Why Do People Watch Porn? Results from PornResearch.Org

Why Do People Watch Porn? Results from PornResearch.Org

Figuring the Porn Audience
As Henry Jenkins has argued, we know less about the audiences of pornography than “probably any other genre of popular entertainment.” Indeed, what little we do know often comes from representations in mainstream media where two stereotypes predominate. For example, in men’s magazines like Loaded or in films like American Pie, the porn consumer may be represented as “a normal bloke, having a bit of fun,” but elsewhere he (and it is usually a he) is more likely to be presented as “deviant, slightly suspect and probably addicted.” The latter is part of a tradition of figuring those who engage with porn in negative ways as “pimply teenagers, furtive perverts in raincoats, and asocial compulsively masturbating misfits.” This tradition has little to say about actual audiences of porn, instead using figures of the porn user as
ways of depicting the harm and danger associated with pornography. In the past, those figures have included a “falsely innocent adolescent female” and a “truly depraved adult male.” But the traumatized child and addicted adult male are currently the most frequently depicted figures of porn consumption. They provide the focus for much anxious press discussion of pornography, as in the well-known Time magazine’s reporting on “cyberporn” (1995). This featured illustrations of a pale, transfixed child and “a naked man, his arms and legs wrapped around a keyboard and computer monitor, seeming to dissolve into the screen.” Time magazine’s visual connection between body and screen suggested that porn is unwholesome, overwhelming, and masturbatory, a trope readily taken up in stories elsewhere. Consumers as victims of pornography are graphically depicted in the Josh McDowell Ministry’s video 1 Click Away, where men, women, and children are shown being assailed and controlled by grasping hands and the voiceover speaks of the disintegration of the family as a result of consumption of porn leading to addiction.

Our project took a different starting point from assumptions that porn is de facto bad. Concerned with the everyday uses of pornography and how the people who engage with pornography feel it fits into their lives, our project was not based on suppositions about pornography’s harmfulness.

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