Porn, again

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Will

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

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41 Responses

  1. Avatar Boonton
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    says:

    Excellent point, but do you think perhaps the ‘local restrictions’ are misguided? A visit to a theatre or club is by definition expensive. If nothing else you gotta get out of bed, get dressed, drive, walk or ride there and pay whatever it costs. Maybe visiting the strip club isn’t a sacred experience but it at least requires some action, some decision making and some responsibility. As a result there is at least a little bit of artistry given to the field.

    The internet, though, can produce endless porn for free and you never even have to get out of bed.

    I agree with your ‘personal experience’ argument but I’d also divert the problem to the ‘personal responsibility’ bucket. The fact is modern society allows us to overconsume here. Modern society’s wealth allows us to overconsume in lots of ways. Just as our forefathers had to learn to hunt and deal with the elements, we have to learn to deal with a world of plenty in a responsible way. Some of us will fail and some of us will need extra help but to me that seems to be a fact of life.Report

  2. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    I’m all for local control. But, to some extent we already have that. If these premises were true, the Bible Belt would be reaping the rewards of a more conservative society.Report

  3. Avatar Plinko
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey, what happened to being on the Internet means no one knows we’re dogs?

    I have an issue with Naomi Wolf’s strong statements about what societies know about porn. A lot of societies think they know a lot about what’s good for people, I’m a lot less certain than they are. That passage reeks of the same kind of paternalism that we usually decry as nanny-statism.

    I think years of reading Dan Savage (despite the obvious biases involved) has led me to reject any notions that there is some kind of sexual purity concept which we’re trying to defend against the insidious influence of modern society, or worse, the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. There are all sorts out there, and in far greater numbers than we’re willing to confront in polite society. Continuing to drive people’s feelings and desires underground out of a utopian view of human sexuality seems to me to be far more dangerous than the actual harm of pornography consumption.Report

  4. Avatar sidereal
    Ignored
    says:

    the over-consumption of anything (from porn to calories) is bad for you.

    Do you believe that this is a ‘compelling case against’ calories?

    Most men have massive libidos. That libido can either be concentrated on one’s societally and religiously endorsed sexual partner, it can be distracted by pornography, or it can be repressed. Option 1 is great for those who have the option and an amenable partner with a comparable appetite. Option 3 is terrible. The problem with the generally conservative approach to pornography & sexuality is that it targets Option 1 with Option 3 as the fallback.

    Ideally, you’d target Option 1 with Option 2 as the fallback, but Option 2 can often take over, which seems to be the crux of Wolf’s point. But I think the available body of evidence shows that it’s still a superior model to the conservative model. Cultures with repressive sexual mores are highly correlated with cultures that murder women for being seen unattended with a man.Report

  5. Avatar Matthew Schmitz
    Ignored
    says:

    Talking to everyone here at the League has helped my focus my thoughts on this issue a bit. What I see as the immediate problem is not so much pornography’s availability as its wide and, to my mind, totally unjustified prestige. We have the mass consumption of images that depict women (mostly) in vile and degrading ways, and the response of many is to make documentaries praising him a modern-day Defender of the Faith. Maybe he shouldn’t be put in jail, but he damn sure shouldn’t be up on that pedestal.Report

  6. Avatar trumwill
    Ignored
    says:

    Whatever my skepticism of the side post, this one I am quite on board with. Pornography has the ability to warp the sexual mindset and we should be aware of that and (not through legislation, necessarily) be on guard against it.

    I particularly agree with Matthew’s point about the exaltation of pornography. I believe pornography is protected under the first amendment and even if it weren’t I would support its legality as a matter of personal freedom. But the exaltation of pornography as being an emblem of freedom is misguided. In a way, it’s sort of like those that celebrate transgressive art for its very transgressiveness. The Turner Diaries is transgressive. That assigns it no moral value whatsoever.Report

  7. Avatar Andy Smith
    Ignored
    says:

    One important issue missing from this discussion is the potential for earning money. I spend a lot of time in a third world country, and know several women who make a very good living as internet entertainers. For many women in this country, the only alternative is real sex, which not only runs the risk of STDs, pregnancy and physical abuse, but which doesn’t pay nearly as well as cybersex. Of course it would be nice if they could work in offices or factories and make a Western-sized income, but given that they can’t, I think this opportunity is a godsend for them.Report

  8. Avatar Sam M
    Ignored
    says:

    Do you really think Larry Flynt is a heroic figure in popular culture? Really?Report

  9. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m always surprised at how comfortable people my age are with overconsumption of media in general. I’ve had roommates who watched, at the very least, eight hours of television a day, while surfing the net, which they also did at work. But whenever I talk about this with people, they just seem to think that this is what everyone does now.Report

  10. Avatar Rebecca
    Ignored
    says:

    You lured me in.

    An interesting theory:

    http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2009/08/porn_and_mirror_neurons.php

    It would explain the desire for a visibly/vocally appreciative partner.

    Sexual desire is a complicated phenomenon. Many factors go into it, a lot of them subconscious. I think it’s important to note that as much as I’ve witnessed the desire for more extreme pornography expand with increased exposure, I’ve also noticed a subsequent contraction of that desire (as the exposure continues further) for many people I’ve talked to – a reversion back towards simple sexual scenarios (foreplay), “real” or “natural” looking girls, etc. Sure, you may get desensitized to certain types of porn, but that doesn’t mean reaching a stage where you’re dipping into kiddie or slasher porn because you’ve exhausted all other alleys. There’s enough variety (and this is the key to most desensitization issues) in the porn industry, and you can revisit old preferences. Maybe it’s more of a merry-go-round instead of a slippery slope.

    I’m tempted to say that this you-can’t-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude is more: your cake (sex life) sucks, but if you (or your partner) are never exposed to any others, you can live in blissful ignorance of its relative shortcomings. Ideally, watching porn should not compete with your sexual satisfaction with your spouse, or create feelings of jealousy or insecurity. If you’re both game, enjoy it together.

    But realistically, that doesn’t happen often. The issues (of jealousy/insecurity/you name it) that arise from watching porn are most likely present anyway, and if you’re not the type of couple that can talk about that stuff honestly, or figure out how to resolve it, maybe your best bet is to refrain so you can maintain your sex life. Pessimistic, but practical.

    Now, as for just physically, I can see how repeatedly training yourself to get off in 30 seconds could be harmful. Probably not a good idea.

    Since there’s been some references to the rape fantasy, below is worth a read. Earlier comments regarding correlation versus causation are pretty valid.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/humannature/archive/2009/01/26/rape-fantasies-and-female-arousal.aspxReport

  11. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    And, you know, one thing that actually was surprising to me was that I had another mini-post below that, which I thought had it all: anime, censorship, child pornography, political hypocrisy and Japan. Not one friggin comment!Report

  12. Avatar JosephFM
    Ignored
    says:

    I named my (rarely-updated, frankly halfassed) blog after a song that was on a related subject, from an album full of them. Thus:


    Is it wrong to think I’m a traditional man?
    I hope I’d be up for annexation of that
    Oh part of me can deal with these open relations
    But a concept to do is like yes to a goal
    It’s unclear how it happens
    Maybe we’ll act how we planned it
    We sure talked a lot, and soon it came into focus
    (Focus, focus, I tried to focus! OH!)
    There’s no time for fighting, any sex is personal
    Keep your head above the meaning and devotion doesn’t swell
    Any sexual encounter adds an awful twisting touch
    It’s like scamming in the 90s but getting used to this is hard
    Report

  13. Avatar JosephFM
    Ignored
    says:

    I know women who get off on anime tentacle-monster rape porn, but are otherwise completely normal and have actually healthier romantic relationships than many other people I know. I also know some women who work in “the industry”, and are indeed pretty dysfunctional.

    But I worry more about misguided intellectuals who can’t tell the difference than I do about the impact of the latter’s career choices on random strangers, I have to say. That may just be a matter of priorities, but I do think this entire debate both conflates different issues and misses the forest for the trees.

    Personally, I see “pornification” as just the inevitable latest step in capitalism’s totalizing, all-consuming commodification of any and all human desires, and abused sex “actresses” as scarcely different from underpaid retail workers in the scheme of things.Report

    • Avatar Matthew Schmitz in reply to JosephFM
      Ignored
      says:

      @JosephFM,

      Personally, I see “pornification” as just the inevitable latest step in capitalism’s totalizing, all-consuming commodification of any and all human desires, and abused sex “actresses” as scarcely different from underpaid retail workers in the scheme of things.

      I think you’re on to something.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz
        Ignored
        says:

        @Matthew Schmitz,

        Most porn these days is amateur. If anything, the porn industry was more commercial in the 1970s, and less so now. With all the competition working for free, it’s really hard to make a profit. If anything, Internet porn has DE-commodified sex. Now exhibitionists connect with voyeurs for free, and the great majority of them are very happy. It’s hard to see someone as exploited by capitalism when there isn’t even an employer.Report

        • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Jason Kuznicki
          Ignored
          says:

          @Jason Kuznicki,

          That is a very good point, and also fits with my (admittedly limited) experience – I realize now that I’d actually started talking about the entire spectrum of sex work, which doesn’t always apply to porn thanks to the later being mediated (which is also the source of its protections – why the same sex transaction that is considered speech when filmed suddenly loses protections when not).

          The only counterargument I can think of is more abstract – that even amateur porn exchanges are transactionalized, and that doing so trivializes them. But I’m not sure I actually believe that, personal regrets aside.

          (Well that and the whole “digital pictures live forever” thing – there’s a burgeoning genre of “revenge” sites that encourage sharing of personal-use nudie pictures and “sexts” without the subjects’ permission.)Report

  14. Avatar JosephFM
    Ignored
    says:

    Also, one last thought – anyone else remember when Tony Comstock used to comment here?Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to JosephFM
      Ignored
      says:

      @JosephFM, Haha yes. I remember the first time I clicked on his site, totally oblivious to what he did for a living. Nice Faint reference, by the way.Report

      • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Will
        Ignored
        says:

        @Will,

        I actually asked because I’d be curious for his input – as far as I understood it, his and his wife’s project is to make movies about people having sex that are romantic and interesting rather than mechanical like porn or pretentious like, say, Nine Songs,and I think that’s a really good thing.Report

  15. Avatar Aaron
    Ignored
    says:

    In discussions of pornography, you often hear about how porn degrades women. It always struck me how no one ever talks about how gay porn degrades men who are (anal) bottoms.Report

  16. Avatar Maribou
    Ignored
    says:

    Honestly, I think the discourse around porn is pretty much like the historical discourse around booze. And, like booze, if society had a healthier relationship with porn, there would be fewer individual problems with it. As a cheerful occasional drinker who appreciates the benefits of alcohol but also has plenty of alcoholics in her family tree, I am hugely conflicted as to what “should” be done. But God knows I don’t want no one to ever have a beer just because my grandaddies couldn’t hold their liquor. (I shall refrain from the temptations of a tangent about the superiority of microbrews over mass-produced hooshwa.)Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou
      Ignored
      says:

      @Maribou, and see, already I’m running into problems because I don’t want to seem to trivialize alcoholism if someone reading this didn’t parse the connotations of “hold their liquor” the same way I did. It’s a thorny puzzle, alright.Report

  17. Avatar Tony Comstock
    Ignored
    says:

    On my sloop in St. Croix, so late to this. But in a nutshell, this as well as nearly all other discusions of pornography are hamstrung by a profound ignorance that people have of the legal and economic conditions under which sexually explicit entertainment is made (I generally avoid the work “pornography” because it has no legal definition, or even a commonly accepted colloquial definition.)

    I’m not sure yet if “The Intent to Arouse: A Concise History of Sex. Shame, and the Moving Image” is going to be a book, a PhD dissertation or a lecture tour or all three; but it’s a good place to start to try and grasp the forces at work.

    RE: Mores

    I find myself agreeing with James Poulos, but with more optimism about human nature than he has.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Tony Comstock
      Ignored
      says:

      @Tony Comstock,

      profound ignorance that people have of the legal and economic conditions under which sexually explicit entertainment is made

      You mean, “one or more horny, good-looking individuals, around 20-30 years of age, in a basement, with a webcam”? Because that’s how most porn gets made these days.

      I’m shocked and appalled. I had no idea.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tony Comstock
      Ignored
      says:

      @Tony Comstock, It seems like ignorance of your understanding of these conditions is pretty much guaranteed when you decline to describe what that understanding is. Are we supposed to know what you’re trying to say here?Report

    • Avatar JosephFM in reply to Tony Comstock
      Ignored
      says:

      @Tony Comstock,

      Very good point as I expected. My understanding, as far as I have one (and I am on this point much more ignorant than you, obviously, but I imagine less so that anyone else commenting here) is that there is pretty wide variance in that. Jason is being too glib.

      That said I disagree vehemently with Poulos about – well almost everything he writes that I don’t find totally impenetrable, including culture.Report

    • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Tony Comstock
      Ignored
      says:

      @Tony Comstock, Could you provide a link to a Poulos piece that exemplifies what you’re referring to?Report

  18. Avatar Tony Comstock
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey look! I’m Jason and I can make glib comments on blogs!

    Jason, why do you suppose the erotic image has undergone such a profound devolvement in the past 35 years?Report

  19. Avatar Tony Comstock
    Ignored
    says:

    @michael theintenttoarouse.com

    @joseph jason confuses the pointing finger with the moon

    @cascadian sadly no. mostly from my and james’ ex par te. short version: generally speaking laws constrain the behavior of criminals (thieves, bankers, pornographers, corporations) Mores constrain the behavior of citizens.

    @jason I don’t know if you are painfully simple-minded, but your repost is. the deevolution of s commercial photographic entertainment containing sexually explicit imagery began well before the rise of the internet, and the internet has not had a devolving effect on the commercial photographic/cinematic exploration of other subject matter.Report

    • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Tony Comstock
      Ignored
      says:

      @Tony Comstock, It’s a bit hard to address this question without definitions. What exactly is the change? Less hair on the actresses? I believe the internet has had a great impact or at least facillitated a change. There are certain forms of cinema where authenticity count more than cgi. Porn is one. Extreme or gen-x sports are another. I wouldn’t say that the internet is the cause of more extreme sex or sport but it does allow for a home production that can rival a slick package.Report

  20. Avatar Tony Comstock
    Ignored
    says:

    glad you mentioned xtreme sports. the advent of in home HD gave rise to a shot on film approach to xtreme sport filmmaking. there is no porn collolary because the porn business model breaks when you try to raise your game. (converselly, we’ve been able to shoot on film because we don’t use a porn business model to produce and distribute our films.)Report

  21. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Just pointing out that two (or three? I can’t tell on the internet) chicks actually commented on this thread but only the guys got responses.

    That may have something to do with the dearth of chicks commenting.

    Ladies, I’d just like to point out that I think that your comments were fascinating.Report

  22. Avatar Cascadian
    Ignored
    says:

    I didn’t really notice anyone engaging. Seems more like everyone throwing their two cents into the pot. I’d wager that more marriages are damaged by limited or habitual sex than too much great sex.

    I particularly liked Rebecca’s post, but dang, those are murky waters and you had better have a great relationship before going there or have a greater EQ than most guys have. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to the preferences and compatibility of the four people involved. If one thinks sex is about puppy dog eyes and cuddling and the others strongly prefer acrobatics and a bit of the ol’ spank and tickle there’s going to be trouble and it would be best to call the whole thing off. And for those that have an exhibitionist streak, closet yourselves before you embarrass your parents and come off as a damaged individual.Report

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