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Men, Women, and Pornography

Men, Women, and Pornography

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3/9/08 5:11 PMLoading “Academic OneFile Print”Page 1 of 27http://find.galegroup.com.eres.regent.edu:2048/itx/printdoc.do?cont…oOfPages=249&inPS=true&pageIndex=0&relatedDocId=&scale=&queryId=R4
The objectification of women in mainstream pornographic videos in Australia.AlanMcKee.
The Journal of Sex Research
42.4 (Nov 2005): p277(14). (12581 words)
Abstract:
Using twelve measures of objectification, I measured the degree to which women are objectified inmainstream pornographic videos in Australia. Seven of the measures allowed for directcomparison of female and male objectification. Of these, one shows women being more objectifiedthan men (presence of orgasms, where women have fewer orgasms). Three show men beingmore objectified than women (in time spent looking at camera, where men return the gazesignificantly less; in time spent talking to the camera, where they are also less engaged; and ininitiating sex, where men are more sexual objects than active sexual subjects in seeking their sexual pleasure in the sample). Three measures showed no difference in objectification betweenmen and women (naming, central characters, and time spent talking to other characters).
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COPYRIGHT 2005 Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Inc.
 
In Australia and many other Western countries, there is continuing political, public, and academicconcern about the role of pornography in society. The accessibility of the internet and the kinds of material it makes available available have renewed public focus on the question of pornographiccontent: what kinds of pornography are people consuming? Many writers make the distinctionbetween good and bad pornographic content. Hamilton (2004), for example, noted,
We are not talking about Playboy centrefolds, which are so tameby today's standards that Hugh Hefner is seen as an old prude.We're talking about a whole new world of extreme and violentimages, including internet sites specializing in rape, incest,coprophilia, and bestiality.... Good, healthy erotica is one thing... but the sex depicted in standard porn is wholly devoid ofintimacy and affection. Women are uniformly portrayed as thepassive objects of men's sexual urges (p. 11).
Of particular concern to many commentators is the degree of objectification seen in pornography(e.g., Rantzen, 2004). Some worry that porn causes its viewers to act violently toward women(Krome, 2003) or that it turns them into sexual abusers (Hamilton, 2004) or even murderers(Coffman, 2004).Literature about objectifying content in pornography exists, but we have little information about thedegree to which the mainstream pornography being consumed in Australia objectifies itsparticipants. In response to ongoing public concern about this issue, I decided to gather andanalyze data about the content of mainstream Australian pornography. Scott and Schwalm haveshown that there is an important distinction between the availability and the consumption of pornographic material in a culture (1988a; 1988b). It is important to demonstrate not only what is 
 
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available to consumers, but also what they are actually consuming.METHODSampleConcerns about material available on the internet are driving most public debate aboutpornography at the moment, but videos and DVDs retain the central place in the consumption of pornographic material in Australia. In a recent survey of over 1,000 users of pornography inAustralia, videos and DVDs were the most popular pornographic medium, with 63.4% of respondents using them. Almost half (42%) used the internet to view pornography, but only 5.8%accessed paid sites, where "premium," non-mainstream material is usually found (McKee,forthcoming).Another advantage of using videos in this study was the ease of acquiring information about whichtitles were the most popular. Because it is illegal to sell, but not to buy, pornography in most areasof Australia, most people purchase it by mail. I merged the best-seller lists of the two biggestadult mail-order companies, Gallery Entertainment and Axis Entertainment, to create a list of 50 of the most popular pornography videos. This list became the study sample. (Contact the author for the list of sample videos.)It is important to note that the sample does not represent the absolute 50 top-selling videos inAustralia. There is some black market for X-rated material, but it is estimated to constitute lessthan 5% of sales (Australian Adult Industry Association, 2004). Given the importance of mail order in the Australian pornographic market, I can state with certainty that the videos in the sample werebest-sellers that represent mainstream tastes. The majority of the tapes were American imports;some were European imports, and none were Australian-made.Literature Review and Development of MeasuresThe taxonomy of analysis for the videos was developed through the viewing of a sub-sample of five of the videos in the best-selling 50 and by drawing on extensive previous literature on thecontent of pornography.Social science research into pornography has tended to divide the content of pornographic materialalong two axes. The first of these is violent/non-violent content (see Gossett & Byrne, 2002). Thereis less agreement on the vocabulary employed in analyzing the second axis, but a commonlyused term is degrading/non-degrading (Cowan, Levy, Lee, & Snyder, 1988; Gossett & Byrne).Neither of these terms is transparent, and a review of the history of their usage shows that therehas been considerable disagreement about what they mean and how they should be codified.There has also been considerable confusion in the literature about the relationship betweenviolence and degradation as measures. For some writers, the terms are distinct (Palys, 1986); for others, degradation is a subset of violence (Dines, Jensen, & Russo, 1998); and for another group,violence is a kind of degradation (Cowan et al.). Thus, it is difficult to make meaningfulcomparisons of previous content analyses of pornography.After reviewing the literature, I decided to use the term "objectification" instead of "degradation" todescribe the dehumanization of characters in pornography. Also, I defined violence as a subset of,and a process contributing to, objectification. Objectification is thus the key organizing principle for this research, for reasons outlined in the next two sections.Degradation (Objectification) in Pornography
 
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The division of pornography into that which is egalitarian and that which is degrading occured inexperimental work before it appeared in content analysis. Perhaps because of this, the term isused with little precision in the early history of analysis of pornography.Issues of representation in pornography are complex. Researchers have long been aware that apornographic representation, or any form of mediated representation, may show no violenceagainst a character, but may still present that character in unattractive or undesirable ways.The most common term used to describe representations which are undesirable, but not actuallyviolent, has been degrading (Donnerstein, Linz, & Penrod, 1987). Although I agree that it isimportant to make a distinction between non-degrading and degrading pornography, this distinctionis less important in terms of research into pornography's effects. There is general agreementamong researchers that exposure to non-violent pornography, whether degrading or non-degrading, has no negative effects on consumers (see Donnertstein et al., 1987; Padgett, Slutz, &Neal, 1989; Scott & Cuvelier, 1993; but see Zillmann & Weaver, 1989, for an argument againstthis position).Although the term degrading pornography was in use through the 1980s in experimental work onthe effects of pornography, it was only in the 1990s that definitions began to emerge (Fisher &Barak, 1991). Experimental work often has not published detailed or validated accounts of researchers' definitions of degrading material, but it is possible to draw out two underlying themesin the common use of the term in experimental work. These are, firstly, that pornography isdegrading if it shows non-normative sexual acts, such as oral sex (Zillmann, 1989) or casual sex(Donnerstein et al., 1987); and secondly, that pornography is degrading it if involves statusinequalities between participants (e.g., if one participant is shown to be older, diegetically morepowerful, or wearing more clothes than the other; Donnerstein, 1984). Most researchers agree thatthe definition of degrading pornography in experimental research has traditionally been asubjective one (Fisher & Barak, 1989).In content analysis, the two broad approaches to measuring degradation--the presence of non-normative sexual acts and the lack of reciprocity in sexual representations--have led to twoapproaches to coding pornographic texts. The first approach, measuring non-normative sexualacts, is static; it works with a list of practices which the researcher asserts are degrading andmeasures the presence or absence of these in pornographic texts (e.g., Dietz & Sears, 1988). Thesecond approach is relativist; rather than looking for the presence or absence of particular acts, itmeasures whether characters are presented differentially. For example, in Palys' (1986) contentanalysis, pornographic scenes were categorized by whether the sex in them is mutual,imbalanced, solitary, or unclear. Cowan et al. (1988) measured whether the sex in pornographywas dominant, reciprocal, exploitative, or autoerotic; Cowan and Campbell (1994) measured thepresence of "status indicators" in sex scenes.I have used the term degrading to this point for clarity, but in fact, in content analyses of pornography, a number of terms have been used as rough synonyms; these include degradation(Cowan & Campbell, 1994), objectification (Dines et al., 1998), dehumanization (Monk-Turner &Purcell, 1999), and domination (Barron & Kimmel, 2000). Often researchers use them as roughsynonyms for objectification, but at other times, they use the terms to refer to distinct elements of the wider process of objectification. There is little agreement about which element should be givenwhich name or about how these elements relate to each other. For example, Cowan and Campbelldefined degrading pornography as that involving three distinct but related themes: "domination,inequality, and objectification" (p. 325). They argued that objectification is part of a system of violence, if not violence itself, but also that violence follows from degradation. They also argued 

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