Is Violent Porn Making Girls Identify as Transgender?

In 2022, The Daily Wire released the documentary What is a Woman? The film featured conservative commentator Matt Walsh exploring the titular question through a combination of interviews and on-the-ground reporting, and the results were typically triggering for transgender activists outraged by the film’s success. According to X (formerly Twitter), the documentary accumulated 177 million views on the platform within a week—which, even when adjusting for shoddy metrics, makes it one of the most successful documentaries of all time.

Walsh’s film could only skim the surface of the transgender debate. A 2023 Pornhub press release noted that “transgender” is now the site’s third-most popular category, and this data indicates, as Michael Warren Davis observed, that “statistically, the huge majority of Republican men are watching ‘transgender’ porn.” This interest is not necessarily organic; an investigation released in December revealed that Pornhub actively pushes gay and transgender porn to help kids find their ‘kink’ and shape sexual attitudes. Th evidence that digital pornography plays a key role in metastasizing sexual identities and proclivities is overwhelming.

There is another very important aspect to the porn-to-transgender pipeline that has been largely ignored. For millions of young people, masculinity and femininity are being defined by online pornography—with profound and ugly consequences. Porn addiction is now ubiquitous among young people, and a generation has grown up with their view of sexuality shaped by the extreme and violent content found on major porn sites such as Pornhub. An increasingly toxic sexual environment in which sexual violence has been normalized has been the result.

A 2019 study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior, for example, found that teenage boys exposed to violent pornography are two to three times more likely to victimize girls. Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner of England, recently warned that porn-inspired sexual violence is on the rise even among children. “I will never forget the girl who told me about her first kiss with her boyfriend, aged 12, who strangled her,” de Souza reported. “He had seen it in pornography and thought it was normal.”

He wasn’t wrong. A new UK report indicates that “nearly half of all girls aged 16 to 21 say they’ve had a partner expect sex to involve physical aggression such as slapping and choking.” The normalization of sexual violence is the culture-wide consequence of men and boys imagining themselves as the aggressor in millions upon millions of porn scenes. Consider just a sampling of recent data:

  • A British study found that 44% of boys between the ages of 11 and 16 who viewed pornography said that porn gave them ideas about sex acts they wanted to try.
  • A 2016 study found that 53% of 11-16 year-old-boys and 39% of 11-16-year-old girls said that they believed pornography was a realistic depiction of sex.
  • A 2021 study found that 1 out of every 8 porn videos shown to first-time users on porn home pages feature acts of sexual violence.
  • A 2021 study found that 24.5% of young adults cited pornography as the most helpful resource for learning how to have sex.

Girls and boys are now coming of age in a dating landscape shaped primarily by pornography. Sexual violence has become normative not just for adults copycatting digital porn and sexual entertainment such as Fifty Shades of Gray, but for minors and children as well. Much of the sexual violence that occurs in our society is now simply a part of the way men and women—and boys and girls—treat each other, and most of this behavior takes place in the ever-growing grey zone between consent, crime, and coercion.

Consider one example: in 2019, a report in The Atlantic noted a sharp rise in the practice of choking during sex, with 24% of American women reporting that they felt fear during intimacy as a result. A 2021 survey published by The Insider revealed that one in three female undergrads between the ages of 18 and 24 at a major American university reporting being choked the last time they had sex; 58% of female college students said they’d been choked by a partner, with almost 65% reporting that it occurred during their first sexual or kissing encounter. According to the study, the practice is so common among Gen-Zers that most don’t even discuss it

For millions of girls—and boys—the answer to the question “what is a woman?” is coming from Pornhub. In that context, it’s not difficult to see why many girls would see their femininity as a net negative—something likely to make them the target of unwanted sexual attention and abuse.

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