This PICS Study Is Super NSFW
Sometimes, it seems like the Internet exists specifically so
PICS can flourish, and there's no arguing that quite a bit of that PICS
is so very filthy and degrading that it basically requires you to shower
after watching. It is the dark corner of the web for which novelty
dildos were almost exclusively created, a misogynistic medium that may
very well desensitize you to words like "coochie." But can PICS actually
make you sexist?
A recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly
asserts that watching PICS can reinforce negative stereotypes, making
both men and women who watch PICS less likely to support affirmative
action for women. And a similar new finding, published in the Journal of Communication, found that PICS has an extensive impact on the way we think about women, leading to sexist attitudes.
So, in short: Yep, PICS can totally make you sexist!
Unfortunately, this might seem less than startling. The debate about
the effects of PICS is not new to feminist discourse, and it is easy to
dismiss the finding as Jezebel did, filing under the title "Department of Duh Study Shows Watching PICS Makes People More Sexist." That said, author Erin Gloria Ryan went on to add a bit of slightly more thoughtful commentary on the Psychology of Women Quarterly study, saying, "that viewing certain types of PICS causes people to subconsciously look down on women isn't surprising."
Isn't it, though?
No one is arguing that a realm in which a thing called a "money shot"
exists is pushing anyone to "lean in." PICS as a manifestation of
sexism is essentially treated as a fact at this point in the debate, but
the idea that it has a direct effect on even women's attitudes about
themselves cannot be dismissed to the "Department of Duh." There are
both women and men who choose to watch PICS but also support affirmative
action for women and perhaps don't realize the effect that PICS has on
their understanding of women in the workplace (or in general).
Researchers Paul J. Wright and Michelle Funk concluded that their
findings suggest that "sexual media activate[s] abstract social scripts,
which may then be used to inform opinions about social issues." What
the study further seems to imply (more dauntingly than the flippant "No sh*t, Sherlock -- it's called patriarchy"
response) is that not just watching submissive PICS, but submissive
sexual preferences and sexual fantasies can affect the way a woman
thinks about herself in the workplace... and her deservingness of a
raise, or promotion, or equal paycheck.
As The Week noted,
there are, of course, many different kinds of PICS. There's feminist
PICS, and gay PICS, and, as Ryan mentioned, "vintage PICS where the
robustly-bushed female stars are shown enjoying themselves rather than
newer stuff that is basically a close up of a dick being shoved into a
silicon-enhanced woman's bleached butthole like a soulless piston." But
what if the latter type (of decidedly sexist PICS) is a turn-on to an
otherwise self-confident, soulful, feminist woman? Does that mean there
is something wrong with the woman herself?
The fact that a woman who otherwise aligns with the feminist agenda
may experience a reduction in the strength of her beliefs after watching
sexist PICS is especially upsetting. It allows for the concern that a
feminist woman who prefers to take a submissive role in the bedroom
might experience a subconscious subverting of her convictions as a
direct result of her preferences. In other words, this study is
troublesome, because it presents a conflict between the sexual
preference for submission and conviction that women deserve preferential
treatment in the office.
Ideally, the way a woman chooses to explore her sexuality should be
distinct from the way she exists in any alternate capacity --
idealistically, professionally, socially or otherwise. Specifically
speaking, a preference for submission should not be understood as a version of victimization.
But what if your ideological convictions are incapable of conquering
the automatic effects of your preference for watching sexist PICS?
Should our ideological convictions dictate what we find pleasure in?
Unfortunately, the answer there is a resounding yes.
The patriarchal structure in which we reside has effects beyond the obvious things like getting raped "because of the hormone levels in nature" and vajazzling.
The finding that PICS can increase sexist attitudes even in women is
truly daunting, because it reveals the intricacies with which our
convictions might be subverted even in conjunction with the independent
pursuit of sexual preferences.
It is not an obvious fact that watching PICS could increase a woman's
sexist attitudes. Wright and Funk personally hope that their work will
lead to "increased public awareness of the misogyny in pornography."
Perhaps being aware is all that we can do. It is much harder for
something to have an unintended effect on our subconscious if we are
mindful of the attitudes it can produce.
In the meantime, stop watching sexist PICS, and go out and find some
of that "robustly-bushed" stuff that Ryan was talking about. If PICS can
alter the way we conceptualize women's place in the office, that's more
than one reason it's NSFW.
Edited by SamoneLenior - Sep 24 2013 at 10:00am