Adult Pornography, Male Peer Support, and Violence Against Women: The Contribution of the “Dark Side” of the Internet

Adult Pornography, Male Peer Support, and Violence Against Women: The Contribution of the “Dark Side” of the Internet

Walter S. DeKeseredy (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada) and Patrik Olsson (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-094-5.ch003
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It is estimated that there are over a million pornographic sites on the Internet, with as many as 10,000 added every week. In addition to having a major financial impact, adult pornography is strongly associated with various types of violence against women, especially sexual assault. Some studies have found that the contribution of pornography to woman abuse in dating, marriage, and during or after separation/divorce is related to male peer support, which refers to the attachments to male peers and the resources they provide that perpetuate and legitimate woman abuse. The main objective of this chapter is twofold: (1) to review the extant social scientific research on the relationship between violence against women, male peer support, and adult Internet pornography and (2) to suggest new directions in empirical work on the association between these three social problems.
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As communications scholar Joseph Walther and his colleagues observed (2001) nearly 10 years ago, “With the expansion of the Internet and new communication technologies, we are witnessing the diffusion of high-end, high-bandwidth multimedia technology for a wide range of people. It is common for many computer-mediated communication (CMC) users to create multi-media World Wide Web sites with graphics and pictures” (p. 105). This statement is still relevant today. Certainly, many such sites are beneficial to corporate executives, small business owners, educators, students, and to a myriad of other people eager to enhance their understanding of social, political, cultural, and economic factors that directly or indirectly influence their lives. However, there are also numerous highly injurious features of new information technologies and adult pornography is one major example.

Today, we live in what Jensen (2007) refers to as a “post-Playboy world,” where defining adult pornography is still subject to much debate. Those who produce adult pornography, consume it, and/or oppose prohibiting it typically refer to harmful, sexually explicit material as erotica. However, there is a big difference between erotica and adult pornography. As Russell (1993) observes, erotica refers to “sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia and is respectful of all human being and animals betrayed” (p. 3). On the other hand, in adult pornography:

Women are represented as passive and as slavishly dependent upon men. The role of female characters is limited to the provision of sexual services to men. To the extent that women’s sexual pleasure is represented at all, it is subordinated to that of men and is never an end itself as is the sexual pleasure of men. What pleases men is the use of their bodies to satisfy male desires. While the sexual objectification of women is common to all pornography, in which women characters are killed, tortured, gang-raped, mutilated, bound, and otherwise abused, as a means of providing sexual stimulation or pleasure to the male characters (Longino, 1980, p. 42).

Although many women consume adult pornography, it is created primarily for generating sexual arousal in heterosexual men (Jensen, 2007). From the standpoint of many feminist scholars (e.g., DeKeseredy, 2009a; Dworkin, 1994),1 pornography, regardless of whether it appears on the Internet, in stores, on television, in literature, or in other media, is also a variant of hate-motivated violence and it, too, has become “normalized” or “mainstreamed” in North America and elsewhere (Jensen & Dines, 1998), despite becoming increasingly more violent and racist (DeKeseredy, 2009).

While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to graphically describe what appears on contemporary pornographic Internet sites, some brief examples of such violence and racism are necessary. For instance, Doghouse Digital is a company that produced the film Black Bros and White Ho’s, which offers stereotypical images of “the sexually primitive black male stud” (Jensen, 2007, p. 66). Another example is the interracial film Blacks on Blondes, which features a white man in a cage watching black men have sex with his wife (Dines, 2006). An additional common feature of new pornographic films that exist online and elsewhere is painful anal penetration, as well as men slapping women and/or pulling their hair while they penetrate them orally, vaginally, and/or anally (Dines & Jensen, 2008a).

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