The Objectification of Women in Mainstream Pornographic Videos in Australia
McKee, Alan, The Journal of Sex Research
In Australia and many other Western countries, there is continuing political, public, and academic concern about the role of pornography in society. The accessibility of the internet and the kinds of material it makes available available have renewed public focus on the question of pornographic content: what kinds of pornography are people consuming? Many writers make the distinction between good and bad pornographic content. Hamilton (2004), for example, noted,
We are not talking about Playboy centrefolds, which are so tame by today's standards that Hugh Hefner is seen as an old prude. We're talking about a whole new world of extreme and violent images, including internet sites specializing in rape, incest, coprophilia, and bestiality.... Good, healthy erotica is one thing ... but the sex depicted in standard porn is wholly devoid of intimacy and affection. Women are uniformly portrayed as the passive objects of men's sexual urges (p. 11).
Of particular concern to many commentators is the degree of objectification seen in pornography (e.g., Rantzen, 2004). Some worry that porn causes its viewers to act violently toward women (Krome, 2003) or that it turns them into sexual abusers (Hamilton, 2004) or even murderers (Coffman, 2004).
Literature about objectifying content in pornography exists, but we have little information about the degree to which the mainstream pornography being consumed in Australia objectifies its participants. In response to ongoing public concern about this issue, I decided to gather and analyze data about the content of mainstream Australian pornography. Scott and Schwalm have shown that there is an important distinction between the availability and the consumption of pornographic material in a culture (1988a; 1988b). It is important to demonstrate not only what is available to consumers, but also what they are actually consuming.
Concerns about material available on the internet are driving most public debate about pornography at the moment, but videos and DVDs retain the central place in the consumption of pornographic material in Australia. In a recent survey of over 1,000 users of pornography in Australia, videos and DVDs were the most popular pornographic medium, with 63.4% of respondents using them. Almost half (42%) used the internet to view pornography, but only 5.8% accessed paid sites, where "premium," non-mainstream material is usually found (McKee, forthcoming).
Another advantage of using videos in this study was the ease of acquiring information about which titles were the most popular. Because it is illegal to sell, but not to buy, pornography in most areas of Australia, most people purchase it by mail. I merged the best-seller lists of the two biggest adult mail-order companies, Gallery Entertainment and Axis Entertainment, to create a list of 50 of the most popular pornography videos. This list became the study sample. (Contact the author for the list of sample videos.)
It is important to note that the sample does not represent the absolute 50 top-selling videos in Australia. There is some black market for X-rated material, but it is estimated to constitute less than 5% of sales (Australian Adult Industry Association, 2004). Given the importance of mail order in the Australian pornographic market, I can state with certainty that the videos in the sample were best-sellers that represent mainstream tastes. The majority of the tapes were American imports; some were European imports, and none were Australian-made.
Literature Review and Development of Measures
The taxonomy of analysis for the videos was developed through the viewing of a sub-sample of five of the videos in the best-selling 50 and by drawing on extensive previous literature on the content of pornography.
Social science research into pornography has tended to divide …
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Publication information: Article title: The Objectification of Women in Mainstream Pornographic Videos in Australia. Contributors: McKee, Alan - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 42. Issue: 4 Publication date: November 2005. Page number: 277+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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