Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Porn Myth.

Bruno sent me this article by Naomi Wolf on how porn may be changing sexuality. This is one of the rare cases where I can't go "fuck yeah sister" or "haha what a nut"; the article touches on real concerns before veering off into things I can't agree with.

Where Wolf touches a nerve is with the idea that porn (and sexy-ladies-as-decoration culture in general) is making humans look dumpy in comparison. I see pictures like this and this and think fuck, I'm a human being with muscles and fat and texture to my skin and hairs on my body, and even when I'm trying to be sexy I don't dress or pose like that--if you look at Gisele and then me I'm a complete troll. (This isn't just simple jealousy, because if you look at Gisele and then Gisele in the real world with no Photoshop and normal clothes, real Gisele might be no one's troll but she still pales in comparison.) Hyper-sexy images are the high-fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate of sex, and real food is bland beside them.

So I've got to admit I'm pretty enthused by the idea that in recent history
it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman... If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up.
Of course men still do have fun with normal women all the time, but you do get a sense, sometimes, that they're settling. That they're thinking "eh, spotty and chunky, but she'll do." Whether that sense is a creation of modern synth-porn, or an age-old insecurity since the tribe had two women and you were the scruffy one, I'm too young to say.

What Wolf is pushing is low standards for female sexiness, and that's an appealing idea, because unmeetable standards leave real-world women and men unhappy. I don't know how it could be achieved, though. You can't tell pornographers and advertisers to stop using women who look too good because they're making it hard for the rest of us. Making women look good is their business, and in the last couple decades they've gotten good at it. Maybe the only hope for civilization is that the trend continues until the ideal Photoshopped woman is an inch thick with three-foot breasts and normal women are so obviously different that they're no longer compared. It's like when dog breeds split into show lines and working lines.

But then Wolf goes too far. In trying to say that vaginal missionary should still be a big deal, she makes it sound like women who do other things are always giving in rather than exploring for themselves.
Now you have to offer—or flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face scene.
You have to consider the possibility that I like threesomes and come on my face, not that I'm reluctantly "offering" them because all I really want is mish and everything else is a compromise.

And then the weird part.
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.” ...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.


Or so constrained. I have--or mostly had--Orthodox friends too, and the way they hide women away isn't sexy. I went to a Hasidic friend's Bar Mitzvah once and all the women in the congregation had to sit behind a screen, looking politely at a goddamn white sheet as the sounds of the service sort of drifted through. Being sexier in private (if that's even true) isn't worth that shit. It's humiliating. And when I'm asked to cover my hair, I don't think it's because my sexuality is special, it's because my sexuality needs hiding. My very identity--which is being treated as synonymous with my sexuality--needs hiding.

FUCK THAT.

Gisele and her cohorts and their Photoshoppers may be unfair competition, but ultimately I can't ask them to hide their light under a bushel. I'm sure as fuck not hiding mine.

14 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Gisele looks hungery,plastic,and disproportionate

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  3. I agree that if we're going to be judged in comparison to the most "perfect" and hyper-sexy images that pornographers can cook up, no one can compare. My whole question would be, to what extend are men comparing real women to those images? It seems to me like no matter what a guy sees in the pornos, if he has a reasonable amount of real-life experience, he's more likely to "compare" you to other women he's slept with, or could sleep with (if comparisons must be made at all). The whole process of getting to know someone, then getting them in bed (or vice versa) is hard to "compare" with a photo in a magazine -- it's apples to oranges.

    We've all had the experience of feeling lust or attraction for someone, based on the combination of their unique looks and personality. If somebody feels that way about you, you can still offer them something "special" by getting naked with them, even if there are hotter people in the world.

    Maybe I've just been lucky, though, that guys I've hooked up with mostly haven't acted like they were "settling" for something. What the heck are they doing to give you that impression?

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  4. I don't compare that kind of image to a real person. They're a work of art. I'm not interested in having sex with a work of art any more than I'm interested in having sex with a tree or a skyscraper. (No insult intended to people with tree or skyscraper fetishes.)

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  5. I'd rather see naked normal-looking people than porn stars. I'd be far more interested in meeting you in person than any of the women you linked to, regardless of whether the meeting was merely social or if it became more intimate.

    (Unfortunately for me, there are several thousand miles to prevent a meeting, and promises to a wife preventing it from becoming intimate, even if you were agreeable)

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  6. Does Naomi Wolf purport to be a feminist? I fail to understand how she can defend that sort of treatment of women.

    Maybe this is some kind of lead-in to making feminists feel better about not being anti-islam or something...?

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  7. Lastnightsclothes - To be honest, since no one is enough of a jerk to say out loud they're comparing me to anything, most of this sense of getting judged is entirely in my head. As it may be in Wolf's; I haven't noted any men (other than Neanderthals or anti-porn partisans) lately writing about how real women no longer satisfy them.

    Ed Hering - I think it's an attempt to reconcile the principles of feminism and multiculturalism, something that often turns awkward. Like "It's very important to change gender roles in our culture--but their culture's gender roles are important traditions!" awkward. It's like they think they have to follow the Prime Directive.

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  8. Models,actors, pornstars, etc do nothing for me. I don't find them attractive I don't want them and I don't give a damn about them.

    On the other hand the girl I like could be dirty, smelly, and dressed in a sackcloth dress and I'd still find her as beautiful as always.

    Objectively she's nothing special, but In my heart she means a lot.

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  9. Personally I prefer a live woman to the artifice of the extreme end of the photographers art.

    I'd love to meet Naomi Wolf. She writes a lot that resonates with me.

    If Naomi is threatened by the airbrushed, unachievable, perfection shown in checkout stand eye candy, what hope for us mere mortals.

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  10. Like so many articles like this, the entire argument is based on an assumption that is at least unproven, and possibly completely false.

    In this case the assumption is that ALL men consider porn women to be the epitome of sexual attractiveness, and a less obvious assumption that NO man differentiates between the fantasy world of porn and the real world he lives in. The comments in this thread alone indicate that both of these assumptions may be false, since SOME men apparently do not care for porn women and actually prefer the real world to the porn fantasy.

    My point is that all the arguments for the author's thesis are invalid, simply because the basic premise is demonstrably false. And any rebuttal to the thesis, here or elsewhere, is moot!

    This sort of thing is becoming more and more common among "journalists" and other media sources. The basic assumptions are never questioned, despite being immediately questionable under the barest scrutiny. Background "facts" are cited that can't be confirmed, and often prove to be false or less black-and-white than portrayed, or completely out of context. The writer skims past to develop an emotional or ideological argument, trying to engage the reader or viewer with a conclusion so they don't look too closely at the basis of the argument. "Let's discuss the pornography on the ceiling and ignore the altar on the floor."

    Rules of logic say that if your basic assumptions are false, your entire argument is false. Question the foundations of the argument, and you will rarely be caught up in the emotion or conflict of whatever is being argued. The internets would become less interesting, but we would all spend less time supporting or refuting positions that are false from the outset.

    C

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  11. A lot of the comments above seem to miss that Wolf's argument is primarily about behavior rather than appearance; Holly added the appearance argument as a parallel.

    But one problem I have with Wolf's argument is that all media lie. TV tells me dark-skinned people are rare and fat immature men marry hot shrewish women. Movies tell me smoking is cool and that any guy can get the girl if he refuses to give up. Books tell me that Dan Brown is a best-selling "author." We always have to discount what we're told according to our experiences, and I don't see why porn is especially misleading.

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  12. Isn't this article of Wolf's rather dated? I recall googling it several years ago when she was briefly notorious for outing Allan Bloom as a letch for having propositioned her when she was an undergrad at Harvard. She's done better, and more important, work since.

    This was, as I recall, just another magazine piece of the OMG TEH MENZ R BAD variety. She's a public intellectual with a living to make. Give her a break. Anyway, she's pretty. ;-)

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  13. On the one hand, fictional media can create unrealistic expectations. On the other, who would read a book that was like an average day for an average person? We want to read, see, or hear about the unusual, the odd, the exceptional, and the extraordinary.

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  14. "My very identity--which is being treated as synonymous with my sexuality--needs hiding.

    FUCK THAT."

    literally lol'd. Thanks :)

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