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'↓'the porn myth by naomi'↓'

The Porn Myth
In the end, porn doesn’t whet
men’s appetites—it turns them
off the real thing.
* By Naomi Wolf

At a benefit the other night, I
saw Andrea Dworkin, the anti-
porn activist most famous in the
eighties for her conviction that
opening the floodgates of
pornography would lead men to
see real women in sexually
debased ways. If we did not limit
pornography, she argued—
before Internet technology made
that prospect a technical
impossibility—most men would
come to objectify women as they
objectified porn stars, and treat
them accordingly. In a kind of
domino theory, she predicted,
rape and other kinds of sexual
mayhem would surely follow.
The feminist warrior looked
gentle and almost frail. The world
she had, Cassandra-like, warned
us about so passionately was
truly here: Porn is, as David
Amsden says, the“wallpaper” of
our lives now. So was she right
or wrong?
She was right about the warning,
wrong about the outcome. As
she foretold, pornography did
breach the dike that separated a
marginal, adult, private pursuit
from the mainstream public
arena. The whole world, post-
Internet, did become
pornographized. Young men and
women are indeed being taught
what sex is, how it looks, what
its etiquette and expectations
are, by pornographic training—
and this is having a huge effect
on how they interact.
But the effect is not making men
into raving beasts. On the
contrary: The onslaught of porn
is responsible for deadening
male libido in relation to real
women, and leading men to see
fewer and fewer women as
“porn-worthy.” Far from having
to fend off porn-crazed young
men, young women are
worrying that as mere flesh and
blood, they can scarcely get, let
alone hold, their attention.
Here is what young women tell
me on college campuses when
the subject comes up: They can’t
compete, and they know it. For
how can a real woman—with
pores and her own breasts and
even sexual needs of her own
(let alone with speech that goes
beyond“More, more, you big
stud!”)—possibly compete with a
cybervision of perfection,
downloadable and
extinguishable at will, who
comes, so to speak, utterly
submissive and tailored to the
consumer’s least specification?
For most of human history, erotic
images have been reflections of,
or celebrations of, or substitutes
for, real naked women. For the
first time in human history, the
images’ power and allure have
supplanted that of real naked
women. Today, real naked
women are just bad porn.
For two decades, I have watched
young women experience the
continual“mission creep” of
how pornography—and now
Internet pornography—has
lowered their sense of their own
sexual value and their actual
sexual value. When I came of age
in the seventies, it was still pretty
cool to be able to offer a young
man the actual presence of a
naked, willing young woman.
There were more young men
who wanted to be with naked
women than there were naked
women on the market. If there
was nothing actively alarming
about you, you could get a pretty
enthusiastic response by just
showing up. Your boyfriend may
have seen Playboy, but hey, you
could move, you were warm, you
were real. Thirty years ago,
simple lovemaking was
considered erotic in the
pornography that entered
mainstream consciousness:
When Behind the Green Door
first opened, clumsy, earnest,
missionary-position intercourse
was still considered to be a huge
turn-on.
Well, I am 40, and mine is the last
female generation to experience
that sense of sexual confidence
and security in what we had to
offer. Our younger sisters had to
compete with video porn in the
eighties and nineties, when
intercourse was not hot enough.
Now you have to offer—or
flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian
scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face
scene. Being naked is not
enough; you have to be buff, be
tan with no tan lines, have the
surgically hoisted breasts and the
Brazilian bikini wax—just like
porn stars. (In my gym, the 40-
year-old women have adult pubic
hair; the twentysomethings have
all been trimmed and styled.)
Pornography is addictive; the
baseline gets ratcheted up. By
the new millennium, a vagina—
which, by the way, used to have
a pretty high“exchange value,”
as Marxist economists would say
—wasn’t enough; it barely
registered on the thrill scale. All
mainstream porn—and certainly
the Internet—made routine use
of all available female orifices.
The porn loop is de rigueur, no
longer outside the pale; starlets
in tabloids boast of learning to
strip from professionals; the
“cool girls” go with guys to the
strip clubs, and even ask for lap
dances; college girls are expected
to tease guys at keg parties with
lesbian kisses à la Britney and
Madonna.
But does all this sexual imagery
in the air mean that sex has been
liberated—or is it the case that
the relationship between the
multi-billion-dollar porn industry,
compulsiveness, and sexual
appetite has become like the
relationship between
agribusiness, processed foods,
supersize portions, and obesity?
If your appetite is stimulated and
fed by poor-quality material, it
takes more junk to fill you up.
People are not closer because of
porn but further apart; people
are not more turned on in their
daily lives but less so.
The young women who talk to
me on campuses about the effect
of pornography on their intimate
lives speak of feeling that they
can never measure up, that they
can never ask for what they
want; and that if they do not
offer what porn offers, they
cannot expect to hold a guy. The
young men talk about what it is
like to grow up learning about
sex from porn, and how it is not
helpful to them in trying to figure
out how to be with a real
woman. Mostly, when I ask about
loneliness, a deep, sad silence
descends on audiences of young
men and young women alike.
They know they are lonely
together, even when conjoined,
and that this imagery is a big
part of that loneliness. What they
don’t know is how to get out,
how to find each other again
erotically, face-to-face.
So Dworkin was right that
pornography is compulsive, but
she was wrong in thinking it
would make men more
rapacious. A whole generation of
men are less able to connect
erotically to women—and
ultimately less libidinous.
The reason to turn off the porn
might become, to thoughtful
people, not a moral one but, in a
way, a physical- and emotional-
health one; you might want to
rethink your constant access to
porn in the same way that, if you
want to be an athlete, you
rethink your smoking. The
evidence is in: Greater supply of
the stimulant equals diminished
capacity.
After all, pornography works in
the most basic of ways on the
brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm
is one of the biggest reinforcers
imaginable. If you associate
orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a
scent, a body, that is what, over
time, will turn you on; if you
open your focus to an endless
stream of ever-more-
transgressive images of cybersex
slaves, that is what it will take to
turn you on. The ubiquity of
sexual images does not free eros
but dilutes it.
Other cultures know this. I am
not advocating a return to the
days of hiding female sexuality,
but I am noting that the power
and charge of sex are
maintained when there is some
sacredness to it, when it is not
on tap all the time. In many more
traditional cultures, it is not
prudery that leads them to
discourage men from looking at
pornography. It is, rather,
because these cultures
understand male sexuality and
what it takes to keep men and
women turned on to one
another over time—to help men,
in particular, to, as the Old
Testament puts it,“rejoice with
the wife of thy youth; let her
breasts satisfy thee at all times.”
These cultures urge men not to
look at porn because they know
that a powerful erotic bond
between parents is a key element
of a strong family.
And feminists have
misunderstood many of these
prohibitions.
I will never forget a visit I made
to Ilana, an old friend who had
become an Orthodox Jew in
Jerusalem. When I saw her again,
she had abandoned her jeans
and T-shirts for long skirts and a
head scarf. I could not get over it.
Ilana has waist-length, wild and
curly golden-blonde hair.“Can’t I
even see your hair?” I asked,
trying to find my old friend in
there.“No,” she demurred
quietly. “Only my husband,” she
said with a calm sexual
confidence,“ever gets to see my
hair.”
When she showed me her little
house in a settlement on a hill,
and I saw the bedroom, draped
in Middle Eastern embroideries,
that she shares only with her
husband—the kids are not
allowed—the sexual intensity in
the air was archaic,
overwhelming. It was private. It
was a feeling of erotic intensity
deeper than any I have ever
picked up between secular
couples in the liberated West.
And I thought: Our husbands see
naked women all day—in Times
Square if not on the Net. Her
husband never even sees
another woman’s hair.
She must feel, I thought, so hot.
Compare that steaminess with a
conversation I had at
Northwestern, after I had talked
about the effect of porn on
relationships.“Why have sex
right away?” a boy with ...


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