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04th Apr 2024

‘Pornography has stepped in and seized the narrative about what sex is’



An expert has discussed the main reasons why women watch porn, and explained how pornography is now playing a significant role in our society.

In the internet age, the vast majority of us will have consumed pornography at some point or another, as it has become easier to access than ever before.

But there are obvious issues this poses.

Singer Billie Eilish has previously spoken about how porn “destroyed” her brain and that she had been watching since the age of 11, whilst Kanye West has spoken about his struggles with porn addiction. Meanwhile, former porn star Lana Rhoades has been a vocal critic of the porn industry, previously saying that it should be “made illegal.”

Watching porn is still seen as a stereotypically male activity though, which means conversations around the impact of porn on women are often neglected.

To discuss this, PoliticsJOE‘s Oli Dugmore recently spoke to sociologist, Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray, who has released her new book Women on Porn: One Hundred Stories. One Vital Conversation.

In a wide-ranging interview, the sociologist from London Metropolitan University spoke about the online porn industry, the societal impact of porn, how it negatively impacts perceptions of women, and the importance of regulating the porn industry.

As Dr. Vera-Gray points out, the prevalence of porn in our society means it’s “no longer the case that anyone can say they don’t have a relationship to it.”

“We’re just in a society where this is a very large part of the media that is being consumed”

Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray

She continued: “Whether or not you use it yourself, you’re in a relationship to it because of its dominance in society because your partners are using, it your friends are using it, your teachers, the teachers of your children, possibly your children have seen it, your co-workers, the bus driver.

“We’re just in a society where this is a very large part of the media that is being consumed.”

Whilst the statistics show that the majority of people who consume porn are men, research shows that millions of women also watch pornography.

Ofcom research carried out during the Covid pandemic found 16 per cent of women with internet access had visited PornHub in the month of September 2020. Among young women, this figure rose to a third.

Aside from the fairly obvious reasons for watching, Dr Vera-Gray said that many women are searching out adult content for practical reasons and to learn about sex.

Having spoken to 100 women about their experiences and interactions with porn, she said the “number one” reason they gave for watching adult content was for “things like instruction.”

Dr Vera-Gray said: “Women were talking about going to pornography for things like instruction, number one – and that not always being a bad thing. So going: ‘I want to know how to give a blow job, I’m 16, I’ve never done one, I want to find out what that’s like.’

“Going on porn to see what it would be like to do particular sexual acts that you haven’t done yourself because you want to test them out before doing them. So going on, and looking for instruction.

“It’s not necessarily ‘monkey see monkey do,’ we’re complex, so it’s not that simple”

Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray

She explained that porn was starting to have that function for women, particularly in the “absence of sex education that actually does anything in terms of talking to people about why people really do have sex.”

Whilst instruction was one major reason for women watching porn, another was “expectation”.

The academic revealed women spoke about the fact they had seen “a lot of porn sometimes before they’ve had any kind of sexual interaction themselves.”

As a result, this was setting up a “sexual script” in women’s heads, particularly those in their 20s, about “what sex is, how you do it, who does it to you, what acts are pleasurable.”

She continued: “So I had some women talking about things like it wasn’t until they were in their mid-20s that they felt able to say that they didn’t like having their hair pulled because the boys had always pulled their hair.

“They thought there was something weird with them, the fact that they didn’t like it because all the porn that they had seen this is what happened, and the boys seeing this is what happened.

Addressing the general point about the social function pornography now plays, she said: “It’s not necessarily ‘monkey see monkey do,’ we’re complex, so it’s not that simple. But we also can’t say that it’s not performing the social function and the reason the need for that function exists is because we live in a society where we are surrounded by sex but we do not talk about it in terms of the reality.

“There’s still so much shame associated to talking about it, that everybody stays away from really talking about the realities of what they do and when and why. And then that big gap in the education piece that’s been there for so long and the constellation of that has meant that pornography has stepped in and kind of seized the narrative about what sex is how you do it and why you do it.”

You can watch the full interview below, or on the PoliticsJOE YouTube channel here.