By Gail Dines, published in The Guardian on May 13, 2018
Choking seems to be in fashion, and I don’t mean the type where you need the Heimlich maneuver. Since the #MeToo movement, we’re learning just how many men seem to see choking women as a legitimate form of “sex play”, as it is often euphemistically referred to in porn.
Eric Schneiderman, New York state’s attorney general, who announced he was pursuing a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein for what he described as “despicable” behavior, was just forced to resign after four women accused him of choking them, as well as other types of physical assault. Schneiderman disputed the allegations, claiming that he had only consensual sexual relations.
As more and more stories surface, thanks to the #MeToo movement, women are trying to make sense of why so many men are sexually abusive and get aroused by abusive acts such as choking. For feminists who research porn, this is no surprise. The domestication of the internet and the introduction of the smartphone made porn affordable, anonymous, and accessible, the main drivers of demand.
Pornhub, the most traveled porn site in the world, boasts in its annual “Year in Review” that it had approximately 28.5 billion visitors in 2017, which translates into about 81 million per day. Pornhub claims that “a total of 3,732 Petabytes of data was streamed in 2017, which makes for 7,101 GB per minute and 118 GB per second”. To put this in perspective, Pornhub claims that this “is enough data to fill the storage of all of the world’s iPhones currently in use.”
When you click on Pornhub.com, you’ll find at the top a tab marked “Categories”. The user has over 80 of these to choose from, some of the most popular being Milf, Teen, Stepmom, and Step Sister. What you won’t see is a category called “choking”, because this form of sexual violence is one of the most common acts across all categories. Women are choked with anything from a penis to a fist to the point of gagging, and in some cases almost passing out. The victim obviously can’t speak during these acts because she is choking, so it is typically not until the end of the scene that she says, often in a hoarse voice, how much she “loved it”. Meanwhile, she looks exhausted, upset, and – in some cases – distraught.
Dr. Gail Dines is president and CEO of Culture Reframed.