Homo Consumericus

The nature and nurture of consumption

Unrealistic Depictions of Women’s Genitalia in Porn Movies?

Porn movies and women’s inner lips

For many men who watch porn movies, it is quite conceivable that they might develop a concern if not complex about the size of their penis since male porn actors are known for their rather large “endowments.” Interested readers might wish to check out some of my earlier posts dealing with pornography here, here, here, and here, and on various penis-related issues here, here, and here. I also tackle the evolutionary roots of pornography in The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature. Returning to atypical genital depictions, do porn movies also depict women’s bodies in ways that are unrepresentative of the general population (see some of my earlier articles on women’s breasts here, here, and here, and another on the color of their genitalia here)? In today’s post, I’d like to briefly discuss a 2010 article published in Medical Humanities that tackled this exact issue.

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Helena Howarth, Volker Sommer and Fiona M. Jordan compared depictions of women’s genitalia from three separate sources: 1) Three online pornography portals: RedTube, YouPorn, and PornHub (98 images in total); 2) General anatomy textbooks available at the University College London Science Library (29 images in total, many of which were drawings); 3) Three feminist sources comprised of one website (Vulvology) and two books (Petals and Femalia) for a total of 126 images. Prior to proceeding any further in the description of the study, I’ll point out that of the three authors of this paper two are women so hopefully this will dissuade possible trolling of the “such research is only conducted by dirty old men” variety! There were two separate parts to this study: 1) Measuring the protuberance of the labia minora (i.e., the extent to which the inner lips “stick out”); 2) Five morphological measures of a woman’s genitalia (clitoral hood length; distance from clitoris to urethra; labia majora length; labia minora length; perineum length), to then be used to calculate all ten possible ratios between any two measures. I will restrict today’s focus on the first objective. Needless to say, the three sources of images were chosen because they include a likely objective set of depictions (the anatomy textbooks) as well as “biased” depictions (pornographic films and feminist sources, each of which largely targets men and women respectively).

The protuberances of the labia minor (PLM) were measured using a 1-5 scale wherein a ‘1” corresponded to a PLM of 10 millimeters or less (barely visible if at all), and every subsequent integer on the scale was tantamount to a 10-millimeter increase in PLM. The measurements were obtained from the static images or from paused film clips. One of the researchers collected all of the measurements with a 10% random sample of these estimated by a second researcher. The inter-rater correlation was 0.98, a very high agreement rate across the two raters. Here are two of the key findings:

1) Only the feminist publications exhibited depictions at the highest end of the PLM scale (i.e., a score of 5).

2) There was a statistically significant difference (p < .001) between the pornographic and feminist sources, such that the former had lower PLM scores than the latter. In other words, pornographic images, which otherwise largely cater to men, depict inner lips that are smaller than the norm. This preference coincides with the fact that of all cosmetic gynecological procedures, labiaplasty is one of the more common ones (i.e., surgical intervention meant to reduce the protuberance).

Moral of today’s story: No one should utilize pornographic images as a comparative norm in establishing one’s self-image of his/her genitalia!

Please consider following me on Twitter (@GadSaad).

 

Source for Image:

http://bit.ly/1bwSbo6

 

Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing at Concordia University and author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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