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Disclaimer: I’ve had to focus on heterosexual relations and sex here, as I have little experience of anything else.

It’s always seemed logical to me that porn use could affect the sexual behaviour of the user. After all, there’s a reason companies spend billions on advertising. We learn about the world, about standards of behavour, about norms and values, through what we see and hear as we grow up, and if someone grows up using porn, that is where they are going to gain much of their understanding of sex from. If, like me, you grow up without directly accessing porn, you may well learn a lot about sex from experiences with someone who did. And in today’s culture, even if both partners grow up without watching porn, the porn industry’s influence is growing: the images of women on lads’ mags covers in your local newsagent, the trend in ripping out all your pubic hair, thongs for tweenies, women performing stripper moves in music videos, the list goes on.

If it wasn’t for porn, would this guy (and many more, if you read the comments thread) think it was fine and dandy to shoot off in a woman’s face without so much as a by your leave? Would some guys think ejaculating on a woman’s body is similarly bog standard, no-need-to-ask-first behaviour? Would so many young women think sex with a guy requires preremoval of all body hair? Or fake orgasm noises?

Yes, many of the messages mainstream porn sends out have been around for centuries: the dominant male/passive female motif being a prime example. Porn has not necessarily singlehandedly created these messages. But it does a mighty fine job of disseminating them. So, to say that porn has no influence whatsoever on our sexualities, the expectations we have of sex and of our sexual partners, seems pretty naive to me.

Which brings me to this. A seventeen year old Australian girl gang raped in a style which clearly imitates a certain strand of pornography. The rape was probably planned, the men took photos, threatened to kill her if she reported it. The writer of the article concludes that “pornography has made it very sexy to hurt and humiliate women”. Rape is often about power and control, but this particular crime also certainly seems to be about sex. Porno style sex.

Yes, rape and abuse and the hurting and humiliation of women are not necessarily a product of porn use. Not all porn users will rape and abuse women, and those that do may not do so as a direct consequence of porn use, or by reenacting what they see in porn. (I think many will hurt and humiliate women, intentionally or not, because of the way in which sex and gender roles are portrayed in much porn – see that thread at Jezebel).

But, in the light of cases like the one above, I really don’t think it’s so crazy to suggest that porn use in our patriarchal society – a society where women are portrayed as sexual objects for male pleasure, where rape can’t happen if she was wearing that, or said yes to that, or drank that, where men have a biological “need” to access women’s bodies – can in some cases encourage and lead to the abuse and rape of women. It sadly makes a lot of sense.

Hat tip to sparkle*matrix for the article.