Sex, literature and limits


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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18 Responses

  1. Sam M says:

    I object to Wolf’s argument on two fronts. First, she says this:

    “Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.”

    I just don’t know how to respond. I know a lot of young guys. They are gargantuan horn-dogs, just like I was at their age. If a porn star is in the room, sure, they will slobber and say nonsensical things. If there is not a porn star… they will turn their attention to a slug or a bag of Cheetos. There seems little in the entire world that does not turn their minds to sex. Perhaps Wolf’s different take stems from the fact that she build her arguments from what she hears from “what young women tell me on college campuses.” Which women do you suppose meet her for dinner after a presentation on college campuses? A self-selected group, perhaps?

    But worse is this:

    “Being naked is not enough; you have to be buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax—just like porn stars.”

    This seems to be willfully ignorant of the facts about pornography. As has been widely reported, the future of highly-produced porn is incredibly undertain. Why? Because people seem to prefer free porn FEATURING NORMAL EVERYDAY PEOPLE who for whatever reason post videos of themselves online.

    This development would seem to kick many of the arguments against porn directly in the nuts. The idea that performers are drug addicts or poor people who do it for the money? Well… then why are all these people putting it online for free? Porn makes people demand physical perfection and DDD boobs? Then why the proliferation of “amateur sites.”

    This is not to say that porn is great. But if it’s bad it seems to be for different reasons than people thought.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Everybody’s upset that the wrong people are hitting on them.

    Quit pining after the Blakes and maybe make time for the Duckies and you might be surprised how often you have to beg off for chafing.Report

    • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

      Ain’t that the truth. As soon as women quit dreaming of a guy that drives a BMW, guys will quit dreaming of unrealistic women.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Cascadian says:

        Ducky should have cut his losses a lot earlier as well.

        Let’s be honest. Everybody’s somebody’s Blake… the problem is that they are too busy being someone else’s Ducky to notice their own Duckies behind them.

        Plus I feel like I should write something about the nature of love vs. the nature of friction but I hope that it would go without saying.Report

  3. Roque Nuevo says:

    I read the Wolf piece and I won’t “object.” She reports what she has been told by college students and if she’s selective about the quotes, then I’ll just accept her conclusions that porn deadens the senses over time and that for a truly erotic relationship, porn should be excluded.

    But even according to her, these conclusions are not valid for the whole population. They’re valid for the college-age part of it. This is a key quote:

    The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy. The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman. Emphasis added

    The “young” part is the key. Porn is too powerful a stimuli for young people and will disturb their development if they’re allowed access to it. Wolf’s piece is evidence of that.

    Using porn is like using whiskey or recreational drugs in this respect: the brain is just not developed enough to handle it properly before maturity. For a mature individual, though, these things—porn, drugs, whiskey—can be interesting and stimulating enhancements of life, like god intended them to be, and not evil influences that will derail normal development. Not that I use any of these things at all. I would never do that.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Roque Nuevo says:

      I agree with this 100%.Report

      • Roque Nuevo in reply to Jaybird says:

        Amazing! You must be tired or something to have agreed with something a hundred percent, least of all one of my posts. Anyway, I’ll take your agreement happily and with thanks!Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Roque Nuevo says:

          You hit the nail on the head.

          Disagreeing when someone has hit the nail on the head because of who they are would be perverse.Report

          • Roque Nuevo in reply to Jaybird says:

            Very true. And it’s something I try to live by as well, which is maybe why I lose all my friends over political opinions.

            But now that you mention it, Who am I, that one might have the impulse to disagree with, just out of perverse spite?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Roque Nuevo says:

              Back when I was a tender yute in college, I encountered someone who responded to a point I made by saying “I hate to admit it but I agree with Jaybird.”

              That irritated the hell out of me, given that we were in a (gerund) *PHILOSOPHY* class. Why in the (gerund) (verb) would you come out and say something that (gerund) stupid???

              Anyway, I found myself almost writing “I am surprised to say that I agree 100% with this” and realized I was doing the same (gerund) thing.

              A good point is a good point is a good point.Report

              • Roque Nuevo in reply to Jaybird says:

                Seems like we’re pretty-much in the same boat, with a certain off-putting characteristic that makes people hate to agree with us. Ironic, isn’t it? People can have something in common that separates them… Why don’t you write an article about it?Report

    • Sam M in reply to Roque Nuevo says:

      Roque is far more charitable to Wolf than I am. Again, read the piece. She says:

      “There were more young men who wanted to be with naked women than there were naked women on the market. If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up.”

      If this is not still true, I’ll eat a copy of Hustler. I taught at a college for four years. Believe me. This is still true.

      “When Behind the Green Door first opened, clumsy, earnest, missionary-position intercourse was still considered to be a huge turn-on.”

      Has she SEEN Behind the Green Door? The stuff with the weird parachute harnesses at the end? The audience wathing the whole thing proceed? The slow motion thing?

      “Now you have to offer—or flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face scene.”

      Ummm… the slow motion thing I just mentioned is the latter of the two things she mentions here. And in this regard, has she seen Deep Throat?

      Regarding the perversity of porn movies, she’s just simply wrong.

      Come on. Can you even take this argument seriously? Are you telling me that an attractive young lady walks into a frat house today with suggestive clothing and ill-intentions and cannot get… serviced? Because the guys watch too much porn? THAT’S the problem young attractive women face? Young men don’t want to have sex with them?Report

  4. christopher says:

    I think it’s the manner in which porn is a part of your life. If you incorporate porn into your love-life it can be an enhancement to the experience and fun but on the other hand if you’re sitting in a dark room, alone watching porn all day then it’s going to have some negative effects.

    While I obviously don’t have a problem with porn I also don’t understand the need of some who become obsessed with it.Report

  5. Since Andrea Dworkin died in 2005, it would be nice to know when Ms. Wolf wrote this piece and whether, in the years since, she’s changed her mind on the matter.Report

  6. JosephFM says:

    Ross Douthat’s erotic senses have always been pretty dead, though, independent of porn, as the much-mocked “hook-up culture” section of his memoir pretty well demonstrated.

    But I find his response really only Transgression is overrated, and I don’t long for a world where that was one of the main concerns of art at all. I like that other people can see Marilyn Manson for the blase and juvenile hypocrite that he really was. I just really hate this idea that taboos should exist just so that breaking them could be exciting (even though I doubt Ross, as a socon, actually believes this). I also agree with him commenters that what he says about Lolita is simply ridiculous. This is after all the age of To Catch A Predator as much as it is Jersey Shore.

    That I find our culture of non-transgressive acting out as distateful as Ross does merely amplifies the overwhelming wrongness of Roiphe’s argument. If mere cultural mores can so greatly undermine an author’s notability, what he was doing was not so notable after all.

    As for Wolf, I am young, I was a college freshman when that piece was written, and I don’t think her interviews were particularly representative of my peers at at all. I imagine that as with a lot of things, the young women quoted in the article look at media consumption and make unfounded assumptions about male desire. One of the persistant frustrations I’ve had in relationships is convincing girlfriends that they don’t have to look like video girls to be beautiful.

    As for whatever guys out there actually do fit her descriptions (and here I’ll note that the only one she quotes shows only the signs of excessive promiscuity at worst, with no sign that porn had anything to do with it), there’s a word for preferring perfection in fantasy to dealing with real people: cowardice. And this phenomenon seems to be blamed on the Internet in general, video games, whatever new media as much as on porn, which is likewise telling.Report

  7. JosephFM says:

    Okay, one of those sentences got mangled. Need to check my previews before posting….

    “But I find his response really only Transgression is overrated, and I don’t long for a world where that was one of the main concerns of art at all.”

    should read:

    “But I find his response really misguided. Transgression is overrated, and I don’t long for a world where breaking taboos was one of the main concerns of art at all. This seems to be based on a deliberately narrow and weirdly postmodernist vision of art.”Report