Unmasking the Relationship Between Sexist Beliefs and Pornography
Our society has long been influenced by certain expectations regarding how men and women should behave. These societal norms, known as gender schemas, play a significant role in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and others, ultimately influencing our understanding of the social world we inhabit (Lamke & Bem, 1993). However, an unexpected accomplice in the development of these schemas has emerged: pornography. With its easy accessibility and prevalence, pornography has become a primary source of sexual education for many, particularly young individuals (Maas & Dewey, 2018). But what are the consequences of this unlikely partnership between gender schemas and pornography?
Imagine, a young person, bombarded by pervasive gender stereotypes and exposed to aggressive and objectifying pornography, begins to form distorted views about relationships and sexuality. The repetitive portrayal of sexual violence and the objectification of women in mainstream pornography may lead them to believe that such behaviors are not only normal but also acceptable. Consequently, they adopt harmful attitudes towards women, treating them solely as sexual objects while disregarding their autonomy and well-being. This concerning perception is a direct result of the influence of gender schemas and pornography, highlighting the need to foster critical thinking and media literacy to encourage healthier perspectives on sexuality and relationships.
Research has indicated that exposure to sexually explicit online content is closely linked to the belief that women are mere objects of sexual gratification, regardless of gender (Peter & Valkenburg, 2007). In fact, a study discovered that boys who were exposed to explicit material at a young age were more likely to hold largely exaggerated and toxic views of traditional sexuality, which reinforce the belief that men should be aggressive and dominant during sexual encounters, even leading to sexual harassment later in life. Similarly, girls exposed to explicit content early on tended to adopt submissive roles with a focus on sensuality in their sexual behaviors (Brown & L'Engle, 2009). Furthermore, an experimental study (Hald et al., 2013) revealed that increased consumption of pornography among women was linked to the endorsement of beliefs related to male emotional vulnerability and inability to self govern. It expands to believing men should be nurtured even unto coddling disrespectful behavior. Conversely, men who consumed more pornography displayed negative attitudes toward women and demonstrated a diminished belief in gender equality. These findings provide clear evidence of how exposure to explicit content can influence our perceptions and behaviors towards others, particularly in terms of gender, ultimately undermining the value of both men and women as individuals.
Upon closer examination, researchers have uncovered an alarming phenomenon among both male and female consumers of pornography: an increased tendency to endorse the concept of women employing token resistance (Peter & Valkenburg, 2011). This unsettling notion suggests that when girls decline sexual advances, they are actually implying consent, or worse, that many women desire to be exploited but remain unaware of it.
Ultimately, the influence of gender schemas and pornography on individuals' beliefs and attitudes cannot be understated. The repetitive exposure to explicit content can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, leading to distorted views on relationships, sexuality, and gender roles. It is imperative to recognize the potential negative impact of these influences and prioritize the promotion of critical thinking and media literacy. By fostering healthier perspectives on sexuality and relationships, we can work towards dismantling harmful beliefs and attitudes, creating a more equitable and respectful society for all.
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