Man quits watching porn; survives

My good friend Angus decided to stop watching porn a few months ago. Because I am infinitely frustrated by the “all men watch porn” myth, I decided to interview him. Proof! All men don’t watch porn and, if you do, it’s possible to stop. Here’s our conversation:

Angus: HI MEGHAN.

Meghan: Ok are you ready?

Angus: YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM.

But otherwise, yeah

M: Do you remember how old you were when you first started watching porn?

A: As with most men of my generation, my first experiences with porn really were the scraps of Playboy and Hustler found in the forests and parks of boyhood. These things were coveted and stashed and revisited as often as possible, and it was tremendously exhilarating to seek out these forbidden stashes, as often as not having found them to have been destroyed by weather or raided by some other boys. These were community experiences and they would have taken place between the ages of 8-11, I would say.

After that, I recall a couple of instances in which we found porn videos accidentally left in a parent’s VCR, and the occasional successful raid on a closeted or garaged stack of magazines, and these experiences, say from 11-13, were still communal. It’s hard to remember precisely, but because we hadn’t yet broken that pubescent glass ceiling, I think most of our experience with porn was more rebellious than sexual. We knew what sex was and we coveted the representation of it, but we were, in every sense, dogs chasing cars.

M: So porn use was more communal than private at first?

A: Absolutely. And it would not have occurred to me that there would be anything strange about that, as the communal aspects of porn were more or less presexual.

M: I’m assuming it was less focused on masturbation then, at that time… So when did it become a private thing?

A: With the onset of puberty came an escalation of tactical rebellion, and it was at the age of 12 or so that the tendency to steal just about anything not in a safety deposit box, freedom of movement, and access to time alone coincided with the hormonal makeup necessary to facilitate the acquisition of pornography and the inevitable masturbation that followed. This was not a communal activity, I should point out.

M: Did you talk to other boys/men about it at that time? Was there an understanding that everyone else (males, that is) was using porn?

A: Of course! You have to keep in mind that, at that time, porn itself was a commodity. This made it, like stolen hood ornaments, a status symbol. As for the actual “use” of that porn, I’m convinced that we all said we used it a lot more than was physically possible and I’m pretty sure that some of us didn’t use it at all but wouldn’t be caught dead admitting it.

M: Interesting. So porn-use was part of learning masculinity/participating in ‘male culture’?

A: Without question.

On an aside — so much of this KIDS TODAY won’t understand. Ha.

M: Because of the internet?

A: Yeah

M: Right. That has changed things, hasn’t it.

A: I’m not sure how much though. I mean, the methodologies are different, but the basic elements of secrecy, evasion, collection, and cultural participation are present. But the internet has definitely intensified things while at the same time making something once extremely rare — almost mythical – commonplace.

M: Along the lines of having to say you use porn (even if you don’t) — I’m sure you’ve heard the line that says “all men watch porn” OR “if a man says he doesn’t watch porn, he’s lying/trying to appease you/trying to get you (and by you, of course, I mean me) into bed?”

A: Well, obviously if you don’t watch porn you’re a fag, right? In which case you would watch gay porn, so yeah, the assumption is that all men watch porn!

As for men telling women that they don’t watch porn, and why they say that even if they do, I think there are a couple of things at play there…

Before I stopped watching porn, I would usually tell women that I “didn’t watch porn very often,” or that “I tried to watch as little as possible” (which is, in itself a pretty twisted proposition, logically). I’m not sure that men do this consciously to try to get women into bed — though some surely do — but there’s certainly an element of shame invoked with these statements that probably has a couple of sources.

I think on some level men don’t want to portray themselves as not being sexually prolific enough to “need” to watch porn in order to get off; and at the same time there must be some understanding that porn is viewed negatively by women.

The second thing is probably why men lie to “get women into bed.” And also why men brag all day and all night when they are dating a woman who likes watching porn. Conversely, men often, in my opinion, lie to other men about watching porn with their girlfriends in order to mitigate shame and exaggerate their sexual experience.

I’m not talking about our friends here, but I have spent years working in trades, and this is really, really common.

M: Why would a man brag that his girlfriend watches porn with him?

A: I would guess that the tacit approval of a woman, as well as the incorporation of porn into reality both heightens the pornographic fantasy, as well as removes any subconscious stigma of the loneliness and shame of the experience of using porn. Just guessing, here…

There’s something else I want to touch on from your previous question.

I think that when men say they don’t watch porn, or as I might have said, watch porn infrequently, there’s something wishful about it. Like when an alcoholic tells you that they’re not partying much, taking it easy these days, has things mostly under control, etc. I think that, for sensitive people especially, porn has an inescapably alienating effect and when asked by someone who may disapprove of porn use whether you use porn, that alienation becomes more immediate or real.

M: Right. So I know men who don’t watch porn. Who aren’t lying to me and have no reason to lie. Yet when you say this to other men, those other men deny it. They say,as I mentioned earlier, that any man who says he doesn’t watch porn is lying or trying to get you into bed or whatever. What’s that about? The need to say ALL MEN WATCH PORN — even though, clearly, all men don’t watch porn. Even if maybe “most” do.

A: Well, obviously, if EVERYONE does it, then it isn’t a question of choice but of consensus. Usually when we can agree on something like that, we are quick to confer on it the qualities of being “natural.” And if that doesn’t absolve one of all social and political responsibility, I don’t know what does.

A reason to say that men who claim to not watch porn are just trying to get women into bed is that it implies a kind of betrayal: “All men do it, he’s just throwing the rest of us under the bus so he can get some in real life.”

And then there’s the implied moral high ground, if you can wrap your head around that, held by the man who watches porn and proudly proclaims his honesty.

M: I feel this perhaps ties in a little bit to that “man code” we discussed way back when — wherein your true allegiance should be/is to men, not women. So the only reason you could be telling such a thing to a woman would be to fuck her –not because you’re having an honest conversation with a human being you respect.

A: Yeah, I don’t think you’re wrong about this. I mean, there isn’t enough space on the whole internet to explore the lies that men will tell to get women into bed, so it’s a very convenient label to put on anything a man says to a woman that another man feels threatened by.

I think it’s safe to assume that men who take the stance that men would only say they don’t watch porn in order to get women into bed are too insufficiently developed to merit much attention.

M: It’s funny because even women will say that too sometimes. Though I think they’re trying to come up with excuses as to why they can’t oppose or be uncomfortable with their own partner’s porn use…

A: Obvs

M: And probably because her boyfriend told her that… I suppose it’s all about normalization and negating any chance for critique/change.

I wanted to touch on the shame factor because it seems to come up a lot. I mean, many men I know do watch porn (again, not all) and many of them have talked to me about the shame they experience around that or that is attached to the whole process of masturbating to porn. Have you experienced this? What is that tied to?

A: Oh the shame tsunamis I have experienced, Meghan. Wave after wave  after wave.

I think, for me, the shame has had two main sources.

The first is an extension of inherent insecurity and feelings of social inadequacy. I don’t know how common this is. I have felt like I should be able to attract sex partners, and my inability to do so at any given time would be correlative to porn use. So the consumption of porn becomes a conscious replacement for human sexual relationship.

So really it’s just stacking loneliness on top of inadequacy, on top of loneliness, and it’s not great.

The second source of shame is the awareness that I am consuming something that I am socially and politically opposed to

M: And do you think this is common for other men? Re: the shame factor?

A: That’s a really good question — I don’t know about common, necessarily, but I don’t think it’s unheard of.

M: So is it fair to say you and some other men feel “ashamed” or “guilty” after using porn?

A: Yeah you would think so.

M: In which case I wonder, if one is politically and socially opposed to porn and feels ashamed when they consume porn, why they would continue to do so?

A: Well, men will fuck anything, generally — especially their hands — and porn is a readily available aid in this endeavour, so there’s that.

Also, I think there’s an element of entitlement to convenience and gratification that pervades our society. And it’s always a lot easier to move your conscience to the side, especially where hormones are involved, and then reconcile your behaviour with your conscience after you’ve received the gratification.

This is true of a lot of things that aren’t porn, as well.

The thing about porn is that it’s mostly private. There’s a limit to how many times you can secretly fuck your brother’s girlfriend before having to reconcile your behaviour with yourself and your community, presumably. But with porn, the shame comes in fairly small doses and tends to not last very long.

So the brain’s “is this worth it” function tends to err on the side of “aw fuck it, I’ll convince myself this is ok, or feel bad that it isn’t, then I’ll make a sandwich, get dressed, go to the club and lie to a girl about whether or not I did it.”

M: On an aside(ish), do you think that’s it’s accurate to say that “men will fuck anything?”

A: I thought you’d ask me about that… No, I don’t, though if you add enough drugs and alcohol… I mean, there’s a ratio you can rely on, if you know what I’m saying…

M: Which would tie to the question of whether porn is defensible because, of that stereotype/popular idea that says men have higher libidos than women, are more ‘visual’, need more sex than women, etc.

A: If you ask me, that’s just a lot more of the same “BUT I LIKE IT” argument that we are always talking about. Are people who make those arguments suggesting that you can’t masturbate without porn? I would call those people unimaginative, not to mention historically shortsighted.

M: Well yes. That was the next question I was going to ask you — there’s this assumption, from a lot of men, that masturbation and porn are so connected that they are one in the same. So when you ask a man to stop using porn, he thinks you are asking him to stop masturbating.

A: Well, not to get to personal here, but I stopped watching porn recently, and let ME tell YOU…

Haha

M: Ha.

Or there’s that idea that you wouldn’t want your boyfriend using porn because you should be “enough” or because of jealousy…

A: Well, that’s a stupid argument.

But look, even if what you say is true, about men needing visual stimulation, more frequent satisfaction, etc. (and I’m inclined to believe the anecdotal evidence I have come across regarding this) it’s not relevant in a discussion of whether or not it’s ok to sexually exploit women to satisfy that need. (And I don’t give a shit about statistically irrelevant hipster porn that claims to be non-exploitative, just to be clear).

M: I’m thinking that maybe a lot of men don’t think mainstream porn is exploitative either… Which is why maybe they don’t feel inclined to stop? Or do you think they realize this but just don’t care? Like they just think it’s people fucking for the camera/money and hey if they want to do that bully for them/dudes who watch porn…

A: It’s probably a little bit of both, I mean it depends how much you really care versus what you’re willing to sacrifice, and I say sacrifice because men have convinced each other that porn is absolutely a right, while downplaying the harm it does.

And the argument that you just put forward really is what most men tell themselves — it’s what I thought for basically ever.

M: Right. Because I know a lot of progressive men who use porn and have no desire/inclination to stop… Not to mention the regular old douchebags.

A: Of course you know men like that, just as I know a lot of progressive men and women who use iPhones. Myself included. So, just as I care about having a smartphone more than I care about people in China, progressive men you know may care about sexual gratification more than they care about the socially, sexually, and economically exploitative nature of the porn industry.

The reason that I make that comparison (re: iPhones), is that the production of both things is far removed from our consumption: “Why can’t the girls in the porn I watch be happy college students who love dicks and just needed a bit of extra money to get their law degree?”

Because porn is based in fantasy, it’s not much of a stretch to extend that fantasy to avoid thinking of the girls as sexually abused children sold to pimps and moved to Miami in shipping containers, the whole while becoming increasingly dependent on drugs.

M: So do you think porn has shaped your sexuality and/or impacted the way you see and relate to women?

A: I don’t really know. I think I’m more convinced than I might have been that every woman in every situation is just a couple of lines of dialogue away from group sex.

M: Ha.

But it’s hard to say because you can’t really give yourself a developmental frame of reference very easily. Also, I’ve had group sex in real life after only a couple of lines of dialogue, so who knows whether or not that’s because of porn.

I do think that porn has absolutely changed the way I look at women. Like physically.

You sent me an article recently where a guy was complaining that his mind had become a whirlwind of sexually depraved thoughts at all times and I feel like that very much applies to me. And I think it must have something to do with porn.

One of the things that evidences that connection is that I feel like a creep a lot of the time. Like, if I was checking out women in a natural, non-porn-influenced way, it’s unlikely that I would feel a sense of shame about it, maybe?

M: Yeah. Maybe if you didn’t feel like you were objectifying them or fetishizing their body parts?

A: Exactly.

M: Or turning them into porn or a source of visual/sexual pleasure for you? Or something? I’m just guessing…

A: Yeah it’s pretty unclear to me.

M: Ok but so do you think it’s shaped your sexuality? Or the way you have sex?

A: I’m not really sure. I don’t think I’ve ever found myself consciously mimicking the more absurd physical contortions that you find in porn, nor have I ever been comfortable with degradation in my sex life. So if you’re asking if after years of watching porn, have I ever tried to fuck a girl in the ass while holding her head in the toilet, the answer is an emphatic “No.”

But I will tell you this: There’s a running joke among men that goes something like this:

“Man, I’ve been watching so much porn lately, and I’ve been finding weirder and weirder shit! Pretty soon, I’m not going to be able to get off unless there’s at least four Japanese schoolgirls, a kangaroo, and black man dressed as the pope!”

But I’ve had candid conversations with men that have said that the “joke” is very much based in reality.

M: Right.

A: As for how porn has shaped my sexuality, that’s going to be difficult to analyze; for obvious reasons, I can really only speculate as to the developmental effects. But if we’re talking about how porn has shaped my relationship to sex in general, that’s a little easier.

As you know, I haven’t been dating since I started recovery at the end of 2012, and the specifics of recovery have led to a sort of ‘perfect storm’ scenario for porn use, one based on isolation as well as the removal of normal methods of achieving instant gratification, like booze and drugs. Suffice it to say, my porn use went from moderate to ludicrous, while my actual sex life became non-existent. After a while this started to make me pretty nervous.

I think it’s relevant to point out here that I have always been drawn to porn that is “as little like porn as possible.” So the fantasy becomes a reality replacement in a very literal sense. It’s inconceivable to me that this wouldn’t be damaging to my relationship to real life sex and the people that I want to have it with. Not to put too philosophical a point on it, but how long can one subsist on fantasy alone before reality starts to seem a poor facsimile? At what point does fantasy, whether we will it or not, become the metric by which we judge our experience?

M: Ok so you recently decided to stop watching porn — Can you tell me what the process was like re: changing your mind about porn and then what made you decide to stop?

A: I wouldn’t say that my mind changed about porn. I haven’t defended my porn use with anything other than “BUT I LIKE IT” for a lot of years, so the intellectual foundation for not watching porn was existent.

I’ve already discussed how my current situation made me acutely aware of the effect porn was having on me. So, one luxury of this period of my life is that the amount of time I necessarily spend reflecting on choices I’ve made in the past, how I define myself, leads quite naturally  to spending a lot of time thinking about how I want to define myself in the future. Now that I’m making wholesale changes in most areas, what kind of person do I want to be?

So because of the mechanics of this kind of personal change, it kind of dawned on me one day that if I didn’t want to feel my sexuality warped by porn, and if I didn’t want to feel shame as a porn user, and if I didn’t want to contribute, as a consumer, to something that I am philosophically opposed to, then maybe I shouldn’t watch porn anymore.

And it’s funny, because it felt like a total “eureka” moment which, you’ll agree, is pretty ridiculous.

M: You talked about the ‘harm’ of porn, as well as your being politically/socially/philosophically opposed to porn/the porn industry — Can you elaborate on that?

A: Yeah, I think the harm of the porn industry is pretty well documented, but I’ll talk a bit about my position. (My position on the porn industry is mostly intuitive; so don’t expect a high level of scientific analysis here…)

I think that there are people much better qualified to speak on the nature and effects of rape culture, but can we take it on spec that I have read a lot of these people and agree with them?

M: Yes.

A: The main thing for me is a problem of social and economic oppression.

It doesn’t pass the smell-test that anyone who is otherwise mentally sound, from a reasonably stable socio-economic background would be interested in being sexually exploited for a living.

I think that this position is confirmed by statistics, as well as by the fact that the worse off some of these women are in any of the above categories, the more thoroughly they are exploited and the less substantially they are compensated. That would appear to be the system; enough that variations are, once again, statistically irrelevant.

So what that is, is a system where the most vulnerable women are taken advantage of sexually for the pleasure of [mostly] men. This is not a system that I am comfortable participating in.

M: What if the women in the porn you were watching were freely! choosing! blow jobs and anal sex on camera for fun! I mean, do you think porn is simply not “good” for women? Or for men, for that matter?

A: Oh good, the “choice” argument.

While I’m not one to discount the role of free will in any human behaviour, I think that it’s important to look at how our society arrays the choices that we are presented with.

We live under an economic system that values women’s bodies in a certain way and puts a price point on that value. Some people would argue that this falls under the aegis of commerce and our market economy.

As a socialist I take exception to that system and the choices that it provides, which are designed to perpetuate an environment of class oppression. And this cannot be divorced from the social aspect of the deal, which is that if women were valued as equal to men in all other ways, instead of valued first as sexual commodities, their choices would be such that working in pornography would be substantially less appealing and never at all necessary.

So the consumption of porn, to me, amounts to the tacit approval of systemic oppression that is both gender based and class based.

M: You told me recently, when you made this decision, that part of the reason you wanted to stop watching porn was that you hope to, at some point, have a relationship with a woman and that you didn’t want to be using porn while in said relationship. Can you talk about that?

A: I think that when I look at the deleterious effects of porn on the collective cultural psyche, and on my psyche specifically; and when I look at what it does to my relationship to sex in general, it seems necessary to ask if my relationship to sex, as it is affected by porn, is likely to affect my relationship to, well, relationships.

And I end up answering that it most likely can’t be good.

I think that when we’re single, and possibly even when we’re in relationships, we tend to think of what we would like to see in our “ideal mate”– Like a human Mr. Potato Head with a soul, if you will.

M: Yes. Like that exactly.

A: And, ideally, we usually want to spend our time with someone that shares our values wholly, at best, and at the very, very least respects said values.

So it would follow that I would like to be with a woman who is also opposed to the things that I am opposed to. And this has the possibility, if I were to continue to use porn, of creating a lot of the situations that we discussed earlier — Such as a compounded sense of shame from not only betraying my ideals, but those of my partner as well as the possibility of a situation where lies are told to get my partner into bed, and then the perpetual conflict that comes from a relationship where you’re lying all the goddamn time.

M: Right.

So have you told other men about your decision to stop watching porn?

A: A couple, yeah.

M: And how did they react?

A: Well, my friends are really smart so the ones that I told absolutely understood my position, but it was still a little weird; there’s a pretty weighted moment where everyone is trying to figure out how serious everyone else is and whether or not there’s a bunch of judgement about to be laid down. Kind of like coming out of the closet as someone who doesn’t watch porn, for me, and for them I imagine they’re trying to figure out how much of a moralizing prick I’m about to become. Also, there’s an immediate detente, I think, because “not watching porn” is a pretty hard position to attack without coming off as a slimeball.

 

This interview was conducted in July 2013. Angus has been living porn-free for four months and his penis has yet to shrivel up and fall off.

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • Fox

    This article should be titled “Man with unhealthy relationship with pornography, stops watching it… Something he probably should have done a long time ago!”

    The real problem here is that the man is lying to women he is in a relationship with. Honesty in sexual matters is a very important part of a relationship. Telling your partner “You don’t watch much porn” is lying and causing you shame… the porn is just the catalyst for the shame not the reason. An in a general way, denying yourself sexual pleasure for reasons of shame is a traditional (dare I say, Catholic) way of thinking and will only harm his mental health and any relationship this man finds.

    Also, the line “Well, obviously if you don’t watch porn you’re a fag, right?” was probably a bad choice. I understand it is meant to be anecdotal but instead I instantly lost all compassion I had for the interviewee. For a man being interviewed about the social oppression of women, he goes and uses a word that is the epitome of social oppression towards homosexual men?

    As for porn itself, I think open conversations about it to men would be far more successful than reinforcing the idea that all porn is bad. One of the biggest problems with pornography is that is a private matter (pun not intended) and not talked about freely. Being open and talking about pornography and masturbation will normalize it and bring credibility to the industry which in turn will make it better for the people involved. Telling people (men in this case) that “Porn is bad” and “Do not watch porn” or “I survived after not watching porn, because porn is bad” is not a solution and endorsing that behavior is just going to build shame and be detrimental to the people in the industry. “

    • Meghan Murphy

      But pornography is not a “private” matter at all… And I believe Angus’ reason for using the line “Well, obviously if you don’t watch porn you’re a fag, right?” was to point out that this is what men say to men who claim they don’t watch porn/participate in masculine culture — not because he thinks it’s an acceptable or appropriate term…

      • gxm17

        I recall my son-in-law angrily asking my son “What are you, a fag?” when my son told him that he wasn’t interested in going to a strip joint for his 21st birthday. IMO, it’s a bully tactic used by men who want to justify their misogynistic behavior as “normal.” (And who also want an excuse to go to a strip club.)

      • Helen

        Pornography is private? Where do you live? And, what world do you live in? Almost nothing about pornography is private: not the production, not the distribution and exchange, and not even the consumption. And even the way “we” talk about these aspects of the pornography industry is not private. That is a lot of what Angus is talking about here: pornography as a cultural script & practice by which boys become men, and not “fags” or “girls”. A practice backed up by an industry that is not some kind of sideshow to capitalism (remember capitalism?) but part of it.

        And as for this spurious “not talking” being detrimental to “the people in the industry”, actually what is detrimental to most women in the industry is the industry.

    • Candy

      But there’s a massive quantity of misogynistic porn out there. For every “art porn” film, there’s fifty with the women getting called sluts, whores, dumb barely legal hoes, and fat bitches with the man placed on a pedestal, the proverbial “stud”. And yes, there’s porn with men being treated the same way, but an analysis will show something quite telling: often when the man is the degraded submissive, he’s feminized, shamed for possessing feminine traits, or humiliated with feminine clothing and symbolism. To be a woman is to be the degraded submissive.

      I personally have had a long talk about porn with my boyfriend, who has been critical of the media he consumes since I’ve known him. I have my own mixed opinions on porn (that are probably unpopular on here): I believe sexual repression is damaging, but also that some “perversions” come from a place of mental malaise and/or dark human nature (often exacerbated by the glamorization of extremes within our culture) and that porn is often equally damaging; I’m not anti-porn, I’m anti-porn in its current model. When pornographers themselves have admitted that they’ve had to produce increasingly depraved porn to cater to the demand of the pornified populace, there’s absolutely a problem.

      And he listened and agreed; men aren’t stupid. Most men know that porn is degrading to women (and the ones with their heads out of their asses will observe the blatant racism and classicism that seeps into the smut); however, many don’t care. Many will use the old “it’s just fantasy,” hand-waving the societal implications of the content with a blase smugness. Of course, as feminists, we know the personal is political.

      It’s difficult to know if the porn you’re viewing was made under ethical conditions, and even supposed ethical companies like Kink have come under fire after multiple accusations of paying off their workers to deny any wrong-doing and rape. I have visions of a world in which violence is no longer sexualized, not merely for feminist reasons but as someone who always has a foot firmly rooted in philosophy and ethics.

      Shame is not always bad; sometimes shame is the nudge we need to evaluate our actions and why we’re feeling ashamed at all. I don’t think anyone is advocating shaming a man simply for having sexual desires and shouting that “all porn is horrible and you’re a horrible person for watching it” is not the way to go about having a reasonable, non-defensive conversation, but a woman is well within her right to feel cautious about her significant other’s porn viewing habits and is not a puritan for this.

      • PKRT

        I don’t think anyone is advocating shaming a man simply for having sexual desires and shouting that “all porn is horrible and you’re a horrible person for watching it” is not the way to go about having a reasonable, non-defensive conversation

        I honestly don’t think this is what anyone is doing/saying here. What is said to men is much simpler: porn is harmful and you most likely don’t need it. Just like prostitution, same thing!

    • Missfit

      Men lie to the woman they’re in a relationship with about their porn use for the same reason they would lie if they slept with another woman; by fear their girlfriend will resent them or leave them. A lot of women, and I would dare say the majority, don’t like porn in general and don’t like their man watching it in particular. I agree with you, I am all for being honest so all the parties involved know what they are into. But I think the shame is not only in the lying but is directly linked to the porn itself. I think man who view themselves as otherwise decent people should indeed feel ashamed to consume such woman hating material.

      I am all for talking openly about porn, but I mean very openly. I don’t want to stay vague and hide real discussion behind ‘it’s just sex’. I want to be descriptive, to talk about gender representations, about the language of porn, about the way women are used and hurt for male sexual gratifiation. When these aspects of porn will be addressed directly, are you going to say ‘well, I don’t watch THAT kind of material’? Are we then back to the lying? Because the majority of porn is THAT. Otherwise, congratulations, you’ve just admitted that deep down, you are a misogynist. And there is no need to argue that finding pleasure in looking at women being hurt and degraded is not misogyny, because this will be like debating whether black is white or two plus two equals five… But men don’t want to admit it, they don’t want to go there. So they hide behind ‘it’s just sex’.

  • http://metamorphocity.com Sarah

    I nodded along with this entire interview. Great questions, Meghan, and Angus, thanks for being so thoughtful and open with your answers!

  • Angus

    Mr. Fox,

    I think that a great deal of your criticism can be traced to a misreading of the interview, and it is my suspicion that some, if not all, of this misreading is intentional. At no point did I claim to have lied about porn use to women I have been in relationships with, and that makes me think that you are using this as a strawman. The same goes for your focusing on my use of the term “fag,” use which clearly deviates from my general tone in such a way as to denote irony.

    All of that being said, I would like to point out that the entire purpose of my interview was to lay out a clear argument against the myth of the healthy relationship to pornography; I did this by systematically addressing the social, political, and economic factors that are at play in both the production and consumption of pornography. Your response lacked any coherent disagreement with my treatment of the topic, and instead seemed to focus on the aforementioned strawmen, which is disingenuous at best; more insidiously, you seem to claim (in the most obvious tradition of “because I like it”) that the responsibility for making pornography less damaging lies not with an honest look at how and why it is so damaging but instead with the establishment of different communication with the consumers of a damaging product. This strikes me as the worst kind of doubling down on the very male entitlement that drives all forms of sex industry.

    In this interview I speak to the fact that the harmful nature of the porn industry is well-documented, and it is. I took it on spec that people reading this would be aware of that, or at the very least willing to research that fact for themselves. It would appear that you are neither of these things, which in itself does not say anything about you, but very much makes you unqualified to dispute the validity of applying negative moral terminology such as “bad” to a thing like pornography.

    I would finally like to point out that I did not do this interview in order to garner the sympathy that you withdrew upon your reading, but to bring to light my personal experience with removing the burden of negative consumption from my life. This is something that matters a great deal to me, and I thought it would matter to others; the fact that it isn’t important to you, or the fact that you enjoy pornography and do not regard claims to its harmfulness as valid, speaks mainly to your personal experience and not to a valid disagreement with mine.

    Angus

    • L3ighsa

      Well said Angus :)

      • L3ighsa

        Might I add, I can only hope that I will meet someone as confident, and as well educated as yourself, that share your views.

  • Leaf

    Really good interview. Angus’s early experiences almost exactly mirror my own. One exception is that I was not always able to admit to my friends that I was at all drawn to porn. Another cringe-worthy exception (I don’t think traumatic would be too strong a term for what I’m about to describe): I had a few friends who tried to make the masturbatory interaction with porn into a public experience. I have only ever consumed porn with one of my girlfriends. It wasn’t that thrilling. She could definitely be described as a sexual reactionary/self-hating feminist. I think I’ve been at pains to hide that dark part of my life from every other girl with whom I’ve been in a relationship. While in a relationship, it’s easier to hide my porn use without lying because I have probably only used porn like a handful of times (heh) whenever I had access to the real thing.I recently had a few hook-ups with an old friend who identifies herself as a lesbian, has been volunteering for Girls Rock Camp for nigh on ten years, and who actually killed my boner once by talking politics in bed. She claims to enjoy watching straight (I’m assuming the exploitative kind of) porn!
    I have lately been considering a change like Angus. It would not be the first attempt, but one of the moral issues not mentioned in your interview is really starting to get to me. You can’t tell how old those girls are! Half of them are advertised as teens. You just have to hope they’re lying. Refining your search doesn’t help because “mature” usually means something a bit more raunchy than “of-age.” Also, porn these days has a bit more ass-licking than I can get down with.

    • Me

      “She could definitely be described as a sexual reactionary/self-hating feminist.”

      Would you care to elaborate?

      “While in a relationship, it’s easier to hide my porn use without lying because I have probably only used porn like a handful of times (heh) whenever I had access to the real thing.”

      Not funny, especially the “access to the real thing” part. Turn the tables and imagine a guy you sense is seeing you just for your butthole say the same thing about you. Access to the real thing ftw!

      “an old friend who identifies herself as a lesbian … and who actually killed my boner once by talking politics in bed.”

      Which was only a good thing to do. Especially her being a lesbian. You should’ve killed your own boner, man.

      “You can’t tell how old those girls [in porn] are!”

      Yes you can. They’re obviously much too young to make a decision to become involved in it and you seem to understand as much. You have to stop using and start opposing.

      • Leaf

        Fair

      • Leaf

        As far as my self-hating feminist ex is concerned,I feel I’ve already said too much. All I need mention is that most of my girlfriends have avowed feminism less than I do. You might guess there weren’t a lot of them, but you have to admit that shit is super unfortunate (no matter what numbers we’re talking).

  • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

    Here’s an object lesson – sorry for reprinting these hideous words:

    “So if you’re asking if after years of watching porn, have I ever tried to fuck a girl in the ass while holding her head in the toilet, the answer is an emphatic “No.””

    Reading this sentence makes my whole body go into panic mode. It brings tears to my eyes. It also makes me wish that every porn-using dude be the real-life recipient of this scenario.

    It’s so telling that this level of violence and degradation is just garden variety chit chat and that the ubiquity of this content does not shut down use – hey, it only entails the MOST BASIC level of empathy, folks! – let alone these sick, twisted defences about “legitimate” use.

    • scaldingmay

      Thank you for writing that lizor, these are my thoughts exactly! The way he typed these words so nonchalantly (along with the use of “fag” earleir on) is terrifying. That line and many of the other things he said in the interview were problematic to say the least….especially in light of all the articles Meghan posted about male allies in feminism.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I totally hear where you’re coming from and agree that reading or hearing those words is traumatic. But I think Angus is illustrating a reality… So he typed those words to demonstrate the reality of porn which, imo, is far better than what men usually say, e.g. “oh, it’s just sex.”

        • lizor

          I realize what he meant and I am not framing Angus as the problem – or I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, given he sounds serious about recovering from porn as well as the other supposedly “legitimately problematic” substances he’s been using.

          I recognize the “reality” that is ugly to state – I often do so myself, but I also must point out that in this case we are talking about moving images that Angus himself has sought out on a regular basis while still telling himself that he respects women. I am addressing this in the interests of his recovery and of the discussion in general. Many of us, like Gail Dines does, call the content as it is but what often gets left out is someone stating explicitly how psychologically eviscerating this stuff is.

          My hope for Angus is that every time he thinks of theses scenes; every time he describes them or refers to them or if he returns to watching them, he will always see himself in HER role. Every. Single. Time.

          I think that, generally, if you cannot comfortably put yourself into the position or role of the person you are actually or imaginatively having sex with – if that is unthinkable or repulsive to you – then you may want to think pretty hard about what sort of ethics you are embedding into yourself by choosing to orgasm in this way.

        • Missfit

          Also, I am tired of the ‘it’s JUST sex’. What’s with the word ‘just’? When sex can result in pregnancy, disease or trauma, why are we trying to minimize its effects (negative as well as positive) with the word ‘just’?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I’m paraphrasing what men say. Not the words I would choose…

          • vouchsafer

            The message in porn is this:women are sub human.

            but nothing about it has anything to do with what women want at all.

            Its men making money by catering to other men’s need to feel superior to women.

            I can’t help but wonder if they came up with the idea of free access to misogynist porn about the same time as church attendance began to decline a few decades ago, because nothing enshrined female suppression more than organized religion in its day.

            Women who enjoy sexual intercourse are supposed to be dirty and depraved. That is certainly how the porn world portrays them. Right wing losing a little control much, getting desperate much?

          • Missfit

            I know. I guess should not have been posted as a reply to you.
            I’m wonder when we hear them say ‘it’s just sex’, do they mean ‘it’s just women’?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think they’re just so completely self-absorbed that they think that anything they get pleasure from MUST, naturally, be good and right and justified. “Other” people (i.e. women) don’t count. They aren’t real human beings, like men are, after all, rather a series of holes for dicks to go in.

          • Me

            ” rather a series of holes for dicks to go in.”

            To which one could respond, what’s so wrong with that?

            It’s just sex. It’s just for pleasure.

            You nailed it.

          • Tao

            They can’t imagine a ‘sex-hungry’ man objecting to porn. It’s always those ‘whiny oversensitive women’. Good call.

            Also, they may say they are turned on by our pleasure, but really they are turned on by the reinforcement of their performance and manhood. I maintain that they are capable of identifying feigned enjoyment, but willfully choose not to.

          • Tao

            Their superiority complex and empathy deficit is maintained by labeling female dissent as ‘prude’ either by nature or experience.

  • http://drizzleanddew.blogspot.com Kogen

    Mr. Fox said, “Man with unhealthy relationship with pornography, stops watching it… Something he probably should have done a long time ago!”

    The problem is that it’s not quite possible to have a relationship with porn. Porn comes to us in static bytes, and we use, use, use it. Within the static bytes are hacked up pieces of body parts; close ups of mouths, vagina, and breasts- not so different from a butcher’s meat counter, where everything is compartmentalized into safe, cellophane wrapped packages- this is the absence of relationship, and that’s what makes it so easy and so dangerous.

    Like Angus, I was initiated at 8. At this point, neurosciencentists can’t even find (western world, I suppose) subjects over 7 years old to study the effects of a brain without porn. In my struggle to decolonize my heart, porn is the hardest. This website helped: http://yourbrainonporn.com/

    • PKRT

      Thanks for the website, very interesting indeed :)

    • Tao

      I will admit that boys’ relationship with porn is rather incidental and intrusive, at first- followed by curiosity, hormones, and immature social awareness. In fact, it is even enforced by gender role performance, as they stated with the ‘gay’ comments above. It’s part of a initiation ritual, a coming of age for young men. Nearly every male peer I’ve met has been given porn at a young age, by supposed adult role models. It’s almost as if the men who use porn must indoctrinate or groom boys to reinforce their lifestyle behaviors, for risk of losing permissive approval from the coming generation of leaders. It’s more likely male bonding to maintain privilege and power, at the expense or disregard of women. As I sympathize with the confusing mix of guilt, pressure, and support boys receive as a result of porn use, once he becomes an adult, it should be clear that it is exploitative and hurtful to the majority, in a variety of ways we have only begun to understand.

  • CMC

    I discovered your blog through a FB post a while back and I enjoy it very much. Thanks for the interesting, intelligent discussions, Meghan, and, in this case, Angus.

    I wonder if either of you are familiar with Gary Wilson’s Ted Talk, “The Great Porn Experiment.” It is well worth watching, as he outlines the research he has undertaken – and difficulties in undertaking said research – around porn consumption and it’s effects, especially as it has evolved in the age of easily accessible internet porn. Like other’s, he has pointed out the correlation between porn use, especially heavy use, and difficulties with real relationships and arousal issues. Very interesting and very apropos to this to this discussion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU

    This discussion is mainly about men and porn, and one man’s personal relationship to porn, but I’m also interested in the ways our new “porn paradigm” is impacting and reflected back to us through cultural norms: the “pornification” of, well, everything, from music videos to billboards and beer commercials, or the trend to eliminating all pubic hair.

    In the debates around Miley Cyrus’s wrecking ball video, her defenders say she knows exactly what she’d doing, she’s exploring her sexuality, she’ “sex positive,” etc. Similar arguments were made about Madonna, and in the debate around Cyrus’s video, Madonna’s name is often evoked to support arguments both against and for Cyrus’s video as “sex positive.” I would say that if their respective careers represent their own personal views about sex, then they have both internalized a very male view of female sexuality. I know many see this differently, but I just don’t think that when Madonna sings “like a virgin” she’s appealing to some deep-seated female desire, or when Miley licks a sledge hammer or rides naked on a wrecking ball, she’s reveling in her “female” sexuality. Madonna set out to be famous and rich. That was her goal. She used what she had to achieve it and it’s no secret that she modeled much of her look on that glorious sexpot, Marilyn. Indeed, I seem to recall Madonna saying something to the effect that she was deliberately using her sexuality to become famous and rich, like Marilyn, but that she felt she was a feminist because she was in control of her own exploitation. Wish I knew where I read that, but it was a long time ago and I can’t back it up. However, I do have trouble with the idea that if one is exploiting oneself for the male gaze then that makes it feminist. Cyrus, on the other hand, has been in the biz for a long time. She, in my opinion, is simply doing whatever she can to shock and titillate, because in this pornified overly stimulated culture, she’s competing with other equally sexual/pornographic music videos. If she fails to shock, then she’ll be labeled as lame. I find nothing particularly feminist or groundbreaking in either’s approach.

    Which brings me to the question of our children and the effect our overly pornographic culture has on them. Children have been exposed to pornography for some time now, probably with the advent of Playboy, as before that, pornography was not commonly found in most homes. I was around seven the first time I encountered Playboy and Hustler. Now, kids encounter much more graphic images online. The average age seems to be around 10 or 11, but I’m sure lots are seeing graphic pornographic images even younger. And even if they’re not encountering porn, per se, all they have to do is look around them: there is no shortage of sexualized imagery in our culture. What, if anything, should we be doing regarding our children’s access/exposure to overly sexualized imagery?

    Not long ago, my then 13-year-old and I were talking about censorship in reference to parents blocking their children from, say, watching or listening to something with obscene lyrics or other questionable content. She thought for a moment and then replied. I wish I had captured her response word for word, because I was so incredibly proud of how articulate and well thought out it was, but the gist of it was this: “I don’t think just telling your child not to listen is useful. If you forbid it, you just make it more desirable, more interesting, and so then the child will seek it out secretly and now you’ve lost the opportunity to talk about the lyrics and put them into context. I’m not interested in songs like that, and I’ve heard some of them, but because we’ve talked about this kind of stuff, I don’t want to be exposed to it” etc. Like I said, I can’t remember verbatim what she said, but it was very astute.

    Emma Teitel makes a very similar point regarding sex education and talking about porn with kids:

    “The misconception about progressive sex ed is that kids are inundated with sexual material every day outside of school, and educators shouldn’t be inundating them inside it. But good, progressive sex ed doesn’t do this. Under the revised curriculum, health teachers wouldn’t add insult to injury. They would give thoughtful and measured responses to the questions kids ask about sex—particularly stuff they see and do online. They would, in other words, quell the fire, not feed it. Growing up in the early 2000s, for example, I did not know a single sexually active girl with pubic hair. Somewhere along the way, our after-school tradition at Katherine’s house (i.e., watching porn) convinced us that desirable women just didn’t have hair down there. Nobody discussed porn in our sex-ed class, or how women are portrayed in it. But perhaps if they had, we would have learned that shearing yourself is not a mandatory prerequisite to sex. A revised sex-ed curriculum gives context, and context is everything.” http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/06/15/we-need-to-get-into-bed-with-modern-sex-ed/

    Exactly! Teitel’s point about pubic hair is a graphic illustration of how NOT talking about porn with younger people has impacted our culture, as the trend among women and now men of shaving their privates attests. This is a trend that can only be explained by reference to porn’s influence. Would this trend have taken hold if more people were comfortable discussing sex and pornography with their children? Personally, I have no objection to people shaving (or, even more horrifying, waxing) their privates if that’s what they want to do. I doubt, however, that this is really something most people “want” to do. Many years ago, before this was a cultural norm, I was convinced to shave my pubic region – once. The discomfort was intolerable! Who in their right mind thinks it is more comfortable put up with ingrown hair on their pubic region on a regular basis? And waxing it? That’s gotta hurt! As for more attractive, to me, it seems rather pedophilic, as a lack of pubic hair screams pre-pubescent to me. I know people will disagree and argue that this is a personal preference, but I strongly suspect it is a trend that many follow because we are social beings, internally programmed to go along with the group. If all of your peers are going bare floor, it’s pretty hard to buck that trend, especially when you’re younger and even more influenced by groupthink. But my objections to this practice are just quibbles, and I have no axe to grind regarding whether someone wants to go “bare floor” or not.

    No, shaving one’s privates is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, a small visible tip that only hints at the large and dangerous object under the surface. Young men are becoming “addicted” to porn and finding it hard to relate to real women, or worse (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2329992/Easy-access-web-porn-making-teen-boys-girls-sex-objects-encouraging-engage-risky-sexual-behaviour.html; http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/was-i-actually-addicted-to-internet-pornography/276619/; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU). Young women are taking it for granted that they have to put-out like a porn queen, or at the very least, look like one. Indeed, in ultra-liberal Iceland, the negative effect of pornography is taken so seriously they are considering a ban on violent pornography: “It is anti-violence because young children are seeing porn and acting it out. That is where we draw the line. This material is blurring the boundaries for young people about what is right and wrong,” said Interior ministry advisor Halla Gunnarsdóttir
    (http://www.icenews.is/2013/02/20/iceland-ponders-internet-porn-ban/). According to Thorbjorg Sveinsdottir of the Children’s House, an Icelandic centre for children who have been sexually abused, “children who have viewed pornography exhibit similar symptoms to those who have been assaulted. Sigthrudur Gudmundsdottir, the manager of a refuge for abused women in Reykjavik, notes that women increasingly blame the violence they experience on their husbands’ use of pornography. Ms Hjaltested, the assistant prosecutor, says that the police are seeing more rapes apparently inspired by pornography: ‘It’s like copy-paste…like an imitation from hard-core porn.’” (http://www.economist.com/news/international/21576366-iceland-determined-outlaw-worlds-oldest-business-can-it-succeed-naked-ambition)

    The idea that pornography might lead some kids (and adults) to violent acts is scary, but, some will argue, correctly, relatively rare. More to the point, kids are not learning to value themselves and others, and are being denied the deeper spiritual connections and rewards possible in truly consenting adult sexual relationships.

    I would encourage everyone to talk about this subject, especially within relationships and with one’s children. Talking about sex and pornography gives you a chance to let your kids know what you value in adult relationships and helps them to set an appropriate bar in their own. It also models talking about a difficult subject, one most of us find hard to talk about. Just as appropriate sex education for young children, including naming their body parts accurately and talking about what is and what isn’t appropriate touch from an adult, protects young children from sexual predation, so does talking with pre-teens and teens about pornography protect them from the negative impacts exposure can bring.

    And this is where blogs like this are very valuable. In talking frankly about pornography and your relationship to it as an adult, Angus, you forward a conversation we should all be having.

  • sporenda

    “So if you’re asking if after years of watching porn, have I ever tried to fuck a girl in the ass while holding her head in the toilet, the answer is an emphatic “No.””
    Reading this sentence makes my whole body go into panic mode.”

    Same here.
    Angus’ interview illustrates the extreme, sociopathic lack of empathy which is considered a normal part of masculinity.
    Don’t take it personnally, Angus, I am well aware it’s gender conditioning at work here.

    What I am getting at is: from what you say, I assume that you have watched the type of porn where the scenes you describe are shown.
    But you did not try to force a woman to perform this porn scenario in real life.

    As a woman, I could not even have watched such scenes for 1 minute.
    Not because I am too sensitive, I am rather hardboiled in fact.
    But because I am aware that this is torture: pure Abu Ghraib, a version of waterboarding combined with sodomy, similar to what some thugs did in Ira to force prisoners to speak.

    How do you explain that you could watch these torture scenes without ever seeing them as torture?
    If this was done to a man (as you are heterosexual), you would have identified this as torture right away, but because it’s done to a woman, it’s not torture, it’s sex. And it’s exciting.

    How do you explain this huge blind spot to women’s pain, without even speaking of women’s dignity?
    In hardcore porn, the actresses clearly look like they are in pain.
    How can you NOT think of what the woman felt with her head in the toilet bowl? This is mindboggling to me.
    Porn actresses suffer from torn, bleeding , collapsed rectums.
    Worse than that, these women were tortured because of you, because you paid to watch this.
    In a way, you were vicariously torturing them.
    Would you pay to watch men being tortured?

    The bottomline of ethical behavior can be summed up in one sentence: do unto others…
    Clearly, men are aware that they routinely do to women thing they would be terrified of if it was done to them. But as long as it’s done to women, it’s no big deal.

    Porn is sexual fascism: when the most horrible things are done to members of the subhuman class (jews or women), the master class feels as much emotion as if crushing a gnat.

    • lizor

      “Angus’ interview illustrates the extreme, sociopathic lack of empathy which is considered a normal part of masculinity.”

      I posted a reply above before reading this. Yes. This is exactly what I was trying to get at.

      Most men, including “progressives” are repulsed and appalled at the thought of being in the female role in the sexual scenarios they concoct – even the more benign ones. It demonstrates a profound lack of ethics.

      • stephen m

        @lizor: “Most men, including “progressives” are repulsed and appalled at the thought of being in the female role in the sexual scenarios they concoct – even the more benign ones. It demonstrates a profound lack of ethics.”

        Are there stats to this effect? I have a very hard time believing that I belong to some special small group (all men – “Most men”) that always desires mutually enjoyable sexual scenarios which could also be easily physically/emotionally transposable.

        I do agree with the researchers that use a disease model for violence. Violent porn would be contagious and produce violent sexuality.

        • stephen m

          This is not my week for clarity. The point is that I am not a special person, so it is likely that “Most men” is an exaggeration that is too large for me to ignore.

          • scaldingmay

            “The point is that I am not a special person, so it is likely that “Most men” is an exaggeration that is too large for me to ignore.”

            See, this is the problem most women have with men in feminism. Lizor wrote that most men are so far separated from female suffering that they can’t imagine being in the female role in porn sex, even though they have no problem masturbating to her pain. You commented that not all men are like that. You added absolutely nothing to the discussion except a poor attempt to feed your own ego.

            Sorry, you don’t deserve any cookies for viewing women as human, ie doing what you’re supposed to. Instead of coming to feminist blogs and telling women we’re wrong, why don’t you seek out the men Lizor mentioned (and yes they exist, despite your personal opinion) and then decide whether they constitute “most men” or not?

          • stephen m

            Point taken.

          • vouchsafer

            Ok, change it to “most humans” are repulsed at the thought of having their human dignity completely stripped from them in the way that women in porn experience. Do you to still need to click on a link to buy that?

          • stephen m

            That is very correct, but I didn’t follow the “click on a link” reference, but I think that is probably unimportant.

          • vouchsafer

            That was because you asked lizor if there were “stats to this effect”.

          • Me

            The problem is not simply men’s “evil intentions”, though there’s plenty of that to go around. Masculinity enables sociopathic behavior towards women. You perform it, as most men typically do and certainly during sex, and your behavior turns towards the sociopathic. It dissociates you from full human concerns for the woman. It’s not something you want to have done back to you. It’s an institution, not just an individual preference or desire.

          • stephen m

            @Me : Have you got a citation for that I would be interested in reading about what you have just given me? Just the author would be good, I can take it from there. Thanks

          • Me

            I’m sorry, I don’t. I just made a point that my experience tells me is true. I thought lizor and sporenda pointed out how the above article makes this very point, even though indirectly?

            I wonder if you’re not asking a bit of the same thing here as you asked of lizor above? I can’t tell what would resonate with you, and the point rather than “prove” this would be to have it resonate with you, right? I trust you have already read Dworkin’s Intercourse? Have you read projectunbreakable.tumblr.com? It all comes from the same root.

          • lizor
          • stephen m

            @lizor: elegant

        • lizor

          Right, Dude.

          The streets, bars and locker rooms are just teeming with men who brag about how they themselves LOVE being on the receiving end of a good “reaming” (isn’t that the common parlance?). This must be why so many men’s magazines and online commenters talk endlessly about how much they enjoy being anally and orally penetrated.

          I mean, it’s a foundational concept of popular masculinity, isn’t it?

          • stephen m

            Point made!

    • Angus

      I had the same reaction to the toilet bowl scene that I have to seeing images of six million of my people being slaughtered: I left the room immediately.

      • vouchsafer

        What I think is important to note here is that it isn’t actually the user that’s paying for the site.

        The porn industry functions by charging premiums for ad space based on number of hits that the site recieves.

        It’s a clever way to disconnect the user from thinking his consumption does any harm. After all, it’s not like he’s directly financially contributing to these women’s oppression, right? That might be a little harder to justify. But since his number of ‘visits’ is what drives the demand, it is his viewing that contributes to the oppression.

        That’s what a lot of men don’t understand I think. If you are reading this, and you are a porn consumer, you are making your daughters and sisters walk around in a world in which millions of men (YOU included) get off on images that would otherwise constitute rape. Sun in your daughter’s face over that of the woman in the film, because that’s who your demand is going to harm.

      • annika

        I’m sure the woman in one of those movies would have loved the luxury of being able to “leave the room immediately” too. I don’t what that line about six million of “your people” means either…..I come from a family of Holocaust survivors, and no one ever mentioned anyone with a name like Angus in Dachau. The way you nonchalantly threw that phrase in there combined with the blatant misogyny throughout the interview (even if it was done in hipster irony) makes me think you couldn’t care less about female suffering.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I’m not quite sure I understand your response, here, Annika? What would you have preferred Angus say? I realize that the reality is abhorrent, but it is still the reality and Angus and I did the interview specifically because he believes the reality of pornography — both ‘extreme’ porn and ‘regular’/’mainstream’/whatever you want to call it porn is degrading and treats women as non-human. The reality is that most men watch porn and think it’s perfectly normal. They learn that women aren’t human and that porn=sex. Why do you believe a man who had been told his whole life that porn was fine and good and a healthy and normal part of male culture/sexuality would decide to stop watching/consuming if he didn’t care about women’s lives?

          No one’s asking you to give out cookies simply for treating/seeing women as human, but I don’t understand why you’ve come to the conclusion that Angus doesn’t care about female suffering?

          • annika

            I just got the sense throughout the interview that Angus knows in an abstract way that “pornography hurts women and that’s bad,” but he can’t really fathom the suffering women endure under a rape culture. He doesn’t take it seriously because he doesn’t have to as evidenced by some clips of the interview other commenters quoted. I wasn’t questioning your intentions, but I think his views should be up for criticism like anyone else’s.

            I’m still curious about his slaughtered people line because that just read as manipulative imo.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            I can’t fathom the suffering women endure under a rape culture. I don’t think it really make sense to anyone who’s outside of it (i.e. men). But I take women at their word.

          • vouchsafer

            “I can’t fathom the suffering women endure under a rape culture”

            Let me try to draw you a picture with words. Imagine a distant planet occupied by a species not so different from humans, lets call them “Jin”.

            Some Jin are blue in colour, some purple, and the blue jin have slightly different physiologies to the purple jin, a necessary feature of their reproduction.

            Everything’s going along ok for a few thousand years or so, with each colour finding it’s own niche in the world, it’s own ways to contribute. the strengths of both colours are equally vital to the Jin’s survival, and a kind of camaraderie and mutually beneficial simbiosis begins to develop.

            Now, imagine that a small group of people on the Jin planet figure out that they can skew things in order to reap massive personal riches if they can only find a way to silence the purple Jin, one of whose strengths is the ability to budget resources so that everyone has enough to eat.

            This small band of people (Hell, lets call them capitalists, why not) begins a smear campaign in which they invoke the name of the Jin God and use it to proclaim that the purple Jin are dirty or unclean due to the function of their reproductive organs.

            Pretty soon, the blue Jin begin to believe this, even though there was never any reason to think that way in the past. The capitalists then take this one step further and make a law that negates the status of purple Jin, so that officially they can not own property, vote in elections, or refuse to have intercourse with the blue Jin once they have been forced into marriage with a blue Jin for survival.

            This goes on for a lot of years, and the capitalists get their way. They have effectively silenced the Purple Jin, paving the way for global free market capitalism, but a funny thing happens. The greed of the capitalists provokes a massive war on the Jin planet. Lots of the blue jin are killed, and suddenly, there is no choice but for the purple Jin to take over getting jobs and running households for they and their children to survive.

            Once the purple Jin realize that they are (surprise!) equally capable of earning money and making big decisions and being in charge of their own lives, they turn away from the capitalist “religion” and begin, once more, to follow their hearts, listening to the voice of the goddess inside of them, who all this time has been crying out to be heard and silenced because her wisdom doesn’t fit within the capitalist paradigm.

            The Purple Jin begin to reassert themselves as a rightful race on the planet, which in turn gives room for other marginalized groups under the capitalist paradigm to find their voice and seek acceptance as well.

            The capitalists really, really don’t like this. They form a little huddle and start brainstorming on a way to shut those pesky purple jin back up before their schemes of achieving incredible wealth become threatened.

            “What can we do?” says one. “They’ve realized that they aren’t inherently dirty and bad like we’ve been teaching them since sunday school.”
            “But our system of silencing them based on that was so effective!” says another.
            “I know!” says a third. “We’ll go back to the same old message, but we’ll find a way to frame it so that it makes it seem as though the purple jin are the ones spreading the mesage of their own inferiority!”
            “But how?” says the first.
            “We’ll just have to pay some of them, the weaker and more broken ones from among them, the ones who have the least under our policies, to submit to acts of utter degradation on camera, and then we’ll make these images available to the Blue Jin, free of charge.”
            “But that seems like so much work!” says the second, always the pragmatic amongst them. “How will we make any money?”
            The capitalists scratch their heads and come up with a system. They will sell adspace on the pages of these images and charge companies fees to advertise based on the number of visits to the sites. Then, they will manufacture a bunch of popular music, movies, and television shows that feature elements of the mispurpleogyny, so that young blues are raised thinking that this portrayal of purples as dirty is normal, despite having no evidence to support it in their own homes, where their purple mothers and sisters are sweet and good.

            The blues begin to watch these videos, and (with the capitalists muttering encouragement in their ears at every opportunity,) the blues begin to talk amongst themselves about how ‘useless’ and ‘braindead’ and ‘slutty’ the purples are.

            Bewildered, the purples begin to notice this change that’s come over the blues. They can’t figure it out, at first, but they see by the sneer that comes over the faces of the blues that they are no longer regarding the purples as fully “Jin.” In fact, they are regarding them as animals, some kind of lesser race for the blues to abuse.

            The pain of the purples is horrible. Day after day they hear news stories of a young purple being gangraped on a moving bus and tortured with an iron bar, or an 8 year old purple being abducted from her schoolyard and “raped causing bodily harm” and left, bludgeoned to death with a hammer, in a garbage bag on the side of a road.

            The purples look to the blues and think, why are you doing this to us? And the blues, while maybe knowing that something about the whole system stinks, are so wracked with guilt over masturbating to another Jin’s pain that they internalize all the blame onto themselves, individually, instead of trying to find the root cause – the capitalists.

            The purple by now are aware that if the capitalists aren’t stopped, there’s not going to be enough resources left on the planet to feed everyone. There’s not going to be a planet left at all, if the capitalists aren’t stopped, but the purples still live in fear because every time they leave their homes to try to do something about it, to speak up for their planet for the sake of their children, they must walk out amongst millions of blues that get off on the idea of torturing purples like them.

            But one group of purples aren’t afraid. They’re the radpurps, and they see through the lies that the capitalists tell. They broadcast their message despite their fear, despite the fact that they are ridiculed, that their sites are hacked, that they must try to compete for attention alongside naked teenage rockstars riding wrecking balls and screaming ‘look at how dirty purples are.”

            They will persevere. They will try to get through, and maybe, if enough Jin listen, the evil capitalists can be stopped before the Jin planet is destroyed, and maybe once again, if that happens, the putple and blue jin can go back to the old ways of each regarding the other as an ally with equal and essential strengths to contribute for the good of all Jin.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            Thank you, but I don’t think I made myself quite clear. I didn’t mean I don’t know what happened and is happening (I’ve read Creation of the Patriarchy, Creation of Feminist Consciousness, Woman-Hating, Female Chauvinist Pigs, etc). I mean it’s unreal to me because I am for the most part a privileged person (i.e. white, male, non-native, etc) who has no experience of oppression whatsoever. When I read about what women go through, my automatic reflex is to doubt it. But like I said, I take women at their word because everything they say is confirmed by the facts I already know and they have no reason to lie.

          • lizor

            Brilliant Vouchsafer.

            I would add that the prevalent rape of the purples by the blues – some say it accounts for about half of all purples – has the effect of contaminating the souls of the purples so that they come out of the experience of being used like a disposable trashcan actually believing that they actually are a disposable trashcan.

            That makes it very hard for the purples to do things like expect to be treated with respect by their blue partner who talks about loving them but does not demonstrate it or to ask for wages that are a fair compensation for their time and their skill. Feeling like a disposable trashcan in the deepest part of their soul actually makes performing porn for the blues feel logical and reasonable.

            So the rapes on screen and off screen and the little psychological rapes that occur every time a blue treats a purple as if their time and talent and being is worth less helps keep the blues rich and in control.

          • vouchsafer

            @lizor

            About internalizing the trashcan role:
            So sad but so true. Thinking of so many girls and women I’ve known going back as far as grade 9, wherever they are now I wish them the strength to rise above it.

            remember the butterfly effect movie, the different versions of the Amy smart character? The one where she is a prostituted woman, so used up inside, su

          • https://www.facebook.com/icwutudidthere Stephanie McAtee

            I’m sorry, but you used the word “free market” in an absurd manner. Please, research what a “free market” actually is before sticking it next to the word “capitalism”.

            free mar·ket
            noun
            noun: free market; plural noun: free markets; modifier noun: free-market

            an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.

            UNRESTRICTED.

            What you described above is RESTRICTED competition that is controlled by government which is something called:

            fascism.

            True free markets are free – to all people, all competition, all businesses – without government intervention or regulation.

            But that is something that only exists…without government intervention or intervention of small groups of powerful people.

          • PKRT

            I have to agree with the above comment, how could any man truly understand what women go through on a daily basis? That doesn’t mean he doesn’t take it seriously though… It’s like with racism towards black people, being white means that I won’t ever understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the most racist behaviours/comments. But it doesn’t mean I don’t take the issue seriously either!

            So the ‘he doesn’t take it seriously because’ is unfair, even if he doesn’t take it seriously like you say, it has nothing to do with being a man…

          • annika

            The only reason I said he doesn’t take it seriously was because he wrote that toilet bowl line so nonchalantly, as if he wasn’t even thinking how triggering that could be to a female reader. That was a throwaway line to him, meaning it wouldn’t stay with him like it would a woman with PTSD. My point was that even if on the surface he’s doing something good (ie being open to feminism and stop his porn consumption, which I’m sure we all agree is a good thing) his male privilege is still deeply rooted.

          • Angus

            I think you’re not wrong at all that I didn’t stop to consider how triggering that line could be. That is a far cry from me not caring or empathizing, though. I am learning to care and empathize in a number of ways that I was not taught, and I am still learning how to unlearn, as well as how to keep my empathy properly turned on and directed at all times. Rereading the line in question, I can absolutely see that I should have given it more thought, or maybe introduced my point in a more sensitive manner [though it is still the way I would have chosen to make the point I was making], instead of going for rhetorical flair over sensitivity and consideration. I apologize for that.

            As for my male privilege being deeply rooted, ain’t that the truth. I’m working on it though, and I think I have the tools to uproot a great deal of it. That is something that I used to not care about at all and that I now care about a great deal.

          • PKRT

            I understand what you’re saying, although it’s different from what you were saying before. You’re talking about casual sexism, and I completely agree with you – we all have to make a lot of effort to avoid it, even some women (it’s not uncommon to come across misogynist comments from one woman to another, even ). So again, I don’t think it has anything to do with being a man and not understanding what it feels to be on the receiving end of the whole rape culture.

          • Angus

            Annika: I was named after the man who introduced my parents. Would you like to know my family name so that you can do some research and decide whether I’m Jewish enough to call my people “my people?” I can’t believe I’m even explaining any of this to you, and I think you should be ashamed of attacking my Judaism in such a flippant manner.

            There is no “hipster irony” in my interview, just regular irony. Blatant misogyny throughout the interview? Is it prudent to resort to ad hom attacks with the source material so close at hand?

            I care about women’s suffering. I used to say that, yet I still watched porn, and I have adjusted my behavior so as to avoid that hypocrisy. That’s the point of the interview. The point of your comment seems to be “I don’t care what he says! He hates women!” Without knowing anything about me other than the interview I gave, an interview that would appear to be evidence to the contrary of your claim, how is it that you support that sentiment? What is it that you hope to gain by attempting to expose me as a fraud? Is it not apparent to you, based on the interview, that I am actively confronting the ways in which my behavior has betrayed the fraudulence of my supposed ideals, and that I seek to improve the congruence of those things?

          • annika

            And men accuse women of resorting to histrionics. Look, I wasn’t attacking you personally, I was just trying to figure out why you said some of the things you said. It’s very commendable what you’re doing, but if you can’t understand why a woman approaches what you said with caution, then you have a lot more learning to do. Like I’ve said before, feminism isn’t about hand holding.

  • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

    There are tens of millions of men who don’t watch porn, and probably millions more who only look at the lowest end of the softcore spectrum. How hard can it be if so many people are doing it?

  • sporenda

    “I had the same reaction to the toilet bowl scene that I have to seeing images of six million of my people being slaughtered: I left the room immediately.”

    Ok point taken.
    I am not trying to put you on the spot, just trying to understand the rationalizations men use to justify watching porn.

    Like : where did you draw the line between unacceptable porn and acceptable porn?
    It looks like porn users try to make the same type of (phoney) distinction between “good porn” and “bad porn” as johns justifying their use of prostitutes by arguing they “use” only non-coerced prostitutes.

    The only porn that would be justifiable from a feminist point of view would be non-sexist, equalitarian porn.
    Try to find non sexist porn on the net…

    • stephen m

      @sporenda: “The only porn that would be justifiable from a feminist point of view would be non-sexist, equalitarian porn.”

      Some feminists would make the distinction that what you describe above would be erotica not porn. I notice you hedge a bit using “justifiable”. Do you think we should use Dworkin and MacKinnon or is there a better current definition for porn in radical feminism?

      This request is not just a distraction from the topic in hand but something we can use to understand what porn really is and so we can understand its effects on us both men and women. Regular readers know that I am anti porn and I am totally open to understanding and defining porn as it is viewed by the radical feminists who blog here.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antipornography_Civil_Rights_Ordinance

      • Meghan Murphy

        I do, actually, make a distinction between porn and erotica — the key being objectification.

        • stephen m

          Meghan, thank you. That works very well because your explanation deals with the context too.

    • Angus

      I drew the line based solely on my level of comfort, which should not come at all as a surprise. The decision to stop watching porn was born out of a more careful analysis of those levels of comfort, coupled with the consideration of a larger worldview than that of my own sexual gratification. It is truly embarrassing that, as someone who has always identified as intelligent, engaged, politically progressive, and highly empathetic, it took me until this year to reach such a simple and obvious place. Mind-boggling, really.

  • sporenda

    “equalitarian porn.”
    Sorry for the mistake, please read “egalitarian”.

    By the way, I love Meghan’s sense of humor expressed in her choice of the pic illustrating this interview.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh that image amused me endlessly. I’m glad my humour translates haha.

      • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

        What image are you talking about? I don’t see any image.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Oh, we’re talking about the thumbnail! You can only see it on the front page or if you share the link on Facebook, etc.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            You mean the man on top of the mountain?

          • marv

            A picture is worth…. “To be or not to be”, without pornography? Perhaps he won’t have the courage to leap, so he might need a friendly push. A last resort if education fails? Or sometimes is it best just to start with plan B?

  • sporenda

    François: I like Dworkin’s and MacKinnon’s definition, subordination is definitely a key word in differentiating non sexist from sexist porn:

    “”Pornography” means the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words that also includes one or more of the following:”

    The few times I have watched porn (non violent porn), what I felt–besides utter boredom and predictability–was being deeply humiliated by the depiction of women in it:
    totally passive and submissive, disposable fucktoys doing what they are told, systematically debased and violated by their partner(s)–and shown as liking it.

    In porn as it exists today, sex is not the point, domination is;
    and this is made clear as it is completely joyless and robotic, on both sides.
    Except of course for schadenfreude, the pleasure derived from harming women.

    Some attempts have been made by “feminist” sex workers turned directors to shoot feminist porn but these attempts–as far as I could tell–are not free from sexist clichés, and there is no demand for it anyway.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I also go with Dworkin/MacKinnon’s definition. But I don’t know that there is really such a thing as “non-sexist porn” — anytime I’ve seen depictions of sex and sexuality that don’t objectify women and aren’t degrading, it’s been what I would call “erotica.”

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      Yea, I agree with your definition as well. I think there is great value in isolating those depictions of sex which are degrading to women, because that’s really most of the stuff that people watch anyway. With the shorter clips on the Internet there’s just a lot of bang bang thank you ma’am to go along with the harder stuff.

      We saw a feminist porn once and it was pretty hilarious. It’s obvious why it wouldn’t sell, because the intercourse we’ve been conditioned to orgasm on is made to be degrading to women. Orgasm is the great conditioner, etc.

      • lizor

        @ Francois,

        I don’t think the “thank you ma’m” part makes it past the cutting room floor, if it ever was part of the scenario. It’s more like “bang bang, you’re dead” with a bit of “take that you piece of shit” thrown in as background decor.

        • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

          Yea, you’re right. There is very little thank you ma’am in bang bang porn.

  • sporenda

    Meghan: I understand that your prefer to call erotica what I call “non sexist porn”.

    The reason I don’t care that much for this distinction is that, as I see it, the difference between erotica and what I call (for lack of a better word) “non sexist porn” is that erotica is just soft porn with a plot.
    Granted, it’s not as violent, but it’s quite sexist nevertheless.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hear that. When I think of erotica I’m thinking of, like, films that aren’t specifically for the purposes of masturbation but are more like representations of sexuality that aren’t sexist. It can be titillating, yes, but it’s not only about getting off, if that makes any sense. I wish I could think of an example right now, but nothing’s coming to mind… Maybe that’s telling :(

    • http://www.freesoil.org Aletha

      The distinction between erotica and pornography depends on who is using the terms. When I was defending Gail Dines over at the Ms. Magazine blog from a swarm of apologists for pornography, I quoted a passage from Gloria Steinem, from the beginning of the chapter Erotica vs. Pornography in her book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, since my attempt to draw a distinction between erotica and pornography was met with derision and insinuations the distinction I drew was capricious and inaccurate. This was what I quoted from Ms. Steinem:

      “Look at or imagine images of people making love; really making love. Those images may be very diverse, but there is likely to be a mutual pleasure and touch and warmth, an empathy for each other’s bodies and nerve endings, a shared sensuality and a spontaneous sense of two people who are there because they want to be.

      Now look at or imagine images of sex in which there is force, violence, or symbols of unequal power…. But blatant or subtle, there is no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating another.

      These two sorts of images are as different as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain. Yet they are confused and lumped together as ‘pornography’ or ‘obscenity,’ ‘erotica’ or ‘explicit sex,’ because sex and violence are so dangerously intertwined and confused. After all, it takes violence or the threat of it to maintain the dominance of any group of human beings over another.”

      Examples of truly non-sexist erotica may be so few and far between because there is not much demand for it. However, I think the distinction Ms. Steinem drew, over thirty years ago in that book, is quite clear, and it is also clear that porn apologists wish to obfuscate that distinction.

      • Meghan Murphy

        @Aletha – Yes!!!

  • sporenda

    ““Look at or imagine images of people making love; really making love. Those images may be very diverse, but there is likely to be a mutual pleasure and touch and warmth, an empathy for each other’s bodies and nerve endings, a shared sensuality and a spontaneous sense of two people who are there because they want to be.

    Now look at or imagine images of sex in which there is force, violence, or symbols of unequal power…. But blatant or subtle, there is no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating another.”

    This is interesting (and beautifully said), but not quite convincing.
    There can be inequality WITH love, with pleasure, and touch, and warmth and empathy.
    Sure this sounds much better than standard porn.
    But egalitarian sexuality is a new concept, totally uncharted territory. And a female sexuality that would be really about pleasuring women, not servicing men never really existed either.
    So there is no reason to find it more in erotica than any place else in society.

    • Me

      “But egalitarian sexuality is a new concept, totally uncharted territory.”

      Do you think matriarchy would be necessary for developing that? I don’t know, it just kind of would make sense. Can there be egalitarian sexuality without some sort of matriarchy?

      • Me

        Sorry. A world where men were stopped from systematically raping, abusing, exploiting, threatening, from making sexist remarks and from looking at women in ways you don’t like would of course go a long way towards enabling that.

    • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

      It’s the requirement of having to have visual sexual materials that I don’t quite get. I don’t mind seeing people being physically loving with each other but I do feel that other people’s sexual pleasure is not there for me to visually consume. I would rather HAVE the sensual unfolding pleasure. Looking, in this culture, with all of the poisonous psychological imprints via degrading porn that are unavoidable, gets in the way of that.

      I think that the contention that men MUST have a visual is specious. I think if all women were able to enjoy their full capacity for sexual pleasure, the men would be having a much much better time than they are with their computers and their Barely Legal videos. Maybe if really good shared sexual experiences happened for while in the absence of patriarchal power images of sex, then maybe a new visual representation would emerge. If such were to happen, it would not serve the same function – objectifying, providing a scale by which to judge women’s sexual use and so on. It would just represent a wonderful human phenomenon.

      And please, if someone is going to explain to me how men are biologically visual or how our sexualities are innately different (as if we were not the same species), please, don’t.

      • Morgan

        I’ve been following the comments on this post and lizor and sporenda’s here are the ones I most agree with (not 100%, but closer than what anyone else has said RE: “nonsexist porn”). I think you said it best lizor, when you linked it with consumption, something just doesn’t sit right with me, and I feel as though we can’t even *imagine* what the world would look like without misogyny and all related forms of objectification that we can’t even really state that there could still exist some form of porn/erotica in such a world. I just can’t imagine we’d be selling (or giving away) images of people in vulnerable or intimate or personal states if we really valued and respected such things. If love was really something, I don’t think we’d cheapen it by making it consumable by strangers. And if we did produce such images for consumption, I don’t think they’d have the same meaning or inspire the same feelings as what is considered porn/erotica today inspires. It’d be a completely different thing if it existed at all.

        /incomplete thoughts on the topic (I guess it’s just too far off in a nonexistent ideal world to even imagine what would be – we have to be prepared to say that it might not be at all in that world)

        • Meghan Murphy

          “And if we did produce such images for consumption, I don’t think they’d have the same meaning or inspire the same feelings as what is considered porn/erotica today inspires. It’d be a completely different thing if it existed at all.”

          Yeah I’m pretty much with you there, Morgan.

        • lizor

          M.K. Hajdin over in the burlesque-crazing-making post said:

          “There is no female gaze, only the internalized male gaze. It will continue to be so as long as the patriarchy exists. Even if it existed, we wouldn’t want a female gaze, because the gaze dehumanizes people and turns them into objects. ”

          I think this is an important point of discussion. Many women who have sex with men report that they feel anxiety during sex because they are worries about what they look like. Sorry, I don’t have a citation for that, but I don’t think it is too difficult to find corroboration.

          How can one get lost in sensation or surrender to pleasure when one’s attention is outside one’s own body looking and judging? I think that right now what is needed more than anything is space for women’s deepened and broadened pleasure, but this is [almost] impossible in this culture.

          I do understand that some women can feel sexual excitement via the internalized male gaze, but I think it correlates with the difference between dopamine and endorphin release that neurologist N. Doidge describes.

          http://www.reuniting.info/node/1808

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            It’s interesting that you say that. I have been trying to convince a female friend to become radfem (although I’ve been failing). One thing she told me is that she likes objectification because it’s sexually exciting for her to be objectified. I have never seen this issue explored at all, and yet it seems pretty damn important.

          • Candy

            I think a lot of women correlate objectification with sexualization. It’s insidious. To treat someone like an object is to entirely disregard their feelings, preferences, and personhood. To treat someone sexually is another thing altogether. You should tell her that; her statement is disturbing.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying that she considers objectification sexy because she thinks objectification is sexuality?

          • Candy

            My point is that perhaps she’s equating wanting to be seen as a sexual being (which is quite normal sexually) with being objectified when the terms are not synonymous. So essentially what you asked, yes.

            I’m not quite sure what the context was, but I’m curious as to what she personally considers objectification to be.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            Yes, I think that’s what she considers objectification to be. I’ve tried to explain what objectification is but I don’t think she was convinced.

          • lizor

            I’m sure sexual objectification does excite her. That’s the point of Doidge’s research: there is a difference between dopamine-based excitement of objectification, but like junkfood, it only creates more cravings and never leads to satisfaction.

            I think that part of an age-old problem that is magnified and proliferated now is the ubiquitous early exposure to porn, so kids think that what happens to their bodies when they are watching or playing out what they see is what human sexual expression is. The culture serves to keep people in that extremely narrow view of sex-as-excitement, so (it seems to me) that many people, like your friend, Francois, never get to experience sensual exchange or the kind of broadly connected ecstasy one can find with a lover. Endorphin-releasing sex is exciting too, but it actually entails both parties being present to the experience – not performing – not being stuck in some mental picture. In other words, it entails some mental and emotional maturity.

            Patriarchy’s reductive effect (which serves power, of course) is like being at a banquet and sitting there madly gobbling Lays potato chips while the nutritious and succulent variety of food goes bad.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            As far as I can determine, the data presented was about people who objectify women, not women who are getting objectified. Are you saying there’s no difference?

          • lizor

            I think you would understand what I am saying if you read Doidge’s entire book, which is excellent and puts the findings regarding pornography in the context of new understandings of neuroplasticity.

            I am not saying that there is “no difference” between being objectified and objectifying, but I am saying that both can entail a dopamine release in contrast to endorphin release. I think that what he is showing is a useful tool in understanding the conflation of porn with sex and exhibitionism with authentic individual sexual expression. It is useful in understanding burlesquer’s vehement defence of what they do in terms of it being “empowering”.

            Yes, dopamine feels pleasurable, but Doidge’s point in explaining how porn use so easily leads to addiction is that it is the same sort of pleasure one gets from scratching a mosquito bite – it feel great while you are scratching, but generally leaves the bite more inflamed and itchy, requiring more scratching and so on.

            Does that clarify? Can you relate your own experience of bodily arousal when looking at pornographic images (not singling you out – I think we have all come across that experience in our culture) in comparison to a slower sensual arousal that comes from a mutual exchange where both people are present to one another and the moment?

            The latter is, unfortunately, far more rare an experience in comparison to the former. Our culture – the ideology of patriarchy as buoyed up and reiterated by media imagery – promotes and disseminates the dopamine buzz and represses and marginalizes the relational, connected, sensual exchange that releases endorphins to the extent that we start to believe it does not even exist (or that to talk about it is repressive, fascistic, dictatorial and so on).

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            I’ll have to check out this book. Are you talking about “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”? It’s the only book by any Doidge on Amazon.

          • lizor

            That’s the one. Not a feminist text, but I have found that his discussion of porn addiction in the context of what he unpacks about how we are shaped by our practices has been really useful.

            He’s also Canadian so I think it’s possible the book might be carried by independent bookshops.

          • Me

            I think the twin of that in men is living up to an internalized masculine ideal during sex. For many that’s the whole kick, the violent fucking they get off on, and for others it still easily prevents mutuality and real partnering.

    • http://www.freesoil.org Aletha

      Egalitarian sexuality in a sexist culture is sort of an oxymoron; it is like an ideal that can only be approached, never quite reached. However, I think the point Gloria Steinem was trying to make is that the concepts of mutuality and equal power are diametrically opposed to pornography, since the point of pornography is to exalt domination and degradation of the woman (or submissive man, in gay porn), whereas the point of erotica is to image sexuality separated from all that.

      That said, I do find it difficult to imagine people in a relatively egalitarian relationship willing to have their intimate acts filmed. I personally would be much too self-conscious for that. However, other women might enjoy demonstrating what sex outside conventional boundaries could be like.

  • sporenda

    “we can’t even *imagine* what the world would look like without misogyny and all related forms of objectification that we can’t even really state that there could still exist some form of porn/erotica”

    Indeed. The very existence of erotica or porn means that there is a class of people who are/feel entitled to demand it and have the financial means to buy it.
    Porn or erotica is therefore always created to satisfy the “needs” of the entitled/dominant class.
    So I don’t see how it can ever be compatible with equality.
    The reason why there is huge amounts of porn/erotica for men and almost none for women is not a question of “men’s libido is more intense”, or “men are more visual”, it’s about men have the power.
    When you do feminist analysis, you are always only 2 steps away from politics.

    • Morgan

      “The very existence of erotica or porn means that there is a class of people who are/feel entitled to demand it and have the financial means to buy it.”

      Yes, this is stated very well and something I was thinking about but didn’t put to words. It’s the whole origin of the idea in the first place – how does that idea come about, who came up with it, their reasons for it, what has enabled them to not only have the idea but to make it practice, etc. etc. I really find it hard to believe any woman, were she not under patriarchy, would want to participate in these practices. This is reminding me a little bit of the discussion on “A ruling class vs. revolutionary response to prostitution” on this blog back in May.

  • marv

    I sometimes ponder too how a non-patriarchal, entirely egalitarian culture would exhibit. It seems unapproachable in that there are no herstorical precedents. Although the chasm is unbridgeable to date, I have the intuition that sexual stirrings and gratification would not be relevant to the core meaning of life in that distant equality organized land. Sexual pleasure would be on the periphery of the nucleus of social communion which I would describe as “exultation”. The depth of oneness we could potentially have with each other would infinitely exceed any satisfaction of erotic desires. It is like the difference between intimately knowing the whole universe or having a sensual fixation on one small fragment of it. Possibly some people have fleeting glimpses or more of this distinct society now, in everyday life.

    One thing we know unequivocally: there is absolutely no chance of establishing even a rudimentary fair world without feminism at its base.

    • Me

      “Sexual pleasure would be on the periphery of the nucleus of social communion which I would describe as “exultation”. The depth of oneness we could potentially have with each other would infinitely exceed any satisfaction of erotic desires. It is like the difference between intimately knowing the whole universe or having a sensual fixation on one small fragment of it.”

      The problem of course is, as I’m sure you know, that many men would make claims to this kind of communion and I’m sure also on a very real level also enjoy living it, while acting towards women in sexually abhorrent and callous ways.

      I fully agree feminism needs to be the base.

  • marv

    Yes! No matter how well society evolved out of patriarchy we would have to be eternally vigilant, retaining feminist rule of law to force men into compliance. Even so there would likely be transgressors who would slip through the net. Sorry for sounding too utopian. I am not a naïve optimist at heart. Well sometimes:)

  • sporenda

    I missed what François posted:

    “it’s sexually exciting for her to be objectified. I have never seen this issue explored at all, and yet it seems pretty damn important.”

    It’s damn important indeed but it’s been explored quite a bit, it’s called the erotization of submission (and dominance) and it’s the basis of (nearly) all sexuality in patriarchy.
    Women are taught that they should be deriving pleasure from being sexually submissive, which is pretty much the same as being objectified.
    And they believe it, and it’s the only form of sexuality available to them anyway.
    To spin the metaphor introduced by lizor, better to eat junkfood than no food at all.
    the beauty of patriarchy is that–contrary to slavery for instance–women are not only supposed to submit to men but they are supposed to enjoy too.
    Women have a stake in their own enslavement, that’s why this system lasted for son long.

    Pretty unbelievable too is the fact that sex and sexual pleasure for women is still defined as mostly obtainable from PIV, whereas 70% of women can’t orgasm that way. Talk about a hoax of cosmic proportions.

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      I understand how women might eroticize things like high heels or blowjobs (although it seems to me it’s mostly men who do that), but being objectified? That doesn’t make any sense to me. I just can’t wrap my head around it.

      • Me

        I saw that quite clearly in my relationship, even though it took a long time and an understanding of how her sexuality had developed to grasp it and see nothing erotic in it. If it happens that she eroticizes objectification, you should always immediately stop and take a long time to work on safety and her initiative. Growing up a woman, being objectified can become the place to be, it seems to give a sense of “safe vulnerability” or how should I call it. It _completely_ changes the dynamics and in insidious ways. Because of her history, for the life of me I couldn’t get her to snap out of it and become active and outward, in everyday life or in sexuality. In a relationship to a man, it froze her in everyday life and one of the few “active” things it left her with was a kind of wrong-headed sexuality, making herself available while not wanting it at the same time. Luckily there was something else, and that was the fight to get the hell away, even though that too was double-egded, because she did that by staying to fight a monster that I wasn’t, until we saw through it and separated. Even though her history and level of immersion in these behaviors were extreme, though the histories are not uncommon, and even though some of the ways it affected her should have been pretty obvious coping mechanisms with big trauma, I think what I see in most women and in their reactions and interactions with men are less severe forms of the same things, trauma, objectification, fear, all that, that becomes rationalized and accepted when it finds “legitimate” expression in the eroticization of submission. Without it I think we’d better see how badly and how often women are hurting.

      • Canaduck

        From a woman’s perspective, it’s hard to explain…maybe I’m not entirely sure I can. It’s troubling, though, how naturally the eroticization of our own objectification comes to some of us.

        There are some good points in Me’s explanation.

      • lizor

        Francois – I think this is a deep old cultural phenomenon more so than an individual formation. I’ll point to another book – also not a feminist text and also by a guy – but a strong piece of thinking that has informed plenty of feminist texts.

        John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing”

        It’s also a four part BBC series that you can watch on youtube (I have not done this – just read the book many many years ago)

        The text is not unproblematic, but it was one of the first, I think, broadly disseminated theses on gendered looking and objectification. Here’s a quote:

        “To be born a woman has to be born, within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men. The social presence of women is developed as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited space. But this has been at the cost of a woman’s self being split into two. A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another….One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

        If women are enculturated to view themselves as objects first and perhaps to manage the world through management of how they are looked at, it is not too much of a stretch (to my mind, but of course, I have lived this) to imagine how that dynamic can be eroticized.

        Again: this is, I think, what the burlesquers are talking about – it can be arousing to be the agent of arousal. If you can understand the eroticization of high heels, (I actually have a much harder time getting that) revisit that. Consider that the bodily sensation of wearing high heels (especially the stilettos that are everywhere these days) is, to put it technically, really really the shits. They hurt and they undermine the entire function of the support system of the skeleton (painfully) and they impede freedom of movement. If such an act can be eroticized, can that help you understand how “appearing” can feel erotic?

        • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

          Your quote about the male gaze being internalized is very good. Yes, if objectification is a prerequisite for being a sexual woman then it can be eroticized in the same way that high heels and so on are, that makes a lot of sense. I will check out this book you mentioned as well.

      • Me

        @Francois, Here’s a beautiful post I just read that I thought speaks to this:

        http://wwomenwwarriors.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/mums-the-word-for-adrienne-rich/

  • marv

    I am not bewildered in the least that women identify with objecthood and that men objectify them, given our colossus mass culture. What is mysterious is why anyone rebels. How do we explain the existence of radical consciousness and action in a context of overwhelming social conformity? (Questioning our toil for capital is another illustration).

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      As for my observations, it seems that radicals have certain specific personality types that predispose them to either be isolated or anti-social and thus simply not listening to disapproval, or have high self-confidence or stubbornness to hold fast to one’s opinions in the face of widespread disapproval. I myself am in the former category…

  • marv

    The behavioural traits you mentioned could also be found among certain misogynist males and child porn male users. Many radicals are reclusive not due to an innate need to be alone but because they are ostracized by conventional people around them and society at large. They might be gregarious and extroverted persons who can’t find community other than on internet sites. In addition, militants may be plagued by self doubt despite their convictions. Thus self assurance isn’t necessarily a characteristic of dissidents. I do affirm your answer to a degree yet feel a full account of the phenomenon is more elusive, possibly unknowable.

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      I don’t want to be a logic pedant, but P->Q does not imply not-P->not-Q.

      • Rye

        Out of curiosity, do you have a good grasp of predicate logic?

        • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

          I would like to think so… why?

  • sporenda

    Lizor quotation about objectification is very clear and well written, but what puzzles me is why (for men like François), the obvious benefits of objectification for women require so much explanation.
    In patriarchy, women are only valued as decorative objects (or breeders), their whole success in life depends on conforming to male demands, so they conform to those demands, whatever they may be, period.

    Also being objectified is being an object OF DESIRE, in other words in a patriarchal society, you have to accept objectification to be desired by men.
    And it’s obvious that being desired feels good: you feel appreciated and valued and if being objectified is the only way to feel valued, you do it.

    Maybe I am wrong but it looks like François is implying that women conform to absurd gender norms more then men do;
    it’s quite the opposite in fact: the vast majority of men still stick to accepted social norms regarding male behavior; the difference being that they are the ones who set these norms and who benefit from them.

    There are very few men who question openly the accepted norms of virility, and even fewer who have the guts to openly transgress them.
    How many men do you know who are willing, even to survive, to work in a woman’s job?
    There are lots more women than men who rebel against gender norms, and it’s also crystal clear why: because these gender norms were meant to keep them down.

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      This may just be my inability to put myself in women’s shoes. The idea of being objectified is frightening to me, and I just can’t imagine anyone would like it, let alone be turned on by it. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t fight it with the utmost energy. But then again, I guess there’s very little women can do to fight their objectification in the mass media.

  • sporenda

    “This may just be my inability to put myself in women’s shoes. The idea of being objectified is frightening to me, and I just can’t imagine anyone would like it, let alone be turned on by it. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t fight it with the utmost energy. But then again, I guess there’s very little women can do to fight their objectification in the mass media.”

    Yes , it’s the “turning the table” syndrome: men fear that bad things routinely done by men to women could be done to them one day :-)
    It’s not just that we can’t do much to fight objectification, it’s that we can’t achieve anything or get anywhere if we don’t accept it, at least to an extent.

    Patriarchy is like capitalism, it’s everywhere, it’s the air you breathe.
    Just think of how paralyzing and self defeating it would be is someone said: “ok, from now on, I will systematiccaly refuse to comply with each and every aspect of capitalism in my life”.
    Such a person would quickly end jobless, pennyless, homeless, friendless etc.
    Same for women refusing patriarchy: it’s not just suicidal, it’s materially impossible.
    There is now a country for Jews who want to live totally free from antisemitism, there used to be countries where one could live free from capitalism, there is no country where women can live away from the men who oppress them and free from patriarchy.

    • Morgan

      Sporenda’s got it, right here. Francois I agree with you, “[t]he idea of being objectified is frightening” but for women it’s *not* just an idea – it’s lived reality and you don’t have much choice. You learn to deal with it in a way that leaves you most mentally intact or in a lot of cases there is no real way to live with it and still be mentally intact. Having been on both sides of the femininity coin – and isn’t femininity complying with being an object of desire – life is easier in some ways going along with things, being what people want you to be. I haven’t done the whole make-up, skirts, play-dumber-than-I-am thing for years (since my early-20s) and it takes a toll in a different way – you essentially become invisible. Because what is a woman for if not for being looked at, and if, as a woman, you’re not going to present yourself for that purpose, then no one is going to look at you. People don’t listen to you or afford you the same respect in public space as they would a woman adhering to femininity standards. It hurts but I do not have the energy or money to go back to playing “woman.”

      And that’s just trying to exist and function in public space. Navigating the work place, navigating relationships – if you are still trying to pursue romantic relationships while not playing “woman” anymore – can be even more difficult unless you happen to socialize in rather enlightened circles.

      You either learn to enjoy being the object (to some degree), or you don’t and possibly face rejection by society at large, either intentionally because people are uncomfortable with your nonconformity or by default because we just don’t *see* women unless they’re decorated. It’s why there’s so much anti-aging, why there’s so much skincare and make-up marketed at us, dieting, etc. etc. The worst thing a woman can do is not be something people want to look at (not be the pretty object).

      • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

        It’s the enjoyment that’s the issue. I can see doing it because you don’t want to be marginalized, but how can you enjoy it?

        • Me

          That’s the thing, isn’t it? To my eye, Morgan’s comment above explained the why exactly. I don’t think it can be decrypted to the point that you’ll get it, because that’s not a purely intellectual exercise. And I’m not trying to fault you for anything by anything I say. Maybe you can already feel it, but through repulsion? That’s good too. Confusion just tells you’re processing this.

          To approach this from the other side of it, why is it that so many men can enjoy women being brutalized in porn and insist it’s just “sex”? I can understand doing it to get off and to fill some empty space with an artificial relationship when they’re afraid of real ones and afraid of what those would tell them about themselves, but how can they enjoy it? How can they enjoy the objectification? How could I? Why do I still need to be conscious about fighting it? Why do they not get it? How exactly can they enjoy it? Yet so many do. How, why? I don’t think there’s an answer that’s good enough. How could any answer be good enough when so many women and children are hurt so badly through the sadism of it? My best answer is to try to see where the contagion comes from and stop it at the source to allow those who would heal the space to heal.

        • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

          Consider that being an object (and being very clear on the measuring stick by which your value is determined) is central to the identity you develop from your earliest experience onward – that said identity is reinforced every waking minute that you interact with any conveyance of culture.

          Can you not relate to feeling like you “got it right” by being a successful object, that you can see how ‘sexy/valuable/useful’ you are because you have learned to see yourself through the eyes of men and feeling their arousal by proxy might feel on some level “enjoyable”?

          I do think that there are negative and corrosive feelings intertwined with those “good” feelings -that is the inherent contradiction of living female in this culture. The fact is, these “good” feelings have an extremely short shelf-life because of the inherent sickness of being a successful object.

  • sporenda

    “It’s the enjoyment that’s the issue. I can see doing it because you don’t want to be marginalized, but how can you enjoy it?”

    François, you are a regular on FC, and most of the time I appreciate your posts.
    But here, you are forcing us to repeat the same thing over and over.
    The question you are asking has been answered several times, by several people.
    So go back on this thread and read.

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      All right, I’ll stop here. Thanks everyone for your input.

  • sporenda

    And you might not be doing this intentionnally or consciously but be aware that demanding that feminists re-explain the same points over and over is a typical patriarchal harassment tactic.

    Example: I am now doing an interview with an exceptional woman, a former street prostitute (that meant up to 30 johns a day, among horrible details, she says that she could not get rid of the sticky stuff left by countless ejaculates on her teeth and was spitting all the time to get rid of it).

    So this very brave woman exited prostitution 28 years ago, kept silent for decades, due to shame and fear of retaliation by her pimps, and finally decided to speak up, however embarrassing and painful it may be to revive these extremely traumatic events.
    She wrote a book about her years on the street.
    This book stirred up interest in France and in Europe, in particular in the context of abolitionist legislations being discussed there, and an abolitionist law to be voted by the French Congress in November.

    So she has been called to give testimonies before different Committees: the one in charge of preparing the French law, and another one which is part of the Parliament of the European Union. She spoke several times in front of each.

    On the one hand, her testimonies are very strong, very compelling, the extreme violence which is at the root of prostitution is laid bare, in very raw and brutal terms.
    And she says that following these testimonies, several members of these Committees told her she turned them around and convinced them to support abolitionist laws. Great news for feminism.

    However, I watched her latest testimony on the site of the Assemblée nationale. Several times, she becomes very agitated, is loosing her composure, she looks confused, she is on the verge of tears.
    Clearly, each time she is asked to rehash these horror stories-the rapes, the tortures, some guy trying to strangle her etc–she is re-living the trauma. She knows it, she is well aware that she has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    So I feel bad about these testimonies, it’s painful and destabilizing for her, she comes out of the room shaking.

    How many times a victim of prostitution has to repeat her story in front of politicos until they understand that prostitution is indeed a violence against women?
    This woman has been victimized as prostitute, and she is been revictimized over and over each time she has to repeat her story.
    From the outside, it looks as something totally positive: it’s presented as advancing women’s rights, but if you look carefully, there is also patriarchal disbelief of women’s words and callous indifference to their suffering at work here.

    Same for the victims of rape who are asked to repeat their story in front of policemen, social workers, juges, juries etc.
    And it’s even worse for kids victims of incest.
    Forcing still vulnerable victims to repeat their stories of patriarchal abuse over and over is part and parcel of patriarchal abuse.
    Keep that in mind before asking women to repeat/explain stories of abuse over and over.

  • Jo Beth

    What a wonderful interview. Finally, insightful and thoughtful comments to a very hotly debated topic.

    For the last year, I have been searching viewpoints on pornography, why it is such a large industry and most importantly why so many men justify consuming. I have to admit the search started due to my husband’s “mid-life crises” and trying to understand what he was trying to tell me.

    While searching the internet and drawing conclusions after reading comments to articles and questions asked on various forums isn’t what I would call the most reliable ways to derive a solid argument/theory/position, the shear number of responses and like comments does lead one to speculate that there are many that do feel a particular way. One of the most disturbing belief or underlying “feeling” I have seen is that so many men would justify, promote and see as a right to participate in an industry (whether professionally made or the amateur home movies) that is so extremely upsetting and does cause trauma to the very women they love in their lives.

    I think part of the answer lies in Angus’s comment that at a fairly young age, viewing pornography is part of the culture of growing up male. It starts as a group activity and progresses from there as the young male reaches puberty. While the availability of internet porn has changed this culture, the group discussions that are part of the viewing process (even when viewed as a solo activity) probably solidifies the stance that there is nothing wrong and well it is the way boys/men/guys are. I don’t object the statement that men are visual and studies have shown that they do respond more intensely to sexual visual stimulation than women. What I do have concerns about it the stance that being so visual excuses hurtful behavior. There has been at least one study done that I know of (I don’t know if it has been replicated) done at a college that is rather concerning. The findings were that viewing on-line pornography at an early was dramatically changing how young men’s expectations about sexual relationships with young women.

    The following comments or observations don’t have studies to back them up, and well I could be way out there; however I believe joining the 1/2 century mark does have some validity.

    I have to admit I am so tired of hearing the comment, “that is the way men are and women should just get over it.” Yes, men are more visual, however that doesn’t free or excuse 1/2 the population from exercising control over impulses. I find it very disturbing that in the main religions I have more than a passing knowledge in, the woman is seen as the temptress the seducer by her vary nature of just being alive makes her a sexual thing that men just can’t help themselves and women left to their own devices will have sex at will. To make it even more damaging is that these religions then put the sole responsibility of men’s sexuality on their (meaning the woman) shoulders. Never has made sense to me. If we women are so “sexy” and primal in our desires why are we responsible for holding men at bay? This is disturbing because it allows men to not be accountable for acting upon their impulses. After all, “they couldn’t help themselves.” Yes they could.

    So many men when confronted with their porn consumption state that their libidos are so much higher, the woman in their relationship isn’t doing enough or that well women just are not as sexual as men. Religion is stating otherwise, woman exude and want sex for they are they are the seductress and need to be controlled (hence some of the sexual mutilation that occurs in some societies). For those men that don’t think that women like sex, we wouldn’t be here as a species if they didn’t. If sex wasn’t enjoyed, the human species would have died out long ago for a majority of women wouldn’t want to have sexual relations again after giving birth. Get a group of women together who have given birth and you they will share birthing experiences very much along the same ways that I have heard military groups talk about some combat experiences. No birthing is not the same and there are far more horrific outcomes in combat, yet the way they talk is similar – it is about the ordeal and getting through it.

    Women want to have sex, we think about sex (maybe not as often) however the difference is we are conditioned to turn it off. Maybe before society was dominated by men (I’m not bashing) it was different. However, that was before recorded history so we can’t say for certain one way or not. I do make this statement though for why it is so important for women’s sexuality to be controlled, whatever offspring a woman has, she knows with 100% certainty that the child is hers, a man does not. I have theorized that before patriarchal society women engaged in sex very frequently. Yes, she was choosier, however not the way we in a westernized male viewpoint see it. She would have sex with multiple partners that she felt would give the best advantage to her offspring (not just picking one male) for one male may not be fertile. Having sex with several “alpha” type males would increase the probability of pregnancy. Men’s strategy was to have sex with as many females as possible because it would increase the change that at least one of the children might be hers. As time went on, it benefited the male to start to control a woman’s sexuality-whoever he had sex with wouldn’t have sex with anyone else thus ensuring that the child/children were his. To maximize the probability that a child would be born and make it to adulthood, he would have sex with as many women as possible. I have been told the theory is out there, however I do feel that it has validity based upon biology and the culture studies I have done.

  • General Eyes

    “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM”: I don’t get it.

    “As with most men of my generation, my first experiences with porn really were the scraps of Playboy and Hustler found in the forests and parks of boyhood.”: the unwarranted overgeneralization might have some limited value if Angus had indicated what generation he’s in, and what sort of place he grew up.

    As a Gen-Xer who grew up in upstate New York suburbs with no forests or parks within walking or bicycling distance, I briefly glimpsed perhaps four adult magazines total in between ages 12 and 15 or so. A couple pages of one a neighbor had shoplifted, a couple pages in one a family friend’s son found in the glovebox of a car his father rented. Neither involved hardcore pornography. Total viewing time, less than twenty seconds. The others were so briefly glimpsed only the fact that they were adult magazines registered: one in an abandoned house, the other some kind had brought into a middle school library.

    I don’t remember seeing any while in high school. I was aware that a neighbor’s father had a large collection of Playboys, and that two guys on my volleyball team were exchanging pornographic magazines inside of Dungeons & Dragons boxes they were bringing to school, but never sought them out.

    “These things were coveted and stashed and revisited as often as possible, and it was tremendously exhilarating to seek out these forbidden stashes”

    I never sought them out or revisited them. I didn’t find viewing them exhilarating. After having acquaintances show them to me without my having wanted to see them, I looked away. I found them uninteresting and also didn’t think we should be looking at them. I wasn’t given a hard time about that. Granted, I didn’t have a lot of friends and didn’t feel any peer pressure and wouldn’t have bowed to it if I did.

    “I recall a couple of instances in which we found porn videos accidentally left in a parent’s VCR”

    I had never seen a porn video until an anti-pornography video with pornographic content was screened in an undergraduate course when I was about nineteen.

    “We knew what sex was and we coveted the representation of it”

    I don’t recall having an understanding of sex was at the time I’d seen the magazines. When I learned what sex was in a health class I thought it sounded disgusting and I didn’t seek out any representations of it.

    I would guess what Angus wrote about the Internet probably changing things is probably right – for people who have access to it. A lot of people, even in the US, still don’t. I do wonder about all the ways it might be changing things. Overall not for the better, I’d guess.

    Generalizations and statements without qualifiers can be problematic and generally make me unhappy. Interesting interview and reader comments nonetheless.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Sounds like you had a different experience than Angus, huh. For the record, he is in his thirties.

      • General Eyes

        Different, though not altogether different. Stumbling across a scrap of a pornographic magazine in an abandoned house isn’t unlike finding one in a forest or a park – though my friend and I didn’t even get close to the thing, much less covet it: yecch. With regard to ones that weren’t found out in the wild, some other boys expressed more enthusiasm about them. As to the reason(s) for the different receptions, I don’t know. Those who were enthusiastic didn’t give me a hard time about being uninterested, and even if they were to have I wouldn’t have cared.

        None of the pornography I’d seen while young was hardcore, incidentally. I didn’t see any example of that until my mid-twenties. I don’t know if that’s common or not for someone of my age (forty) but I suspect it’s probably relatively uncommon for people who grew up with Internet access.

        The experience probably resonates for some, though. I recently watched the coming-of-age film Mud, and two young boys discover some pornographic magazines in an abandoned boat. One or both boys were momentarily excited to find them, but the discovery was soon forgotten (and a fairly brief moment in the movie).