For the love

For the love

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The porn issue...

There is an interesting exchange at The Good Men Project (a name I fairly despise) about honesty and pornography in a relationship. The starting point is a "study" published in Newsweek that linked the viewing of porn more than once in the last month with going to strip clubs, phone sex, and prostitution...and said it made men more violent. I think the "study" as well as the reporting on it is pretty poorly done, and obviously better suited for editorial writing than feature writing. But that's a topic for another day.

I was a serial consumer of pornography for several years before beginning my relationship with Mistress Delila. At one point, I considered it an addiction. I spent money I couldn't afford and stole time and energy away from my primary relationships. But it was not the fault of porn...the fact is that I wasted at least as much time and energy in pure fantasy during my first marriage without the presence of pornography. I hope this isn't too long of an explanation.

When I was growing up, I never saw evidence of a healthy sexual relationship. My conservative Christian upbringing saw it as something dirty, filthy, and disgusting that was a gift of God to be shared only with the one you would spend your entire life with. Between that mixed message and my natural submissiveness, I had very little direct experience with sex. But I had an intense and well-developed fantasy life.

It was through pornography that I first learned of BDSM. When I was left questioning my gender identity, it was through watching porn that I was able to determine what did and did not resonate with me. It helped me understand that I enjoyed my male sexuality far too much to actually want to be a woman. And it helped me identify which kinds of submission did not work for me.

To have done the same thing without porn would have taken several dozen sexual partners, and at least as many potentially dangerous activities and attempts. Whatever else can be said about porn, it helped me connect the feelings of my fantasies with images and those images then led me to understand my innermost needs and desires.

One of the first discussions I had with Mistress Delila was about pornography. I told her how often I was using it (several times per day) and I explained what I was watching and why. I offered to share it with her, but she was really uninterested in that (and I understand why). One day I deleted everything from my hard-drive, stopped all memberships, and simply stopped. I sent her an email, explaining my actions and explaining why I had taken them. She approved.

The reasoning on my part was that I simply did not need or want porn anymore. I wanted Her to be in complete control of the expression of my sexuality (which is fundamentally the major expression of my sexuality...it's a paradox, I know). It was impossible for me to have the kind of relationship with Her that I wanted and to still consume pornography.

As Our relationship deepened, She made it a formal part of Our relationship that I was not allowed to slip back into old habits. And I have never missed it. But there is a very important reason why I haven't missed it and I think that is something that is missing from most discussions on porn.

She listens to me. She genuinely wants to know what turns me on and why. I know She has limits, and I know that, if I were ever to seriously want to talk about why I wanted something that was off-limits, She would listen to me and do so without judgment (note: Our limits actually coincide nicely, so this is only hypothetical). In fact, when things have come up that I was not able to discuss, She refused to let me off the hook and kept gently prodding and leading me to a safe place where I could talk...and it sometimes came out in a huge gushing mess.

This is how She loves me. And it is a kind of love I have never received before...or perhaps I've never been able to receive it because I've never had this kind of formalized D/s dynamic.

Having said all of this, I cannot say that pornography had a purely positive effect in my life. It skewed some expectations and it played up my anxiety about my body and its ability to perform.  It led to the unrealistic expectation that sex is always fast and easy and partners always move in perfect communion without any effort of communication.

In this, however, porn is simply an amplification of all of the negative body image messages that we are bombarded with from all directions. It is not divorced from our culture, but rather a microcosm of it that concentrates all of the expectations and forces of gender rigidity into sexual activity. In that, it is highly toxic.

But I think it is simply idiotic to claim that viewing porn once a month is the same as getting a lap dance in the strip clubs or actually picking up a hooker. It strains credulity beyond the breaking point to claim that it leads men to become violent. I do not think, however, it is asking too much for people in a committed relationship to be honest with each other...but that relationship must be safe and without the fear of backlash in order for that to happen.

Mistress Delila has given me that, and it's a wonderful gift. But I know that everyone is not nearly as lucky as I am. And I think we would all do well to be a lot less judgmental about other people's sexuality, and give them credit for knowing the limits of the relationships in which they live. We need more understanding and love and less hype and hysteria.

And I hope I have contributed to that in some small way.

3 comments:

  1. Jeezus, this kind of association just irritates the hell out of me.

    A couple of years ago, I actually read someplace (too lazy/busy to find it now) that moderate porn viewing actually serves to *reduce* violence because it has a calming effect on some men. Tech/Sex/geek blogger Violet Blue probably has a ton of links on this.

    That said, let's look at the idea that porn gives unrealistic expectations. It's quite possible that some people develop skewed ideas after a diet of Playboy, but can't we say the same thing about pretty much *everything* in the mass media? Do we expect all of our McBurgers to be big, juicy patties? Do we expect every appliance that we buy will last forever and make us the envy of our social crowd? Does every woman develop body issues because of Victoria's Secret commercials? Does every man feel fat and useless after watching the latest Brad Pitt movie?

    Images in the media are always portraying, if not the ideal, then something that is to be desired by (presumably) the majority of the market population. But somehow, most of us learn to differentiate between unrealistic expectations and the achievable. Viewing porn is -- or shouldn't be -- any different.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Tom. Sorry it took so long to answer.

    I'm not surprised to hear of evidence linking porn to a decrease in violence. I think it can be very cathartic.

    And I agree that viewing porn is not any different than viewing the tons of other media images...both the good and the bad. After all, there is no shortage of connections between the impossible standards of beauty and fitness presented on TV and in movies and the growing number of health problems and body image problems that people suffer.

    Where porn is different is that it is about sex and sex is a primary means by which people relate to someone they love. So whereas we look at pictures of the perfect human body and feel bad about ourselves in comparison, when we internalize porn, we are also internalizing images and attitudes about our closest personal relationship.

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