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Pornographication or pornification is the absorption by mainstream culture (ie., music, television, movies) of styles or content of the sex industry and the sexualisation of Western culture, sometimes referred to as raunch culture.[1] Pornographication, particularly the use of sexualised images of women, is said to demonstrate "how patriarchal power operates in the field of gender representation".[2] In Women in Popular Culture, Marion Meyers argues that the portrayal of women in modern society is primarily influenced by "the mainstreaming of pornography and its resultant hypersexualization of women and girls, and the commodification of those images for a global market".[3]

The phenomenon has been discussed by authors such as Marian Meyers and Kath Woodward. Pornographication also features in discussions of post-feminism by Ariel Levy,[4] Natasha Walter,[5] Feona Attwood, and Brian McNair.[1][6]


Pornography and the modern sex culture have been around for many decades. In ancient Greece and Rome, there were many sexually charged images on walls. The invention of the printing press made it much easier and cheaper to distribute information to the masses. What most people think about Western pornography and the sex culture started with the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Many more people had access to pornographic material during the Enlightenment, and in England books such as Fanny Hill; or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure[7] had commercial success as one of the earliest forms of erotica. During this time, people started thinking more freely, so pornography could challenge the norms of the time, as with Marquis de Sade's book Justine.[8] While most pornographic images before the 19th century were images or books, when the motion picture was invented, it created a whole new medium for sexual imagery. At the start of the 1920s, it became popular throughout the West.

Blue Movie, a 1969 American film written, produced, and directed by Andy Warhol,[9][10] is the first adult erotic film depicting explicit sex to receive wide theatrical release in the United States,[9][10][11] Blue Movie, a seminal film in the Golden Age of Porn (1969–1984), helped inaugurate the "porno chic"[12][13] phenomenon in modern American culture, and later, in many other countries throughout the world.[14][15] According to Warhol, Blue Movie was a major influence in the making of Last Tango in Paris, an internationally controversial erotic drama film, starring Marlon Brando, and released a few years after Blue Movie was made.[11] In 1970, Mona, the second adult erotic film, after Blue Movie, depicting explicit sex that received a wide theatrical release in the United States, was shown. Later, other adult films, such as Boys in the Sand, Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door and The Devil in Miss Jones were released, continuing the Golden Age of Porn begun with Blue Movie. In 1973, the phenomenon of porn being publicly discussed by celebrities (like Johnny Carson and Bob Hope)[13] and taken seriously by film critics (like Roger Ebert).[16][17] began, for the first time, in modern American culture.[12][13] In 1976, The Opening of Misty Beethoven, based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw (and its derivative, My Fair Lady), and directed by Radley Metzger, was released theatrically and is considered, by award-winning author Toni Bentley, the "crown jewel" of the Golden Age of Porn.[18][19]

After the Internet was invented in the 1990s, more people could express themselves sexually online, and anyone could post pictures or videos if they chose to.[20] Pornography in the West is generally much more widely accepted, and "66% of men and 41% of women consume pornography on a monthly basis".[21]

Effects of media[edit]

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson were cast in the lead roles in the BDSM inspired movie, Fifty Shades of Grey.


In slasher movies, sex and violence are often coupled together. In famous horror films such as Friday the 13th, women are portrayed as weak and often are victims. Because of repeated viewing of these movies, people may become desensitized, and especially with males, could be prone to "be less disturbed by scenes of extreme violence and degradation directed at women". Men, after repeated exposure to violent films, were less likely to feel empathy and remorse.[22] Men could think that violence towards women is normal, which therefore leads to more sexual violence towards women.[23] These movies are just one example of how sexuality is translated to men and women, explicitly showing men as dominant and powerful, and women as weak.


Teens who were exposed to highly sexual content on TV were more likely to "act older" than their age. If what was being shown on TV was educational, it could yield a positive result on teenagers. For example, on one specific episode of Friends, which had nearly 2 million viewers at the time, one of the characters had gotten pregnant even after using contraception. After the episode, teens were actually more likely to engage in safer sexual activity, and as much as 65% remembered what was in that episode.[24]


Literature which people read for sexual satisfaction is one of the earliest forms of media portraying sexuality. Now, there are various websites to satisfy most people's varied sexual preferences and tastes. As erotica was a form of social protest against the values of the culture at the time, as was with the famous book The Romance of Lust, written as a few volumes between 1873–1876. Described in the book are homosexuality, incest, and other socially unacceptable concepts. The values of the Victorian era perpetuated purity and innocence. So this book offered a new perspective.[25] In recent years, erotica has become the new norm, and is extremely popular. The most recent commercial success was Fifty Shades of Grey, describing in detail scenes of sadomasochism and other forms of kink.[26] It sold over "31 million worldwide", and has been adapted into a film starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.[27]


Magazines often portray sex in a very indirect way. As seen in advertisements throughout, sex is portrayed without anyone needing to say a word. However, in a lot of ways, this can be devastating to people's psyches, especially women. Magazines feature women barely clothed in provocative positions, which can communicate that women are not good enough. One of the more unlikely effects is it affecting dieting patterns.[28]

Sociological theories[edit]

In order to understand how sex culture is so prevalent, we need to look at human sexuality as a whole and why people gravitate towards such mediums as described above.


Structuralism is commonly defined as "analyzing a specific field as a complex system of interrelated parts".[29] This term used in sociology was popularized with Michel Foucault, in France where most of the early research took place on it. Sociologists who look at sexuality focus on the idea of social institutions, such as the family, law, and the economy. The economy requires money to go in and out of the system. People could say sexual relationships are a social institution. Due to the Western acceptance of Judeo-Christianity, incest is rarely represented in the media. The idea of the family is so powerful and strong that dating someone or having relations with a member of one's family is highly taboo. A structuralist would argue that sex culture is an offshoot of these institutions. When it comes to pornography, it is another way of income and is an offshoot of the economy and the highly capitalistic ideas of the West.[30] This is also expressed in how the family affects teenagers who view certain types of media, and those who are marginalized may be more susceptible to the negative impacts of sexuality.

Symbolic interactionism[edit]

Symbolic interactionism was first coined by George Herbert Mead, who came up with this school of sociological thought in the 1930s. Its premise is primarily based on "objects acquire meaning, thus becoming symbols, through communication". One of his most famous books Mind, Self And Society is famous for describing this theory in depth. Here, he pinpoints the self as an object and other create meaning around it. At the same time, we change the self depending on how we perceive other's ideas of our selves.[31] So in studying something like sexuality or acts related to sex, a sociologist under this perspective could look at pornography and the messages it communicates, or look at magazines and the messages they send to people. One graphic example provided is the "power" symbol communicated in pornography. In pornography, men are implied to be powerful and dominant, whereas women are not. This is especially true in violent pornography, where the person watching feels like they have a complete sense of control over the content, where women are depicted as enjoying it, so that communicates that it may be okay to be violent towards women.[32]

Scripting theory[edit]

With scripting theory, it "is the result of elaborate prior learning that teaches us an etiquette of sexual behavior". It is all about social learning and scripting theory states that everything we see and do sexually in our culture is influenced by a set of social scripts that are conditioned into people. These provide details and instructions to guide us into how people choose partners and therefore, who they find attractive or desirable. As mentioned before, magazines can indirectly send this message. Since what is shown primarily is a woman's appearance, so women instinctively realize they need to appear a certain way for a mate. It is a socially learned behavior that happens from repeated exposure.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McNair, Brian (2009), "From porno-chic to porno-fear: the return of the repressed (Abstract)", in Attwood, Feona (ed.), Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualisation of Western Culture, London: IB Taurus, pp. 110–130, ISBN 978-1-84511-827-3.
  2. ^ Woodward, Kath (2011), "Gendered bodies: gendered representations", in Woodward, Kath (ed.), The Short Guide to Gender, The Policy Press, University of Bristol, p. 85, ISBN 978-1-84742-763-2.
  3. ^ Meyers, Marian (May 2008). Women in Popular Culture: Representation and Meaning. Hampton Press.
  4. ^ Levy, Ariel (2006). Female chauvinist pigs: women and the rise of raunch culture. New York: Free Press. ISBN 9780743284288.
  5. ^ Walter, Natasha (2010). Living dolls: the return of sexism. London: Virago. ISBN 9781844084845.
  6. ^ McNair, Brian (2013). Porno? Chic!: how pornography changed the world and made it a better place. Abingdon, Oxon New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 9780203134153.
  7. ^ Cleland, John (1985). Fanny Hill, or, Memoirs of a woman of pleasure. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England New York, N.Y., U.S.A: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140432497.
  8. ^ de Sade, Marquis (1961) [1791]. Les Infortunes de la Vertu [Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue] (in French). Pieralessandro Casavini (translator). Paris: Olympia Press. OCLC 50373239.
  9. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (July 22, 1969). "Movie Review - Blue Movie (1968) Screen: Andy Warhol's 'Blue Movie' (behind paywall)". The New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (August 10, 1969). "Warhol's Red Hot and 'Blue' Movie. D1. Print. (behind paywall)". The New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Comenas, Gary (2005). "Blue Movie (1968)". Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Blumenthal, Ralph (January 21, 1973). "Porno chic; 'Hard-core' grows fashionable-and very profitable". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c Corliss, Richard (March 29, 2005). "That Old Feeling: When Porno Was Chic". Time. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  14. ^ Paasonen, Susanna; Saarenmaa, Laura (July 19, 2007). The Golden Age of Porn: Nostalgia and History in Cinema (PDF). WordPress. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  15. ^ Delamater, John; Plante, Rebecca F. (June 19, 2015). DeLamater, John; Plante, Rebecca F. (eds.). Handbook of the Sociology of Sexualities. Springer Publishing. p. 416. ISBN 9783319173412. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 13, 1973). "The Devil In Miss Jones - Film Review". Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 24, 1976). "Alice in Wonderland:An X-Rated Musical Fantasy". Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  18. ^ Bentley, Toni (June 2014). "The Legend of Henry Paris". Playboy. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  19. ^ Bentley, Toni (June 2014). "The Legend of Henry Paris" (PDF). Playboy. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  20. ^ Jenkins, John Philip (2006). "Pornography". Britannica.
  21. ^ Persaud, Raj; Häkkänen-Nyholm, Helinä (30 May 2014). "Is erotica bad for the brain?". The Huffington Post. United Kingdom.
  22. ^ "Sexual assault and the media". Stop Violence Against Women, the Advocates for Human Rights. 13 July 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  23. ^ Sapolsky, Barry; Molitor, Fred; Luque, Sarah (March 2003). "Sex and violence in slasher films: re-examining the assumptions". Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. Sage. 80 (1): 26–38. doi:10.1177/107769900308000103.
  24. ^ Collins, Rebecca L.; Elliott, Marc N.; Berry, Sandra H.; Kanouse, David E.; Kunkel, Dale; Hunter, Sarah B.; Miu, Angela. Does watching sex on television influence teens' sexual activity?. RAND Corporation. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  25. ^ Anonymous (1873–1876). The Romance Of Lust (1892 ed.). United Kingdom: Grove Green. OCLC 760964009.
  26. ^ James, E.L. (2012). Fifty shades of Grey. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 9780872723269.
  27. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (13 July 2012). "Explaining Fifty Shades wild success". CNN.
  28. ^ Thomsen, Steven R.; Weber, Michelle M.; Brown, Lora Beth (Spring 2002). "The relationship between reading beauty and fashion magazines and the use of pathogenic dieting methods among adolescent females". Adolescence. Libra Publishers. 37 (145): 1–18. PMID 12003283. Access also available via The Free Library.
  29. ^ Mastin, Luke. "Structuralism". The Basics of Philosophy.
  30. ^ Foucault, Michel (1998). The history of sexuality: volume 1, the will to knowledge. London: Penguin. OCLC 929056897.
  31. ^ Mead, George Herbert (1962). Morris, Charles W. (ed.). Mind, self, and society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226516684.
  32. ^ Gossett, Jennifer Lynn; Byrne, Sarah (October 2002). ""Click Here": a content analysis of internet rape sites". Gender & Society. Sage. 16 (5): 689–709. doi:10.1177/089124302236992.
  33. ^ Shibley-Hyde, Janet; DeLamater, John (2003). Understanding human sexuality (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780072494716.

Further reading[edit]