By Hannah

I am a 21-year-old woman engaged to my boyfriend of three years. When you
asked for stories from people attending college I was compelled to write in
with mine, because it was at university where i first noticed and began to
experience the effects of pornography and especially the prevailing attitude
of young men towards women. These attitudes also impacted on my boyfriend in
a big way and caused some problems in our relationship. I finished college
in the summer and am no longer a student but my fiance is still at
university and so I stil have a lot of experience of the college lifestyle.

One of the first things i noticed when I started university was that the
majority of parties on campus and club nights aimed at freshers were themed
around sex. What made me angry was that the posters for these parties, the
flyers and announcements made in the dining hall - they often presented
female students in a bad way. The posters would usually involve silhouettes
or photos of women in very little clothing and many parties had a sexual
theme - or one where the women could be guaranteed to wear provocative
clothes, such as 'School uniform night' or 'Playboy bunny night'. Girls were
encouraged, usually by the male members of the Hall committee or societies,
to dress in skimpy outfits.

It was when i visited my boyfriend's university that i noticed even more of
a marked difference. There are far more male than female students at his
university and everything about the way the university works is unbelievably
sexist - from the student magazine having features about breasts and how
many freshers the older guys could sleep with - to the rag committee's
entire fundraising year coming under the theme of 'Playboy'. The university
had its own file sharing network (which has now been closed) and I soon
discovered that it was used primarily as a porn-sharing network. I hadn't
had much experience of porn before this and so was quite shocked that every
single one of my boyfriend's friends had an extensive collection of pictures
and films on their computers. Most of them also had posters of women in
little or no clothing on their bedroom walls - all the same sort of highly
airbrushed, fake-tanned, implanted, pouting women.

I found i felt very uncomfortable about the whole thing. I also noticed that
the guys also had very unrealistic expectations of women and were
disrespectful about the girls they knew at uni. When we went out they would
constantly talk about the girls in the club or bar - assessing their looks -
and very few girls ever came up to their 'standards'. They basically
expected girls at uni to look like the women they looked at on the internet
or in porn movies - flaws, irregular features, being anything other than
thin and having small breasts were not an option. I was made to feel like I
didn't really matter as a person because they didn't think I was 'hot' -
they made it perfectly clear that this was what girls were good for. They
showed my relationship with my boyfriend no respect - even suggesting to him
that it was ok for him to hook up with girls he met in clubs as long as I
didn't find out. He admitted he found a girl he saw at a bar attractive -
and they encouraged him to try to pick her up despite the fact he had been
with me for over a year.

I thought my boyfriend, who had previously never been into porn at all,
wouldn't get into any of it. But in the end, the fact it was constantly
around and his friends watching it while he was about made him curious. He
started to look on the internet for pictures of women - celebrities who he
found atttractive, mainly, posing in underwear or for men's magazines. This
progressed on to looking at porn. I noticed his behaviour had changed and
pestered him for ages because i knew something was wrong. Unfortunately, I
found out for myself when he was out of the room one day and I was using his
computer. I found pictures he'd saved and searches he'd done.

When i confronted him about it he was actually devastated and ashamed of
himself. He explained that he found most porn disturbing and degrading - but
that he was addicted to looking at it. I was very upset - especially since I
have struggled with my own body image and the fact I found pictures of
several thin, tanned, blonde, leggy, full-breasted celebrities on his
computer was such a blow to me. I began to suffer from terrible depression
and was convinced he looked at the pictures because my looks weren't good
enough for him. He would say he was going to break his habit, but then weeks
later would confess he still looked at things in secret. It didn't help that
his friends couldn't see that he was doing anything wrong. In their eyes,
guys use porn and their girlfriends should accept that. I tried to talk to
them about it and they were very rude to me - apparently it's my boyfriend's
right to get off on other women and see them treated in such a degrading way
without me caring. Many of them told my boyfriend they thought I 'talked too
much' and was 'too opinionated'. To be honest I thought we were going to
split up over the whole thing, but things started to get better after a few
months.

I'm proud of my fiance because he's conquered his habit. He visits anti-porn
sites and communities and while he doesn't participate in them, he says the
articles and discussions encourage and inspire him. I explained to him a
great deal about how I feel porn the other things he used to look at degrade
people, create an unhealthy view of sex and relationships, and cause a lot
of hurt. He realised how his views had been changing into unhealthy ones
when he looked at porn - and feels glad he has changed. I have no problem
with him appreciating the fact that he might find women attractive - but I
explained to him that they should be respected - and that women who don't
'fit the mould' are not any less attractive for their perceived flaws.

The other disturbing thing I have learnt from being a college student is
that, more and more, women choose to accept pornography, the attitude of men
towards them and that they are happy to be seen as sex objects. A lot of
girls I knew felt that being seen as a sex object was desirable and 'fun' -
they made a big deal out of enjoying all the Playboy themes and party
challenges of lesbian kissing/touching for guys' entertainment. And they see
porn as a normal aspect of being male - and that women shyould not have
objections to this. One girl told me that 'the only girls who don't like
their boyfriends watching porn are the ugly ones who feel bad that the women
are better-looking than they are'. I was called a prude because I refused to
go to a strip club with some friends. I for one don't feel it is acceptable
for me - or any other women - to be an object for male entertainment and
exploitation. It makes me sad that people so readily accept that this is
'ok' - and that it will make them more popular with the opposite sex. You
would think they would want more respect.

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