Theory: Porn Doesn't Objectify Women, It Just Turns Us Into Animals (Upgrade?)

For decades, critics of pornography have insisted that it objectifies women. The thinking is that the more prominent a woman's body is, the more people are inclined to treat her ans an object — and less inclined to think of her as a human with thoughts, goals and emotions. But in a new study, researchers have found that's not necessarily true.

Joshua Knobe, a professor at Yale University, was the second author on a study conducted by Kurt Gray, from the University of Maryland. In one experiment, participants were randomly assigned to receive a picture of a woman either clothed, naked or in a sexual depiction. Knobe writes:

Theory: Porn Doesn't Objectify Women, It Just Turns Us Into Animals (Upgrade?)

Within each condition, participants were asked to judge the degree to which she was capable of self control, planning and acting morally (what we called agency) and also about the degree to which she was capable of feeling fear, feeling desire and feeling pleasure (what we called experience).

But the results did not show that people perceive a naked woman as bereft of experience:

…When the body was made more salient, people decreased their ascriptions of agency, but they actually increased their ascriptions of experience.

In short, it doesn't look like pornography is leading men to treat women as mere 'objects' (like a table). Instead, we seem to be getting something that might be called animalification-treating a woman as though she lacks the capacity for complex thinking and reasoning, but at the same time, treating her as though she was even more capable of having strong feelings and emotional responses

Interesting, as sexualized women are, quite often, referred to as animals: Playboy bunnies, sex kittens, vixens, cougars, hellcats, tigers in the sack, foxy ladies.

Even if it's not exactly objectification, isn't it still problematic? Yes. As Knobe writes, "This can be an extremely degrading and harmful form of treatment, but all the same, it is something quite different from objectification as traditionally conceived. The problem here doesn't have to do with ignoring a person's mind but rather with focusing exclusively on just one part of that mind."

Does Pornography Treat Women as Objects? [Experiments In Philosophty/Psychology Today]
More than a Body: Mind Perception and the Nature of Objectification [PDF of study]