2. Fear and Anxiety Caused by Seeing Pornography

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
1

The Commission heard testimony from several witnesses who described fear and anxiety associated with being shown pornography. The anxieties which have been described may be divided into two primary categories: anxiety attributable to memories of prior abuse which are relived through the images portrayed in the pornography being shown; and an overall embarrassment or discomfort in being made to view pornographic materials.

One witness reported being forced by her father to view pornographic materials during the course of an incestuous relationship:

... and of course he had booked a double room. He had all kinds of things in his briefcase, and he pulled out a magazine or book and told me to read it. He sat on the bed and watched me and his facial expression frightened me. I did not want to read it. I did not want to look at those pictures.... I was emotionally tortured and I didn't know what to do. I did not like my body or my father's body and having to look at those pornographic pictures forced me to visually memorize painful incidents with my father.[836]

Another witness described similar feelings of anxiety and fear of being shown pornography during the course of sexual abuse in her childhood, beginning when she was ten:

... I have no memory of there being any pornography in the bungalow where we lived. All nine kids slept in one room. My stepfather had his own room. My mother slept on the couch in the living room. The pornography was at the store. The pornography was also in the garage where Carl had some kind of office. He was involved in some kind of activity that needed to be hidden. I have no idea what that was. I remember the pictures on the wall and I remember boxes of books again. These were books I didn't want to look at. Carl's apartment is the place where I remember he made the pornography of me.[837]

As they would show me this pornography, I would look at the pictures and then I would feel real scared....[838]

Other women have described their feelings about pornography and the pain it recreated from a previous abusive experience. One woman appearing before the Minneapolis City Council reported that she currently experiences anxiety upon viewing pornography because it reawakens the experience of sexual abuse she had earlier suffered:

Two days later, having failed my attempts to keep those images away from me, I was sexually abused in my family. I don't know if the man that abused me uses pornography but looking at the women in those pictures, I saw myself at fourteen, at fifteen, at sixteen. I felt the weight of that man's body, the pain, the disgust.... I don't need studies and statistics to tell me that there is a relationship between pornography and real violence against women. My body remembers.[839]

Parents also reported children's lasting fears after abuse. The mother of a girl who reportedly was molested and used in the production of pornography in a California pre-school testified:

She has also talked about a lot of lights, big strong lights, and she is also very fearful of having her picture taken. My sister was visiting from overseas and tried to take her picture and she hid under the bed.[840]

The second category of fear and anxiety was described primarily by adult women who during the course of an intimate relationship were forced to view pornography by a spouse or close friend. These women described feelings of embarrassment, disgust, and public humiliation.

My husband is very knowledgeable about the Marquis de Sade. He was raised by prostitutes. One of his stepfathers had what he called the largest pornography collection he had ever seen. There was pornographic art throughout his stepfather's home. One evening when we went to visit his mother and his stepfather, the evening's entertainment consisted of getting together with the neighbors and their children and watching a pornography film involving sex with children. I got up, left the room to throw up; and my husband came over to tell me that I had embarrassed him.[841]

Other witnesses described feelings of humiliation at being forced to view pornography and being subject to ridicule when they demonstrated a reluctance to participate. For example:

We would meet together as a group at pornographic adult theaters or live sex shows. Initially I started arguing that the women on stage looked very devastated like they were disgusted and hated it. I felt devastated and disgusted watching it. I was told by those men if I wasn't as smart as I was and if I would be more sexually liberated and more sexy, that I would get along a lot better in the world and they and a lot of other men would like me more. About this time I started feeling very terrified.[842]

The Commission heard testimony from several women whose husbands requested they accompany them to view pornography. These women reported feelings of embarrassment and humiliation as well as a deterioration of the marital relationship:

I went with him once. I was disgusted with what I saw. I was also very embarrassed to have been seen in the theater. He continued going by himself and probably never missed a new showing.[843]

Another woman testified:

He would take me to the pornography stores here in Houston with the intention of going to get a newspaper or going to get a Better Homes and Gardens. Before I knew it, he would kind of lead me back into the second part of the store. I think that only happened twice because I would get so upset and traumatized....[844]

Yet another woman experienced fear and anxiety when she listened to Dial-A-Porn messages that her son had been calling:

The chilling horror I felt in my kitchen after my first encounter with Dial-A-Porn lingers with me today. After my initial reaction of disbelief subsided, I was overcome with grief. I cried uncontrollably for myself, my son....[845]

Notes

  1. Washington, D.C., Hearing, Vol. II, pp. 132-33.
  2. Washington, D.C., Hearing, Vol. I, p. 223.
  3. Id., p. 224.
  4. Public Hearings before Minneapolis City Council Session II, (Dec. 1983), p. 112.
  5. Miami Hearing, Vol. I, p. 101.
  6. Houston Hearing, Vol. I, p. 62.
  7. Public Hearings before Minneapolis City Council, Session II, (Dec. 12, 1983), p. 62.
  8. Chicago Hearing, Vol. I, pp. 153-54.
  9. Houston Hearing, Vol. I, p. 58.
  10. Los Angeles Hearing, Vol. I, p. 265.