IS PORN EMPOWERING TO THE WOMEN INVOLVED?

Harmony (Dust) Grillo Blog, Featured, Help for Spouses, Sex & Porn Addiction, Straight from Harmony's Heart, The Truth About the Sex Industry 1 Comment

There is a prevailing belief in our culture that porn is not only harmless, but empowering to the women involved. The line of thinking goes something like this:

 

“Women in porn are consenting adults, doing this by choice. They are empowered by virtue of their sexually liberation. And good for them for using what ‘God gave them’ to get ahead. The ones who end up doped-up, messed up, or dead just weren’t cut out for the business.”

 

This ideology is consistent with the strong cultural belief reflected in our media and advertising that “sex sells”. Women’s bodies and sexuality are considered commodities to be used for money, status and power.

 

The truth is, the sex industry does offer a false sense of empowerment that is especially appealing to those of us who have been victims of sexual abuse and rape. These experiences often leave us with a strong sense of powerlessness over our own bodies. The sex industry whispers a promise to many of us that we will finally have the upper hand. We will finally have control. And we will use for ourselves what had often been used by others— our sexuality.

 

In my own experience in the industry, the sense of empowerment I felt was quickly eroded by a growing realization that I was at the mercy of the person holding the money, the consumer. “The demand” is a fitting description here. The person with the money determines demand, and what the demand “demands” the demand gets. As it turns out, I was not the one with the upper hand. The revelation of this led to even deeper feelings of powerlessness and victimization.

 

The sex industry is the epitome of the practice of the sexual objectification of women. In her TEDx Talk, The Sexy Lie, Caroline Heldman looks at the prevalence of the tendency to objectify women along with its harmful effects. She proposes that men are sold the idea that they are sexual subjects—that they are in the driver’s seat and that women are being sold the idea that our value comes from being a sex object.

 

Inherently, “subjects” act and “objects” are acted upon an. She notes that, “Even if you become the perfect sex object, you are perfectly subordinate because that position will always be acted on. So there is not power in being a sex object when you think about it logically.”

 

In exploring whether or not porn is empowering to women, there are two other things that cannot be ignored: Story (Qualitative Data) and Statistics* (Quantitative Data)

 

There is a strong and growing narrative among those us who have left the sex industry and found our voices. The majority of our stories do not reflect pictures of female empowerment.

 

Jenna Jameson, deemed “the world’s most famous adult-entertainment performer”, eventually managed to carve out a career for herself on the production end of porn in a male dominated industry. Despite her “success” in the business, when asked if she would recommend this line of work to someone she said the following:

 

“No. It’s a hard lifestyle and I made the choice and I was able to get through it unscathed but I don’t recommend it to anybody,”

 

By and large, the stories we hear are not stories of privileged women with adequate financial, relational, educational and employment resources who, after thoughtfully examining a broad array of career paths, choose sex work.

 

Instead, they are stories of women, many of whom are faced with individual vulnerabilities including histories of trauma and childhood sexual abuse (between 66-90%), lack of education, financial hardship/poverty, and being immersed in a culture that promotes the sexualization of women— a culture where there is a rapidly growing demand or women to sell their bodies—who, after examining their limited possibilities, come to the conclusion that sex work is their most viable option for employment.

 

Once they have entered the sex industry, both the stories and statistics reflect that many of us find ourselves experiencing more trauma and violent assault, as well as higher rates of substance abuse and mental health issues such as Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, research reflects that women in the sex industry experience rates of PTSD equivalent to combat war veterans.

 

In case that didn’t hit you the first time, I said “Combat War Veterans”.

 

It is reasonable to expect high rates of PTSD in war veterans as a result of the trauma they are exposed to. What does this say about the experience of women in the sex industry and what we are exposed to?

 

What’s worse is that when we do want to escape the industry, many find ourselves feeling stuck. In a study that looked at women in the sex industry across 9 Countries, it was found that 89% wanted to escape but saw no other options for survival.

 

This does not exactly line up with a picture of female empowerment.

 

There was a brief moment in time when I thought that female empowerment was using my sexuality to gain money, power and a sense of control. Since leaving the sex industry, I have been on a journey of exploring what it truly means to be empowered.

 

I am still growing, but here are a few of the things that make me feel truly empowered.

 

I am empowered by love— both by loving and being loved. I am empowered by the love of my husband, my friends, my daughter, my family (both blood and those I have chosen) and most of all, by my Truest Love, the One who breathed life into my brittle bones.

 

I feel empowered by motherhood and the opportunity to break generational cycles of abuse and addiction and to nurture human life.

 

I am empowered by opportunity—the opportunity to learn and grow in both formal and informal settings. The opportunity to move forward on paths made possible by the generations that have come before me and by those paving the way today.

 

I am empowered by purpose—by knowing that my life has the capacity to impact someone else’s in a meaningful way and that I will not have lived (even the most painful moments) in vain.

 

I am empowered by grace—by knowing that I am free to be human and make mistakes and it is actually in my weakness that God can bring His greatest strength.

 

 

What makes you feel empowered? What does empowerment mean to you?

 

*List of works cited and statistical references

 

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Comments 1

  1. Stuart Tutt

    An awesome post. Thanks for allowing God to use you as a light into the darkness.

    As a man who struggled with an addiction to porn for 30 years I ask forgiveness for my part in allowing the industry to continue. I am walking in freedom now. Thank God. And it was only through Him. I tried it on my own and failed miserably for years.

    Again, thank you!

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