Porn and Male Psychology

Pornography tells lies about women, but tells the truth about men.

That’s a quote from John Stoltenberg.

But it’s only partially true says Jackson Katz, a leader in the gender equality movement.

It’s true only insofar as boys and men are taught to see women as objects — sex objects — that exist to please men in our pornified culture.

As porn culture increasingly infiltrates the mainstream Katz wonders:

  • What effect does it have on men’s and boy’s attitudes toward women?
  • What can we do about powerful images that depict sex as objectifying, humiliating and violent toward women?

Women exist for someone else’s needs

Men like Mr. Katz who work in rape prevention are not against sex. They celebrate uninhibited expressions of women’s sexuality.

But they worry about sexual objectification that grows angry and contemptuous toward women. They worry about powerful images that normalize men’s pleasure-taking at the expense of women’s degradation.

They worry about portrayals that limit women’s sexual freedom, setting them up to be victimized by men. And in fact, a high percentage of women in pornography are survivors of sexual abuse, and are too often coerced into the porn industry.

Sexual objectification is not the same as “sex” or “sexy.”

A sex object exists for someone else’s needs. Her (usually her) thoughts and feelings don’t matter.

Porn and the male psyche

How does all this affect the male psyche?

When humiliation and violence against women is eroticized do men lose sensitivity to women’s pain and suffering?

Do these sorts of images contribute to rape culture?

Some women law students worry that the male judge who oversees a rape case might not take it seriously after watching violent porn the night before.

Rape is prevalent in America. Not because men are sick but because we normalize the idea of that boys and men are sexually dominant and that girls and women are sexually subordinate.

A society that teaches boys and men to objectify and dehumanize girls and women is consistent with rape culture, says Katz.

What can men and boys do?

Men and boys are hurt by all this too.

Porn too often hinders healthy sexual relations between women and men, whether because men stop seeing women as people or because men can grow unable to respond to real sex after porn’s theatrics.

Katz encourages men to move beyond defensiveness and ask how they can help to change the norms of male culture that harm women and children.

Source: Jackson Katz, “Guilty pleasures: pornography, prostitution and stripping.” 2006. See the entire article at Harvard’s iSites for a fuller discussion.

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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 October 9, 2017, in men, objectification, pornography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. very good read…… There are many other good things to do in the world and sex should not be on top of mind. Control and restraint in each and every act and of body, mind and soul is very important.

  2. “…whether because men stop seeing women as people or because men can grow unable to respond to real sex after porn’s theatrics.” … that pretty much sums it up

  3. “Katz encourages men to move beyond defensiveness and ask how they can help to change the norms of male culture that harm women and children.”

    When Mr. Katz is willing to address the “the norms of female culture that harm men”, then we can talk. Otherwise, forget it.

    “They celebrate uninhibited expressions of women’s sexuality.”

    Yes, while simultaneously demonizing “the uninhibited expressions of men’s sexuality” (unless said men are gay or transgender).

    There is flatly no way we will ever get to a more gender equal and respectful society so long as women are always cast as victims.

    If porn is so evil, then why do women partake? Do not these women bear some responsibility? In today’s world where women are victims, then I am sure people like you and Mr. Katz will always so NO. Women see men as objects just as frequently as men see women as objects.

    • You didn’t used to seem so hostile. What happened? I took out your most hostile sentence.

      Women and men are both raised in patriarchy and both unconsciously internalize it and both unconsciously re-create it. It’s unhealthy for women to treat themselves that way and it’s unhealthy for men to treat Women in objectified ways.

      You often think that patriarchy and men are the same thing. They aren’t. Patriarchy isn’t “Norms of male culture.” Just as many whites criticize cultural norms that hurt people of color many men criticize cultural norms that hurt women.

      We will all be better off when we recognize one another’s humanity. The most gender-polarized societies tend to be the most unhappy (e.g., Yemen) And the most gender equal tend to be the happiest (e.g., Denmark).

      • Very well said, Georgia. The article is square on point.

        I think that the main problem is the influence of the dominate world religions, written and directed by men. There is, I think, a direct link between religion (especially the Abrahamic religions) and female objectification. Religion, it seems, is very foundation and perpetuation of patriarchal societies. It has taught women submission and codified the male sense of superiority and dominance.

        But could the root cause of it all lie in behavior genetics–man the hunter and provider and woman the nurturer in past millennia? This is seen in many other species as well. The obvious, well known exception is the bonobo.

      • Well, I don’t think it’s genetic since women’s bodies aren’t objectified in all cultures or by all people engaged in sex.

        And sexual objectification isn’t the same thing as finding someone as attractive or sexy:
        Sex Object vs Sexy vs Sexual
        https://broadblogs.com/2017/09/25/sex-object-vs-sexy-vs-sexual/

    • Huggy, I don’t have a strong opinion on this topic. I’m more interested in hearing how men feel that pornography affects them, or not. I would be interested to hear your views.

  4. I agree with what the article says about women being objectify and its also true how men are misunderstood or considered to be in the group because of it. I definitely feel that it falls back to how you are raise. When things go mainstream in society, it affects people by making them think that it’s okay or that its the norm.

  5. Great post, men’s sexual fantasies in general, makes women mere objects for their pleasure, and create and insensitive, and purely selfish, objectification of women as a general attitude, towards women, the illusion that the Hindus people recognize as Maya it’s propagated through pornography, distorting their reality, and creating a mayor problem for men, and women on gender equality, and what it’s worst makes men to be deluded, in their relationship with women, inflicting damage, and suffering on both sides.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this.

      • I see the problem with pornography in how it’s often dominance. But I don’t like this broadbrush and wondered what you though was. I saw what the burningheart wrote above about men’s sexual fantasies in general make women mere objects for their pleasure. That’s quite the generalizing first and there needs to be a distinction between fantasy and how a man treats women in real life. It seems like because women don’t have the lust and general visual drive like guys, they can see fantasies men may have as objectifying and like this righteous view about it. Trust me, if they had such sex drive and general visual horniness and liked men’ bodies more, they’d have similar fantasies. I respect women and obviously seem them as people, but can have a fantasy for a girl that I came across that is hot or someone I know i hot. And specific body parts mainly come up in a fantasy whether of the girls ass or boobs, or face

      • I actually don’t have a firm opinion on this. Jackson invites men to the conversation and I would like to hear men’s thoughts on that conversation. They know more about how they experience this sort of thing than I do.

        So thanks for contributing.

  6. Women watch porn too nowadays. Why isn’t anyone questioning about women seeing women as sex objects?

    • First, I have written in the blog about how harmful it is for women to objectify themselves.

      Second, Women don’t watch it the way men do. I’ve surveyed my students and one question I’ve asked his whether they watch porn and hardly any women watch porn. Those who do are often trying to figure out what guys like — which isn’t such a great idea.

      I’ve even written about this.

      Sex Objects Who Don’t Enjoy Sex
      https://broadblogs.com/2011/03/02/sex-objects-who-don%e2%80%99t-enjoy-sex/
      Am I “Doing It” Right?
      https://broadblogs.com/2015/11/02/am-i-doing-it-right/
      She Wonders: Am I “Doing It” Right?
      https://broadblogs.com/2016/09/12/she-wonders-am-i-doing-it-right/

      Sexual Objectification, What is it?
      https://broadblogs.com/2012/11/26/sexual-objectification-what-is-it/
      Sexual Objectification, The Harm
      https://broadblogs.com/2012/12/19/sexual-objectification-the-harm/
      4 Daily Rituals to Stop Objectification
      https://broadblogs.com/2013/02/11/4-daily-rituals-to-stop-objectification/
      Stop Objectifying Yourself: 4 Daily Rituals to Start
      https://broadblogs.com/2013/05/29/stop-objectifying-yourself-4-daily-rituals/

      What’s Wrong With Objectification?
      https://broadblogs.com/2015/11/16/whats-wrong-with-objectification/

      Scrutinizing My Body Takes All My Time
      https://broadblogs.com/2012/03/05/scrutinizing-my-body-takes-all-my-time/

      Women Distracted By “How They Look” In Bed
      https://broadblogs.com/2016/11/28/women-distracted-by-how-they-look-in-bed/

      • Perhaps students are too shy to admit that they watch porn.
        And if they do admit it then they may use as an excuse that they are doing it to see what men like. A major porn site published statistics about what groups of users are watching. For women the most popular kind of porn was by far lesbian porn. For men lesbian porn was nowhere near the favourites.
        So if the female body is being oversexualized and women are being objectified is because women like that too. And they don’t like it because men supposedly like that. They like it on their own volition. So we shouldn’t blame just men for objectifying women when women like doing that themselves

      • Like I said to Huggy:

        Not only does a study of porn habits (just looking at the internet and how its used) reveal that men watch porn at a rate of 10 men to 1 woman but my women students also say they don’t watch it (few do).

        I also have a number of women friends who don’t watch it but their husbands do.

        And why would they? It’s made for men and treats women horribly.

      • You are really being disingenuous here.

        Women now watch as much porn as men. Just as women now cheat at the same rate as men.

        Studies show that women do not use porn in the same manner as men. The types of porn they consume also varies. But, you cannot say that women, in general, do not watch as much porn as men.

      • No. Not only does a study of porn habits (just looking at the internet and how its used) reveal that men watch porn at a rate of 10 men to 1 woman but my women students also say they don’t watch it (few do).

        And why would they? It’s made for men and treats women horribly.

      • Those statistics are outdated. The most recent studies show that the ratio of female to male porn viewers are 1 to 3.
        And almost all of the women who watch porn are watching lesbian porn. The porn industry has caught up on this and they are targeting female viewers.
        And that’s the main reason that even in mainstream media the female bisexuality is so common whereas male bisexuality is unwanted.

      • Pornography isn’t the cause of women’s flexible sexuality. It starts much younger than that with women’s bodies in mainstream media — and even women’s street clothing — being portrayed as more sexually attractive.

        It’s also hard to know exactly what gender people are who watch porn. But hardly any of my women students say they watch it and that’s according to an anonymous survey.

      • But why keep on mentioning only about men objectifying women when women objectify women too?
        If women can objectify women then it’s only natural that men are going to be too since most men are heterosexual anyway.
        So if any women wouldn’t want women to be objectified then they should begin at stop objectifying women themselves and then expect from men to do that.

      • I’m not sure that women objectify women much. Keep in mind that objectification is different from finding someone sexually attractive. When you objectify you see the person as existing only for your own aims. Their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. Meanwhile, to many men are pressured to have sex with as many women as possible so they can brag to the guys. This can lead to using and abusing women and even sexual assault. Women don’t have these kinds of pressures and are much less likely to behave that way — and luckily I don’t think that most men behave that way either.

        Here’s what I’m curious about: do you think that watching porn makes men treat women in as an object? Do you think it depends on the guy? You are anonymous so maybe you would feel free to talk about your own experience.

      • Actually porn and constant masturbation emasculates men. It’s not very known, in matter of fact the media are claiming that watching porn and masturbating constantly is normal, I wonder why? Could it be because porn industry is making a lot of money by having so many addicted customers? Or that companies can use sex to advertise their products?
        Anyway since you asked about my experience, and this is shared by other men as well. Watching porn and masturbating make men shy and more reserved. It alienates them from women and normal contact. There is a movement about men stopping watching porn. They all make comments that it changed their way of thinking and their behavior. There is a site “your brain on porn” with studies that show watching porn has the same effect on the brain as doing drugs.
        It’s not very hard to spot someone who is addicted to porn. You can see it in their eyes and their behavior

      • Thanks so much for commenting on your experience with this. And yes, where there is money to be made you often find a culture falling into line. So that’s a possibility but I can’t say for sure that that’s what’s happening. Maybe the people who push that idea aren’t thinking about the addictive side. And I use the term addiction as something that you feel compelled to do even if it’s hurting you, not clinical definition.

  7. Loved it man, keep the good work!

  8. And why would they? It’s made for men and treats women horribly.”

    I don’t know, seeing how women like lesbian porn and find women’s bodies sexier than mens, it seems like it’s actually made for them with how much available lesbian porn there is. Not made for them with straight porn, but that seems irrelevant when women’s bodies are appreciated more anyway

    • Well, women can find women’s bodies sexier and still not watch porn. If you ask me whose body is sexier, a woman’s or a man’s, I will say the woman’s. Yet I have never bothered to watch porn. From what I’ve heard of it it sounds horrifying.

  9. I actually don’t have a firm opinion on this. Jackson invites men to the conversation and I would like to hear men’s thoughts on that conversation. They know more about how they experience this sort of thing than I do.

    So thanks for contributing.”

    Yeah like I said I agree with Jackson’s thoughts and posts for a lot of the problems with most porn and how it can effect men. It doesn’t help. I don’t think it causes most men to sexually assault just as video games don’t case a sane man to murder. But it can effect other men where in a culture that’s more respectful to women to not do harm to women. But in this culture and with porn like it is, they can see women as objects and perhaps want to do harm. But I don’t like how some posters can perhaps vilify or generalize men with their fantasies. Like attack the culture and porn, which I know you do and you don’t blame men. But some posters that post, make it seem like men are wrong with their fantasies and like you’re bad if in you’re fantasy, you’re own private fantasy, not porn, not real life, a man can have sexual thoughts that spotlight on a body part.

    Not the face and like either touching said close up visual in the fantasy or fucking said body part. Like if most men, liberal men included, gentleman, maybe even feminist men, They might admit they’ve had a fantasy of a hot woman, where in their mind or the image in their mind was like a vagure visual or her back or hair, but the specific image in his mind of her ass speficially like tunnel visioned on and him pounding it hard doggy style, in his fantasy, which in the fantasy this consensual sex of course. I don’t know if it’s all porn causing that, but when you are so strongly attracted to women’s breasts or butts, it will be a spotlifht focus in a fantasy or can be.

    • Thanks for contributing your thoughts on this. I’m most concerned with how men treat women in real life with all this in their heads. I know some men who say they make a distinction between fantasy and reality, as you say you do.

      • Well most guys make that distinction, because I guarentee most guys if honest have had pretty raunchy fantasies at times. I’m sure most guys, not creeps or bad guys, have had a fantasy where its like of the zoom in focus on said body part. There were studies that jusst showed men fantasize differently than women. Men when fantasizing of sex, often focus on body parts, whereas, women I’ve read focus on the scenario, the feeling, the emotional context and the man’s face, expressions and desire toward her. Kind of like what is often in romance novels.

        Not so much on the man’s body parts but that stuff, whereas for guys very much so on women’s body parts and not really so on the feeling or connection. Though I have to admit, I can get turned on or think of a scenario, though not realistic, which is why it’s a fantasy where said desired woman is lustful toward my body. I don’t think that might be that unique for men, but the difference is often even with that a man will still have the woman’s body parts play in with the tun on the fantasy simultaneously with her lust to his body. Which is why I think men seeing a woman turned on by their body is even more arousing for men than how women feel being desired by a man of their interest, because it’s like extra flattering for men and stronger because we get that kick back because women’s bodies are sexually arousing, so the sex who we are aroused by and with such beautiful sexy body is looking at you in a similar way? Like it’s really an extra turn on if in fantasy that happens.

      • I do think it’s possible to compartmentalize wild fantasies that would be hurtful is actually enacted. And even to compartmentalize so that men treat women, generally speaking in real life/everyday life, as human beings. I also suspect it’s possible that people don’t realize how things affect them. But I am very curious about men’s experiences and beliefs about how they think they are affected.

  10. Btw you probably are already writing it and beat me to it. I know you’ve written about sexual assault, rape and sexual harassment, but I wonder if you are or plan on writing on the big thing recently with that scumbag Weinstein who has sexually assaulted and sexually harassed multiple women in hollywood and for many years. Unfortunately which has happened for a long time, particulary it seems powerful men often thinking they can do what they want and own women and harass women. I mean we’ve already seen with trump’s comments, but Weintstein.

    I’ve heard about sexism for a long time in hollywood and the music industry, but like often women feeling they have to go through it or else not getting their music by a big record label or actresses being told to do a sex scene or nude scene to push their career forward. Or dealing with sexism or sexual harassment because men in such high power positions are almost untouchable and unfortunately big decision makers in women getting a role whether acting or music and if not complied, they get blackballed. God the dude is such a scumbag creep, I don’t know if you’ve heard of some of the things he did, but wtf. So I don’t know if you were going to post about stuff on this case and relate it to powerful figures abuse their power and relation to sexual assault and harassment.

    • I’m trying to write fewer posts and didn’t have anything planned for this week. By the time I would get something out we would probably be too late.

      I’m kind of interested in how he experiences himself. You would think it would be hard on your psychology to constantly be harassing and propositioning Women when they find you disgusting. But rapists aren’t about that. There must be something deeply wrong, for typically rapists feel powerless on some level. Was it something from his childhood? Maybe he’s angry that he doesn’t naturally attract all of these beautiful women he is working with? He’s angry and takes it out on them? He seems to be obsessed with power given position he held in Hollywood until now.

      • He’s probably like Trump where he has wealth and power and thinks he can act anyway he can to women or be as vulgar as he wants. And if they turn him down, he will do it to more women as he’s in this delusional state of mind that’s he’s superior. This insecurity, an inferiority complex perhaps which can sometimes effect men in power and their power pursuit a reflection of their compensation of their past. Trump makes me think of a powerful, rich man who has issues. It’s probably not as rare for some guys in power to be like that and their pursuit of power, perhaps a reflection of compensating for something internally.

      • Maybe. But I think that some insecurity lies at the base. Trump actually seems very insecure to me, always so defensive, defending himself. I suspect he likes the power he feels assaulting women. And getting away with it.

  11. theburningheart

    I understand the idea, that Men sexual drive, specially at a young age it’s powerful. but ignorance, and lack of education has more to do with men’s fantasies, than sexual drive, join that to a Patriarchal minded society, and a money obsessed mindset, that look to satisfy a “need.” Even as moral objectionable as to make women an ‘object’ and men collectors of body parts, and weird fetishes!
    Blaming it on the sexual urge, rather than on the ignorance side of the matter, that produce behaviors as callousness, rapes, torture, murder, etc. As result of objectification of women.
    I mean, how a man can be turned on by his fetish to such a degree, that ignores the ‘other’ feelings on the matter?
    Notice I substitute other, for women, because, the other can be a child, an animal, or the male fantasizing, being an homosexual, and therefore his fantasy directed to the same gender.
    But my point, to what degree a fantasy, it’s to be tolerated, before pointing out the obvious?
    A man obsessed by his fantasies, to the point to carry them out by the use of money, power, or violence?
    Even the fantasy, unfortunately sanctioned as kosher, by law in many countries, were the wife is to be disposed by the husband as he pleases?
    Have you ever wonder where the so called crimes of passion, inflicted on women and even on children so common by jealousy, or abandonment come from, if not by the mistaken belief their wife, or family it’s their property?
    It’s not this objectification taken out to extremes?
    Do not delude yourself thinking that fantasizing, it’s just a purely inoffensive pastime, or do you believe that prostitution, the oldest profession, it’s enjoyed sexually by the people who exercise it, and not a demeaning, hard way, to earn money, out of people’s delusions?
    Knowing the causes of misery, can help us to free ourselves from the bondage of illusion, or at least to make it less appetizing.
    After all, who would rather prefer counterfeit money, false gold, or untruthful love, instead of the real?
    A fantasy it’s only the poor substitute of the real, and what is worst, if not checked, can lead us to delusion, and madness.
    For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

    • Thanks. I appreciate hearing men’s perspectives on this issue.

      • This poster is a man? I thought it was a woman. For I’d think a male poster would understand that fantasy itself is not bad and a high sex drive is not bad. There’s a big jump made between fantasy and to how it’s used for bad or where women are treated as not human. You can see women as people with feelings, but still really love certain body parts, not because women’s intelligence, talents, mean less, but you really found said body parts attractive and in fantasy. It’s something to indulge in. Remember fantasies are an outlet to enjoy something mentally. Some can visualize or have a dream of getting in a high speed race with some nascar driver. So you delve into that exciting thought, though doing that in real life would obviously be stupid as it would probably be dangerous doing that in real life.

        Women’s bodies will be a big part of men’s fantasy and not mean anything about how they see women as people. If that were true then most me would not see women as people which is not true. There are more men than we’d like who don’t see women better, but fact of the matter is most guys will have a sexual fantasy because with that sex drive, to be blunt most guys have or do masturbate at sometime or another. If it’s not porn (visual stimuli aid) then it’s fantasy or some poetically call (spank bank). And well, some may be raunchy, vulgar or graphic as visual and probably more a focus on the man’s favorite body part or body parts and sex acts or positions fantasized about come up in their dream or fantasy.

      • Yes, the poster is a man. He is sex-positive. If you read the whole piece he says he used to enjoy this sort of porn himself, as I recall. But he is also concerned that pornography so humiliates women. He worries about how it affects them. He’s not sure how it might unconsciously affect him.

        He seems especially sensitive to violence against women. I don’t know if violence harmed a woman he was close to which has made him more sensitive to the problem and more concerned than many men are. But I appreciate his efforts.

  12. Their thoughts and feelings don’t matter. Meanwhile, to many men are pressured to have sex with as many women as possible so they can brag to the guys. This can lead to using and abusing women and even sexual assault. Women don’t have these kinds of pressures and are much less likely to behave that way — and luckily I don’t think that most men behave that way either.”

    Or is it because our culture sets it up for men to be more “ego centric”, remember Maui on moana, who was not a bad guy, but his ego made him more selfish. It wasn’t until Moana put things into perspective that he let down his ego and thought more about others than his ego. I can see how boys or men can want to have sex with many women and not due to being pressured or have to do with that nor to do with bragging. It can be all due to how our culture and like your said hierarchal. Men comparing themselves to each other and competing. Whether cars, sports, and girls. And it’s human nature to want to be desired and have sex and a power and ego stroke to be desired by pretty girls, especially multiple girls.

    And on the opposite turn, it’s a big ego bruising to struggle getting that attention, affection or dates or sex from girls. A man or boy therefore, will not be happy and may be jealous if other guys are getting sex and he isn’t. Or if he feels he’s better, more charming, and upset he’s struggling with getting laid because the results don’t match dating potential he feels. Women don’t care about getting guys or it’s not usually an ego stroke, because society has made guy’s “easy”, as women’s don;t have to initiate and men are much more ready, want sex and easily set up to have to want sex no strings attached and right away. So women’s don’t need game, to approach and therefore, it’s not much of a accomplishment on getting sex from a man. But it’s different for guys and unfortunately sets up the divide, just like with $ with the have and have nots and envy of men seeing the smaller % of men getting all the girl seemingly while they can’t and bitter about it. Unfortunately this could lead to sexism and instead of it towards men, guys can put the anger and blame on girls. Remember Elliot Rodgers?

    • I think our culture does teach men to be more ego-focused. It also teaches us that men’s sex drive is more primary and that women are objects that exist to serve it. It’s a message that both men and women learn.

      It must be hard to face all that rejection. Some guys handle it a lot more easily than others but they all seem to say that they get a lot of it.

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