Rhonda Perky ponders the place of porn in the ‘real world’
‘Of course I don’t fantasise about my current partner when I masturbate – I get to have real sex with them.’ — Mr ‘Long Rod’ McHugen Dong
Modern men have access to more hardcore porn than ever before, but according to Gail Dines in ‘Porn has hijacked sexuality and is destroying men’ (The Age, October 14, 2010), this isn’t necessarily what they want. Constant exposure is causing men to complain of being porn-reliant, or even forming an addiction to hardcore pornography, and that this is having a flow-on effect to the way they relate to women in the ‘real world’.
I’m not arguing a case for or against porn, hardcore or otherwise, but I do want to look at some of the issues Dines raises.
Dines makes the point that due to an increased exposure to hardcore porn, men report needing to fantasise in order to achieve orgasm during sex.
‘What troubles many of these men most is that they need to pull up the porn images in their head in order to have an orgasm with their partner. They replay porn scenes in their minds, or think about having sex with their favourite porn star when they are with their partners.’
I hate to disappoint all the men out there who believe their women are being taken over the edge by their awesomely sexy presence and superior technique, but chances are those moans are as much about what is going on inside the woman’s mind as what you are doing to their body. (Don’t get me wrong, what you do is important — VERY important — it’s just that a combination of mind and body is usually required to get us there).
Certainly there is a case for the argument that hardcore porn desensitises men. If they’re accustomed to watching extremely graphic images, a tame session of pink-lace lingerie, muffled moans and missionary probably isn’t going to compare. But to be fair, it’s also a stretch for women to imagine that beer belly and B.O. is really a tanned and deodorised six-pack.
‘These men have become so accustomed to porn sex that some are disappointed by their own sexual performance. When they compare themselves with the male porn actors, who can sustain Viagra-fortified erections for long periods, the guys I talk to often admit to feeling like sexual losers, and worry something is wrong with them.’
‘Many of the men I talk to believe that porn sex is what women want, and they become upset and angry when their sex partner, perhaps their wife, girlfriend, or a one night hook-up, refuses to look or behave like their favourite porn star. The women often refuse to perform the sex acts the men have routinely enjoyed watching, and next to the screaming orgasms and sexual gymnastics of porn sex, real sex with real women starts to feel boring and bland.’
I won’t talk here about the questions the article raises on the content of hardcore porn – I’ll save that for another story, but I will argue that the difference here for men and women is that women have had to make do with very little hardcore stimulation for a very long time. Mills and Boon, the pages of our favourite novels that fall open at the mention of a lifted skirt and heaving bosom, or a movie scene where the heroine is pressed up against the wall in a passionate embrace by her robust anti hero (this may be part of the reason for women’s reportedly low libidos — again, I’ll leave that for another post), but this has in some ways kept our ‘boudoir’ imaginations relatively active. We have to continually fill in the blanks.
Male-oriented pornography on the other hand leaves very little to the imagination (though I would argue it takes a ‘special’ kind of imagination to believe she really wants you to shove that enormous dildo up her ass and then lick it). Men become desensitised, but they also become lazy. When the images are presented to you, when you are slapped in the face with them, you don’t have to do the work.
This is possibly the real tragedy. Like tobacco or caffeine or any other stimulant, it is to the advantage of the supplier to build user-dependence. A dysfunctional sex-life is a by-product but also a market-force, turning users into repeat users, and ensuring a constant market for more and more extreme stimulation.
Men and women are the losers here.