What the Viral Gillette “Best Men Can Be” Ad Teaches About Porn Culture

By KC

Header image is a screenshot taken from Gillette’s YouTube. 4 minute read.

If your newsfeed has looked anything like ours the last two days, it’s been filled with posts about this short film from Gillette, the men’s shaving brand.

As you might have guessed, we’re about to talk about “toxic masculinity.” Before you disregard this post based on your preconceived notions of what “toxic masculinity” is, or whether you do or don’t agree with the term, read on to find out how this Gilette ad relates to our movement to raise awareness on the harms of porn.

Check out the video if you haven’t yet:

The video focuses on calling-out many normalized behaviors such as cat-calling, sexual assault, harassment, bullying, shutting down women, and elevating the “boys will be boys” mentality that has thrived in society for so long.

It makes the point that “The Best A Man Can Get,” Gillette’s famous tagline, should exemplify something deeper, like the fight against passivity in allowing unhealthy and toxic ideals that have long been associated with what it means to be a “real man” in society today—even featuring Terry Crews, a huge supporter of Fight the New Drug.

Related: How Early Porn Exposure Traumatizes Boys And Fuels Toxic Masculinity

The video is ultimately a call to action for men to hold other men accountable in a #MeToo world, supporting each other with love and honesty instead of complicity in the face of unhealthy and unacceptable behavior. Sounds pretty good, right?

It ends with the phrase, “The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

But what does any of this have to do with porn and the culture the adult entertainment industry has created and fuels?

Porn culture vs. toxic masculinity

Consider how the age of first exposure to porn is between 9-11 years old. In that way, the boys watching porn today will also be the men of tomorrow.

The reality is, the issues Gillette’s ad campaign calls out are popular themes in mainstream porn today. For example, the average porn consumer might not be able to tell the difference between a scenario in a porn video and a real #MeToo story. Not to mention that rape, sexual assault, and harassment are often portrayed as taboo fantasy, rather than harmful actions that are unacceptable: “Woman in the park gets f— by a passerby,” “Girl found sleeping drunk on the street gets raped by stranger,” “Teen girl jogging in park gets overpowered by attacker and abducted in car.” These are just a few porn titles on popular porn sites anyone can find with a simple Google search.

Related: Does Porn Objectify Both Men And Women? Yes, But In Different Ways

It can’t be denied that a vast majority of porn—violent or not—portrays men as powerful and in charge; while women are submissive and obedient. [1] Watching scene after scene of dehumanizing submission makes it start to seem normal. [2] It sets the stage for lopsided power dynamics in couple relationships and the gradual acceptance of verbal and physical aggression against women. [3] Research has confirmed that those who consume porn (even if it’s nonviolent) are more likely to support statements that promote abuse and sexual aggression toward women and girls. [4]

Ultimately, porn continually sells the idea that men need to be dominant and aggressive in intimate settings, and take advantage of vulnerable women whenever possible. This promotes a twisted, toxic version of masculinity in which only real men are unwaveringly tough, aggressive, and dominant. This is the toxic version of masculinity that Gillette is ultimately speaking out against with this campaign. And this toxic version of masculinity is what we’re calling out in today’s porn.

Fighting toxic masculinity means fighting porn

We’re speaking out because if we as a society want to fight against toxic and twisted masculine stereotypes, we need to expose the industries that ultimately fuel and foster this culture. If we want to watch the next generation grow up, unencumbered by the baggage of unacceptable stereotypes that silences abuse survivors and accepts harassment and abuse as a part of life, we need to wake up to how porn holds back today’s boys from becoming the best versions of tomorrow’s men.

Related: 3 Ways Porn Openly Vilifies Men And Exploits Their Insecurities

If you’re fired up about the Gillette campaign and fighting for men to hold other men accountable, we invite you to get involved with our global movement for love.

Because, in the end, men deserve better than to be continually fed toxic stereotypes, and men deserve much better than porn. Will you join us?

Citations

[1] DeKeseredy, W. (2015). Critical Criminological Understandings Of Adult Pornography And Women Abuse: New Progressive Directions In Research And Theory. International Journal For Crime, Justice, And Social Democracy, 4(4) 4-21. Doi:10.5204/Ijcjsd.V4i4.184; Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half The Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study Of Pornography Use Among A Sample Of Urban, Low-Income, Black And Hispanic Youth. Journal Of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908; Layden, M. A. (2010) Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57-68). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Ryu, E. (2008). Spousal Use Of Pornography And Its Clinical Significance For Asian-American Women: Korean Woman As An Illustration. Journal Of Feminist Family Therapy, 16(4), 75. Doi:10.1300/J086v16n04_05; Shope, J. H. (2004). When Words Are Not Enough: The Search For The Effect Of Pornography On Abused Women. Violence Against Women, 10(1), 56-72. Doi:10.1177/1077801203256003
[2] Rothman, E. F., Kaczmarsky, C., Burke, N., Jansen, E., & Baughman, A. (2015). “Without Porn…I Wouldn’t Know Half The Things I Know Now”: A Qualitative Study Of Pornography Use Among A Sample Of Urban, Low-Income, Black And Hispanic Youth. Journal Of Sex Research, 52(7), 736-746. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.960908; Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., Kleiner, S., & Irizarry, Y. (2010). Pornography, Normalization And Empowerment. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 39 (6) 1389-1401. Doi:10.1007/S10508-009-9592-5; Doring, N. M. (2009). The Internet’s Impact On Sexuality: A Critical Review Of 15 Years Of Research. Computers In Human Behavior, 25(5), 1089-1101. Doi:10.1016/J.Chb.2009.04.003; Zillmann, D. (2000). Influence Of Unrestrained Access To Erotica On Adolescents’ And Young Adults’ Dispositions Toward Sexuality. Journal Of Adolescent Health, 27, 2: 41–44. Retrieved From Https://Www.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/Pubmed/10904205
[3] Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In J. Stoner And D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., & Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development, 45:119–131. Doi:10.1353/Csd.2004.0019; Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhardt, L., And Giery, M. A. (1995). Exposure To Pornography And Acceptance Of The Rape Myth. Journal Of Communication, 45(1), 5–26. Doi:10.1111/J.1460-2466.1995.Tb00711.X
[4] Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., And Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography And Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting The Relationship In Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression And Behavior, 36(1), 14–20. Doi:10.1002/Ab.20328; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver, B. J., And Bahner, A. D. (2004). Gender Role Attitudes, Religion, And Spirituality As Predictors Of Domestic Violence Attitudes In White College Students. Journal Of College Student Development, 45(2), 119–131. Doi:10.1353/Csd.2004.0019; Zillmann, D. (2004). Pornografie. In R. Mangold, P. Vorderer, & G. Bente (Eds.) Lehrbuch Der Medienpsychologie (Pp. 565–85). Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe Verlag; Zillmann, D. (1989). Effects Of Prolonged Consumption Of Pornography. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant, (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances And Policy Considerations (P. 155). Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.

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