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Twilight vs. Porn

10886003_det[1]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.

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What Women Want: Twilight

twilight-eclipseA lot of men take my women’s psych course because they want to know what women want.

Maybe they should watch Twilight instead.

A woman I know of named Tracie Lamb was surprised that her daughters were more engrossed in Twilight than in their Hawaiian vacation. She knew the book series had soldover 100 million copies and that the films have made about a billion dollars. Curious, she started reading and became absorbed, herself. Wondering about the book’s allure, she made a record of what made her “tingle” and amassed a cornucopia of “invaluable information for the opposite sex.”

Here are her musings from a piece called, Wanna Know What Women Want?”

Women want to captivate the men they love as Edward is captivated by Bella. He gazes at her. He watches her sleep. A sexy waitress flirts with him, but he only has eyes for his love:

She smiled at him again. “You have a nice evening.” He didn’t look away from me as he thanked her.

Later he tells her, “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. You fascinate me.”

Edward also listens to Bella, and he wants to know everything about her.

He seemed engrossed in our conversation… He says, “I want to know what you’re thinking – everything.”

Edward is completely devoted, telling Bella that, “You are my life now… I will always want you forever… You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.” (Well, love has been described as being like a drug.)

And instead of being on a quest to satisfy his sexual hunger he seeks to control it because he wants to protect Bella. (He fears he will drain her blood with his vampire instinct unless he controls himself.) That may make him sexy-safe for girls who are just discovering their sexuality, but his desire to protect, generally, is itself a strong draw. He’s not just strong, but his strength is directed at aiding his love. He’s always there for her. And she is more important than his own self and his own wants.

Now mind you, women may want to take care of themselves and their men, but they also like a man who takes care of them and who makes them feel safe and secure. So it goes both ways.

Edward’s brand of love may not appeal to every woman, but it sure appeals to a lot of them.

Tracie concludes with these words:

When a man looks at a woman, he sees the woman. When a woman looks at a man, she sees herself reflected in his eyes. What’s important is not how you look to her, but how you look at her and how you look out for her. It’s how you make her feel: fascinating, cherished, protected.

Next week: Twilight vs. Porn

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