Today we can find elements of pornography everywhere, from advertisements, television shows, music videos, best selling novels as well as the obvious and established mainstream pornographic industry, all promoting and sustaining an objectification and sexualisation of the female body. Sex sells as they say, and this is undoubtedly true. But what impact on women are we seeing with the dramatic increase in the acceptability and use of such images, littered throughout our media at every turn?
It is a known fact that women have a long history of struggling with body issues, stemming from low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. We have been raised in a world where as women, we are constantly compared with one another: who is prettier, who has a better body, who is more desirable, who is going to get married first, how many children does one have or will have, who is more successful, who has aged the most gracefully, who has retained a pre-baby body…. we can go on and on.
The measure of self-worth amongst women has become increasingly about what we do and how we look, and today more than ever, women are rarely if ever revered for just being themselves.
Now, add pornography into this mix and do we have a current recipe for disaster? Is this extensive use of pornography and female sexualisation part of what is making women question themselves: do they need to act like a ‘porn star’ to be seen as sexy, to be desirable? What extremes are we seeing women now going to, to make themselves more desirable to another or as it would appear, more desirable than another?
In a recent UK pornography survey by website Face Relationships and Young People
• 60% of the teenagers interviewed said that viewing pornography affected their self-esteem and body image
• 45% of young woman said that they were unhappy with their breasts and would consider plastic surgery
This message that a woman’s body is for the sexual desire and appetite of another, appears to be pervasive and insidious… and hitting its mark: women, especially our younger ones, are lining up for breast implants and cosmetic surgery by the thousands.
It would seem for many, that our measure of self worth has grown to include our ‘assets’, and if nature hasn’t provided, then silicone is stepping right in.
When we buy into this continuous message delivered through the soft and hard porn mediums, we become disempowered as women. Not in the sense that we are then incapable of achieving great things, far from it, but that we diminish our true attributes when our sense of self is in any way measured by cup-size, perkiness, leg length, body shape, our perceived sexual prowess and in a more general sense, our sexual attractiveness to men. In that sense a woman stops seeing herself in a true wholeness, thereby reducing her self-worth to the sum of her ‘body parts’.
For those left ‘wanting’, she can find herself with a diminished confidence to engage in a deeper and more intimate connection with her partner. And for those who consider themselves fortunate to ‘measure up’, a (false) confidence exists that is also devoid of this fullness. For either side of the coin, what is truly magnificent within and its full expression goes unrecognised, disregarded, dishonoured and ultimately shut down.
In fact in all aspects of the porn industry, true intimacy is long forgotten and a woman is not revered for her genuine and true beauty, but is broken down into body parts: breasts, bottoms, legs and genitalia, and all with a use-by date. This has devastating effects on relationships; women are left feeling ‘not enough’ like something is wrong with them because they do no look or feel to act in certain ways. A woman’s level of self-worth is impacted by the way she feels others view her female body and as a result there is a pulling back from intimacy to avoid feeling ‘not enough’ or like something is wrong because she does not measure up to the female image we are being sold.
The truth is every woman is beautiful no matter what shape or size, her true beauty comes from within. You only have to look into the face of a woman who is truly content within herself… un-impacted by what the world tells her she should be or should do, to see the true beauty of a woman.
To what extent as women we are impacted and affected by pornography, in one way or another is perhaps the pertinent question. Whether we engage directly with it or not and to what extent, pornography in its subtle and more overt ways is increasingly permeating our lives, undermining who we truly are as women it would seem, in the process.
To be able to open up and share with other women on the topic can be of great support. As we connect and talk with one other, we may discover that we are not alone in how we feel and through this begin healing the pervasive impact pornography appears to be having in our societies.
(First Published 2015: Women in Livingness Edition #1: Breast Care)
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