4.8
November 3, 2012

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

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.

Add 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].

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Editor: Anne Clendening

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