Co-signed by Luke Ayers
When the stories of sexual assault, harassment and general impropriety began to surface, often with #MeToo, neither of us were particularly surprised. We really, really wanted to be. We wanted to be shocked that figures representing films and television series we enjoyed could be guilty of such horrendous offenses, but we weren’t, not in the slightest.
It’s difficult to be surprised about #MeToo when we are living in a culture that does not encourage respect for human dignity in sexuality. A culture that is saturated with things such as pornography and casual sex, diminishing the value of intimate relationships. This has led to people, especially men in positions of power, believing that they have the right to sexually take advantage of women without repercussions. If we don’t expect people to stand for human dignity in public, why should we expect them to do so in private?
By this point, if you’re someone who consumes pornography or has casual sexual relationships, or you’re at least someone who doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with doing these things, you’re probably getting a little peeved and are thinking we’re a couple of prudes who need to get our minds out of the 1300s. While you aren’t entirely wrong on our preferred century, the problems with the attitudes that accompany a flippant use of pornography or consistent participation in casual sex are well documented. The harmful effects of pornography in particular are well documented by psychologists and behavioral scientists.
In case you’re doubting the truthfulness of this claim, we’ve selected just three of the worst effects that pornography has been shown to have. There are many, many more to be found.
- S.B. Boeringer’s 1994 study “Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Associations of Violent and Nonviolent Depictions with Rape and Rape Proclivity” suggests that even non-violent porn makes men more likely to use violence, drugs, and alcohol to coerce women into having sex with them.
- Porn is addictive in the same way that drugs are, because of the release of dopamine in the brain, sending users on a destructive path towards more and more dehumanizing porn to satisfy their addiction. This is according to “Pornography Addiction — A Supranormal Stimulus Considered In The Context Of Neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology”, a study from D. L. Hilton.
- A 2012 study by by R. Peters. W., Lederer, L. J., and S. Kelly, “The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography”, suggests that porn contributes heavily to the sex trafficking business, with even many of the women who do consent often being coerced into doing things they don’t feel comfortable doing.*
The second attitude that contributes to the acceptability of sexual offenses like those highlighted by #MeToo is the prevalence of hookup culture and an assumption that sex can or should be casual. Admittedly, some of our issues with extramarital sex are religious in nature, and to hide that would be disingenuous. However, even allowing for sex outside the context of marriage, the fact remains that hookup culture approaches a person as a mere means to an end. It degrades a human person to simply a tool that provides sexual pleasure. While these fleeting relationships do have the important aspect of consent, no amount of consent to an activity can change the attitude that one or both parties approach it with.
There is a whole host of issues that come with our generation’s hookup culture, in which 80 percent of today’s college students take part. According to the Kinsey Institute, having a high amount of previous sexual partners is one of the top five factors leading to infidelity in adults. It also increasing your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, which is one of the reasons that 23 percent of American adults have some form of HPV. Consequences of having casual sex spill out into your emotional life as well — as a study from Durham University shows that 80 percent of men had overall positive feelings the morning after a one night stand, while only 54 percent of women felt satisfied.
Rape and other violations of a person’s bodily autonomy ultimately originate because the perpetrator does not truly believe in the dignity of the person they are attacking. This is not to say that everyone who uses porn or has casual sex will be a rapist — neither logic nor the statistics supports this. However, the prevalence of these two things, among our age group and in society as a whole, certainly do not help decrease the number of these violations. Offenses against the dignity of one person are offenses against the dignity of all — we should all take issue with the way that women and men are portrayed as mere vehicles of sexual pleasure if we wish to truly be a society that cares about the rights of each person.
*Full source citations and other resources can be found at http://learn.ftnd.org/