While I’m no expert on the subject of pornography, I can note that there’s a fundamental flaw in all arguments of the type “X is forcing us to think Y by showing us Z for profit.” Here’s the flaw: it gets the arrow of causality the wrong way around. Why do men in every culture around the world tend towards preference for a fixed bust-waist-hip ratio? Is it because every single culture has been corrupted by Hollywood, or is it because there’s an evolutionary reason that’s hardwired into men (e.g. the ratio implies fertility, and that’s a pretty essential characteristic from the perspective of mating). Does porn feature pubic-hair-free starlets because porn has convinced us this is sexy, or… does porn feature this because the makers of porn discovered that the vast majority of men prefer breast-developed pubic-hair-free actresses because this simulates that moment of puberty when you’re likely to be her “first” and thus, in our evolutionary history when the resulting child is most likely to be yours?

Moving on to violence, I suspect the porn industry is going through a classic period of over-shooting the mean. This happens in nearly every consumer-oriented industry. For example the fashion industry went from a norm of desirability (what one might call “the Monroe doctrine”) to over-emphasizing thinness, leading to absurdly anorexic models on the catwalk. The movie industry went from a norm of manliness (Errol Flynn or Sean Connery) to an absurd over-steroided parody with 80s action leads like Stallone and Schwartzenegger. But this is because they were responding to popular demand and then over-shooting that demand a bit, not because they were creating demand in the first place. It’s actually very, very difficult to create demand for something that’s not already hardwired into our brains.

We know a certain amount of objectification has always been prevalent in porn, not least that created by women. The Histoire d’O and Emmanuel were both penned by women, for example. Today there is apparently an over-shoot in the porn industry, but it is likely predicated on demand. After all, we know from many studies that the vast majority of women have rape fantasies and we know the atrociously written 50 Shades was most popular among middle-aged women (so called “mommy porn”).

When we pretend “it’s all the fault of the patriarchy” we’re missing the point entirely, which means any prescriptions for mitigation are likely to be hopelessly wide of the mark. If violence in porn is a contemporary problem (and it may well be), we need a more adequate analysis in order to guide action. Any action based on an analysis that is wildly wrong is highly unlikely to be efficacious.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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