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April 17, 2005 10:45 PM   Subscribe

(all links safe for work) Some once hypothesized that as pornography became more accessible and more mainstream, men in turn would become uncontrollable, ravenous sexual beasts. I always thought this myself: a man will see something in porn that a real woman won't give him—Internet porn now caters in a click to every fetish you can imagine—and he will find a way to get it.
 
My ex-girlfriend, observant and intelligent beyond her years, always used to tell me the opposite: it wouldn't turn men into beasts, having their way with every woman they saw. No, it would turn them away from women completely, libidos and their ability to connect with real females weakened by the hardcore acts and impossible bodies that only porn stars could give them. The porn would crave some intrinsic desire, but leave both people in the couple lonelier and less fulfulled.
 
Now I think she was absolutely right.
posted by symphonik (209 comments total)

 
One problem may be that sex is often used as a "bargaining chip" in a relationship, with one partner "bartering" sex for other purposes. Often this exchange masks other problems within the relationship, or it helps rapidly bring problems to the surface.

With porn, the value of that bargaining chip more easily decreases. For some women (and men in some m2m relationships) not having sexual leverage can mean being unable to carry a successful relationship with the other man, because they don't know how else to relate to or connect with the person.

Porn may highlight the problem but I doubt it makes it any worse than it otherwise would have been. Men and women have sought out extracurricular outlets for sexual urges well before the age of cinema and the Internets brought us easy access to pornography.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:59 PM on April 17, 2005


Porn is a huge industry here in Japan, and many of you are well aware of the assorted deviancies catered to in said industry. One of the most pressing social problems facing Japanese society lately is plummeting birth rates, caused (some believe) by the fact that married couples hardly (if ever) have sex. Men see their wives more like mother figures, and certainly not in a sexual fashion. Make of it what you will.
posted by nightchrome at 11:00 PM on April 17, 2005


Too much of anything is a bad thing.
posted by banished at 11:03 PM on April 17, 2005


Interesting post.
When talking about women's sexuality, I definitely credit a more open sexual environment with helping countless young women educating themself on safe and awesome sex.

And then, I read your last article, and that freaked me out. On one hand I hear about girls not knowing what their vaginas look like, or even how many holes there are down there, and then on the other hand, girls who are trying to have acrobatic porn sex (or Anal Bleaching!!!??) just to compete. Any ideas on how to find a happy medium?
posted by stray at 11:10 PM on April 17, 2005


Wow, this is just like this one episode of One Tree Hill...

And yes, I'm being facetious. Pornography isn't the cause. To say that pornography GENERATES desires of a particular sort betrays a lack of knowledge of what calls porn into existence - oh yea, desire. Regardless of whether there is porn or not, individuals will still have their desires for the objects of pornography. Perhaps porn could somehow displace sex itself if it was better than the latter, but for most of us this certainly isn't the case.

And even if porn IS capable of displacing sex - how could this be bad? Fewer STD transmission events? Lower birth rates? Oh noes.

stray: easy - don't bleach your ass when your boyfriend says "oh look at these nice white puckers in Playboy."
posted by mek at 11:18 PM on April 17, 2005


Wow stray, I think your Anal Bleaching comment definitely beats out the main post in terms of disbelief / shock value. Don't these people realize that Playboy women are photoshopped and airbrushed until their skin is perfect?
posted by banished at 11:21 PM on April 17, 2005


Okay that Anal Bleaching thing just shot in from left field, and I thought I'd heard of everything...
posted by nightchrome at 11:22 PM on April 17, 2005


I disagree with that article on so many fronts that it's hard to know where to begin. I'm still fishing for that Ha'aretz article on the alarming rise in teenaged Orthodox girls dying at childbirth, because they aren't brought to a hospital. They force the girls to marry and conceive young (as young as twelve, in some cases) because too many girls grow up to realize that Orthodox attitudes toward female sexuality are seriously fucked up, and they opt for a secular life. So much for all that wonderful, "mysterious" sexuality of the Jerusalem Orthodox.

As for her portrayal of sexuality in the 60s -- when men were men, women were women, love was real and sexuality impassioned -- get real, Naomi. The same tropes were used by those who were middle-aged in the 60s against the sexual freedom of the day. These are just the same tired, alarmist fabrications older generations have concocted to cope with changing trends in sexuality since fucking forever. Besides, if sexuality was so righteous and pure when you were a twenty-something, what about gay & lesbian rights? She should've asked her Orthodox friend what her husband thinks about homosexuality.

Take your naturalist fantasies about what sex ought to be like--you and the religious zealots you align yourself with-- and shove them. Lots of people are having really good and really kinky sex. Go read some Savage Love, will you?
posted by ori at 11:32 PM on April 17, 2005


*shrug* I bet twenty years ago, getting a Brazilian would've been a shocker. Next up, dyed nipples: for that pert strawberry look!

I mean, does this just keep going?
posted by stray at 11:32 PM on April 17, 2005


I've often thought that a weird thing about not just porn but our whole culture how thoroughly it is divorcing sex as a societal construct from its biological reality. The dominant and most important sensory component of sex is tactile

Our cultural sexual lexicon, on the other hand, is all about the visual and the conceptual. In the end, the visual lexicon of hard core is extremely limited and I think this is what is really driving the trend (which has been going on and being noted for a long time now) to the so-called extreme: there's only so many ways you can show an ass getting fucked so the only way to add emotional charge is context: it's the first time, it's forced, it's subjugation.

I don't think that the last author linked in the post is quite getting it because I don't think the main event is a matter of competition, men comparing porn women and sex acts to the real thing and finding the latter lacking. I think the issue is more porn disconnecting people from real sexuality by making it this deeply withdrawn visual-conceptual fugue culminating in masturbatory release. It is solo, self-obsessed, solely focused on the genital, about as far away from real sex (at least good sex) as you can get and still have an orgasm.

Real sex is work, it takes attention, communication, partnership, honesty, bravery, patience, humor and good will to keep working on a regular basis (I'm 10+ years on a single monogamous relationship, incidentally, so I'm not just talking). On the other hand, it's a helluva lot more fulfilling than jerking off in front of a computer screen so I don't think porn is going to eliminate sex just yet.
posted by nanojath at 11:33 PM on April 17, 2005


I think there is a very real trend toward isolation, alienation, and immaturation in our culture, and I think it's evident in our public discourse, in our political process, and now often even in our interaction between the sexes. I don't think porn is the cause, but I do think it's a crutch - it allows us to experience a shallow, mediated eroticism - when and where we want it, without any of the hassle of "dealing" with other people.

(see e-commerce, videogames, cellphones, tivo, etc)

Every aspect of our life is homogenized, processed, pre-packaged, sterile, and designed for easy and immediate consumption. Most importantly, it's commoditized for easy consumer psychological processing.

Without knowing how many cents a minute it costs nationwide, or how many grams of saturated fat are in it, how will we know what do do with this "sex" business?

Kidding aside, I think the prevalence of porn isn't due to it's perceived superiority to the genuine article, but it's packaging and ease of consumption.

Actual sex is a weird wonderful scary exhilirating experiment/experience, and generally a fun but embarrasing exploration of the imperfection of the human form.

Porn is just another vaccuum-packed consumer good labeled for individual resale.

It comes down to a culture that more and more values a "product experience" over a life experience.
posted by stenseng at 11:33 PM on April 17, 2005


What sex is or isn't is fairly personal. Some love it, some hate it, some do it whenever they can, some do it with strangers, some do it in space, some do it with their spouse. Some do it with dolls, some do it with cows, some do it with Paris Hilton. Let's rein in those generalizations.
posted by mek at 11:38 PM on April 17, 2005


Nobody really does it with Paris Hilton...do they?








guys?
posted by stenseng at 11:41 PM on April 17, 2005


Ori- you're absolutely right about the Orthodox Jerusalum bit. That's hardly the kind of attitude towards the female body we need. Covering it up is just as bad as airbrushing/waxing/sucking the hell out of it. I think the author made a mistake in adding that to the article.
posted by stray at 11:42 PM on April 17, 2005


What particularly offends Ben-Ami is the haredin (orthodox Jews) who crowd the Tel Aviv brothels on Friday mornings and afternoons for a pre-Shabbat tumble.

So, on Thursday (boys night out in Israel) busloads of Orthodox Jews travel from Jerusalem, Haifa, and points beyond to Tel Aviv for a few brief moments of passion in a massage parlor, behind a sand dune, or in an alley.

Must be all that awesome, mysterious sex they're having.
posted by ori at 11:42 PM on April 17, 2005


On preview: what ori and stenseng said. I'll just throw away this long comment I wrote now.
posted by sninky-chan at 12:00 AM on April 18, 2005


Of course Andrea Dworkin couldn't see porn as ultimately male-libido reducing. After all, that's what she wanted! How could her sex-repressive outlook accept the fact that depictions of sex have exactly the effect she wished?

And we're supposed to believe, from one description of Naomi Wolf's orthodox jewish friends clothing and bedroom that that's where the really hot sex takes place?

Wonder if she caught her boyfriend jacking off to porn?
posted by telstar at 12:05 AM on April 18, 2005


wolf's piece thoroughly rebutted here.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:07 AM on April 18, 2005


From the Naomi Wolf article:

For two decades, I have watched young women experience the continual “mission creep” of how pornography—and now Internet pornography—has lowered their sense of their own sexual value and their actual sexual value.

Yeah, I forgot that explicit goal and mission of pornography is to devalue women sexually, rather something as pedantic as getting men (and non-prudish women) off. By positing that porn devalues women because it has become easier for men to get off using manufactured imagery, is she suggesting that the ability to elicit sexual responses from men should be the metric used for determining a woman's value?

And is she seriously suggesting that the "archaic" and "mysterious" burka is a useful tool for promoting sensuality?

The whole article reads as a troll to highlight Wolf's own emotional responses to a few anecdotes in place of, say, presenting ways to promote issues that really matter, such as pressuring Congress to pass stronger wage-discrimination laws or to increase pregnancy leaves to something more aligned with the industrialized countries of Europe. Articles like this one give feminism a bad name and is counterproductive to her cause.
posted by DaShiv at 12:10 AM on April 18, 2005


The internet has simply made it extremely easy to find exactly what it is that turns them on. Is this a bad thing?

That said, I'm afraid there has been a casualization (to coin a term) of sex among young people like myself - it's just something that's done, a third date thing, or second, or first, or after an hour at some parties. Fortunately I don't feel the same way; if a man looks on a woman as an object to penetrate, that's what he's going to get. But sex is more than that, obviously, and if they don't understand that, then really all they're doing is masturbating with no hands.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:25 AM on April 18, 2005


Look Ma no hands!
posted by sien at 12:43 AM on April 18, 2005


> The whole article reads as a troll to highlight Wolf's
> own emotional responses

At the risk of admitting my own lack of generosity, I have to
say this crossed *my* mind as well.

"When I was 18, boys were falling all over themselves to see
me get naked. Now that I'm 40, they somehow aren't so keen.

I'm *still* as hot as I ever was, despite my lack of anal
bleaching and a recent muff wax, so it's *gotta* be down
to that goddamed intraweb pronography, weakening the eyesight of red-blooded American males."

But hey, welcome to modern journalism, where a half-baked
theory and a couple of wooly anecdotes is clear proof of a
new cultural trend...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:53 AM on April 18, 2005


So.. men have their porn, and women have their vibrators. Is this a problem?
posted by hopeless romantique at 12:59 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm surprised there's a generally one way street of dissenting comments against Wolfe. I think she's making valid points - it's her opinions after speaking with some students and it's not a study so shouldn't be misconstrued.

On-tap pornography creates imagery in males that they associate with sex/sexuality that can't be derived IRL and engenders feelings of inadequacy in females who know they can't compete as porn stars. This results sometimes in a disconnect between couples.

If there was less exposure to pornography then males in relationships would likely more closely focus their attentions on their SO's. And mystique in sexual relationships heightens tensions and pleasure payoffs.

I think it's a valid thought provoking thesis without need for scurrilous personal attacks from the likes of a porn journo cited by Hat Maui nor diversion into wage discrimination, bleached butts or the deviant behaviour of minorities in religious groups.

And yes, I look at porn from time to time, moreso previously than presently. I wouldn't want it outlawed but I think that a reduction in exposure might be advantageous to the quality of sexuality in relationships.
I'd actually like to hear from any MeFemmes as to their take on the porn-devaluing-sex debate.
posted by peacay at 1:01 AM on April 18, 2005


I have no problem with casual sex. I have no problem with devaluing sex- it's a hobby to some, and that's fine. In fact, I think sex should be taking less seriously, and more as normal and matter of fact.

It's just that porn is, and always has been yet another thing (next to everything else in the media) that real women have to compare themselves to, and while hopefully we're all becoming more comfortable and assertive with our bodies, it's still hard and often painful to know you can't quite compare to the polished bodies that, thanks to the 'net, more and more males are seeing as their first sexual intro to the female nude.

So there's all this easy access to porn, but beyond that (as far as I've ever seen) no real public discussion (especially during adolescence) about real, average bodies and sexuality.

And there are lots of great well thought out responses in this thread that I am very impressed by, and while I don't really have a well thought out response, this is just my gut reaction. I don't consider myself a prude, and I don't mind porn at all--I'm just sayin'...maybe we should send all 14 year olds to a nudist colony to see what real bodies look like.
posted by stray at 1:23 AM on April 18, 2005


stenseng hit the nail on the head regarding isolation as a driver for those who are porn-obsessed. Good sex is about deeply connecting with another human being in a frenetic give-and-take. No matter how good porn is, it isn't interactive (yet) so it isn't going to supplant sex with a partner for those people who want that interactivity. The porn-obsessed people I've known did not have their free will magically sucked away by evil porn. They just weren't prepared right then to invest the energy that good sex requires.
posted by rhiannon at 1:30 AM on April 18, 2005


Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with stray's suggestion that teenagers would be much healthier if they were allowed some exposure to real bodies in a non-sexual context. Americans live in a society that stigmatizes bodies as dirty and wrong and immoral, where a single nipple on TV causes a huge rippling long-lived controversy. On the other hand, flesh and tittilation are used to sell everything under the sun, and that's somehow OK by most of the mainstream. It's no wonder so many people have complexes about nudity and sexual expression.
posted by rhiannon at 1:40 AM on April 18, 2005


As a pornophile, I can honestly tell you that without porn, I would never have thought about talking my girlfriend into buying thigh-highs. Thank you, porn!

For the record, I love my girlfriend very much, even though she doesn't look like Silvia Saint. It's not that difficult to separate real girls from Porn Stars, and learn to appreciate them both.

Testosterone doesn't necessarily make you retarded.
posted by Samsonov14 at 1:47 AM on April 18, 2005


ori, I'd take anything about Jews from the Vanguard News Network ("News for Whites!") with a little skepticism.

Personally, I find porn self-limiting. It helps you wank. If you let it take over, wanking stops being so much fun, and you have to give the porn a rest.

Also, now I'm a father, the time is approaching when I can't look at young women with no clothes on and not feel paternal - which is not a feeling I wish to have when wanking.

There is a contradiction in Wolf's piece. Apparently the young folk are at it like rabbits, but yet their libidos are declining. One of these assertions must be wrong, or she must mean something by desire and libido.

Speaking of assertions, is there really any evidence that men are giving up real women for simulacra? What does Wolf make of the rise of "amateur" porn? There isn't a fact, other than anecdotes, in the whole damned piece.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:51 AM on April 18, 2005


While I'm no pornologist, it does seem that women in porn are becoming less 90's-porn-star-plastic-surgery-fiend and more quite-attractive-girls-next-door-who-like-to-have-sex (whether their libidos or their bank accounts are the motivating factor). There are probably upsides and downsides to this. It becomes harder to make assertions like "Real women don't have sex in non-vaginal orifices, that's something only done in porn" when the people in the porn you're watching look like regular folks. (Okay, maybe a little more attractive than regular.)
posted by 23skidoo at 2:16 AM on April 18, 2005


Real girls feel a whole lot nicer than porn, or so I've found. And, depending on your interests, can be an awful lot cheaper for monthly rental.

... um.

anyway, anal bleaching? What are you doing down there that requires bleaching away?
Unless you drink Guinness more than the doc advises.


On preview: simulacra is my new favourite word.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:25 AM on April 18, 2005


i_am_joe's_spleen......There is a contradiction in Wolf's piece. Apparently the young folk are at it like rabbits, but yet their libidos are declining.

I just read the Wolfe piece again and I didn't see any intimation of increased incidence or frequency of sex. What she said was..
"A whole generation of men are less able to connect erotically to women—and ultimately less libidinous."
No inconsistency.

The prevalence of regular folk in porn film is an interesting phenomenon. My first reaction is why? I wonder if, as suggested by Wolfe, some women are feeling so intimidated by all that porn that they feel that they have to get involved or they wont' get any. In days gone by it might have been a girl feeling that she had to allow 'second base' or she wouldn't be liked/valued. Just musin'..
posted by peacay at 2:32 AM on April 18, 2005


Oh and i_am_joe's_spleen.....I don't know how Wolf could present facts on this subject - polling? I guess that might give some indication. Not really facts though. But she's got a pretty solid track record in commentary on female sexuality. Her opinions are allowed....this is not a science.
posted by peacay at 2:45 AM on April 18, 2005


The inconsistency in the article is most prevalent by ending on the anecdote of the guy who is quick to sleep with people when he is in a relationship with them.

I think that there are more regular people in porn because some men and some women like to have a lot of freakydeaky sex, not because they're trying to compete with anyone else.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:56 AM on April 18, 2005


"Less libidinous" = less desire in my lexicon, and I think it's quite unambiguous. If men are genuinely, as the original poster suggested "turning away from women", then I expect that to manifest in some observable behaviour, like having sex with them less, in favour of porn.

Theories I have read about amateur porn mostly suggest (and I think judging by comments on places like Sensible Erection, correctly) that there is such a thing as too perfect. Your theory that women feel obliged explains how it is produced, but not why there is a market -- and indeed, there is a flourishing trade in "amateur" porn that is in fact made by professionals. The important thing is that the women look real, and like someone you might actually have sex with.

Turning to women rather than men, Wolf started out, let us not forget, pointing out in polemical fashion how media portrayals of impossibly thin and beautiful women hurt women's selfimage and mental health. Her thesis here is pretty much the same. And she has a potential point. It is however, a point completely unsupported by evidence.

The best we get from her is a plausible account explaining some personal observations, which may or may not have been embroidered for rhetorical effect. Yer average magazine feature, in other words. So pardon me for not taking her very seriously.

On preview: "I don't know how Wolf could present facts on this subject". If she can't present facts, then on what is her opinion based? Why in fact should we take her seriously? (I'll point out in passing that Wolf does not have a great track record with actual facts; eg in The Beauty Myth she overstated deaths from anorexia by not one but several orders of magnitude).

As to how one might obtain and present facts, researchers from Kinsey onwards have done their best with a mixture of observation, polling, experiments, and qualititative research. There is much to question in their reliability, but it's better than speculation and a few anecdotes.

I get around, I'm a thinker - why don't you trust me instead?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:57 AM on April 18, 2005


This is a strong sentence from the article:
the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity

Rhinnon said "The porn-obsessed people [...] just weren't prepared right then to invest the energy that good sex requires."
The same argument can be mirrored like this: "The fast-food obsessed people just aren't prepared to invest the energy that healthy food requires."
Today fast food companies are facing possible legal repercussions, will the multi-million dollar porn industry go down in the same way?

Good post.
posted by ruelle at 3:14 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm persuaded to the view that a skeptical eye ought to be directed over all sociological 'pieces'. But this is actually a New York Metro feature. An essay. Not an extended study. There's no misrepresentation of this article being anything more than an opinion piece. That it generates a thoughtful discussion may be the best possible result.
I can relate to your wish for some factual data but I've only said that I think she's allowed her commentary. It's not so far-fetched as to be spurious. People can reject her assertions of course. But it's just commentary.
I agree with your definition of libido. And again it's just opinion, but Wolf's suggesting that there's less desire after a while for sex in some relationships because of porn. She spoke to some women and they told her of their frustrations. The presumption is that it is harder after a while with so much porn input, for some women to attract their partners into having sex. It doesn't necessarily mean they don't still have sex. Depressed libido may or may not mean less sex.

I don't know about the anorexia numbers you've stated - nor do I know of any reasons for a mistake, if it was made. That, for me, doesn't immediately invalidate all the rest of the book's content nor would it mean that I reject Wolf's opinion later on - I judge each on its merits when I read them.
And it's not simply that Wolf should be trusted because she's been around. She has got solid credentials and her opinion is allowed. I'd rather hear from her than many other talking heads in the media on this subject.
posted by peacay at 3:33 AM on April 18, 2005


On-tap pornography creates imagery in males that they associate with sex/sexuality that can't be derived IRL

Um, why not? Seriously. What's so hard about moaning a little more, or trying out a new position, or bleaching your anus? Maybe the problem is that some women or men are too uptight to let loose and actually enjoy themselves during sex.

I laugh at Ms. Wolf's assertion that women feel unable to compete "with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own." Go check out some porn and explain to me how they airbrush low-quality DV recordings made in the backroom of a warehouse. This isn't the cover of Vogue -- most porn stars are not "impossible people", not these days (with the trend moving towards all-natural).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:38 AM on April 18, 2005


Speaking from the other side of the tracks, where the men like men and the women dominate the pool tables:

A little evidence to support this unpopular notion. I'm 48 and I've been 'seeing' adult gay men since I was 14. I've had far more opportunity to observe sexuality than your average straight dude. MmmKay?

I've been with all kinds, from virgins to the highly experienced. Its been more fun than not, but at some point in the 80's, it got a little weird to me, especially with the less experienced. Suddenly they wanted to try to do things in rather difficult and odd ways. It took me awhile to figure it out.

They were attempting positions with one single value: they were good for exposing action to a camera, which didn't exist. Porn had taught them ideas, and they sought to bring those ideas to bed in real life. Or perhaps they tried to verbalize the experience, creating their very own porn sound track. What.A.Turn-off!

But there is another thing running through the sexual thoughts in peoples heads these days, and it has nothing to do with porn. Its the fear of disease. If getting some satisfaction from porn will avoid a chance at catching something, porn is a Good Thing. Undebatable Fact.
posted by Goofyy at 3:47 AM on April 18, 2005


One of the most pressing social problems facing Japanese society lately is plummeting birth rates, caused (some believe) by

...bukkake?
posted by matteo at 4:02 AM on April 18, 2005


Perhaps Mefites are all perfectly well adjusted, but I'm guessing the I'd-hit-it responses in a Fark thread are closer to what Wolf is talking about. I wonder about the long-term effects on a generation of males that develop their initial imprinted notions of female sexuality based on instantly available silicone fantasies in Super-Sized portions.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 4:12 AM on April 18, 2005


Civil_Disobedient....I was paraphrasing Wolf.
It's not that porn won't add some spice to a relationship, it's that there's a generation of males who are socialized and educated about sex in the first instant by viewing porn which sets up unrealistic imagery in the way they thereafter relate to sex. And so they may have a harder time establishing a satisfying sexual relationship when they find a partner because of skewed expectations, while their girlfriends can be similarly disaffected thinking that they've got to be these trapeze artist megacockgobblers or whatever or they won't rate. It's not a universal precept. But it's a thing.

on preview...thank you matteo for that lovely 'image'
posted by peacay at 4:17 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm pretty sure most women I know don't look at a porn star and think "dam, she's better than me". Mostly they think "Hey look, a drug addled, fake plastic, ho-bag. Thanks God I have a real job and don't have to be her." Maybe that's not nice but it's true.

I question the ideas behind this article: that college boys are any worse at sex and relationships than they were 40 years ago, or any less excited by actual, naked girls or that young women should be using sex as a way to hold onto a man, or that they compare themselves unfavourably to porn stars. Or that young adulthood is any less confusing and lonely than it's always been. I think that the Orthodox comparison was extremely unfortunate. Or stupid.

Also what Peter McDermott said.
posted by fshgrl at 4:18 AM on April 18, 2005


Men. Still not behaving precisely the way women want.
posted by srboisvert at 4:44 AM on April 18, 2005


I imagine there was not too much concious acknowledgement of the subtle changes in the 'projected' female form as it was driven from hourglass to lithe.
posted by peacay at 4:47 AM on April 18, 2005


Well, I am 40, and mine is the last female generation to experience that sense of sexual confidence and security in what we had to offer.

So says Naomi. What crap. I went to college in the early 90s (supposedly when the rise of video porn was beginning to make women feel like they couldn't compete... or depress men's libidos.. or something) and had lots of sex with a variety of extremely pleased men. I never once felt like I was competing with some porn star, or that the guys I was with we comparing me to a checklist or had lost their libidos through excessive wanking. And I had a very active non-monogamous sex life up until I met my (now) husband in 2000.

Sounds to me like she interviewed a biased group of women & men. And read a lot into their responses. Why should there inherently be mystery about sex? Why not make the mystery the amazing intimacy of getting to know another person's heart, and leave the sex to be sex?

And I agree about the horrible miscalculation of her story about her orthodox friend. It's an overemphasis on mystery and seclusion and unavailability that she misses, I think. But that approach is simply not in accord with what modern women and men want. We don't want to be sexy only if we're virgins, or only our husbands are allowed to see our hair (eek). We want to be sexy on equal terms as independent people.
posted by miss tea at 5:03 AM on April 18, 2005


I can relate to your wish for some factual data but I've only said that I think she's allowed her commentary. It's not so far-fetched as to be spurious. People can reject her assertions of course. But it's just commentary.

Nobody here is trying to censor her or disallow her to speak. We just disagree with the original poster and feel that her piece is wrong -- and being not terribly deep at that. And her disconnect from actual trends in pornography and people's sexual habits (billions with porn via Internet who are still fucking, thank you very much) is very revealing of her own inability to mentally reconcile with the sex-positive forces in feminism and elsewhere.

It's interesting that Wolf opens by citing how Dworkin was wrong in predicting that the proliferation of porn would "make men into raving beasts." That doesn't stop Wolf from making a similar declaration of her own -- that porn is responsible for "deadening male libido in relation to real women." Oddly enough, the rest of society takes porn in stride and continues to do what biology has always driven us to do, pictures of naked women or not. Making flat-out wrong generalizations like she has simply causes her to marginalize herself and what she preaches.

But she's got a pretty solid track record in commentary on female sexuality. Her opinions are allowed....this is not a science.

Self-help books regularly top the best seller's list. I suppose that proves their veracity in terms of commenting on karmic healing as well, right?

The problem isn't that she simply wrote an essay about "I talked to a few friends and some of them feel sexually inadequate due to porn, and I wonder if this is reflective of a larger trend." Instead, she made some sweeping factual generalizations about society: "porn doesn’t whet men’s appetites—it turns them off the real thing." And she's flat out wrong, just like how she pointed out how Dworkin was as well, right before following Dworkin into the exact same pitfall about porn somehow changing the fundamental nature of males. (Did they think that we men watch our porn in A Clockwork Orange fashion?) For instance, it would be easy to counter Wolf's piece using Googled interviews with BBW's about how they've felt sexually empowered and valued as they've rarely been before, thanks to the de-homogenizing powers of Internet porn. Or any of the myriad other kinks that bear little resemblance to Wolf's oddly quaint (and wrong) view of a monolithic porn aesthetic. Less of the ivory tower nonsense, and more from actual people knee-deep in bodily fluids, please. Unless you're more interested in "provocative statements" than "reality-based statements", of course.
posted by DaShiv at 5:06 AM on April 18, 2005


"By the new millennium, a vagina — which, by the way, used to have a pretty high 'exchange value,' — wasn't enough; it barely registered on the thrill scale."

So now you want us to be the slavering, testosterone-addled hounds you brushed off as worthless, brain-in-the-pants freshmen in your youth?
Sheesh! Women!
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:09 AM on April 18, 2005


I believe it was stray that mentioned nipple dye?

Been done. (probably worksafe)

Anyway, I don't think it's a big issue. I have no problems with my boyfriend looking at porn or buying men's magazines because the nice airbrushed ladies don't threaten me. Our sex life is fine. I was trimming my pubes before I ever saw porn, and now I shave because I like it. TMI? Perhaps...
posted by corvine at 5:11 AM on April 18, 2005


Onanism replacing coitis?
I don't think so.
The most important sexual organ is the brain.
The events leading to copulation are every bit as thrilling and exciting when done properly.
Having said that, porn should not be a problem in society as masturbation is natural and acceptable.
posted by nofundy at 5:26 AM on April 18, 2005


Some observations of my own:

In comparing the women I've dated with the women I look at on the net, I find neither group significantly more or less attractive. There's a lot of 'amateur' porn out there - silicone is not a job requirement. There's fat porn, old porn, hairy porn, goth porn, <insert nationality here> porn, etc.

It's not so hard to find a woman into porn-style sex, at least in a major metropolitan area. Sorry, red-staters - ain't nothing 'unrealistic' about it.

I've always liked porn, starting from the time I stole my dad's playboys from under the bed. And I've always liked as much sex as possible.

Maybe those women who are not attracting enough male libidinous attention ought to attend a workshop (NSFW) or something. Just because you're not having fun doesn't mean that everyone isn't.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:34 AM on April 18, 2005


"Being naked is not enough; you have to be buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax—just like porn stars."

Meanwhile, the swing goes unused, the enema is for health-reasons, and the love whip is now a cat toy.
posted by effwerd at 5:34 AM on April 18, 2005


fshgrl said: "I'm pretty sure most women I know don't look at a porn star and think "dam, she's better than me". Mostly they think "Hey look, a drug addled, fake plastic, ho-bag. Thanks God I have a real job and don't have to be her." Maybe that's not nice but it's true."

Ha. How enlightened. Life is easier when you can generalize away all the details you don't like. Oh, and you're still comparing yourself to the drug-addled, fake-plastic ho bag, just in a way favorable to you instead of belittling. Congrats on your liberation.
posted by effwerd at 5:53 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm a little alarmed at some of you having no ability to see the value of generalized statements in writing essays concerning social trends.

Perhaps Wolf is off here, but I think you're missing the point when you say "this article says more people are doing Y - well, when I was in college, I did X so that's clearly not true".

Also, my 2 cents: I'm probably just getting old and crotchety and properly out of the loop with pop culture. But the current trends towards mainstreaming of porn, boring fake lipstick lesbianism, casual ubiquitous sex, materialism, vapidness in general ETC seem to be a direct result of the toxicity involved in our visual over-sexing. I don't think sex is dirty or bad. I think that the sex my tv tries to tell me I should be having is.

I know, that for me, pr0n is addictive and unhealthy, and I try to steer clear. And the fact that I have free, easy constant access to something that turns me on is really not a great thing. Just like kids today having free, easy, constant access to twinkies hasn't turned out to be a good thing.

I am such an old fart. crap.
posted by glenwood at 6:19 AM on April 18, 2005


I think there's some truth to what Wolf has to say, but she makes a mistake in assuming what is true of some people must be a general trend throughout society at large. It reminds me of those puff pieces in the weekend newspaper where the author interviews a few of his/her friends and cobbles what they have to say into a thesis.

Speaking as someone who didn't even know he had a particular fetish (mine to know, yours to find out, nothing too unusual) until he encountered visual depictions of it on the internet, I'm not sure that porn only serves desire, rather than also creating it.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 6:28 AM on April 18, 2005


DaShiv, whilst I would not frame it in the same way, I'll concede that yes, I do think an agent provocateur on this subject is a worthwhile catalyst for deeper thinking. That's not to say that I'd reject the testimony from your BBW's or other squelchified niche groups, it's just that I think fringe elements don't satisfactorily address possible middleground trends.

I'll grant that Wolf has generalized. And perhaps I'm framing myself too closely as a fully fledged supporter. But I think as a rhetorical piece, should people wander off after reading it with only a residual recall about the possible deleterious effects for young teens receiving their first sexuality socialization from ubiquitous pornography, or else with a vague realization that turning off the pc and turning on their SO might not be such a bad idea in situations where porn is overprevalent, then it will have been a successful endeavour.
I think I'll just ignore the 'karmic healing' comment. I don't think it sits well with the rest of your otherwise well reasoned arguments.
But I think it's disingenuous to suggest that unless one cites facts, enumerates data tropes and includes opinions from myriad sources, that a completely hollow argument must therefore ensue.
She spoke to a bunch of people. That's what she does. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I'll just assume she's not specifically abstracted what she was told and won't merely dismiss her writing out of hand. But I don't take it on board as gospel either. It's another point of view to assimilate.
On preview...glenwood has some good points.
posted by peacay at 6:41 AM on April 18, 2005


effwerd, I'm telling you what the women I know think of female porn stars: ie most of those women look extremely rough and lead sad, out of control lives, involving having sex for (not much) money and we hardly see them as some unattainable ideal. To say the least.

I used to have a friend who worked in the adult industry and she was an addict, with self esteem issues and a history of sexual abuse. I've never seen, read or heard anything to suggest she was atypical of women in that field. If you are a young woman and feel like making yourself feel bad about how you look there are plenty of models and actresses out there, with actual careers not to mention much better looks.
posted by fshgrl at 7:06 AM on April 18, 2005


fshgrl said: "I'm pretty sure most women I know don't look at a porn star and think "dam, she's better than me". Mostly they think "Hey look, a drug addled, fake plastic, ho-bag. Thanks God I have a real job and don't have to be her." Maybe that's not nice but it's true."

I dunno. That's what I've always thought. A lot of women in pornography look like they've had pretty hard lives.
posted by Alison at 7:20 AM on April 18, 2005


I kind of agree with the article. I worry about my adolescent son being exposed to tons of porn before he meets the real thing, and, probably because I am old & cranky, internet/video porn worries me much more than magazines. I'm not afraid that he'll turn into a ravening sex crazed monster but that he will be less interested in forming real relationships with real girls, that he won't bother sustaining interest in a relationship when immediate gratification is so available.

And, for the record, I have over the last few years encountered several men who really do prefer porn to women and who have gotten to the point where masturbation feels better to them than actual sex. Porn abuse? Too much self abuse? I don't know, but it's a lonely thing.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:21 AM on April 18, 2005


I'd actually like to hear from any MeFemmes as to their take on the porn-devaluing-sex debate.

Okay, I'll bite. I find it hard to believe that constant easy free access to porn of every flavor under the sun doesn't have *some* negative consequence for sex. Oh sure for some people it doesn't really change them, but what of those who *do* find real women less attractive? Certainly there are women who have been pressured by their partners to have surgery to increase their tit size - I am not just making this up.

As a woman I am sick and tired of seeing women's sexually used all over the place as something to sell some item or the image itself. Frankly we didn't evolve in an environment where males had ready access to images of sexually available females available 24/7. Those images are highly charged (or supposed to be, anyway - how charged are they anymore after constant exposure from a very young age?).

I feel stupid about this but I can't help but buy into this somewhat myself - the whole idea that a woman's worth has to do with how closely she matches ideals of conventional beauty. I am not even looking for a relationship partner right now because I feel I need to lose weight first. Call me stupid if you will, I can't magically just decide to value myself 100% based on my intrinsic merits, completely aside from how I look. I am a product of the society I grew up in.

What's so hard about moaning a little more, or trying out a new position, or bleaching your anus? Maybe the problem is that some women or men are too uptight to let loose and actually enjoy themselves during sex.

I find this wording amusing. How many women are cajoled / manipulated / wheedled into performing, say, anal sex when they don't really feel like trying it? How many thing, "if I don't do this, he might dump me"? Seriously. The bar for expected sexual openness has certainly been raised. Sure, if someone tries out something they might not have (if it weren't for porn giving one or the other or both partners ideas), and finds they like it, bully for them. Of course. But how many people accede to their partner's wishes for acts they simply *DO NOT WANT TO DO AT ALL*, for fear their partner will dump them, or pressure them, or make them feel somehow inadequate (calling them "uptight" or "prudish" or whatever counts) for not being all gung-ho about the anal or whatever?

I may sound bitter, but that is because I have encountered this myself. Back in the past I wasn't as picky and assertive as I am now, I am sad to say. I sometimes let partners do things I found extremely uncomfortable and even painful. I got better after that, though. But even now I find attentions from a person who wants to do things that are so bizarre he won't even mention them to me. Where do these appetites come from? My first guess is porn. (I slept with this person quite a few years previously and it was ordinary sex all the way, with which he was perfectly satisfied).

Isn't there a point at which you respect your partner enough not to pressure her to do things that are really only for your own benefit? People in general tend to be selfish and I fear that women are frequently being pressured to do sexual acts that they find uncomfortable (either physically or psychologically) or even painful in order to please a partner who has been turned on to SUPER ULTRA XXXXTREME SEX by porn. Oh, maybe ten years ago some nice tits and some hot vaginal sex did the trick for him. But now it's 2005 and will that really do anymore? For some men, it won't do at all. It always has to be ratcheted up a notch.

Anyway, I freely admit I am a freak. Frankly I would happily seek out a relationship with no sexual contact whatsoever. So perhaps that means my opinion matters nil. Think what you will.

glenwood has some good points as well, I have to say.
posted by beth at 7:25 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm a little alarmed at some of you having no ability to see the value of generalized statements in writing essays concerning social trends.

No ability? Or maybe we don't see the value of generalized statements that are "off", as you've said.

Also, given that Wolf's essay is a thin mix of assertions and personal anecdotes, why are rejoinder of counter-assertion and personal anecdotes any worse -- or different?

Pornography is a complicated and nuanced topic. Just in this thread alone we've brought up issues of female empowerment through pornography, pornography addiction, whether sexual kinks are induced or latent, etc. Any of these are far more intelligent avenues of discussion than Wolf's laughable "porn devalues women by making men not want to fuck them" hypothesis.

But I think it's disingenuous to suggest that unless one cites facts, enumerates data tropes and includes opinions from myriad sources, that a completely hollow argument must therefore ensue.

No -- but i_am_joe's_spleen's original objection was "is there really any evidence that men are giving up real women for simulacra? What does Wolf make of the rise of 'amateur' porn? There isn't a fact, other than anecdotes, in the whole damned piece." Wolf's repudiation of the "amateur" trend (and other facts mentioned in this thread) without citing additional facts to support her argument reads rather weakly in that context. I don't see why you'd extrapolate this critique of Wolf's blind assertions against the face of societal trends beyond this specific piece of hers.

In fact, porn's far less monolithic imagery (amateurs, BBW's, etc) of sexuality is a marked contrast to, say, the idealized female form as presented in movies, music videos, etc, which present women in sexual ways far more congruent to Wolf's "buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax" stereotype of pornography. But whether her stereotyping was accurate or not, as an agent provocateur Wolf knew she could score more eyeballs by making sweeping statements about pornography than music videos. Forgive me if I cynically read self-aggrandizement into her motivation rather than a genuine concern for how portrayals of the female body affect women's views of their own desirability. If Wolf really had some understanding of porn, she would have realized that heterosexual men find all sorts of women sexually evocative, period, and that porn presents far more diversity in women than other genres do.
posted by DaShiv at 7:31 AM on April 18, 2005


fshgrl, Alison: I'm totally with you on that one. I've thought the same thing myself. I never understood why those women were considered attractive; to me, they look disgusting.

And I agree with Ori's position on orthodoxy. Evidently, this was Wolf's friend's choice, but it was strange of Wolf to include that story after she specifically said she was not advocating a return to women covering up. If someone choses to live that way, fine, but too many people don't have the choice. I grew up Catholic and I thought the guilt trips my school tried to impose on us were bad enough.
posted by fossil_human at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2005


beth: Do you think that's the fault of porn, or advertising culture? And do you think porn is what's actually responsible for the sexualizing of female bodies in non-pornographic contexts?

fossil_human: I think Wolf did so because she was stretching mightily as a writer to somehow justifying using the "sex has no mystery" quote to end with, which really speaks more about the boy having been through sex ed than having watched porn. (As many others have said earlier, "mystery" is hardly the main sell of sex in a long-term relationship anyway.) That her inclusion of the covering-up story created an internal inconsistency in her argument is just a sign of sloppiness in either thinking or writing.
posted by DaShiv at 7:44 AM on April 18, 2005


It's a disease of our present culture that we wish for research, facts and experts to have the final say on everything. Some subjects are not soluble to the tools of the hard sciences. Ethics, education, many political judgements -- and perhaps psychology. It may be that the way to deal with thorny issues in these matters is through intensive, reasoned discussion -- just as that very ye old-fashioned Plato suggested.

What I read here is the refusal of many to simply engage with ideas as ideas (especially ones that make them uncomfortable). They either want research and proof or there's nothing to say. Or, rather, the only thing to say is dismissive and shallow.
posted by argybarg at 7:49 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm also reading in these comments, many times over, the notion that we have desires, which run along intact and as god/nature/childhood gave us them, and the way we express or relase those desires -- and that we can keep the two in neatly distinct categories, without the second really affecting the first.

This is nuts. The language we use heavily constrains and conditions our thoughts -- some would say it creates our thoughts. In the same way, the modes of our expression condition and constrain our emotions. We may argue about how they do so, but to think there's some atomic me that directs behavior (and not the other way around) is a fallacy.
posted by argybarg at 7:56 AM on April 18, 2005


beth: Do you think that's the fault of porn, or advertising culture? And do you think porn is what's actually responsible for the sexualizing of female bodies in non-pornographic contexts?

Well I can tell what you're getting at by your question. Clearly some of the objectification of females is because of advertising culture. Sexual expectations in the specific are more the province of porn, however. L'oreal ads have nothing to say about anal. Not that I can see, anyway.
posted by beth at 8:02 AM on April 18, 2005


I'd actually like to hear from any MeFemmes as to their take on the porn-devaluing-sex debate.

There are a few things about porn that I find quite disturbing and, as a 24 year old woman, I think it has been one of the major sources of sex-ed for guys my age. I find that unfortunate for a few reasons:

- the money shot. I can't think of a female equivalent of this that isn't demeaning (throwing wine in your face after a fight at dinner, spitting in your face), so the fact that this is increasingly common bugs me. Is it about marking "property" or about getting off on humiliation or something else that I'm not seeing? I don't get it.
- rape porn. There is so much of it, probably half the hits on Kazaa involve rape or "forced sex" and that is just... ew. I know there is a whole s&m culture, but personally, I would rather not have my boyfriend associate sex with force. And what does this do to reports of actual rapes? If you watch porn with rape in it a lot, doesn't it become normalized and not so heinous?
- I've heard guys discuss how disgusting porn would be on high definition TV, because then you could see blemishes, and then they wonder why girls have such issues with body image.
- most of the time, it's constructed by men for a male view. Yes, men are more turned on visually than most women, but this does skew porn into being about what men want and nothing else, and if your main source of info about sex is porn, that's not the whole story. There's a lot of pressure on the woman to be sexy, to look right, to sound right, but much less pressure on the man to impress, from what I've seen. Why is it always girls kissing each other at parties to get the boys hard? Why can't you guys do stuff to get us all hot and bothered? I wonder if the way porn is targetted to male desire affects that.
- there is very little context. Contrast most porn with a movie like Sex and Lucia (Lucia y el Sexo), where there is a lot of graphic sex but it's focused on the pleasure of both partners and in the context of a relationship where both partners are head over heels for each other and spend a lot of time in play as they get to know one another.

All of this is probably skewed by what porn I have and have not seen, and I don't think the solution is to get rid of porn altogether. I think a lot of it has to do with the quality of sex education, and I don't just mean "tab a in slot b" or how to use a condom (although, America, that would be nice too). Many women my age have no idea how their bodies are put together, and it infuriates me. Not only that, they have no vocabulary for it and talking about it graphically is taboo in many of their families, so the only discourse they're left with is that of porn (if that), and "oh baby, harder" is not exactly descriptive or useful when what you really want to say is "quit crushing my clitoris, stupid, touch it SOFTLY".

Oh, and as for sex education being the realm of parents... my mother had never heard the word "orgasm" until she got married. You think she knows how to teach me to talk about sex? She was never taught herself. It would be great if everyone's parents knew how to do sex ed. properly and actually did, but many don't, and I stopped having to take Health/Sex Ed. classes in grade 9, so I didn't get much. Without the internet, I really wouldn't know much.
posted by heatherann at 8:06 AM on April 18, 2005


porn is an all-consuming fire.
posted by quonsar at 8:13 AM on April 18, 2005


It's not the porn, we're all too busy going on man dates.
posted by drezdn at 8:15 AM on April 18, 2005


Klein interviewed shallow, stupid people and got a shallow, stupid thesis.
If a guy won't date you because you don't turn your pubes into a landing strip, guess what? He's a shallow jerk. And if you can't get a guy to fuck you by exhibiting interest, well, maybe he just doesn't want to fuck you. Or he's a shallow jerk. Or you've got a shallow idea of what turns guys on.
The main reason why my girlfriend and I don't fuck as often as we might like isn't that I look at porn: it's that we're tired, we lead busy lives of school and work, and we get stressed out. Jerking off takes five minutes, with no capitulation to mutual satisfaction or effort. But blaming porn for not having sex as often is like blaming MiniPutt for my not playing golf.
posted by klangklangston at 8:17 AM on April 18, 2005


Now I think she was absolutely right.

DEFINITELY. You gotta watch yourself, or before you know it, you've got no sex life whatsoever.

A comedian once said, "Girls are nice, but they don't compare to the real thing."
posted by fungible at 8:19 AM on April 18, 2005


And klangklangston: that's the problem. We're all busy, jerking off takes five minutes and you're done, and porn is fast, easy, free and satisfies physically if not emotionally. That's why real sex, which takes commitment and time and effort, can so easily get sidetracked in our "quick fix" culture.

I'm not saying porn should be regulated by government (any more than alcohol should) but people should be careful. I know too many people (including myself, at times) who have fallen prey to that particular beast.
posted by fungible at 8:24 AM on April 18, 2005


stenseng - I think there is a very real trend toward isolation, alienation, and immaturation in our culture, and I think it's evident in our public discourse, in our political process, and now often even in our interaction between the sexes.

Yes, obvious. It's all about me. Simple and childish. Consumer culture. There arent' too many ad campaigns appealing to altruism. It's all about satisfying individual needs for yourself and by yourself. You work, you get paid, you spend it on yourself, you are awesome. Simple.

The thing about porn is, we ain't seen nothin yet. How long until remote control sex becomes commonplace. Your kids' sex toys will allow them to 'interact' without being in each others physical presence. Sorry no offence to anyone with kids.

Is porn isolating? Yes of course.

Does it set unrealistic expectations. Yes also.

Will these effects get worse. Yes.
posted by scheptech at 8:25 AM on April 18, 2005


Mefemmes? ha.

Porn, like alchohol or overeating, can become an addiction. A guy who is so far gone as to prefer porn to a real woman has problems he would have without the porn--he shouldn' t be in a relationship anyway. If he is, and refuses to deal with his problem, then the woman should leave him, because he is not worth being with.

I don't believe in prohibiting alcohol, even if some alcoholics would never have become addicted if they didn't have access to it. I don't believe in prohibiting porn for the same reason.

I do believe in encouraging women not to be bullied into any kind of act they don't want to do, or into looking like a porn star, etc. I think that is a much more effective way of dealing with this that some sort of porn prohibition/regulation (which is the only alternative I can think of). If we're not going to censor it, well, we have to accept that it exists and deal with it. We have to be secure enough in ourselves to see it for what it is--not The End of Normal Sex, but an outlet for wanking that a mature person does not mistake for actual intimacy.

And if young men are only seeing naked ladies through porn, perhaps their parents should buy them some basic books on the human body when they're old enough, so that they can see there is more out there.

And by the way, the men in "women's porn" i.e., romance novels, are hardly realistic. It doesn't seem to stop women from having sex with actual men who aren't 6 foot 6 blue eyed cowboys with ripped abs and incredible asses.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 AM on April 18, 2005


Right now I devide my time between porn and metafilter.... sadly, I'm not sure I quite understand either. But I know I'm no animal.
posted by RightsaidFRED at 8:39 AM on April 18, 2005


emjaybee: A guy who is so far gone as to prefer porn to a real woman has problems he would have without the porn--he shouldn't be in a relationship anyway. If he is, and refuses to deal with his problem, then the woman should leave him, because he is not worth being with.

But that suggests that sex is the be- and end-all in a relationship. In which case is either of them worthy of the other? A relationship in which the sex is faulty isn't worth the effort?
Frankly, getting my rocks off is way down the list of "reasons to be with someone".
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:49 AM on April 18, 2005


A guy who is so far gone as to prefer porn to a real woman has problems he would have without the porn--he shouldn' t be in a relationship anyway.

So you're saying that someone who is of an addictive nature, and who may possibly having a particular weakness for visual stimulation, who becomes horribly addicted to internet pornography and thusly becomes desensitized to real-world stimuli was just a shitty person in the first place and the neverending glut of free porn just ushered in the inevitable?

And does this follow with the rest of your analogy? Are alcoholics just bad people who happen to drink?

I'm not sure I know what you're getting at, unless you're a bit of a simpleton and are missing the point of the entire article.

And by the way, the men in "women's porn" i.e., romance novels, are hardly realistic. It doesn't seem to stop women from having sex with actual men who aren't 6 foot 6 blue eyed cowboys with ripped abs and incredible asses.

Hmm. Yep, I guess it was the latter.
posted by glenwood at 8:50 AM on April 18, 2005


Isn't there a point at which you respect your partner enough not to pressure her to do things that are really only for your own benefit?

Of course there is. No question. Yes. Absolutely. But the converse is also true--isn't there a point at which you respect your partner enough to do things for him that are really for his own benefit?

I do believe in encouraging women not to be bullied into any kind of act they don't want to do, or into looking like a porn star, etc.

Again, yes, absolutely. Again, though, there's a flip side. Sure, yes, absolutely, there are uncrossable lines that can and should be laid out, but if one partner wants to experiment a little, and the other doesn't, why must the more-conservative partner get his or her way every time? Why is not wanting to do something automatically valued over wanting to do something?
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:52 AM on April 18, 2005


But I know I'm no animal.

I know I'm an animal with vestigal mammaries.

Well, I used to think they were vestigal. Then I discovered porn.
posted by DaShiv at 8:54 AM on April 18, 2005


If all this were true... it would be nice if men would hurry up and get desensitized to boobies. But for most men it seems that no matter how many pairs of boobies they have seen, they still get that boobie thrill.
posted by crapulent at 8:54 AM on April 18, 2005


Porn can be a tremendously powerful manufacturer of emotional cognitive dissonance. Its effects are more corrosive on the boys and men with less real life experience with women and romance and lovemaking, but it's not limited on the young.

I'm not much of a porn consumer, but I occasionally find myself inflamed by the idea of anal sex, money shots, etc. I don't have to guess where it comes from. I also know my wife of more than a decade isn't comfortable with the idea of those particular acts.

So I shrug it off and enjoy our splendid love life.

But how will my son handle it? If inflamed in a similar way, will he reject women as romanic or life partners based on their willingness to submit to certain uncomfortable acts? Will his template of acceptable or desireable relationships be shaped by the powerful, graphic imagery?

More bluntly, will he need to hear "Oh yeah fuck that ass" to be completely happy with a woman? Or if a woman accepts his money shot, will he value that over more substantive attributes?

I'm not trying to argue porn should be banned, regulated, etc. I am saying it could have seriously negative effects on my son's life, like alcohol or drugs, and I need to step up my parenting. I need to talk to him about porn and how it can hurt him as well as arouse him.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:57 AM on April 18, 2005


men who aren't 6 foot 6 blue eyed cowboys with ripped abs and incredible asses

When I used to read romance novels, admitted this was a long time ago and I only read a handful of them at most, it wasn't *at all* about what the man looked like, but about *how he treated the woman* - i.e. made her feel special, like he was willing to commit to her, care for her, take care of her, protect her, be sensitive to her feelings, wants, and needs, etc. Face it, women just aren't as visually based as males are when it comes to sex.

if one partner wants to experiment a little, and the other doesn't, why must the more-conservative partner get his or her way every time? Why is not wanting to do something automatically valued over wanting to do something?

Somehow I doubt you would be asking such questions if you were in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison paired with a cellmate who wanted to do all manner of sexual things to you that you were not willing to do.

It all comes down to consent. If you don't have consent, then fucking *deal with it*, and quit whining. Find some porn to jack off to, or a more willing partner if you must.
posted by beth at 9:06 AM on April 18, 2005


DaShiv...porn presents far more diversity in women than other genres Wow. That's something of a justification to say the least.

On preview....I've edited out a lot here...but:

what argybargy, heatherann + sacre_bleu said - all those comments can be joined in a 3-some of lurid insight, lubricated honesty and deviant apprehension (with a dash of mystique on the side)
posted by peacay at 9:07 AM on April 18, 2005


I'd actually like to hear from any MeFemmes as to their take on the porn-devaluing-sex debate.

I can't say that it devalues sex, at least from my perspective. I'm the one that looks at porn, my husband doesn't (yes, really!). But if I did happen upon my husband whacking off to porn, you'd bet I'd be upset. Why didn't he invite me?!

And like a couple other women have mentioned, although I usually read porn rather than see/watch it, the women I've seen online can look a little careworn not to mention fake.
posted by deborah at 9:07 AM on April 18, 2005


And, typically, the one who doesn't want to do something is the one whose orifice(s) get breached, so they are the ones feeling the unpleasantness (if any) in the transaction. It only makes sense that they have the say.
posted by beth at 9:08 AM on April 18, 2005


If there were no demand, it wouldn't be so prevalent. Simple as that. A few months of nagging isn't going to change a couple million years of evolution. Porn does well because it appeals to whatever base urges or instincts are in us. If a woman likes a man who needs to ejaculate on her face, well, my advice would be to close your eyes. If a guy likes a girl who hates cum, get used to condoms, buddy. Frankly, I just don't see what the big deal is.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:13 AM on April 18, 2005


The article is so bleh. A series of unsubstantiated claims (i.a.: "For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women."), backed up by "the people I spoke with agree with me 100%". Some cheesy middle-aged nostalgia for the porn of yore. Some shaking canes at those damn kids an' their internets.
Meh. Not even anything to argue against.
posted by signal at 9:13 AM on April 18, 2005


As a MeFemme, I've been reading this all day with wide eyes and general disbelief. I don't want to overshare and am only doing so because my take seems to go against the prevailing mood and there might be a young MeFemme out there who feels dirty and wrong headed after reading this discussion: I like porn. Generally, I like reading (not Harlequin stuff, hard stuff), but I look too. I have an awareness that it is made by men for men by it's very nature. There is no female money shot. Fake tits. General Fakery. That doesn't mean I'm a bad person or bad feminist for being turned on by it. It's always been around for a reason; it always will be. Share with a loved one. Laugh at it. Enjoy it if you want. If you don't want, that's fine too. I respectfully suggest you spend your activist time on equal pay for equal work and keeping abortion legal rather than taking on the industry. (I'm gonna take some flack for this post but it's the way I feel - not trolling)
posted by rainbaby at 9:14 AM on April 18, 2005


a mouse may not be a substitute, but it's gotta be good enough for a lot of people. Wild, unrestrained sex with an unending array of available attractive partners is a privilige reserved for a select few, those who are attractive, wealthy, lucky, or whatever. For the rest of us, it can often be a long time between drinks and we don't have the privilige of custom ordering our circumstances.

And in between those drinks is the gap that porn fills. And make no mistake, the current hip factor of porn aside, that's how the majority of porn is consumed.
posted by jonmc at 9:20 AM on April 18, 2005


I respectfully suggest you spend your activist time on equal pay for equal work and keeping abortion legal rather than taking on the industry.

I don't see anyone saying porn shouldn't exist, or shouldn't be legal. I see people talking about how maybe ultrahigh levels of consumption aren't the greatest thing for a healthy sexual relationship, though. In this respect it sounds me like people talking about alcoholism or something. No one credible is trying to outlaw porn.
posted by beth at 9:23 AM on April 18, 2005


Somehow I doubt you would be asking such questions if you were in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison paired with a cellmate who wanted to do all manner of sexual things to you that you were not willing to do.

It all comes down to consent. If you don't have consent, then fucking *deal with it*, and quit whining. Find some porn to jack off to, or a more willing partner if you must.


So there's simply no room for discussion on this topic, then? A request for a little boundary-pushing equals prison anal rape? A desire to discuss new techniques equals whining? I agree that consent is required, yes, no question. But it sounds like you feel that asking for that consent is out of bounds, too. Am I misinterpreting your comments?
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:24 AM on April 18, 2005


Asking is fine. Continued pressure is not. Force is not. Emotional manipulation is not. There's a way to attempt to convince someone to try what you want that doesn't cross the line, sure.

But they're not always wrong somehow if they refuse, and continue to refuse. That's all I'm getting at. Refusing in itself isn't somehow objectively "wrong" in any way.
posted by beth at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2005


Wow. That's something of a justification to say the least.

Porn showing many types of women as justifying porn? You misread me. I was contradicting Wolf's assertion that porn is the main culprit for "you have to be buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax." In fact, as deborah conceded, other factors such as advertising (and what I've brought up about sexual imagery in mainstream entertainment, such as music videos, etc) are far more responsible for those notions, whereas comparatively, porn presents all kinds of women because men like to jerk off to all kinds of women. Wolf pointed her finger at the wrong culprit (and I said she had done so either ignorantly so because she has no idea what she's talking about when it comes to porn, or intentionally so that she could whore some attention by stirring the pot).

Wolf was wrong to imply that porn's "mission" is to devalue women -- it exists to get people off, period. That it uses variety to do the task isn't a justification for its existence, it's simply a means to an end. And all these "non-idealized" women in porn getting lots men off thoroughly refutes Wolf's insistence that porn makes men unable to respond to normal female bodies in the flesh.

I occasionally find myself inflamed by the idea of anal sex, money shots, etc. I don't have to guess where it comes from. I also know my wife of more than a decade isn't comfortable with the idea of those particular acts.

Money shots I can certainly understand. But given that 10% of the population engages in anal sex (including, no doubt, large numbers of gay men), isn't it a bit odd to be inflamed by it just because your wife isn't comfortable with it? Or have I misunderstood?

a mouse may not be a substitute, but it's gotta be good enough for a lot of people.

You know, when I called the local pet store looking for a mouse as a "substitute", they yelled a bunch of names at me and then hung up.
posted by DaShiv at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2005


What about people that get involved in relationships just for the sex? If all they're looking is satisfaction of their natural desire perhaps porn could provide that outlet, thus saving them and their potential partner from the pain of a failed relationship? Either way, if you stay inside looking at porn instead of going out and finding a real person, you have no one to blame but yourself. There is no substitute for the real thing. I don't really do the relationship thing, but it's not because no one looks good enough (I actually happen to find the majority of porn stars disgusting), it's because I haven't met anyone that I want to spend my life with. I haven't met anyone that I'm ready for a devoted relationship with, so I don't have one. And the fact that I have...other entertainment options...makes that decision easier. Maybe women are trying too much to focus on their looks and not enough time trying to show off their mind. Is that porn's fault? Or is it a society that values the material over the spiritual? I don't know, but I can say that there's certainly nothing about porn that prevents it from being a useful addition to society except, of course, the way we treat it.

And the fact that I have free, easy constant access to something that turns me on is really not a great thing.
No monogamous relationships, then, eh?

As a woman I am sick and tired of seeing women's sexually used all over the place as something to sell some item or the image itself.
As a man, so am I.

Call me stupid if you will, I can't magically just decide to value myself 100% based on my intrinsic merits, completely aside from how I look.
I don't think anyone's asking anyone to stop considering their physical attributes altogether, I think the point is more that if you want to be with someone that doesn't judge you solely based on your physical attributes, you should be less concerned about them. If you don't want to constantly fret over your appearance, then find someone that likes how you look all the time, or doesn't even notice. Are there many people like that? Maybe not, but life's hard sometimes.

Of course. But how many people accede to their partner's wishes for acts they simply *DO NOT WANT TO DO AT ALL*, for fear their partner will dump them, or pressure them, or make them feel somehow inadequate (calling them "uptight" or "prudish" or whatever counts) for not being all gung-ho about the anal or whatever?
Too many. But maybe it would be a better idea to tell them to fuck off and not worry about their judgement of you than giving in to their desires against your own wishes? Anyone that pressures people into doing things they don't want to is an asshole, and I don't know why you'd care what they think.

Where do these appetites come from? My first guess is porn.
I'm sure some of it does, but if you consider people like the Marquis de Sade, for instance, you realize that people have had fucked-up sexual appetites at least hundreds of years before widely proliferated, commercialized and visual porn was around. I can't tell you why, but it has happened.

Isn't there a point at which you respect your partner enough not to pressure her to do things that are really only for your own benefit?
Yes, that point would be on the first meeting.

If you watch porn with rape in it a lot, doesn't it become normalized and not so heinous?
Maybe, but I think a better question would be, "Why are you watching porn with rape in it a lot?". Even though I can tell they're are faked, I'm really turned off by rape scenes.

Why is it always girls kissing each other at parties to get the boys hard? Why can't you guys do stuff to get us all hot and bothered? I wonder if the way porn is targeted to male desire affects that.
It might be that, it might also be that men seem to enjoy women kissing a lot more than women enjoy men kissing. I've heard numerous women voice disgust over homosexual acts involving men, and numerous men express enjoyment over homosexual acts involving women. I think it has more to do with the intrinsic popularity of the act and the fact that there's less social stigma surrounding lesbianism than male homosexuality.

oh baby, harder" is not exactly descriptive or useful when what you really want to say is "quit crushing my clitoris, stupid, touch it SOFTLY".
That was hilarious; but in the end what prevents someone from saying what they really want to say? Is it porn?

Jerking off takes five minutes, with no capitulation to mutual satisfaction or effort.
Which is sometimes what someone wants, and if they want to get off quick and porn isn't around, what do you think the chances of a very unfulfilling sexual encounter with their SO are? I'd guess quite a bit higher. When you want something meaningful, you have sex with a person that you care about and that cares about you; if you're looking to just get your rocks off, porn's the way to go.

Your kids' sex toys will allow them to 'interact' without being in each others physical presence.
You mean, like the next generation of sex toys, or are you implying that we'll be giving sex toys to our children in the future?
posted by nTeleKy at 9:41 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm going down the shops to buy a stock of "I'm a 10%er" badges!

Who's with me?
posted by NinjaPirate at 9:41 AM on April 18, 2005


I think it's about time men started complaining about the unrealistic expectations foisted upon them by male porn stars. After all we don't all have foot-long ones, nor can we all "hold it" for 20-25 minutes.

A lot of us do resemble Ron Jeremy in other departments though.
posted by clevershark at 9:42 AM on April 18, 2005


I understand that some porn offers "non-idealized" women (and men, presumably) as subjects. But realistically, what proportion is this of total porn?

I don't seek porn out but I see it on some sites I look at, and all I see is the idealized female form. Slim, big tits, etc. From what I can tell the BBW stuff and "real people" porn is more marginalized. What is the true proportion? I don't know enough to judge.

Does it totally depend on what you go looking for?
posted by beth at 9:46 AM on April 18, 2005


I agree with you beth, I really do. I've been on both sides of the issue (lucky me!). I agree that "Refusing in itself isn't somehow objectively "wrong" in any way." I assert that refusing isn't always objectively "right," either, but you do give a third option with "or [find] a more willing partner if you must." I don't think that option is given enough value.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:46 AM on April 18, 2005


I realize porn is often the target of censors, but I don't understand the defensiveness that manifests when anyone suggests that that its effects might not be 100 percent positive. Most of us can enjoy trash TV in moderation and still admit that our society would be better off if people spent as much time reading the classics as they do watching "Desperate Housewives," and maybe even consider the idea that a steady diet of trash TV impairs your ability to appreciate great art. But say something similar about porn and all of a sudden you're in Catharine MacKinnon/Tipper Gore/Jerry Falwell territory.

I think that those of you trying to read this as a polemic or a news story are missing the point. Wolf has written a thought-provoking essay that tries to generalize from her experiences. It doesn't claim to be investigative journalism.
posted by transona5 at 9:49 AM on April 18, 2005


"effwerd, I'm telling you what the women I know think of female porn stars"

Yes, and I was commenting how enlightened and liberating this way of thinking is. It must be very liberating to know that all you have to do is assert that porn isn't a "real" job and all women who participate in the industry are drug addicts with fake boobs. Instead of comparing yourself unfavorablly to porn women, just compare yourself to them favorablly. Simple and easy. Having your self-worth defined by those around you (or what you think of them) is freedom.
posted by effwerd at 9:49 AM on April 18, 2005


the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity?

Absolutely spot on. Wolff is right.

It might be that, it might also be that men seem to enjoy women kissing a lot more than women enjoy men kissing. I've heard numerous women voice disgust over homosexual acts involving men, and numerous men express enjoyment over homosexual acts involving women. I think it has more to do with the intrinsic popularity of the act and the fact that there's less social stigma surrounding lesbianism than male homosexuality.

I would argue that it's because women have been tagged as the carriers of all things sexual in society. From infancy on, women see images of themselves displayed to trip men's sexual triggers and make them more avid consumers -- ads for everything from watches to whiskey feature alluring women, and have for a long time, on the assumption that men have the money and do the buying, and that they can more easily be manipulated to respond to these images with a purchase. So woman are quite used to seeing themselves and other women as sexualized; we are taught by the dominant culture that female = sexually desirable. That is why many women find it easier to accept lesbian 'play' than male-on-male sexuality - those images are far less familiar. Also, women do this display, in essence, because they have to -- becuase they are making an effort to seek male attention, and in current popular culture, this is a reliably trendy way to get male attention. And because of cultural conditioning, it is not terribly odious. News: women convince themselves that they like/accept a lot of things that, deep down, really don't reflect their true feelings and beliefs. In other words, what your girlfriend tells you may be different from what she tells her girldfriends.
posted by Miko at 9:50 AM on April 18, 2005


transona5 thank you. I certainly disagree with you but you have succinctly described the article in question.

I wonder if there isn't an undercurrent for some, unconcious no doubt, that seeks grounds for rationalizing the ubiquitousness and value(s) of porn. Now that it has become pretty well mainstream fare, I feel that there's a force prevalent seeking to nail it up on the wall next to the flying ducks and bless this house sign. That's no accusation against anyone in particular --- just riffing.
posted by peacay at 10:00 AM on April 18, 2005


nTeleKy: That was my point. I don't enjoy my girlfriend less because of porn, and believe it or not, I'm perfectly able to differentiate between actresses and real people.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on April 18, 2005


people have had fucked-up sexual appetites at least hundreds of years before widely proliferated, commercialized and visual porn was around. I can't tell you why

Eroticising of childhood influences is the usual theory (see Protoparaphilia, a survey of the evidence). It seems no surprise that flagellation was the archetypal English paraphilia in a period when heavy corporal punishment of children was considered normal.
posted by raygirvan at 10:07 AM on April 18, 2005


klangklangston: Yeah, and I totally agree. I just thought it was a good point (as was the rest of your post) and wanted to expand on it. It was a sort of redress to the rebuttal to your original point...sorry if that was confusing.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:09 AM on April 18, 2005


"oh baby, harder" is not exactly descriptive or useful when what you really want to say is "quit crushing my clitoris, stupid, touch it SOFTLY".
That was hilarious; but in the end what prevents someone from saying what they really want to say? Is it porn?


Partially, yes. As I said in the rest of my post, there's a lot lacking in other departments (parental talks, sex education in school, discussion of or understanding of female anatomy at all), and when all of that is lacking, maybe the only thing left is porn. So, because the dialogue in porn is not descriptive or useful to many things women would want to say, we're left without a vocabulary and a sense that These Things Are Not To Be Said. Polite people don't talk about such things, how am I supposed to know how to talk about it when I've never said or heard the word before? If everyone shys away from it, of course it's uncomfortable.

it might also be that men seem to enjoy women kissing a lot more than women enjoy men kissing. I've heard numerous women voice disgust over homosexual acts involving men, and numerous men express enjoyment over homosexual acts involving women. I think it has more to do with the intrinsic popularity of the act and the fact that there's less social stigma surrounding lesbianism than male homosexuality.

Yes, and I think that stigma gets carried over into a lot of porn. Women are sexualized but men aren't as much. When you sell products with sex, you sell them with women (most of the time). So what's sexy about guys kissing? Not a lot if they're never sexualized and there are so many homophobic memes going around. So this is sexy, and this is controversial.
posted by heatherann at 10:17 AM on April 18, 2005


A thought:

Perhaps the detrimental impact of pornography, and its impact on mens' expectations, has less to do with unrealistic breasts, butts, assholes, and vaginas and more to do with unrealistic portrayals of female sexuality as a concept.

Porn, whether it's silicone-injected tan-in-a-bottle Hustler fodder or amateur girl-next-door hardcore, is still about women as pure sexual creatures. Pornography isn't about relating, engaging, and connecting -- it's about getting off. Neither women nor men are 'whole people' in pornography. They are sexual constructs who exist in a context-free world of pleasure sought and pleasure found.

As other posters have said, this has very little to do with the real work -- and the real joy -- of a relationship with an actual human being. Raising up a generation of guys on pornography may make the comfortable with the mechanics of sex and unashamed of their desires... but I don't think it's at all unreasonable to say that porn as an introduction to sexual relationships is about as unhealthy as it gets.
posted by verb at 10:24 AM on April 18, 2005


Interesting how everyone assumes that sex must necessarily be about relationships. Pornography provides a temporary environment where release is achieved and post-arousal life resumes immediately after, and it all takes place within minutes. It's the ultimate quickie.

Men tend to like that, and women tend not to. Porn fills the void. Ladies, it's not always about you.
posted by clevershark at 10:34 AM on April 18, 2005


Clevershark, some people act as if sex is about relationships because they actually think that sex is/should be about relationships.
posted by verb at 10:36 AM on April 18, 2005


DaShiv: Wolf was wrong to imply that porn's "mission" is to devalue women -- it exists to get people off, period. That it uses variety to do the task isn't a justification for its existence, it's simply a means to an end. And all these "non-idealized" women in porn getting lots men off thoroughly refutes Wolf's insistence that porn makes men unable to respond to normal female bodies in the flesh.

I think it's obivous that there are multiple things going on in most media. I don't see a contradiction between saying that Jerry Bruckheimer's mission is to entertain people, and pointing out that his films tend to have a streak of jingoism a mile wide.

But I think that you really need to look at the market position of those "non-idealized" women in the adult entertainment industry, just as you need to look at their market position in mainstream modeling. In the last decade, there was ONE U.S. fashion magazine focused women larger than a size 12, and it is no longer in business. BBW porn does slightly better, but it's still a niche product. You don't see zaftig women in the "light" pornography of Maxim, Stuff, or the SI Swimsuit issue, nor will you see them routinely on the cover of Penthouse, Playboy or Hustler, nor will you see their films featured in hotel or cable pay per view.

verb: Perhaps the detrimental impact of pornography, and its impact on mens' expectations, has less to do with unrealistic breasts, butts, assholes, and vaginas and more to do with unrealistic portrayals of female sexuality as a concept.

I think porn is unrealistic all around. But I think you hit the nail on the head.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2005


While the the male gaze is being chipped away at by diversified filmmakers, it still applies to porn, and more than we like to think, to advertising and mainstream Hollywood fare. It's everywhere. Because it's pervasive, women have adapted to it. In other words, one assumes a male gaze to consume visual stimuli, which is why girl on girl is hot, boy on boy is not, for advertising purposes. I don't know how the gay male demographic tends to view his ads and his porn. Interesting.
posted by rainbaby at 10:43 AM on April 18, 2005


Being inundated with sex at every turn has only made me less interested in sex in general, and more resentful of all those trying to use it to manipulate me. Leave my desires alone, thank you.

This is pretty hot, though.
posted by homunculus at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2005


Actually, the biggest problem with porn is that it gives young men unrealistic expectations of the female sex. I'm not even kidding. Guys, the world is not filled with ravenous sex-beastesses who will fuck average looking guys with average jobs at the drop of a hat. The best that awaits you is some kind of "a for effort," situation. Realize this and adjust your expectations (and your porn-viewing mindset) accordingly.
posted by jonmc at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2005


Johnmc: Where do women get these idealized versions of the perfect male with the perfect job? Not internets porn but where? Maybe that source is more of a cause of the 'problem' and males seeking porn is simply the end-result.

Then again, I've always been of the opinion that porn doesn't exploit women, but exploit's the male viewer.
posted by melt away at 10:55 AM on April 18, 2005


Where do women get these idealized versions of the perfect male with the perfect job? Not internets porn but where?

I'd call it being hardwired to find males that can help support a growing child (and children). Because back when we evolved, sex pretty often led to babies.
posted by beth at 10:58 AM on April 18, 2005


Johnmc: Where do women get these idealized versions of the perfect male with the perfect job? Not internets porn but where?

I dunno. Their mothers. TV. Teen magazines. Romance novels. The fact that women are the one's who ultimately get to do the accepting and rejecting when it comes to sex, so they weild that power with relish.

I am so glad I'm out of the game.
posted by jonmc at 10:59 AM on April 18, 2005


beth and jonmc ... i think your discussion shows the major problem with all this ... when feminism came along, women wanted men to change their desires and expectations of them ... but women's desires and expectations of men haven't changed that much

one half of the rules of the game have changed ... we can go back ... or we can come up with something else ... but the current state is unstable ...
posted by pyramid termite at 11:08 AM on April 18, 2005


The Wolf article was spot on. I said the same thing on Ask about a year ago in the "biggest drawback of the internet?" question.

wolf's piece thoroughly rebutted here.

Nonsense. Excerpts like this:

"The way Wolf tells it, any female whose pubic hair hasn't been sculpted into a heart, whose belly isn't flat enough to bounce a coin off of, or whose boobs didn't come from a plastic surgeon might as well join a monastery."

make it pretty clear she wasn't paying attention.

"When I was 18, boys were falling all over themselves to see me get naked. Now that I'm 40, they somehow aren't so keen

Hoily fuck. Read much? She never said any such thing. She said that the young people she's talking to on campus are telling her this. Not once does she blame her age for anything. She merely brings it up to give readers an idea of where she's coming from from a cultural perspective (ie, generatioally). In addition, as far as I'm concerned, your putting those particular words in her mouth expose your own lack of experience regarding sex.

It doesn't seem to me that Wolf is saying pornography makes it impossible for "normal" women to get laid. She's saying that internet pornography has changed the sex/sexuality landscape. In my opinion, anyone who doesn't see this is pretty blind or doesn't have the right points of reference (ie, has not dated heavily pre- and post-internet porn).

If anything, internet porn makes it *easier* for people of both sexes to get laid. Ease is not the problem. The "problem" is that the sex is qualitatively different (ie, worse) because of the many elements that seem to be the result of the ubiguity of porn: lack of mystery, foreplay, anticipation high among them. I know women who consider blow jobs part of "making out" and "no more sex than kissing is". I absolutely never heard a woman (or man) claim this when I was younger (and it's women a generation or two behind me that are claiming it).
posted by dobbs at 11:11 AM on April 18, 2005


I realize porn is often the target of censors, but I don't understand the defensiveness that manifests when anyone suggests that that its effects might not be 100 percent positive. [...] But say something similar about porn and all of a sudden you're in Catharine MacKinnon/Tipper Gore/Jerry Falwell territory.

If you're making a commentary about the responses so far in this thread, then you've way overstated your case. Nobody has come forward to say that porn is 100% positive; nobody has defended money shots, rape porn, etc. I had commented earlier about how meanful discussions could be had about whether pornography is addictive or whether it actually induces new kinks upon the viewer. And there are plenty of other issues too, such as when the line between fantasy and reality are crossed -- voyeurism and the Japanese hysteria over "upskirt" photos, for example. Since nobody has said anything about banning porn either, I don't see how could you have a case if you were accusing people of turning this into a black or white issue on this thread.

What I find is that porn gets scapegoated for a lot of the other problems in society, and that confuses actual pornography-related issues such as the ones I've mentioned above. Scapegoating porn as Wolf does for female body image issues is misdirected at best when advertising is far more ubitiquous while promoting a far more homogenized view of the female form. (Far more women are starving themselves to look like movie stars than are getting huge breast implants to look like porn stars.) But she gets away with it, since porn is an easy target. Likewise, using "when all of that is lacking, maybe the only thing left is porn" to blame formative sexual and relationship attitudes on porn conceits sidesteps the real culprits, poor parenting and inadequate (or abstinence co-opted) sex ed, since porn has was never intended as an educational tool. And so on. Porn is seedy and sexist, but it's hardly the root of as many of society's ills as others have named it for.

I don't see a contradiction between saying that Jerry Bruckheimer's mission is to entertain people, and pointing out that his films tend to have a streak of jingoism a mile wide.

I agree, but frankly, I find it hard to believe that porn producers are all conspiring to, as Wolf alleges, intentionally "[deaden] male libido" or to devalue women sexually to the point it's no longer true compared to"when I came of age in the seventies" that "it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman"? Are porn producers really a secret cabal forged to induce men into retreating to their computer when their lady friend is feeling amorous? It's certainly possible that porn producers could be doing all this in addition to their simple goal of making money by getting people off, but somehow I doubt it.

In the last decade, there was ONE U.S. fashion magazine focused women larger than a size 12, and it is no longer in business. BBW porn does slightly better, but it's still a niche product. You don't see zaftig women in the "light" pornography of Maxim, Stuff, or the SI Swimsuit issue, nor will you see them routinely on the cover of Penthouse, Playboy or Hustler, nor will you see their films featured in hotel or cable pay per view.

Wolf's argument was that explosion of Internet porn is what's causing this; on the Internet, there are far more fetish sites of all stripes. And Internet porn has dwarfed print or video porn (hardcore in any case).

I would posit that many of the "softcore" rags you've listed are no more pornographic than the more provocative lingerie ads out there.

And lastly, I never claimed that porn was free from sexual stereotypes, only that it doesn't deserve the bulk of the blame since it's more diverse and less ubiquitous than other factors in our culture. And most of the vast number of sites are low-budget affairs that can hardly afford to use the "unrealistic" porn stars used in the mainstream videos that win AVN awards, etc.

Then again, I've always been of the opinion that porn doesn't exploit women, but exploit's the male viewer.

I don't think it's an either men or women thing, and which side has the worst of it is certainly open to a (futile) debate. But I agree that the "exploitation" of men is IMO concrete and undeniable, even in the most trivial financial sense.
posted by DaShiv at 11:24 AM on April 18, 2005


Kirk: I think the Bruckheimer is a pretty good thing to mention. I think that the things most of the people here have a problem with are the same things that are hallmarks of a Bruckheimer joint: unrealistic gender roles, simplified narratives, explosions over exposition... And sure, movies like Fast and the Furious give kids an unrealistic view of driving cars, but that's part of why so many people like 'em. It is a fantasy. It is an escape.
But most people also know that they have to drive 55 or get a ticket (Sammy Hagar excepted).
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 AM on April 18, 2005


For the most part Wolf is right on the right track but the problem probably isn't porn. Sex has been so over done and so in your face that it's just plain played out and boring now. When you toss in how dangerous sex has become on a lot of fronts and then the whole complexity and time-consuming nature of the romance thing and you start to see why a lot of young guys just can't really be bothered. Sex, the act, has been replaced with the Paris Hilton-esque concept of "sexy" which is a lot more safe and easily consumed. The rise of porn is probably just the most obvious symptom of the underlying shift.
posted by nixerman at 11:35 AM on April 18, 2005


Porn is more diverse than ever: there is a near limitless number of choices in the size, shape, color, and style of mindless woman who will crave your hot man-meat.
posted by verb at 11:37 AM on April 18, 2005


Eating Cheetos while masturbating to porn and so glad to be out of the game. :-) - name that mefi member!

The really destructive porn is what Madison Avenue pushes to sell product. People actually believe that sh*t. The porn film industry, not so much.
posted by nofundy at 11:39 AM on April 18, 2005


I'm amazed that no one has addressed the age of Wolf's interviewees yet. College students are, well...immature. They have immature attitudes towards sex. This is news?
posted by cali at 11:42 AM on April 18, 2005


"People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so."

It seems wrong for me to read that sentence and think to myself, "Good." But there you go . . .

Wolf was wrong to imply that porn's "mission" is to devalue women -- it exists to get people off, period.

Here's where I get prudish, though. The thing that has always bothered me about most Internet pornography is the way anal sex and facials are used to implicitly humiliate women. The overwhelming bulk of Internet pornography, in my experience, caters to this taste, and that fact has always disturbed me. Like any healthy male I greatly enjoy the dominating aspect of the sex act, in the sense that I always strive to achieve new heights in stamina, skill, and force in order to leave my wife's jaw on the floor in sheer amazement. I want her to sexually shocked and awed each and every time.

But humiliated? Why? How is that attractive? I've loved, or at least liked, all of my partners. I don't understand why I'd want to humiliate them, and the fact that it seems like other males do - and perhaps increasingly so - has always deeply concerned me. I've tried to want it but it feels wrong and moreover makes no emotional sense. I'm missing something, here, and I can't help but think this is somehow related to the various points Naomi Wolf touched on.

Oh, and yeah, the entire Orthodox Jew portion of the article should've been left on the cutting room floor.
posted by Ryvar at 11:45 AM on April 18, 2005


Interesting how everyone assumes that sex must necessarily be about relationships.

clevershark, for me also, sex is not only about relationships. From my first wet-dream onwards, it's been a personal journey of surprise arousals and passing fetishes - all very mysterious and all very interesting, and all very very personal (i.e. idiosynchratic desires). I also think a good relationship need not rely on good sex - relationships are also personal and what the two people in it want. I actually think it can be unhealthy to always try and cobble together sex and relationships.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 11:46 AM on April 18, 2005


Pornography will turn men into beasts! No! - Porn-suffused men will ignore women!


Pardon me if I find this all rather silly. There's a rather marked difference between images on a screen and actual in-the-flesh humanity.
posted by troutfishing at 11:53 AM on April 18, 2005


Different strokes for different folks. *Rimshot*
posted by rainbaby at 11:59 AM on April 18, 2005


Also, I see that women's magazines get off the hook in this particular thread. At least porn is explicit - women's media often conveys an implicit message, which sinks deeper, I think, into women's minds - they always use beautiful models for articles not associated with beauty such as work and education (newspapers do this too) - the connection is always : success = beauty. beauty = success. You can't argue with implied messages, can you? You can with explict ones such as porn. Wolff acknowledges this and takes the path of least resistance.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 12:02 PM on April 18, 2005


DaShiv: Scapegoating porn as Wolf does for female body image issues is misdirected at best when advertising is far more ubitiquous while promoting a far more homogenized view of the female form.

Body image references get all of about a half-paragraph, and most of that discussion points to things that you don't see often on television or print advertising: no tan lines, trimmed pubic hair, and the Brazilian wax. Nor do I really think she's pointing the finger and saying, "porn is the exclusive factor." What she is saying is that porn might be part of the problem, and the connections she makes between porn and expectations of sexual behavior support that well.

You seem to be focusing on something that is really a small part of the whole article.

I agree, but frankly, I find it hard to believe that porn producers are all conspiring to, as Wolf alleges, intentionally "[deaden] male libido" or to devalue women sexually to the point it's no longer true compared to"when I came of age in the seventies" that "it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman"? Are porn producers really a secret cabal forged to induce men into retreating to their computer when their lady friend is feeling amorous? It's certainly possible that porn producers could be doing all this in addition to their simple goal of making money by getting people off, but somehow I doubt it.

I don't find that any of this is alleged by her article, and there certainly isn't a notion of a secret cabal. By the same token, I don't think that anybody seriously argues that brewers are engaged in a conspiracy to promote drunk driving and liver disease, fast food is engaged in a conspiracy to promote obesity and heart disease, or tobacco companies engaged in a conspiracy to promote lung disease.

Instead, I think the argument is that some industries, in their persuit of maximizing profits, end up creating products that affect their consumers in ways that are sometimes harmful.

Wolf's argument was that explosion of Internet porn is what's causing this; on the Internet, there are far more fetish sites of all stripes. And Internet porn has dwarfed print or video porn (hardcore in any case).

Certainly, but even on the Internet, a lot of these fetishes are marginal compared to the kinds of images that Wolf references. If there is anything to be learned from the Internet it is that it has not revolutionized markets, but created more of the same markets.

I would posit that many of the "softcore" rags you've listed are no more pornographic than the more provocative lingerie ads out there.

Well, here is another factor. As pornography becomes ubiquitous, you see a lot more of it creeping into advertising and mainstream publishing. Sports Illustrated has over the last decade really worked to push the limits of what it can do in the swimsuit issue closer and closer to what would be considered pornographic in the 70s and 80s. I think if you compared Maxim of 2005 to Playboy of 1985 (when I first encountered it) that there would be more similarities than differences.

At this point, I don't think you can lay down a hard line and say, "this is mainstream publishing, and this is pornography" or "this is advertising, and this is pornography."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:22 PM on April 18, 2005


Eating Cheetos while masturbating to porn and so glad to be out of the game. :-) - name that mefi member!

Totally false. I hate Cheetos. Beer Nuts are where it's at, man.
posted by jonmc at 12:34 PM on April 18, 2005


I've heard enough about beer goggles to not want to hear more about jonmc's beer nuts.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:48 PM on April 18, 2005


Wolf was wrong to imply that porn's "mission" is to devalue women -- it exists to get people off, period.

Here's where I get prudish, though. The thing that has always bothered me about most Internet pornography is the way anal sex and facials are used to implicitly humiliate women.


Great point, and I wish I had been able to articulate that. Porn for the point of getting people off is fine in my books, it's great when you're busy, single, in a relationship with someone with a lower sex drive, etc., etc. But it deeply disturbs me that there are all these other themes in much of it that serves to humiliate my gender. I would be absolutely fine with it if that wasn't connected with it, and it bothers me that it is so strongly connected and then you have so many people in this discussion saying "porn fulfills already-existing needs/desires". Really? You need this style of porn, this "men are dominant, see how they treat women like trash or receptacles" style? That's insulting to guys, let alone girls.

And why is anal sex treated that way? Lots of women love anal sex, why is it made into a humiliation thing? I wonder how differently it's treated in gay porn. [note to self: find out]
posted by heatherann at 12:50 PM on April 18, 2005


Of course Deer Nuts are cheaper than Beer Nuts, because they're under a buck.

/rimshot
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on April 18, 2005


jonmc: Actually, the biggest problem with porn is that it gives young men unrealistic expectations of the female sex.

I don't think porn is unique in that. Mainstream media (drama, soaps, articles, etc) also give the impression that sexual relationships are easy to find if you just throw effort at the idea. Try telling that to someone with, say, social phobia or Asperger syndrome. For many men, as you put it earlier, "it can be a long time between drinks".
posted by raygirvan at 12:59 PM on April 18, 2005


Lots of interesting commentary here.
For my two cents...I am a female who is turned on by porn. Anal, money shots, whatever a lot women seem to find degrading, all seems pretty hot to me. The hottest porn, as far as I'm concerned, depicts people who really like what they're doing.

That said, I must admit that I don't like to watch porn with my sex partners, mainly because I compare myself to the porn stars and I feel like I can't measure up, like I'm a fleshy masturbatory aid for the fantasy girl they'd really like to be fucking...and, uh, that's not so hot for me. So I kind of get the anti-porn article. I relate. I, too, think that many people, myself included, are a somewhat self-conscious about what they look like in the act because of so much exposure to posed and choreographed stuff. Even with all of the variety out there, I can see how the pervasiveness of porn standards are homogenizing peoples' tastes, which is kind of sad.

I do, however, feel it is a basic human right to have whatever kind of relationship with your own hand that you want to. And most guys I've known still prefer the real thing. I do have one friend, a very attractive "exotic dancer" and voyeur dorm girl, whose boyfriend was so addicted to porn that he couldn't get off without hand lotion and his favorite website. There's just no pleasing some people.
posted by apis mellifera at 1:13 PM on April 18, 2005


heatherann: Or for that matter, some of the best sex I've had involved an hour of nothing more than kissing before moving on to other things. In contrast, I find pornography to be pretty dull, with a predictable routine scripted to fit a 20-minute segment. A few minutes of kissing, obligatory mutual oral sex, extended vaginal intercourse in a position that would give both me and my partner torn muscles without getting either of us off (don't get the performers off either), anal sex if it's more hard core, then the money shot.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:15 PM on April 18, 2005


The girls in porn look far more like the women I've had real relationships with than anyone in beer commercials. It's much more likely to see women with flaws or who are a little overweight (in television terms), especially with the recent explosion of gonzo porn. I prefer the healthy sexuality of most porn to the tremendous amount of violence in mainstream entertainment.

Also, my wife and I have busy schedules, porn can fill in the gaps for us. Nothing compares with actually being together, though.

*shrug*
posted by McBain at 1:16 PM on April 18, 2005


I don't think porn is unique in that. Mainstream media (drama, soaps, articles, etc) also give the impression that sexual relationships are easy to find if you just throw effort at the idea.

Those media also give women unrealistic expectations about romance, to be fair.

Truth be told, most mainstream, gonzo, and even a lot of the Terry Richardson type arty porn, leaves me wanting. It's missing any sense, of playfulness, or joy. It's just like a grim assembly line of orgasm. Amateur sites like voyeurweb(NSFW) are great since it's some ordinary woman realizing she's desirable and sexy, and the fact that it's someone who could be your neighbor eliminates the obnoxious "act available, be unattainable" shtick. I Shot Myself(NSFW) is great too, since it's women defining and discovering their own sexiness. The neo-burlesque stuff is also great because of the playfulness, variety in body-types and styles and because it appeals to my retro side.
posted by jonmc at 1:36 PM on April 18, 2005


But it deeply disturbs me that there are all these other themes in much of it that serves to humiliate my gender.

But doesn't the context make all the difference here? Moneyshot with woman who hates it = humiliating; Moneyshot with woman who likes it (yes, they do exist) = hot. (Sure, a woman might just be pretending to like certain things just because she knows you do, but then you're probably just pretending to give a damn about ballet or opera or whatever. A little fibbing just to make someone happy isn't always a bad thing.)

I have noticed, however, that in porn there is more unequivocally humilation-centered porn than there used to be. That it tends to recycle the same participants or get girls who are "fresh off the bus" has a very high skeeze factor IMO. But I still think it's the intent of the producers that's humiliating, not any specific sex act itself.
posted by Cyrano at 1:43 PM on April 18, 2005


But it deeply disturbs me that there are all these other themes in much of it that serves to humiliate my gender. -heatherann

I understand your point of view. I consider myself a feminist, and am offended by the idea that women are garbage to be used however some men see fit. But I think it's also reasonable to consider that some women actually like it. Humiliation, or being submissive really turns some women (and men) on. I imagine the D/s thing has something to do with social conditioning, but probably something to do with the fact that we're primates, as well. There's a lot about sexual desire that doesn't conform to our modern ideas about equality. But there it is, just the same.
I'm not sure how all of this plays out for people. Does the dominance and degradation stay in the bedroom?
posted by apis mellifera at 1:50 PM on April 18, 2005


I'm not sure how all of this plays out for people. Does the dominance and degradation stay in the bedroom?

FWIW, I remember reading somewhere that most men who paid hookers/doms to dominate and degrade them* were high powered executive types who dominated all day, and that those who paid to dominate submissives were those in low status positions. You want whats lacking in your life I guess.

*this I don't get, paying to be belittled. Don't these people have parents?
posted by jonmc at 1:53 PM on April 18, 2005


Cyrano: Certainly, there are some women (and some men) out there who like getting messy, so to speak. On the other hand, is that portion big enough to account for the moneyshot appearing in perhaps 9/10 sex scenes in porn? Back in the 90s, some people tried to make a more realistic form of pornography, it never really caught on well.

apillis mellifera: My personal experience is that it does not stay in the bedroom, it has a tendency to spill out of the bedroom in weird ways. That's not to say that all doms are abusive outside of the bedroom, just that I think it's a bad idea to assume that there is a strict wall of separation between the bedroom and the rest of the world.

In addition, I think a problem is that a lot of these themes come up in porn and erotica that is not explicitly D/s.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:02 PM on April 18, 2005


The money shot is simply a necessity of the medium, a genre convention like anything else unrealistic in film. There is no satisfying way to cinematically depict the orgasm without the money shot. While I think there are very real connotations of "marking territory" and that sort of thing, I think the overwhelming popularity of it is simply because it is an obvious visual touchstone for the awaited conclusion of the sexual act.
posted by McBain at 2:07 PM on April 18, 2005


The matter of couples losing passion in the lives has been covered a few times by Miss Caitlin Flanagan at The Atlantic

Here's a book review she did of The Wifely Duty -- sorry, full text is available only to subscribers. (I can mirror somewhere if people are interested)
posted by gambit at 2:19 PM on April 18, 2005


McBain: The money shot is simply a necessity of the medium, a genre convention like anything else unrealistic in film. There is no satisfying way to cinematically depict the orgasm without the money shot. While I think there are very real connotations of "marking territory" and that sort of thing, I think the overwhelming popularity of it is simply because it is an obvious visual touchstone for the awaited conclusion of the sexual act.

While I agree that it is a genre convention, I disagree that there is no satisfying way to depict orgasm without it. There are some quite successful attempts to depict orgasm from the neck up (not only in video, but in print photography as well). Porn that shows orgasm by showing the face and body language of the moment rather than a close-up of a dick is extremely sexy and effective.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:20 PM on April 18, 2005


Kirk- Yes I agree, but really there is nothing more clear and concise than the money shot. Its not like its about women, its just as prevalent in gay porn.
posted by McBain at 2:23 PM on April 18, 2005


Body image references get all of about a half-paragraph [...] You seem to be focusing on something that is really a small part of the whole article.

Because both the rebuttal article and many of the women who responded here addressed this "body image" issue, that porn might somehow make them feel less attractive as women. My point was that advertising is far more ubiquitous, etc.

Instead, I think the argument is that some industries, in their persuit of maximizing profits, end up creating products that affect their consumers in ways that are sometimes harmful.

I certainly think porn can be used in "harmful" ways (people who use it so much they can't get off without it, etc), but only a tiny percentage of porn is truly harmful in and of itself. Most porn have a very pro-male bias but that's hardly a requisite condition for pornography; it just reflects the demographics of its consumers. (You can insert links to female-run porn outfits, etc.)

As for Wolf's assertion that the proliferation of porn is the cause of the more blase attitude toward sex that she describes, I simply cannot disagree more. First of all, regarding the qualitative changes in mainstream porn that she alleges: I don't know which halcyon days of porn she held in mind as normative, but the hardcore action of today's mainstream porn certainly seems no more explicit to me than what was found in the Puritan mags I had a decade ago. In Wolf's words, "all mainstream porn—and certainly the Internet—made routine use of all available female orifices" well pre-dates the Internet, since we obviously didn't invent bj's, dp's, or facials over the last decade. And it's completely ingenuous to pin everything on the increased availability of porn when we've gone through so much cultural upheaval in our attitudes towards sex in the last couple of decades: the AIDS crisis, battles over sex ed, and other similar events that have lead so many activists to push for a more candid dialogue in our culture about sex. And youths today have grown up in an age where all this is taken for granted, including presidential blowjobs, Sex and the City, Savage Love, and so on. I can hardly blame them if the mechanical aspects of sex lacks "mystery".

Ultimately, there are so many horses pulling this cart of change in sexual attitude that I simply can't see how Wolf isn't either being incredibly myopic or duplicitly harboring ulterior motives to single out Internet porn to be held responsible in her article.

The money shot is simply a necessity of the medium, a genre convention like anything else unrealistic in film.

Absolutely -- hence "money" shot, no? *XO There was semen on faces long before the Internet.
posted by DaShiv at 2:24 PM on April 18, 2005


Also, note, the money shot shows the results of the orgasm WITHOUT just being a close up of a penis. It is shows the result on the canvas of a beautiful woman/man. There is a reason it is so common, because its really a brilliant bit of filmmaking. I'd be interested who first used it.
posted by McBain at 2:26 PM on April 18, 2005


raygirvanI don't think porn is unique in that. Mainstream media (drama, soaps, articles, etc) also give the impression that sexual relationships are easy to find if you just throw effort at the idea.

No kidding. I remember thinking the whole cast of characters of Friends were sluts[1] when it first came out. Then I remembered their sex lives were as realistic as their living conditions.

[1]Not that their is anything wrong with that, it just seemed kinda concentrated.
posted by Mitheral at 2:35 PM on April 18, 2005


there are some women (and some men) out there who like getting messy, so to speak. On the other hand, is that portion big enough to account for the moneyshot appearing in perhaps 9/10 sex scenes in porn?

A valid point. But it's a "chicken or the egg?" thing I think. I doubt there's a way to definitively say whether people (admittedly, mostly men in this case) like the messy because they've seen it so much, or that they see it so much because that's what they want to see.
posted by Cyrano at 2:38 PM on April 18, 2005


I lost interest in the article's content after she tried to make a point with this bit: In my gym, the 40-year-old women have adult pubic hair; the twentysomethings have all been trimmed and styled. Trimmed is a bad thing? I could give a shit about landing strips, hearts, diamonds, clovers or your initials but if you want me to put my face somewhere I expect you to keep the work area a little cleaned up. It's not that porn has left us uninterested in your vagina, Naomi, it's that we can't fucking find it without a guide and a machette.

And I appologize to all the rest of you, but for the one person streaking for the post button to smart off, yeah, I trim too.
posted by phearlez at 2:46 PM on April 18, 2005


Yeah, hair in the mouth isn't fun. And that goes both ways.

Shave each other. Its fun.
posted by McBain at 2:49 PM on April 18, 2005


Let's take a look at something less, _um_, messy. Extreme high heals seem to be everywhere in main stream porn. The numbers of people who have a shoe or related fetish is less than 50% according to everything I've read. Yet they are so easy to add and don't detract much from those that don't have that kink that they are everywhere. Bizzarely, to me at least, the heels are often clear plastic making them less noticable.

I'd bet the money shot is similiar. Plus it proves "completion", on the guys side anyways. And we all know how goal oriented modern society is. And bukakke is just the more is better extension of that goal orientation.
posted by Mitheral at 2:59 PM on April 18, 2005


wow, flamed by glenwood, and I felt nothing at all.

To explain my extremely simple point that I would think needs no explanation, someone with a porn addiction needs to get help, and if they don't get help and you're stuck in a relationship with them, you have the right to leave. Just as if they were alcoholics. Because that is their mess to clean up...so to speak. Their responsibility, not their partner's, not that of some societal force that will magically make porn disappear so as not to tempt them. If you want to join with Wolf in bemoaning a lost golden age of sexual mental health, feel free, but it won't help you deal with the world as it is now.

And as for romance novels:

When I used to read romance novels, admitted this was a long time ago and I only read a handful of them at most, it wasn't *at all* about what the man looked like, but about *how he treated the woman* - i.e. made her feel special, like he was willing to commit to her, care for her, take care of her, protect her, be sensitive to her feelings, wants, and needs, etc. Face it, women just aren't as visually based as males are when it comes to sex.

Well, that depends on which romances you read. It's changed since the old days. Lots of hot hot throbbing member action, with commentary on size, width, etc. not being uncommon. Now the guys do use a lot more foreplay than in more traditional porn, it's true, but there are quite a few writers who have upped the amount of nasty in romance novel sex scenes. Blame Anne Rice, I think; women still buy a lot of her Beauty erotica series, and I think the romance publishers realized that women would, in fact, like something besides vague descriptions of "rapture."

Ever read Clan of the Cave Bear? Very popular in my high school, we skipped the stupid plot and marked all the sex scenes. The male character's job was to be a professional virgin de-virginator, for god's sake, and he was very sad because no woman was "big enough to take him" until he met the female lead character.
posted by emjaybee at 3:09 PM on April 18, 2005


i'm jumping enthusiastically on the stenseng boat...this is a real issue and a part of a larger movement in our society to a type of solitary/non-intimate life...

hell, i come to metafilter instead of striking up conversations with random folks at bars and coffeehouses. i know i can come here and find what i'm looking for in a conversation and i can leave complication free at any point. though i guess at least it's somewhat more interactive than internet porn.

my favorite instance of this trend (and a much creepier one) is the "I love the X0's" shows on VH1, where they gather a group of wacky b-list celebs to sit in for your friends and reminisce about past decades. I'm in college and I know TONS of people who consider "I love the 90's" and facebook.com an active social life.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:49 PM on April 18, 2005


The fact that women are the one's who ultimately get to do the accepting and rejecting when it comes to sex, so they weild that power with relish.

Geez, i dunno about that. Perhaps they are just not that into you? Girls can be turned down just as easily as guys. The only difference i can see is that they may be a bit better at reading the signs and backing out with grace, rather than propositioning somebody who is clearly not interested.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:02 PM on April 18, 2005


In my gym, the 40-year-old women have adult pubic hair; the twentysomethings have all been trimmed and styled. Trimmed is a bad thing?

Sorry, but where did she say it was a bad thing?

I seem to have read a different article than most of the people posting here as I didn't see anything where Wolf said:

a. she doesn't like/watch porn
b. she thinks shaved pubes are bad
c. she ain't getting laid and doesn't think anyone who doesn't look like a "porn star" is getting laid.
d. nudity in and of itself is bad.

To me, the article is about one thing: how couples relate in the post-internet pornography world compared to pre-internet porn.

On that topic, I think every point she makes is valid.

DaShiv, you keep mentioning that advertising is more ubiquitous. True, but advertising (and doing so with sex/sexuality) has been around a lot longer than internet porn. Though I don't like it, I hardly think its influence is as far-reaching as internet porn.

When I was a kid, pornography was a BIG DEAL. At 14 (1982), I'd seen very little and what I had seen was mostly all of the photo variety. When me or my friends were able to view moving pictures of people having sex, it was something "special" or at least uncommon.

Some of our ideas about sex / sexuality are self-created by the things we anticipate during developing years. By far the images my brain created that were sex related came from books (The Godfather, Clan of the Cave Bear, The Pearl, etc.). For all intents and purposes, that development is now gone.

10, 11, 12 year old boys and girls are seeing pornography (real pornography--not ads) every single day if they want to (and, thanks to spam, often when they don't want to). I wanted to see it when I was 12 also; that doesn't mean I would be better off having seen it.

In addition, many of the girls and boys in online pornography are still teenagers. This was not that common a thing in pre-internet days. I have a sister three years older than me and I most certainly didn't see porn when I was 14/15 of girls my sisters age taking it up the ass. What little "barely legal" porn there was pre-internet was not (to my knowledge) marketed that way (though there were instances of young people doing porn--not trying to discount that entirely).

Those of you who are dismissive of the influence of media on our lives ("We know porn isn't 'reality' and we don't confuse them!')... I gotta take you to task on that, especially regarding young people. Is there not ample proof that young people are influenced by media? Were you not when you were a kid? (To me, this is the reason that Wolf mentions the pubic trimming she notices at the gym: as proof that these younger people are taking cues from porn. Again, the shaved pubes in a majority of women from any other generation didn't happen. I'm all for them shaved, but I saw it in porn before I saw it in the flesh. I assume that's the case with most people.)

Wolf's point, and I agree with her, is entirely about how internet pornography is influencing a younger generation's views of sex / sexuality in a detrimental way... not to "the world at large" (OH NO, PORNOGRAPHY!) but in subtle ways that people weren't usually expecting. It's affect on dating, the man-woman (or man-man woman-woman) dynamic, and the way it has eroded the mystery of sex.

I can't believe I'm alone or in the minority when I say that sex SHOULD have a large element of mystery to it. Sure, not all the time and sure, not even the majority of the time.... but at the start of a relationship or when people are young and developing their thoughts on sexuality and their relationships with the gender that turns them on? I say the more the better.

(And, though I think I'm clear, to be safe, I'm not talking "mystery" as in "How's it done?" or to a degree of cluelessness, but an overwhelming sense that sex is a significant act--or at least should be--when doing it with a person you're unfamilar with in that way. Which isn't to say that one night stands or other intimate and unsubtle relations with strangers don't have their time and place but I'm talking in a "grand scheme" thing.)
posted by dobbs at 4:04 PM on April 18, 2005


I can't believe we're talking about shaved pubes yet again.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on April 18, 2005


Here's the problem: Wolfe spoke with students at Northwestern. Ten years ago, it was impossible to get laid at that school. Today, it's still impossible to get laid at that school. Next time, maybe she should take a trip to UCSD and see if the students are similarly prudish...
posted by herc at 5:05 PM on April 18, 2005


My best friend and i at 11 years-old would steal away with a stack of his dad's playboys and theorize for hours...
What exactly were you supposed to do, where? Why the big deal about beavers (weren't they supposed to be wet, they do live in the water right?) Eventually, the internets, high school health class, and close female friends helped "flesh out" my sexual knowledge before my first "real" encounter.

I use porn as a gap-filler...there are things that i don't expect my gf to do/like (after asking her opinion), so i go somewhere else. As i despise cheaters/cheating, i use internet porn...I don't feel this devalues our relationship at all. I am also a big fan of text-based porn...though not exclusively...sometimes i feel like a naughty read!

Before (perhaps during) the whole reality TV boom, there was reality/amateur porn. This genre basically takes whatever girl they can trick/cajole/bribe/etc. If this genre of porn is even remotely as popular as the crappy reality TV craze then i don't think that unattainable ideals, airbrushed assholes, or giant boobs are the issue.

Oh, i could care less about shaved pubes, i like my women just barely on the heavy side, and bleached anuses (WTF?).

/$.02
posted by schyler523 at 5:11 PM on April 18, 2005


Sorry. I can't add anything substantial (no pun - see last comments). Evidently I'm still too "hysterical" from the Dworkin thread from last week.

PS. God. This thread is turing me on.
PS. PS. Would some of you please type s-l-o-w-e-r. You know how I like it.
posted by tkchrist at 5:26 PM on April 18, 2005


Ok, some more gripes about porn.

I don't have eyes hanging out about 10 inches below and behind my testicles, so why does porn spend so much time from this camera angle?

Seing tab A in slot B is really a small part of the story. I'd much rather see heaving boosoms, grasping hands and taunt snews. I want to see funny faces, eyes crossing, and a blush that goes from the hairline to the navel. In other words, I want to see people look like they are having a good time. Instead, what I'm usually offered is something that is about as interesting as watching a wooden spoon stir oatmeal.

I think dobbs called it. And it's really interesting how people who would nod their head and agree that other forms of media have an impact on how we think about the world, suddenly become staunch defenders of human independence when talking about pornography.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:40 PM on April 18, 2005


I don't have eyes hanging out about 10 inches below and behind my testicles, so why does porn spend so much time from this camera angle?

I think that question answers itself.
posted by jonmc at 5:45 PM on April 18, 2005


Thanks for an interesting 164 comments. But back to comment #4 again. I think anal bleaching was the first thing I've seen on the blue that literally caused my jaw to drop. And that's saying a lot.
posted by grouse at 5:48 PM on April 18, 2005


Also, I don't think women are taking cues from porn so much as they're all taught those stock sexy moves and tricks of seduction in some secret cabal or summer camp or something while we were of learning how start fires and shotgun beer or something.

I think anal bleaching was the first thing I've seen on the blue that literally caused my jaw to drop.

Not to mention, Anus Bleacher has to be the lowest rung on the Cosmetic Arts career ladder, one would think. Truth be told, I think that what disturbs me most about cloroxing the culo, fluffing the muff and lingerie for that matter is...well, there's certain parts of my body I don't groom, since nobody sees 'em. You shouldn't use your privates like a power tie, if you ask me. Plus, turning your most intimate regions into just aother styled outfits ruins the quality of revelation so intrinsc to intimacy.
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on April 18, 2005


jonmc: You shouldn't use your privates like a power tie, if you ask me.

Heh! That's a good one, wish I had someplace where I can use it as a signature file.

The few times I shaved below the belt for a partner, I discovered that my hair has a wicked strong will to live.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:17 PM on April 18, 2005


excuse me, but why do so many of you have such a problem with anal bleaching? it certainly seems less invasive -- not to mention less painful -- than an inner labia piercing, a Prince Albert or even a tongue stud. body modification has been with us for thousands of years. it isn't even body modification -- it's fucking grooming. if you think it's extreme, you've never discussed with a black woman the nightmare of chemically straightening curly, kinky hair. I'd have my anus bleached ten times in a row before I'd endure some of those hair treatments legions of black women subject themselves to.

also, tanning oneself all the way to skin cancer seems much more invasive -- and dangerous -- than anal bleaching. you don't WANT to be exposed to bleached anus?
well, it's your right.
(but you don't know what you're missing).

back on topic: dobbs, as usual a wise man, makes a lot of very good points. he's right -- the popularity of pubic hair trimming/sculpting among both sexes is just one of so many factors in our daily life that have been changed by the massive popularity of porn. anybody here trimmed her/his pubic hair before the age of porn? really?

I only have one word to say to my MeFi brethren who don't think porn changed the way we have actual sex in our own lives:

facials.

just like dobbs, I've been dating / having sex before and after the (happy, for me) invasion of porn in our lives. and frankly, even in my wildest teenage testosterone-induced fantasies, I never ever thought of a woman's face as a possible target for ejaculation. backs, bellies, breasts -- of course. faces? feet? nostrils? not really.

we see in porn so many things we never would have thought of. it makes one's own sex life more interesting? yes, but there are dangers. dobbs is right -- you risk losing a certain magic when your own fantasies are lighted by the harsh halogen lights of a San Fernando Valley set.

having said that, I remain a staunch supporter of individual freedom and I oppose all kinds of censorship -- all is fair between consenting adults etc etc
posted by matteo at 6:25 PM on April 18, 2005


excuse me, but why do so many of you have such a problem with anal bleaching?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but it seems to be taking vanity to it's absolute extreme. Not to mention, if you're showing your asshole to enough people that you need to adopt a grooming regimen, then maybe a night at home with a good book might be in order once in a while.

Call me crazy, but I think buttholes should look like buttholes, not aesthetic triumphs.
posted by jonmc at 6:29 PM on April 18, 2005


faces? feet? nostrils? not really.

People have weird things about feet, porn or no porn, trust me on that one.
posted by jonmc at 6:31 PM on April 18, 2005


what about ear canals then?
posted by matteo at 6:34 PM on April 18, 2005


Hear I come, baby!
posted by jonmc at 6:36 PM on April 18, 2005


I CAN'T HEAR YOU JON
posted by matteo at 6:47 PM on April 18, 2005


actually didn't that Morrie guy in Goodfellas say "Fuck him in the ear!" about some gambling debt?

Perhaps he was an erotic visionary.
posted by jonmc at 6:50 PM on April 18, 2005


"What!? I can't hear you?"

"I SAID I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

We gotta stop doing this.

AS for "Facials", and every other preversion/re-version of sexual intercourse out there, all these things were introduced to me NOT by porn but by WOMEN.

And all long before we became conditioned to get soft-ons to the QuickTime logo.

The fact is we a FUCKED up culture about sex. We either want it too much or too little or with the wrong people or with nobody at-fucking-all.

But by far the most perverse fetish is this need to TALK TALK TALK about it. And I suspect the people who do this the most are those that actually have SEX the least.

Can we all stop over analyzing sex, now.

And may I also state, for the record, that about the same time I saw Dworkin live I also went to two (and one since at Elliot Bay Books in Seattle) lectures with Naomi Wolfe and the entire time, every time, I couldn't help thinking how frigg'n H-O-T she was. And the more guilt I felt about thinking that the HOTTER she became. Then I accepted it. And all was well again.

Analyze THAT you chatty Dworkin-o-phoiles!
posted by tkchrist at 6:54 PM on April 18, 2005


Analyze THAT you chatty Dworkin-o-phoiles!

Feminist chicks dig me, dude.
posted by jonmc at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2005


Can we all stop over analyzing sex, now. ....
It's porn's role in sex/society and in education of young teens that has been analyzed.

chatty Dworkin-o-phoiles!.......Was there actually anyone in this thread who sided with Dworkin?

And for the record, yes oh yes, I've always thought Naomi Wolf was hot as hell! And I've never had any guilt.
posted by peacay at 7:10 PM on April 18, 2005


Gloria Steinem's a total MILF, too.
posted by jonmc at 7:20 PM on April 18, 2005


Yes, we watch our porn and go out looking for porn stars around town.

After that, we play GTA and go on shooting rampages.

When that is done, we do drugs, because rap music told us to.

It's a fantasy, not reality, ok? I'm sick of being told I can't tell the difference.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:33 PM on April 18, 2005


I would really like to see a porn made like Waking Life. Not like the anime tentacle parties, more like squigglevision...just to blur the line between realities.
posted by schyler523 at 8:02 PM on April 18, 2005


Feminist chicks dig me, dude.

You, too?

Feminist chick? I up and married one. But we have since transcended the "ists".

She is my business partner. We spend every day together. We have now for over 15 blissfully years.

And we even watch porn together - the first 10 minutes anyway. BTW did you know that Porn is often over an hour long? I had no idea. Anyway.

I never had a problems with women. Never had a latency period as a kid. Always got dates. Never any bad break-ups or big drama or dry spells. Had lots of sexual partners. Never kissed ass and was mostly always honest with what I wanted when I wanted it with no pretenses. A goofy sexist asshole like me. How, you say?

Today I wake up every day 100% sincerely AMAZED and delighted my wife is still there. Which is, of course, why she is.

Let that be a lesson to you boys.
posted by tkchrist at 8:02 PM on April 18, 2005


And I suspect the people who do this the most are those that actually have SEX the least.

That's just plain wrong. Not in that the opposite is true, but in that the temperament of the individual doing the talking is entirely the determining factor. Some people are getting laid left/right and won't fucking shut up about sex. Some got laid once five years ago and won't fucking shut up about sex. Some people are self-contained in an attractive manner that gets them more ass than a toilet seat, but because of that characteristic never talk about. Other people aren't getting any and don't talk about it.

It seems like a lot of people are expressing interest in porn that focuses on the people enjoying themselves, rather than the sterile joyless crap constantly produced. To them - and this is an imperfect example, but better than most - I'd suggest checking out Kennedy's Cumfiesta video. While it does adhere largely to the conventions of modern porn, I don't think I've ever seen a girl enjoy herself so much, or laugh and generally display such an inability to take the whole 'making porn' thing seriously (ie "Hi mom!" at the camera, etc.). It's a very popular video, so you shouldn't have much trouble tracking it down. Money shot (ugh) but no anal.
posted by Ryvar at 8:04 PM on April 18, 2005


jonmc: You shouldn't use your privates like a power tie, if you ask me.

I agree - there is a real risk of choking if your attention strays to more stimulating topics whilst at the office...
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:06 PM on April 18, 2005


MetaFilter: not being all gung-ho about the anal or whatever.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:17 PM on April 18, 2005


I'd suggest checking out Kennedy's Cumfiesta video.

isn't Teddy a bit old at this point for this kind of shit?
posted by matteo at 8:33 PM on April 18, 2005


Ok, let's assume for the moment that Miss Wolf is right, that overexposure to porn has caused the widespread diminishment of sexual desire in men. Has anyone considered for a moment whether this is a bad thing?

"When I came of age in the seventies, it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman. There were more young men who wanted to be with naked women than there were naked women on the market. If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up"

This has been reality for as long as I've known it. And far be it from me to inject the evil E word into a discussion involving gender (since equality was dubbed equity's less convenient bastard child) but I don't think that we'll see sex between equals until we see sex as an equal exchange. Perhaps Naomi regrets the loss of attention for herself or for other women, but really, it's about time. Are men giving up real sex for a quick whack keyboard-side? Maybe. Some of the time, probably. All of the time, I doubt it. It's like someone said above -- we are all about convenience these days, and let's face it, when milk at the corner store gets too expensive, you drink water. Getting laid in college generally meant laughing at jokes you didn't find funny, agreeing with views you didn't hold, and generally selling your self-respect for a little tail. Men will never come into their own -- sexually and socially -- until they can take it or leave it.

As for the content, the trend as far as I can see is away from anything looking like standard porn. If anything, the trend is toward innocense -- including the alarming youth factor -- but I'm sure it's even more alarming to Naomi and other women who find that they cannot compete -- not with silicon but with youth, which I think has always been the most threatening thing to an aging woman. Hell, no woman I know likes to think that her boyfriend or husband is even attracted to younger women, and any admission along those lines draws something akin to scorn.

But let's not talk about irrational insecurity. It's so much easier to blame porn. After all, a balanced gender analysis might actually conclude that women carry something like power in certain situations, and we can't have that. The endless porn debate helps define women just the way a few feminists still like it: as victims.
posted by dreamsign at 9:23 PM on April 18, 2005


I have only one thing to say at this late point: There is good reason to believe that the only boy who ever dumped me for refusing to shave died on that day in September. Let that be a lesson to you all.
posted by dame at 10:41 PM on April 18, 2005


"Guys, the world is not filled with ravenous sex-beastesses who will fuck average looking guys with average jobs at the drop of a hat."

THAT'S WHY THERE'S PORN, DUMMY.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:47 PM on April 18, 2005


dreamsign, though I don't disagree with all of your arguments, I really don't see the age one being a factor. As Wolf states, she's relaying feelings told to her by the women you're assuming are her "competition". Now, maybe you think she's lying and just voicing her own opinion and dressing it up as someone else's, but if that's the case, that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Personally I believe her. Why? Because the younger women I've met -- when compared to women I dated 10 years ago who were the same age as the women I'm talking about (women in their mid-20s) -- A) are more free with their body and B) less satisfied with the quality of relationships they've had with the men in their lives.

When discussing this with them, I'm invariably told that (A) exists because they're finding that men don't stick around otherwise and (B) exists because... well, they don't know because they have nothing to compare it to. All they know is that the sex is "sometimes" what they'd imagined it would be like but that the "connection" is never how they imagined it.

When I was younger (mid 20s) it was not uncommon for me to date someone for a month or two before having sex. I also dated people that I never had sex with. Try finding a young person today who can say that. It's very rare. Is it bad? That depends on your POV, I guess, but to me, the relationship was almost always stronger and more often than not the sex was considerably more enjoyable if only because (to paraphrase Patrice Leconte) "the greater the difficulty, the sweeter the surrender".

This isn't to say that all relationships that "begin" with sex are weak or bad or anything of the sort. However, from my experience the majority of young people I know know only those types of relationships and they think that that's how it's "always" been.

As one of these women put it to me: "Your generation has bases--'I got to second base, etc.'-- my generation has no idea what that means. We have two categories: fucking, and everything else."

When the boy in Wolf's article says "There's nothing mysterious about sex" I think he's speaking for a lot of young people. In addition to the lack of mystery, there's also no more "chase"--no time to build anticipation or expectation (all of which feed into the actual act when it occurs). The problem, of course, is not that this boy doesn't think sex should have an element of mystery, but that he thinks it doesn't. Period. Unaware of the "alternative" makes it very difficult to ever discover it.

Men will never come into their own -- sexually and socially -- until they can take it or leave it.

I think this ignores a great many factors. I see what you're arguing but... well, things aren't necessarily shifting together. It's like all things in nature/evolution--A depends on B depends on C. When something we create drastically alters one it throws off the balance. It's far too easy to say that we simply have to deal and move on (and I don't think Wolf is saying we shouldn't), but it's difficult to do so when, often, no one's really even noticing the shift until it's "too late" or "very late" and usually when they do, they're met with denial or lack of understanding (scroll up).

Like most things, it will take a good long while to understand porn's overall effect on culture, society, and personal relationships. We still don't know the long-term effects of other things we've invented which seemed to have had clear cut purposes when we first created them (television, for instance).* I enjoyed Wolf's article because, to me, she seems to be interested in opening a dialogue about just this topic and she seems to be saying things that haven't been said too often before. You may or may not agree with her, but I think it's difficult to argue that the discussion isn't worth having (though obviously a great many people are doing just that).

*(For a good look at this idea, check out Jerry Mander's book, In the Absence of the Sacred.)
posted by dobbs at 10:52 PM on April 18, 2005


Men will never come into their own -- sexually and socially -- until they can take it or leave it.

Absolutely - being a man can be like being chained to the village idiot (the old expression), unless you can find suitable outlets for your sex drive. Between drinks (as jonmc says), porn satisfies the need.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 11:22 PM on April 18, 2005


Didn't mean to imply, dobbs, that age was necessarily a factor in Wolf's analysis or even necessarily the phenomenon she's observing -- if her observations reflect reality. It is just one factor (though a major one) that I've observed in the insecurity of women I've known regarding the males in their life that they are either with or in which they are interested. Not early on, mind you. I don't think I've ever met an undergrad whose especially conscious of age-related beauty in competitive terms, but later, almost always.

When something we create drastically alters one it throws off the balance. It's far too easy to say that we simply have to deal and move on...

Oh hell, I'd have liked to see other reasons for men learning to take it or leave it -- I'd like self-respect to become the first barrier to "pretending" anything for sex. I'm not thinking better living through desensitization. But when I hear a woman lament the diminishing ratio of men knocking on her door, I really think it's time that people realized that a ratio of 1:1 isn't so bad. In fact, it's all you need.
posted by dreamsign at 11:24 PM on April 18, 2005


Dobbs: Being a young guy, who, you know, has dated some of these women... I've never encountered any of these women who are seriously threatened by porn, or who regularly trim their pubes, or who see blowjobs as part of making out. Maybe it's because I skew toward a different demographic with the women that I date, but I tend to think of this as something that everyone thinks is happening with everyone else, yet it doesn't have much currency in any sort of real way.
It's odd, I keep thinking of the show Sex and the City, and how that probably distorts women's self perception much more than porn does. It's the same emphasis on casual sex, on weird and shallow body image stuff, and consumerism as applied to intimacy. But while I see that on television, and I tangentially know a lot of women who watched it religiously while it aired, I don't know of any of them who really have experiences like those.
And neither do my friends. I can't imagine spending any time around a guy who wouldn't sleep with a chick because she doesn't wax her pubes. I mean, my male single friends are still trying to get laid any which way they can. I know they look at porn. But they're not a bunch of frat-hats, and the girls they date are going to be the ones in the rock and roll t-shirts.
I dunno. I keep hearing shit like Wolf's article, and yet I don't know a single person who has actually experienced any of the things she mentions aside from the anxiety over "Will this person like me/think I'm hot?"
It just seems like these girls are being ditched for chicks that the guys think are hotter, and that means that they're dating jackasses. And I don't think that there's been a significant change in jackassery in the last 100 years.
posted by klangklangston at 12:02 AM on April 19, 2005


It is just one factor (though a major one) that I've observed in the insecurity of women I've known regarding the males in their life that they are either with or in which they are interested.

Well that's part of where I think we're reading two different articles. I get no sense of insecurity whatsoever from Wolf's article.

I keep hearing shit like Wolf's article, and yet I don't know a single person who has actually experienced any of the things

Well, I can only speak for myself and my circle of friends (far more female friends than male) and I can certainly say I know exactly where Wolf's coming from. As I mentioned above, I made almost the same observation almost a year ago on Ask.

I can't say why your experiences are substantially different from mine and Wolf's (and the women she spoke to)--though I don't doubt what you're saying. However, just because people have opinions about the topic doesn't mean they're comfortable expressing them to everybody.

As an example, I have been friends with one guy for a decade and a half. We have the same circle of friends. He recently said to me that he thought it was ridiculous that there was a statistic that said 1 in X women had been sexually abused or assaulted (I think it was 1 in 4 but I don't remember what he said). He said, "If that were true, how come I don't know any of them?" Now, as I say, we have the same circle of friends and to my knowledge, 11 women he's met have told me about sexual assaults/rapes/abuses. These crimes have ranged from being groped by a stranger on a subway to a 3-man gang rape in an alley in broad daylight.

To cut to the chase: just because the people you know haven't told you X, doesn't mean it's not true/happening.

Due to a past web project, I'm seen by some people--many of them strangers to me who discuss the topic via email--as someone to talk about these things with and as a result I probably am privy to confessions most people aren't. I'm sure Wolf's situation is similar but on a larger scale--many of the young women she speaks with have no doubt read The Beauty Myth or her other writing and see her as someone to talk to about it and may even seek her out as a result. Of course, I can't say.

For me, i'm kind of old fashioned. I enjoy the chase. (I enjoy the catch, as well, but lately, I *miss* the chase.) I think this is why the changing landscape seems so... abrupt to me. And obvious. On multiple occasions I've had complete strangers (I mean *complete*--never so much as emailed with them) mail me naked pictures of themselves and/or video of themselves masturbating, along with phone numbers. (Again, this was during the web project.) Personally, I find this very strange; I find this unsettling. And I most definitely cannot see this happening pre-internet porn. I've had young women (late teens / early 20s) ask me about whether they should do porn or not--I've had people tell me on first dates that they've done porn whereas in the past, there've been people I've known for years before I found out they did porn. (ie, it used to be something people never told you about; many women wear it as a badge now.)

In my experience, internet porn is most definitely changing the landscape. Whether someone views it as a negative or a positive is dependent on many things. (I know guys who think the prevalance of porn is the greatest thing about the internet *because* it's helping them get laid). (Don't get me wrong--I have friends who never get laid as well, but they're a lot fewer and far between than in the "old days".)

I've never encountered any of these women who are seriously threatened by porn

I wouldn't say threatened. I can't remember if Wolf used that word or not but I don't see it that way. I'm just talking about attitudes towards sex and sexuality shifting a large degree because of internet porn. The shift affects behavior--not everyone necessarily talks about it--the women I've spoken to about it haven't themselves always broached the topic (though sometimes they have). Often I've spoken about it because of the "out of the ordinary" behaviour they've exhibited with me.

For instance, I recently had a woman say to me--prior to our first time having sex--"Do you want to come on my face?" This shocked me. I'd never had anyone I've never been with sexually ask me that before. So I asked her "Is that what you want?" and she said yes. I agree with whoever above said they don't understand the "humiliation" factor of porn/sex. So I then asked this girl "Why do you want that?" and she shrugged. Now, I don't know about you, but that's not the answer I was expecting.

Long story short... after more conversation what came out was that this girl was on her period and didn't want to disappoint me by not having intercourse. She "suggested the facial [her word] because I think guys like that more than intercourse anyway and if I brought it up first I maybe wouldn't even have to tell you about my period, which is kind of embarassing." You're of course welcome to draw your own conclusions from this snippet--I certainly did. Suffice it to say that I've been told many, many times "I'm having my period" when things get hot and heavy. Never would I have imagined "come on my face" to be less embarassing to utter than "I'm having my period."

Keep in mind that this isn't an isolated case of one woman with strange ideas. It's merely the latest and porn always seems to be the deep-seated culprit when I inquire, so...
posted by dobbs at 1:28 AM on April 19, 2005


I think the most important point Wolf seemed to be getting at was the excessiveness of modern pornography. Not that porn is bad, or sex is bad, or T&A is bad, but that lots of it all the time is not a good thing, just like lots of chocolate all the time is not a good thing or lots of shopping all the time is not a good thing. Lots of anything all the time is not a good thing. You start to lose appreciation for the thing itself. You lose enjoyment for the act. You forget how to savor it.

I think the issue is not porn, but our culture of excess. People are constantly looking for a more extreme, more intense sensation because they are so inundated every day that they never learn to sit and enjoy the sensations they have.

While her Orthodox Jewish sexuality example was rather silly to include, I doubt it was included because she's espousing a mentality that forces young teens to marry and fear their genitalia. I think it was more about how sometimes denying oneself of something, how limiting something makes that thing more precious and special when you actually obtain it.

Porn is fine. It's good for a release. But just like how one shouldn't expect sex to be a big magical exploding spiritual experience every time, it shouldn't just be a come-and-go (HAW) experience all the time, either. There has to be balance.

Yeah.
posted by schroedinger at 2:32 AM on April 19, 2005


There's been some really interesting perspectives in comments here. Porn has tendrils connecting to all sorts of other areas of our lives.
One specific thing from Wolf that wasn't overly discussed here was the impact on young people (most obviously males) who are learning their sex orientation via lashings of internet porn.

Or at least, I'd be interested to hear how people would approach it - whether by trying to communicate with their children, censorship or simply by avoiding the issue or ? I think it's one area of life perhaps where hitherto libertarian attitude might give way to conservative restrictions....but I might be wrong. I have no kids .... yet.
posted by peacay at 3:34 AM on April 19, 2005


srboisvert wins.
posted by pekar wood at 5:01 AM on April 19, 2005


THAT'S WHY THERE'S PORN, DUMMY.

Really, Professor Obvious? I wonder where you got that idea.
posted by jonmc at 6:36 AM on April 19, 2005


For me, i'm kind of old fashioned. I enjoy the chase.

For the love of God, why? The "chase" never did anything but give me agida. Good riddance to it.
posted by jonmc at 6:40 AM on April 19, 2005


jonmc, you're the one that suggested men should "adjust your expectations (and your porn-viewing mindset)" to accomodate the sad fact that "ravenous sex-beastesses" won't "fuck average looking guys with average jobs at the drop of a hat."

I can see it now: Pity Sex, Vol. 3. Maybe you could rent The Cold, Hard Brush Off and make it a double-feature.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:30 AM on April 19, 2005


by "adjusting the mindset," I meant that men (especially young men) should enjoy the show all they want, just don't get any unrealistic expectations that what you see is ever going to happen to you.

I include myself in that royal "you."
posted by jonmc at 7:44 AM on April 19, 2005


When I was younger (mid 20s) it was not uncommon for me to date someone for a month or two before having sex. I also dated people that I never had sex with. Try finding a young person today who can say that. It's very rare.

It's bits like this that make you (and Wolf) sound an awful lot like someone who was in college in 1968 talking about the Class of 1978.

Which makes it kinda hard to think that it has much to do with internet porn, since that was obviously not an element in the last casual-sex cycle.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2005


ROU_, as I said, I can only speak for myself and observe friends' relationships. I was born in '68 and was in my mid-20s in the early-mid-90s. You'll notice that I say "it was not uncommon... to date for a month or two"--I didn't say that it was the case in every instance or that I was unfamiiar with casual sex. However, in the present day and age, most people I know (and my own experiences) show no "courting" whatsoever (I know it's an antiquated term but whatever, it works). Most people I know expect sex by the third or fourth date--even people who are looking for committed relationships. What I mean by that is that when I was younger, people who were looking for relationships rarely partook in casual sex and people who were going thu a "casual sex period" rarely dated people for very long. Nowadays, I find that the majority of people just consider casual sex as part of all forms of dating.

Your experience may of course be different.
posted by dobbs at 8:47 AM on April 19, 2005


What I mean is that the difference you describe, even if it's true, doesn't seem to be any different to me than the difference between 1968 and 1978, or 1965 and 1975 -- between Apollo 11 and Studio 54.

We've done the casual-sex thing before, as a society, way back before the net even ran on TCP/IP. That makes it hard to think that it's net porn doing it, and more likely that it's just one of those things that cycle. Hell, I imagine you could get people who came of age during the Great War saying the same things about the flappers, and the Internet then was made of telegraphs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on April 19, 2005


The hottest porn, as far as I'm concerned, depicts people who really like what they're doing. Exactly! I see the picture of the two women kissing as no hotter than the two men kissing, but it seems as if I'm in the minority. Seriously though, I wonder if being bisexual has anything to do with that.

As mentioned above, porn is for getting off, nothing else. And maybe I'm stating the obvious, but you bring your own prejudices (can't think of a better word) to porn. If you watch a straight facial scene (meaning not influenced by anything else in the scene) and see it as dominating the woman (or man), well, you brought that to the mix.

And, oddly enough, I've never been attracted to the god/dess types. They're way too intimidating. Give me a normal guy/gal any day.
posted by deborah at 11:52 AM on April 19, 2005


Well that's part of where I think we're reading two different articles. I get no sense of insecurity whatsoever from Wolf's article.

I guess we are.

Throughout Wolf's article, she talks about women losing self-esteem as a result of the mainstreaming of porn.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it.

This article isn't about insecurity? Really? Seems to me that an attractive woman who is secure does not feel less attractive because another attractive woman is standing beside her. In fact, a truly secure person (but are any of us?) would not lose an iota of self-esteem because his or her significant other felt attraction for someone else, either. If the mainstreaming of porn is truly leading to a loss of self-esteem for women, insecurity is the mechanism of that loss. And who wouldn't feel insecure when they've experienced what it's like to be chased and then seen that fall away? No blame from me. A female coworker, some time back now, lamented to me once that she had gone a week and not been hit on. I said it must be tough. She said you don't understand, I'm used to it every day.

For two decades, I have watched young women experience the continual “mission creep” of how pornography—and now Internet pornography—has lowered their sense of their own sexual value and their actual sexual value.

Well I ask the novel question again: has it not been overvalued? Because if it has, though this period will be tough for women, I can't say it's really a bad thing. Maybe it's the dot-com burst of sexuality. Girl I chased in undergrad never could appreciate a man (not because she couldn't appreciate me - we hit it off for awhile) because three times a week -- well, in one week that I remember -- she was getting flowers from three different guys. With more always to come. Seriously, this is healthy? You don't spoil your kids, because they lose the ability to appreciate value. That doesn't happen with adults?

I may never see it, but perhaps there will be a day when that sexual value, real or perceived, that Miss Wolf is worrying about being on the drop will actually equal that of men. And the result may surprise her if she's still around: it might result in more respect and thus healthier relationships all around. Or does she think that women require a greater sexual value to get by in society? That's not terribly enlightened, is it?
posted by dreamsign at 7:28 PM on April 19, 2005


Well that's part of where I think we're reading two different articles. I get no sense of insecurity whatsoever from Wolf's article.

This article isn't about insecurity?


Sorry, my wording was vague. I was trying to say I get no sense of insecurity on Wolf's part in the article. That said, I suppose her comment about her covered friend "feeling so hot" could be construed as an insecurity.

Or does she think that women require a greater sexual value to get by in society? That's not terribly enlightened, is it?

I have no idea how she feels about it, of course, but considering that to many people women have a lesser value in just about every other aspect of society, it's not a surprising conclusion to head towards.
posted by dobbs at 11:14 AM on April 20, 2005


Metafilter: masturbating with no hands
posted by Pliskie at 1:41 PM on April 21, 2005


See, this is why nerdy boys are best - they are so happy to have the real thing. Actually, nerdy girls are just the same - they certainly do appreciate attention - may even be overwhelmed by it.

But seriously, I wonder if some of these people talking about the lack of connection are just not having long enough relationships. Sex doesn't establish the connection - you feel that extra special connection when you have sex with someone you're already deeply connected to. It can take months, even a year or more to really blossom - also, you both get much much better at knowing how to make the other feel great. So mediocre sex leads to really really good sex - you just need patience.
posted by jb at 12:18 AM on April 30, 2005


Boy, I missed this one last month, but you people have effectively ripped Naomi a new (bleached?) asshole, and good on ya!

Internet porn now caters in a click to every fetish you can imagine

And thank god for that.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it ... Today, real naked women are just bad porn.

Better start working on that technique, ladies! Just wait until pornography becomes 3D and tactile. We're almost there.

If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up.

And that's a good thing?

Pornography is addictive; the baseline gets ratcheted up.

Uninformed accusations. Pornography is certainly no more "addictive" than television (not that TV isn't). What research is she looking at?

the “cool girls” go with guys to the strip clubs, and even ask for lap dances; college girls are expected to tease guys at keg parties with lesbian kisses à la Britney and Madonna.

She's also ignoring a large, i.e. Christian, portion of the population. Yes, I know all about Jack Mormons, but to suggest that the above behavior is the norm for college girls is ridiculous.

“Sexual addiction” may be nothing more than a learned sexual behavior expressed in violation of prevailing societal norms and expectations. In our society today it appears to be in vogue to attribute numerous popular behaviors to biological and psychological origins. It is an explanation of convenience for something threatening and unpopular.

Amen.

The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman.

There's the (obvious) problem. We need better sex education. People shouldn't have to learn about sex from porn, but many do. Where's the fault? Pornography? I don't think so.

if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on.

Regarding this "ever-more-transgressiveness": can anyone confirm it? I've looked at a lot (a lot!) of porn, and I'm just as transgressive as when I started. I knew what I like, and I still do. My criterion for selecting pornography has not changed one iota since 1985 (when I was 13). It's just a hell of a lot easier to find what I'm looking for now.

As a pornophile, I can honestly tell you that without porn, I would never have thought about talking my girlfriend into buying thigh-highs.

Don't just think about it, buy them! She still won't wear them outside the house, but I'd bet she'll give you a private show. Go for it.

How many women are cajoled / manipulated / wheedled into performing, say, anal sex when they don't really feel like trying it? How many thing, "if I don't do this, he might dump me"?

Millions. How many men buy that expensive car or take that job they don't really want to "make money and get chicks." Welcome to Planet Earth. Lots of people are insecure, self-obsessed (unbleached) assholes. Bad relationships abound.

some people act as if sex is about relationships because they actually think that sex is/should be about relationships.

What about that guy with half his face burned off who can't get a decent fuck without paying for it? No porn for you!

If Wolf really had some understanding of porn, she would have realized that heterosexual men find all sorts of women sexually evocative, period, and that porn presents far more diversity in women than other genres do.

We have a winner! Actually no. Dreamsign wins. Excellent comment.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:15 PM on May 3, 2005


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