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What We Do In The Dark: Porn At Deerfield
Shane Beard '16, Contributing Writer
March 9, 2016
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Relationships and sexuality have been part of an ongoing conversation at Deerfield for the last several years, and the administration has made strides to encourage healthier relationships in the form of date nights and more open conversations about parietals policies. However, it seems to me that an important component of this conversation—how pornography affects the relationships between genders at Deerfield—has been ignored.

Like race, sex and porn aren’t exactly topics most students are comfortable talking about. While the subject of pornography occasionally popped up as a topic during late night weekend talks in boys’ dorms, regular discussions about it were non-existent until the arrival of Dr. Gina Barreca this fall, during which she lamented how the prevalence and extreme nature of internet pornography has changed the way young adults view sex and relationships.

While a large percentage of the boys in the community shrugged off the notion, I don’t think Dr. Barreca is that far off. Much has been said about Deerfield’s gender divide and unnatural hookup culture, but it seems to me that we’ve been addressing the symptoms instead of the root causes of these problems. Porn is an undeniable presence on campus, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Porn perpetuates sexist and racist stereotypes (submissive Asian women, muscular and well-hung black men forcefully dominating women), and exposes its primary demographic—young men—to a version of sex that throws sincere connection and passion out the window. Internet porn is all about dominance and male pleasure; the female is there to please the male. Much like the fast food industry, it’s cheap and might not be all real, but it’s fast and near instantaneous in its ability to satisfy one’s cravings.

Herein lies the problem: porn conditions its consumers to want more ways to satisfy themselves, and it starts to affect societal expectations for sex and relationships. Deerfield’s hookup culture is perfect evidence of this, with its focus on getting what you want from someone and having minimal relations beyond that. Relationships have been commoditized, stripped of the “hard parts” (getting to know someone, sharing mutual interests) and prioritizing physical attraction above all else. While this can sometimes lead to long term, healthy relationships, hookups often burn out after a certain point, if not immediately after the initial event.

The worst part of the commoditization of relationships is the implicit commoditization of women on campus. Women in porn often have bodies that are hyper sexualized and “perfect,” with improbable figures designed for the male gaze. Due to porn’s pervasiveness on the Internet, this false ideal gets carried over to expectations for real women, as well. While talking about girls in guys’ dorms has been around as long as the equivalent in girls’ dorms, it strikes me that the conversations in guys’ dorms tend to be much more graphic. While my female friends have described how nice a guy might be, or how he has an attractive face or personality, many guys I know on campus tend to focus on girls’ bodies, as opposed to their personality or interests. This false expectation for women to have bodies like pornstars, paired with other negative perceptions of women such as slut-shaming and the like, ultimately create a situation where everyone loses, but especially the girls and women of the school.

The media we partake in does have an effect on how we think, and in order to have better conversations about the place of gender and sexuality at Deerfield, we need to acknowledge that it’s on us, the boys and men of the Academy, to seriously think about how we value the girls and women we share this place with.