Who is being Objectified?

‘This analysis of fifty of the bestselling pornographic videos in Australia shows that women are not objectified in this genre more than men . Of our twelve measures, seven can be analysed to measure gendered differentiation of objectification in pornography. We excluded the kinds of sex acts, and sex acts causing orgasm from this part of the analysis – this data is important and suggestive but cannot be compared in this particular way as there exists no agreed scale to quantify the pleasure different sex acts cause each gender. We also excluded measures of violence from gendered comparison, as they are too few in the sample to allow comparison of gender roles to be meaningful.

Of these seven measures, one shows women being more objectified than men (presence of orgasms, where women have fewer orgasms). Three show men being more objectified than women (in time spent looking at camera, where men return the gaze less; in time spent talking to the camera, where they are also less engaged; and in initiating sex, where men are more sexual objects than active sexual subjects in seeking their sexual pleasure in the sample). Three measures showed no large difference in objectification between men and women (naming, central characters and time spent talking to other characters). […]

In the mainstream of pornographic videos in Australia we found […] and a very small amount of violence – and then, only when we erred on the side of inclusiveness in deciding whether situations might be consensual or not. The majority of scenes containing violence came from videos which were explicitly marketed to women.

Overall, women were no more objectified than men in the mainstream of pornography. These results are reassuring. This is the first study, we believe, to survey and attempt to reconcile the measures employed in previous content analyses of pornography. By choosing to use the term ‘objectification’ as the key concept under which various other forms of undesirable representation (including violence) can be measured, we believe that we have offered a potentially useful new approach to the analysis of pornography; one that allows for analyses that are sensitive to the specificity of filmic representations, that work within accepted social science definition of aggression, and can be easily articulated to ongoing public debates about the genre. We hope that other researchers will take up this approach to provide a more detailed understanding of the workings of pornography across media, and across cultures.’

– McKee, Alan (2005) The Objectification of Women in Mainstream Porn Videos in
Australia. The Journal of Sex Research 42(4): p. 277-290

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