand that everyone agree with your worldview, which you do not have the right to do. Even your terminology is patriarchal and authoritarian. You talk about Adam and Eve disobeying god. Listening to a snake … magical thinking there.

    The overwhelming sense one gets is that there are very few good women.
    Proverbs 31:10 – Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price [is] far above rubies.

    Don’t really want to get in a quote war. My quibble with religion (Christianity is the religion I am most familiar with) is with the entire package (the text, the interpretations by people like Luther and Calvin, the believers, the culture of organized religion, the impact of religion on society (most believing people are not like Chris Hedges, in possession of well developed critical faculties)).

  • oneclickboedicea

    The bible states God made Adam in his own image, Eve was fashioned out of Adam’s rib as a companion for him. The bible states Eve took the first bite out of the apple against God’s instructions and evil was introduced into the world. The bible lays responsibility for introducing evil at the hands of Eve, who is not fashioned in the image of God. I don’t know think you can state that male supremacy doesn’t come from the bible when it clearly infers that men are the next thing down from God, women are playthings of men. And men cannot love that which they despise as being lower than them, whether they are daughters, wives or mothers.

  • oneclickboedicea

    Not my interpretation, but the main religions. All of them despise women and certainly in Christianity it is Eve that bit the apple first. You are selectively reading in order to try and present religious texts as humane, whereas they are not.

  • oneclickboedicea

    Well, you wont get that equality out of the bible either so its the foundation stone of inequality.

  • Rachel

    Very true, this is a problem with the gaming industry (which, I might add, is highly sexist in and of itself), and can be said for blogging and any internet activities. The problem is with porn, is that an orgasm is an extremely strong reward. It changes the chemicals in the brain to create an attachment. Men are creating an attachment and arousal to pixilated images and videos, which also happen to be extremely sexist and violent and degrading. This is flooding into all areas of life as we know it. People cannot tell fantasy from reality nearly as easily as they think when it comes to porn and sex.

  • oneclickboedicea

    You seem to think that your individual view of the Bible outweighs thousands of years of stigma it has spread about women. I didnt have a problem with the Bible until it began to be used as a way of shaming me about being female. That wasnt a thing I did to myself, that was a thing done to me by priests and vicars.

    • Just Me

      Okay, lets please take a realistic look at our conversation. You dictated to me about what I will or won’t get from the Bible based on what you don’t get from it. I simply responded by telling you that for *me*, I do get equality out of it. I never dictated to you what you should get from it. Infact, I am not even arguing with you about not believing in The Bible. I’m simply trying to show you more accurate representations of scripture.

      And considering in my other posts to you, I talked at length about the reality that sexism most certainly existed in the ‘church’ (which was created and run by imperfect humans) and that based on misinterpretation of scripture, it most certainly has been used against women to control them. But there is a massive and important and key difference between recognizing how people have misused God’s word for their own agenda and understanding the true message God intended through The Bible. So yes, massive amounts of sexism has existed in the church community for centuries. I am completely against it and do my best to combat it. Along with homophobia. That does not mean there aren’t great people in the church community, doing good works, and spreading the true message of God or that women are misaligned in The Bible just because human beings decided to take God’s word and twist it to suit their own agenda.

  • Just Me

    Marv – I don’t teach theology or biblical studies. I never even finished college. I am just an intense reader and I read everything from sci-fi to science, art to Calvin and Hobbes, and religion to everything inbetween.

    And actually, I did not defend Christianity. Infact, I remember saying that people within the church (I don’t think denomination is important) were imperfect and can support systematic oppression like sexism, homophobia and other ill received practices that I don’t agree with. So how you decided to translate that into me supporting sexism, or patriacrchy, I can’t figure. Nothing I said reinforced patriarchy. But if you truly think it did, can you point me to where you believe I’ve represented that perspective? You do remember reading the part where I was nothing but honest and sincere in talking about sexism within the church right?

    What I did do is defended The Bible and God’s word. I did not universally defend all who use The Bible or believe in God. I am not even debating the merits of believing in God or not. That is a deeply personal choice. I am not even debating if The Bible is real. I am simply debating the context at which The Bible itself is being talked about and providing other information that comes directly from the Bible that counters the initial beliefs while also bringing in the importance of the historical context.

    I do think it’s interesting that in this entire discussion, I have never told anyone that they should believe in God or Jesus or even The Bible and yet you think it’s okay dictate to me that Jesus isn’t God as if you are the only *right* authority. I totally support you making that choice for yourself. If you don’t believe Jesus is God, I support your choice. I want you to think about how you would have felt if I had said something similiiar to you. It might have looked something like this:

    ” I sincerely hope you have the courage one day to face the truth that Jesus is God’s one and only son and He will be our salvation.’

    Would that have been a fair statement to make to you? Nope. So please show me the same respect you’d want someone to show you.

    • SpecialSnowflake

      Your comments make perfect sense to me personally. I’m surprised I’ve just found a person with similar views and you’re a radical feminist too or at least you’re sympathetic to radical feminism

  • marv

    The god of the bible wants to be worshipped. Vanity of vanities. Reverent submission to an authority figure is a patriarchal construct. And the ideology that Christ had to die in bloody sacrifice to have our sins forgiven is another male contrivance.

    JC was a well meaning benevolent but misguided paternalistic teacher who was persecuted, tortured and executed, deplorably and unjustly. He didn’t rise from the dead. It was a common tradition in antiquity to mythologize and immortalize great men who died. We still do it today. The more things change the more……

    A valuable read for those wanting to know how the bible took shape should read Karen Armstrong’s book, The Bible: The Biography, based on comprehensive biblical scholarship. She demonstrates how the book does not speak for itself and how it was modified by the writers and communities over time. The authors of the Gospels, for example, which were written decades after Jesus’ death, dramatically altered the words of Jesus to speak to their lived reality. Many biblical books were excluded from the final canon because they did not conform to orthodox thinking.

    BTW you have some insolence coming to a feminist atheist blog to sermonize about the man god. That is a patriarchal act too.

    • Just Me

      Marv – Of course God wants to be worshipped. Through worship, which is a way to show reverence, honor and respect; prayer and living in God’s word is how a relationship is built with God for those who believe. And of course there needs to be some kind of parameters around how a person builds a relationship with God if that’s what one desires. There is nothing inherently wrong with that or that harms you personally if you don’t believe in it. But ‘worship’ as you are attempting to define it, has nothing to do with a humanly, and thus limited, understanding of worship as the ‘ego’ and ‘vanity’. A human who wants to be worshipped certainly is exercising vanity. But God is not human.

      You’ve discredited Jesus and The Bible to yourself yet you clearly expect others to put stock in a random regular person, Karen Armstrong, simply because you have recommended her and most likely share a similar viewpoint with her. As if somehow Karen Armstrong magically knows the real truth of the world and of Jesus and The Bible. But her books intertwine facts with her own personal opinions and personal theories, just like anyone else. Which is always colored by an individual’s personal experiences on top of that.

      You mention how the Gospels where written decades after the fact.I won’t claim to know why that is or how that fits into the creation of The Bible itself. It’s something that is debated by scholars that study this stuff everyday. Yet you don’t take that same argument into account when you mention Armstrong. Who has written her beliefs long over a mere couple decades. Not to mention that those who wrote the Bible were making personal accounts or writing the account of someone else who they had spoken with. Yes, you can certainly point to Armstrong and her beliefs to make your point if you agree with her. But it’s not right to discredit The Gospels based on when they were written, suggesting that this somehow renders them less significant; and yet then expect others to take stock in any modern author when what she has written was even further away from the original source and not even a direct source.

      I would never pretend to have all the answers. People seem to think that admitting to not knowing everything makes their position weaker when I actually think it makes them more honest and sincere and thus, stronger. I’ve often wondered about the books that were excluded. But I don’t think that the exclusion of other books from the Bible discredits the ones that we are familiar with today. I would love to see the ones that have been excluded that are most likely locked away. I do not agree with them being locked away from the public and I think the Vatican holds secrets that should be public knowledge.

      My own BTW, I had no clue this was an ‘atheist’ blog. But so what if it is? Didn’t you tell me earlier it’s good to challenge each other? Now you all the sudden have a problem with the discussion? So much so that you purposely set out to insult me by calling me insolent for daring to have a conversation online with people who don’t share similar thoughts on some topics? I was surfing the internet, I came across this website, I found some of the articles interesting and that I agreed with on a feministic political level. I read the following comments to the article and found that I disagreed with some of the points being made from certain perspectives. And so, I politely responded, without putting anyone down in the process. So no, it’s not a ‘patriarchal’ act to use my own mind and voice and discuss issues politely with other people. Perhaps your attempts to control where I comment on the internet and what I comment on is the true patriarchal act? And the only reason i say that is because you seem to think it’s fair to suggest that about me. I am open to discussion. But the personal insults need to cease. They are completely unnecessarily.

      • marv

        LOL! Another long tiresome lecture on your imaginary god. You really need an editor. No sensible person would be moved by the patriarchal propaganda of biblical fundamentalism. It’s difficult to know which is worse for women’s liberation, a bible head or porn head. Probably porn is leading the race depending on location.

        Thank you though for reminding me how misguided it is to think that homage and adulation to a conceited superior being is justified. No doubt you will continue along the road to Emmaus with a burning heart of faith seeing His signs and wonders everywhere, leaving critical intelligence behind.

  • Pro life feminist

    Beautifully stated.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I agree with Marv that you might consider shorter comments/posts.

    • Just Me

      You’re are naturally free not to read my comments if they exceed a post length you consider too long. I can completely understand someone not wanting to read everything a long commenter has to say. But I’ve said the things I felt where important to say. I wasn’t just saying things for no reason or just to talk. It’s a complex topic and I wanted to address the nuances within the conversation. Isn’t that why we are all here anyway? To discuss complex issues? Why would someone want to hinder that or even attempt to shame someone else just because they personally feel another person’s comments exceed a length that feels personally uncomfortable for them?

  • marv

    Look let’s both respect Meghan and not sqander her time reading and posting our comments. I have heard all your arguments throughout my life and regard them as irredeemably male constructs. You feel I am mischaracterizing you and the bible. The exchange is a dead end. Goodbye and best wishes (sincerely).

    • Just Me

      Nothing I have done here, or said, has disrespected or squandered anyone’s time. If you feel that you have squandered Meghan’s time, then speak for yourself to her. Don’t presume that your feelings about the conversation, extend to me. Articles exist to inspire discussion. None of this has much to do with my personal feelings and everything to do with being as sincere, informed and intellectually honest and respectful as possible. I actually don’t think you’ve heard all my arguments before. Otherwise, we would have had a much different conversation. You very well may regard my comments as ‘irredeemably male constructs” but that’s not rooted in anything we’ve actually discussed and seems more of a construct of preconceived prejudices. You accuse other people (you accused me) of sexism. Yet you continue to use sexism as a weapon against me. Likewise though, I wish you the best as well, sincerely.