Sex is arguably one of the most universal experiences of humankind. Although many cultures believe that sexual activity is a subject that should be widely exposed within popular culture—countries such a Japan and Britain carry a myriad of mainstream television programs dealing with sexually explicit material—in the United States, sex is still seen by society as taboo. From our Puritan ancestral beliefs up until present day, sex in mainstream American culture is seen as something that is done but never talked about. Nowhere is this attitude more pervasive than with the topic of pornography.
The use of pornography in popular American culture is often seen as deviant. Large groups of individuals having intercourse with one another, or men and women engaging is sexual acts that are explicit or unusual, has often sparked a debate over whether or not this type of entertainment represents the moral and ethical principles of modern American society. While proponents of pornography have argued that this type of entertainment simply serves to fulfill the natural curiosity of man about sex, opponents maintain that pornography is not only morally unacceptable, but also leads to the degradation of women through male domination, violence and sexual violence: “With almost three decades of social science research on sexual violence in pornography, many of its characteristics are now well understood. We know that pornography contains images of both domestic violence and sexual violence. We have some idea of the negative effect of sexually violent pornography, especially on men’s attitudes towards women”.
Sexual violence in pornography is so pervasive that many of those that oppose its availability, assert that the power hierarchies of men over women have a negative impact on how men view, and subsequently treat, women in society. In short, the message that pornography relays to men in society is that women are only to be treated as sexual objects who desire to be dominated by men. While this belief may ultimately be true, and even practiced, within the context of sexual fantasy the problem with pornography lies in the acts that are committed when men believe that these fantasies are real. To illustrate this point consider the case of rape.