Getting Off

Tom Matlack talked to men and women all across the country about pornography. Are you ready for what they said?

I was at a dinner party recently with the CEO of a company involved in the video infrastructure of Verizon’s FiOS service. He told me (in gory detail) how the capacity constraint on the system is quite literally being driven by $14.99 pay-per-view pornography.

He was understandably amused by the stupidity of guys across the country, who eagerly consume porn movies—only to turn them off after an average of eighteen minutes. A porn purchase lasts 15 percent as long as a two-hour movie and still drives the capacity requirements of the entire system.

It is difficult to overstate the role that pornography plays in American life (especially, one could argue, in Utah, the nation’s most prolific downloader of online porn), or the hysteria that surrounds it.

Is Internet pornography really turning us all into sex addicts? Will boys who grow up on degrading porn be unable to form healthy sexual relationships as adults? Is repetitive porn viewing really changing our brains?

And, most importantly in my mind, are we—as guys—talking honestly about any of this? Are we ready to have a frank discussion about the role that online pornography plays in our lives? Are we ready to man up and tell the truth?

I recently set out to speak with readers and thought leaders about pornography in modern America. The response, which you can read below, was overwhelming. I invite you to continue the conversation in the comments area.

“What is going on to create such an accelerating and insatiable appetite for porn among men in our country? You clearly have no idea how much of 1985-1989 I spent looking at the same three 1978 Penthouses.”
Joel Stein, Time

“The inherent problem with porn, from a female perspective, is there is minimal kissing or tenderness, much less sensuality. How many women want to wear high heels to bed? I would like to view what transpired between Rhett and Scarlett after he carried her up those stairs.”
Cherie Welch, Atlanta, Georgia

“If you have to ask whether porn is good or bad, then you already have the answer. The question is how bad?”
Todd Dagres, Spark Capital and owner of Twitter

“A couple of years ago, this tall, very fun, smart, and pretty 22-year-old woman told me she’d been with men her age at least twice who couldn’t have sex with her because she did not look like, or do in bed, what they’d seen in pornography. How depressing is that?”
Margery Eagan, Boston Herald columnist and talk radio host
“An older gentleman friend told me that all that his 19-year-old grandson (who is a university student and lives with him) did with his time was visit porn websites online and that he, the grandfather, was convinced that it was why the grandson was failing at the university. In fact, the grandson had viewed so many of the sites that the computer became unusable; it had become infested with sexually explicit spam. He said he couldn’t decide whether to throw the computer or his grandson out.”
Antwone Fisher, author of Finding Fish: A Memoir and How to Tie a Tie

Porn just is. It’s not inherently good or bad. You can’t legislate desire. As soon as photography was invented, the French immediately began taking dirty pictures. As soon as the Internet was invented, Americans (and everyone else) immediately began sending dirty pictures. I think anything that is consensual, respectful, and above the age of 18 is okay. The problem comes when women are objectified and degraded. I think it’s a huge problem that encourages and leads to violence. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of porn has gone. And the porn involving children is horrific. Does this mean that porn is inherently bad? I’m not sure.”
Michael Kamber, New York Times photojournalist

“Personally, I think there’s cause for concern, but I don’t think porn is the problem. The concern I have is with the lack I see of rational vocabulary about sex among young men and men in general. It’s easy enough to find porn of somebody having sex with themselves, or with lawn furniture, or whatever, and always has been. But if that’s all it is, sheer titillation and masturbation, then everybody involved is ultimately harmed in some way; consumers, distributors, and producers alike. My observation is that there’s precious little context for young men trying to figure this all out. And a lot of times, that precious little context is being provided by men who are still trying to figure it out themselves, or worse yet, by people who are profiting by exploiting the confusion.”
Todd Mauldin, Bluesman, Reno, Nevada

“The hysteria around pornography is just not useful. A good bit about it is an ugly side-effect of the negative part of modern feminism; unattractive women who can’t get what they want, and instead of doing the logical thing, doing the best with what they have, they demonize male sexuality.

We live in what are ‘evolutionarily novel’ times. Men evolved to be visual—it was part of continuing the human race. Women evolved to be more circumscribed about who they have sex with—they have a far greater cost per sex act (potentially being pregnant for nine months and then having a child to raise). Male sexuality isn’t wrong or nefarious—we just live in times where there are forces playing on our evolved preferences.

Similar to the hysteria about porn consumption, people are beside themselves about young people ‘hooking up.’ Well, at a certain point, many or most will tire of that and want something more. And then they will go look for that. You can become addicted to lots of things—food, porn, shopping, collecting action figures. If it’s disrupting your life, keeping you from what you want, it’s a problem. Maybe not all men will want to connect or to develop themselves to a point where they can connect. This is their choice. Some will. And it’s up to parents to do the actual work of parenting to see that their kids turn out in a way where they have values, and can make choices that enhance their lives.”
Amy Alkon, syndicated advice columnist, advicegoddess.com; author, I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society

“The scale of porn is huge. What causes the acceleration? It’s not abundant supply. It’s demand. Porn and teenaged boys have been inseparable since the beginning of time. The Internet offers more extreme porn than the airbrushed Playboy images I grew up on, but that’s not a reason to get unduly riled. I’m much more concerned about porn and adult males, many of whom seem to use it as a substitute for real relationships. Substitution quickly becomes distance, and distance becomes an unbridgeable chasm—and the porn-obsessed masturbator develops an unhealthy view of sex and women. Millions and millions of sick men out there. If I were an American woman, I’d be very cautious.”
Jesse Kornbluth, former AOL editor-in-chief

“I don’t know how we put the genie back in the bottle on this one. I mean, it’s nice that the courts are taking a look at teen sexting, but what really has to be faced is the way we’re seeing a pornification of the culture—where young men are taught that the objectification of the self, the marketing of the sexual persona to others in slick media formats, is normal.

If you stand in a CVS and look at the magazine rack, you’ll see guy after guy who could be an Ultimate Fighter or porn star, and it feels like the message coming off the culture is that to succeed, or just to live, we all need to turn into killer porn stars; with tattoo sleeves and no privacy. If you look at the blog (NSFW) Guys With iPhones, I feel like what you see are picture after picture of guys looking to see if they fit that mold yet.  And I don’t think that blog is hot—those guys all look lonely. I’m actually very pro-porn and erotica, but what I wonder is, where is all this loneliness coming from in the booming age of so-called social media? I think that loneliness is more of a problem than the porn which, to my mind, is just a symptom.”
Alexander Chee, novelist

“Sex sex sex; America’s favorite neurosis. While I always support relative, appropriate boundaries and a parent’s right to determine those for their family, we too often jump to the presumption that we all agree that porn is at its moral core a negative. Whether it’s ‘wrong’ or ‘detrimental’ or ‘anti-progressive’ (a catch-all for feminist, gender sturdy, marxist, etc. critique), I cannot help but be aware of Foucault. The archeology of attitudes on porn in America begins in Puritanism.

If you think that is reductionist, I listen, but refer you to psychotherapy; sometimes a core issue is just that simple, despite the layers of complexity it engenders. We are ‘not supposed to have sex’ or, certainly, ‘wrong sex’ as defined by any number of social codes stemming from a 1,500-year history of cultural repression.

Consider this: in this code, we are ‘not supposed to be gay.’ Period. We all know that has hung in our emotional philosophies since they burned us fags out of the culture by the millions. Thankfully, the social progeny of the Enlightenment/American philosophy of liberty and equality is changing this slowly.

My short answer to why porn proliferates is that it’s about time we expressed our sexuality in its natural fullness again. Porn is the toe in the water made possible by new technology.

Regarding teens and porn… every family must set their guidelines. I myself have no problem with the natural sexuality of children, provided it is guided and channeled and not abused. Porn provides fantasy images, and I do not find that the majority of people, young or old, mistake it for either reality or the same expectations from the visual fantasy to the real relationship, other than wanting to try a technique discovered.

The problem with addiction and unrealistic sexuality comes from the absence of fathers in the post-industrial revolutionary world, and the narcissistic abdication of parents and elders from their traditional jobs as trainers and mentors. Fill that ancient and human need in children and teens and watch additions recede. Teach people how to be a full human being and watch the freedom of their exploits in reality.”
Bennett Schneider, Los Angeles

Not only is most of it deeply misogynist, but it provides both men and women an incredibly unrealistic sense of what sexuality is. Porn has nothing to do with actual, real-life sex, which is—above all—a deeply emotional experience, charged with shame and desire and anger and sadness and ecstasy. Porn is more like an infomercial for Sex: the Rowing Machine! I’d hate to be a teenage boy inundated by porn—it just makes them feel inadequate and angry and dismissive of women and their desires.”
Steve Almond, author of Candy Freak

“Porn addiction will one day be recognized as a major public health crisis on the scale of alcohol and tobacco abuse. My primary concern is the use of porn for sex education. For many people, the first exposure to the intimate realm of sexual behavior is these selfish male fantasies which use female bodies with no reciprocity. We who advocate an enlightened sexual ethic find the messages in porn contradict true intimacy between couples. My second concern hurts fewer people, but far more deeply. The exploitation of young women and men who work in the porn industry is a sickness fed by high demand and all porn users bear some responsibility.”
Haji Shearer, Fatherhood Advocate

“Clearly, there is a lot to say about how insidious and deleterious porn can be for women. But then there’s the whole argument that I even hear from my friends and peers about consensual porn use etc., everyone wants to say it doesn’t hurt them, just others. Anyway, I tend to go with the idea that sexual health is good for men (for themselves and their relationshipsstraight or gay) and the flood of pornography isn’t helping the sexual health of boys. All that being said, I think there’s another question for you about how you lead into this and whether you discuss the idea that we’ve known for a long time; that pervasive pornography has hurt women and girls but we haven’t stepped up for that, and now we step up because it isn’t good for boys… I think you can find a way to say something about both. This is what I think you are referring to overall (and you are not alone) for every time you discuss manhood, you will get the ‘what about women?’ question. It’s legit because of the context in which we live.”
Lonna Davis, Family Violence Prevention Fund

“Porn is a core economic driver in Southern California, and a huge driver of hardware and software innovation on the internet. The press focuses on the ‘victims’ in the industry, which is undoubtedly true, but Jenna Jameson and Jenny McCarthy have used it as a starting point for more mainstream careers. The empowerment of women has been pushed real hard. In my view, one of the unintended consequences of that empowerment is that porn, strip clubs, etc., have become socially acceptable career paths. I could handle most anything, but the thought of one of my children in that business may be more than I could take.”
Andy Oleszczuk, former Senior Vice President responsible for cable channel development, Tribune Company

“My concern about the rise of pornography—or the rise in its ease of access, especially online—is that it desensitizes both boys and girls, it makes serious activities casual and thereby serious relationships casual, and it rushes kids into matters that need maturity, if not adulthood. In different terms, it simply raises the pressure by raising the exposure. Does it cause more sex? More babies? I don’t know—and one needs to look empirically and not just react emotionally. But in a world where it is harder than ever for kids to be kids, I worry that the pressures only increase.”
Rick Melvoin, Headmaster, Belmont Hill School for boys

“I’m probably the wrong guy to ask about porn because I don’t see nearly enough of it. Truly, I’m abashed when I’m among men who clearly do see their share, because I haven’t kept up, and it can be borderline embarrassing: flashback to talking to upperclassmen in high school and not wanting to reveal that you’re still a virgin. No man wants to be seen as a prude…

Aside from the well-documented and galling exploitation of those who work in porn, my general complaint with it has always been that porn’s so damn artless, so crass. Fast food versus slow food.. .Now that I’m raising boys, I expect I’ll get more and more sensitive to how ubiquitous it is, because I guess I do believe that a steady diet of porn warps guys’ expectations about sex. Yeah, I get the argument that a little arousal, self-abuse might be cathartic, and fantasies are better than rape. But I think porn generally encourages objectification of women’s bodies and leaves boys obsessed with sex acts/techniques rather than getting to know the person they’re having sex with.

I can recall guys for whom porn got in the way of real discovery. They thought porn was showing them something/spilling secrets, but it left them kind of screwed up/unable to even approach women. I don’t suppose I’ll be able to keep my boys from it, but I will discourage it, although maybe at some point I’ll watch it with them so I can express what I don’t like about it: It’s that so much of it is crude, ultimately numbing, that it steals power from something that should be great in your life. Porn cheapens sex, and if we all want to boast of cheap sex once or twice, we want better than cheap sex for all-time.”
Brad Wieners, Executive Editor Men’s Journal

“Don’t forget the porn mongers at the S.E.C. While the country is crumbling and they’re supposed to fix it, these guys are spending eight hours a day surfing and downloading from porn sites.”
Kevin Williamson, Los Angeles, California

“Porn is the biggest business on the Internet. There is currently an epidemic of men across America who prefer masturbating to porn over sex with their partners. Adolescents and children are overexposed and overstimulated. While I see nothing wrong in erotic material per sethere are couples who enjoy porn togetherthere’s a difference between eroticism and inundation. You could land in any major city in the U.S. in the morning and have a willing sexual playmate that evening. The Internet has distilled the porn industry, strengthened its breadth and reach.”
Terry Real, author of I Don’t Want To Talk About It

“Just imagine the pressure inexperienced teens must feel, particularly those exposed to hardcore porn. They know it’s a fantasy, but how could they not be affected, consciously or otherwise, when their first time/first relationship finally arrives? As if there wasn’t enough pressure already (longer! stronger!), pornography simply adds one more layer of distortion (bite me! spank it!) and misinformation (hurts so good!) that impressionable teens don’t need. On the bright side, maybe porn has an intimidation factor that will frighten some youngsters into keeping their pants on a bit longer? Naw …”
Jeffrey Wallace, writer and father, Orange Country, California

“We’re asking the wrong questions about porn: How bad is it? Is it morally wrong? The discussion I’d like to see us having, especially as it relates to teenage boys, is about the emotional impact of porn…what do boys ‘get’ from viewing or using porn? What is the charge (not just physically, but emotionally as well)? Are they aware of any feelings of disconnection, either before, during, or after viewing/using porn? Do boys feel that porn impacts their actual relationships with girls and women? If so, how? Would boys look differently at porn if they were aware that many of the girls/women who are shown in the images/videos are likely not enjoying the experience? Would they experience porn differently if they knew some of the girls/women are coerced or forced into being objects for their desire?”
John Badalament, author of The Modern Dad’s Dilemna

“For me… I would rather approach from a pragmatic place rather than a values place. Approaching the subject from a good or bad place is engaging with parts of the psyche that are not (in my opinion) going to help someone face honestly what is going on in their relationship to porn.

In my life, it triggers the years that I discovered porn as a prepubescent born again Christian. Porn and sex were entirely entwined with guilt, shame, fear of my mother and God, and fear of becoming my father. It continues to be difficult to disentangle myself from early associations; dark and dirty, filled with cigarette smoke, the smell of body odor, and emotional paralysis.

Was it good? Bad? YES. Absolutely. Making a judgment call about porn creates a clear line in the sand that, in my experience, has been ineffective in helping men come to a healthy understanding of themselves and others.

Did it work? Yes and no. It provided an escape into fantasy out of a life that was often very dark and scary. And, at the same time, I developed a relationship with my own body and the bodies of women that was not tied very well to reality and definitely harmed my relationships… all the way to today.

Does porn work in the culture? For whom? When? How? It most definitely does not work well for a vast number of women who perform in the sex industry. In my opinion, it does not work well for boys trying to develop a realistic and functional way of creating intimacy with women.  It may work in some adult relationships where a consenting couple chooses to actively ‘spice’ up their bedroom life. It may work for some men as a stress relief and a way to engage the right brain in a way that they are not encouraged to do in our culture. It also easily becomes addictive and compulsive (the SEC workers are a great example).

It works well to help boys and men create a dual existence a kind of split personality which I believe strongly translates into a lack of emotional integrity or authenticity. Men lie about porn; to themselves, to each other, and to their partners. This lying becomes a habit… a way of interacting with the world. And I believe that any transition to a new masculinity is going to AT LEAST require that we get honest about it and ask ourselves… is this WORKING in our lives as men? And, what needs to change in order to make it work better?”
Boysen Hodgson, Mankind Project

♦ ♦ ♦

In September, 2009, Tom Matlack, together with James Houghton and Larry Bean, published an anthology of stories about defining moments in men’s lives — The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood. It was how the The Good Men Project first began. Want to buy the book? Click here. Want to learn more? Here you go.

 

 

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.

Comments

  1. Lovekraft says:

    Considering how shrilly, entitled and generally vacuous Western women have become (think Real Housewives of … as an example of the standard being presented), why does it surprise anyone that men would opt out of the dating/marriage game? What, do feminists and their white knight manginas actually think that banning/regulating porn would somehow make us ignore the institutional bias and media-controlled anti-male agenda?

    Go back to your cats and lattes, flakes.

    • Days of Broken Arrows says:

      Wait a minute. Why are men being shamed for masturbation, when women’s use of vibrators is celebrated everywhere from “Sex in the City” (see the Rabbit episode) to those business like Passion Parties where women have sex toy Tupperware-type parties.

      Doesn’t anyone see a double standard here?

      Jesse Kornbluth, the former editor of AOL, said “Millions and millions of sick men out there. ” Why does this not go for women.

      Finally, for years we’ve read the problem with men is they’re too sexually aggressive towards women. Now, they’re chastising men for turning AWAY from actual sex and turning to porn.

      DID THEY EVER THINK THE FEMINIST SHAMING (and criminalizing) OF THE NATURAL MALE SEX DRIVE HELPED CREATE THE PORN MARKET TO BEGIN WITH??

  2. Anonymous says:

    One thing that amazes me about the wrangling over pornography is the big dirty elephant in the room that so many people avoid mentioning. Blog comment after blog comment, shots from the left and right of the political spectrum, tons of ink spilled on all the issues related to pornography, and yet virtually no mention of (oh my God, no!) masturbation. Isn’t a lot of the discussion about porn deep down really just a discussion about masturbation without mentioning it directly? That’s like having a huge debate about illegal drug use and never mentioning that drugs can feel good.

    It seems to me that we can tlalk about the ‘effects of images’ for all eternity but we will never really have a realistic discussion about pornography without looking at how real people actually use it. I’m guessing that how one feels about sexual self-gratification (especially what one thinks about male masturbation) is one of the biggest determinants in how one thinks about pornography. (Yes, I know there are people who use porn with others as a part of in-the-flesh sex, but I’m guessing they are a tiny, tiny fraction of the whole.) I’m going to go out on a limb and guess there are very few people who think masturbation is perfectly beautiful but pornography is completely repulsive.

    I haven’t read every single response yet, so if someone already mentioned this I apologize, but allow me to open one of the other big cans of worms when porn is under indictment: can someone work out for me a decent, stands-up-in-court definition of pornography that doesn’t sound ridiculously arbitrary? I know there’s the old line, “I know it when I see it,” but that hardly seems useful. I’m guessing that for many of those worried about the effects of pornography, they are less worried about “erotica” or artistic expressions that just happen to be “sexually explicit” in nature. I’m guessing that most of the critics of pornography are not total prudes out to cover up all forms of nudity or all references to sexuality.

    I also have the impression that video-and-audio pornography is the main focus here. Has anyone read a steamy romance novel recently? My public library has quite a few juicy choices listed under “erotic fiction,” and these are not shrouded in euphemisms (‘heaving bosoms’ and ‘urgent manhood’) like they used to be. I seriously doubt there will be any massive campaign from the left or the right to get those off the shelf. It’s textual and there’s a lot of foreplay and it’s mostly consumed by women, so it couldn’t possibly count as porn, right?

  3. I see a lot of stuff about men who prefer masturbation to sex with their partners. I jumped to this article from another here at GMPM, about legitimizing male sexuality in its many forms, as long as its consensual. And I think maybe that’s a real point in this pornography debate. We often have a situation in which men, either doing it to themselves or due to their partner’s hangups, are not able to explore scenarios and situations that are pleasurable to them. They get frustrated feeling unable to experience their desires, but watching porn can give them some exploration. Legitimizing male sexuality, outside of the classic “I conquer in a very vaginally/fellatio oriented method”, i wonder how many men would shun their porn/masturbation for sex with their partner if they were free to explore some of their fantasies.

  4. My oh my! Look at that lineup of …. what does it look like… sex bait??? Well it’s either that or it’s sexual harrassment, depanding on whether it’s for real or to flaunt and harrass. Tut, tut – cut those double standards against men and for women… If a man had his sex part displayed like that, he’ be carted off to jail… And not one word about that from all these decent good men???

  5. Elaine Sheehan says:

    I don’t agree with Cherie Welch. Porn is not about kissing and carressing and tenderness in a loving relationship. It’s about a kind of service for frustrated men (usually but not exclusively). I have dressed up for my husband and worn heels to bed. On the other hand i have also been to bed with him when i have a cold and look awful, or when i first had my children and sex was the furthest thing from both our minds due to lack of sleep. A relationship is one thing and sex is another. Sex in a good relationship can be just as ‘hot’ as porn sex or as tender and loving and natural as the couple choose. Intimate sex in a relationship is whatever the choice of the consenting adults is, porn is a viewing experience which is pretty far removed from the actual act. (Probably quite unfortunately for the viewer on most occasions)! Some couples watch porn movies to get them in the mood with the understanding that this is not a couple (or group of people) who love each other. It is entertainment specifically to induce erotic feelings which are not attached to emothions but to a basic human urge to release frustration and feel good.

  6. At some point in my life, porn guys stopped cumming on the girl’s boobs and started cumming on her face.

  7. Anonymous Male says:

    I think a lot of this debate is trapped in semantics. The word “porn” has so many negative connotations, and so many people define it as inherently degrading and misogynistic, that for a lot of people the word itself just means something bad. For them, saying “porn is wrong” is like saying “evil is bad.” It’s so circular that it seems self-evident. Of course porn is wrong, because porn is bad, so how could anyone defend something that’s bad, because porn is bad because it’s porn.

    The trickier question is really what counts as porn? No doubt a lot of people horrified by pornography are perfectly content with “erotica” or other sexually explicit forms of media, or at least find them not as dangerous somehow. Asking whether porn is a problem or not is really not very helpful considering how amorphous the word is. A better question is what’s the problem with things that are often branded as porn? Who’s defining it and what are they defining it as?

    Does everything sexually explicit that violates obscenity laws count as porn?

    • I don’t think it’s as hard to define porn as people make it out to be. In all things, there is usually a scale of sorts where some things clearly are outright porn, and other things have shades of gray. Alot of our mainstream media could be described as porn if you ask me. Regardless, we all know porn exists. We all know that most porn out there is about demeaning women in some kind of way. That it supports negative and unflattering stereotypes about the way women should look and act. We all know this.

      Maybe the real question isn’t “what is porn” but why do we HAVE the porn we have today in our culture? What does that porn say about the way men feel about women? And for those that will fall back on porn being a “side affect” of how much women have *repressed* men, lets for a minute leave that part off because ultimately it doesn’t matter. What is important is that porn reflects a major attitude men have about women. And that message is debasing and often abusive in the way current porn is today. And many young boys that grow up to be adult men are taking in that message a rate no other generations has. This is a fact that most men like to ignore because their own relatoinship with porn started when they were young.

      • Thanks for the autistic feminist hand flapping.

        “We all know that most porn out there is about demeaning women in some kind of way. That it supports negative and unflattering stereotypes about the way women should look and act. We all know this”

        I don’t, why don’t you explain it to me. Or are we all agreeing based on your personal consensus. Can you give a real world example of what you refer to as “debasing and often abusive”? Do you have a partner that demands implants and anorexia. Or is this just neurotic femininity. Are you really victimized by “mens” sexuality or just an individual you share an experience with. Is it just graphic porn your against and do you think it’s OK to fantasize about strong smooth muscular heroes depicted in Harlequin? Are you just flashing us with your fetish ethics, trying to arouse?

      • wellokaythen says:

        What I hear you saying is that the definition is not impossible, or not so difficult that we can’t see the problems in porn. Or, that we don’t need a perfect definition to understand that it’s demeaning to women. I think there’s a valid point there.

        What I hear suggested here is that one characteristic of porn, maybe part of its definition, is that it portrays women in demeaning terms or reproduces negative stereotypes about female sexuality. That is a now-classic definition from 1980’s era Dworkin/McKinnon forms of feminism. These are not necessarily universal aspects of porn, but there’s surely lots of examples out there that most people would agree are inherently negative. But, defining porn that way tends to make a circular argument – porn is demeaning to women, and you can tell something is porn because it’s demeaning to women.

        By that logic, something that is not demeaning to women would not be porn. The problem there is that almost anything showing women in a sexually explicit way could be considered demeaning to women or presenting women as sexual objects. Women shown in ANY sexual way could be branded as porn, if we define “sexual objectification” as a form of “demeaning” portrayal. In that case, there would be no distinction between porn and any other explicit sexual material.

        Ultimately, one would have to make a highly subjective distinction that would boil down to separating what one person thinks of as “natural” and another as “abnormal.” Gloria Steinem once suggested that in “porn” women are not equal sexual partners to men but in “erotica” they are. I kind of like that as a distinction, but it falls apart quite easily.

  8. There is a correlation between the increased viewing of available graphic porn and the decline of rape!

    Graphic porn as with textual porn is a vehicle of arousal, both mediums objectify the participant by removing them from human exchange.

    Anyone, man or woman that places expectations on sex that go beyond a resulting orgasm has monetized the act and turned it into trade. They become merchants of sex and objectify their partner with unstated expectations.

    People that use romance novels or graphic porn for arousal are simply illiterate in the language of lust and require a map to search for the destination of satisfaction.

    In a world where men have no reproductive or sexual rights, you have the affordability of porn.

    We have breached the confines of traditional relationship, marriage and family, with no boundaries and an open landscape, safety is the best destination.

    Demanding a wife pole dance in the bedroom is no different than demanding a husband pole dance as a provider at his job.Except that 99% of men are willing and 99% of women are not.

    Porn is cheap, affordable and gets the job done, which in this day and age is a good definition of our sexuality, getting the job done. Once virtual sex arrives on the scene which it has for women with available machine sex the genders will withdraw even further from each other.

    What we fail to see is that even with machine sex available to women, they still engage in relationships with men. Obviously men still have something to offer, if nothing more than gifting and protection. When virtual sex arrives for men, what will women still have to offer. More gender vilification?

    I’ll take the hybrid silicone model please, give me the submissive speech recorded play back with the swearing. Do you provide downloads for fetish talk and can I order fetish attachments by mail. Artificial intelligence anyone, wait a minute we already have that.

    The fact that men withdraw from relationships and use porn and masturbation for satisfaction speaks volumes to what women really have to offer men. This may be the canary in the coal mine. Is it any wonder that male birth control doesn’t exist. The condom is only a relic of female birth control.

    Many young men start out with porn and many older men finish with porn. It’s a product that will be available for as long as there is a consumer.

    Of course we can always spend our time with political porn………..and ethical masturbation.

    • I’m sorry I didn’t catch this comment earlier as I wonder what you mean by sexual “rights.” A right to have sex doesn’t exist, sorry. Nor does a right to a relationship. You have to build these things. They aren’t handed to you.

      Your view of relationships between men and women sounds sad and lonely. I hope the virtual world will satisfy you. Fortunately most people still like being with other people, despite the challenges and frustrations.

  9. matlack is obsessed with porn. He’s obsessed with it the same way women tend to be. He wants to talk about it. Make a huge deal out of it. Discuss people who have a problem with it. Why? I don’t know, but I’m not gonna worry about it. You shouldn’t either.

  10. As a guy who have a girlfriend who loves watching porn ( she like to watch it ALONE, not with me ), sometimes I want to know the views of women who love porn on media. I know many women do , but it seems to me that those women never talk out in media. My girlfriend told me she always keeps to herself about her loving for porn, and only me, her boyfriend know she likes watching hot dudes on gay porn and straight porn. I think its because in society we always believe stereotypical views that women aren’t visual so they wont like porn. But many young woman nowadays do look at porn. How about them? If we want to talk about a honest truth about porn, without prejudice to anyone , we must hear from all people, including women who are visual and like to watch porn. And its maybe hard to believe, but many women do watch porn for just visual reason, aka hot dudes. That’s why many women likes to watch gay porn and complaining about lacks of hot dudes in straight porn.

    I challenge Goodmenproject to publish an article from woman who loves porn. Believe me, its not that hard to find those women. I always read a porn article from men who loves porn, men who hates porn, and women who hates porn. We need to hear from fourth people, women who loves porn, to have a honest conversation about porn.

  11. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    For my money, Twitter is worse for people than porn.

    • Michelle says:

      I’m on Twitter, and. I. AGREE. In some ways, Twitter might be a part of a larger conversation about modern emotional prophylactics. On Twitter, one gets the feeling that one is interacting; sharing; getting to know others. But, that’s not completely true. I suppose that porn also has an emotional side. The excitement, the desire, the search, the wait….it all sort of approximates some parts of real life relationships.

      We’re always teaching teens and pre-teens to manage their time more effectively; get more done in less time; succeed; be focused on success. When I was teaching 7th grade, I certainly gave that pep talk (or something very similar). But, relationships are messy and take time and aren’t always successful–and we don’t teach that to our boys and girls. So, Twitter, Facebook, Porn, chat rooms, etc. all become places where one can go to experience the emotional outlet that humans crave from relationships but don’t necessarily have the time to construct in modern life.

      As a tweeter, I have to confess that sometimes I think, “I need to get this off my chest…I’ll just tweet it.” I know that’s not a healthy way to deal with issues, but (and here’s the punchline) I think to myself HEY, IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING.

  12. wellokaythen says:

    Much of what the discussion about porn is really an indirect discussion about masturbation, which is still a more taboo topic than pornography. The way people feel about porn tends to correlate to how they feel about masturbation. Are there people out there who think wanking is perfectly wonderful but porn is horrible? I suspect that looking down on one tends to go with looking down on the other.

    Is there a fundamental, real moral difference between masturbating with your imagination alone and masturbating to porn? I would say there’s very little difference, but others may disagree. If you think masturbation is just fine but porn is evil, then I’m curious what you see as the difference between “assisted” and “unassisted” wanking.

  13. It’s possible, even desirable, to have a complex, nuanced view of pornography, even if porn itself is not necessarily nuanced or complex. Don’t be lulled into having a simplistic view of porn just because porn itself tends to be simplistic. People feel comfortable making huge sweeping generalizations about porn because the genre appears to be really simplistic – all you need is to watch it once, and you know all you need to know, right?

    Too many people in the debate about porn are basically stuck at age 19. They have stuck to their understanding of porn which they acquired their first couple years out of high school, or early in their undergraduate career, and see no reason to reconsider their earlier position. On the one hand, there are men who seem stuck at the age they first openly revel in porn use: “Porn is awesome! Cum shots rule! If you don’t like porn you hate sex!” On the other hand are women who learned from 100-level feminism that “Porn oppresses women! Porn creates rapists! Down with porn, up with erotica!” Both sets of people need to grow up a little and revisit their preconceived notions, instead of taking everything as articles of faith.

    I know exactly how people will react to this last paragraph. Both sides will say, “Why are you telling US to grow up? Why don’t you tell THEM to grow up first? They started it!” Now, does that sound mature or immature?

  14. FlyingKal says:

    If the problem is people disconnecting with reality and tuning into worlds of fantasy and make-believe, then what about facebook and twitter?

  15. FlyingKal says:

    As a young man with rather a high libido, a pretty good job, being passionate about my interests and a good circle of friends, but still bland, invisible, unattractive, ignored by women.
    What are (were) my options?

  16. anonymous says:

    I want to point out that there is no space in our culture for a boy to not know what he is doing when it comes to sex. To be a virgin past the age of 14-15 is considered pathetic, and to be bad in bed is one of the worst accusations that can be leveled against him. Is it really any surprise, then, that young boys turn to pornography to learn sex? Here is a teacher that won’t judge, that expects him to get aroused any way he wants to, that simply lets him explore his sexuality without goals or expectations. It’s not just the fantasy of sex with a hot girl, it’s the fantasy of sex with a hot girl that won’t laugh at you when you don’t know what the clitoris is; the fantasy of a girl that will explicitly show you where it is and what to do with it. If she has an orgasm, great. If not, you’re not a failure. Yes, some of it is exaggerated or specific to certain women (esp. spanking, wayyy more spanking in porn than women that are actually into it), but porn as sex teacher is not going away until 1) being good in bed stops being part of masculinity, 2) someone steps up to teach boys how to have sex – in graphic detail, or 3) sex is seen as something that takes practice with each new partner to get good at it. I don’t hold out hope for any of those. Taking advantage of boys and young men for their ignorance is quite lucrative (see any Axe commercial ever), and there’s pretty much no perceived benefit to helping them in their sex lives (we already think boys that age are too horny and would have sex with anything that moved, why should we teach them how to be better at it?)

  17. As someone who has looked at plenty of porn in my youth, who was fascinated with the magazines at my neighbours house (and was looking at them several years before I ever masturbated)… who had a compulsive habit during university to dash upstairs for a wank to online porn (with a dial up modem! having to wait for minutes with limp penis in hand until whatever I was looking at loaded) often, sometimes several times a day…. yes instead of studying.

    I’ve done my time with porn and I can say in my own experience that porn in the way it is presented and used is damaging to the individual and society.
    A porn habit is an addiction and as an addiction it becomes a compulsive behaviour stealing energy and time from our lives. Destroying our ability to be in touch with our own natural sensuality and compressing sexuality into a set of images (or the porn fantasy us men will use when we can’t access our favourite porn – which is unlikely to even happen these days what with internet virtually everywhere) and a tiny amount of sensation concentrated in the cock with a completely dissatisfying and often guilt-inducing ejaculation that is… as the French say, a little death.
    Plus it adds to an unhealthy fixation on sex itself, reducing women to an object for sexual desire… life becomes about sex and loses all sensuality. It’s about sex and lacking in sexuality.

    The possibility that exists is to cultivate a positive relationship to our own sexuality as men. To discover that sensual sensation is present in our entire body, not just the shaft and head of our penises.
    To find that touch, without fantasy, can in and of itself be arousing and enjoyable (like it was when we were children and, as Lois C.K. talks about, we rubbed ourselves on everything!) that pleasure can exist without that final moment of ejaculation.
    That real intimacy, vulnerability and exploration with a woman is infinitely more satisfying than any amount of heaving, sweaty, ferocious pumping as portrayed by the porn movies (not to say that this may not occur from time to time in a healthy sex-life).

    The only real use I could see for porn is to make it heart-centred, loving and for use in sex education which is sorely lacking for our youths…. no wonder they turn to porn, no-one is telling or showing them what this incredibly fascinating and irresistible thing called sex is!

  18. Don Draper says:

    Porn (at least in the American culture) is addictive. Not too dissimilar from any other object of obsession, it skews your reality. It causes a withdrawal from the “real” world and the good relationships that can be had. It violates the intimacy that is available to consenting adults. It destroys the “healthy mystery” that a man should experience perpetually, with his beloved. It causes one to push sensual boundaries further and further to an undefinable and unrealistic limit. It is divisive between spouses and other family members. It destroys homes and lives. So, in a word…it is “bad.” I acknowledge, it is legal for those of a certain age, but really…do you desire your life to be stolen from you, one episode at a time?

  19. David May says:

    There is a common confusion in our Puritan culture between pleasure and addiction. Enjoying porn does not make one an addict (which is a misnomer) anymore than enjoying wine with dinner makes one an alcoholic, yet there is a far too eager jump from porn to (the grossly misapplied word) addiction in the American consciousness. There is also a tendency to react to porn with a pre-authorized response that smacks of orthodoxy. It is no more possible to determine what porn does to people as a whole than it is to apply any question to an entire population as a single entitiy. How individuals act to porn covers a wide range; how people use or enjoy porn will also have a wide range. Insisting that all porn is bad is like insisting that all bakeries be closed because there are compulsive over eaters in the world that can’t resist sweets. It is not a One Size Fits All issue. No single theory can be applied to all porn, all porn users, or all porn workers. One can only determine one’s own boundaries, not those of others.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] harming women, in part through creating unrealistic images of sex and bodies, but what about it making men feel inadequate? More » Sexuality – Politics of Sexuality – Sexual Addiction – [...]

  2. [...] original article as it appeared and much gratitude to Tom Matlack and the wonderful publisher of Good Men Project Lisa Hickey for [...]

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  4. [...] Tom Matlack at the Good Men Project recently posted a fairly in-depth article and discussion around the topic of pornography you can check out the link here http://goodmenproject.com/2010/07/01/getting-off/ [...]

  5. [...] thought provocative piece comes courtesy of Tom Matlack of Goodmenproject.com (whom we strongly advise you check out). Part wonder, part pathos and some degree of shock Tom Matlack raises the question of the nature [...]

  6. [...] written about it in the past. A lot of guys like porn, even good guys. But despite the ubiquity of the medium, an HIV scare in [...]

  7. [...] written frequently about the impact of porn on our boys and how it distorts their view of women and sex. I [...]

  8. [...] that the influence on all of us is huge, for better or worse. As I wrote in my original piece, “Getting Off”: I was at a dinner party recently with the CEO of a company involved in the video infrastructure [...]

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