Category Archives: pornography
Every day, girls are kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. Stella Marr was attending Columbia University, working to make a good life for herself and escape the abuses of home. But the more she succeeded, the more violent her mother became. Her mom finally kicked her out of the house. A friend knew a friend who needed a roommate. But when she got to the apartment three men beat and raped her and locked her in a tiny room with no window. Next, they forced her into prostitution. Men bought her for sex, and some who knew she was enslaved didn’t care.
Not so long ago, even Osaka’s Mayor, Toru Hashimoto, excused sex slavery – at least in times of war — explaining that soldiers need “comfort women”:
When soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged soldiers a rest somewhere, it’s clear that you need a comfort women system.
Then there are men who kidnap girls for their own uses. Like Cleveland’s Ariel Castro who was arrested last month for locking three young women in his house — even chaining them in his basement in the early years — while he emotionally, physically and sexually abused them.
And right now trial has begun in the Bay Area over the gang rape of a 16-year-old Richmond girl who was lured by a “friend” who saw her walking home early from a high school dance. The girl was “slapped, punched, kicked, robbed, urinated on, groped and raped by both people and objects,” according to a news report. As many as 20 men were involved. Some laughed and took pictures. The ringleader said he wanted to “pimp her out.” Her enslavement was more short-lived, but nearly fatal.
Do these men have no sense of women as human beings? Are they mere objects that exist to sexually satiate men?
Instead of living fulfilling, growing lives, developing their potential and creating bonds with family and friends, these women are kept in small, dark rooms, beaten and raped. They are denied health care. Some are starved. One of the women Castro kidnapped was starved and beaten to induce miscarriages — from five pregnancies. About three quarters of Japan’s sex slaves died, while survivors were often left infertile from trauma or from STDs.
Kris Mohandie, a forensic psychologist who works with long-term kidnapping cases says, “These are some of the most catastrophic kinds of experiences a human being can be subjected to.”
He also says that when a man abducts a woman for his own personal pleasure — and for her pain — he has “had longstanding fantasies of capturing, controlling, abusing and dominating women.”
And that, in turn, comes out of a pornified culture that objecifies women and ties eroticism to their abuse.
You don’t find sexuality and violence tied together in every culture. Indians of America’s east coast were free from that sort of violence when Europeans first arrived. The Arapesh still don’t “get” rape.
But inside of violent, objectifying porn cultures, some men both find violence against women arousing and enact their fantasies in real life.
All the more likely when women are seen as mere objects that don’t deserve empathy as a result of objectification.
Violent pornography is also correlated with both aggressive behavior and men becoming more callus toward women who are sexually assaulted, says Robert Johnson of the University of Texas.
But the whole culture has become pornified, so it’s not just pornography that’s at fault. As Slippery Rock University’s women’s studies director observed about the Ariel Castro case:
Sadly, in a world that endlessly replicates and sexualizes male domination of women, I am not surprised that this “fantasy” narrative has been literalized. Though there are doubtless myriad factors that contributed to this nightmare crime, I hope that one positive outcome is broader critical analyses of how pornography normalizes the domination and degradation of women in pervasive and damaging ways.
Some wonder why we don’t talk about this. Maybe because critiques of violent, degrading porn seem anti-sex. But there are plenty of non-violent and non-degrading ways to enjoy sex!
We should not ignore the effects porn can have on a man’s self-image. I knew a man who was unconfident because his erection was “only 17cm long” (around 7″) and he could last “only up to 20 minutes.” When I asked what he thought was normal, he said in porn everyone had a foot-long penis and could keep going for an hour on end.
I asked whether it had occurred to him that if a normal woman were penetrated for an hour by a foot-long object, she would most certainly end up in the emergency room.
He was dumbfounded.
That’s a blog comment from Natalie, to which a Mark responded:
It is absolutely true that if men are holding women to a higher level of expectation in sexual performance, men are also holding themselves to a higher level of expectation. Yes, men are also conditioned to think that they need to have a monster-sized penis and last for several hours without ejaculating.
A lot of men find themselves competing with porn stars and coming up short. Besides huge cocks men may have to compete with idealized physiques.
On the other hand, plenty of “ugly” male stars manage to get “perfect” looking women. The “ugly” stars are hired to help Average Joe feel like he really can get that girl on screen: “If she likes sex with him she’ll looove sex with me!” But when Average Joe can’t nab Miss Perfect he may wonder what’s wrong.
Upping the ante, porn stars come every time. What if Average Joe can’t? And what if his partner, Average Jane, can’t either? And when she does, it takes more time than expected.
And, why don’t the same moves that “work” in porn work on all of his partners? And why don’t they all love threesomes, orgies, anal, facials, swallowing, bondage… In porn women are always horny and just need a man to satisfy them.
Now add on guy-talk. As WebMd put it:
When men do talk, they often puff themselves up to their peers. Less apt than women to discuss their insecurities and more inclined to exaggerate their exploits, men paint distorted pictures of their sex lives for one another.
So it seems like everyone else gets more exciting sex, more often, and with more partners.
Most people want pleasure and connectedness from sex. But then feel short-changed if their sex lives aren’t porn-worthy.
Maybe we’d be happier if we remembered what we really want.
Cross-posted at The Good Men Project.
I became the detective, trying to determine whether he was right for me. Was he devoted, caring? Empathetic? Did he appreciate me? Was he in love with me or was I just a passing fancy?
He thought understanding each other was overrated.
My sleuthing confirmed my initial attraction – that he was deep. Unless the subject was sex and relationship, which he thought were the same thing. Big problem!
I eventually learned that this dynamic – men seeking sex and women seeking answers – is not unusual. It is even reflected in the erotica we seek.
Cognitive neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas says that men search the internet for two-minute clips that are all about skin and explicit sex. Women’s erotica is more like detective novel meets romance, and takes hours to read and digest. (The number of women romance readers and male online porn viewers are about the same. About one in 10 men are into romance while one in 10 women check out porn clips.)
The men’s interest is simple, uncomplicated. But women more likely want character-driven stories that reveal the lover’s nature. Sex is not for its own sake, and not with impersonal strangers.
As Ogas notes, the female cortex is highly developed and skillfully scrutinizes all available evidence – social, emotional and physical, somewhat consciously but largely not. All this leads to a general feeling of favorability or suspicion: Is he committed and kind? Is he a rouge? A player? Only if the detective work leads to a stamp of approval will physical and psychological arousal unite.
Men’s desire has been likened to an on/off switch, while women’s to a complex circuit board.
Why? Who knows? Some will point to evolutionary psychology: To best reproduce themselves women need a man who will stick around and support their children with resources. So women must be careful, picky. But men (having a great deal of sperm) best reproduce themselves by willy-nilly spreading their seed. It’s a popular theory, but I have my doubts since women in some cultures behave a lot like our sexual stereotype of men. American Indians prior to European contact, for instance.
Others say that in a world where women have less power, women’s lives are more affected by men than vice-versa, so they need to be more careful, even if their sleuthing isn’t very conscious. Women are more likely to follow husbands who are transferred in their careers than vice-versa, for instance. Also, men’s social status affects women more than women’s status affects men’s. When a waitress marries a dentist, her social status immediately rises to his. Not so much for the trucker who marries a female business executive.
And since men are typically bigger and stronger, abused women suffer greater injuries and have more difficultly defending themselves.
Women are also more likely to depend on men, financially, because they are more likely to stay home full-time with kids. Is he dependable? Can he keep a job? If men leave, women in our society bear all the responsibility for children (versus Ancient American Indians who parented communally).
Also, women’s sex drive is typically lower in our culture (largely due to repression, which is due to sexism), perhaps leaving women wanting emotionally connected sex more than variety and experimentation.
And of course, women were raised on a diet of Disney princesses living happily ever after with their one and only true love. Could have an effect.
Meanwhile, bombarded by women-as-object images, men come to see women’s bodies as objects that are all about sex, and women’s body parts sex-signals. Hence the simple look-arousal response. (Surprisingly, the breast fetish seems to be learned, not natural.)
When women and men so often have contradictory ways of seeing and being, you have to wonder why (for about 95% of the population) women and men are thrown together in the first place.
Yet, when it comes to relationships — and not mere erotica — there is more coming together. In fact, guys are getting more romantic and seem to be quite relationship-oriented. So maybe in real life it’s more often a match, after all.
That’s from a profile on Nice Guys of OkCupid (which was recently shut down).
The nice guys of OkCupid commonly complain that being too nice gets them “friendzoned.” But after looking through their posts, Katie Baker at Jezebel says they don’t always seem so nice. In fact some express “sheer rage and misogynistic threats of violence: ‘All I want you to do is bleed like I have.’”
Hugo Schwyzer, a sociologist who studies men and masculinity, says these guys believe that if they are nice women will have sex with them:
The subtext of virtually all of their profiles, the mournful and the bilious alike, is that these young men feel cheated. Raised to believe in a perverse social/sexual contract that promised access to women’s bodies in exchange for rote expressions of kindness, these boys have at least begun to learn that there is no Magic Sex Fairy.
But Dr. Schwyzer also points out that the niceness is often an act.
They rage about being “friendzoned,” and complain about the hours spent listening to women without being given so much as a hand job in return for their investment… Their anger, in other words, is that their own deception didn’t work as they had hoped.
Meanwhile, since they can’t conceal their hostility their profile ends any chance of getting laid.
I’ve noticed that many actual nice guys share the illusion that women would like to have sex with any nice guy who asks.
A friend of mine who’s married started passing out a book which explains that monogamy is not the natural human state. He seemed to think that if women “got that,” they’d easily have sex with him.
I’m sure some women will want sex with him, after all, he is a nice, attractive guy. But I doubt monogamous norms are the only thing keeping women from entering his open marriage.
Another guy friend of mine proposed that the way to get a woman was to act like you found her really, really attractive (he actually did find these women really, really attractive) and communicate that you would like to have a romantic relationship. After all, it would work if they did that to him.
There’s even a joke that echoes the theme:
What’s the difference between a bitch and a slut? A bitch has sex with everyone but me.
Women just waiting around to have sex with whatever nice guy asks.
Michael Kimmel, another sociologist who studies men, says pornography helps create the illusion. Full of sexually excitable women who are ready and willing, many men watch and think it’s real.
But as he points out, women’s sexuality in porn looks an awful lot like male sexuality in real life.
In some non-Western cultures men and women do behave similarly sexually but not here, where women are more repressed: they are more slut-shamed, they worry so much about their bodies that they are often distracted from sexual feeling, and sexual assault turns desire off, for instance.
Cognitive neuroscientist, Ogi Ogas has described the process of igniting female desire, explaining that women scrutinize all available evidence – social, emotional and physical, which all lead to a general feeling of favorability, or not. Only when it all comes together, just right, do physical and psychological arousal unite, he says.
Most women do want relationships with nice guys, but they need a bit more than just being nice. Like chemistry or some other “je ne sais pas.” And while men may typically be more open to casual sex, I suspect a lot of guys need more than just being asked, too.
For some, it’s an acquired taste. A woman named Aaliyah was grossed out the first time she saw an explicit video at a high school homecoming party. Now she looks at porn about once a month, but she likes movies with a story. And she’s disgusted by the brutal stuff. Like Aaliyah, most female fans like a different type than men – less hard-core, more plot.
When it comes to strip clubs many women are tolerant or even enthusiastic. Forty-three percent of Cosmo’s readers and 51% of Elle’s had visited a strip club. And most didn’t mind if their partners indulged (52%). Of course, Cosmo and Elle fans aren’t your typical American woman.
Still, only one out of 50 site subscribers are women. Or apparently women. The main billing agent for these sites flag feminine names because the charges too often result in angry wives or moms refusing to pay.
Then there are women who want to like porn to be “cool” or to be a good girlfriend, but who actually don’t so much. A woman named Ashley says all her female friends act like they are good with porn, but she doesn’t buy it. She thinks they go along because, “Guys think it’s really uncool for women to get pissed off about it.” Another woman named Mia said that at first she wanted to be the cool girlfriend. But after a while it seemed her guy was more turned on by the TV than her.
At the other end, one third of women who are married to cybersex buffs consider it cheating and feel betrayed. As a woman named Ashley explained, “Because you’re getting off to other people, not the person you’re with. How is that supposed to make me feel?”
Or, women resent time not spent with families — and with them, in bed or otherwise. One said she felt thrown away.
Women may also worry that they aren’t enough, or aren’t good enough, or attractive enough. Their body image suffers. And then their sex life wanes.
Those who encountered porn when they were very young may like it more. In a book called “Pornified,” which tells of men’s and women’s experiences with pornography, the women who seemed to like it most had encountered it as young girls, liked it right away, and kept going with it. I’ve found similar instances among my students who say they discovered it young and found it arousing. I should add that girls who stumble upon it are more likely than boys to be upset, by a rate of 35% to 6%. About 40% of boys and girls felt their first encounter was no big deal.
Maybe young girls like it more because they aren’t concerned with how they look compared to other women, they have no boyfriends to feel jealous about, and they are less repressed. Repression can increase over time as women learn that sexually interested women are sluts, as they become distracted by their “imperfect” bodies, or suffer from sexual abuse.
When it comes to porn, women are of many minds.
Women often worry that porn raises men’s expectations about what their bodies should look like and what they should do in bed. And why does he want to have virtual sex with those other women, anyway? So women can end up feeling like they’re not enough or not good enough.
Men may worry that Twilight raises women’s expectations for a “one true love” that is deep and intense with a man who only has eyes for her. Who can meet to such standards?!
Men craving sex with lots of women and women wanting sex with one true love. Funny how the visions are so often at odds with each other.
In fact, the appeal of Twilight for young girls may be the opposite of porn. Porn is all about getting sex. But as Edward yearns for Bella — yet avoids intimacy for fear of killing her in vampire bloodlust — Twilight is more like abstinence porn. Sex without sex. As a writer for Psychology Today put it:
Let’s get back to the sex, or lack of it, which is what hooks girls on the first volume: female readers love that Edward sleeps beside Bella and apparently only wants to kiss her neck.
So in Twilight girls can imagine safe crushes on boys who love them, while avoiding all the complex, confusing and scary adult realities of sex.
But it’s not just naïve girls who fall for Twilight. So do their older sisters and moms. But while their male partners are turned on by hard-core porn’s over-the-top fireworks, Twilight is all about the subtlest sex. Here’s how a blogger at Huffington Post described it. Twilight is all about the:
building of sexual tension. So much so that when Edward brushes Bella’s arm, you can almost feel him brushing yours… They get to really know each other, their passion is allowed to build, we revel in the innocence, the time it used to take to truly build a relationship. Do you remember how amazing your first true kiss was?
A Salon blogger continues:
Instead of relying on tight shots of penetration, these books get their sexual spark from extreme emotional close-ups. The ‘money shot’ in these novels typically isn’t a geyser of bodily fluids but rather a declaration of love, or a man on bended knee.
I was struck by the male/female difference when I heard Meryl Streep and director, David Frankel discuss their movie “Hope Springs.” Frankel said the movie’s themes were universal because, “Who thinks they’re having enough sex?” But Meryl Streep suggested the nuances behind the desire:
If my team were here – women – they’d say it’s not necessarily sex, it’s what sex pulls from you… brings you to. It’s connectedness, it’s intimacy, it’s being known, it’s being seen, it’s being felt, it’s being wanted. The whole thing… But yes, you can reduce it to that part.
For many women, a guy can do the exact same moves and it can feel like nothing if you don’t feel emotionally connected to him, and it can be off the charts amazing when you do.
I suspect the female/male difference is due more to nurture than nature, but it’s a pretty strong pattern. Fortunately, not all men and women fit these molds. Some girls do just wanna have the fun of porn sex and some guys do seek consummate love. Or, what’s wanted may change with context.
But too often, like star-crossed lovers whose pairing is “thwarted by a malign star,” it’s an unfortunate trick of nature – or society — that men and women so often sexually connect at cross purposes.
Does porn raise men’s expectations of how women should perform in bed? I believe it depends entirely on the man’s ability to distinguish between real life and fantasy.
True, you could try to recreate porn in real life. But then it’s not real. It’s acting. So you’re back to fantasy.
I think porn is great to enjoy. But men must realize what it is.
Unfortunately, a lot of men (and some women in regards to things like Twilight) get fantasy and reality mixed up. And that can harm relationships.
Take my girlfriend’s ex. He’s a nasty piece of work. Barely finished high school, can’t drive, no job. Literally sits at home all day. But because my girlfriend was young when she met him, he became a lot of “firsts.” And he made her think that things that weren’t healthy were.
She didn’t expect to ever get off on real sex, or that her significant other should even try. Early on she told me that she would be “totally down for a threesome” if I saw another girl I found attractive. She later recanted when I told her to never suggest anything that makes her uncomfortable or unhappy.
As we talked on she began blurting out a long list of things her ex did, sexually, that she asked me not to. The worst part was that after she had listed everything, she thought I was angry with her.
I was angry. Not because she had asked me not to do certain things, but because I realized what she had come to expect. I had thought she’d say something like, “I don’t feel comfortable with the lights on,” not, “Please don’t tell me I’m a dirty slut for enjoying your cock.”
I was upset that she had let someone treat her, for lack of better words, like trash. I had to explain that, even without her asking me not to do those things I would not have done them.
I saw that she had come to believe that she must do things she hated for a relationship to “work.”
Obviously we’ve talked about these things and she realizes that, yes, I do watch porn, but that porn is porn. I do not expect her to act like the girls in it, nor should anyone else.
My girlfriend is beautiful. She’s incredibly attractive just the way she is. And she’s most beautiful when she’s enjoying herself, sexually or otherwise.
This was written by one of my students who gave permission to post it under a pseudonym.
Feminist, Andrea Dworkin, had feared that easy access to internet porn would turbocharge women’s objectification and turn men into wild, raping beasts. But it looks like internet porn too often has the opposite effect, deadening male libido in relation to real women, with men who over-consume finding fewer women “porn-worthy.”
This is what author, Naomi Wolf, noticed when students talked about their sex lives during her speaking tours of college campuses.
Others have made similar findings.
Pamela Paul interviewed over one hundred people, mostly men, in her research for Pornified, and found that porn-worthiness was a common concern among those who over-indulged.
One young man talked of his change in perspective.
My standards changed. Women who are otherwise good looking but aren’t as overtly sexy as the women in porn don’t appeal to me as much anymore. I find that I look more for women who have the attributes I see in porn. I want bigger breasts, longer hair, curvier bodies in general.
I find that when I’m out at a party or bar I catch myself sizing up women. I would say to myself, wait a second. This isn’t a supermarket. You shouldn’t treat her like she’s some piece of meat. Don’t pass her up just because her boobs aren’t that big.
Paul went on to cite a 2004 Elle-MSNBC.com poll which found that one in 10 men admitted he had become more critical of his partner’s body with exposure to porn.
Meanwhile, 51% of Americans believe that pornography raises men’s expectations of how women should look.
Many of the college women Wolf spoke to complained that they couldn’t compete, and they knew it.
Men, she said, learn about sex from porn but find that it is not helpful in teaching them how to relate to real women. She ended with this observation:
Mostly, when I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike. They know they are lonely together, even when conjoined, and that this imagery is a big part of that loneliness. What they don’t know is how to get out, how to find each other again erotically, face-to-face.
Lately I’ve been asking why women don’t get so excited by naked men, why women are often uncomfortable with male nudity on stage and screen or in print, and why these nude men can seem “gay” to the women who gaze at them.
Elizabeth Hall Magill has been asking the same questions over at Yo Mama. And she’s wondering how women can better appreciate the male form, without objectifying them. Here’s an excerpt from one of her posts.
So—where does that leave a woman’s gaze?
Neither here nor there.
And yet, we have eyes. We gaze. And we like what we see.
As I pondered this issue, I realized something: perhaps men posing sexually seem homosexual not only because we are used to the male gaze. Perhaps it is also because we are used to the female pose. And here we encounter a difference between media (artful or otherwise) and life: real sexiness is rarely posed. It just happens. But in “sexy” pictures of women, the women are aware of the gaze and arranging themselves for it. So, when a man does the same thing, we read him as feminized. And when a man strips for a woman, he can be seen as “performing” something generally feminine, and therefore we define it as insincere, the object of a joke. Not true eroticism.
In one of my favorite essays of all time, Looking at Women, Scott Russell Sanders says:
When I return to the street with the ancient legacy of longing coiled in my DNA, and the residues from a thousand generations of patriarchs silting my brain, I encounter women whose presence strikes me like a slap of wind in the face. I must prepare a gaze that is worthy of their splendor.
This is how I feel about men. And I bet I’m not the only one.
We’re all conditioned to ignore the fact that women feel this way about men. How many times a week do you think a man checks out his wife as she reaches into the refrigerator to get something from that bottom drawer, or reaches high above her head for a rarely-used dish? How many times a week does he check out the women walking by him on the sidewalk, riding a bike in the gym, or sitting in the next office? Magazines love to make little pie charts telling us about how often the male brain does these things. I’ve never seen a pie chart telling me how often the female brain does similar things.
Men get things from the refrigerator or the top shelf, and often look damn good doing it. They walk on the sidewalk, ride bikes, and work right next to us, looking good all the while. And women notice.
What we need is more women noticing themselves as they notice men. Thinking about how they feel when the tide of desire leaves and returns, leaves and returns. And owning that tide.
And then we need women talking about it—not giggling, not blushing, not encouraging men to mock the idea of their own desirability. Somebody ought to talk about it so often and so loudly that a pie chart becomes inevitable, cause we just know women are thinking about sex so dang much that we better measure it.
After that, we need female photographers and directors, tons of them, taking pictures of and telling stories about men being men. Holding babies in the middle of the night, shirtless and vulnerable and full of fatherly love and strength. Squatting in the middle of a road, looking at a rock (clothed, as squatting naked in the middle of the road is unnatural and possibly unsafe). Running on treadmills, making copies in the office while wearing snazzy ties, washing the dirt off their hands after a day working outside, laughing with their friends, kicking a tire and making dinner and coming home at the end of a long day. We need to see men being men through the eyes of women, not men posing as the objects of female desire. And we should see them in all their shapes and colors—in all their splendor.
You know what I think?
I think men would totally get being sexy in this way, and I think they would love it. They wouldn’t feel like objects, they wouldn’t feel feminized, they wouldn’t pose or feel goofy. They’d be themselves, and they’d be damn glad that the women they’ve been checking out all this time are checking them right back.
Which means the female gaze would no longer be marginalized, masculinized, or mocked. It would be honest, and it would be powerful—as powerful as desire itself.
I must be obsessed with male strippers, you think, with a third post inspired by “Magic Mike.” Maybe. I am obsessed with objectification and desire, and that movie offers the rare turning of tables to see what’s on the other side.
In this table-turning do women experience men in the way that men typically experience them? I’ve already suggested that the answer is no.
However, we’re seeing chinks in the armor. In “Magic Mike” women’s desire is acknowledged and catered to as the camera hones in on glutes and abs to accommodate the female gaze… and as Matthew McConaughey bends over to give us a full-moon shot.
All this in a place with “no men allowed.” Not formally, as Joanna Schroeder over at the GoodMenProject points out, but because most men don’t want to be there. But that “all-estrogen” space can feel empowering.
And for once women are calling the shots (or feel like they are) demanding, “Take it all off!” and letting ‘em know what they like: “Yeahhh honey, do it again!”
Only problem is that objectification is damaging. When women or men are objectified their looks and their sexuality become their worth – in their own minds and in the minds of others.
Those who objectify themselves are prone to body shame, low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and sexual dysfunction. They even have more difficulty navigating everyday life because they’re so distracted by how their body looks.
And the objectified are treated like “things,” meant to serve others’ desires. They are things that lack thought or emotion, so they are not offered empathy. And when they age and lose their sex appeal they are worth nothing at all.
Do we really want to turn others into objects? (Keep in mind that it is possible to be sexy without being a sex object.)
But looking closer we see the table is only half-turned: women are also objectified, even in this film. While not revealing any male body parts that are prohibited on a public beach, the film hones in on naked breasts from time to time. One of the strippers even passes his wife around and encourages the guys to fondle her breasts because “she loves it.”
Meanwhile, the simulated sex on stage often mimics male pleasure, with women’s heads shoved against cocks and men humping women’s faces or behinds. How about a little clitoral action?
And in a movie that promises to take us out of our boxes we end up right back inside the virgin/whore dichotomy as Magic Mike chooses between the sexually adventurous Joanna and the virginal Brooke. No surprise, really, who triumphs.
So things have changed and they’ve stayed the same, which provokes the question: Where do we want to go?