Some sense about porn from Josey Vogels

I don't always love Josey Vogels' column, My Messy Bedroom, but I did like this weeks' column about heterosexual men and porn.

This is an issue that straight women usually have to deal with at some point in their relationships. Most men watch porn, at least a little. Particularly today because it's pretty hard not to, with so much of it around all the time. As I've said before, the woman who thinks her partner doesn't watch porn has a partner who is really good at hiding his porn. The common wisdom for women is that all porn is degrading to women and that a man in a happy relationship should have no need for porn.

These assumptions are both dead wrong. First, yes, a resounding yes, some porn is extremely degrading to women. In fact, quite a lot of it is. But certainly not all of it. And what is degrading is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. It's an extremely complex question of whether a particular depiction is actually misogynistic or degrading and part of the answer lies in the opinion of the person who looks at it. But films of women having sex are not, in and of themselves, degrading. That completely depends on the acts portrayed, the context of it, and the real-life situation in which that film was created. Some porn producers are quite respectful of women, and indeed are women who respect other women.

The second piece of common wisdom is the big issue. Many women believe that a man in a happy and sexually satisfying relationship should have no interest in porn. This could not be further from the truth. Any man, and indeed any woman, who is interested in sex will have some curiosity about porn. It depicts things that s/he may not be able to have in real life, but is interested in. Often it's not even that s/he wants a partner that looks like that or wants to do those things, it's just that the idea is interesting or exciting and watching a porn film is the only way to experience that, or more probably, the only way s/he would ever want to experience that. I am often surprised at the things that I am aroused by. I find it exciting to watch but would never in a million years want to do it in real life!

So I applaud Josey's take on this issue. If you look at the link you'll see comments from a lot of people giving her major grief about it. Oprah did a show about sex a few months ago and she had a woman on who expressed the same viewpoint - that in some cases viewing pornography and erotica can enhance rather than hurt a relationship. There was an absolute shitstorm rained down on her for allowing that opinion to be expressed on her show. The idea that porn is always bad is an ideological viewpoint that a lot of people are not ready to let go of. I believe it comes back to the fact that we have such a deep-seated shame about sexuality in our culture. And I also believe that the real taboo in our culture in not in the sexual things we do or do not do, but rather in being honest and open about it.

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