AdvertisingBody ImageGender InequalityOn The PulseSexualization

Advertising and porn: Why can’t we tell the difference?

By February 25, 2015 2 Comments

What is porn, anyway?

                       Is this porn?

2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

                                              Is this?

2011 Burberry advertisement.

2011 Burberry advertisement.

How about this?

American Apparel advertisement.

American Apparel advertisement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you know? It’s been said that porn is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. So what do we see when we see porn?

Documentary filmmaker Rashida Jones says that porn is “performative.” Women in those films (and perhaps men, too) probably aren’t enjoying what they’re doing. Instead, they’re being sexualized. They’re objects “onto which viewers can project their fantasies.”

Let’s take another look at those images above.

It’s hard to escape the fact that the women in each of them are being sexualized.  “A bikini or nothing at all?” I’m not sure what the difference is in the Sports Illustrated cover. And that Burberry coat isn’t going to keep the model warm if she plans on wearing it like that. As for the American Apparel ad — really? We’ve been over this. What does that image have to do with selling clothes?

Nothing, of course. And the swimsuit cover isn’t really about the swimsuit, and the Burberry ad isn’t really about the coat. They’re about the sexualization and objectification of the female body. These women are being treated as objects for public consumption.

Are the images porn, though? Well, maybe not exactly, but they certainly seem to be treading a very fine line.

But that raises an interesting question: Just how fine is that line, and where exactly is it?

objectification of rihanna

The difference between objectification and just plain living.

Because if porn is simply the objectification and sexualization of women’s bodies, we have a problem. Women’s bodies are being used as objects — sexual and otherwise — all the time. They are used as objects to sell clothes, food, and cosmetics; as objects to be dressed, decorated and admired; and as objects to be gawked at, made fun of, and scrutinized.

Porn mirrors back to us — in a particularly graphic way — what goes on around us all the time.

Maybe that’s why we have a difficult time finding that line. Porn doesn’t stand out as being all that different from what we encounter every day. Porn is simply at one end of a long spectrum of female objectification, with one type of objectification blending seamlessly into the next.

Porn, then, is symbolic of a much larger cultural issue. And if porn is going to get healthier — if it’s going to become about sexuality rather than sexualization — then society has to get healthier.

We have to stop objectifying women everywhere, not just in porn movies. We have to change the spectrum, so that the society porn reflects is one of respect and individuality. Making porn healthier is about making society healthier.

Once that happens, not only sex, but life, gets better for everyone.

Tara is a writer and educator who has a long-standing interest in sociology and women’s issues. She is particularly interested in the way the wedding industry defines and reinforces a single, narrow definition of womanhood.