Tag Archives: Pornography

Why We Need a Porn Portal For Teens

A still from the anti-porn movie "Don Jon."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Don Jon,” a porn-addiction dramedy.

When I was a teenager, the only way to get porn was by traipsing down to the Adult Fun Shop, where I pored over such titles as Gee Your Cunt Smells Terrific and Itty Bitty Bang Bang, with the enthusiasm of a sex-crazed scholar who believes the secret to life is scrawled across the back of Seymore Butt’s Cream Pies 12. I felt initiated into a hidden world of pure sex that legitimized my adolescent sexual desire. The commodification of erotic fantasies made me feel as if I wasn’t alone. My desire for older men was accepted in this world of ever-present orgasms, while it also confirmed my belief that the world was driven by sex, that Freud was right, that my Mom’s admonishment against sex before marriage was wrong.

But I knew that at some level this porn was “bad.” It was illegal for me to buy it, though compassionate (or sleazy) adult-store employees let me do it. I had to hide it from my parents, even though I felt a strange pride in my collection of videos. I had to defend my interest in porn to other teenage girls who had a knee-jerk porn-is-misogynistic reaction. Of course some of the porn I purchased  was misogynistic. One of the first porn films that I bought, Bagladies, had the following slogan: “Every Chick Looks Hot With a Bag Over Her Head.” But I chose Bagladies knowing that it was misogynistic,  that it portrayed women so badly that it actually rose to the level of sick art. I felt a particular form of glee that only comes to those who wade so deeply into transgression.

My limited access to porn as a teenager makes me insanely jealous of the current generation. They grew up having access to millions of videos, and they didn’t have to pay for any of them, nor did they have to leave their houses to get them. I know, most people bemoan the fact that porn is widely available to teenagers. And their concern is valid. Porn isn’t realistic. The performers frequently have perfect bodies and hairless genitals; they have unprotected sex with seemingly no repercussions; and women always have orgasms even when they’re not being clitorally stimulated. But not all porn is like this. A lot of porn focuses on women’s sexual pleasure. It shows clitoral stimulation via cunnilingus or manual stimulation, and it shows dominant women sexually manipulating men. And, for all of porn’s flaws, it does have the virtue of showcasing different body types (if you look beyond run-of-the-mill porn) and sexual positions.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Terrorist Porn

Time magazine's Boston Marathon coverage shown above. http://nation.time.com/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-explosion-gallery/

Time magazine’s Boston Marathon coverage shown above. http://nation.time.com/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-explosion-gallery/

“Warning- Horrific Images From Boston Marathon Blast” screams just one of the 1.6 million results from a routine YouTube search on the Boston Marathon attacks. Graphic. Disturbing. Chilling. Bloody. These words pepper the coverage of the bombing, enticing our reptilian brains that are wired to respond to sex and death. Gruesome photos of runners with legs blown off and tendons dangling like jellyfish are all over news sites, along with photos of victims lying in pools of blood as bystanders helplessly look on. While publishing some horrific images is necessary to convey the magnitude of this tragedy, these photos aren’t just serving to inform the public or to bring the community together. They are fulfilling our sadistic urges.

This disaster coverage frequently devolves into “terrorist porn,” as On The Media referred to it in their most recent podcast. Terrorist porn is news that is stops informing and instead fills our screens with never-ending loops of destruction.  It happened after 9/11 with repeated images of planes slamming into buildings, and also during the tsunami, with TV news obsessively airing the crashing waves. But unlike run-of-the-mill pornography, terrorist porn is splashed across the front pages of CNN, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post, under the rubric of informing the public. This sadistic impulse is sanctioned by American culture, becoming so routine as to be quotidian, which begs the question: why are we so comfortable displaying unjustified images of death and violence in our news media and so uncomfortable with sexual imagery?

The phrase “terrorist porn” is apt, because the similarities to sexual porn are numerous. Both are disseminated and consumed in a similar way. The images frequently consist of decontextualized, graphic close-ups of body parts covered in bodily fluids, which are shown in endless loops. There’s usually no narrative, or if there is one, it’s merely an afterthought, a means to delay satisfaction, to increase the payoff when the desired images are finally shown. The CNN Slideshow: Deadly Attack at Boston is a prime example, as it intersperses wide shots of the explosions with close-ups of things like people’s feet covered in blood. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Why the United States Needs More Sex Museums

Picture of the Museum of Sex in New York City

Image by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Working at the Smithsonian this summer has led me to wonder why there aren’t more museums in the U.S. devoted to the history of sex. We have only one; it’s in New York City, and it’s for-profit, not by choice, but because the New York State Board of Regents said  “that the word museum could not be used in a way that would make fun of the term.”  And that’s the first barrier to sex museums in the U.S.: the fact that they’re placed in a museum ghetto, with even less prestige than the National Mustard Museum, which, unlike the Museum of Sex, has been granted non-profit status.

I visited the Museum of Sex last weekend with my old college roommate Shoshanna, a great person to tour it with considering that we spent our time at Bennington College penning songs about genital warts and fraternizing with our Aspen Slopes blow-up doll. Since the founder refers to it as “the Smithsonian of sex,” I wanted to like the museum. Unfortunately, it bears no comparison. In theory, I support all sex museums because the more legitimacy given to the study of sexual artifacts, the better the chance that my work will be taken seriously, and more important, that America’s sexual heritage won’t be lost. But the museum, try as it might, just didn’t work. It was simultaneously too serious and too whimsical.

A case in point is their exhibit titled “Sex and the Moving Image” which features film clips playing on a variety of screens, some mounted against the wall, others embedded into the floor. The haphazard locations of the screens mirrored the jumbled nature of what was being shown on them. A few displayed porn, while others showed a grab bag of sexual films including mainstream Hollywood movies, nudist films, and films depicting oral sex. The whole exhibit seemed incoherent, as if the curator didn’t know what story to tell. One of the themes was about sexuality leading to technological innovation, but the exhibit never explored the deeper implications of this. It wasn’t clear whether they were arguing that technologies simply made sexual films more widely available or if technologies led to societal acceptance of depictions of sexuality. They also stuck to the conventional repression-to-liberation narrative, that in the early 1900s, even though there were stag films, they were somehow quaint, that because fellatio was being performed in a Model T, it was charming.  This makes for a simple story, but a boring one. And in their vibrator history section, they re-told Maines’ vibrator story, without questioning it, even though a quick glance at scholarly literature would’ve showed them that the story shouldn’t be wholly accepted. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Why Women Should Give Porn a Chance

Pornography Protest

A pornography protest organized by the North Carolina-based Praise Assembly Worship Center.

I’m tired of women becoming insecure after they stumble upon their boyfriends jacking off to Japanese teen bukkake porn. What men masturbate to is not a reflection on their girlfriends’ looks or sexual abilities in bed.

So why does porn upset women so much? (Full Disclosure: I know that not all women feel this way. I’m a woman who watches porn, and I have a lot of female friends who love it too). I’m not even referring to the  hard-core feminists here; I’m talking about the young professionals and stay-at-home moms who are threatened by their husband’s stash of vintage transgender magazines. How can a woman who professes to be enlightened chafe at her partner’s interest in pornography?

Men don’t get threatened by romantic movies, which present ridiculously unrealistic images of what a heterosexual love relationship should be like. Romantic movies never show farting in bed, pooping on the couch, or other things that happen all the time in committed relationships when one or both of the partners has norovirus. They aren’t angered by romance novels or 50 Shades of Grey. I believe that men are less threatened because most of women’s sexual fantasies live in the imagination or on the page; they are not acted out by beautiful acrobatic porn stars.  Of course, romantic movies do realize some of women’s fantasies, but they show the conventional fantasy of a committed relationship based upon undying love, which most people don’t consider grotesque. Even 50 Shades of Grey places a sadomasochistic relationship in the comforting confines of monogamy. In any case, women’s insane wedding fantasies are more disturbing to me than a triple-penetration rodeo-clown porn. So why can’t women learn from men and leave their boyfriends’ fantasies alone? Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,