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The Porn Revolution

Sex Ed

The Porn Revolution

When we hear the term “sexual revolution”, it represents the liberalization of sexual attitudes and moral beliefs through our history. The history of sexual revolutions has had a major impact on our culture by influencing how we think, feel, and express our sexuality.  Two of the most prominent times in history for sexuality were the 20’s and 60’s. During the first sexual revolution, known as  “The Roaring Twenties”, it was a time of drastic social and political change.  Women were feeling more empowered, working in executive positions, drinking, smoking and having fun. Sexuality for women was impacted by the rise in birth control use, leading to women having fewer children.  Inventions like the washing machine and vacuum freed up time doing house chores and encouraged women to get out into the work force. It was a period of history that launched an economy driven by pleasure. This was the birth of mass culture—cars, movies and music. The distribution of pornography increased during this time and became a mainstream way to enjoy erotica as a form of entertainment.

During the 60’s and 70’s, it was all about free love and social change. There were major shifts in women’s sexuality, homosexuality, premarital sexuality and sexual expression.  Even psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey and William Reich contributed to the social movement in bringing awareness to research and insight into human sexual desire and behavior.  It was a time for political change, breaking down boundaries, reforming laws and the medical regulation of sexuality. Sexual freedom became a new way of living and as society’s views on sexuality changed, there was an increase in pornography in mass media—a money-making industry that commercialized on the sexual interests and changes of a growing society and strived to appeal to the masses.

Despite having two major sexual revolutions in our history, we are still a society that is uncomfortable with sexuality and impacted by social and cultural institutions when it comes to how we think and feel about sex. Our sexual values and beliefs are shaped by what we learn from parents, friends, teachers and religious institutions. Sexual experiences and education often conflict with inner sexual desires and lead to sexual repression, sexual dysfunction or sexually compulsive behaviors. Today’s argument is that pornography shapes and distorts our views on sexuality and how we experience sex.  In actuality, we have a complicated relationship with sex. We are bombarded with sex everywhere in our culture, not only in pornography. Sex sells products from every industry and “sexual” images are more mainstream than ever—yet we are shamed for enjoying or talking openly about sex.  Women’s sexuality is stereotyped with mixed messages regarding what is acceptable sexual behavior for both sexes. The role of pornography is controversial because it is one of the most accessed forms of media and with modern technology, can be available to anyone at any time. In the early sexual revolutions, pornography was a way to express sexuality and empower individuals around taking charge of their sexual rights. Most pornography today can be viewed as objectifying women and men, creating gender stereotypes and portraying unrealistic forms of body image. Women can be seen as objects driven to satisfy men. Men can be seen as always physically aroused and insatiable. Body images include augmented breasts, labiaplasty, unusually large genitalia and perfect bodies. Pornography has moved from sexual freedom of expression to sexual stereotypes and misunderstood fantasies.

History will show that attitudes towards sex change over time but it takes a strong political and social intervention to see it happen. The feminist movement of the 1960’s brought topics of female sexual desire, gender stereotypes and women having sex for pleasure into cultural awareness. Feminism was an important sexual revolution because it forced society to think about sexual objectification and exploitation. In today’s culture, we are expanding our views of sexuality by acknowledging variations in sexual expression, orientation and sexual identification. Yet we still live in a culture that strives to condemn porn, repress women’s sexual rights, support abstinence and minimize the importance of sexual education.

Sexual politics have created strategies and policies that attempt to censor and condemn the power of pornography. It is a fast growing industry making billions of dollars with minimal laws regulating it or discussions on using it in a positive way. Pornography will continue to perpetrate negative images, objectification and acts of violence against women.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “should we focus less on censoring and ignoring pornography and work towards using pornography as a tool for positive change?” Since the world of pornography is constantly growing, we are seeing more producers that are women. We are also seeing men who are changing the kinds of pornography that are mainstream. There are women like Candida Royale and Petra Joy who are creating a kind of pornography that focuses on the context of sexual pleasure from a woman’s perspective, and portrays sexual experiences in a meaningful way. Women, as well as men, are producing pornography that is focused on real life sexual situations and not negative, abusive, or unrealistic portrayals. There is a website called, “Make Love Not Porn” created by Cindy Gallup that is intended to help inspire and stimulate open and healthy conversations about sex and pornography with the goal of helping people have more healthy and enjoyable sexual relationships. Other porn producers are seeking to educate and enrich individuals’ sexual experiences and base their work on honest, authentic sexual fantasies, desires and intimacy.

So is pornography having its own sexual revolution? With the challenges pornography faces in our culture and the growing technology, it is easy to conclude that the landscape of pornography will continue to change. New pornography is being produced in a way that empowers people sexually and engage different individuals in a non-threatening way at the same time. Our basic human needs include connection, affirmation and intimacy. Pornography has often worked on the desires of passion and sex, but will hopefully grow as a form of media that teaches respect, mutual affirmation and the diversity of human sexual interests.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Shannon Chavez

Dr. Shannon Chavez is a licensed clinical psychologist and sex therapist with an expertise in female sexual health. She works with women of all ages and backgrounds helping guide them from sexual concerns to sexual empowerment. Dr. Chavez believes that the heart of sexual intimacy is connection. Her work with couples focuses on adult sex education, intimacy issues, mindful sex therapy, and reconnection through self-exploration, discovery and personal growth. She also specializes in the treatment of sexual trauma and abuse, sexual dysfunction, and compulsive behaviors surrounding love, romance, and relationships. Dr. Chavez has written a guide for clinicians on the treatment of love addiction through the use of attachment-oriented therapy. She completed her professional training in Beverly Hills, California where she attained a postdoctoral fellowship in sexual health treatment. She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. She is an active member of the Institute for the Scientific Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), and the American Psychological Association. Dr. Chavez currently has a private practice in Beverly Hills, California and uses a mind-body approach to sexual health wellness and a treatment approach that integrates both physical and psychological needs. Her passion is sexual awareness and education through teaching, workshops, and writing. She has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Latino Perspectives, and Self Magazines; and is a frequent contributor to the website SheKnows.com. She has also appeared on national news and radio as an expert on sexuality and women’s health.

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