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From Orgasms to Spanking: A Content Analysis of the Agentic and Objectifying Sexual Scripts in Feminist, for Women, and Mainstream Pornography

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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.

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Correspondence to Niki Fritz.

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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.

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Fritz, N., Paul, B. From Orgasms to Spanking: A Content Analysis of the Agentic and Objectifying Sexual Scripts in Feminist, for Women, and Mainstream Pornography. Sex Roles 77, 639–652 (2017).

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