[Originally published in 2012]
Relationships are tough. They have always been, right? When things become complicated in a relationship, we all know the best thing is to complicate them more. That’s where pornography comes in. Take a good relationship — add porn usage, and you have the potential for a whole heap of problems. Are you having enough sex? The right kind? Are you sexy enough? Tan enough? Have big enough boobs? Have a giant penis? Can you last all night? These questions are raised through the medium of pornography, and they create false expectations about the body and about sex. Objectification becomes the importance; love is no longer the main factor.
Now, I am not saying it is impossible to watch porn and be in a healthy, loving relationship. However, like most of our society, the consequences are not considered before the action. I believe there is a strong correlation between porn, expectations, and normalcy. The game has changed. Expectations have changed. What was expected from sex before the pornography explosion was something which merely joined the union of two souls into one — love-making. Now, there is still a union of sorts mixed with a combination of the gymnastic skills you had back in seventh grade, the eating habits of a bird, and the willingness to be of service.
There is no longer mystery with the illustrations we have of sex through pornography. I was recently asked, “How would you explain sex to an eight-year-old?” (Let me preface by saying this was during stand-up comedy, which I performed.) I answered, “I would make the kid watch porn because the reality is that that is what sex is now.” It’s filled with perfect hair, tanned bodies, tattoos above the ass, and of course, perfectly fit bodies. It’s like still believing in Santa Claus when you know it’s fake. It’s delusional — unrealistic. So when we have people using pornography as an education tool — a point of reference that ultimately sets expectations that are not real and evades boundaries. In a sexual scenario that’s embraced through the lens of pornography, it is challenging as a woman to not begin to judge yourself. Being I am not a guy, I cannot speak for one, but I imagine there is some form of insecurity that forms as well.
Turn Me Into Gold
Sex is supposed to be fun intimate. Out of all the places in a relationship that get critical or complicated, one would like to think sex would be the one place that would maintain its sacristy. Now we’ve allowed porn to turn all of us into commodities — part of porn’s money-making machine adherence to capitalism in its truest form. As a person, if you are viewed as a commodity, you become upgradable: plastic surgery — for the small breasted girl in you, vaginoplasty — to tighten you up, phalloplasty — for your small penis, anal bleaching — for the detail-oriented person in you, exercise — for the fat that makes you unlike the billions in the world, and tanning — for the Charlie and the Chocolate factory fan in you thus increasing your personal value. Men appear to not be judged as critically because they are merely part of the scenery in porn; juxtapose this against the saying “women’s bodies are just more beautiful,” and men become interchangeable. In being a commodity, you can also become an old model or never even make it on the market because you’re not seen as valuable. God forbid you to get old — you might as well pack yourself up in a box along with your ShamWows. All this markets to the consumer is you’re not good enough how you are; therefore, you shouldn’t value yourself because no one else will. You are somehow subpar in contrast to the billions of other people in the world. Now in relationships, people will often seek someone to make them feel of value or to make them feel happy with themselves; after all, as long as you know someone loves you — you matter. With the infiltration of porn and its ability to make the ordinary person feel inadequate or as if they are interchangeable, how would any person ever gain the confidence and assurance alone? Say goodbye to healthy individuals and relationships.
Now, This Is Getting Uncomfortable
Now I have seen a fair share of porn, and I have to say the way these women manipulate their bodies makes them part-time human contortionists in my book. I, for one, know that shaping your body in these ways can be extremely uncomfortable. Why is sex become about being uncomfortable? Both people are supposed to be enjoying themselves, sharing, and experiencing love — both being satisfied. When a woman’s legs are situated behind her head, only one person is enjoying himself while the other is cramping up. However, this is the expectation: women should be able to take it and enjoy it.
On the other hand, men should be able to last all night. They should be able to satisfy their women first, all the while holding back from feeling any pleasure which would cause a sudden premature release and thus a disappointment. The reality is these ideas and expectations are all a part of the fantasy which porn sells us on, but when are we going to be smart enough to realize there is a difference between fantasy which is bought, and reality which is inescapable. To be the woman a man wants isn’t just about putting your physical body into uncomfortable positions but also in uncomfortable costumes. The cost of these costumes, which transform you into a sexy woman, is quite frankly — expensive. But men want to see a woman in lingerie. The problem with that is it costs a fortune, and it’s only on for five seconds (and it’s dry clean only!). On one such occasion, I found myself giving in to this idea of a sexy costume idea, and I ventured to purchase lingerie for my then-boyfriend Eric. So I went to the classiest place I knew, Fredrick’s of Hollywood. After shopping, I reached his house and greeted him at the side gate.
“Hey, you! Guess what?” I told him eagerly.
“What?” He responded.
“I have a surprise for you!” I told him eagerly.
“Oh, really. What is it?” He asked inquisitively.
“Well, let me into your room, and once I have your surprise ready, I’ll let you know, and then you can come in,” I said excitedly.
So, I walked into the house, and Eric let me into his room, and I began pulling out my Fredrick’s of Hollywood expensive paraphernalia. As I sorted through the stockings, garter belt, panties, and corset, I realized I had no idea how to put this puzzle together. I took the challenge on. I undressed and put the corset on, which took me about five minutes because of the placement of the back clasp. Luckily for me, my double-jointed elbows finally came in handy for something other than scaring small children. After managing to get the corset on, I noticed that my body was getting really red from all of the commotion, and I was sweating profusely. I proceeded with the panties, as that’s basic. I then put on the garter belt and the stockings. The point of the garter belt (yes, there is actually a utility purpose for a garter belt) is to hold up the stockings. So, attached to the garter belt are four hooks, two on the front and two on the back. The ones in the back took up most of my time. They are conveniently located right below your bottom in the center of the back of your thigh, and there is no way to effectively view, thus affix, the hooks to the stocking. In the middle of securing the second hook, there is a knock at the door.
“Hey, are you okay in there it’s been like twenty minutes?” Eric asked.
“Ya, I’m fine, almost ready. Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you turn on the air conditioner? It’s really hot in here.” I replied.
I checked myself out in the mirror, and I was lobster red, my whole body. This color was contrasted against my blue and black ensemble, which only accented the redness. Since I was also sweating, my legs began to itch incredibly bad under the stockings. This, of course, spurred a violent scratching session which subsequently ripped my twenty — six dollar stockings. I sat on Eric’s bed for a few minutes hoping the redness would diminish — it didn’t. Needless to say, I wasn’t really feeling sexy; I was feeling tired. I finally let Eric in the room, and he was happy about his surprise but laughed at me for how long it took me and how red I was. When things finally started progressing, I realized there was more technique in putting on the panties than I was aware of. You are supposed to put them on over the garter belt. The situation became less about being sexy and more about the moment being funny.
Porn and its Sticky Situations
Porn is perfect for the selfish and for the lazy love maker. It makes it easier for a guy or girl to masturbate than to put effort into having sex with your partner. Sex becomes a selfish, in its truest form, task. Again, it is about the release and not about a shared, loving experience. A previous boyfriend of mine was an avid porn watcher. I didn’t mind the porn as an activity, but the daily use was ridiculous. He was an addict in many fashions. It came to the point where I would wake up in the middle of the night to an empty — previously occupied — bed. I could hear the computer mouse clicking and see the bright fluorescent light from the screen, but all else was quiet. Like a search and rescue team, I shout, “Jeeeeery” The light from the screen instantly fades. He came into the bedroom butt naked bearing an erection. “Ya?”
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Just looking at stuff on Craigslist.”
I knew he was lying. Knowing from your gut and knowing from the evidence isn’t that different; one just provides proof. So he climbs into bed next to me and goes to sleep. The next morning he is in the kitchen, and I walk into the office — where Jerry’s computer and a desk are set up. I step in something wet. It’s not a big spill, just a small spot. Now, I know I shouldn’t touch it — or smell it — but I do. When I touched it and smelt it, I knew instantly what it was and couldn’t believe it was on my carpet. With my fingertips covered in the film, I walk into the living room carrying the inquisitive attitude of Olivia Benson with my hand cocked like Diana Ross from the Supremes.
“What is this?” I ask.
“What are you talking about?”
“This wet stuff that I stepped in on the floor in the bedroom. It smells like jizz.”
“What? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Well, there is something wet on the floor, and you were in there, so what is it?”
“It’s probably water.”
“Oh really? It’s water? It doesn’t smell like water.”
“It’s water, Ash.”
“Okay, well, if it’s water, then lick it.”
I held out my hand, open palm in his face. I wish for my story’s sake I could say he licked it, but he didn’t. Now, the problem in this situation is not the porn per se, but the selfishness that is tied to porn. I cannot say we had a healthy relationship in any sense of the word because, as individuals, neither of us was particularly healthy. This situation became my alarm clock every morning. It was through these particular months my five senses were tested and heightened; I would lie in bed and listen to the various sounds to make out what was going on, I would carefully crawl on the floor from one room to the other to peer into the office to see what I could see. It wasn’t so much I wanted to catch him; I just didn’t understand porn’s lure.
On the times I would try to talk to him about he would just reply, “I just like looking at porn.” I still didn’t understand. At the time, we had been dating for about seven years or so, and we were engaged, and we weren’t really having sex. The reality was that we were not having sex because I hated him. I mean, I loved him more than anything, but he had hurt me so badly in the past (cheating, lying, drug use, etc.) I couldn’t have that intimacy with him even though I wanted it. I tried to understand the problem: not having sex. So now I felt like it was my fault he was watching porn. I wasn’t having sex with him every day, and he is a guy, so he does need it every day, right? So this was the repercussions of my lack of action. While that was not what I really believed, it was how it was made to seem. On occasion, he would leave the house; I would search the computer history files and look at the stuff he was watching. Truth be told — if at any point I was sad or furious about the act of watching porn, it wasn’t that I woke up to this every day, but it was the fact that the girls he was watching were the exact opposite of me; typically blonde hair (which he always said he hated), huge boobs, tan, and it was degrading. As we were approaching our demise, it became clear to me I was never going to be what he wanted. I have always been the type who doesn’t worry themself with the superficial exterior. I am concerned with the kind of person I am, and it remains vital to me to stay true to my beliefs and values. I felt this wasn’t the type of person I wanted to be legally bound to for the rest of my life because then not only would I be sacrificing my self-esteem, but I would also be compromising those values and beliefs.
“Oh, the Humanity”
In 1964, our country established the 14th amendment due to the Civil Rights Movement, which desegregated African Americans and whites and alleviated racial tension. Yet, in porn, it is still okay to use derogatory racist and misogynistic terms to describe a white woman with a black man or vice versa. Porn instructs us in the way that power dynamics are to be established during sex. Men are supposed to dominate the woman, and women are supposed to be subservient to the man allowing them to do whatever they want, and the role of the woman is just to take it. Spanking and gagging is another part of porn that dehumanizes the one on the receiving end. Spanking directly suggests a division of power — think of your parent spanking you as punishment — I bet you never spanked your parents. Gagging in porn becomes an issue of literally gagging a woman (often to the point of tears and throwing up) with a penis simply for a man’s pleasure. Anal sex has become another trend in porn that has been showing up in sex. Shockingly, men who want to have anal sex think that women want to also. It appears that it has just shown up on the menu of sexual expectations. I was dating Tommy, a catch for me for sure, at least I thought. He was a law student at Loyola Marymont, and we shared a kiss on the big screen at a Laker game. Match made in heaven, right? Well, one afternoon, after having lunch together, he asked, “Well, do you want to go back to my house?”
I replied, “Well, sure. What did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking we could have anal sex.” He said assured I would accept his offer.
With great hesitancy, I replied, “Um, sure, I guess.” I had no idea why my mouth had betrayed me with its response. We drove to his house, and I told him I was on my period. I thought that would kill any sexual desire — but like I said, the game has changed.
He replied, “Not a big deal. We can go in the shower.”
I was entirely anxious. It wasn’t about doing anal; been there done that. It merely was I didn’t want to do it with Tommy at the time. I was thinking, how can I get out of this without just saying no? I think about it now and wonder what that poor little insecure girl was doing. I would tell her, “um, you say NO.” When we got to his place, he instantly got naked and got into the shower, and I stood at the sink fully clothed. He was serious, and he thought I wanted to do this. What had I done that made him think I was that kind of girl? I was instantly in a moment of reflection. He liked watching porn while we were having sex. I never understood it. Wasn’t having sex and being in the moment good enough? Why would you want to be watching other people having sex while you’re having sex? Your reality is that fantasy that you’re watching on the computer screen. Isn’t it?
“Are you going to get in?” He said while pouring lube onto his penis and a look of intended seduction.
I caught myself out of my reflection and was immediately turned off, not just with him and this situation, but the fact I had put myself here with this person, and I was now in this situation. I had officially become a person who was seduced by the ideas which are portrayed in porn — I wanted to be wanted sexually — but it wasn’t really what I wanted. I just went ahead with what I was told I was supposed to embody — sex. I was looking at myself in the mirror above the sink; I couldn’t do this.
“I have to go to the car first to grab an extra tampon,” I said quickly, so he didn’t have time to respond. My intention was to leave. I walked to the living room, and I gathered my things quickly from the living room and ran out of the apartment. My anxiety continued as I reached the car. I got into the car, and I thought, “this isn’t right. I shouldn’t just leave like this.” But I knew I had to in order to not only escape Tommy but also what I had become. I started the car, and I left. I sent him a text message and said, “Hey, I’m sorry, I just can’t do this.”
Twenty minutes later, he replied, “No problem. But you owe me a bottle of lube.”
There is no doubt there are fetishes that people enjoy (even power dynamics), but it’s when the fetish becomes an expectation it becomes a problem. If porn depicts people as objects, then humanity does not become an issue.
Getting Turned On to Get Turned Off
David Mura argues, “The addict to pornography desires to be blinded, to live in a dream. Those in the thrall of pornography try to eliminate from their consciousness the world outside pornography, including everything from their family and friends or last Sunday’s sermon to the political situation in the Middle East. In engaging in such elimination, the viewer reduces himself. He becomes stupid.” The reality is if we are engulfing ourselves in pornography, how are we to pay attention to anything else that is going on around us?
Furthermore, how are we to pay attention to our inner selves and consciously evaluate what it is that we are doing? The answer is we can’t. When we thrive off of anything, or we are addicted to anything, we develop a tunnel vision that prevents us from seeing anything else — including the consequences of our actions. Thus, if we are not evaluating and considering from a simple point — sex — how can we expect we would be able to consider anything larger, grander, and more poignant?
I’d Like to Solve the Puzzle: Hedonism.
There is no doubt the pursuit of pleasure is a huge part of our existence in our society. However, an individual pursuit is a selfish pursuit that considers no one but the self. I am not saying that one is not entitled to that pursuit, but we should balance it with awareness to others. Sex within a relationship, even outside of one, is now not enough. It’s about the kind of sex you’re having, how much, the sort of skills you have between the sheets — sex has become a demand. Sex in a relationship is about wanting more, having more sex, putting a penis further down your throat, cramping yourself up for the pleasure of your partner, and regular sex becomes boring sex. It complicates the relationship not just in the sense that one person may be viewing porn but the way it tries to rear its head into the intimacy of our relationships. In our relationships, we should possess integrity, conscience,, and an empathic mindset that allows us to consider the things we expect from others or from ourselves. We should question porn material we watch, what it depicts, and how ultimately it will affect us — individually, in a relationship, and culturally. It is partially the allowance of self-indulgence that has turned our society into a “me society” where we expect our needs to be met before anyone else’s. How is that good for anyone?
Maybe I’m Just A Prude, But This Is Real
Porn has become a virus to relationships. Sex has become the relationship. It makes me angry that the formula for a ‘good’ relationship is based on sex. And since I refuse to accept that policy, my relationships suffer. I will still keep believing not everyone is so hung up on sex and wait to find a guy that actually has substance and something to offer besides cunnilingus. In order to maintain some form of balance, we must understand the difference between reality and fantasy, and ultimately, we should just keep it real. The idea of reality in this sense has to do simply with perception and the use of our sight. We are allowing ourselves to be tricked by society, the salesman, and then blindly buying what they are telling us we need; no real thought or consideration or minimal critical thinking is happening. We are doing no examination of ourselves, no reflection of history is happening, and noticing that pornography is and has been a slippery slope. We are accountable for this perversion of our society, culture, and eventually our children. We must also maintain our individuality and know our value and worth are not contrived by society; instead, it is our own culmination of beliefs, values, and experiences. And that cannot be bought, yet it makes one invaluable. It’s real worth and real substance. What we must encourage and coddle is not our sexuality but our individuality. People argue there is power in sex, but power is never equally distributed, nor is it permanent. This balance will remind us we are all people cut from the same cloth, that we all have focuses of our bodies which we struggle with, and it is okay to not meet the expectations set by an industry that creates cookie-cutter men and women.