Porn and the Pay Gap

Recently, I saw an article circulating Facebook about a WNBA player who had commented on the fact that it isn’t fair that they only make as much as their male counterparts when they’re overseas, and how she wanted the wage gap closed. I knew I shouldn’t click on the story, because the chances of someone not saying something infuriating were slim, but I did it anyway. I read the comments and wasn’t shocked by most of them.  The prevailing opinion was that men were paid more because more people watched them, and it was said over and over in varying degrees of politeness. What did shock me, however, was one snarky comment with hundreds of likes and a whole discussion stemming from that simply said, “women get paid way more than men do to do porn, you don’t hear us complaining.”

I can barely even begin to diagram all the ways in which that statement is problematic. First of all, though women tend to make more per shot than men in the porn industry, the lifespan of a female’s porn career is generally so short that it doesn’t really matter. Men can go on in porn as long as they can perform, but women are either driven to the breaking point or booted when they are no longer appealing. This can happen as they age, or as soon as they’re not novel anymore. Second, this argument has zero place here. This person is taking two things that are completely different (basketball and porn) and trying to act like they’re comparable. That’s a false equivalence; one has nothing to do with the other. Third, instead of presenting a valid argument, this person immediately tried to invalidate this woman’s position by offering this false equivalence and basically attacking her for not being grateful enough. Fourth, literally the only example this person could come up with in which women earn more is in porn, which is the same as saying that the only value a woman has to a man is her body. Not only that, but it’s like it’s a compliment that women can get paid more than men to have sex. The second statement is devastating to females in more than one way: on the one hand, it continues the trend of objectification and devaluing a woman’s non-physical attributes, and on the other, what does that say to women and girls who don’t look like the women in porn? That there’s absolutely no hope for them?

This kind of thinking is so dangerous to our society. It breeds the idea that women are only worth what they can do for a man sexually, and it’s not just women who are affected by this assumption. Sure, it causes girls and teenagers to do all sorts of extreme things to find their value (eating disorders, unhealthy partying behaviors) but it also tells boys and men what a woman’s value is. If you think a boy living in a world that sexualizes women constantly automatically grows up to have a healthy view of the opposite sex, you’re wrong. That’s probably partly why we see so many men struggle with pornography and sex addiction, and I’d be willing to bet that this pervasive point of view has helped to give rise to the Incel culture we’ve seen gaining traction recently.

It might seem like a leap, but honestly, the gap is as small as a step on a sidewalk. If both girls and boys are raised in an environment in which citing porn as the singular industry where women are top earners in a lauding way, then they’re being told that what matters for women is their sexual appeal. For girls, that causes them to internalize ridiculous beauty standards, unrealistic sexual demands, and an unhealthy desire to be pleasing to their male counterparts, regardless of the risk. For boys, that causes them to think that their sexual fulfillment is the only thing that matters. Women are literally there to please them, they aren’t autonomous beings with their own thoughts, needs, and feelings, and if they are, all of this is still second to theirs. Thus is a world where women are dehumanized, devalued, and ultimately unsafe created.

 

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