The proof that pornography isn't so strong
as people like Naomi Wolf
say is that it's so damned easy to beat up on pornography. Who is standing up for porn in more than a limp, strictly principled way? Mind you, there's politics afoot too, but where were those defending porn before the bizarre congressional hearing
back in November?
What I find wondrous is that the voices against porn seem to reach audiences. There are people who don't like porn. There are groups of men who along with groups of women will listen to anti-porn crusaders lecture, will read columns by Naomi Wolf, and will nod along as if they hadn't enjoyed a picture of people fucking lately.
Last of all things do I want to be painted as an anti-intellectual, but it seems to me that funding studies on the effects of pornography are silly. I've watched, viewed, and consumed pornography before. Probably most men have, and a sizable minority of women. I can tell you what happens, what are the effects. I get horny. I look at naked women having sex and it makes me want to have sex. I see them having sex in different and varied ways and it expands my idea of what sex is and what it can be, makes it less boring.
Naomi says that porn turns men off from actual women. She cites young women who fear that porn has transformed men's expectations of them, and fear they have to act like pornstars to keep their attention.
It's hard to begin the demolition. While I can't demean the young women expressing their thoughts and fears, and I sympathize, I can't understand taking their fears as a basis for an examination of the effects of porn on men. To use an extreme example (and I'm fond of hyperbole), the fears of some parents that their kids' gay boy scout troop leader might molest them is no indication at all of the actual risk of molestation—which is quite low.
If we take internet porn as an example, one thing we find is that the stereotypical face of porn is withered and cracked. There are still busty women with meticulously-groomed beavers doing two men at a time, doing double-penetration, doing cum-shots over their pancaked make-up and crisp tanlines. But there are others. Amateur porn—porn that at least looks
as though made by non-professionals, is popular. Teenie sites get thousands of hits, featuring attractive but generally naturally-curved young women doing simple strip-teases, and maybe light hardcore. There are granny sites, for Christ's sake. Fat sites. Ethnic, girl-next-door, lesbian, and gay.
There is variety, in other words. Old formulae have been superseded as surely as Newton by Einstein. And I argue that this diverse potential fantasy-life available to girls and guys alike is similar to that provided by games such as Grand Theft Auto III, which through its tacit encouragement of violence offer to the steady, civilized, great non-violent swath of population an opportunity to live beyond the shackling influence of society.
I will not lie about this: at a certain level, killing people is fun. As it is one of the things humans are best at, it must be. Torturing people is fun. Blowing up your enemies is fun. No one should ever do these things for real, because they hurt other people—real people
—and the sorrow of victims' families and friends is very real indeed. But that fact does not render the divertimental aspect of killing/maiming tedious—only verboten.
So it's nice to get into a consequence-free world once in a while and experience the things which in real life we cannot. This is only an extension of the kinds of benefits we get from art and literature, ways of extending human perception and experience—implicitly, extension beyond what the average human is capable. People read adventure books because they'll never quit their office job and explore the jungle. People see dramatic movies because they seldom in their lives experience the same tensions. They play GTAIII because they will never actually do a drive-by of a rival gang—in fact, I must think those people who actually do drive-bys find a game simulating it rather silly.
I watched porn because I was never going to actually bang two schoolgirls at once in the gym locker room. Some girls I found attractive, others not. Actually, I find a lot of traditional pornstars repugnant; their overly-tanned skin is inelastic and yellow, their breasts are aseptic and lumpy, their vulvas look like ravaged bits of steak. I find anal sex repugnant, as I do the idea of cumming on a woman's face. But those options are out there for those who want it, and especially for those whose significant others can't or won't give it to them.
The appeal of actual sexual experience, in particular the feel of flesh, the smells and aromas, the touch, the contact, is much greater than anything porn can offer. Porn is at best an adjunct to imagination. I found as I matured into porn as a young man that certain pic-sets, for instance, just weren't that sexy. For me, those tended to be sets in which the girl was simply naked right away and standing in some anonymous place, or with wide-open-beaver shots, or pics of unexcited girls simply flashing their tits for some beads.
A boob by itself does not an erection make. The appeal of visual pornography, alike literary, is that it aids in setting up an imaginary encounter. I found pic-sets sexy that showed the girl initially somewhat clothed, or in which the girl looked straight into the camera—basically, me—and looked like she wanted me, like she was doing it simply for me. Good porn need not even show a woman completely naked; as long as it helps the viewer to imagine that he's about to fuck, it's good.
(A lot of Playboy
, for instance, I found lacking, because you figured out the formula after awhile and it was obvious the girls didn't want to fuck me.)
Real sex is much better than porn. Real sex, too, involves the imagination as much as it involves the genitals, but it is a much more potent activator of the imagination, too. The woman you are with need not be perfect
in the traditional sense—in fact, preferences often work in the opposite direction. You reach and touch, and are touched back. You can smell perfume commingled with a little bit of sweat. You kiss, and are kissed back. She is wet; you made her so. She is yours—for the moment, just yours, and not shared with everyone who has a DSL connection.
I don't think other cultures keep women and men locked and dressed up because of their ancient wisdom regarding sexual drives. I think they're simply less liberated than some of us Americans are, which isn't saying as much as you might think, because despite porn and Madison Ave. most Americans rarely if ever are exhibitionists.
Mystery can be sexy—but this is because of the effects on the imagination. Vide supra
—see above. Keeping the hair covered for all but your husband just serves to create a fetishism for hair. Not that I object to fetishisms, but why position one as inherently better than others?
Porn is, in and of itself, a net good. A boon for humanity. Not on the order of penicillin, but still good. Much of the pornography made is bad, but so are most paintings on any given day. Tastes for porn are simply a bit blunted without a long, open history of connoisseurship, so for many, any porn will do. Much of the pornography industry is bad, probably worse back in the day, but still bad. We need a Sinclair Lewis to blow that open. But Americans will abandon their porn when they abandon their meat. Mark my words.
And someday, maybe more people will stick up for porn. In the meantime, begin the flamefests. I'll start: you're a filthy, brutish pervert with far too much brains to be indulging in this awful vice
. Now it's your turn. Only, be creative, eh? I want my imagination stroked.