October 26th, 2009

The Dehumanization of Women


photo credit: christajanel

While modern civilization has made great strides in eradicating many of the scourges that have crippled and killed millions, it has overwhelmingly welcomed the latest cancer with wide open arms. Curiously, this disease is weaved into the popular culture in such a way that few see it for what it truly is. Instead, like cigarette smokers half a century ago, it is accepted by most as a healthy and/or innocent form of personal entertainment.

The plague that is pornography has devastated the lives and relationships of countless millions, infusing society with a strain of selfishness and baseness that, if unchecked, will contributed in large part to its ultimate doom. Consider a few of the alarming statistics: as of July 2003, there were 260 million pages of porn online, an increase of 1800% since 1998; more than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month; and over 45 million unique users visit adult websites each month in the United States alone. The data continues, each thread helping to weave part of the large and ugly picture that represents this blight on our society.

As the saying goes, sex sells. In 2006, the industry netted brought in over $97 billion—more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined. Obviously, there is a market for this drug, and its demand is ever-increasing.

But at what cost?

Pornography and its usage serve no beneficial purpose; its only perceived advantage is the generation of large profits for those who produce and distribute it. In this sense, it is very much a drug; its peddlers rely upon its addictive nature to secure an income stream and ensure the customer returns for more.

At its core, pornography’s popularity relies upon the dehumanization of its subject, which is almost always a woman. She is treated not as a human being with character, intellect, kindness, and personality, but as a collection of anatomical components serving to induce a physiological response. The very essence of pornography is that of a false substitute—a cheap forgery whose attempt at imitation astonishingly deceives many.

Put more succintly:

Pornography takes human sexuality, with its hope of love, fidelity, family, and fulfillment, and turns it into an empty and lifeless husk. It does this as a predator destroys its prey, by eviscerating sexuality of all its inherent grace. This transmogrification, which some mistake as emancipation, takes place through processes that are neither liberating or enriching, but depersonalizing, enslaving, self-destructive, preposterous, alienating, isolating, reductionistic.

The process can be subtle enough that, for some, it goes unnoticed. But ultimately, the difference between the reality of human sexuality and its residue in pornography is all the difference in the world. It is the difference between what “gift” means in English and what “gift” (poison) means in German. Indeed, it is the difference between hope and despair, heaven and hell.

This falsification of wholesome qualities such as love, unity, and intimacy is only one of the many deceptions inherent in the very existence of this material. Another such deception is the absolute hypocrisy involved in one’s viewing of such content. Dr. Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy once stated:

When I ask men who are sex addicts if they would want their wife or daughter to be in porn, 100 percent say, ‘No’. They want it to be somebody else’s wife or daughter. They know this material is damaging.

This aspect, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the dehumanization of those involved in pornography. Those who choose to degrade themselves through participation in such material uphold the reverse of the golden rule, doing to others’ daughters what they would not want done to their own.

Comparing the drug of pornography to that of crack cocaine—and arguing that pornography is a harder addiction to overcome—Layden also stated that it is the “most concerning thing to psychological health that [she knows] of existing today.”

Simply put, "pornography victimizes everyone—those who are addicted to it, those who live with them, a society that fosters it, a society that is trying to oppose it, even those who create it. It contaminates everyone." Dehumanizing anybody destroys relationships and distorts behavior for all involved parties. In short, it degrades individuals, destroys families, and spoils society.

And yet, as was noted earlier, society warmly embraces this lucrative and enticing enterprise. Having become wiser, our society now sees the tobacco advertising of the mid-1900s as a deceptive, money-hungry campaign to make an unhealthy practice popular and sexy. We can only hope that some sort of catalyst will produce a similar result with pornography; our society’s successful future demands that we re-humanize the women who have become involved in this industry, and reject the fraudulent objectivization of other people’s daughters.

21 Responses to “The Dehumanization of Women”

  1. David
    October 26, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Your quote from the Free Library has this interesting statement:

    This transmogrification … takes place through processes that are … depersonalizing, enslaving, self-destructive, preposterous, alienating, isolating, reductionistic.

    This statement immediately reminded me of a statement from Elder Scott’s talk in this last general conference which was in the published text, but which he did not speak:

    Sin is addictive; self-degenerating; conducive to other strains of corruption; deadening to spirituality, conscience, and reason; blinding to reality; contagious; destructive to mind, body, and spirit. Sin is spiritually corrosive. Unrestrained it becomes all-consuming.

    Soon after that statement the text goes on to talk about pornography (which Elder Scott did say in conference).

  2. Tim Harper
    October 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    Bravo!

  3. Aaron Sellers
    October 26, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Great post, Connor. Thanks.

  4. Cameron
    October 26, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

    I think the quote from the Center for Cognitive Therapy about how 100% of patients say they wouldn’t want their own wife or daughter to be in porn is misleading based on who is in the sample. These are people who are trying to quit – they know porn is bad and are trying to stop viewing it. I don’t think the general population is anywhere near 100% because many people don’t think porn is wrong. It’s being sold as empowering, that being in playboy is some sort of an “honor” for women.

    I am reminded of a class I took at the U a few years back: Intercultural Communication. We had a class discussion about pornography after reading studies which showed how awful pornography really is, even going beyond the obvious degradation of women and intimacy and showing how porn also promotes racism and other ills. Everyone in the class agreed that porn was hurtful and wrong and blah blah blah. In the midst of this I spoke up about how we all talk about how harmful pornography is, but in reality we treat as prudes anyone who does anything about it.

    The example I used was that in the university bookstore checkout counters they always have the popular magazines ranked and situated by copies sold. In order to show the rankings the bookstore put #1, #2, etc on a white plastic panel in front of the magazine like the ones you’ll see at the grocery store checkouts that hide the covers of some of the more racy magazines. Well, the bookstore didn’t want anyone thinking they would dare censor magazine covers so they also had a sign explaining that they didn’t intend to cover up the images, that the covers were only there to show the rankings. Our society couldn’t even handle the appearance of prudence.

  5. Connor
    October 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    I think the quote from the Center for Cognitive Therapy about how 100% of patients say they wouldn’t want their own wife or daughter to be in porn is misleading based on who is in the sample. These are people who are trying to quit – they know porn is bad and are trying to stop viewing it. I don’t think the general population is anywhere near 100% because many people don’t think porn is wrong. It’s being sold as empowering, that being in playboy is some sort of an “honor” for women.

    I’m not so sure the answer requires a belief that pornography is wrong. Are you suggesting that those who don’t consider it wrong wouldn’t mind their wife or daughter doing it? Granted, there may be (and surely are) people who would consider it exciting or whatever for their family member to participate, but I can’t imagine that that number would be statistically significant at all.

    I think the point of the quote was that the vast majority of people would feel likewise—regardless of their perception of the immorality of the content, they wouldn’t really want their wife to take a side job and do it herself.

  6. Neil
    October 26, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    Just one of Satans many tools to destroy the family unit and degenerate a society. Its a real problem and is wide spread through all peoples. Basically the media are peddlers now and its really hard, especially as a teenager not to fall into it deadly grasp. Even your so called conservative talk show hosts will bring guests on to talk about what they do for a living and how interesting it is. Oh as they are showing pictures of them. I see it only getting worse in the future.

  7. Clumpy
    October 27, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    Y’know, this is just really one facet of our society’s objectification and neglect of women. Witness:

    - Generic pronouns like “guys” and “mankind” can be used in mixed-sex situations, while an individual female is not a “guy” or a “man.” The male pronouns and terms are “default” and thus there needs to be a reason to use female ones (such as a group of women, in which the use of “ladies”, “girls” or “gals” is often merely a joke). Even in our language women get shunted to the side, and anybody who argues that thought patterns have an unconscious effect can’t ignore this.

    - Female protagonists are almost never included in stories or media unless the story is being written entirely for women or there is a specific reason to have a female (to tell a “female” story). Men are the adventurers, men are the heroes. If women are included in “strong” roles they’re usually depicted as barbaric Amazon-like warriors who attack men – hardly a boon to feminism as it doesn’t provide a role model.

    I have a friend who once argued that a woman’s role was a caretaker, while a men’s role was one of providing. The implication was that women should be inert, not accomplishing goals or doing anything interesting enough to put on paper, while the men’s actions would write the stories. Though I’ve rarely heard this specific argument, I think that many people unconsciously adapt this viewpoint due to training. This is unfortunate.

    - Statistics have pretty much shown conclusively that women are put into a subordinate role in advertising – visual language in advertisements usually depicts women as objects or shows objectification as a standard to be achieved.

    - Gender roles also have their effect: Women consistently earn less than men (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0193820.html) because they are trained from birth to pursue careers that are less respected solely because women fill them (not to mention widespread and documented discrimination in the workplace). It’s been shown that in other cultures different jobs are respected – nearly always the ones that men perform.

    Female children are held closer by parents of both sexes, particularly discouraged from roughhousing or showing assertive behavior, and steered toward “female” activities – a very early form of conditioning which leads females toward interests that society can marginalize.

    -Epithets, offensive terms and insults are often lobbed indiscriminately at women that attack them personally as members of their sex, or applied to men to imply a second-rate status or performance at some task. This is far more uncommon for men and the male-specific epithets are usually directed at behavior (substitutable with “jerk”) rather than as a personal condemnation.

    Anyway, the porn thing. I’ve never sought this stuff out, but I consider myself lucky that I simply cannot really be attracted to somebody that I do not personally know. Thus lingerie models, vapid celebrities etc. do not interest or excite me and I have no desire to seek out anything more risqué. Though I can imagine in theory pornography that attempted to create a human connection or somehow dignify women, it would still be damaging or at least empty due to its counterfeit nature.

    If mouth-watering were somehow a pleasurable experience (designed as it is to get one to eat), then people might look at glossy, well-produced and visually-compelling spreads of buffets (a Smörgåsbord as it were), but what would be the point? Titillating the senses and associating representations of a thing with the thing itself is a good way to rewire your brain in ways you might not be able to predict.

    Finally – dang, Connor, that photo is kind of creepy, both in its context and its implications for that kid’s future.

  8. Brian
    October 27, 2009 at 9:02 am #

    Good post. I especially liked the link on the text “We can only hope that some sort of catalyst”… the link was about how to fight porn by spreading the idea that it truly is disgusting, similar to how everybody nowadays agrees with the idea that smoking is disgusting.

    One minor annoyance, though… I found the image associated with this post to be offensive. No, I’m not talking about the idea of a little girl growing up to be involved in porn production (that is an offensive idea but that is the point of the image, so this is not what I’m complaining about). Rather, the “sexy” shadow of the girl is what I find offensive. We already see that kind of shadow on pickup truck mud flaps, decals in back windshields, on t-shirts, etc. … Please don’t put it here on this site where people trying to get away from that sort of thing will see it…. That kind of image can stir the wrong kinds of feelings, if you know what I mean.

  9. David
    October 27, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    I think that image captures exactly the spirit of the post – the way the world sees girls, even from a young age, is often nothing more than that “sexy” shadow.

  10. Clumpy
    October 27, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Brian, are you saying you’re attracted to Kermit the Frog?

  11. Jennifer
    October 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    well said!

  12. Clumpy
    October 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    Sorry Jennifer, I have to ask: are you referring to my mostly facetious Kermit comment or something of more substance above?

  13. Edward
    October 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    A timely evaluation of a serious and not often enough confronted topic. Thanks Connor. I too especially like the “some sort of catalyst” link and further link to the http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/ website. In reading their material I’m convinced they are focusing on a much needed niche in the fight against pornography. I’m excited to see what the project produces and I hope my donation helps.

  14. sloanie
    October 28, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    The title of your post is a bit misleading. True, pornography often centers around the objectification of women, but that topic (in my mind, anyways), is a lot broader than hardcore pornography.

    The post seems to be primarily about pornography and the dehumanization of sexuality– I mean really, what does pornography say about the men portrayed as well?

    And lastly, my understanding is that pornography addiction no longer belongs primarily to males, that women are increasingly becoming victim of it as well (I don’t doubt this is related to the way society has characterized sex in general in the mainstream media, to say nothing of that which is actually marketed as pornography.) I’m sure it’s far from an even number, but there’s a trend, in any case.

    I’ve noticed that general authorities mention pornography less in general priesthood meeting now and more in the regular sessions of conference, and the words are not directed specifically to one gender any longer as they have been in the past. (This isn’t what I’m basing my argument that more and more women are becoming addicted to porn on, but rather it seems to support that idea).

    I think porn is dehumanizing, period. Either party is little more than animal, it takes everything meaningful out of sexuality and turns people into parts and expression into self-gratification.

    By the way– I’m not hung up on political correctness. Rather my intent was to point out that it is not only the women who are being dehumanized (unless perhaps the implication is that men have long since been dehumanized and are unworthy of such concern :P )

  15. Clumpy
    October 28, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    Going sort of with what sloanie said, I’ve also been wondering if romance novels and stories, etc. for both sexes might also be damaging, as they also create an unreasonable and frankly off expectation of what a relationship should be like. Couples in movies are rarely in love with each other, but generally hook up out of proximity. If they had continued acting the way they did after the movie (which usually ends with them proving their trust through some brave, useless gesture after ages of acting like a selfish jerk), they’d be separated within months anyway.

  16. Rachel
    October 31, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    I know first hand what it is like to be married to an addict. I lived with it for 4 years.

    I am now a single mom of 2 young boys, and trying to finish up my degree. I see ignorance in all walks of life but none make me want to pull my hair out and scream like when a teenager takes nude pics of herself and texts them to a boy she likes.

    I use this example because I don’t think people (mostly girls/women) realise that one of the big reasons women get into porn is because their boyfriend/spouse is into it, and they want to please him. What they also don’t know is that the women portrayed in the porn pics and videos aren’t happy, and most of the time they don’t enjoy what tricks the man is doing with her but they are ACTING. This makes the viewer think that maybe his sig. other would like that, too.

    Another MAJOR thing most women don’t know is that the reason it is mainly men involved in porn is because men are different from women sexually. They are aroused by simply looking at a female. Women generally aren’t. Girls don’t realise the corruption they are sewing when they wear short skirts, or bare midrifts, or tight clothing or cleavage revealing tops. They just want the attention. Teenage girls generally get pregnant because they wanted to believe that their boyfriend loved them. They want the love and the attention. Period. They are striving to gain their own sense of self-worth in someone else.

    Addicts don’t know how much they can ruin their lives here on earth as well as their eternity. They lose their family, because they can no longer maintain an intimate, loving relationship with one woman. Their view of women has been skewed and distorted. I have watched family members and close friends destroy their lives through drug and alcohol addiction, but I have also watched my (now ex) husband literally decay and die spiritually. His personality drastically changed as he tried to serve 2 masters. I know that pornography is Satan’s most powerful tool against the family. Pornography stimulates the same chemicals in the brain to be released as heroin. But unlike a physical substance addiction, pornography stays in the mind and is subject to recall. You can throw the drugs and alcohol away, you can make new friends and stay away from old playgrounds like clubs and bars, but how do you escape your own brain?

  17. Clumpy
    November 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    You know, I honestly think that maybe one of the reasons that men are so easily stimulated by women is the way that women are depicted visually in our society. It trains us for immediate visual gratification.

    If marginalization of men were so widespread in our advertising, society and dress we might see similar patterns. Porn’s only a symptom of a larger problem, though it’s a particularly damaging symptom as it conditions us against monogamy and to seek immediate stimulation the moment it is desired rather than operate according to a more intimate, human schedule with a loved one. I think we say porn is mainly demeaning to women as it seems to be produced primarily for men, though as an addiction is defined primarily by its effects it’s pretty clear why we should regard pornography (really, any overtly sensual material or behavior designed to fulfill a visual or visual/sexual urge) as damaging.

  18. AmoreVero
    November 7, 2009 at 2:21 am #

    Viewing pornography is just another form of Spouse Abuse & Adultery. As with all Abuses & Adulterys, it’s a choice & an addiction. The hardest thing of all to accept is that the person who views it does so because they actually enjoy hurting their spouse (though they probably would never admit it) & they also enjoy the perks they get from the adulterous abuse of porn.

    But as destructive & abusive as the drug of pornography is, it is nothing compared to the destructiveness & dehumanization of women by Abandonment & forced divorce, which usually also destroys everyone involved, especially the man who left, though he rarely realizes it.

    Abandoning a wife used to be looked upon as bad as porn is now, & is one of the worst of all sins the Prophets say, but has gradually become so accepted, tolerated, supported & even often encouraged by most everyone now. We are taught that if we do not want to share in the eternal punishments for a man’s abandonment or porn or any other form of abuse, we must not accept, tolerate or support any man & his rationalizations, who would do such things.

    For a man to abandon his wife is usually far more abusive & painful for the wife than if he stayed with her & just viewed porn, as bad as it is. For the abandonment & divorce brings even greater adultery by his dating other women after he leaves & an adulterous unjustified remarriage turns the man & a new wife into actual physical participating porn objects to each other, not just a picture on a page or screen.

    Few stop to consider this ultimate form of porn, that always happens in unjustifed remarriage. Those who do such though, almost always consider & declare themselves to be justified & righteous & never think they are committing porn & adultery with their new wife. Only later when they are in the repentant stage do they finally come to themselves & confess this, but only a few of these ever repent in this life before it’s too late & they realize they have sold their soul for a mess of pottage.

    May we all awake to the awful situation of the rampant abandonment, adultery, abuse & porn all around us, with many that are close to us & try to help them repent & us protect the innocent & the abused & the abandoned & thus not become deceived to go along with & support such evil.

  19. Dave Hooper
    July 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    The American pornography industry, based in Hollywood (for shame :-( ) Is now almost entirely owned, run and controlled by women. 9 of the 10 major “studios” are owned by women. These are not just “figureheads” put there by male owners to be the smiling face of their industry. They are the full and legal owners of the studios. Most of the senior management is also made up of women.
    Many of these came from within the industry, and were in porn themselves in the 80′s and 90′s.

    Porn will never go away. It might go underground (where it gets nastier – a LOT nastier) but at the moment we are flooded with cheap nasty images wherever we go.

    They serve no purpose. They are almost biological in their objectivization of the most intimate minutae of the female form and sex, to the point where any pretence at eroticism has long since gone.

    Look, I know I’m not coming at theis from the same angle as others here (and as a father the emotive play towards other people’s daughters – promoting the quite incorrect idea that porn and paedophilia are one and the same) is not something I can agree with.

    I can say, however, that erotic works, pornography or even sassy postcard tittilation is now beyond the pale.

    It’s overstepped the bounds, yes in content, but most definitely in quantity.

    Gynocological pictures are really quite revolting.

    Love, eroticism and seduction seem to have no place in modern pornography – or indeed in any form of art high or low.

    I strongly believe that there is a place for eroticism in the world. That we should celebrate and enjoy our sexuality.

    But that seems a million miles away from the brightly lit butchers shop window of pornographic excess we see now.

    @AmoreVero. In both the UK and US the VAST majority of divorce proceedings are bought about BY WOMEN – and “unreasonble behavior” in as much as sexual overburdence is concerned makes less than a fraction of 1% of the reasons given at petition.

    Are these VAST MAJORITY of women who divorce their husbands (and re-marry) also evil pornographers?

    Or are you just an unreasonable and ill informed indiividual?

    As for “few stop to consider”

    I don’t think you have any idea what other people consider.

    Darn it, I’ve realized I’m trying to reason with an idiot or a bigot

    TTFN

  20. Amore Vero
    July 30, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    Dave,

    I realize many women do initiate divorce. I firmly believe that most do because of abuse in some form from their husbands. But yes, many women are abusive themselves & leave unjustifiably, which of course would also make their further marriages porn, if they weren’t justified to leave their former spouse.

    But the fact is no ‘righteous man or woman’ would ever divorce their spouse, (for they would have the Spirit & thus be too in love with even their ‘evil spouse’ to break their covenants & leave them for good) except in very rare instances for safety reasons, but still even then they would never go on to date or remarry someone else after the divorce. They would use the legal protection while continuing to love & serve their spouse (from a safe distance), & God still considers them 100% completely married to & they would continue to minister to the evil spouse to help them repent one day, whether in this life or the next.

    A righteous spouse has the Spirit & thus has True Love for their spouse, no matter how evil that spouse may be. Just because they may have to seek legal protection in divorce, would not lessen their love & devotion & complete faithfulness to their spouse. They would teach their children that their marriage & family is still intact & eternal, even though it is not safe to live together at the moment.

    Justified Divorce for safety reasons does not break the covenants & marriage apart, but going on to date or remarry always does.

    As the Prophets teach though, most divorces & remarraiges are not justified, most are adultery & thus just acted out porn.

  21. Lois Lane
    April 7, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    I have not owned a television for years for the simple reason that I didn’t want to pay excess cable bills for a product I rarely use and since I didn’t want the influence of TV in my life.

    Recently I attended a conference in which I was required to stay at a hotel. During the duration of my stay, I watched a little TV. Not only is news dumbed down, but the way women is portrayed is abysmal. The message I acquired from it: women are only good for one thing (sex) — and I am a woman.

    Show after show depicted women throwing themselves at men, scheming to get men through sexuality. Men were encouraged to just use and discard women, to do anything, lie, cheat, steal, to get into a woman’s pants before discarding her and moving onto the next. Getting intimate as opposed to building an intimate relationship with a woman appeared to be the ultimate high.

    The images and scenarios on TV seemed to condition viewers to act and think accordingly. I would wonder how could anyone who watched much TV not hold a view of women that they are good for one thing — particularly younger women who become targeted for old men for use and exploitation.

    Women are routinely stripped of their personal attributes, their intelligence, kindness, accomplishments, and reduced to the summation of their parts. I was stunned at how women dressed on TV — not only exposing cleavage but allowing the camera to zoom in on their breasts while they bent over, exposing them and shacking them around for the camera – while they opened a jar or bent over to tie shoes. They were reduced to impersonal stimulants designed to generate chemical responses of pleasure in men.

    Even though I am a woman, I could not see them outside any context of sex. Their exposed breasts were distracting.

    Unfortunately society is now mirroring the funk that is on television. It is extremely difficult to find a monogamous man, one who is decent and who values the character, intelligence, values,a accomplishments of a woman. Similarly, many women appear to be brainwashed into thinking they need to use their sexuality to snag a man and to dress with their breasts exposed. I can’t even begin to describe the number of professional events (for lawyers, etc.) where women appear with deep cleavage exposed trying to get a man.

    If a woman needs to resort to that to get a man, the man she gets can’t be worth much. The women who engage in these sorts of antics don’t seem to appreciate that by using their bodies to snag a man, the next woman who opts for the same strategy (and there are many of them) can just as easily distract him or take him away.

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