There is a difficulty with the language we sometimes use. Often we talk about the sexualisation of society and particularly the sexualisation of childhood. This is a wide-ranging term that includes fully-clothed adults kissing, for example. However, in this description we regularly conflate it with exposure to pornography as if that is merely a subset of sexualisation. Whilst I have objections to certain aspects of sexualisation in, say, advertising, I agree with researcher Meagan Tyler that subsuming pornography into sexualisation leads to an unhealthy association between sex and pornography. Pornography uses sexual stimulus, yes, but it is a woefully distorted depiction of sex that has no emotional intimacy. Because of this one-way voyeuristic practice it objectifies women and corrodes the self-esteem of us all. In short – it is counterfeit goods.
Many of us would say that regarding sex as a taboo subject has damaged our ability to educate and encourage best practice in Relationships and Sex Education. The porn industry has therefore felt vindicated in celebrating the wide acceptance of its product as a major contribution to get us talking about sex. Would a wider acceptance of armed robbery help us to better understand the craft of Olympic pistol shooting? No – because its values are demonstrably different. So it is with porn. It is not about sex – it is about money, power and abuse. So ‘pornographication’ (seemingly the preferred academic term) or the short-hand ‘pornification’ is a much more helpful way to describe the mainstreaming of this practice. For the sake of the abused, the entrapped and those whose self-image is twisted by this corrosive practice, we need to get our terminology right – our culture has been pornified and it is time we challenged the impostor.