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Students discuss porn industry’s repercussions

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Students watch a clip of “Hot Girls Wanted,” a documentary which exposes corruption within the amateur porn industry, during AAUW’s “Let’s Talk About Sex: Pornography & Feminism” event Monday night. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer)

Students watch a clip of “Hot Girls Wanted,” a documentary which exposes corruption within the amateur porn industry, during AAUW’s “Let’s Talk About Sex: Pornography & Feminism” event Monday night. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer)

Thomas J. Yang

Thomas J. Yang

Students watch a clip of “Hot Girls Wanted,” a documentary which exposes corruption within the amateur porn industry, during AAUW’s “Let’s Talk About Sex: Pornography & Feminism” event Monday night. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer)

By Jaime Weinreb | For The Pitt News

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According to the Pornhub’s 2016 Year in Review, nearly 92 billion videos were viewed in on the porn streaming website in 2016 alone.

“We’ve all watched it, it’s everywhere,” junior Elena Stains said after presenting the statistic.

About 10 people attended the “Let’s Talk About Sex: Pornography & Feminism” event Monday night. Hosted by Pitt’s chapter of the American Association of University Women, the event focused on pornography and its relationship with the feminist movement.

Stains, a biology student and the programming coordinator of Pitt’s AAUW chapter, led a discussion about the issues surrounding pornography across the country that people may not necessarily pay attention to. The discussion also touched on the things people can do to educate themselves on the subject.

Stains began by describing how in the United States, sex education is highly undervalued, as schools are not doing enough to incorporate it into the curriculum. As a result, many turn to porn for guidance, she said.

Jeanna Sybert, a senior studying communications and political science and the secretary of AAUW at Pitt who also helped guide the discussion, said her own experience with sex education was subpar.

“Sex education is a hot mess in the United States. I know my personal experience in high school was abstinence-only education, which does nothing but send everyone to the internet to find out about sex,” Sybert said in an interview after the discussion.

Stains started the session by playing a short clip from “Hot Girls Wanted,” a documentary that exposes corruption in the amateur porn industry. The clip showed a young girl who shared her experiences of being coerced into performing violent, sexual acts at the demand of a man.

Students gasped as they sat uncomfortably in front of the video screen. Debate sparked about how porn can sexualize rape, as shown in the clip.

Grace DuBois, a first-year student studying political science and biology, said people need to be clear with each other about what they are interested in and find acceptable in sexual situations to avoid being hurt.

“Communication is key. If you don’t communicate clearly, situations may arise where a guy oversteps his boundaries,” DuBois said.

Beside touching on what can be done to ensure sex is safe and consensual for all, the group talked about how specific groups of people are targeted and misrepresented by the porn industry. Stains said porn tends to exaggerate the sexuality of certain groups of people including teens, lesbians and black women.

The group agreed that porn generally revolves around what straight men want to see. Lesbian porn videos on sites like Pornhub feature feminine women — who are usually straight — acting out lesbian sex for the pleasure of a man, Stain said.

Sybert argued that porn can be just as damaging to men.

Sybert said watching porn conditions men to think that women desire violent sex and that men should act in a rough or violent manner. It also creates a stereotype for men that they should perform sexually at a certain level, or should have genitals of a certain size.

“Porn does a lot of bad for everyone,” Sybert said.

Weeding out the “bad porn” from the “good porn” requires a certain amount of effort from the viewer, according to Sybert. Amateur porn — the kind that often dehumanizes women — is easy to access, which is why many people choose to watch it, she said.

“People don’t talk about the negatives of porn because they just want it,” Sybert said.

In a Rolling Stone documentary, “Fresh Flowers, Plenty of Lube: Inside World of Feminist Porn,” shown after the discussion, students got a chance to learn more about the ethics of feminist porn. The documentary noted that specific feminist porn industries value ethical practices such as giving workers lunch breaks and paying fair wages.

Students agreed that variations in body type and physical appearance also make porn “feminist,” and more realistic. Examples included portraying plus size women as desirable, not fetishized, and including women of different appearances in videos, rather than just “hot women.” Sybert suggested that porn should place a greater emphasis on women’s pleasure.

For DuBois, the answer to making porn more feminist is simple.

“Have women direct it,” she said.

 

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Students discuss porn industry’s repercussions