Friday, May 23, 2008

On Being a Bookworm, Part Two - why do men look at porn?

Probably the most radical way that being a Feminist impacted my everyday life is that I found myself morally conflicted over my very large stash of porn. After discovering that many people are anti-porn without the usual religious justifications (see: One Angry Girl's website), I found it much easier to throw out my collection without feeling like I was anti-sex or pandering to moral conservatives.

Because pornography is something that used to be such a big part of my life, the first book I picked up at the library happened to be Pamela Paul's Pornified. I hoped the book would help clarify various opinions that I entertained about the adult industry.

Even though I am only fifty or so pages into the book, I can already tell that Paul is an excellent author. Her first chapter frames later arguments in such a way that the conclusion she wants you to make seems natural. She only introduces her radical or controversial premises where the reader should have already entertained them with the presented data. Her writing is manipulative, so to speak, albeit in an admirable fashion.

Through polls and first-hand narratives, Paul identifies various reasons why men view pornography habitually:

  1. As a learning tool - how to get women, interesting sexual practices, anatomy, what turns him on and what does not
  2. Instant gratification - cheap, a way to quickly get aroused and masturbate,
  3. Dissatisfaction - SO will not be adventurous in bed, he is lonely, he wants some variety, SO isn't around, SO is cranky or not attractive
  4. Boredom - it's entertaining, the really disgusting stuff is funny, something to do at work, out of curiosity, a voyeuristic look into someone else's sex life
  5. Insecurities - puts men in power and control always, lets a man look at women he feels he cannot attract in reality, a way to demean women after having to treat them as equals all day, a haven for men, looking at abusive painful situations for attractive women as punishment for not having sex with them, critiquing porn stars to make themselves feel better
  6. Safety - no emotional investment, no chance of rejection, no need to be attractive yourself, no hard to please women

And how they excuse the habit:

  1. Men are beastial, without porn there would be more rape and murder
  2. Men need variety, to sow their oats
  3. Everyone does it unless they are frigid or overly religious
  4. It's an appreciation of beauty

I thought her passage on the porn fantasy was especially poignant:

The women in pornography exist in order to please men, and are therefore willing to do anything. The will dominate or act submissive. They can play dumb or talk back, moan quietly or scream, cry in anger or pleasure. They will accommodate whatever a man wants them to do, be it anal sex, double penetration, or multiple orgasms. The porn star is always responsive; she would never complain about a man being late or taking too long to come... She's easily aroused, naturally and consistently orgasmic, and malleable. She is what he wants her to be. She's a cheerleader, a nurse, a virgin, a teenager, your best friend's mother. She is every woman who was ever out of your league. She's the girl next door, the prom queen, the hot teacher, the supermodel, the celebrity. She is every woman who ever did the rejecting. She used to be a lesbian, she used to be frigid, she used to be a virgin. She is every woman who cannot be had. Now she loves sex, she can't get enough of it; she can't get enough of sex with you. She is every woman who should appreciate you... each encounter begins anew, meeting as welcome strangers and parting with gratitude.

Of all the requirements for enjoyable pornography, men most commonly cite the appearance of a woman's pleasure as key. She has to seem as if she's having fun... she should make the viewer feel that she's doing what she does because she wants to.

"The women in porn tend to act as though the sex act is earth shattering every time, even though realistically speaking, it's not like that all the time," Ethan says. "But it's still fantastic--that enthusiasm really appeals to me." Asked if his wife is enthusiastic about sex he says in a lackluster voice, "yeah, I guess so." But he goes on to say, "the women in porn are just different, though, and that's the appeal. I like the whole innocence vibe of young girls. The tautness of youth, tighter and clearer skin, the bright faces." His wife, Candace is already twenty-nine years old, a good decade past his ideal.

What porn presents is the complete objectification of women. Not only do they exist only as you want them, when you want them, they are always happy to serve you.

If I spent my day looking at pictures of expensive sports cars, nobody would doubt that I would jump at the chance to own one. The same principle applies to men and pornography: what they look at is undoubtedly what they want. However, they don't want a Porn Star--a woman using her body for a paycheck, who is sexually available to anyone with money--they want a monogamous porn star: a woman that is sexually available only to them, who thinks first of their pleasure in bed, asks for nothing in return, and is infinitely grateful for their attention. I do not want the car payments that go along with the sports car. I want nothing of the expensive reality of owning a high-maintenance vehicle. Men who view porn are the same; I surmise that they do not want the sexually empowered porn star, they want someone whose sexuality is dependent on his whims, someone that only exists solely please him. He does not want the porn star, but the character she plays.

View previous parts of this series: Part One

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