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Tête-à-Tête with Love Handles : Porn Viewership & Body Image Concerns

body image
By Anuja Razdan TW [ body image issues, sexual abuse, anxiety]  I vaguely remember the day but do remember that one moment when I felt upon me the aversive gaze of all the women in the metro coach. All this is a result of me discussing porn with a friend of mine and the slightly heightened timbre of my voice. I think I will never forget such days, nudging me towards the stark reality – how even in the 21st century, and being a third-world nation, the Indian mindset is still struggling to maintain its pace when it comes to the “sex talk”.  Recently, porn viewership all around the world has observed various shifts in the trend. Statistically speaking, kids as young as 10 in Ireland have access to porn (based on a survey conducted by a cyber safety firm in 2019) and view it frequently without their or guardians ’ knowledge. In India too, even though the recent porn ban was appreciated by some communities, it, however, did not serve a significant purpose in addressing the actual concerns. There can be a problematic impact on watching porn at a young age sans effective sex education – a perpetual cycle of conditioning & internalization may take place which can be detrimental for the individual’s overall mental & emotional health. One such prominent effect that has been looked into is pertaining to the body image concerns in porn viewers.  Mainstream porn (usually involving cis-gendered and heterosexual people) has never failed to present a skewed image of how sex is like, or how it should be. From a feminist perspective, there is ample objectification and subordination of women, i.e., their bodies are sexualized, viewed as “objects of pleasure”, to gratify the male gaze. There is a “perfect body” – comprising features such as sculpted breasts, a particularly thin waist & wide hips – far from how we see ourselves. The issues that threaten women’s control over their bodies & sexual needs can be illustrated in the way shown.  At this point, I think my experience with body image concerns might add onto the weight of this discussion. I got acquainted with the sexual act at a very young age when I didn’t understand what the term “sex” even meant. Having suffered sexual abuse as a child, it was difficult to navigate through what sex essentially meant to me, how would I ever draw a line, and if & when I should. It triggered my anxiety and the very next moment my relationship with my body came spiraling down. While viewing porn, I used to grab hold of my love handles and completely distract myself, and kept overthinking about how I looked. Somedays, I used to sit hours in front of the mirror and cry, while others went with me avoiding the sight of any and every reflecting surface. I stopped watching porn, but my trauma used to resurface through my hypersexual behaviors, such as being obsessed with sexual thoughts, urges, or actions that often caused distress to me and even negatively affected my well-being & relationships. Being in the company of fat-shaming friends and relatives didn’t exactly make it easier. After years of constant criticism, judgment & scrutiny – I sought help and managed to initiate a step further into the healing process.  Today, as I look back, I understand how a lot of people around me harmed me without realizing how they could affect somebody’s life. I acknowledge the conditioning that plenty of us have been subjected to, mostly subconsciously, leading to the internalization of a number of faulty belief systems – how all of its essentials the importance of a feminist discourse while addressing issues such as body image since it is so deeply rooted into and emerging from patriarchy. Hence, before we advocate for the cause, we need to account for what reinforces such beliefs and challenge their very existence, one step at a time.  Disclaimer: The views and story expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and doesn’t mean to hurt any sentiment, whatsoever.
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