The Bondage of Porn is Turning Pleasure into Pain. ~ Jessica Bahr

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on Nov 2, 2012
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I am still surprised that there is a porn “debate,” perpetually asking the question of whether it’s harmful or beneficial.

One of the most ubiquitous pro-porn (mainstream) arguments that is keeping the debate active is that pornography is “needed.”  It’s the insidious myth that men need to buy sex, consume woman’s bodies as a commodity and that it’s as natural as the sex drive itself. You don’t have to be a sociologist, biologist or psychologist to know this is not true.

There was a time and place when pornography didn’t exist and a man could be turned on by pheromones, a turn of an ankle or a novel thing called love. When did pornography become this “salve” for the aching loins of men? When did the symptom of dysfunction get turned into the all pervasive “remedy?”

It became propagandized like all spurious snake oils do. Now, after so much damage, pain and suffering, people are starting to look at the side effects and question its “benefits.” About time.

First, I think it is incredibly insulting and downright dehumanizing to men to postulate that porn is a need, and that there is some inherent thing in them that has to have it. That’s like saying back in the 50s and 60s that whites are inherently racist, without looking deeper at the psychology and cultural conditioning around these attitudes. If I were a man, I would not be too thrilled at the way porn was portraying men in front of or behind the camera. Talk about objectification. But the multi-billion dollar industry needs this myth to stay alive for it to stay alive.

It’s not because men are “weak” or “bad” or biologically wired for porn.

Pornography works on the brain in one of the most basic of ways. It has a Pavlovian effect, and what could be a more positive reinforcement to the brain than the linking of the feel good hormone released during orgasm (oxytocin) to particular sexual images? This makes it both chemically and behaviorally addictive.

The other myth is that of sexual freedom and empowerment. The deluge of sexual images—custom made and methodically engineered for optimal effect and hedonist consumption—does not lead to sexual freedom or power. It actually waters down virility and corrodes our sexual and relational moorings. In opening all of those enticing doorways, consumers shut themselves in, becoming desensitized to natural, authentic and subtle turn-ons.

Over time they find it hard, if not impossible, to connect to the real thing. The instant and short-term gratification of porn is cumulatively (no pun intended—well, maybe) debilitating and very few people know or want to admit this is happening to them until they have reached a point of feeling dysfunctional in sexual relations.

What they once thought they were controlling is now controlling them.

Pornography is actually emasculating, not only in the way it treats its predominantly male consumers, but in the eyes of many women (many of whom will not admit this to their lovers). The thought of my man not being turned on by me alone turns me off, plain and simple. Handing his manhood over to a fantasy land designed to hypnotize and manipulate him leaves the relationship bereft of the sexual energy that keeps the fire burning in the hearth.

It is a false sense of freedom and power and a perversion of masculinity. To buy into the fantasy, you have to give your power away. It erodes intimacy; it leaks life force energy that could be channeled to doing something good, productive and fulfilling.

It is the great distraction. If all the time and energy that was wasted through pornographic ejaculation was actually put towards a real life relationship with a real partner, or into a creative and constructive process, the need for escape hatches such as porn would lose their appeal.

Pornography is replacing authenticity in one of the most organic, natural and intimate parts of our lives—ironically in an area where once a natural and pleasurable union (literally) was formed. One of its most devastating consequences is the erosion of intimacy in personal relationships. Men are conditioned to be caught up in the sexual image of a woman (to the point of addiction) more than the heart and mind of her; unable to feel satisfied, as if nothing and no one will feel like enough.

And women are conditioned to believe that they can’t measure up.

Not feeling good enough or feeling respected is a guaranteed libido killer—and so they too may turn to porn or some other source to get turned on, or become apathetic to sex altogether. The futility bred from this scenario is the perfect business model for the sex and beauty industries. Keep both parties dissatisfied—easy to do in a culture that confuses stimulation with satisfaction. Divide and conquer and make them life long consumers as they try to build a bridge back to each other on quick sand.

PhotobucketAdd the violent, controlling story lines to the mix and you’ve got the makings of emotional implosion, further instigating a war between the genders and at best, further estranging them.

I can think of hundreds of ways (all of them now supported by research) that porn is detrimental, everything from broken relationships, addictions, misogyny, objectification and violence towards woman, emasculation, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, the new “sex education” for children, etc., and I have yet to hear one argument that validates its value… except that it feels good and that it’s an expression of “freedom.”

I try to imagine having the same dialogue over junk food or fast food. Those who eat fast food will defend it as their right, arguing to the hilt for their own limitation and demise, but there would and could be no argument for its value in terms of health and happiness. The same is true of porn. It is factory-farmed sex (I wrote a poem with the same title). It is an erroneous imitation designed to hook people and make them want more. Empty calories, no nourishment—and the ill effects are just starting to be measured, but many of the effects will ripple out beyond measure.

Sex is not the enemy or the problem; it never was. It’s the unruly projection onto sex, sexuality and onto each other that is the issue. Neither the exploitation or the suppression of sex are healthy. There is no balance in either, and both extremes are oppressive, controlling and dominated by the patriarchal sexual shadow, of which greed and control are cozy bedfellows.

This hostility towards sex is being acted out, packaged and sold to the best of us.

The contempt for sex is why we diminish it, bind it, package it and turn it into a commodity, especially in the feminine form. This disowned part of us certainly needs to play out somewhere, usually taking the route of projection; projection leading to objectification; and objectification leading to dehumanization.

Pornography extorts and exploits basic human desire and needs, taking it to an extreme and distorting it so that it’s no longer something clean and comfortable, natural and necessary. When a person is ready to take back their power and their sexuality they will get off the mainstream bandwagon and no longer defend something that undermines their healthy sexuality, relationships and self concept.

For those who feel so indoctrinated by porn, the truth is that pornography can be outgrown. I know people personally who have outgrown pornography. It required them getting really honest with themselves and their conditioning. With that honesty comes a healthy anger, even a necessary rage at the ways they were being used and manipulated by the media for an agenda that serves no one except to make the porn industry and subsequent industries (beauty, sex, etc.) multi-billion dollar profits.

It’s also important to look at what void it’s trying to fill (the sexualizing of unmet needs and unresolved emotions or an avoidance of intimacy and vulnerability). I would think people would want to outgrow it just so they can take their own minds/thoughts/experiences back—especially when it comes to sex!

Pornography isn’t going to go away any time soon, as long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.

We can choose not to have it be a part of our personal lives, and to no longer allow it to define and influence our relationship to sex and to each other. We can deprogram ourselves, and ask that our partners do the same so that when we meet in our sexuality, it is our sexuality; it is us who is doing the meeting.

Rather than someone else’s contrived storyline—an empty fantasy born from a place of dissatisfaction, discontent and despondency in which we become the props—we regain our own story, one that moves from the connective heart outward. Why buy someone else’s dysfunction and desperation? Do we not become what we consume?

Once we free ourselves from the bondage of porn, we can help empower and educate others—because to be turned on by the real thing, the sensuality, subtleties and nuances of true connection, cannot be substituted nor underestimated.

 

(This is the sixth in a seven-part series over seven days, in colloboration with the Good Men Project, addressing the question: Is Porn a Good Thing? For GMP’s recent posts in the series, check out The History of Porn  and Fear the Towel.)

 

Jessica Bahr is a freelance writer, who writes about subjects she is passionate about, including grounded spirituality, integral psychology, conscious relationships, media literacy, gender relations and healthy sexuality. She has been published by various online publications, including The Good Men Project, Spirit of Maat, DailyCoudt.com, VividLife and Elephant Journal. She recently won the “The Summer of Love” essay contest, hosted by In The Garden Publishing, and is currently working on her first book on the media’s impact on gender relations. She can be reached at [email protected].

~

Editor: Anne Clendening

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Comments

18 Responses to “The Bondage of Porn is Turning Pleasure into Pain. ~ Jessica Bahr”

  1. Agree says:

    I agree with most of what you say, but I am afraid we cannot simply turn back the clock. Women will need to up their game to bring more to a relationship than their sexuality, just as men must now try to bring more than a paycheck. This will happen. Real emotional intimacy is far more gratifying than a physical release. We just need to work out new ways to find it. However, I think casual sex may be a greater enemy than porn. That is what first dulls the senses to the point that porn could ever compare to a live human being.

  2. Asha says:

    Women need to 'up their game' just as men are trying to do?!!!!
    Sorry, what?

    Loved the article, sums up everything I feel… But if two adults use porn together in a relationship or they're happy with each others porn usage, surely different things are important to them and the functioning of their relationship than everything you've outlined, and that should be fine too?

  3. mfpfaff says:

    i do have a comment about one part of this article. You write "There was a time and place when pornography didn’t exist and a man could be turned on by pheromones, a turn of an ankle or a novel thing called love." I went to the Good Men Project to read the other articles on pornography, and ran across the 'history of porn' article at http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-go… . There are examples of 'porn' dating back thousands of years. Kama Sutra anyone?

    Was there a time and place when pornography didn't exist? That statement is not as simple as it sounds. Depends on the definition, no? Certainly the pervasiveness and accessibility of porn is at an all-time high on the Internet and digital media. But it is hardly the first existence of it, as the GMP article explains.

  4. Eli says:

    Though I appreciated some points of the article, I felt it was an over-simplification of the issue without any distinction between either the types of porn referred to, the 'studies' that she cities but never specifies, the couples who use porn together and in a safe way. Men, I felt, were unfairly portrayed in this piece and propagandized/dehumanized in many of the same ways that she (of course, accurately) asserted that women are subjugated in this article. Lastly and most importantly, the supposed chain of porn > objectification of women > violence toward women is a tenuous one at best and a broken, dangerous and highly unfair assertion at worst and entirely void of a named source. In short, not up to Elephant's normally interesting, insightful pieces.

  5. Eli says:

    Just to be clear, I don't disagree with your point that frequent porn watching translates to real world objectification of women and I agree with you that it's common knowledge and doesn't need citing. Where we disagree is your assertion that this objectification then leads to violence towards women. This is the point I'm trying to make above and I stand by my opinion that I think it's an unfounded and dangerous assertion.

  6. Nate says:

    I disagree with a good deal of this article. Firstly you state "There was a time and place when pornography didn’t exist…". Pornography has been a part of human culture for millennia! A previous post mentioned the kama sutra, or the works of the Marquis de Sade, even praying and paying homage to fertility gods could be considered a type of pornography. It has been a part of our society across cultures and across thousands of years and to say that it is a product of modern society is a gross inaccuracy.

    Also, you seem to only dwell on violent and degrading porn and make an assumption that it is only men that partake in it's viewing. There is plenty of high quality porn directed, written, and produced by and for women. Does this then lead to the same corruption of values that you discuss here? Pornography can be used in a very healthy and loving relationship and to simply label it as unhealthy and unnatural is extremely narrow minded. A lot of people use pornography to explore and discover their own sexuality. You cannot label an entire industry based on bad examples and ignore the good. Pornography is an indulgence like dessert. It can be enjoyed in moderation, and MANY people do just that. Not every one who has a piece of cake is going rob the doughnut shop for more.

  7. TheCoolestKidYouKnow says:

    People never seem to think about the porn actors. They did choose to be there in the videos, in most cases, but what led them into that? I think that this needs to be discussed too so that people will not think that they have to turn to being in a pornographic movie to make ends meet. To those who say that they are paid so much for a video, the producers make so much more. Over the years, the producer can use the video over and over again, and only have to pay the actor(s) once. Whether or not the actor(s) changes his/her mind, the producers will continue to make money and show the videos. All the while, people are watching these exploited people thinking that everything is fine and dandy because they only see a certain point of view in making the pornographic movie.

  8. Trista says:

    Well done! I loved this article and await your book!

  9. […] gambling, social media, television, sex. We can blame our lingering primal instincts for this fascination with bottomless instant pleasure. Because of our deep rooted urges from back in the caveman era, the chemistry in our bodies has not […]

  10. TGOEE says:

    Surprised there is a porn debate! Clearly you are not used to your ideas being challenged. There is so much to consider that changes the debate. The rise of atheism that challenges our sex negative patriarchal ideas, niche porn becoming a lot more profitable including feminist porn, bad porn producers going out of business, and better porn going into business.

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