The Cultural Shadow of Pornography.

Via Candice Holdorf
on Mar 9, 2012
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(Photo: Pinterest)

Sex, Society and Shame.

I recently had a Facebook exchange with someone who was shocked to hear that my take on pornography is that (for the most part, but not always) it is a reflection of our cultural shadow regarding sex—a result of our own cultural sexual repression.

In plain terms a shadow is a part of ourselves that we don’t claim or own.

The best way to discern your shadow is to notice the characteristics in other people that you can’t stand, hate or vilify, or claim as wrong or sinful. This usually stems from some sort of shame or desire to fit within an acceptable norm.

However, if you get in relationship with your shadow and integrate it, you develop the ability for compassionate living with all beings because you have a compassionate relationship with all parts of yourself.

Ok, so back to porn.

We in the U.S. have this thing where what we practice in our daily life looks a lot different than what eeks out in the entertainment and media industries.

As “open-minded” a society as we like to think we are, we are still “one nation under God” and for most of us, that means living in accordance to a religious dogma that tells us that sex before marriage is wrong, homosexuals are sick and that anything that happens in the bedroom should stay there and not be talked about in polite company.

All that tamped down energy has to find a place to go; so it comes out in sexy models gracing ads for cars and beer, scantily-clad teenage pop stars being our icons of femininity and, as I mentioned, porn.

So let me just say this. There is nothing wrong with nudity, naked performers or porn, ok?

(Photo: Pinterest)

I am not going to take your porn away or condemn anyone who wants to perform a sexy song onstage or watch some fun-time sex play. I myself do burlesque and will be the first one in line to do a crazy, sexy, fetish-inspired photo shoot or intensely erotic film scene.

What I am asking from you is to take another approach to exploring sexuality.

Much of what we see as “sex” is only one tiny sliver of the whole pie, but we come to think that this one tiny sliver is all there is. And this sliver is, for the most part, a highly-exaggerated, masculinized version of sexuality.

Its focus is on sensationalism, shock value, money shots, selling. It’s on going for a goal and producing results. And that’s ok as long as you are conscious of this dynamic: that it’s a business, entertainment.

Where we can really damage ourselves as sexual beings is when we being to equate ourselves with what we see on the outside, and if any part of our sexuality deviates from that, we are somehow “wrong” or “broken.”

If we as women aren’t ready give a blow job to our husbands the moment he comes home from work, we are frigid. If a man has a cock measuring less than 6 inches and can’t blow his wad within two minutes of a hot woman breathing on him, he is impotent.

If our sexual appetite isn’t hearty in the “right” moments, and is a raving lunatic in the “wrong” moments, we are very, very bad people indeed.

Since we as a culture, tend to have a difficult time understanding the depth of our own sexuality (much less talking about it), how can we possibly teach our kids what it’s like to have a healthy relationship with their sex and their bodies?

If porn (and very stifled, clinical 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: Pinterest)

Is it any wonder that men walk around bragging about how virile they are, but freak out the moment he has a woman alone in a room (believe me, I speak from experience on this one)? Is it any wonder that women constantly beat themselves up because they don’t look like the images they see?

Another reason that our relationship to porn can also be damaging is that it all-too-often takes the place of truly nourishing sexual experiences.

It’s like you see this act of perceived sexuality, you feel your hands on your genitals and there is some sort of release. So it feels like you’ve had sex. And you have. But this kind of experience lacks the very heart of what we do desperately want from our sex—intimacy and vulnerability.

You are a voyeur on the sexual ride, rather than an active participant.

I mean, every once in a while, you just wanna get your rocks off. You wanna go to Mickey-D’s, order the Big Man and fries and stuff yourself with dirty, greasy goodness. But if this taste isn’t balanced with nourishing, quality meals, you are going to walk around sexually starving and feeling angry, ashamed and confused about why you seem to have an active sexual life, but are somehow still terribly unfulfilled.

The antidote to the shadow is to turn right around and face it.

Cultivate a relationship with your sexuality. Learn, stroke by stroke, what your own orgasm feels like and from there discover the nuances that make your sexuality unique.

When you climax, it may not be a loud, crazy, screaming fit—and that’s ok. It might take you a full hour of stroking before you even begin to feel the tiniest spark of sensation in your genitals—and that’s ok.

You may have thought you would never like anything that was a little too on the fringe, but have a secret desire to be blindfolded and tied up by the Starbucks coffee girl—and that’s ok (talk to your partner first before acting out on that last one).

Ultimately, it’s about shifting our secret, shadowy preoccupation with sex from one with a purely external gaze, to one that looks inward towards our personal desire compass. A relationship with sex based on curious inquiry about what I truly want, not one based on what I think I should be.

It’s about connecting to ourselves, our desires and the present moment, rather than distancing ourselves from it. It’s about slowing down, stripping away our beliefs, paying attention and moving from the instinctual body. This is a gradual process, but one that is much more fulfilling in the long run.

I am aware that there is a movement to create different kinds of porn—based on true eroticism rather than purely profit-driven sensationalism. Cool. Just stay conscious about how you’re spending your energy, where your attention is and what is your true desire.

If you are not sure, keep coming back to the sensation in your body. Let your orgasm be your guide and your fuel on your journey towards your sexual self.

Who knows, you might find infinitely more pleasure in the experience of pink silk slowly slipping down the length of your inner arm than you ever could have found in Alien Midget Gang Bang 4.


Editor: Jennifer Cusano

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About Candice Holdorf

Candice Holdorf is a writer, performer, sex + life coach and Orgasmic Meditation trainer. She is currently working on her book, “From 6 to 9 and Beyond: Widening the Lens of Feminine Eroticism.” You can pre-order your copy here. She is a writer for elephantjournal and The Good Men Project, as well as a performer and public speaker specializing in desire, sexuality and Orgasmic Meditation. She is also a former yoga teacher and recovering anorexic who has discovered that there is tremendous power inside of hunger. Find out more about Candice on her blog, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube


39 Responses to “The Cultural Shadow of Pornography.”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    Very good, VERY important.

  2. Thanks for reading, Ben!

  3. Thanks for reading Ben!

  4. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thanks for writing Candice – I just posted this to the main Ej FB page.

  5. Very well explained, but we – as a culture – have to deal with this kind of issues, too:

  6. Tim says:

    She is also recovering from taking herself too seriously… Love your last line in your profile….Really well said article too.. Thnx n Keep writing plz

  7. yogajunkie says:

    Very well said. Shared!

  8. Candice~
    I had a wonderful time reading this piece, I am not a big fan of porn but that is a personal preference. The points you make here illustrate beautifully the real life dangers from only living in the fantasy. I wonder though, what would you have them do? I mean it's not like the industry is ever going to really change anything. I think the tips you have here for people are wonderful though, and thank you for this contribution! I look forward to hearing more from you.

  9. Just posted to the elephant Love FaceBook Page

    Jennifer Cusano, Editor elephant Love and Relationships
    Like us on FaceBook
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  10. emily says:

    Such an interesting perspective, and I think you’re right on. I’ve been trying to let go of my grudge against porn, and this sets it in a different frame. Thank you!

  11. I agree we have to deal with these issues…that's why I wrote this 😉
    Great video by the way…thanks for sharing!

  12. I'm so glad it gave you a shift in perspective! Ahhhh…the best compliment of them all…
    Thank you for reading and have a good one!

  13. SMC says:

    Excellent article- thank you!

  14. Thanks for reading!

  15. beckymf says:

    Great post (again) Candice! I have often thought a lot about porn (and watch quite a bit of it myself) and been curious about which parts of it I'm willing to own and which parts I'm not. This was my favorite part of the article: "But this kind of experience lacks the very heart of what we do desperately want from our sex—intimacy and vulnerability." Well said!

  16. JoeC2K says:

    Porn "is a reflection of our cultural shadow regarding sex—a result of our own cultural sexual repression." I could not agree more! So much energy is stuck at the 2nd chakra just twisting and turning…

  17. Thanks for reading!

  18. oz_ says:

    Terrifically insightful, IMO, Candice – thanks so much for this offering!

    I have one comment to make: you refer to the Jungian shadow a couple of times, and then at one point you assert that porn is "a highly-exaggerated, masculinized version of sexuality." The Jungian notions of the masculine and feminine, at least as I have come to understand them, incorporate both immature and mature versions of each, and the porn you are describing clearly falls into the bucket of the immature masculine. In fact, most of what is held to be 'masculine' in modern American society tends to be of the immature sort – which is one of the huge cultural challenges we face IMO.

    More on this discussion in Moore and Gillette's 'King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine' in case you're interested.

  19. I will have to check that book out…thanks for reading and for your insights!

  20. Francesca says:


    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I read this to my 63 year-old mother who wholeheartedly agreed on all your points.

    I’m incredibly lucky to have an open dialogue with my mother. At 36 years of age I’m now telling her new things about sex.

    My upbringing allowed me to be okay about sex as long as it was never discussed. Luckily my mum shunned the stiff-upper lip once she left England.

    Thank god because it’s not always easy for some to tell a parent you’re a dominatrix and want to live a BDSM lifestyle.

    She has taken to my penchant for the odd, dark, tattooed and pierced world. So much so that she’s writing an article on it.

    Thank you thank you thank you for being the voice of

    Sexual reason. Now to send this to my ex-husband. Lol

  21. Kip Golden says:

    really great wise article. Thank you.

  22. What a beautiful relationship you must have with your mother that you are able to share your erotic landscape with her. Bravo to you for being a sexual pioneer in this world. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

  23. Thank you for reading!

  24. linda austin says:

    That's my girl! Well done! Linda Austin

    Have just mastered the art of getting on my Facebook – took two years, but it was worth it to connect with you.

  25. Mama A!! How cool to meet you here…and on FB as well–next time I am back home in the ATL, would love to connect vis-à-vis…xoxo

  26. […] inside, when someone feels authentically embodied, confident, connected to spirit, and alive. The practice celebrates sexuality as a sacred creative force to be transmuted into higher channels, a spiritual exercise and a means of attaining oneness and vitality in the body, mind and spirit […]

  27. […] a recent article in elephant journal (The Cultural Shadow of Pornography. ~ Candice Holdorf) about pornography with lots of juicy content that echoes my sentiments almost exactly. I believe […]

  28. Porn can also change your brain in not-so-good ways.

  29. Jennifer says:

    Pinterest is not a person that you give photo credit to . . .Couldn't you find photographs with author's attached to give credit to them?

  30. […] you know me, you know I’m not anti-porn. Again, we’re doing it right. And if we use porn to escape intimacy and validate our egos, rather […]

  31. […] is conducive to craving, insecurity, judgement, manipulation and at worst exploitation. The pornography industry is the most extreme example of […]

  32. […] and the broken ways in the world are all high visibility subjects. I can see something has warped in our culture’s relationship to sex and it is detrimentally affecting the way we all honor men, women and the Earth. This cultural […]

  33. […] and the broken ways in the world are all high visibility subjects. I can see something has warped in our culture’s relationship to sex and it is detrimentally affecting the way we all honor men, women and the Earth. This cultural […]

  34. […] actual definition of “pornographic,” is: “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of […]

  35. […] addiction and the broken ways in the world are all high visibility subjects. I can see something has warped in our culture’s relationship to sex and it is detrimentally affecting the way we all honor men, women and the Earth. This cultural […]

  36. Val says:

    This article helps to sort the conflicting feelings that I have had about porn. Great article! I particularly appreciate the comment by Jennifer Cusano and your response. Thank you for your openness and courage to examine a 'touchy' issue.