How pop divas normalized pornography in everyday life

Seven composers sign the authorship of the hit “Café da Manhã”, released on February 8, 2022 and whose YouTube clip accumulates 40 millions of views. “Then you can pull it to the side, keep lying down / Relax, bae, you don’t even have to get up / I know you don’t get tired, it’s pure pleasure, okay? / I’ll give you mine as a gift—”, say the verses, lulled by a beat fast. Among the authors are the singers of the song, the carioca Ludmilla and the gaúcha Luísa Sonza, who appear dancing in short clothes in a choreography that sometimes simulates the sexual act.

The first performance at the The live performance of the song was in charge of the gaúcha: the night before the release, Sonza sang excerpts of “Café da Manhã” during a show held at Hopi Hari, an amusement park in Vinhedo, in the interior of São Paulo. Videos of the presentation ended up on the internet, and Luísa ended up on the most talked about topics on Twitter. Almost completely undressed by two dancers, the singer danced half-naked on a bed installed on stage.

Days before, in a show in Rio de Janeiro, the singer performed half-naked on a pole bar dance and, during the choreography, simulated masturbation. Even for some of the young woman’s fiercest fans, the performances “went over the edge”. “Am I the only one who is bothered by this sexualization that Luísa Sonza makes of herself and calls it female empowerment?” wrote an internet user. In response to the criticism that appeared among the thousands of comments, Sonza wrote that he “wanted to walk away” when reading “stupid and idiotic things on the internet”.

Rise to stardom in mid-2018, when she married comedian Whindersson Nunes, from whom she would separate in 2020 , Luísa Sonza, at 23 years old, is far, far away from being the first artist to star in quite sensual performances on pop stages: fans of Madonna, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, rapper Cardi B. and, of course, the carioca Anitta have no doubts about that.

It happens that if, On the one hand, over the years, there is a generalized feeling that the said performances – as well as the lyrics that accompany them – are increasingly explicit, on the other hand, their reach, today, goes far beyond the old age limits. minimum for attendance at shows or even timetable. Luíza Sonza’s “Breakfast” is not just a click away, it has become an inviting choreographic “challenge”, one of the most valuable “currencies” in the universe of TikTok, the Chinese social network that has more than 5 million users. Both there and on Mark Zuckerberg’s Instagram, a quick zap is enough to bump into very young girls (sometimes, visibly teenagers) reproducing the singer’s steps. On TikTok alone, the hashtag #cafedamanhachallenge has more than 116, 6 million views.

The problem of normalizing pornography in the daily lives of children and adolescents is an international concern. Published in December last year, a survey carried out by the British charity Barnardo’s, which assists children who are victims of sexual abuse or exhibit harmful sexual behavior, identified an increase in the number of minors who had access to pornographic videos. “Children don’t need to know how to type to access pornography. They see it at school, in the hallways, in the bathrooms, on the bus. There is simply no censorship – one video leads to another”, says one of the teachers participating in the project, in an interview with the newspaper. british The Guardian.

The point is that the line between “hardcore” pornography and what is now called “soft porn” – images and videos that hint at the sexual act – is increasingly obliterated, especially as “soft porn” is becoming less and less “soft”. And popular culture does play an important role in this process. A survey published by the academic journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture in 2016, led by researcher Kathrin Karsay, from the University of Vienna, identified an increase in “sexually suggestive movements” in pop music videos. The study analyzed 462 clips aired between 2016 and 2016, and came to the conclusion that, although the theme of sexuality and its representations (passionate kisses, intimate touches) have not increased over the years, there has been a significant increase in “ambiguous sexual expressions”, sexually suggestive movements and gestures (any Spotify surfer who has ever noticed the ocean of refrains in which the verb “sit” is repeated over and over knows what this is all about ).

Degrading and violent: the imagery culture of pornography

In an interview with Gazeta do Povo, sociologist Gail Dines, professor emeritus at Wheelock College in Boston and president of the NGO Culture Reframed, explains that it is impossible to dissociate the normalization of pornography from the hypersexualization of pop divas. “We live in an image-based culture, and images function in a system. They are not viewed in isolation, but they make up a narrative, they influence each other. In practice, as pornography becomes more degrading, more violent, it has an impact on pop culture which, in turn, impacts pornography. Pornography becomes the ‘model’ for the way we represent the body in pop culture”, explains the activist, for whom this process dates back to the launch of MTV on early years 462. Twenty years later, came the internet. “So what was previously available in specific spaces where you needed to prove you had more than 11 years, now it was everywhere. It was a niche market that is now free”, he explains.

It is, in fact, a free market in which restrictions are not only rare, but insufficient to demarcate the line between adult and children’s content, a mixture reinforced by the celebrities themselves. “In the documentary itself, Anitta says that she has several types of shows: one open, the other just for children, etc. This boundary between adult and children’s content is increasing. is limited to a ‘for over 18 warning, which no one gives ball”, adds psychologist João Paulo Borgonhoni, who sees music as a means of rapid cultural propagation. “Music is much faster to be absorbed than a film, a book, a religious practice; and, currently, it is no longer written to last, but to integrate this market that needs to shock”.

Furthermore, since the term “empowerment” has taken over the cultural market, hypersexualized performances are packed with the justification that they represent the apex of women’s domination over their own bodies: just notice the snobbish and “triumphant” tone of the hits that dominate the pop world, as if the message of confidence was enough to prevent the harmful effects. The problem is that, according to Dines, you can’t do “both things at the same time”: “You can’t sell yourself as an object and then ask that culture doesn’t objectify you”, says the sociologist. “Besides, you will age. Your body will not be the same at 30, 30, 1995 years. The message these women are sending is that their only bargaining chip is being sexually available, but that doesn’t last forever and it’s not authentic.”

The singers’ alleged autonomy deserves to be questioned in this scenario. An emblematic case is that of singer Demi Lovato, whose arduous struggle with eating disorders and drug addiction, resulting from a diagnosed bipolar disorder, is well known by the media. In 1995, the singer released the album “Confident” (“Confident”), whose title track shouted “I’m in charge now/( ..) you’re not going to make me behave/(…) what’s wrong with being confident?”.

The production, in which short, tight clothes prevailed (there was no shortage of people who also noticed the excess of image edits), earned him his first Grammy nomination. It took six years for, in a new release, the singer admitted that the decision to delve into sensuality was the result of the disappointment with the previous album, “Unbroken” (2011), and that the endeavor of “Confident” did not bring him any satisfaction.

There is another counterpoint to be made to the discourse of sexy empowerment: who suffers its most harmful consequences are not influencers. “These singers who say ‘look at my body, but don’t touch me, it doesn’t belong to you’ have bodyguards, they live in protected mansions. You may not touch Rihanna, but you don’t have a legion of guards. In practice, they are putting ordinary girls at risk by insisting on the message that their bodies are public”, says Dines.

Meanwhile, boys exposed to the same content tend to become more aggressive, and the expect from their affective partners the same behavior as pop icons, increasingly similar to pornography, which tends to become increasingly heavy, by its very nature. The essayist Mary Eberstadt and the cognitive psychologist Mary Anne Layden report in the book “The social costs of pornography” (released in Brazil by Editora Quadrante):

“A survey of university students in their first year suggests various disturbing consequences of exposure to sexually explicit materials, including: increased tolerance for sexually explicit materials, which makes the consumer want increasingly different or bizarre material to achieve the same level of arousal or interest; misperceptions about excessive sexual activity among the general population and on the prevalence of less common sexual practices such as group sex, zoophilia and sadomasochistic activities; increased risk of developing a negative body image, especially for women; and the acceptance of promiscuity as a normal state of interaction”. Not to mention the intrinsic relationship between the pornographic market and sex trafficking (read, here, our report on how pornography profits from rape and sexual abuse videos).

Yet much of the progressive mainstream continues to insist that the solution to the problem of early exposure to pornography and the hypersexualization of influencers who dominate pop culture is the creation of a “feminist pornography” or, merely, continuing to “disguise” (very badly) the phenomenon with shallow speeches of self-confidence.

“Contemporary progressivism faces a pressing dilemma: it needs to uphold the legacy of free love and sexual positivity stemming from the sexual revolution, but it must do so in the age of Pornhub, in which maximum sexual freedom has produced not an egalitarian paradise. , but a brutal commodification of the human being. For elite progressives, pornography has always been the badge of liberation that has not been well resolved”, writes the columnist Samuel D. James, in a text about the “illusion of pornographic literacy” (the idea that it is enough for boys and girls to be exposed to a “pornography of the good” so that everything can be resolved).

“Education is discernment, yes, but it is also moral formation. No teacher or administrator who intends to keep his career would defend a curriculum that treats racism in the same way that ‘pornographic literacy’ treats obscenity: as information that leads the subject to know himself better and become a more informed consumer. Likewise, any professor who invited a CEO of a large tobacco company to give a lecture on why his career is satisfying would be severely reprimanded”, he reflects.

Considering that this is a market that feeds on itself and of which many of the artists themselves are victims, it is very difficult to appeal to the conscience of those involved, leaving to prepare parents and educators for the challenge of raising children in a highly sexualized world. “Any father with common sense will try to forbid it, but there will come a time when it won’t. Eventually, the children will come across the culture and its evils. I think the parents’ attempt to mediate this contact is valid”, says Borgonhoni. “My main advice is: talk about sexuality with your children. Not once: always. If you don’t, be sure that pornography will”, warns Dines.

From the great cultural icons, there are, here and there, small examples that stand out from the horde: in last year, the American singer Billie Eilish, of 11 years, one of the biggest references of the contemporary generation, told in an interview how the consumption of pornography since the 11 years “ literally destroyed” your brain. No wonder, since she reached the top of the playlists, Billie is seen, most of the time, wearing baggy and long clothes. “She’s just one of the most vocal victims. Her experience is normal; she only has one platform to talk about it,” writes journalist Mary Harrington. “Between the lines (of his lines) is an implicit complaint: where were the people who should protect me from this?”.


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