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May 7, 2022

Most men are looking at internet porn; and it’s time to be more open about it.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

From the statistics, it seems that a lot of men regularly look at porn (and quite a few women as well, of course). That means that many of us have been turned on by images of women being objectified, disrespected, and/or abused; because, if you’ve looked at any porn sites recently, you’ll know that they’re not the place to look for examples of consensual female-friendly sexuality, non-violence or gender-equality.

Does this mean that most men are sexist pigs who secretly want to dominate and abuse women?  I don’t think so. But it did come as a bit of a shock for me to realise that I’ve never asked any of my friends if they get turned on by porn; and if so, what kind? Which is strange, seeing as we like to talk about everything else that’s going on for us, and are otherwise ready to bare our souls and share our feelings.

So why the reluctance to talk about about our porn-watching habits?  For one thing, I think it’s hard for men who aspire to be fundamentally ‘good’ and have no interest in harming a woman in any way, to come to terms with the fact that they enjoy depictions of sex showing male dominance that may be out of synch with what they believe about gender equality

For me, the ambivalence of male sexuality that’s represented in a lot of porn is a ‘dinosaur in the room’ that we all know is there but try to ignore. Which is a pity, because exploring it more could help us better understand the multi-layered nature of masculine desire, and provide some insights into how we could celebrate and express our maleness without causing harm – moving us all closer to the long-overdue time when no woman would ever again need to be afraid to walk anywhere by themselves

We know about the kind of damage that misogynistic attitudes lead to, and the enormous cost of those to the well-being of women and girls. A permanent ‘man-demic’ of male gender violence has been raging around most of the planet for millennia, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better – as evidenced by the increase in domestic abuse cases in recent years and the relentless news stories about random attacks against women. So why is no-one trying harder to understand the causes of this male dis-ease that causes so much harm, or to find an effective antidote – in the same way that we’ve done with such urgency and effectiveness for that other pandemic that’s been such a big part of our lives?

A good starting point would be need to understand what kind of insecurities makes images of women being dominated so appealing to some men and boys. By recognising the male needs that are fulfilled by porn, individual men and society at large can look for more life- affirming ways of meeting them. For example, I participate in a regular men’s group, where I have the opportunity and encouragement to own up to my secret fears and feelings about sexuality and I’ve been relieved to find that I’m not the only man there who feels them. Together we’ve been able to explore where these ambivalent feelings come from, and what we can do to ensure that we become the kind of ‘good’ men we want to be, for ourselves and for the women in our lives

You can probably guess the first question I’ll be asking my ‘brothers’ at our next gathering! I’m genuinely curious to know how many of us look at porn and what we think about it. Answering honestly might not be easy, but it will be a good way to learn more about our own buried needs, so we can reflect on how to manage them well and become good models of ‘healthy masculinity’.

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