The Real Victims of Porn are Men.

Via on Sep 9, 2010

Porn makes for a poor sex education.

As the blogging world continues to conversate  about those pesky Toe Sox ads and whether, or not, they are offensive, I sat, watching quietly and wondering why I didn’t take offense. It took me a while, but I finally came to a startling conclusion and the answer is wrapped up in sexuality, pornography and my three little boys.

My sweet, innocent little boys will someday (hopefully not too soon) became lusty adolescents. And while commercials, movies and T.V. shows are carefully rated, sexuality still manages to eek its way into tongue-in-cheek situations. Even in certain well-known animated films that are G-rated. The entire plot of The Incredibles, for instance, is based on the wife’s suspicion that her heroic husband is cheating on her. The content is distasteful, to say the least, but not really dangerous (I’m sure most of this flies right over their young  little minds).

What keeps me up at night is the idea that my little ones’ first exposure to sex is going to come through the media, and eventually, and faster than I would like, through porn.  My reaction to this idea (other than ew, ew, ew) is fear. You see, I’m not concerned that they might see some boobies. I’m afraid that their ideas of what real women, and real sex, and real-women-having-real-sex, is actually  like.

Now, I’ve not seen a lot of porn in my days, but what I have seen has featured women with plastic breasts in a male-centric situation. The fact of the matter is that while real sex can be hot and steamy (and fun) the reality of having a long term sexual relationship with someone is based on feelings of trust, understanding, communication and mutual satisfaction. Those are qualities that tend to exist in the relationship already and then spill over into the bedroom. Two people who love and respect each other enjoying a physical representation of that love.  Rarely, if ever, does porn represent that aspect of sex.

But before you porn-defenders think I’m naive, or worse yet feel the need to provide links to the exceptions (please, don’t bother) let me say that I understand what the purpose of most pornography is for. I really do. I don’t even bemoan its existence. What I do worry about, as a mother, is that porn influences young minds to believe a very graphic misconception of what sex is really like. I mean, it’s so much better in real life, in that soul-satisfying, gazing-into-the-eyes-of-someone-who-adores-you kind of way.

As a pelvic health teacher, the topic of sexuality comes up A LOT in my classes (betcha don’t have those conversations with your students, do ya?). We commonly talk about sexual relationships, frustrations, successes and dysfunction. And you know what? Most of my students feel incredibly pressured to perform. They feel pressured to put out. And 75% of women cannot climax from penetrating intercourse alone.  Sex becomes the elephant in the room where the husband’s not getting it (because he’s not being sensitive) and because he’s not getting it, he becomes even less sensitive. And vice versa for the wife: She’s feeling pressured and so then gives the cold-shoulder, in which case she’s rewarded with more pressure. The real issue is communication. Porn doesn’t teach you that, indeed it’s quite the poor sex education teacher but instead promotes self-gratification over the needs of others (If you want a better resource that both men and women could utilize on that topic,  I recommend this book).

If the real objection to the Toesox ads  is really a question about the objectification of women, as I suspect it is, then I would have to suggest that the underlying, unasked question is: is this pornographic? And in my humble opinion, it’s not.  The difference is empowerment; the women in those Toesox ads are strong and beautiful and capable. They are accomplishing awe-inspiring feats that are worthy of notice and praise. More importantly, no one is being demeaned or degraded.

So there is it is: my two cents on this whole brewhaha.

If you’re someone who can use pornography in a responsible way that has no adverse effects on your real-life sexual relationship, then good for you. And please don’t misjudge me to say that you’re not entitled to your opinion on sex, on porn or on Toesox, because absolutely you are. This one just happens to be mine.

For more on this topic, may I suggest: Why Porn is Teaching Your Man Bad Habits in Bed

and Katie Makkai’s amazingly funny, yet moving, feminist slam poem Pretty (video)

About Candice Garrett

Candice Garrett is a yoga teacher, writer, foodie and mother of three from Monterey, California. She is author of "Prenatal Yoga: Finding Movement in Fullness," assistant to Female Pelvic Floor Goddess Leslie Howard and director of the Nine Moons Prenatal Yoga teacher training program. Candice teaches yoga, prenatal yoga and pelvic health with workshops nationally. You can find her teaching schedule at Candice Garrett Yoga or her love of food at The Yogic Kitchen

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27 Responses to “The Real Victims of Porn are Men.”

  1. candicegarrett says:

    oh wow Emily I have had this conversation myself! The "princess" mentality is the other side of this coin for sure. Great, great, fabulous perspective, thanks for sharing!

  2. Melanie says:

    You should check out Robert Jensen's book, "Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity." His podcast can be found here :http://www.feministfatale.com/2010/04/robert-jensen-goes-off/ This is such an important topic.

  3. Melanie says:

    BTW, Katie Makkai's video is in a draft for my upcoming post here at Ele and a post from my own blog from a few months ago. I'm glad to know others have already seen it circulate.

  4. candicegarrett says:

    waiting in the wings Melanie! Be sure you tag me in that post (on facebook) so I don't miss it!

  5. candicegarrett says:

    Thanks for your input Kim, I'm not trashing porn per se, just the way it can possibly be digested. I think I'll pass on the next suggestion though, just kind of gives me the heeby jeebies to think about :)

  6. Andrew says:

    I can't imagine being an adolescent with the infinite amount of free porn available today.

  7. Kim Mobey says:

    Candice, i seems you’ve only been exposed to the trashiest type of pornography.

    There are BEAUTIFUL erotic films and books in this world. Don’t focus on the negative, look for the good ones, get hold of it and, when your sons are old enough, leave it “hidden” somewhere so they can discover happy, loving porn made by happy, loving people.

    Try Viv Thomas’s “Art of Sex” for a start.

    • candicegarrett says:

      Thanks for your input Kim, I'm not trashing porn per se, just the way it can possibly be digested. I think I'll pass on the next suggestion though, just kind of gives me the heeby jeebies to think about :)

  8. D.S. says:

    Candice,

    If I do not demand an answer to

    (1) in what PRECISE way does porn affect sexuality?

    and I only allow myself that

    (2) porn DOES, in some presently imprecise way, affect sexuality

    and

    (3) porn is, as Andrew notes, "infinite" today,

    and

    (4) whatever affects our sexuality is worth close attention,

    then I arrive, with Melanie, at

    (5) "This is such an important topic."

    So thanks for writing on it. I hope it becomes a sustained community conversation full of insight and advice. I also hope (1) becomes a conversation. To put a card down, I have the strong intuition that any true answer to (1) has porn's affect on our sexuality being — on balance and for most persons and relationships — not so good. Though I can imagine revising that intuition.

  9. Mike says:

    I had to think on this for a few minutes (mostly because I'm not that smart, so takes me a minute sometimes).

    I'm a father of three – two boys and a girl. They are all teenagers now, my daughter, the oldest, is almost 17. I've had similar thoughts to the ones you expressed in your post. 1) How do I make sure that my daughter is comfortable enough in her own skin to know what she likes, doesn't like, and is not pressured to do things she doesn't want to do (sex, drugs, eating at McDonald's) and 2) how do I make sure that my sons have those values I believe a Man should have (honor, integrity, loyalty and respect).

    And like Ms. (Mrs?) Garrett said – it revolves around communication and leading by example. Now, I'm not saying we can really demonstrate to our children how to have sex (ew … ew .ew ew.ew) but through my actions I try to show my daughter how a woman should be treated and my sons how to treat a woman. Gentle public displays of affection (holding hands, a kiss, a hug), opening the doors, letting her walk first, and even -gasp- holding my wifes purse as she tries on clothes somewhere. Never call my wife a name outside of our pet names (lover mostly, babe, sweetie, that sort of thing).

    I've seen all types of different porn. The first was way back when I found my fathers stash of playboys and later penthouse then later hustler then the invention of VHS opened up a whole new world for me. But my fathers teachings about respect for women never let the acts I read in Penthouse Forum become the way I believed women should be treated or what a loving sexual relationship is really like.

    Anyway… thanks for the article and reading the ramblings of some goofy dad.

  10. Dylan says:

    Interesting…not sure how much I vibe with this fully. Complicated subject.

    This much I know for sure:

    Yoga is sexy. And sweet.

    Namaste.

    -The Mad Yogi Poet

  11. [...] a world full of OMG! Gossip Rags, “Reality” TV, dirty loveless porn, Facebook and text message breakups and seemingly endless amounts of dramayama, practicing anything [...]

  12. YesuDas says:

    Candice:

    Thanks so much for this! As a folksinger, I used to struggle with how to decide whether a song was pornographic or merely "bawdy;" while I'm happy to perform the latter, the former troubles me. I think C.S. Lewis nailed it when he wrote: "There are some to whom "no passion is as serious as lust" and for whom an indecent story ceases to produce lasciviousness precisely in so far as it becomes funny: there are others in whom laughter and lust are excited at the same moment and by the same things. The first sort joke about sex because it gives rise to many incongruities: the second cultivate incongruities because they afford a pretext for talking about sex. " That is, "bawdry" is primarily clever and funny, and has sex as its subject matter, whereas pornography is all about sex. For myself, I also categorize anything as pornographic that has violent or abusive aspects.

    So I think you're right–pornography specifically does *not* use sex to talk about love, or anything else–it only exists to talk about sex.

    Good luck with your boys!

  13. candicegarrett says:

    I think you've nailed it YesuDas, particularly in your comment about violence and abuse and absolutely in your last sentiments about love (or the lack thereof). Well said.

  14. Carolina1980 says:

    Thank you so much for this! :) Men – LISTEN & act accordingly! Porn KILLS a relationship. I don't care what you think.

    • missbernklau says:

      I'd have to respectfully disagree here. Porn does not kill a relationship, lack of true intimacy, openness and understanding is what kills a relationship.

  15. Andrew says:

    Is all porn about abuse and exploitation of women? The answer is no.

  16. [...] to really respect women like our mamas would want us to, and not merely behave as though we do–help us out, [...]

  17. elephantjournal says:

    The primary goal of porn, strip clubs, escorts, etc. is to create a false sense of intimacy. It's theater, nothing more or less. If men allow themselves to be taken in by the actors in this theater, they will gradually become emasculated and reduced to pawns in the game. The "dancers" in strip clubs look at their john's as willing ATMs and the men oblige.
    I think the last article I read on the subject indicated that over 75% of "sex workers" were themselves sexually abused (at the least) before they entered the business. That, along with the prevalence of drugs, emotional drama and physical abuse, contributes to an presentation of or environment for sex that is sick and unconscious. A classic example of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.

  18. Gina says:

    The thing that is most troubling about much of the porn that can be easily accessed online these days by a young boy is the level of violence that is now featured in these films… demonstrating that violence (choking, punching, slapping, gagging) against women is a part of sex, which is especially scary if this is someone's first exposure to sex. I of course know that this is not all porn, and there is a very wide variety of porn out there, but there's a lot of this too. Check out the documentary The Price of Pleasure.

    • missbernklau says:

      Yeah it's THAT kind of porn that scares me and perpetuates this latent (and not-so-latent) misogyny in our culture.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    Stephen S
    The primary goal of porn, strip clubs, escorts, etc. is to create a false sense of intimacy. It's theater, nothing more or less. If men allow themselves to be taken in by the actors in this theater, they will gradually become emasculated an…d reduced to pawns in the game. The "dancers" in strip clubs look at their john's as willing ATMs and the men oblige.
    I think the last article I read on the subject indicated that over 75% of "sex workers" were themselves sexually abused (at the least) before they entered the business. That, along with the prevalence of drugs, emotional drama and physical abuse, contributes to an presentation of or environment for sex that is sick and unconscious. A classic example of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.

  20. Sue says:

    hmmmmm…if I may add my 2¢ here. Having been married to a porn addict and a sex addict for 14 years I have to say that at the end of the day the victims are my children. Addiction is a very destructive element in any relationship, and with something as readily available as porn it is difficult to detect. Still, like any addiction it comes with lies, manipulation and eventually the addict chooses to either A. seek treatment or B. sacrifice his/her family for the addiction. My family was the sacrifice for my ex-husband's addiction and though I still suffer the effects, it is my children who suffer more. They are completely innocent victims of their fathers life of addiction, secrets, lies, manipulations and in the end a fractured family that leaves them never feeling grounded and constantly stressed. When porn becomes an addiction it is hideously destructive.

  21. [...] lessons in 8th grade health class) is the only education for kids and the sexually curious, is it any wonder that shame and secrecy cloud our most intimate parts? (Photo: [...]

  22. [...] if porn is the primary children’s sex educator, then many get a limiting download of how sex should be: the woman has to be skinny with big boobs, [...]

  23. D.S. says:

    Your reply helped me see why I would pick the closest possible porn-free (or, porn-much-more-limited) world over the actual world where porn is limitless: Most porn trains people to put themselves before their partner. This, ironically, keeps them from feeling as much pleasure (sexual and otherwise) as they could were they to put their partner before them.

    The experience of putting our immediate, default desires before the desires of another opposes the experience of attentive empathy that practices like yoga and meditation look to as (at least intermediate, if not final) goals. Our practice slows down our immediate desires long enough to feel our satisfaction and focus on the needs of those around us. Porn, however, speeds up our immediate desires so as to make us forget our satisfaction and become unable to focus on the needs of our partner.

    It is this way in which porn so opposes practice that makes me worry for the 'infinite' porn that, I fear, will parent our children and make their first sexual experiences flaccid shadows of what, at its greatest, sex is: heightened empathy.

  24. candicegarrett says:

    Good perspective TNR. But may I humbly suggest that women can and should have their own perspective/experience/opinion on the topic? As it seems to me it affects us as well. And therein lies the article. I have not and will not ever suggest that my opinion is the only one or that is it factual for everyone. But it is mine nonetheless, based on my own experience.
    I hear so many articles/opinions declare women the victims of pornography and I have to disagree. I rather think it is the male sexual perspective at issue. Pornography in and of itself is not, exactly, the issue. It is the repurcussions, digested poorly, that can skew both male and female views of healthy sexuality. I encourage discussion, from both sides, b/c it affects both sides equally.

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