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Porn Is Still Taking Us Two Steps Back

How pornography still has a hold of misconceptions about lesbian relationships.


Two lesbians holding hands
Lesbian couple

Britain’s favourite gammon Jeremy Clarkson famously said, “I know I’m not homophobic, I very much enjoy watching lesbian porn”, although tongue and cheek his provocative claim reveals the cold truth about how public perceptions towards lesbian and homosexual relationships have been shaped through pornography.


What's the problem?


The porn industry is huge and through the development of internet porn in the last 25 years it is growing even more, experts say the porn industry makes $15 billion dollars a year. Historians date the origins of ‘modern’ pornography to the late 18th century when western countries developed the means to mass produce writing and visual materials, since then porn has been a taboo cornerstone of our society. From the early dawn of porn, the stars have mostly been women as the industry caters itself to the sexual fantasies of heterosexual men, and the most common fantasy is the male fixation on lesbian relations. In 2016 Pornhub revealed their most searched for category and to no surprise it was ‘lesbian’.


The over saturation of lesbian porn is dangerous. Some viewers of lesbian porn will develop their only understanding of female homosexual relations through the watching of pornography this is damaging as over time it leads to ignorant stereotyping of lesbian roles. Stereotypes such as the ‘butch’ lesbian or the overtly ‘feminine’ sexualised lesbian are commonplace, when we know this is not a realistic depiction of a lesbian relationship. Research shows that through damaging our dopamine reward system pornography has the ability to re wire our brains to a more juvenile state. What’s scary is that some scientists say that the behaviours we have seen in porn can lead them being mirrored in real life, so the images and perceptions of lesbians through porn can lead to real life stereotypes, prejudice and perhaps even types of hate crime.


Prejudice in the mainstream


The stereotypes wouldn’t be as harmful if they were localised, but this perception of lesbianism isn’t exclusive to pornography it has leaked into the mainstream of our society, images of erotic lesbianism can be seen is many major films, tv and advertisements. This is mainly to sell to a majority heterosexual audience but what it does do is further cements these harmful stereotypes into the public conscious. The jock style high fiving over the idea of two girls ‘getting it off’, is commonly played out across Hollywood. As seen in the sitcom Friends, Joey and his buddy’s smirk and giggle at the idea of their female friends kissing showing that lesbian relations are often used as punchlines. According to the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, 16% of women said they had had a same-sex experience compared with the previous proportion twenty years ago which was 4%. If female same sex relationships are so common, then why are the representations so inaccurate?


This over stereotyping has led for calls to make accurate depictions more common on our screens. Actor and full time lesbian Liz Carr says, "I never see anyone on TV that I can really relate to in terms of sexuality”. Often in mainstream Film and TV, if there are any, lesbians are either extremely sexualised in a pornographic way or stripped completely of their sexuality to make them into some sort of asexual token puppet. This is an obvious attempt to cater to the cis gendered heterosexual audience who like lesbians as long as there not too gay.


A solution?


Since post-feminist liberation in the late 90’s, there has been a push for more ethical porn. Porn that is not harmful to the participants and not harmful to the viewer, for example Only Fans which puts the power back into the producers hands, content creators choose when, how and what porn they make essentially assuring the user that consent and the ethics are all green. However, we cannot hide behind ethical porn as a blanket excuse that porn has no harmful effects, many viewers of ethical porn will still be misguided by what they are seeing. The solution lies in porn literacy, we need to teach viewers of pornography to be able to separate the good from that bad, to know that what we are seeing on screen is an exaggerated caricature of what a real life lesbian is like. Otherwise we will still have the problem, men like Jeremy Clarkson who find it hysterical to see two lesbians holding hands.


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