Dudes: Porn is harmless!

A researcher surveys 20 young men and proclaims that smut doesn't change guys' view of women

Published December 2, 2009 7:01PM (EST)

It's official: Pornography doesn't affect men's view of women. This breaking news comes by way of 20 young men who ... just say so, OK? Stop asking so many questions, gosh!

But, seriously, a press release and various media outlets announced this news today based on a survey of less than two dozen 20-something-year-old heterosexual dudes, all of whom were ushered through puberty by hardcore porn. The original aim of the research, which was funded by an organization dedicated to preventing violence against women, was to find young men who had never watched porn -- but these fantasy subjects were nowhere to be found. (Thus, the Telegraph hyperbolically reports: "All men watch porn, scientists find.") So, the study's focus was redirected to exploring porn-watchers' sexuality.

All of the subjects claimed to totally dig gender equality and feel "victimized by rhetoric demonizing pornography," according to the press release. Simon Louis Lajeunesse, the Université de Montréal researcher behind the study, which is still in its infancy embryonic phase, reports: "Pornography hasn't changed their perception of women or their relationship which they all want as harmonious and fulfilling as possible," he said. "Those who could not live out their fantasy in real life with their partner simply set aside the fantasy. The fantasy is broken in the real world and men don't want their partner to look like a porn star."

I don't doubt that most young men do not want their partner to look like a porn star and that X-rated flicks can be part of an innocuous -- and even healthy -- private fantasy life. It's just -- this isn't science. You don't determine the impact of porn by merely asking a small sampling of typical dudes whether it changed their view of women. If it's all they have known (since the age of 10 for most of the study participants), how the heck are they supposed to evaluate how it changed their view of women? I'm a female and feminist member of this porned generation and I'm only just beginning to pick apart how smut shaped my views on all things related to sex. I know one thing: It had an impact. I don't know how small or how big an impact, but I can't deny that such a major cultural influence had ... some influence.

These conversations are so often shouted across the chasm between political extremes -- whether it's an argument by Ariel Levy (for the record, a writer I greatly admire) that mine is a generation of "female chauvinist pigs" or a proclamation that porn is, meh, no big deal, so get over it. Neither position represents the whole truth, and half-baked research like this won't get us any closer.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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