What Do Top Model and Hard Core Porn Have in Common?

What do hard core porn and reality show, Top Model, have in common? Hard core pornography often gets the viewer off on women’s suffering. So does Top Model.

In the first episode the models underwent Brazilian bikini waxes on camera. As Jennifer Pozner described it, “Cameras flitted back and forth from their pained facial expressions to their nearly nude legs spread wide in the air, while the audio lingered at length on the models’ blood-curdling screams as hot wax was spread over their genitals and their pubic hair was ripped off.”

The only thing missing was the close-up.

Pozner went on to describe how contestants have been asked to drop from platforms onto surfaces with little cushioning, or to sit on ice sculptures in freezing temperatures. One model was asked to pose in a pool of icy water – shaking, shivering, and begging for a break – until her body began to shut down from hypothermia and she was rushed to a hospital.

If pain and suffering isn’t imminent, models are asked to act as though it is, coached to look “scared! Something’s chasing you! Something’s coming to get you!” Scared, “but pretty,” that is.

Host, Tyra Banks, has also asked models to act like they are in pain: chest pain, fingers slammed in a door, strangulation… A signature pose was suggested for one model, “Look like you’re getting punched.”

Beautiful, sexy women in fear and pain. All reminiscent of hard-core pornography: In the popular video, “Two in the Seat #3,” an actress is asked by an off-camera interviewer what will happen. She replies, “I’m here to get pounded.” In other pornos women are hit or raped. Too-large objects are inserted as actresses scream out. Sometimes pain is registered in penetration. Even when suffering isn’t purposely placed in the script, directors don’t bother to edited it out, suggesting viewers’ taste. More and more, the new edge in porn involves cruelty.

I worry about a society that develops a taste for women’s torment. Or for anyone’s distress. As pain becomes eroticized, some develop a desire for their own suffering. My students sometimes talk of getting turned on by a little D/s in the bedroom. This is no surprise. We’re so bombarded with eroticized images of dominance that I suspect few in this culture fail to get turned on by it.

Still, depending on how far it goes, violent sex play can lead to broken skin, bruising and infections, even as the point of pain is to warn us away from doing what it is harmful to the body.

We worry about women being battered. Should we worry when women come to crave their own abuse?

And, surrounded by images of eroticized dominance and violence, and sexily submitting to such acts, does male domination, itself, become sexy?

First posted on November 22, 2010 by

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 19, 2011, in feminism, gender, pornography, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great Job again Georgia!
    Finally others are catching up to us- seems like the idea is catching on and like minded feminists and blogs are springing up all over the internet proving we should be screaming from the mountaintops about the way women are portrayed.

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