I am both a very visual and very sexual person. Consequently, I enjoy watching porn on occasion. Let’s face it, porn is visually stimulating, erotic, and allows a person to expand their fantasy life. But I am conscious of the importance of balance in using these images for our health and well-being.
We already know that viewing porn on a regular basis changes our ideas of what we consider attractive. We adjust our view of what we consider acceptable or desirable to match what is put out there by the media – in this case, porn. We also tend to place value in the images we see when they are reinforced by being presented as exciting, desirable, and sexy. This is accomplished by the immediately aroused response seen in porn actors. I’m not saying that some of them are not enjoying their work, but at the end of the day, they are actors playing a fictional role.
It’s interesting to see how porn is shaping the view of what we consider attractive or sexy. First, let’s consider breasts. If you look at a comparison of Playboy centerfolds from the 1960’s to now, you see a large difference not only in size, but in the shape of breasts as well. Whereas years ago it was very common to see teardrop-shaped breasts, nowadays, breasts are usually very round and seem to defy gravity. It’s obvious that very round breasts look more like a pregnant woman’s breast – full of milk and ready to lactate. But they also may be an indicator of sexual excitement, since breasts can increase in volume from 25 – 30% when a woman gets aroused. It also seems that surgically enhanced breasts take more of the shape that natural breasts do when a woman is laying on her back – not an uncommon position for sex. Certainly, there are some beautiful surgically enhanced breasts out there. But our society’s expectation of these as the standard is what seems dangerous. In some South American countries women can even have their government-sponsored health care pay for elective breasts implants (not related to mastectomy or an accident). This is how important it has become in our culture.
If we continue our travels a little southwards (on the female figure), we notice there have been major changes in the landscaping. Where there used to be anywhere from a full bush to a neatly trimmed little patch, now it’s much more common to find the absence of bush altogether. This works very well for porn if you don’t want anything obstructing your camera shot. It probably makes clean up after the money shot a bit easier as well. But pubic hair has always been one of the physical characteristics that distinguishes women from girls. So where is society going with this? How did completely shaved become the norm?
Perhaps the most disturbing trend, however, is the desire for some women to “beautify” their labia by surgical reduction. Could porn also be promoting labiaplasty? This procedure involves removing a triangle-shaped wedge from the middle of the labia, then pulling the rest together and suturing it up. (Imagine a pie slice coming out from the middle of a half-circle). This creates smaller, tighter labia. And since the edges of the labia minora are usually darker than the rest, the removal of a large part of this edge results in the appearance of lighter-colored labia. In order to create a uniform, more natural look, surgeons will often also remove part of the clitoral hood when performing a labiaplasty. The surgeons who perform labiaplasty suggest that women who have large or uneven labia should feel embarrassed with a sexual partner and that the surgery would correct this. Perhaps an understanding of what genitals actually look like would correct this without the risk of side effects from surgery. If women are comparing themselves to women they see in porn movies and skin mags, they are not getting a real view of what average and normal are. Instead, I hear of 16 year-old girls already thinking that they are “not normal” and need to “get fixed” because they think their labia are too big.
My question is how far are we going to go? Is it porn driving this distorted view of women’s bodies that society seems to be adopting? How are “Hollywood” plastic surgeons contributing to this by referring to their procedures as “the Barbie” (disturbing). We are not far from that plasticine figure that has exaggerated proportions and shape, and most notably has the absence of pubic hair or defined genitals. How distorted will we allow our vision of natural and beautiful to become?