Confession: I love watching porn. Before I delve into my critique of what I consider a growing lack of humanity in adult films, I need to state that outwardly. Yes, you read that correctly—porn is, in my opinion, losing its connection to the human side of one of our most basic needs. I’m noticing a trend lately that’s more inclusive of violent brutality, and upon further research, I’ve come to realize it isn’t just me.
There is an emerging genre of porn called “hate f***ing” (we’ll refer to this as “hate sex” going forward), and with new sites like Pinsex (an X-rated site modeled after Pinterest) popping up, we have even more access to these brutal, abrasive images and films. I’m beginning to wonder how this trend affects how we think of and approach sex, and even more, how we’re actually having sex.
I’ve been an avid consumer of adult films and images for about 20 years now, and I find there’s been a rather consistent change in the quality of content. Before the advent of the Internet, people consumed porn mostly through adult magazines, videos and adult theaters. There was a greater reliance upon storylines (cheesy as they may have been), and there were more obvious distinctions between “soft” and “hardcore” porn. Even XXX or “extreme” videos were rare, and not as easily accessible unless you avidly searched for them.
Gradually, directors began showing more direct shots of genitals, and the focus shifted towards positions and actions once considered rare and “taboo.” This shift isn’t entirely problematic; people enjoy watching various types of sex, and as demands grow, filmmakers evolve to meet the tastes of their customers. But with ease and (free) accessibility comes an inundation of imagery that I believe is beginning to have a serious impact on our collective expectations about sex, particularly among younger people.
Hate sex involves scenes where one person, usually the man (in a man/woman scene), takes out violent aggression on his partner, causing a lot of pain and showing almost zero warmth, connection or caring emotion. Often the woman appears terrified, or like she doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of his anger and is simply enduring the assault. Of course, it is “acting” (usually), but the depictions can be difficult to watch if you’re not into that type of scene.
There’s often pain inflicted in BDSM-themed videos, and there’s a certain level of unwillingness depicted in the “forced” reenactments, but hate sex is different. There’s little context, no storyline, and usually nothing that explains why men treats the women so violently. I’ve also noticed the women tend to be younger, with captions often calling the women “teens” or “barely legal.”
The industry has also moved more towards showing a great deal of anal sex, and hate sex tends to also include rather brutal assaults on women’s anuses. These days, it’s difficult to find a video clip where anal sex isn’t part of the scene. I’m a really open consumer of sex and sexuality and I understand that people enjoy different things, but even I struggle with watching some of these scenes.
In my interactions and observations online, I’ve noticed trends in sexual discussions leaning in this direction too. I’ve been observing younger and younger men expressing near confessions of assault-like intentions, and I find that rape culture’s presence on social media seems to be growing. With anonymity, people become bold and frank in their chatter, and as long as there are co-signers, they see nothing wrong with it.
To be clear, I’m not blaming porn outright. I am, however, suggesting there’s a growing desensitization towards the feelings, desires and concerns women experience while engaging in sex. And it’s being reflected not only in adult videos and images, but also in real-time conversations on social media. I’m reading more examples of aggressive language; more demands that women just take it; and more suggestions that women owe men sex. Some stories I’ve read from men read like a Penthouse Forum version of a hate sex scene. There are some times when I can’t say for certain that the stories being recounted aren’t confessions of sexual assault or coercion of unwilling women.
So when sites like Pinsex pop up, and the first images I see are depictions of hate sex and other extremely aggressive, demeaning, degrading sex acts being performed on women I’m not even sure are of legal age, I become conflicted and concerned. I’m not here to police anyone’s legal consumption of sex. I’m a voyeur, and have unique (sometimes extreme or “taboo”) tastes in what I enjoy watching.
At the same time, I’m concerned that younger people are absorbing unrealistic ideas about how sex happens, and these types of videos and images are shaping their expectations. I’m concerned that some will begin to measure potential partners’ worth by how willing they are to engage in sex acts that most people don’t perform on any sort of regular basis.
Sex isn’t just for two people in love with each other or for people in committed relationships. People can enjoy sex for sex’s sake. Ideally though, I’d hope that partners at least care for and respect each other as human beings and aren’t so dismissive of each other, as depicted in these hate sex scenes.
I want people to be responsible when making choices about how and with whom they have sex—and at the very least have the kind of sex that reflects their personal wants, needs and values. I don’t care for how desensitized we’re becoming against violence in general, and I certainly take issue with how causally sexual violence is displayed for public consumption. We can and should do better for ourselves and to each other.
Feminista Jones is a sex-positive Black feminist, social worker and blogger from New York City. She writes about gender, race, politics, mental health and sexuality at FeministaJones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FeministaJones.