Ask yourself what makes pornography pornographic.  The usual answer is that it is intended to sexually arouse  people.  This is true but it is circular.  The question is: what elements are essential to pornographic material?

Given the unprecedented proliferation of porn catering to every possible individual preference, it is difficult to describe the essence of what is pornographic.

I have tried to describe what I see as key features of all the myriad pornographic images and scenarios. I call these the three O’s.

Building blocks of porn fantasies: the three “O’s”

Starting from the premise that pornographic sexual fantasy scenarios and images have a range that goes from mundane sexual relating, all the way to those depicting extremes of violence and harm, I believe that there are three main characteristics which cut across the spectrum of content.

1. Objectifying

Porn scenarios are always a fantasy, but objectification is one aspect of their “fantasy-ness.”  Regardless of whom we identify with in the porn scenario, the “other” person or people are objectified in the sense that we do not care about their inner experience.

In this sense there is something almost autistic about the consumption of porn.  It is created in such a way that the person or people who are the “objects” in the scenario are devoid of subjectivity (some would say lacking soul).   And it may be the case that everybody depicted in the scenario is surface only.

This is true whether the viewer is male or female and whether the viewer identifies with the “subject” or the “object.”  When the viewer identifies with the “object” we say they are engaging in “self-objectification.”

2. Out-of-bounds

This is the element of the “illicit.”  Porn makes available something that is normally unavailable.  This broad category contains violations of boundaries and/or culturally appropriate expectations.

The boundary violation may be simply the shock of the absurd and unlikely sexual encounter. Often it depicts the fantasy of being desired in a way that is unavailable in real life.  This includes fantasies like the beautiful woman who instantly desires me, or the person who dominates and humiliates me.

Broad categories of out-of-bounds or boundary violating scenarios are:

  • Crossing the bounds of what is legal to do, such as abduction and rape scenarios
  • Crossing generational boundaries as in child porn or “granny” sites
  • Crossing boundaries of prevalent social expectations as in jumping-the-pizza-delivery-guy scenarios or sex with nuns
  • Unusual behaviors and fetishes such as “golden showers” and other behaviors not in everyday experience

3. Out of a relational context

Regardless of whether you believe sex needs to be in a relationship to be healthy, porn scenarios don’t depict realistic relationships.  If they depict any relationship, it is relating with no realistic past or future. The people in the pornographic imagery may be enjoying wild sex in the deli section of the supermarket, but you won’t see them going home and playing scrabble.

But what about pornography that is viewed by couples?  And what if they act out those fantasies in their marriage?   Many couples say that they act out bondage or sadomasochistic fantasies in their relationships and that the sex is very intimate and supportive.  True, but I suspect that the heightened arousal results from taking the sex out of their daily relationship and into a fantasy realm.

The meaning of porn imagery

A fantasy can be used to correct many things that are missing from reality.  The objectified image is perfect and gives us a sense of omnipotence; doing what is illicit is a way to get even or escape the role we are usually cast in; and removing sex from relationships removes our fears and inadequacies.

So porn has the potential to arouse and gratify us by creating a false world in which our needs are always met and we can be self centered or amoral without consequences.  Porn liberates our sexuality and helps make up for what is wrong with our culture and our lives.

For sex and porn addicts what is wrong has deep roots. In working with sex addicts, their preferred pornographic fantasy serves as an x-ray of their particular “arousal template.”  This can in turn be used by the clinician as an indicator of the early experiences that shaped the addict’s addictive fantasies.

 


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From Psych Central's website:
Good Porn, Bad Porn | The Impact of Sex Addiction (January 19, 2013)






    Last reviewed: 19 Oct 2013

APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2012). 3 Key Features of Porn. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2012/10/the-anatomy-of-porn/

 




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