Pornographic Violence

Written by Marian Phillips
Marian is a first year student in the Women’s History Graduate Program.

Over the last year the United States has bared witness to a resurgence of legislature aimed at restricting sexually explicit images based on a possibility of violence, or risk of health. This year alone has seen Florida’s House of Representatives successfully declare the material as a public health risk, with Republican Representative Ross Spano of Florida as its sponsor. While questioning legal issues pertaining to sexually explicit material is not entirely uncommon in the United States, the discussion often pertains to the viewer, not necessarily the performers.

As the #MeToo movement has seen actors such as Lady Gaga speaking out against abuse, adult film actors Leigh Raven and Riley Nixon have also courageously used their voices to speak out against the abuse in the pornography industry.  As survivors of abuse in the pornography industry have spoken up, they have also called out their abusers. Porn actors James Deen and Ron Jeremy are two of the men that have been accused by significant others and coworkers of assault. Perhaps the biggest assailant of them all is the idol of many young men around the world, Hugh Hefner.

Playboy magazine’s founder Hugh Hefner passed away at the ripe old age of 91 in September of 2017. Since his passing, many women subject to Hefner’s abuse have opened up about it. Holly Madison, ex-playboy playmate and ex-partner to Hefner, wrote a tell all memoir of the relationship titled Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny (2015). Madison tells the world of the relationship she had once shared with Hefner, detailing counts of coercion and manipulation at the hand of the elderly businessman. While some playmates have denied these allegations, others have come forward against him and in support of Madison in the wake of his passing.

Harkening back towards the aforementioned legislature passed in Florida, Spano presented the argument that viewing pornography in excess would result in an inability to form healthy intimate partner relationships and result in sexual deviance. What the Republican Representative of Florida forgets to mention is the recognition of abuse in the industry as a whole. As many young men in the United States have idolized Hefner, Deen, and Jeremy, is it too bold to say that their idolization has resulted in what Spano recognizes as deviance? Or would it be appropriate to determine that toxic masculinity and violence towards women is bred through a lack of recognizing the impact of idols with abusive behaviors when presented in positions of dominance?

As the #MeToo movement continues to draw nationwide attention and prompt other women to speak out on their abuse by men in positions of power, it is important to ask these questions. By questioning the core of pornography in its production at the hands of abusive men, the results can reveal many more questions, but just as many answers. Pornography as a whole is not necessarily an inherently abusive medium, for historically it has been used in favor of women for educational purposes. Yet it does pose the question of how men seeking dominant position have used it to inflict dominance, and in turn abuse, towards women they work with or employ.

I find it is important to note that sexually explicit images are entirely subjective based on the individual who is consuming the material, I am not trying to stake claim on what is or is not explicit. Please find a list below of a few historians that have conducted in-depth analyses on pornography.

  • Whitney Strub
  • Robert Darnton
  • Anna Clark
  • Marta Vicente
  • Robert Rosen

This blog post is in no way a stance against pornography. It is meant to question the motives of men in the industry of pornography and the phrasing used in anti-pornography legislation. 


Written by Hannah McCandless
Hannah is a first year student in the Women’s History Graduate Program.

The last several weeks have been a stressful time for survivors of sexual violence. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of sexual assault by Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh have dominated the news cycle and forced numerous victims of assault to relive difficult and traumatizing memories. One of the most common damnations of assault victims, including Dr. Ford, is that many non-victims do not understand why someone would choose not to report. The assumption that if someone does not report their assault immediately makes the assault less valid or less believable than someone who reports immediately is infuriating and demeaning.

An archive’s worth of posts could be written on this topic, but for this week, we have chosen to highlight the voices of the thousands of survivors who expressed their outrage on twitter with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. Below are the voices of women and men who are fed up, hurt, tired, and motivated. Their reasons are heartbreaking, but as a collective voice they are empowering, strong, and inspirational.


I shared my story on Facebook and a dude messaged me to tell me I needed to stop trying to ruin mens lives so that’s how today is going

Sara Marshmallow
because even making this post, I am scared of what will happen.

Emily H Stooksberry

being assaulted in HS, oh wait I did. I told the school counselor. She wrote me up for “public display of affection” and gave me detention. I was so shamed I took corporal punishment instead so my parents wouldn’t find out. At least he didn’t rape me.

Lauren Sheldon

At 6, I was six.
At 17, he was a “friend” and I didn’t want to “ruin his life.”
At 19, I was drunk.
At 23, I was ashamed it had happened again.

Emma Anne Moody

He was a leader of a religious organization I was a part of

Teri Kolter

-l’m 70. The attempted rape was in HS. I had no proof. I talked my way out of the assault by agreeing to walk out of BR with his arm around me – so his friends thought he scored. Like Ford, It’s still a very clear memory of only the encounter.


because I was a stripper and it happened while working, I figured people would assume I brought it upon myself or think I deserved what happened because of what I did for a living and where it happened.

Jesse Lynn

To those who aren’t posting your reasons for , who couldn’t watch his testimony, who are quietly processing & coping
Your story is also valid you are also strong and it’s no one else’s fucking business

Benji Franks

because I didn’t want to think it actually happened to me. I begged myself to get over it. I couldn’t and I’ll never get over it.


is nobody’s fucking business! Sexual assault victims shouldn’t have to justify their actions in order to make them valid.

We aren’t lying. We are strong. And we are a force to be reconned with.