You Don’t Own Me. Oh, Wait?!

By Jillian Gilchrest, Age 33

It’s 2015, isn’t it, and we are in the United States, right?! Then why is it OK for men to buy women?

Men purchase women all the time– to strip for them, to give them lap dances, in porn, and yes, for sex. They buy women on the street, on the internet, at strip clubs, as escorts, or at “massage parlors”. And, although prostitution is illegal, it isn’t really enforced in our country and when it is, it’s the women who are criminalized, not the men who purchase them.

I recognize that both men and women are sold in the commercial sex industry, but the overwhelming majority of the time it is women who are being sold, and it is almost always men who do the purchasing. I can’t help but think that all of this purchasing of “sex”—pornography, strippers, prostitution, is having an impact on our culture. In fact, there are numerous studies and organizations that say it is—

For those of us in the “millennial” generation, the internet has been at our finger tips since our mid-teens or earlier, meaning that sexually explicit materials have been easier to access than ever before. According to TechMedia Network, 12% of all websites are pornographic websites and every month around 72 million Internet users worldwide visit pornographic sites. The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11 years old.

This means that an entire generation of young men and women have access to sexually explicit materials that no other generation has had access to before, all while continuing to receive limited, if any, sexual education. …And we wonder if it’s having an impact?!

Don’t get me wrong, not all pornography is bad, and if you are in a healthy sexual relationship it might be a welcome addition to your sex life. But, as mentioned above, our generation received limited sex education. Maybe we learned about our period, puberty, or STDs– but healthy relationships, sexuality, and consent seem to have been left out. Our generation has been called out for being a “hook up” culture, for freely giving blow-jobs, sexting, and now most recently, participating in heterosexual anal sex at higher rates than ever before. Hmmmm…

As it turns out, pornography is biologically addictive and alters brain reward, similar to drug addiction. So, as time goes on, in order to get the high one desires, you need more porn and more extreme porn to reach the high. In a 2010 study on best-selling pornographic content, close to 90% of material had high levels of physical aggression and nearly 50% had verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. It appears that the high has gotten more aggressive and violent toward women. In Rashida Jones documentary, Hot Girls Wanted (a must see available on Netflix), she looks at the world of amateur porn, which highlights the popularity of “facial abuse”, a popular trend in porn that often involves a man verbally abusing a woman and forcing violent oral sex that might cause the woman to vomit or choke. Come again?! This is “entertainment”?!

While I recognize and am happy that there has been a lot more attention on sexual violence and intimate partner abuse recently, there continues to be a great deal of violence against women and victim blaming. I think in large part this has to do with our blatant denial of the culture we live in.

When celebrity’s intimate pictures were stolen from the iCloud a year ago, the internet went a flurry with what was called “the fappening”. Thousands of people found it completely acceptable to view, and masturbate to, naked pictures of celebrities without their consent. The common defense to viewing, “they shouldn’t have put them on the iCloud…” I think that the overwhelming majority of folks genuinely didn’t think their viewing those photos was a violation because they are so used to sexually explicit content. But what does that mean for violence against women, sexism, and gender equity?

If a man can leave work, head to the strip club with his colleagues to buy a hand job, and end his evening at home watching a woman forced to give a blow job until she pukes, how can he sit across from me the next day and respect me? When a man can buy a woman on the street, why should it be surprising that he feels completely comfortable yelling sexually charged things at me while I take a jog?

So, while it is important that culturally we are talking more about sexual and domestic violence, if we are not calling out the ways sex is being depicted all around us, 24/7, aren’t we missing a huge piece of the puzzle?  We live in a society where women are for sale. Are we OK with that?

Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at 

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