Looks like my generation may be the last to actually enjoy sex

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 · 41 Comments »

Horrifying article in Salon about pornography—not anything I didn’t already know, but it’s depressing to be reminded:

In an excellent essay [here], Davy Rothbart writes about his struggle to get off with a real, live woman — and he blames it on porn: “For a lot of guys, switching gears from porn’s fireworks and whiz-bangs to the comparatively mundane calm of ordinary sex is like leaving halfway through an Imax 3-D movie to check out a flipbook.” Women end up “willingly play[ing] along by a new set of rules in order to keep their men interested.” He writes:

They’re intentionally impersonating porn stars. Sadie, the real-estate agent, says, “A lot of guys have come to expect P.S.E. [the "Porn-Star Experience"] as a common thing — snatches waxed bald, access to every hole — and plenty of women are more than happy to provide. A few might enjoy it, but for most it’s harrowing. I think there’s a fear that if they can’t make it happen, their boyfriend will retreat online.”

It’s amazing what conditioning can do. “Ordinary sex,” which today’s pornsick dudes find so dull, is actually pretty thrilling. You know: intimacy, passion, affection, love. That sort of thing. But I suppose if you’ve been conditioned to respond sexually to the sight of plastic fembots being anally raped, boring old mutual love and passion aren’t going to float your boat.

It’s really a pathetic situation. Men are so warped they can only respond to the pornography they’ve imprinted on; women are stuck with trying to supply a reasonable facsimile of same. Nobody’s actually making love. They’re just acting out stupid porn videos.

I feel so sorry for young women today, and I am so glad I’m not one of them. Christ, what a deal! “You can have all the sex you want, but: a) you’ll have to undergo painful waxing/implanting/plastiodeformation to be appealing to men; b) even so your boyfriend will still wish you were the girl in the porn video he imprinted on, and the whole time you’re doing it he’s going to be pretending you’re her; c) during sex you won’t get to actually have any kind of intimate emotional connection with your boyfriend, or indeed any kind of genuine passion at all, because you’ll be too busy acting out whatever is in the porn video; d) also you’ll have to perform whatever sexual practices are in porn even if they’re extremely painful and unpleasant and make you miserable BECAUSE PORN ROOLZ.”

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41 Responses to “Looks like my generation may be the last to actually enjoy sex”

  1. anna says:

    I’m so glad I’m a lesbian.

    Anyway, this sort of thing, not to mention the exploitation of the “actors”, is why I can’t get behind the liberal attitude that porn is great and only frigid right-wingers oppose it.

  2. gayle says:

    Interesting timing:

    Both Jezebel and (sigh) Pandagon had recent articles attacking a conservative woman I’ve never heard of for saying anal sex should be a feminist issue.

    Apparently, the woman is an anti-abortion hyper-conservative type but that doesn’t mean a broken clock isn’t right twice a day.

    Porn does ruin sex. And young women are being pressured into acts I didn’t even know existed when I came of age (which wasn’t that long ago.) I can’t even fathom how much sex has changed since porn went on-line and was mainstreamed. I feel sorry for kids growing up today.

  3. Mary Tracy says:

    What are the chances that everyone in the rich West is going to read this post?

    *sigh* There will be no feminism without a critique of p*rnography. It just won’t happen. And the feminists who refuse to do so might as well pack up and go home.

    Once agan, thank you, Violet, for writing about this. It’s always helpful to see my own thoughts on somebody else’s blog. I’m happy to be reminded that somebody else other than me “gets it”.

  4. gayle says:

    Yikes, my comment came out poorly!

    Just to clarify: I conflated pron and an*l only because the latter is now expected by both men and women and is so because of porn.

    It’s just an example. There are plenty of others, none of which are designed for female pleasure.

    Another clarification: while young people will bear the brunt of prons cultural dominance, I’m not ignorant enough to believe it hasn’t affected the rest of us, too. I’m deeply concerned by the way its imagery and attitudes has reverberated throughout culture and society.

    I also can’t blame young people for thinking this stuff is “normal.” The young girls texting each other exploitive pictures in the Salon piece are probably doing exactly what I would have been doing if I was raised in the same environment.

  5. votermom says:

    It is just evil.
    With 2 young daughters, I find this culture of women for sale so depressing and scary.

  6. monchichipox says:

    A bald snatch? Not in this lifetime. I’ve tried for years to get an all women, armed posse to go shoot up the local porn store with me. But alas like a stab in the heart I don’t have any takers. I wonder if young men are starting to feel worthless because they don’t quite measure up to the male porn stars.

  7. monchichipox says:

    and one thing I’ve always wondered is when does a man get comfortable asking a woman to do these porn acts? I mean I could be married to someone for 15 years and if they suddenly whispered in my ear “you know I’d like to try…..” It would be clap clap lights on.

  8. djmm says:

    Thank you for addressing this, Violet, but it is not a new problem. Intensified, but not new. Plenty of guys were addicted to the magazine and movie versions even 30 years ago and such addiction created similar problems.


  9. Grace says:

    Because pornographic material has always catered to men, the only thing that’s new is, like Gayl said, that porn is now on line. Cyber sex can be interactive, with exchanges of words and images, plus the benefits of anonymity, and especially feelings of power and control.

    The tragedy with young women (and older as well)is that by becoming trapped into exclusively catering to the men’s compulsive addiction, they give up on validating their own needs and right to be pleasured. This way it’s just one person providing a “service” to the other person, with the only reward of “keeping” a one-way-street relationship. Patriarchy has always tried to brainwash women into believing that having any man at all in our lives instantly makes us more self-worthy, no matter the costs. I am also glad that I grew up in the 60′s and 70′s and developed an early consciousness that sort of like a vaccine, it immunized me against the poisoning germs of the disease.

  10. votermom says:

    It used to be a madonna/ho dichotomy for women; now equality means that all women are treated as hos.
    No thanks.
    Bobbit that.

  11. georgia says:

    I’ve been wondering if the increase in an*l sex in pron coincides with an increase in an*l rape. Most decidedly a feminist issue, imo.

  12. Violet Socks says:

    djmm and Grace, I think you are underestimating the shift that has occured with online pornography. It’s not just more of the same, the same being looking at magazines and occasional skin flicks (which was bad enough).

    Men today are fundamentally conditioned by online pornography, which is qualitatively different from earlier forms of pornography: in its content, its delivery, and its ubiquity. The male brain is being wired to this stuff from age 10 on. Men in their 20s can’t even keep it up with a real-life woman anymore. Normal sex = wilted dick. Men in their 20s!!!

  13. Violet Socks says:

    Furthermore, the ubiquity of online pornography means that the Porn Script is now how men (and women) think sex is supposed to go. So men get in bed with women and start doing Porn Script things, and women either laugh, get scared and leave, or, if they want to make a go of it, play along with the nonsense.

    Read that article I linked to, the one in New York magazine. It’s like the Planet of Bad Sex.

  14. Mary Tracy says:

    “the ubiquity of online pornography means that the Porn Script is now how men (and women) think sex is supposed to go”

    This is absolutely true. Nowadays women truly believe that the sex presented in p*rn is “how sex is supposed to be”. They have never known of an alternative, and it’s increasingly the case that they get their kicks from the same material as men. This alone should be enough to make people ask questions. Something that has always been catered for men is suddenly appealing to women too? How did that happen? Oh, that’s right, women have conditioned themselves to like what men like.
    Once you associate in your mind “sex = p*rn”, then the options become either p*rn/sex or no sex at all.
    I’m young as well, but I somehow managed to escape.

  15. kurukurushoujo says:

    I wonder if this development is the reason why some people are asexual. In pron sex is all about performance and if you feel that the sex you are supposed to have is a mechanic acting-out of a script with pre-determined roles sex becomes a tedious routine just like ironing and dish-washing.

    Men also seem to become very angry if they sense that you are not appropriately happy when following the porn script. Sometimes they become angry when you are desperately trying to but cannot keep up. I also have the feeling that women have internalized the pron myth to such an extent that they automatically shy away from expressing their individual sexualities because they are afraid to lose their partners even if those partners feel very frustrated about not being able to satisfy them sexually. It’s a lot of shit for everyone but women are naturally more hit because of our status as a discriminated class and the nature of the sexual acts in most pron. And there is undoubtedly a very high number of men who are thankful for insecure girlfriends and wives feeling pressured into acting like a prostitute because men get all the benefits without investing anything. After all, if the woman gets uppity there’s another one willing to please around the next corner.

    Gawd, sometimes I hate the world.

  16. monchichipox says:

    But Mary Tracy, and I’m not being argumentative, but do you know any women who enjoy pornography? I don’t. Just reactions from boys will be boys to that’s disgusting. I think any woman finding out a BF or potential mate enjoys pornography should run for the hills. I’m with my mom on this one “not in my house.”

  17. Toonces says:

    Can you imagine if people could only enjoy swimming vicariously, by watching other people swim on the internet, and only if they were wearing floaties while jumping off of a cliff, and only if they were of a certain build/age/ethnicity — the actual act of swimming themselves being too boring? Sorry, I can’t enjoy the beach, unless I bring along my cell so I can watch Michael Phelps swim laps, and it’s only good when he’s painted with zebra stripes, and mouthing “spork”. How. Freaking. Sad. But it’s hard to feel too bad for people that deliberately do this to themselves, especially when most are aware that they are contributing to a notoriously shady industry.

  18. Mary Tracy says:

    monchichipox I am sorry to say that yes, I have heard from women who enjoy p*rnography. Not many, fortunately. And if you trail around the most popular “feminist” blogs (we all know which ones) eventually you’ll hear from some “feminist” that p*rn can be fun, if only you took away the misogyny.

    Toonces that was seriously funny and spot on. Zebra stripes! Indeed, this might be the first case when a “manufactured product” becomes more valuable than the natural, free, real thing. If this carries on, in a couple of decades we’ll have people going “I’m sorry but I can’t enjoy the Taj Mahal without watching it on 3D on my TV”.

  19. julia says:

    Where is the re-incarnation of Andrea Dworkin? She was writing about this thrity years ago. The Andrea Dworkin online memorial is a great place to read her work.

    Does anyone remember the anti-porn ordinance that she and Catherine MacKinnon wrote on in 1983? It said that porn is used as a manual when men rape women, it makes the workplace dangerous for women,
    it can make any interaction with men dangerous for women, if a man (or boy) has been influenced by porn. In his mind he will have the message that women like to be used and hurt and tortured. One of the biggest dangers of porn is that the women in porn have to act as if they like it.

    I think any man or boy who has looked at porn more than a few times can not help but be influenced by it.

  20. Violet Socks says:

    Can you imagine if people could only enjoy swimming vicariously, by watching other people swim on the internet, and only if they were wearing floaties while jumping off of a cliff, and only if they were of a certain build/age/ethnicity — the actual act of swimming themselves being too boring?

    That’s also how I think about porn, except my example is food. It’s as if hungry people can’t actually enjoy food; they can only watch movies of other people eating.

    Real sex is like having a wonderful meal of delicious food when you’re really hungry, shared with people you love in a joyous setting. It’s like the happiest, most wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner in the history of the universe. And porn is like sitting alone in a room watching a video of strangers enjoying this Thanksgiving Dinner, while your nutrition is delivered via an IV drip in your arm or maybe soggy Soylent Green wafers—with you keeping your eyes glued all the time to the happy people in the video and imagining you’re them.

    It’s just so fucking bizarre.

    ETA: Except actually it’s to the point where even the Happy Thanksgiving Dinner video is boring. The new porn is like watching the Thanksgiving family be beaten with rubber hoses and forced to eat dog shit or something. The fabulous meal is passé. There must be pain and drama and horror so the people with the IV drips can get some kind of charge.

  21. Boner Killer says:

    This is so true…I was having a conversation today with my friend, who happens to be a lesbian, we were talking about male expectations of young women and how many of them are succumbing to the porn standards. If you don’t wax, suck dick, have anal sex or enjoy having your boyfriend tie you up, you’re “square” or “anti-sex” it’s all so pathetic…great post.

  22. myiq2xu says:

    Sorry Violet, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to be the contrarian here and you know how much I hate to do that.

    I’m not defending porn or claiming that it’s harmless, but I suspect that Rothbart and the other guys he talks about would be having many of the same problems even if porn did not exist. All of the men in the article were in their 30′s or early 40′s.

    It’s not that they find ordinary sex dull, it’s that their sex drive has decreased significantly from when they were 17 and overflowing with hormones.

    Thanks to the patriarchy guys have always had weird and unrealistic ideas about sex. Some of them grow out of it or can be taught but others remain clueless their entire lives.

    The truth is that “porn sex” isn’t anywhere near as fun and exciting as it is portrayed to be. Some of the sexual positions are awkward and uncomfortable to start with and can get painful after a few minutes. Other positions are simply impossible for guys with average-sized anatomy.

    According to the patriarchy guys are supposed to be great lovers. Most of them aren’t, but they don’t have a clue what they are doing wrong. Because they’re guys they aren’t allowed to talk about it or ask for advice.

    So what you get is this:

    1. A man and woman are having sex.

    2. Both of them are trying to do it like porn stars because they think that it how they are supposed to do it.

    3. Neither one is really enjoying it.

    4. Both are pretending to enjoy it.

    5. Neither one will tell the other the truth.

  23. myiq2xu says:

    I really hope my comment is stuck in the spam filter and didn’t vanish into the ether.

  24. djmm says:

    Violet, when you say “Men in their 20s can’t even keep it up with a real-life woman anymore. Normal sex = wilted dick. Men in their 20s!!!”, I understand.

    Some men (in their 20′s) were having that problem or an inability to climax thirty years ago, because only self pleasure with p*rn could provide that for them. Not the kind of thing one could easily discuss back then, even with one’s closest fiends and I thought the case I knew of was a one of a kind case. But after a few years, I heard of a few more cases from other women who had such partners.

    I am sorry to understand that the problem is more common today. But I don’t think it is any more severe. And it is heart-rending for the partner, who often blames herself (at first).


  25. djmm says:

    Not to mention, I should add, heart-rending for the man.


  26. K.A. says:

    On the one hand I grieve and despair, on the other, I’m glad to see my thoughts reflected back to me in others who perceive things the way I do. And on the one hand, I think, “if only it didn’t exist, online or elsewhere…” but you know what? If this is what it takes for women to wake up and smell the misogyny, then I won’t pity myself. If this is what it took for me to realize I don’t want to have sex with men anymore—and I don’t—then I will consider it a blessing in disguise, because men would be misogynists regardless of how much porn enhanced the rapeyness of sexual encounters.

    I’ve been done with men since my early 20s. My mid-20s have been perfectly happy, thank you! (Much happier, even!)

  27. djmm says:

    I have serious doubts about her in general (use of campaign fund issues) and found most of her views very unappealing, but according to TPM, in a 1998 article, Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell wrote “When a married person uses p*rnography, or is unfaithful, it compromises not just his (or her) purity, but also compromises the spouse’s purity.”

    I wondered about this when I learned of it. I do not think this is expressed well (her use of the word “purity” grates on me) and I do not have access to the full article. But she just may have been expressing concern about this very issue (some people, usually male, only being able to have sex and/or climax with the aid of p*rn, usually only by themselves) and saying that it can adversely affect both partners. If this was her concern, it might indicate the problem was becoming more widespread at least 13 years ago, presumably among Evangelicals and/or Republicans (or it might not have come to her attention).

    Reporters could have seriously explored her views on this issue and determined whether she had any foundation for her concern before mocking her about it. They could even have questioned psychiatrists knowledgeable about the issue. (There are some.) But they just could not do so.

    It is too bad. I know this is heresy on some blogs, but even a Tea Party member — heck, even a woman (gasp!) Tea Party member (gasp!) who has other weird (yea, even dippy) views and traits — may identify a genuine issue occasionally.


  28. Sameol says:

    But they just could not do so.

    It probably wouldn’t have mattered, pro-pron liberals and feminists have a tendency to use the fact that fundies are against porn as a weapon against anti-pron liberals and feminists. As if we’re brainwashed into thinking it’s awful by manipulative prudes who have altered our consciousness and made us see things that aren’t there. It doesn’t matter what it is, you could be decrying racial fetish pron only to discover that someone who’s written extensively on racial fetish pron once testified before Congress with a fundie, or once cited an article that was cited by a fundie-therefore, racial fetish pron = transgressive and liberating and we need to defend it.

  29. Grace says:

    Another related phenomenon is the one about young men taking Viagra, Cialis, etc., as a way of guaranteeing erections on demand, and therefore avoiding any “performance” anxiety and sense of shame. Again, feelings of power and control, where sexual activity with a real woman can take place in a way that is predictable, efficient, and according to the porn script. This of course creates an addiction and dependency, same as with any other drug, to the point that it may not be possible to function without them.

    About the comments of how some women may enjoy pornography even as it is designed for men, I think that a distinction needs to be made between porn and eroticism. Doesn’t anybody remember Colette, the French writer from the early 1900′s ? or perhaps American Erica Jong (“Fear of flying”) in the 70′s? Their writing catered to women and women’s sexuality. However, I can’t think of any erotic films right now, other than in the form of educational material. That in itself says something about how women’s needs are neglected, and unfortunately sometimes with their full consent.

  30. Grace says:

    About Christine O’Donnell and her comments about pornography, masturbation, etc., even as if they may have some value, the problem I have with them is their being guided by religion with a considerable degree of fanaticism and a black and white mentality. Masturbation, for example, is not inherently bad, and doesn’t make hair grow in people’s hands or drives them crazy, like the nuns and priests used to tell me in Catholic school in another life. It’s a way for women to learn about themselves and their bodies and what brings them pleasure. But it can also become compulsive, damaging, and isolating, if it serves to avoid human contact with others. It’s always about context, context, context….and a matter of degrees.

  31. tinfoil hattie says:

    The new porn is like watching the Thanksgiving family be beaten with rubber hoses and forced to eat dog shit or something.

    This is PERFECT. OMIGOD I can’t stop laughing, except when I start crying in frustration over how awful it all is.

    As far as p*rn hurting men too, women are actually physically injured during p*rny sex, and this is supposed to substitute for pleasure – and indeed is a condition of sex. Women mutilate their bodies and behave in degrading ways all so THE MAN can get off. P*rn isn’t “good” for men either, but it’s not nearly as damaging, I don’t think. I am open to the 1% possibility that I might be wrong.

    Also: I maintain that any “erotica” with penetration as the main sexual act is not about women’s pleasure, since most women don’t climax from penetration.

  32. djmm says:

    Well said, Grace. Nothing is wrong with self pleasure (which is normal, healthy and may keep one young, as Mr. Borgnine pointed out)and I would say not all p*rn is created equal. This is a subtle, complicated issue, so it is easy to mock the Right when they address it with a 2 by 4 (mostly hitting things outside the target) rather than a scapel. Perhaps this is less common today but some x-rated films had women characters as real people and some were quite funny (in a “we are all human” way, not in a degrading way).

    Myiq, the important issues you identify are certainly real and common, but normal lessening of desire with age or lack of knowledge/communication is not the problem addressed here. Men with this (I believe more rare) issue raised in this posting may have experienced the problem with every partner their whole adult lives, even in their teens. They may have normal desire but just a complete inability to climax during sex (ever). Many such men just get used to faking it. Some wonder if they are gay but have the same problem when they try a partner of the same sex.

    It takes a lot of therapy with a therapist who understands the issue (rare) to improve the issue and may take years to overcome. I am sad if this problem has become more common, but if it is making it into Salon, perhaps those who suffer from it will not feel so alone.


  33. votermom says:

    I don’t really care if O’Donnell is against p0rn because she was abducted by aliens and had a chip implanted in her that controls all her actions. What matters to me is the outcome. P0rn is poison, and if we can work with rightwing women to deligitimize within the bounds of free speech yadda yadda yadda then I am all for it.

  34. Grace says:

    Tinfoil hattie, I agree with your comment about erotica. When women happen to climax with penetration is only because of clitoris stimulation. And that’s one of the ways that women own their own sexuality. No wonder why female mutilation (or euphemistically called “circumcision”) under opressive regimes is practiced to guarantee that this doesn’t happen.

  35. De Clarke says:

    QUOTE Indeed, this might be the first case when a “manufactured product” becomes more valuable than the natural, free, real thing. /QUOTE

    Ummm, imho hardly the first or even the most glaring example… Bottled water anyone? Processed junk food? I’ve been looking at the porn/prostitution issue for decades now in the context of Enclosure and ubiquitous commodification (and standardisation)… the very heart and soul of industrial capitalism is to extirpate all “natural, free, real” things that sustain human life/soul, and replace them with manufactured commodities that you are not allowed to have without money exchange. Heaven forbid that you should actually make music, grow food, make love, or be happy without making some capitalist richer :-) The replacement of consensual affection-based sexual relations with market transactions (aka prostitution) is another part of the same machinery that deliberately addicts children to Happy Meals…

  36. Violet Socks says:

    To put this in context: I didn’t see my first porn film until I was about 27 or so. My gay roommate brought home a video rental as a joke for a house party he was having. When I saw this thing I was absolutely astounded. It bore no relation to any kind of sex I’d ever had. The couple wasn’t embracing, or even looking at each other. The woman was spread-eagle on a desk or something while the guy plunged away, their bodies apart and only their bits touching. It looked acrobatic, fake, and unbelievably uncomfortable. If real sex is a Thanksgiving Dinner, this was like a dental x-ray showing how teeth work. My gay friends were laughing hysterically, and I kept saying, “You do realize that in real life nobody has sex like this, right?”

    What is incredible to me is that now, 20 years later, there is a whole generation of people who think that awkward dental x-ray is how sex is supposed to be!

    Well hell, no wonder they can’t come.

  37. tinfoil hattie says:

    When women happen to climax with penetration is only because of clitoris stimulation.

    Without venturing too much into “TMI” territory, uh, not always.

    AND, the clitoris is actually a large network of nerves that wends its way in and around and behind the vagina and perineum and all those areas. It’s more than just the small “button” under the hood.

    Speaking of which, does it infuriate anyone else that a common name for the clitoris is “the little MAN in the boat”???

  38. Teresainpa says:

    I am so glad that I am not the only liberal woman who thinks this way. I once got called frigid and a prude on a liberal web site for saying that teen age girls don’t really have orgasms very often because sex for them is loveless and teen age boys don’t know what they are doing.
    My ex husband never watched porn, never went to strip clubs or read dirty books. He and I didn’t talk dirty. We loved each other and the communication was unspoken.

  39. julia says:

    To say that porn is about acting and not to talk about violence is short-sighted. I can not tell you how much porn and the sexual abuse and violence against women is linked. I also think that until there is a huge change from
    male supremacy to feminism, there can be no erotica. There can be no real erotica because too many women are hurt or abused or raped or dead, because of porn, and what is exciting to a woman who was not abused may be crushing to a woman who was. This is not a matter of opinion, like ‘jazz is the best music’. It is about women’s lives, all aspects of our lives.

    While I am often envious of lesbians, thinking they have a better chance at an egalitarian relationship than hetero women, porn still teaches men that it’s OK to rape, and some of the women they rape are lesbians.

  40. Grace says:

    I never heard about “the little MAN in the boat” as a name for the clitoris, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. Whenever women have something that men don’t, there is always an attempt to “co-opt” it or make it look like an inferior imitation or replica. What I always heard is the comparison of the clitoris to a “small penis,” and Sigmund Freud when he described vaginal orgasm as being more “mature” and less self-centered.

  41. monchichipox says:

    More mature and less self-centered. He means that like in everything else we give more than we get.