Historically, pro- versus anti-pornography debates have been positioned around the concepts of sexual objectification versus sexual agency—arguing that pornography, especially Mainstream content, results in objectification of women versus arguing that pornography, especially Feminist pornography or erotica, depicts and can lead to female sexual empowerment. To date, however, no one has examined the content of Mainstream compared to Feminist pornography. The present content analysis of 300 pornographic scenes compares categories of internet pornography aimed at women (including Feminist and For Women) to Mainstream pornography, examining indicators of both sexual objectification (including stripping, cumshots, aggression, genital focus, and gaping) and agency (including self-touch, orgasm, and directing and initiating sex). Results suggest that Mainstream pornography contains significantly more depictions of female objectification than both Feminist and For Women content. There is an objectification gender gap between men and women in all categories, which is significantly wider in Mainstream content than in pornography aimed at women. Focusing on empowerment, queer Feminist pornography contained significantly more indicators of female sexual agency than both For Women and Mainstream categories, although primarily heterosexual Feminist pornography did not. Findings suggest that different categories of pornography provide women with different scripts related to sexual objectification, agency, and gender dynamics, which may impact sexual behavior.
Pornography Feminist pornography Erotica Sexual objectification Sexual agency Sexual aggression Sexual scripts Social cognitive theory Scripting theory
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
There are no known potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise. This project did not receive outside funding.
This research did not involve human participants and therefore no IRB approval or informed consent was necessary.
Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological), 289–300. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2346101.
Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: A content analysis update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065–1085. doi:10.1177/1077801210382866.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Curtin, N., Ward, L. M., Merriwether, A., & Caruthers, A. (2011). Femininity ideology and sexual health in young women: A focus on sexual knowledge, embodiment, and agency. International Journal of Sexual Health, 23(1), 48–62. doi:10.1080/19317611.2010.524694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
Dodson, B. (2013). Porn wars. In T. Taormino, C. Penley, C. Shimizu, & M. Miller-Young (Eds.), The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure (pp. 23–31). New York: Feminist Press at CUNY.Google Scholar
Hald, G. M., Kuyper, L., Adam, P. C., & de Wit, J. B. (2013a). Does viewing explain doing? Assessing the association between sexually explicit materials use and sexual behaviors in a large sample of Dutch adolescents and young adults. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10(12), 2986–2995. doi:10.1111/jsm.12157.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
Malamuth, N. M., Hald, G. M., & Koss, M. (2012). Pornography, individual differences in risk and men’s acceptance of violence against women in a representative sample. Sex Roles, 66(7–8), 427–439. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-0082-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Milburn, M. A., Mather, R., & Conrad, S. D. (2000). The effects of viewing R-rated movie scenes that objectify women on perceptions of date rape. Sex Roles, 43(9–10), 645–664. doi:10.1023/A:1007152507914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2011). The influence of sexually explicit internet material and peers on stereotypical beliefs about women's sexual roles: Similarities and differences between adolescents and adults. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(9), 511–517. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shim, J. W., & Paul, B. M. (2014). The role of anonymity in the effects of inadvertent exposure to online pornography among young adult males. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 42(5), 823–834. doi:10.2224/sbp.2014.42.5.823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Steinem, G. (1980). Erotica and pornography: A clear and present difference. In L. Lederer (Ed.), Take back the night: Women on pornography (pp. 35–39). New York: Morrow.Google Scholar
Sun, C., Bridges, A., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., & Liberman, R. (2008). A comparison of male and female directors in popular pornography: What happens when women are at the helm? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32(3), 312–325. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00439.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taormino, T. (Producer and Director). (2009). “Switch” from Tristan Taormino’s Rough Sex [motion picture]. United States: Vivid Entertainment.Google Scholar
Taormino, T. (2013). Calling the shots: Feminist porn in principle and practice. The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure (pp. 255–264). New York: Feminist Press at CUNY.Google Scholar
Taormino, T., Penley, C., Shimizu, C., & Miller-Young, M. (2013). The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure. New York: Feminist Press at CUNY.Google Scholar
Tylka, T. L., & Van Diest, A. M. K. (2014). You looking at her “hot” body may not be “cool” for me integrating male partners’ pornography use into objectification theory for women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. doi:10.1177/0361684314521784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wright, P. J., Arroyo, A., & Bae, S. (2015). An experimental analysis of young women's attitude toward the male gaze following exposure to centerfold images of varying explicitness. Communication Reports, 28(1), 1–11. doi:10.1080/08934215.2014.915048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar