Journalism

SEX DOT COM: The Connection Erection- Internet Porn and You

Written for Snap! magazine, published in November 2009

Online version can be found on pages 52-53 at 

Snap!

I had agreed to see the Broadway musical Avenue Q with my family in New York on the pretense that there were Muppets involved. Sitting next to my dad, I was horrified to realized I would have to watch a recluse Muppet monster sing and dance to “The Internet is for porn.” A few months ago, a friend tried to show me a DVD of her working at a hot dog booth at a carnival in Denmark. Instead, Unlawful Misdemeanors, her landlord’s DVD, came onto the screen and portrayed a very different kind of sausage-fest that managed to traumatize me for a week. I met a guy at a party last year who worked with the man responsible for introducing the bukkake phenomenon to North America. “He’s so nice you would never know that he‘s in porn,” I was told. I was ready to punch him. As I write this, a friend is sending me a video of him and his girlfriend having sex in the shower. Apparently, it’s really hot.

Porn is nothing new, obviously.  We all have tales of encountering it in some shape or form as children and finding it funny, fascinating and most importantly, informative. What is new, these days, is the ease with which the Internet allows us to access porn; privately, instantly and with evermore particularity. We no longer need to buy a magazine, go to Crescent St., or visit Cinema L’Amour in order to get off. These days, all we need, is a ‘connection’.

The question creeps along on how this affects our real-life connections. Has it made you more anal? Shaven? Thirsty? Choked up? Unimpressed by reality?  Are you more willing to do things for the camera? Can you and your partner get it on if it’s not in the background?

How many times have you girls been with a guy and are simultaneously tempted to laugh and puke because they say something in a serious voice that you know they heard in a porn? Feminist Naomi Wolf reports that when asking men what their biggest fear about having sex with women is, they say, “That they will laugh at us.” Women reply, “They’ll kill us.” I recently conducted a survey on how Internet porn affects our sex lives. I was somewhat surprised by the results.

“Mitch” a survey participant, said that he likes sex dirty when it comes to porn, but would never try anything like ‘that’ in real life. Fine, but if sex is all about opposition, breaking boundaries and fantasy, then is it realistic to think his ‘dirty’ thoughts will never come up in real life? And what are the consequences if they don’t’?

“Benoit”, a forty-two year old divorcee from France who participated in my study, told me that a lot of his married friends went to see prostitutes because they would never want to ask the mothers of their children to do the things that they desired in bed. Benoit tried to break this boundary by taking his (now ex) wife to sex clubs. He reflects: “I wonder if the acts actually came from porn or if porn is an imitation of reality.”

According to Quantcast data, 41% of porn sites in North America are trafficked by women, so girls must like porn. Or, they at least try to like it, which is difficult when you consider popular ones such as the Bang Bus, a site where guys drive around and pick up girls to have sex with in their van. Immediately after coitus, the women are thrown back onto the street, with cum on their faces and their clothes still in the van. While the girls they pick up are arranged, it is the reality-show angle that begets the site’s success.

This goes back to my question for Mitch. Is it actually realistic, then, to think that porn does not influence our sex lives? Anti-porn feminist Andrea Dworkin claimed that porn promotes a rape culture. Other feminists, meanwhile, such as Wolf, are convinced that it has weakened men’s libidos. Some of the participants of my survey confirmed Wolf’s opinion for a few reasons:

  1. Both male and female parties agree that ‘real’ women cannot measure up to porn actresses in the looks department.
  2. Men feel they need (or are supposed) to ask for things that they know that women will be uncomfortable with.
  3. It’s easier to get what you want without having to ask for it in real life, eg. facials.

This leads to another, more existential question of what becomes defined as ‘real’. Does reality occur when we are really with another person? Or is ‘real’ what happens when we are really pleasured? One participant, who I will refer to as “Luke”, describes how his porn habit has affected his sex life:

It makes it more difficult to find porn that turns me on… As far as expectations, it has no effect on me. I don’t expect to have sex, and my expectations are fulfilled…As far as experience…if not for my ability to easily acquire high quality hardcore porn over the years, I probably would have given more effort to mating. When I see attractive women in ads on websites, in the street, or in my day-to-day experiences, I tend to go watch porn. If not for porn, then I’d probably have to target my efforts towards fulfilling the craving another way. So for me I’d say it’s a substitute for sex.

Porn is like spam- filling our heads and clogging our imaginations, with wanted and unwanted information. No wonder Mary Anne Layden, of the Sexual Trauma Program at U Penn, says that internet porn addiction can be described as being worse than having a cocaine addiction. Layden reckons that with cocaine, you can rid your body of the drug, while the images of porn never exit your brain. Wolf explains a dependence on porn as being based on the Pavlovian response that is controlled by the almighty orgasm. Psychologist David Marcus prefers to classify Internet porn consumption as a compulsion rather than as an addiction. What’s the difference? “There’s an anxiety component to it,” he says. “In medical terms, we call it ego dystonic, which basically means that it’s a behavior that goes against your sense of self.”

Despite all of this, I don’t want to rant and seem to come off as being completely anti-porn because I am not. I just believe that mainstream porn needs tweaking. I think that it could be equally sexy and oppositional, if only men were similarly objectified as women.  That’s hot for everyone. When women say they are not as visual as men, I sense that we have been conditioned to feel that way. If porn was catered to women, men might get off on watching women enjoy themselves more. Reality would sink in that women like sex just as much as men.  Then maybe it wouldn’t be as difficult to get up and actually talk to a girl in the first place, because you would know she wants it as much you. Just not on her face.

Food for thought:

-The majority of the participants in my survey admitted that tasting one’s own fluids and choking are increasingly popular occurrences when it comes to what is actually tried in the bedroom.

-According to Quantcast Data, you are least likely to watch porn if you are an: eleven-year old Asian female graduate student who has kids and makes less than 30 K a year.

-You are most likely to watch porn if you are a: twenty-six year old white guy, with no kids, who makes under 60 K a year and never went to university.

-A rise in rates of oral sex has been linked to an increase in numbers of tongue, mouth and throat cancers caused by the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus. Rates of the disease are at a 30-year high and is particularly prevalent among young men.

-Catherine Harper of the organization Scottish Women Against Pornography, claims that certain forms of venereal diseases- such as Chlamydia of the eye – have been spread by men coercing their partners into performing sex acts copied from pornography.


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