Porn has ruined sex

Monday, January 14th, 2008 · 26 Comments »

From Jezebel (via FLP). Anecdotal, but they’re the same anecdotes I’ve heard from countless young women.

In a similar vein, after reading this post and thread at Feministing the penny dropped on what’s behind the “Yes Means Yes!” thing. Rape porn has become so ubiquitous that even normal regular everyday boys-next-door think that having sex with your girlfriend means raping her. These guys start whacking off to rape videos when they’re 11 and that’s what they think sex is, forcing it down her throat, calling her bitch, saying choke on it, just like in the porn flicks. Rape has become totally normalized.

Over on another board the college-age girls are commiserating with each other. All the guys they know talk about women’s pancake breasts and meat curtains and flappy lips. A neverending dissection. A coroner’s table. My boyfriend always just wanted me to act out whatever was in the video, he never even looked in my eyes and I have to stop reading.

Dear God in the Smoking Lounge, I’m so glad I’m old. I’m so glad my youth happened before porn ruined sex. I feel so sorry for the young women today, young women longing for love. My heart aches for them. They’ll never know, will they? Unless they hook up with a Samoan or an Inner Mongolian or maybe a Mosuo boy from Lake Lugu. They’ll never know how salty-sweet lovemaking can be. The tenderness of it, the radical intimacy, the surprise. The trust. A two-souled secret journey.

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26 Responses to “Porn has ruined sex”

  1. kiuku says:

    “Rape porn has become so ubiquitous that even normal regular everyday boys-next-door think that having sex with your girlfriend means raping her. These guys start whacking off to rape videos when they’re 11 and that’s what they think sex is, forcing it down her throat, calling her bitch, saying choke on it, just like in the porn flicks.”

    Exactly

  2. Debs says:

    I’m glad I don’t have to be young in this era, too. Porn is normalised. Rape is normalised, and easier than ever for men to get away with, almost as though it’s not treated as a crime at all. The conviction rate for rape here in the UK is 1 in 20, and I think the normalisation of porn, and rape porn, has a lot to do with that.

  3. SKM says:

    This post points out one of the unforeseen advantages of having a partner 20+ years older than I (I’m 34). He’s also not American; he grew up in Spain at a time when regular books were banned, never mind porn. Louisa May Alcott was a forbidden, subversive pleasure, so he read that (among many other things). American men now tend not to read books by women at all, let alone Little Women. He swears reading books by women affected his interactions with women IRL, and I’ve seen no reason to doubt that.

    He’s gobsmacked at what he hears young men (and women) he knows talking about now–men in their 20′s using Viagra, women complaining because their husbands want them to “perform” porn-style to the exclusion of all other sex, etc.

    Neither of us has anything against porn on principle, but this is getting ridiculous.

    We get a lot of dirty looks (especially from young men) in public because of the age difference. But I wouldn’t want to be those young men, and if I were looking for a new partner I’d be reluctant to try one of them. I’d like to think I would be open-minded, but this degrading-porn-poisoning problem really bothers me. It was not an issue when I was in college; it’s a recent emergence.

  4. Mary Tracy9 says:

    Thank every single God in The Smoking Lounge!!!

    FINALLY SOMEONE GETS IT!!! Now you, the older (than me) gals, can see WHY I have such radical views on the FOCKING PORN FROM HELL!!! Because my chances of finding a man who HASN’T been POISONED by it are NIL.

  5. sam says:

    My favorite comment at Jezebel’s

    by DEVILWOMAN

    ladies,
    cum on your face and anal sex are nothing nowadays. we’ve moved on to gagging — throat fucking so deep and hard that cum gushes out your nose. some guys hold your nose so you choke.
    then there’s atm.
    that’s not a bank machine. it’s ass to mouth. from your ass, or some other woman’s ass, to your mouth.
    i just finished reading robert jensen’s ”pornography and the end of masculinity” and we girls are in deep shit, yo.

  6. The Ghost of Violet says:

    Oh lordy, I got twits in the twit filter. I’m not letting them through. Do I really want comments from men who think porn is GREAT they whack off to it ALL THE TIME and get a fucking life you STUPID BITCH! Hmm… sounds like that throat fucking to me.

    But I wouldn’t want to be those young men, and if I were looking for a new partner I’d be reluctant to try one of them.

    SKM, I actually tell younger women to consider dating guys my age. Mid forties isn’t bad! This is probably not fair to women my own age who are looking for men, but it’s really the best advice I can come up with if you want lovers who aren’t pornsick. That or move to Inner Mongolia.

  7. kiuku says:

    or just leave men? I choose celibacy over those creeps.

  8. T.O. says:

    You’re 100% right. But there are some young men who aren’t totally brainwashed… at least two (my ex-boyfriend and my boyfriend), thanks to feminist blogs (and me!). I’m not sure how comforting that will be to you.
    - a college-aged feminist

  9. simply wondered says:

    whichever of those you choose, it sounds better than these activities! i can’t believe i’m alone in never having heard of ‘atm’ – if it’s what i assume, it sounds like something from the marquis de sade (or mds as people nowadays seem not to understand anything with more than three letters).
    never found a woman who suggested anything like that – but then i believe that’s the point. the dirtiest sex i ever indulge in is when we don’t bother doing the hoovering.

  10. kiuku says:

    porn is an expression of misogyny…The higher women’s human status becomes, the greater men begin to hate them. Men will always hate women. I don’t believe there ever was a time, or that there ever will be a time that a man could be intimate with a woman in a loving way. Meanwhile I am glad that some women got pretty close to that kind of experience to lament how bad its really gotten. I always remember, though, that men make porn. Porn is an expression of misogyny, and men are not passive victims of it.

  11. The Ghost of Violet says:

    The higher women’s human status becomes, the greater men begin to hate them. Men will always hate women. I don’t believe there ever was a time, or that there ever will be a time that a man could be intimate with a woman in a loving way.

    I disagree, though I can understand how you would feel that way growing up in this culture.

    I do not believe that men hate women universally. And I know for a fact that patriarchy is not universal. There’s good reason to believe that before the rise of Eurasian civilization and its spread over the world, most human societies were pretty egalitarian. In the surviving matrilineal and gender-equal societies we can see what that’s like, and how it is when “female” isn’t equated with “bad.”

    To assume that all human societies have always been just like our own woman-hating patriarchal culture is to make the same mistake that countless sexist men have made, assuming that all men loathe women as much as they do.

    That’s the attitude that made it so difficult for so long to really see the world, to see other cultures and histories, to see women’s power. It’s like the Englishmen who assumed that the Iroquois women leaders were the chief’s concubines, because what else would a bunch of well-dressed women in the council hut be for?

    The reason some men in our society react so antagonistically to women’s rising status (and they do, god knows) is because we’re historically a patriarchal culture. Feminism is trying to change that and men are fighting back. In a patriarchal culture such as our own, masculinity is largely predicated on not being female, on being superior to women. Ergo it’s critical to keep women down.

    But if males aren’t indoctrinated with misogyny from birth, then I see no reason to assume that they will just “naturally” grow up that way.

    It’s a complex subject and I can’t really do justice to it in a blog comment. Suffice it to say, I think the key to dismantling sexism is to change our culture. From the ground up and from the cradle on.

  12. Amanda Marcotte says:

    I’ve heard a lot about these guys who want it to be like the most ugly, demeaning porn, but never slept with them. Maybe I’m too old at 30? Probably I’m just lucky.

  13. The Ghost of Violet says:

    Maybe you’re both too old AND lucky. Don’t sell yourself short.

    The young women who tell these stories don’t always say the guy wants incredibly ugly stuff like, oh whatever the atm thing is (keerist), and the choking etc.. They also complain about the whole pornification of the sexual experience and of women’s bodies. About how they don’t feel safe and truly desired.

    If people’s sexuality is shaped by pornography from early adolescence — which is the case with men who ejaculate regularly to pornography — then their desires and arousal are keyed to what they see in porn. This is just basic human nature. A woman senses very well when a guy is using her body while in his head playing the porn movie that really turns him on (with the images of women that really turn him on).

  14. Amanda Marcotte says:

    The lack of feeling safe really alarms me in that thread, and the way that so many of the women seemed to think that’s just how it goes. I was raped when I was 20 and inexperienced (only had one long-term lover who was a high school sweetheart and bookish), so establishing safety was absolutely required from me at that point on. Maybe some guys I’ve slept with turned around and put that stuff on another woman who was less determined to set boundaries. Thinking back to a couple of them, and how they tested me a little only to get smacked down, I wouldn’t be surprised. Depressing.

  15. The Ghost of Violet says:

    I was raped when I was 20 and inexperienced

    Amanda, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I had the vague idea that you had been raped once but I never knew the story.

    Yes, being raped or even experiencing a near-miss has a pretty profound effect on a woman.

  16. SKM says:

    To T.O. the college-age feminist: yes, it is comforting to hear of young men out there who are not warped by porn. That’s why I would try to be open-minded; after all, I didn’t let my bad experiences of older men looking for awed, malleable younger women keep me from a healthy partnership with an older man. Thanks for the perspective.

    Amanda and Dr. Socks raise crucially important points. Amanda mentions that feeling safe is a basic, bare-minimum must. Safety needs to be there before you can move on to *sexual self-expression*. But I’ve found that this self-expression is limited by even the subtlest of porn-sickness in a male partner.

    Dr. Socks points out that it’s not always the guy wanting “ugly” stuff; it can just be his attitude, what’s happening in his mind. My last partner felt threatened if I expressed any desire of my own that wasn’t directly a desire to serve his needs (and I’m talking about the mildest of stuff here). “Very threatening” is even the phrase he used to try to shame me.

    So pornification is not always overt, and it isn’t just about porn–that’s but one expression of our culture’s fear of female agency.

  17. kiuku says:

    True. There is something and I can’t really put my finger on it. I don’t think we should feel sorry for women. We should feel sorry for men who have completely destroyed their humanity in order to subjugate women. I don’t feel bad and I don’t yearn for “sweet salty love making” with men.

  18. Ann Bartow says:

    Time for a quote from Catharine MacKinnon (from Feminism Unmodified at page 171):

    “In pornography, there it is, in one place, all of the abuses that women had to struggle so long even to begin to articulate, all the unspeakable abuse: he rape, the battery, the sexual harassment, the prostitution, and the sexual abuse of children. Only in the pornography it is called something else: sex, sex, sex, sex, and sex, respectively. Pornography sexualizes rape, battery, sexual harassment, prostitution, and child sexual abuse; it thereby celebrates, promotes, authorizes, and legitimizes them.”

  19. tenderhooligan says:

    I must say, that the post you linked to on Feministing was one of their better ones.

    Also, aside from all of the solid philosophical reasons I have for objecting to porn, I have to add that I just never ‘got it’. I have never once understood its appeal. The fact that it’s so ubiquitous now astounds me. I, too, am glad that I’m past the age of being so affected by it all. (I’m a woman by the way.)

  20. The Ghost of Violet says:

    Also, aside from all of the solid philosophical reasons I have for objecting to porn, I have to add that I just never ‘got it’. I have never once understood its appeal.

    Same here. Which makes it all the weirder the way so many guys who have been conditioned by pornography think that it’s essential to sex, or at least to masturbation. (Do they imagine that prior to and outside modern porn culture, nobody ever masturbated or enjoyed sex?) The sex/masturbation=porn equation is so powerful in their minds that they assume any critique of porn is a critique of sex and masturbation.

    Whereas pornography has never been part of my sexuality, and I can’t imagine masturbating with it. TMI I’m sure, but geez! The mechanics of it are weird — you have to watch something? Look at something? Instead of relaxing with eyes closed and dreaming your own fantasy? And the idea of watching somebody else’s idea of sex, some commercial scripted gross thing, instead of enjoying your own idealized fantasy — how weird and limiting. I don’t get it.

    And that’s not even touching on the incredible ugliness of so much pornography, the humiliation and abuse of women, which scares the living shit out of me. Or rather, what scares me is how many men are orgasming to things like that.

  21. sam says:

    I recently had a mini-revelation over how I think about video media.

    I spoke at a college forum about prostitution that was videotaped. There were two survivors of prostitution speaking, one expert on child prostitution, and one expert on johns while I talked about pornography. The cumulative effect was mesmerizing and the audience gave enthusiastic feedback that led to a very emotional atmosphere, especially after M. spoke about her six years in prostitution. I came home that night thinking my performance was one of the best public appearances I’ve done.

    Then I saw the video.

    Gone was the rush of lead-up expectation I palpably felt that night as each speaker took the stage and blew the crowd’s collective socks off. Gone was the sensation of the audience’s reactions, electronically muted so my voice could be heard more prominently above the crowd’s paper rustlings and coughs. The 13-minute speech I was so proud of in the fleshy living of it became a flat, lifeless caricature of a woman who kinda looked and sounded like me awkwardly talking in front of a podium, each imperfect pause magnified now that I could rewind and scrutinize, then rewind and scrutinize again, my performance.

    The A+ I gave myself that night got downgraded to a B- and I haven’t mustered the guts to post it online as originally planned.

    For the first time I felt down in my marrow what pornography does to sexual experience. A moment’s joie de vivre can never be fully captured on film, and most attempts at doing so fail to replicate even a faint shadow of the real experience.

    My niece asked for pictures of me last week and it dawned on me that I haven’t taken pictures with my digital camera in years. I pack it for vacations but it doesn’t leave its bag because these days I’m more invested in living each moment to its fullest so the feelings imprint on my body than I am in trying to document the moment electronically.

  22. Timothy Shortell says:

    The problem with the pro-porn argument is naiveté. I know this because I used to make that argument. If it were just a matter of pictures of sex (or videos) that would be one thing. I am old enough to have personal experience with that kind of porn. I have to remind myself whenever I think about the issue that younger men don’t have anything close to that experience. How sad to have arousal forever tied to degradation. Utterly dehumanizing. It is supposed to be exactly the opposite. That is why the religious-types are so afraid of it.

    What really worries me is the long term effect this has. It isn’t just the safety of young women that is jeopardized. Men trained to get off on violence against women are a fascistic political force. The belief that the weak deserve what they get is going to ruin everything.

  23. Ann Bartow says:

    Actually, the right wingers love porn, for several reasons. They love it as a recruiting tool, to show how depraved liberals are. And they love the way it confirms their unhealthy views about sexuality as something that is disgusting. And when women are dominated and degraded in porn, they love that too.

  24. Infidel says:

    There are words for the feeling. Violence, Fear, Humiliation. Some movies or books are so well done that those feelings are felt vicariously, without ever having physically done something a feeling is felt. Some action movies, Bullit w/Steve McQueen actually give you the feeling in your groin that you would have felt if you had actually bounced down a SanFrancisco street at 50 miles per hour. I know, I’ve felt it. Watching porn can give me an erection. So can thinking about someone I love intimately. Watching misogynistic, violent, humiliating porn makes me feel something. So does drinking a bottle of Wine. I’m sure running full tilt into a boab tree would make me feel something, but then boabs aren’t indigenous to the midwest America. The consequences of watching porn are immediate and long term. Immediately there can be tittilation, long term there is decreasing sensistivity. Oh the poor porn user needs more stimulus. Oh the poor porn user is less sensitive. Then again maybe I cum quicker. Now give me a drug to make it last longer so she can enjoy what is nothing to me, but all I want.
    “…what I desire most contented least…”
    Then Ghost of Violet,” like to a lark at break of day arising, from sullen earth sings hymns at heavens gate…”
    Porn has ruined sex.

  25. julia says:

    Thank goddess for this blog! You wouldn’t believe how many I had to go through to find one where there are actual feminists. I always go back to Catherine Mackinnon’s work when I think about porn. It is so blatantly violent towards women and the work she and Andrea Dworkin did is more relevant than ever today. I am also sick of opening up the Willamette Week (Portland, OR) and seeing our image destroyed over and over and over. And forget about watching television or Hollywood movies.

    That said, after 14 years in Spain, France and Brazil, there are good men who are good lovers, at least here in the NW. If any man can truly be feminist – well, I have yet to meet one, but I do know some who are very sweet and willing to learn.

  26. julia, again says:

    “I feel so sorry for young women today…just longing for love”
    Even if they’re wanting sex, not love, wanting to try out their attraction for somebody, they should not be expected to be the victim or the submissive partner. That is what porn teaches, that women want to be victims and enjoy being abused. All sexual experiences should be mutual, especially when someone is in their first years of living as a sexual adult. As long as porn exists, women will never be taken seriously. How can a man see an ad degrading a woman on TV, then a violent sex scene
    in a video, then many ads of women undressed and staring right at him in a local ‘weekly’ and go to work and take his female co-workers seriously?
    Or his wife, or a woman running for president?
    We also rarely see male nudity. I think there was a little bit more of that when I was growing up in the 1970′s. I had older sisters, and they had Playgirl magazine, so at age 11 or 12, I got to see what beautiful, naked male bodies looked like. I remeber that they were in natural poses, standing, lying on the beach; nothing like the humiliating and degrading ways that women are displayed today, even in the Portland Mercury, free and widely distributed every single week.