Use of porn as a tactic of DV

I read this article recently when someone tweeted it (can’t remember who). It is about how use of porn hurts women, and is in response to a piece by Bettina Arndt called “Porn is not a dirty word”. I agree with the first article and it got me thinking. The article describes two types of male porn users; those who use porn openly in agreement with their partners, and those who use porn in secret without their partners knowledge. From my experience there is a third type; men who use porn openly without their partner’s agreement, in spite of her distress and even because of it. In my experience (both personal and professional as DV survivor and DV worker) this often goes hand in hand with domestic violence and the man’s sense of entitlement and coercive controlling tactics that serve to control the woman, destroy her sense of self and keep her in fear. I suspect this third type is more common than we think.

In my case, I remember my abusive ex-partner would watch porn all night in a separate room, not attempting to hide it in any way and leaving pornographic DVD’s and DVD cases strewn all over the floor of the spare room (along with rubbish, rotting food, Playstation paraphernalia, cigarette ash, beer cans and old joints).  Sometimes he coerced me into watching it and having sex. One time when he brought a pornographic magazine home and wanted me to commit to having a threesome, he became enraged when I refused. The porn he watched was extremely degrading to women and I could see how it influenced and accentuated his already disrespectful and disdainful view of women.

Clients often tell me that their violent, abusive and controlling partner uses porn in front of them in spite of their distress. Reasons for this can range from simply coercing the woman to watch porn, humiliating her by insisting the porn is on against her wishes, making her feel uncomfortable and unsafe by having the porn on in front of the children, right through to coercing her to engage in porn-like sex, filming it and then threatening to place the footage on the internet. From a feminist/DV perspective all of these constitute coercive and controlling tactics used in domestic violence to control women and keep them in fear, including coercion, threats, intimidation, male privilege, undermining her parenting, emotional abuse and physical and sexual violence. Put simply, a man watching porn in front of his partner in spite of her distress and lack of consent is in its basest form an abuse of power, the very central aspect of domestic violence.

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2 thoughts on “Use of porn as a tactic of DV

  1. This was something I experienced, and as someone with very liberal views about freedom of expression – I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with pornography, although there’s a lot currently wrong with how it is produced – it was something I felt very conflicted about. When I objected to having to watch porn with my ex, I was told that I was inhibited or jealous and my sexuality was called into question. Porn allowed my ex to make it clear that he preferred women of a completely different body-shape and colouring to my own. It helped him demonstrate that I was in every way inadequate as a lover and that I couldn’t possibly turn him on by myself, acting like myself. Unless I was asleep.

    But I don’t think porn is a direct cause when men use it as a tool of abuse – it’s just a tool. I think it is like any other sexual practice and as such, needs to be talked about and negotiated within a couple. If one party doesn’t like it, then there’s a real problem (whether actual abuse or betrayal of trust) if someone continues to use it anyway.

    • Thank you for your comment, my first ever received! I hope you are now safe and if in a relationship, with someone who respects you as you deserve. I don’t think I was saying porn is a cause of DV, I think I was saying that it is a tool and that watching it in front of a woman despite her distress and non-consent is an abuse of power. I do think porn and the porn industry contributes to violence against women, but wouldn’t go so far as to say it is cause-effect. There are men who can watch porn, with or without a critical eye, and not commit abuse. Many thanks again for your comment.

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