To me this article isn’t about a difficulty with someone’s sex drive. It’s about a difficulty in our society. I realize the author doesn’t see it that way. And I realize the author has his right to his interpretation of his sexual situation. But…writing about that situation on Salon.com is stepping outside yourself. When you offer yourself as a public icon “this is what this thing is like,” you open yourself to debate and discussion, and a challenge of the validity not of your experience, but of your interpretation of it.
I admire the author for being brave and putting forward his point of view…
The author’s problem isn’t porn, or an inability to respond to other sexual cues. It’s a set of societal rules about how sex is supposed to be. That it’s all about cuddling and some magical intimate connection with our partner, and that if we don’t have that we’re basically bad evil people.
“If I can only finish when my palm slides up past her collarbone, my fingers curl around her tapering neck, hit the jawbone and — push — then am I not attracted to *just* her?”
Well…uhhh…no. You’re not.
“it neutralized the addictiveness that “fantasizing” has always had for me”
“I can only compartmentalize the many facets of sexuality. Sensuality is for massages. Mindfulness is for conversation. Emotionality is for hugs. Sexuality is for viewing.”
So? The issue here is that the writer has been told by somebody else (society) what they should want, and how things should feel. They’re determined that essentially if their brain hadn’t been colonized by porn they would feel those things. How about another option. That they wouldn’t feel anything at all. That the experience would still be compartmentalized and they just wouldn’t have the simulus to cum, often, well or with any intensity or interest other than a sort of dull procreative urge.
“It was Internet porn that pushed me into this intentional sexual exploration. Internet porn, after obfuscating and distorting my eroticism during my adolescence, prompted a belated, slow and ongoing, trial-and-error sexual development. And this very facilitation of sexual development — presenting an array of sexual expressions in a safe and healthy way for sampling — is what porn really could be all about. This is porn’s most noble purpose, from which it has strayed so tragically far.”
Obfuscating and distorting…because…you don’t actually get excited by the things you get excited by. Here’s a tip. If you are excited by it, that excitement is real.
So…let me get this straight. Porn strayed so far because he gets more excited by visuals in porn than he does by sex with his actual partner. Basically the message here, at best, “I have a strong visual brain and by focusing on porn I lost my ability to appreciate other kinds of sex.”
Except hid didn’t actually. “At some point, the blow job had become more an act of porn than of sex for me. And I’ve often created a presentation of it — pulling back her hair to watch, asking her to look up at me, running my fingers over the bulging crease in her cheek — wondering whether I was aroused by the physical pleasure or the visual stimulation or both.”
There’s a strong dichotomy here. Porn=visual, sex=pleasure. As if somehow our sense of pleasure could be detached from our visual system. I wonder if we’d appreciate the Mona Lisa for the purity of its emotions if we couldn’t see it.
This isn’t a description of a distorted sexuality. Cumming while appreciating the aesthetics of a pretty girl giving you a blowjob, or the female equivalent is perfectly normal. The abnormal thing here is the necessity for a philosophical struggle over it. “If I am not cumming for the right reasons I’m a bad person.” It’s the result of a societal dictum that certain stimulus are cheap and bad, and if those are what get you off, you’re a bad person.
The author manages to actually acknowledge porn’s role in bringing him out of a sexual shell “It was late February and I realized that there was no point in ignoring that I had fetishes. Suppressing them just made them stronger. Avoiding them left me flaccid and frustrated” and “Still, an irony persists here. It was Internet porn that pushed me into this intentional sexual exploration”
It’s not an irony, it’s a given. It was just harder for him.
The issue, Issac Abel, was not with your porn but with yourself…in two ways:
First you’re a highly visual person. That means that in fact the component of watching someone suck your cock is more important in regards to cumming than “appreciating them deeply as a person.” Unless it’s also true that you’d rather look at them than hug them, that’s only an issue by the arbitrary dictates of society. The disturbance isn’t your inability to “feel love and intimacy,” it is your inability at a time when almost all people think about the crudest flickers of fantasy not to feel the “appropriate” emotion. I understand that discord fucks you up, but that’s the fault of a Disneyesque doctrine of love, not porn.
Second you are a highly fetishistic person. Those fetishes are not entirely okay with your sense of what is right and certainly not easy. So…here’s a big surprise. It’s easier to jack off to a screen than to “rape” someone. Kudos for not wanting to actually non-consensually rape someone, though there’s no indication that having the fantasy of forced sex makes us particularly more likely to actually carry out an act of real non-consent.
My guess is that on any given night if you could be magically put into the shoes of one of our local sceneplayers…in front of a pretty girl who you could brutally “rape,” while on another level understanding that brutality was a thing she needed and wanted; where you had implicit permission to view her as a “thing” a sexual object not a person, and knew again that on a deep level she wanted that experience, craved it…needed you to objectify her as much as you needed to objectify and had full emotional permission to just get off on how the things you did to her looked; you’d be fine.
I’ve heard an argument of course that porn is warping men. That porn teaches men to want those brutal sexual fantasies, and so we have a generation of men who want things that women are naturally disposed not to want. I cry bullshit. In my personal experience I know a lot of women…not just kink friends but vanilla women who have talked to me online, frustrated with their real-life relationships…for whom those drives are just as visceral, powerful and savage as men. The idea of a softer “feminine sexuality” is a relic of the Victorian era. Some men and women do like gentle sex. But plenty don’t enough that you’re normal. Not all women want to be bottoms, some want to take and objectify. More of us than we probably realize of both genders want both…to take and be taken from.
Objectification is fairly common to the sexual experience, and both men and women want to experience it, and have a hard time finding permissions for it. Many probably end up in dysfunctional relationships because their need to be objectified was greater than their need to have a healthy relationship, and society does not put “healthy objectification” on the top menu of available life choices, so they choose “unhealthy objectification” because that’s closest.
Of course you don’t have that experience magically. You don’t get transported to the rape room without a lot of work, trust building, classes, socialization to get to that point. To play on the “edge” that involves consensual non/consent requires enough going against the mainstream that it’s a scary choice, coming with all kinds of pushback.
That means if you work a regular job it’s a lot easier just to jack off to porn. As someone who was active in the kink scene, I went through about a year of getting most of my needs met through porn because I was working on an exhausting project and the time to pursue new partners who “clicked” on a level of violence and objectification that worked for my current sex drive just didn’t exist. That said…those people exist and aren’t particularly hard to find.
I can say that if society gave permission to pursue those fetishes earlier, there might have been less of a rut gouged by porn. But I’m also going to guess the author does not fetishistically watch the same porn for months. He flicks from one new height to another always looking for the next thing that will get him off, always hitting the visual sticking on it, but seldom coming back to replay the same thing twice. That’s not porn…that’s dopamine…a craving for new experience. Again that’s easier to fill in a society of people who like fetishistic play and who understand that “seeking novel partners” is a fetish in itself.
The fault isn’t porn.
Some years back, I either heard an account or saw it on television of a Soviet who had toured the US in the 1960s. Unusually he’d been a speaker or entertainer and gone on a lot of car rides, driving through the central US. He was appalled at the prosperity of American towns…the giant grocery stores, always stocked with food, with few lines. The gas stations that also sold food an a vast array of sodas. The clothing stores, shopping centers. He’d been told he’d see these things and also told they were “Potemkin villages,” that he’d be driven through a few “showpiece” places to show him how Americans supposedly lived and bring back a false impression. But he spoke of a feeling of creeping absolute sadness and betrayal as he saw town after town. Dingy old grocery stores that still clearly had more food and choice than some of the finer stores in Moscow. Worn five and dimes with what seemed a sea of plenty, largely taken for granted by the locals who thought them only adequate. He realized this could not be a lie. That no Potemkin village could have this scope. That he had been lied to and that America really was like that. And his sadness was immeasurable, because it meant everything he had always believed was wrong.
Porn is like that. It’s not the illusion of sex. The thing that makes fetish porn scary is that much of it is real. Oh sure the scenes are sometimes hyped or faked. But I’ve met a lot of fetish pornographers and fetish models and none of them are doing a lot of things on camera they can’t or won’t do in their daily life. Kink.com’s armory is also a local BDSM club and there’s a fair amount of tradeoff between their performers and models and the San Francisco scene. It’s not people doing some unnatural act they’d never do unless they were paid. What’s far scarier is that what they are getting paid for is the potential hazard of sharing it on camera with a world that neither accepts nor understands. We’re not seeing some faked up fetish world that doesn’t exist. It’s worse. We’re seeing a real fetish world that few people get to live in.
Not everyone in it is healthy or okay. That may still be because the amount of dissonance required to break from conventional life and follow that lifestyle is high and only those who are super motivated…who *can’t* be content with just viewing it in their bedroom to get off and not letting it interfere with their day job actually take the big plunge to go from video to reality.
And in that vein, the author’s struggle is iconic. The struggle isn’t between an artificiality imposed by porn and his “true” nature. It is a struggle between an artificiality imposed by society and his own sexual axis. After seeing American that Soviet was never again content. He could curse the American tour for showing him the truth and making him discontent and unhappy (I believe he defected), but it wasn’t the truth that was to blame, but the lies he’d been told.
The author says “I hope that my generation will be the last to wander unguided into the depths of Internet pornography”
I hope so too. Let me phrase this guide.
“You are leaving the realm of what’s expected and going into the realm of what’s possible. It may scare you but it is your birthright. Man Woman or Other. Have the courage to claim it and make it real”