p . o . r . n .
Last week we talked about Jesus, this week we’re talking about pornography. What can I say? I’m a multi-faceted gal.
If you feel offended by porn or worried about it, I would ask you to read this post anyway and let me know what you think afterwards- leave me a comment, below. Because porn, like affairs or politics or religion (or just about anything) is a nuanced subject. And I am not going to get all the nuances right, either, so I’m open to feedback. But I think porn is something we should talk about, because it’s not going away.
There are, understandably, deep concerns about pornography. It can be exceptionally demeaning to women. It can be the preferred method of an addiction. It can keep partners from meaningful interactions. It can create very high expectations for sex (for both men and women). It most certainly makes some of us feel ashamed and/or guilty for partaking of it.
All of this is true. However…
I think porn, like most things, can be used for good or evil.
(Which is not a terribly nuanced response, but there you go.)
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I was first introduced to porn in high school when I cleaned my grandfather’s barbershop for extra money. Unknown to me, he kept copies of Playboy in his barber cabinet which he then stuffed inside People magazine or Fisherman’s Quarterly so his customers wouldn’t get caught with it. I looked, was kind of repulsed, and put it back in the cabinet.
The first time I ever watched porn was in college. With three guy friends (one was a boyfriend), I sat in a dark dorm room and watched some poorly scripted, vintage 80s, sex vignettes.
I remember being curious on both a sociological and sexual level. Would this be gross? Would there be giant penises? What does sex look like? What would their bodies do?
Turns out, it was fine.
Normal-ish sized penises.
All kinds of sex.
From every angle.
Laughable ‘plot development.’
Fast forward 17 years and I’m in the Sex Surge. My inhibitions are lowered, my fantasy life has revved up, and I wanted to see some of those fantasies played out with real people. In the early stages of the Surge I probably watched more than I ever had before. Which is not to say it was a lot – maybe twice a week? My searches centered around particular fantasies, and I mixed in erotica just so my mind would be able to make it’s own pictures and I could understand my own desires better (rather than simply partaking of someone else’s pictures and ideas). Except porn is different now.
What I see is not 80s vintage stuff.
Some of it is really horrible and degrading.
Some of it is not exactly horrible, or exactly degrading- but it’s not enjoyable, either.
Nearly all of it is inconsiderate to women.
And a lot of women don’t get to have an orgasm.
I really do believe that porn can be useful in some cases, but here’s what that takes.
It has to be stuff you like that looks and feels good to you. Some people are into being degraded, so they will like porn related to that. I am not one of those people. I like porn that is egalitarian- everybody gets turned on and everybody has an orgasm. Some call this feminist porn. If you like heterosexual couples, it’s okay to seek that out. If you fantasize about two guys and one girl, go get some of that- whatever floats your boat. But be sure that it feels sexy and desirous and fulfills the sexual needs you have. Pay attention to what you’re doing and why and be mindful of what you’re choosing.
Be mindful about what you’re doing. If you feel yourself getting addicted to porn, notice that and take steps to curb it. Switch to erotica, wean yourself back by 20%, or lay off for a while. Notice whether you feel fulfilled after watching porn or empty. It will probably be levels of both- so pay attention. Because it is in paying attention that we can find the balance between meeting our needs and going overboard.
Porn can be a useful tool at mid-life. If you’re in the Sex Surge you are probably considering or have used porn to help you have an orgasm. And I believe that’s fine. I think, well used, porn can take some pressure off our partner when we want all the extra sex. And if you’re feeling a little ‘meh’ about sex, porn can provide a little push towards desire. Humans are meant to feel desire seeing other naked humans, so it can jumpstart our sexual appetite sometimes.
Pay attention shifting expectations with your lover. Porn is nice because everything is perfect. Everybody is beautiful and sexy and there is no overflowing laundry basket by the bed. But we can’t expect that in our actual sex lives. If you find porn is making you expect certain experiences and interactions with your partner make sure those are 1- realistic and 2- you tell your partner what you want. The Golden Rule applies: tell your lover what you’d want them to tell you. Communication is so key in this area.
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These days I still use porn in fits and starts. I tend to use it on my own, but that’s not always the case. And I still like to use erotica because it doesn’t violate anyone in real life.
Porn is a tool, if used well. Yes, porn can be addicting and problematic- so try to avoid those aspects by paying attention to how your mind and body work when you use it. At its best, porn should be like a tasty spice you use once in a while, it should not become the main course and your partner should not become a side dish.
Here are some resources for further research, if you’re interested. (I haven’t vetted everything at these sites, so beware.)
These videos are made in tandem with a sex toy shop (I cannot recommend their Wedge highly enough. GET ONE.) that also has instructional videos related to the Kama Sutra. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to actually do the ‘Congress of the Cow’- they will tell you. It’s also tame as porn goes- a naked couple simulating positioning (no visible penetration), and obviously enjoying it, but no actual sex.
Want to see what it looks like when normal looking (non-porn) women climax? In these short films, women are filmed in black and white, fully clothed, reading a piece of literature as they are pleasured to climax. I’m never quite sure if this is female positive because the women so clearly want to leave the reading behind and just enjoy the process of reaching orgasm (and here they are, all patriarchal and focused on the book!). In any case, if you want to know what other women look like when they come, this is lovely.
A website for all kinds of erotica. Some of it is well-written, some of it is not. This is a place where nothing is barred and the imagination can run wild. Remember that what turns people on is different across the world. If you get grossed out, go find something else.