From Sexual Objectification to Sexual Subjectification? Pornography Consumption and Italian Women’s Sexual Empowerment
Much quantitative research has been devoted to the correlates of pornography consumption, often emphasizing its association with socially undesirable outcomes in the sexual domain. However, much of this research focuses on men, with women pushed into the background if not entirely ignored. The present study aims to fill this gap by exploring whether and to what extent pornography consumption among Italian women is related to two indicators of sexual empowerment: the experience of solitary sex without feelings of guilt and the idea that sexuality is a way to express oneself freely and authentically. To this end, two multivariate logistic regression models were developed. The large random sample survey used here ensures that the findings are more generalizable than those of much quantitative research on pornography carried out to date, which is often based on small convenience samples. The empirical evidence indicates that pornography consumption is associated with higher levels of both indicators of sexual empowerment. Pornography seems to be related to an increased sexual awareness as sexual subjects and to a sense of full entitlement to seek one’s own pleasure. However, some of these results are affected by an interpretative ambiguity in terms of the actual meaning of sexual empowerment shown by our indicators. In particular, the indicator relating to the idea of sexuality as a means of self-expression leaves room for an interpretation regarding a neoliberal construction of a new compulsory subjectivity.
Keywords: pornography, masturbation, sexual empowerment, female sexuality, Italy, quantitative analysis.