Dr. John Foubert has been in the movement to end sexual violence for 25 years. He’s an academic who has written seven books on that topic and another on the harms of pornography.
It’s no surprise, then, that I wanted to see what he thought of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the resultant #MeToo grassroots campaign. Unfortunately, in light of the research he as done on the prevalence of sexual assault across the country, the Harvey Weinstein scandal was no surprise to Dr. Foubert, either.
Therefore, I asked him what we can do to change the culture to make sexual assault unconscionable. The outrage many women and men are feeling right now is an important element of changing the culture. But it is equally important to get to the roots of the problem.
Pornography’s Role in All This
The #MeToo grassroots campaign, Dr. Foubert explained, is inspiring in lots of people a sense of empathy, because for the first time, they are learning that people they know and love have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. In fact, the campaign garnered over half a million social posts in just a couple days.
What kills empathy, however, is pornography. “Certainly, pornography gets people to think that there’s a certain way that’s socially acceptable to treat others, and the view of women that is shown in pornography is one that is very canned and very violent.”
“We know from research that women are grossly violated in pornography, ” Foubert added. “When you have behaviors that are normative — and I don’t want to go into too graphic detail — where you have… [women who are] beaten and tortured and gagged, that becomes more socially acceptable, the more people watch that.”
Pornography trains young children and teens, who are being exposed to pornography at younger and younger ages, to think that kind of violence is okay, and it’s an empathy killer, he explained.
Ending Sexual Assault
Dr. Foubert encouraged anyone who experiences sexual harassment or assault to report it to the appropriate authorities. Both men and women can work to change the culture and look out for each other.
As for pornography, more people simply need to make the individual decision not to view it. When we hear friends tell us they watch it, we need to speak up and tell them why it’s harmful.
Finally, we need to hold Internet service providers accountable for bringing obscene materials into people’s homes. Lawmakers need to hold people responsible, and the Justice Department needs to start prosecuting illegal pornography.
Pornography “is just a part of the toxicity of our culture today that I really think we need to flush down the cultural toilet,” said Foubert.