By Shane Adamson, EFT, CSAT, LCSW
Objectification of women is not a new problem. The marketing and media world has known for a long time that featuring an attractive woman who is dressed and posed provocatively draws attention to the product or service. This happens so much that most of us have become desensitized.
A documentary, “Miss Representation,” examines how women are featured in the media and the harmful effects it is having on girls and boys. Boys are socialized to value thin, sexually attractive females like they see in ads. Girls struggle with self-esteem and body issues due to comparison with an unrealistic ideal image. Exposure to objectifying women regularly makes it more acceptable to view darker or more harmful forms of objectifying women such as online pornography.
A client once commented to me, “If women need money and want a job to make porn, what is the big deal if they get a job making porn?” We did some research about the porn industry and learned that a significant majority of women actresses were not in the industry fully by choice. Many expressed feeling trapped. Many lacked social-support systems. Many took pain meds before video shoots to numb the pain. Many expressed they would leave if they could. Women who agreed to be interviewed after leaving the porn industry had some very horrific stories about feeling raped and NOT consenting to things that happened on set. This client realized that for many women porn actresses, it is not a simple choice, as many were vulnerable at the time they entered the industry. Once women become dependent on the money, the porn industry extremely objectified them.
In the men’s recovery groups I have run over the past 12 years, most of the men admitted to unwanted compulsive porn use since their teens. In the spirit of curiosity, I asked how they view people as they walk through a mall or a crowd. A common theme when men get honest and real in group is that on some occasions as they walk through crowds they tend to filter out elderly or children and scan the crowd to find sexually attractive women. They also realize this tendency to objectify women based on sex appeal happens more when viewing porn. It was also common for these same men to be more critical about their wife's appearance and sex behaviors as not adventurous enough. These men worked hard in group to stop patterns of objectifying women based on sex appeal. To break this habit, they tried viewing women as somebody’s daughter or mother. They also worked on healing trauma caused by porn and rebuilding trust and safety in their couple relationships. Over time, love-making became less influenced by porn, and more focused on connecting deeply with their partner.
You can honor women by not viewing porn or not supporting those who objectify women by making porn. You can take a stand for love and more connected relationships – by enjoying healthy forms of sexuality and abstaining from its shallow counterfeit.
Shane Adamson specializes in couples counseling and sex addiction recovery. He works with youth and adults. He has witnessed both the harmful effects of those who suffer from problematic porn use as well as the joy experienced by those who break this habit and cope with life in healthier ways. He will be speaking at the LoneSTAR Coalition Against Pornography Conference in Plano, Texas, on Oct. 19.