SDG #5: Gender Equality and the Impact of Pornography

Last March, I attended the UN Commission on the Status of Women and was again deeply impressed by the dedication and concern of women from all over the world regarding the discrimination against and violence toward women.   It is commonly accepted that women are deeply connected to all the Millennium Development Goals, since the greater majority of those in the lowest economic level, worldwide, are women and their children.  The Sustainable Development Goals were intended to continue the work on the elimination of extreme poverty and to build a future that we want for the world.  Every issue that is addressed in these roles directly impact women.

Perhaps the goal that the Commission directly targeted was the Goal 5:  Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.  Achieving this goal would perhaps bring about the achievement of all the goals, since women would be included directly in every peace effort and all decision making bodies.  Women tend to more concerned with the safety and health of their children and families, and would thus insure more effectively that outcomes would benefit both.

I have believed that attending to and changing the root cause of any problem is the most effective way of solving those problems, it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what is the root cause.  I have asked myself continually, why is there such an imbalance among the genders, and when some equality is achieved, why has the cost of doing so been so high?  Another question is why there is so much resistance to bringing about equality, sometimes even from women.   Is it because women tend to want to please and to have a certain peace and security in life that they have bought into their assigned role?  Is it a lack of awareness of what some women in our world are actually going through?

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) delved into some of these issues.  Women from every country gave presentations and reports on the situation of women in their respective countries and what they are doing to bring about greater gender equality.  Part of the solution is becoming aware of the plight of our sisters wherever they may live and listening to their stories and what has worked for them.

One big impression which has stayed with me comes from a workshop on women and pornography.  Many women are trafficked into participating in pornography, which means they are kidnapped or duped and then most often face brutality and drug abuse to prevent their escape.  What pornography does to women, besides the abusive nature, is reduce women to being sex objects.  There is no love here, only lust.

Pornography is harmful to men, as well.  Research is showing that pornography blunts emotions in men for other positive relationships.  The presenters described what they call the culture of pornography that is being developed in the United States.  Young men are introduced to pornography at a very young age and girls are being groomed to pornography in the way they dress and look.  The models used in pornography show beautiful slender women in scant clothing and provocative poses.  These have often become role models for our young girls.  Even advertising often presents poses which are sexually provocative for women as the ideal and for the young men to assume positions of dominance and power, often surrounded by beautiful women.    Hollywood and music stars contribute to this image.

Pornography has grown into a multi-billion industry.  What was once condemned is being held up as ideal.  And for much of this, society is unaware of the harm it is doing.   Some are getting wealthy at the expense of women, girls, boys, and also men, while others are becoming victims.  Perhaps all of society are victims unaware.

Some statistics that blew me away and deeply concerned me are:

  • Porn Sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.  30% of the Internet industry is pornography.
  • The United States is the largest producer and exporter of hard core pornographic DVDs and web material.
  • Mobile Porn was expected to reach $2.8 billion by 2015.
  • Teen Porn more than tripled between 2005-2013.
  • Out of 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression. Perpetrators were usually male; targets of aggression overwhelmingly female.
  • Youth who look at violent x-rated material are six times more likely to report forcing someone to do something sexual online or in-person versus youth not exposed to x-rated material.
  • Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) of young men and one-half (49 percent) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable.
  •  Nearly 9 out of 10 (87 percent) young men and 1 out of 3 (31 percent) young women report using pornography.
  •  Internet pornography was blamed for a 20 percent increase in sexual attacks by children over three years

(from “Enough is Enough” an organization dedicated to child safety)

Important links:

FBI — Child Pornography Victim Assistance


Written by guest contributor  Mary Ellen Loch, CSJ, from the Congregation of St. Joseph, Wichita Center



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