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Teens are bombarded with images and articles that cause them to hypersexualize themselves, making them ready for a pornography shoot even if they never set foot on one, according to Dr. Gail Dines.
“This culture is socializing our young girls to be ready for pornography, whether they ever end up on a porn site or not,” said Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston.
Dines went into further detail in her recent TED Talk.
The usual standard for a female is a white, blonde woman, who has no “jiggles” aside from her breasts. Women of color get in occasionally, provided they have an incredible body aesthetic.
As girls grow up in this culture, two primary choices are presented to them: “f**kability versus invisibility.” It’s unrealistic to expect anything but the former when teens crave attention and being wanted — even more so when her friends have already made that choice themselves.
“It is impossible to ask her to go for invisibility,” Dines said.
It essentially forces a young girl to sexualize herself in a way she doesn’t plan or think of on her own.
Dines talked with an inmate who was incarcerated for raping his 12-year-old stepdaughter. She explained how he used the culture to groom his target, emphasizing that qualities like hotness and sexiness are her most important traits. By the time he actually went for his stepdaughter, she had bonded with him over those traits.
“Playboy,” “Penthouse” and Hustler” are the “good ol’ days” of pornography, according to Dines. The Internet changed the industry. It made porn affordable, accessible and anonymous.
Dines put “porn” into Google, simulating a 12-year-old boy’s first experience with the industry, and one of the first results was a site that featured a psychopathic act against the woman in the video.
The boy, probably not expecting such a graphic scene, reads the video description, which tells him this is how “real men” act, how “real men” treat their sexual partners. Because he’s alone when he finds this video, he doesn’t have someone telling him real sex isn’t like that, that the disgust he might feel is justified. He merely accepts it.
“In that boy’s stomach is a toxic stew, because he’s aroused, but he’s also ashamed, and he’s also scared, and he’s also angry,” she said. “And he feels enormous shame that he is aroused. And nobody has said to him ‘This is not who you are,’ because the pornographers say to him ‘This is who you are. This is what you want.’”
The pron industry tells a young boy this, but Dines said she knows it’s not true. She knows it’s not true because she’s a feminist. She said feminists are men’s best friends. They value men more than the porn industry does. She also knows this as a mother.
“If my son is better than this, then I believe your son is, too,” she said.
She then described the next result, another terribly violent act. She then makes clear that she isn’t finding the worst of the worst. These results are what anyone sees in 15 seconds. The standard porn scene features one woman and three men, and those men abuse her both physically and verbally.
“This is the sex education today across the world,” she said, referring to the fact that the Internet is how teens now learn what is normal.
Dines referenced 40 years of research, saying the younger a boy is when he’s exposed to porn, the more it hurts him. He can’t be as intimate with a partner, he feels less empathy for rape victims, he’s more prone to depression and anxiety and he’s more likely to take risks with his sexual behaviors.
In 2002, the porn industry lobbied against the restriction on women who appeared underage. The result, almost overnight, was a litany of sites that advertised the fact the women were even younger, using words like “daddy” or “It’s OK. She’s my stepdaughter.”
The solution to fighting this, Dines said, is to take a public health approach, similar to campaigns against drinking and driving. By getting everyone invested in the next generation’s well-being and bringing them together, the porn industry’s misinformation can be fought.
Culture Reframed will launch in autumn and will educate teens and preteens about porn. It will create programs for parents, programs for professionals and programs for students.
Educators, mental professionals, community leaders, parent groups, lawyers, youth workers, therapists and activists will all be involved in the process.
“We are going to tie this porn monster down, piece by piece,” she said. “And you know why? Because our children are worth more, our culture is worth more, our boys are worth more and our girls are worth more.”