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Sex and the University: Pornography and 'power': the male gaze's effect

By Imaani Cain
On February 19, 2013

 

Oscar Wilde once said that "everything is about sex except for sex; sex is about power". In correlation with this, sex is said to sell-but it isn't just sex. It's the humiliation and hypersexualization of women and their bodies for the male pursuit of pleasure that sells, that works as a commodity of our patriarchal culture. Pornography, one of the forms in which 'sex' is sold, feeds off of this and creates a cyclical problem for actual women; those who aren't paid, in fact, to create sexual situation after situation not necessarily for their own enjoyment, but because there is no way not to. 

The pornography industry rakes in thousands of dollars via the degradation of its people-frequently, in fact, women. The point has been argued that the sex going on has no relation to intercourse off-screen, and that this is a selection that bears no effect on society as a whole. However, as there is no such thing as a 'vacuum' and media (all sorts-film, music, advertisements, pornography itself) is reflective of the society that we live in. Especially since we are currently surviving a male-dominated culture, it is important to realize the roles that are being acted out and how this is being viewed.

For example, lesbian porn sounds as if it should be a film involving women having sex with women the purpose of other women's sexual pleasure. However, it's frequently unrealistic and confined to a certain type; the 'lesbians' involved are usually femme-presenting cisgender women who fawn over each other in a semblance of popular male fantasies (the sleepover, the entirely-by-chance sexual experimentation that they've always been aching to try but never managed to get the courage to perform). 

The effect of male gaze is glaringly prominent in pornography, even to the point of being cringe-inducing; the women in lesbian porn often sport long, polished manicures and don't use dental dams. This encourages the myth that lesbian sex is somehow more 'safe' because there is no chance of accidental pregnancy-however, there is just as much damage to be done with STDs, which the actors seem to be impervious to.

The male gaze that is exerted in porn is incredibly thorough. Even in other forms of pornography, it focuses intensely on the subjugation of female bodies, and their obvious delight at anything being done to them-not their orgasm, or even the fact that they are engaging in sexual relations, but enthusiasm for their male partner's own climax, even if they receive nothing in return. There is no give and take for women in porn, it is merely taking. 

A blog entitled Feminist Current mentioned that "porn is about male fantasy. The fantasy is that women like everything you do to them, as a man...we learn, as girls and women, that the performance is more important than the actual feeling".  


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