“The Objectification of Women in Mainstream Pornographic Movies in Australia” by Alan Mckee

“Objectification was defined as “sexual activity that treats [one partner] as an object or a plaything,” and penis/semen worship as “sexual activity that revolves around worship of the penis” (p. 13). Sexual availability and unreciprocated sexual acts such as oral sex were not found to be degrading. 

This research suggests that to analyze the extent to which pornography is degrading, researchers should look at the ways in which pornography objectifies participants, the characters who are dominant in each scene, and the degree to which the penis is worshipped. Each of these issues involve lack of” reciprocity, or ignoring the wishes of one sexual partner and treating him or her as an object. This is explicitly the case with objectification, but it can be argued that dominance and penis-worship can also be brought under this rubric. Dominance, as defined by Cowan and Dunn (1994), involves ignoring the wishes of one sexual partner. Penis worship, in their measures, involves focusing on sexual acts which traditionally have pleasured men more than women. Paying attention to women’s pleasure involves treating them as sexual subjects; to ignore this treats them, again, as objects. The rubric of objectification can therefore function as an umbrella term to cover those elements of pornography which Cowan and Dunn identify as being valid indicators of degradation in the genre.”

Throughout my research most of my focus has been paid more on how women are objectified within pornographic films. However, the quotes taken from the article (shown above) gave me a new perspective. Cowan and Dunn suggest that women worship the penis and perform acts that are more pleasurable to the man rather then themselves within pornography. Now this may seem this degrades the woman but does it suggest that the male performers are just seen as a penis? A tool completely separate to the man? This made me think that possibly by objectifying the women, we are objectifying the men more. In many pornographic videos, we see the woman from the males perspective and so all we see is his penis. We see the woman sexually pleasing him, thrusting him into a frenzy. During this time, the women to a certain degree has complete control over where she wants to take the male physically. Does she have complete power over his manhood? Maybe.

This could link to pleasure. I pose an idea that maybe women are the more powerful ones within porn for having the ability to have multiple orgasms whilst men can only have one. Men can generally orgasm quite easily but within pornography, the man has to withdraw from orgasming in order to satisfy the women and to last for longer. Studies show that the average woman needs between 20-30 minutes to orgasm from intercourse whilst the average man can need as little as 5 minutes. Now obviously times may vary depending on the technique of the partners and how long they want the intercourse to last. But the general observation is that women need longer to orgasm. So for a man in pornography, it’s a physical challenge to resist from ejaculation. During a scene a man has to maintain an erection (for however how long, sometimes hours, depending on shooting times), please the women in various ways and then he can finally have some release at the end of the scene. From this perspective it may seem that women have the upper hand because men may have to try harder to give her a genuine orgasm. But who gets more pleasure with pornographic scenes, the male or the female?

Within the article, the writer explores this idea of orgasm and pleasure. They set out a study where three coders, all of whom were graduate students at the University of Queensland, watched pornographic videos and turned it’s content into statistics. Here are the results for who initiated the sex and who orgasmed:

“Of the 838 scenes, 196 (23.4%) did not contain sex. Of the 642 that did, 198 (30.8%) of them had sex initiated by women; 110 (17.1%) had sex initiated by men. Fortyseven (7.3%) had sex initiated by both or all participants equally; and 287 (44.7%) opened after sex had been initiated. More women initiated sex (including both/all, 38.1% of scenes) than did men (24.5%).

Coders found that in 102 of the 642 sex scenes (15.9%), no characters had orgasms. In 51 cases (7.9%), all characters had orgasms, and in 23 cases (3.6%), some characters of each gender (but not all characters) had orgasms. In 25 cases, only women had orgasms in the scene (3.9%). However, in a majority (436 cases, 68%) of scenes, only male characters had orgasms. In three cases (0.5%), only intersexed characters had orgasms. In 79.5% of sex scenes, a male character had an orgasm (bearing in mind that some scenes will be lesbian scenes), while women clearly had orgasms in only 15.4% of scenes.”

It then goes onto to feature two tables, each of which clearly illustrate that men seem to have a better time.

So maybe women really are being objectified when we look at statistics. The article also investigates who is more vocal in scenes, and not to my surprise, women are more vocal. I’m unsure if this objectifies women more or less. On the one hand, being vocal allows them to express their enjoyment or sexuality e.g. being dominant. On the other hand, it may seem that the louder the girl is in the scene, the better it makes the man look…an ego boost bravado. And so the women is just an extension of his ego. Also, if she shows enjoyment that may link back to Cowan and Dunn’s suggestion of women worshipping the penis. Other statistics and facts I found interesting can be found on page 10 of the article and has encouraged me to do my own research on pornographic scenes and form some statistics.

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