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Let’s Talk About Porn

Let’s talk about porn. I have a history with porn. I think we all do to some extent. The longer you have been alive, the longer your history…

This is already boring me.

I grew up reading the Penthouse Forum. Which was, or possibly still is, a column in Penthouse Magazine. This is essentially literary porn, for you young readers who have no idea what I am referring to. Is it still around? I have no idea. When my step dad went, so too did the collection of Penthouse Magazines.

Super sexy, hot, and graphic. At least this is how I remember it. Please take into account that this is from the perspective of a twelve-year-old. Girl. Circa 1980. It is possible that it was either the most mild soft-core, girl-centric, women honoring material or that it was violent, abusive, misogynistic, filth. I most certainly did not have, nor am I currently in possession of any true frame of reference.

Literary porn was quite the rage when I was in Jr High. In fact, clever me who had current possession of some random pornographic paperback book that was being passed around the school thought I would be super sneaky and make one of those paper grocery bag book covers for my porn book and write “The Wind In The Willows” on the cover. I may have even attempted to draw a picture resembling that on the actual book cover. If it were not for the fact that we all passed it around chemistry class gasping and giggling, my instructor would not have been suspicious of my “Wind in the Willows” book. I was a good student and a “good girl”. Teacher’s pet-ish.

One day, he did become suspicious, gee shocking, and he took my book from one of my classmates and brought it up to his desk. We held our collective breath. Actually. He sat down. He opened it up and he looked at it right there in front of the class and then he looked up from the pages and his gaze found me. He had tears in his eyes. I was devastated. I don’t recall being scared at all for whatever punishment this might bring. It did not occur to me. I had hurt him. He was hurt and he, a grown man, a teacher, was crying in front of a room full of 8th graders. Because of me. He stifled his tears and continued with our lesson. I can still see him. I see his face. His concern. His fear? Perhaps he knew something our young undeveloped brains did not. Perhaps he was telling us all something. He was, whether he knew it or not. The question is, were we listening? I was crushed. I loved this teacher and he loved me and here he was crying in front of my entire class. For me. For the loss of my innocence, or so it seemed. I think about this often actually and I am still sad and sorry. Not that I was reading porn in 8th grade, but that I hurt him.

As I moved into adulthood, I would say that I could take or leave porn. I was not deeply offended and I was not “into it”. I had some boyfriends who were as into it as one was back in the late 80’s but it did not play a huge role in my life, much less my sex life. I did have a good friend who I grew up with get tangled up in the porn industry in our late teens and so I got a bit of a bird’s eye view of the reality, at least through her experience. Started out with a photoshoot with her then-boyfriend for some low rung porn mag and she was on the fast track. More photo shoots, films. Awful films. Lots of drugs, very little pay, if any, no options, and downright dirty and sleazy. She got out. A very long time ago. She teaches yoga now. Of course she does. I am not belittling her or her experience. She is rad. She is a badass. This happened to her. It is powerful.

I was at an Elton John concert in 1986 with my then-boyfriend who was pretty inattentive at best and when you add in some coke and some rockstars, forget it. He is out of the relationship.

While mingling alone backstage, I met a really nice couple and we got talking, about the stock market of all things, and this is a whole different crazytown story but for the purposes of this, we developed an alternative relationship. The three of us. They (he) were much older and much more sophisticated than I. I was their project, decked out in my Cinderella concert t-shirt, my Levi’s and cowboy boots. My uniform back in the day and strangely again. She was an actress. Very fancy. Grown up. Sophisticated. Dressed like a real lady. Not some groupie teenager (me). That evening he commented to her that I reminded him of Ginger. She does, his girlfriend replied. Ginger Lynn. She was a friend of theirs… Didn’t know her. Apparently she was also an actress. The next time I saw them, he had a Ginger Lynn t-shirt for me. She was a porn star and apparently I reminded them of her. She was cute. I took it as a compliment. Still. This was back in the day when you had to walk into a video rental store and go back behind a black curtain into the porn section and they all but checked id’s. I would come to find out that they were somewhat involved in the porn industry. Not heavy but she had been in at least a few. He may have produced… Who knows? I found this out accidentally, when behind the curtain many years later, I saw her face on a box. OMG that is Jennifer. She had another name. Obvi. I was shocked. My girlfriend who thought the “friendship” was strange and even dangerous, was not even slightly surprised. I remembered Jennifer telling me countless tales of being “on location” in some foreign country and the costumes she wore and how heavy they were, and what hard work it was to wear them in the hot sun. Blah blah etc. Epic. I was wide-eyed and very impressed. She also happened to be an accomplished equestrian which for me legitimized anything that came out of her mouth. I didn’t question her. Literally or figuratively. Yet, why had I never heard of her or any of her films? Maybe they hadn’t been released yet. She was a superstar on the brink. This time next year… They were porns, sweet child. She was wearing some random egyptian headdress on the box.

Didn’t figure it out until long after we had been “intimate”. Ooooooops. Maybe Lili was right about the dangerous bit? Checked out. All good. Nobody hurt.

So porn.

I took it and left it and never really gave it much thought or comment until about 4 years ago. Just looked that up. Publishing date of the book, 2016. Seemed so much longer ago. Anyway. About 4 years ago the topic of porn came up. I had the good fortune to be included in a small talk led by the author of a book on teenage girls and sex. I will not name her as I am going to loosely quote her and I cannot rely on my memory and it was not an interview and I just can’t be sure of what she said, only of what I heard.

What I heard was that porn is the problem when it comes to the problems of teenagers and sex. Porn distorts what young boys come to believe sex looks like and in turn what young girls think it should look like and how they should look and perform. The extreme ease of availability of porn anywhere for anyone, including our young children, has taken off like wildfire and we cannot turn back. Their young minds, absent a fully formed cerebral cortex, are being faced with images that may lay the foundation for their sex lives. What the Fuck! I have three children who at the time were 11, 11, and 12. I sat them down immediately. I said, “Have you seen porn? Well, you are going to see some porn. Soon, I am guessing and I am also guessing I won’t be invited.” They were horrified. I was horrified that they were horrified because that meant they knew what porn was! It is too late I thought. Their minds have been poisoned. I continued. I said, “Porn is not real. Girls do not look like that or act like that.” Boy was I wrong. Fuck me. They do. Because that is where the bar was set for this generation. Boy sees porn. Boy sets expectations. Boy has sex with real girl. Boy is disappointed. Girl watches porn. Takes instruction. Sadly, she still doesn’t measure up. Hence erectile dysfunction, which I will get to.

I am not going to jump on a high horse right now. I could. This horse is so high. Someone else will and I am sure has already done, a better job riding this horse.

I drilled down after the talk with this unnamed author. I found anything I could on the topic.

One of the sad discoveries I made was that teenage boys have among the highest rates of erectile dysfunction of any age group. This is being attributed to porn. Insatiability. If you are watching girls with bleached asses pull trains on your phone all day, the real girl regardless of how much instruction she has taken, will not measure up. She will not elicit the same response. Not emotionally or chemically or physically or any way.

I recently asked my now 4 years older children about porn. How much is out there? Are their friends or classmates watching? How much?

Apparently it ranges. Guys with girlfriends watch less. Guys without watch more. Guys with girlfriends who don’t “put out” watch even more. If you ask my son, it isn’t really an issue. How could they know if it is an issue. What is their frame of reference? They were raised in this climate. Maybe my kids are abnormal. Which would be great, if the norm is watching a lot of porn or being influenced by it. I need a bigger sample. My daughters giggle when I ask them. I asked them and their girlfriends for the umteenth time. They are over me. They humor me and answer and then lose their patience and walk out of the room. They say “every boy ever” watches porn. They and their friends have all seen it. They apparently watch it together. In groups. And have been, since the 6th grade. “But as a joke”. They say they think it is disgusting and it makes them uncomfortable. They claim that they do not think it is realistic or that it sets any expectations for them regarding sex. Who knows.

If I thought this was an affliction of the young I would be mistaken.

Porn is ruining sex and love lives everywhere. In mature, grown up relationships. That sounds so melodramatic, I know. Yet, truth. I have experienced it firsthand to a small degree. I briefly dated someone (young) who had trouble maintaining an erection. I speculate that porn could have been the culprit. We did not get to know one another well enough or spend enough time together for me to say for certain, but there were clues. He joked about porn. Often. He would tell me he was going to watch it, and then laugh. I never really knew if he was serious or why exactly he was telling me. Or laughing. He said he was only into “girl on girl”. Hmmmmmmm.

I cannot be (and clearly was not) as arousing as porn. Or two girls. I am only one. I am real. I am flawed.

I bring up the topic or it brings itself up, as it does. It seems that it is worse than I imagined. It has not affected me directly to any great degree. I am not in a long term committed relationship where I am forced to compete with porn. The stories I hear are shocking. They do not seem real. How is it possible? Yet they are happening and so destructive. For all my research and drilling I do not know the extent. Although it is revealing itself. What we know is that porn can be an addiction and it is affecting men, women, and families. Just the other night I sat with a friend and once again the topic came up… She told me the story of two of her best girlfriends whose husbands are “addicted” to porn. What constitutes an addiction? I am sure the criteria are the same as for any other addiction. She went into some pretty awful detail. One of them is in the middle of a divorce as a result.

I would like to add that I have contemplated the fact that boys and men are also faced with expectations for their own performance and anatomy as represented in porn. However, this is about porn addiction and how porn is negatively impacting sex and intimacy. It is my understanding that it is men who have trouble maintaining an erection due to an insatiability syndrome caused by watching too much porn. That was a really long sentence. Point is, I have not spoken to enough men or spoken to experts on this topic and so I cannot speak to it accurately, which is why I don’t. I do imagine that men must have their own insecurities although I do not believe this to be the issue of which I am speaking. I have not heard any stories of men who are complaining to their friends that their wives are watching too much porn and as a result are unsatisfied in the bedroom by their partner’s inability to measure up, literally or figuratively. I am not saying this phenomenon does not exist, just that I have not come across it.

Addendum:

I just sat with two girlfriends. One was commenting on how she didn’t see her boyfriend much due to his work and travel schedule and as a result they had not had sex for months.

“Who is he having sex with when he is not with you?” my other girlfriend asked.

“No one, I don’t think”, she replied.

“Porn?” the other asked.

“I think he might be into it. Not sure to what degree,” she responded.

“Run for your life. It will destroy your relationship. It will destroy your self-esteem”, girlfriend number one proclaimed emphatically. And she broke into her story. The story of she and her husband of ten years. He was into porn. Really into porn. To the degree that they did not have much sex, which caused her self-esteem to plummet, which in turn led her to gain a small amount of weight, which is now the reason he claims he is no longer attracted to her. And so, of course, less sex…

Another Addendum:

After our conversation yesterday, my girlfriend (the one whose husband is into porn) called me. She said, “I have a story for you. I got permission for you to write it. I had to ask. You don’t know her and if you did, you would never know it was her, or them as the case may be.”

This story is about a woman and a man, married for ten years more or less. Beautiful people. Exquisite “highly sought after female” as my girlfriend describes her. “In every way. Our age”, she says. Which is 50ish. These are grown ups. Not teens. Not twenty or thirty-somethings.

Cautionary tale.

If you are not certain how into porn your partner is, leave it at that. If you can live with what you do know or what you don’t know, the lack of sex and physical affection, and any other by-products of his affliction, turn a blind eye. I, unfortunately, became so frustrated by my husband’s porn addiction, I could no longer look the other way. I felt as though I could not compete. I was trying, and I was losing. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I thought.

I told him I wanted to participate. In his porn addiction.

And so it began. We experimented to see exactly how I might fit it.

Here is where we landed.

There is a television in our bedroom. We are positioned on the bed so that he can see the television over me as I lie under him. Sometimes I lie on my back, sometimes on my hands and knees.

The porn plays on the television. It is our soundtrack. Mine anyway, as I cannot see what is happening up there. Not only due to my positioning, but also because… wait for it…

Over my face, or the back of my head, depending of course on my position, is a pornographic magazine. So if, on the off-chance, his gaze happens to wander off of the television and finds me, the woman beneath him, his wife, he is not violently torn from his fantasy and faced with the reality that it is me he is actually fucking.

Porn.

It’s a thing.

Comments please.

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