Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Atlantic on: Why porn proves sex is grim and miserable!

This is one of those links that have been peristalsing their way around the blogosphere for a little bit: Hard Core: The new world of porn is revealing eternal truths about men and women. Writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper has a bit of a rambling problem and this really didn't need to be a four-page article, but the gist of it is that porn is grim and nasty because male sexuality is grim and nasty. And the gist of my response is "well, sometimes, but it doesn't have to be and it's nicer when it's not."

There, I saved you four pages. Let's get wordy anyway, and pull some quotes.



As recently as 15 years ago, if somebody wanted vivid depictions of, say, two men simultaneously performing anal penetration on the same woman, securing such a delicacy would require substantial effort because the pornographic repertoire was still limited by the costs and imprecision of distribution. Leaving aside matters of taste and propriety, just how big an audience of horny derelicts or hurried businessmen would wriggle into a Pussycat Theater, with its sticky floors, and, in the company of others, watch a double-anal double feature?
VCRs weren't news in 1996. Double anal definitely wasn't news in 1996. But more to her point, double anal isn't a form of torture. It's definitely a challenge, it's not something I'm up for myself, but it's a sex act. It's arousing because it's a whole lot of dick in not a lot of hole, not because it's the worst thing you can possibly do to a woman.

Or, on another, stickier level, it's degrading, but it's supposed to be hot-degrading, not just unhappy. I'm pretty sure the intended mental image is of the woman afterwards going "ooh, those boys just used me, mmm," not of her going "oh God I'm disgusting and I hate myself" and curling into the fetal position.

Finally: the fact that double anal wasn't a big seller back when porn had less selection suggests that it's not a majority interest. If every man secretly wanted double anal, double anal would have been the naughty nurses of its day.

So, perhaps it’s no surprise that, for those who crave the more drastic masturbatory aid, the Internet offers easy access to a Grand Guignol of the outright bizarre (Midget Porn, Clown Porn, Girl-Fight Gang-Bang Porn). What is surprising is what now constitutes widely available, routine stuff in the major porn portals: episodes of men—or groups of men—having sex with women who are seven months pregnant; the ho-hum of husbands filming their scrawny white wives having sex with paunchy black men in budget motels; simulations of father-daughter (or mother-daughter) incest; and of course, a fixture on any well-trafficked site: double anal.
These aren't really "routine"; they exist, but I'm pretty sure that the genre of "conventionally attractive young women shimmy around naked and have vanilla sex" is still King Of The Porns.

Anyway, what's Grand Guignol about diversity? The porn industry certainly doesn't handle the subject with great sensitivity, but it's not intrinsically bizarre or gruesome for a pregnant woman or a little person to have sex, or for people to play around with cuckoldry or roleplay. It seems the writer is confusing "different types of sex" with "darker and nastier sex."

MEN, SO THE CONVENTIONAL wisdom goes, tend to desire more than women are willing to give them sexually. The granting of sex is the most powerful weapon women possess in their struggle with men. Yet in each new sexual negotiation a woman has with a man, she not only spends down that capital, she begins at a disadvantage, because the potential losses are always greater for her. A failed or even successful single encounter can be life-altering. Whatever “social construct” you might impose upon the whole matter, nature imposes much more rigorous consequences on women than on men.
I impose the social construct of condoms with backup willingness to use the morning-after pill or abort. Pow. Then I impose the reality that people can't even tell what my sexual history is, let alone perceive how much "capital" I've "lost," whatever that even means. Ka-bam.

And as for my vagina as a "weapon" to be "granted" in the "struggle"... If I did have magical feminine wiles that let me manipulate men, you know what I'd use them for? Getting laid.

But the reactionary political correctness of the 1990s put forth a proposition even more disastrous to women than free love: sexual equality.
Disastrous!

This is an intellectual swindle that leads women to misjudge male sexuality, which they do at their own emotional and physical peril. Male desire is not a malleable entity that can be constructed through politics, language, or media. Sexuality is not neutral. A warring dynamic based on power and subjugation has always existed between men and women, and the egalitarian view of sex, with its utopian pretensions, offers little insight into the typical male psyche.
So, male readers, I have a question. Is the desire to subjugate and degrade women something that just naturally sets in around the time the deep voice and body hair get going? Do you have boyhood memories of waking up with unexpectedly sticky sheets and a sudden urge to see a woman devastated for your pleasure?

Because if so, I'm moving to a very small island.

Internet porn, on the other hand, shows us an unvarnished (albeit partial) view of male sexuality as an often dark force streaked with aggression.
And what do these dark, aggressive men want? Mostly to see pretty girls enjoying sex. OH THE DARKNESS.

You could be poking around for some no-frills Web clips of amateur couples doing it missionary style, but easily and rapidly you slide into footage of two women simultaneously working their crotches on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo, and then all of a sudden you’re at a teenage-fisting Web site.
Wow, that sounds exactly like that time I smoked a little weed with my friends, and the next day I was a homeless heroin addict with suppurating abscesses and a felony warrant.

Oh, and I see lesbian sex is intrinsically dirtier than straight sex.

But how is sex, as a human experience, anything less than extreme? Not the kind of sex (or lack thereof) that occurs in marriages that double as domestic gulags. Or what 30-somethings do to each other in the second year of their “serious relationship.” But the sex that occurs in between relationships—or overlaps with relationships—where the buffers of intimacy or familiarity do not exist: the raw, unpracticed sort.
Sex in relationships? That's laughable! Let's just toss that whole idea out.

At the heart of human sexuality, at least human sexuality involving men, lies what Freud identified in Totem and Taboo as “emotional ambivalence”—the simultaneous love and hate of the object of one’s sexual affection. From that ambivalence springs the aggressive, hostile, and humiliating components of male sexual arousal.
I don't believe this. No snark even. I just flat don't believe that guys in general hate the women they sleep with. That's not a normal dynamic.

Sometimes, man... sometimes I'll be having sex and I'll look up (down, back, in the mirror, behind the robotic octopus) at the guy and he's just smiling. Just grinning like an idiot that he's getting laid. There's no secret hatred. No dark psychodrama. Just "Dude, there's a cute chick on my cock! How awesome is that? Dude!"

Never was this made plainer to me than during a one-night stand with a man I had actually known for quite a while. [...]We quickly progressed to his bed, and things did not go well. He couldn’t stay aroused. [...]in a moment of exasperation, he asked if we could have anal sex. I asked why[...] He answered, almost without thought, “Because that’s the only thing that will make you uncomfortable.” This was, perhaps, the greatest moment of sexual honesty I’ve ever experienced—and without hesitation, I complied. This encounter proves an unpleasant fact that does not fit the feminist script on sexuality: pleasure and displeasure wrap around each other like two snakes.
I think you could use this same logic to justify poo-eating as everyone's deep dark desire. Hey, you wanna be really uncomfortable?

But the author's on to something here. Sometimes, a certain irreconcilable, truly nasty darkness is a part of sex, and sometimes even though it's not justifiable or even okay, it feels right. Sometimes sex is mean and cruel and wrong, and it's the hottest thing.

Other times, sex is so full of love that you're almost brought to tears, and it's the hottest thing.

Other times, sex is giddy and giggly, a silly experimental game you're playing with each other's bodies, and it's the hottest thing.

Other times, sex is muscular and striving, your bodies soaked with sweat from the sheer effort you're exerting on each other, and it's the hottest thing.

Sex is a lot of things. Don't point at your personal kinks and your general stereotype of what you think porn looks like, and tell me that's all of sex. Oh, and while you're at it, don't tell me about a sexual encounter that you participated in and you clearly got off big-time on and tell me that it was 100% about male sexuality.

Pornography neatly resolves the contradictions—in favor of men. They fuck with impunity. Women never dream of staying. And if, God forbid, the women get pregnant, well, they can be used in pregnant pornos and then in an episode of Exploited Moms. What a marvelous means of delving into the heads of men.
It's pretty sad to imagine that men never want to be in relationships and never want to have families. No, wait, it's very, extremely, super, ridiculously sad. And I wonder what on Earth would make someone think this was the natural order of things. And I really wonder what on Earth would make someone think this is the natural order of things, and keep having sex with men.

For someone who praises stark "sexual honesty," the author is remarkably obtuse about what she gets out of sex with the horrible monsters that are men. If you're a masochist, lady, or if you like the idea of being used and discarded, or if you don't want a loving relationship yourself--own up.

ONE OF THE most punishing realities women face when they reach sexual maturity is that their maturity is (at least to many men) unsexy.
Now we're just in Wackyland. I don't even know what to say here. Dudes, you've just been upgraded from exploitative sadists to exploitative sadist pedophiles.

[Amateur sites like RedTube are] largely a grim parade of what women will do to satisfy men: young wives fingering themselves on the family couch, older wives offering themselves to their hubby’s Army buddies, aging moms in shabby corsets shoving their sagging rear ends into the camera.
If she hadn't grimmified the diction there, it'd be a party. Young women playing with themselves! Swinger ladies fucking hot guys in uniform! Women in corsets showing off their bodies! OH THE DARKITY DARK DARKNESS.




It goes on, but I've played into the ramble-a-thon enough already. At this point I'm just writing a disorganized response to a disorganized argument.

(Also, I have to go to work. And I got distracted from this entry by making a strapon harness--which looks and works great, except I burned myself. I was using a lighter to seal the ends of the nylon straps, and... I'm clumsy. Ow.)

It's a mess of an article, as writing and as thinking, never even mind the sexual politics. But if you do mind the sexual politics, all you get is the following:

1) Porn is always dark and miserable.
2) Therefore, male sexuality is always dark and cruel.
3) Therefore, sex is always grim and destructive.
4) Therefore, please publish me in "The Atlantic."

I didn't find it real insightful.

50 comments:

  1. " but easily and rapidly you slide into footage of two women simultaneously working their crotches on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo"


    I got sort of distracted around here because hey, that actually sounds a lot hotter than conventional porn. Why don't I run into more of that?

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  2. No one person's experience should be generalized to the whole, of course, but my male experience is that the number one most-wanted aspect of sex is: she wants me! To be desired, to not feel you have to wine, dine, whine, gift, lie, beg, hope, and end up a disappointment is the top turn-on.

    And I remember visiting "adult" bookstores thirty years ago where there were specialized magazines devoted to, among other things, sex with amputees. Unusual, "kink", whatever you want to call it, has been around longer than the Internet.

    Finally, for an author to write of men not appreciating women in their "sexual maturity" and then to disdain "aging moms in shabby corsets shoving their sagging rear ends into the camera" is a clear double-standard of hypocritical thinking.

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  3. Articles like this convince me that, on a societal level, we don't understand the first thing about sexuality. Otherwise articles like this wouldn't find publishers.

    Certainly this construction of "male sexuality" has absolutely nothing in common with what I consider my sexuality. But then again, pretty much everything that gets presented as male sexuality doesn't have all that much to do with sex itself.

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  4. "Sometimes sex is mean and cruel and wrong, and it's the hottest thing.

    Other times, sex is so full of love that you're almost brought to tears, and it's the hottest thing.

    Other times, sex is giddy and giggly, a silly experimental game you're playing with each other's bodies, and it's the hottest thing.

    Other times, sex is muscular and striving, your bodies soaked with sweat from the sheer effort you're exerting on each other, and it's the hottest thing."

    This. This is beautiful. Thank you.

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  5. I can't believe The Atlantic published that bullshit. However, I am totally going to refer to my marriage as "my domestic gulag" from now on. That's kinda hot.

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  6. "the most powerful weapon women possess in their struggle with men"

    Personally, i find her comment here more damaging than the porn she complains about. Sex for me is always about the desire or passion the people have for each other, never weapons to be used in a struggle. That sounds forced and not remotely fun. I think her comment there reveals her opinions on sex in general.

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  7. "the most powerful weapon women possess in their struggle with men"

    Agreed, this is the crux of her problem. Relationships have their struggles. But in general, mine have been struggles together with, not in opposition to, my partner. I don't think the author understands healthy relationships.

    She has defined men as the evil other, and is using porn to prove her point. I've actually seen similar attitudes among certain people I know. They have unhappy, unfulfilling, antagonistic relationships. They assume this is normal and the way things just are. And they desperately believe that everyone else's relationship is at least as bad as theirs. I pity them.

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  8. Yeah, that was a crappy and depressing article, but my take was that it reflected the author's personal view of sexuality and experience with porn. Not much journalism or edification going on there, just another conventionally gender-roled woman nagging about porn and men. *le sigh*

    Not much of that sounded very familiar to me...it just seemed like a regurgitation of old tropes about "those nasty menz always wanting teh sex and the nice wimmin having to dole out the pussy", in exchange for something of course and not because maybe there are women who really like and want and seek out sex (all kinds) with men (and women) and watch porn...meh.

    The more I see of this crap (and shame on the Atlantic; I expect better of them), the more tired I get of trying to argue with and about it. This author and her ilk nagging about porn and the PUA guys whining about scoring can all go be miserable together playing out their self-fufilling gender expectation. I'll retreat to my virtual island with all the people who have figured out that it's not a war of morals or gender or a zero sum game.

    And now if you'll excuse me...I'm going to make some coffee and watch some internet porn (yeah, morning is my time...whatevs). :)

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  9. ...This article was very near the "horrifying" point to me.

    I felt like I was reading about something alien, that I have never in my life had even an INKLING of experience with. I have never felt a "struggle" with sex, nor these awful views men and women are supposed to have of each other. What I know of sex is passion and desire, whether it's with a nearly anonymous one-night-stand or a longtime lover. And that desire is not mixed with hatred.

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  10. but it's not intrinsically bizarre or gruesome for ... a little person to have sex,

    Aw, dammit, and here society had me convinced that my sexuality was automatically obscure and hip by simple virtue of being mine.

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  11. Grim indeed. What a way to live, thinking that of half the population. Heartbreaking.

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  12. Every time I read an article that demonizes porn and other aspects of sexuality in the guise of protecting women, I can't help but be reminded of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," in which (a bit spoilery, but not too bad) the radical feminists allied with religious fundamentalism to put an oppressive theocracy in power.
    That book was written in the 80's, and it terrifies me to think it might be coming true. I wish I knew what to do to stop the idiocy.


    edit: if I've ever commented that on a Twisty rant or another article you posted, my bad, it's just a recurring thought in my mind

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  13. First thing I saw when looking at this blog entry was the title of the article - and I actually thought it was a link to another of Holly's posts where she is making fun of this kind of stuff...Imagine my gasping surprise when I found out that someone actually puplished an article with this title - hi-la-ri-ous!!

    Just one comment though: Although the article clearly is bullshit, the stereotypes she presents as "eternal truths" are (in a milder form) reinforced in society day by day, and yes, there is an eroticization of violence and subjugation based on underlying stereotypes of the sexually active, agressive men and the passive, fearful women. I obviously dont mean the positive, conscious, stereotype-deconstructing kink-erotic stuff, but the "men fuck, women get fucked" stuff. Since Holly deconstructs this on a regular basis everybody here is probably aware of these problems, but I still wanted to point out that there ARE a lot of harmful images on the streets and in peoples heads out there and that we dont live in sexuality dreamland. The article this blog post is about is a vivid example of the crap that is going on. So while I love sex I also love to make sure that the man whose penis I am sucking doesnt think I am loosing my dignity by doing so, because a lot of people think this way.

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  14. ONE OF THE most punishing realities women face when they reach sexual maturity is that their maturity is (at least to many men) unsexy...[Amateur sites like RedTube are] largely a grim parade of what women will do to satisfy men: young wives fingering themselves on the family couch, older wives offering themselves to their hubby’s Army buddies, aging moms in shabby corsets shoving their sagging rear ends into the camera.

    What we've learned from this is that men are attracted to young, conventionally attractive women and like to watch them have sex - and that's bad. But also? Men hate older women and find them hideous, and you can tell...because men like to watch them have sex? WTF is this bitch even talking about?!?!

    It's so painfully obvious that the author is basing this entire article on her own skewed worldview and personal experiences (one of which, apparently, is that she only wants to see porn of women with firm asses). But I'm not familiar with this "Atlantic" publication; is it supposed to be dignified and well-researched like Time Magazine, or is it basically a printed version of The View?

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  15. I think what she's getting at, without realizing it, is that some sex will make you hot and some sex will squick you. She seems to have immersed herself in sex that squicks her (little people and pregnant women get it on! no way!) and forgotten that to other people that same sex is awesome and happy.

    The real lesson here is that if porn involving anal or little people or trannie grannies (it's a big seller) squicks you, don't watch it and don't participate in it. But don't tell me that what I like is wrong is or dirty or slutty or shameful just because it doesn't turn you on.

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  16. ...and don't even get me started on this bullshit about women being the vending machines of sex and what a great power it is.

    First off, the ability to choose what goes in my body is actually a basic human right, not a super-special power granted only to women.

    Secondly, I've been sexually assaulted enough times that it's clear many guys don't actually listen when a woman makes her mighty decree of "I am not interested". Oh boy! I can tell someone much bigger and stronger than me to keep his hands off my body and maybe - if he's a good guy who understands about consent - he might listen instead of shrug and do whatever the hell he wants anyway! I feel so darned powerful. Maybe later I'll go battle a gun-wielding maniac using nothing but this adorable pink paper parasol.

    In fact, society even teaches women (albeit falsely) that every nice, normal, good man can be tormented into raping us if we flirt too much or wear something sexy.

    So...women have all this power to say no to sex, except men have this power too and also the power is useless if the guy we use it on doesn't feel like listening. And afterwards when we explain that we tried to use our mighty powers of not being penetrated but we got raped anyway, people will go "Oh that's awful...but what were you wearing? And how were you acting? And had you been drinking?"

    Yeah. I feel soooo powerful. It's like I'm on a throne, laughing down at the pathetic menz all day long. Wheeeee!

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  17. Wow. She seems to hate men so much more than any feminist I've ever come across (and aren't we supposed to be the man-haters?!)I would never think such horrible things about men.

    She also doesn't take submissive men into account, and there are lots of those. How on earth would men who are into dominant women fit into her men-hate-the-women-they-sleep-with-and-want-to-hurt-them paradigm?

    Also, lesbian sex is SO much more wrong than straight sex? Cool. Thanks for that. All lesbian porn is totally a manifestation of the nastiness of men's desires, and not, you know, for lesbians.

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  18. So, male readers, I have a question. Is the desire to subjugate and degrade women something that just naturally sets in around the time the deep voice and body hair get going? Do you have boyhood memories of waking up with unexpectedly sticky sheets and a sudden urge to see a woman devastated for your pleasure?

    No, no, I've wanted to degrade and subjugate women for my pleasure ever since I was a little boy. I remember waking up, eating my breakfast cereal, watching saturday morning cartoons, and daydreaming of ways to devastate women for my pleasure.

    Fortunately, that went away when I hit puberty.

    ----

    A note for the sarcasm-impaired: All of the above was sarcasm.

    ----

    I second the call above for more double-ended dildo porn. Actually, I'd far rather see some good feeldoe porn, because it's far less ridiculous.

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  19. I like her little anecdote about the truly honest man in a one-night stand.

    Because you know, he wasn't just being open and honest about HIS sexuality, he was being open and honest about the monolith that is EVERY MAN'S incontrovertiobly undeniable sexuality. His admission proved it, you guys!

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  20. C - I love The Handmaid's Tale! Although I always saw it as being purely about fundamentalism, rather than fundamentalism and radical feminism.

    And it's totally set in Cambridge if you pay attention. It's kind of awesome in a goofy way when she talks about the landmarks of her post-apocalyptic city and I can go "yep, that's ten minutes from my house."

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  21. The real lesson here is that if porn involving anal or little people or trannie grannies (it's a big seller) squicks you, don't watch it and don't participate in it. But don't tell me that what I like is wrong is or dirty or slutty or shameful just because it doesn't turn you on.

    This this this. Jesus. How hard is it to just not watch porn that doesn't turn you on? I mean, if you have reason to believe that someone is actually being exploited in real life to produce it, then you should do something about it. Otherwise, wank to what you want to wank to and let everybody else do the same.

    Also, yeah, the whole virgin/whore attitude exists and sucks, but I don't think it's the defining trait of male sexuality, and I really don't think it's coded into human DNA.

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  22. "but easily and rapidly you slide into footage of two women simultaneously working their crotches on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo"
    I wonder if the illustrious author looked at any porn other than the worst of the "hetero punishment and degradation of those dirty sluts" genre. I'd like to know what her reaction would be to "footage of two men simultaneously working their asses on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo". But since she seems to think a) women aren't into anything but grudging vanilla sex, b) women don't watch porn, c) lesbians are gross, then I'm not sure what she'd think about *gasp* two men going at it. Now she comes off as a straight woman, so you'd think she'd have at least watched some things that cater to her interests, i.e., men, but that wouldn't fit with her personal agenda here.

    For the record, I'm a straight female and a feminist. I like men, I love sex, I have an awesome partner who shares my views and likes my stuff, and we both watch porn. Thank God there are men and women out there who can think for themselves and get outside the stupid cultural scripts.

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  23. Um... I hate to point this out, Ms. The Atlantic Lady, but I have seen a lot of degrading, fucked-up, by-women-for-women text porn. I mean, you want your parental incest? Your having sex with pregnant people? Your D/s crossdressing brother incest about real people? Man, we got it all.

    Frankly, I regard the wide diversity of porn as a good thing. It disproves the notion that male sexuality is a monolith-- that All Men Like Angelina Jolie (or whoever the 10 is that roissy keeps going on about). Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time viewing Internet porn would realize that heterosexual men are into mature women in corsets, teenagers, pregnant women, little people, Holly and me, because oddly enough, they are human.

    Also, Girl-Fight Gang-Bang is as minority a taste as clown porn and midget porn? DUDE. I didn't realize I was that much of a fetishist.

    ..."Teenagers fisting" is her idea of brain-breakingly kinky?

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  24. I suppose she may have proved some sort of muddled point about violence against women, in that by the end of the article I wanted to put an axe through her forehead. Actually I think it was right around the point where she summarily dismissed all sex within loving relationships as dishonest or nonexistent, or somehow both at the same time, but the urge only got worse from there.

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  25. So, male readers, I have a question. Is the desire to subjugate and degrade women something that just naturally sets in around the time the deep voice and body hair get going? Do you have boyhood memories of waking up with unexpectedly sticky sheets and a sudden urge to see a woman devastated for your pleasure?

    For me, personally (and I DON'T think I'm a good representative sample for all men), yes. I enjoy that, and get my rocks off with it. But I've just about always been very careful to search out female partners who complementarily enjoy being subjugated and degraded (at least by me+at least in certain contexts). If everyone walked away with no permanent scars (or at least none they weren't happy to have) and with happy memories, I think we were doing okay at avoiding the Tragic Darkosity of Evil Male Sexuality (Boo!) Whirlpool.

    Sometimes I feel like the ghost of Andrea Dworkin periodically rears its head and possesses your blog posts -- not what YOU write, but rather manifesting via many of the articles you post about & discuss (this one, a lot of the Cosmo stuff, etc.). It seems like the exorcism never takes...

    And regarding the double-ended dildo, my partners have done that, and I'd wager that they enjoyed doing it even more than I enjoyed watching them do it. I could've left the room, made soup, and audited an early American History college course and I suspect they'd have found the experience just as satisfying, even without my Condescending, Patriarchally-Approving Gaze upon them.

    Because if so, I'm moving to a very small island.

    Lies. How would you fit all the guys who like to subjugate, and with whom you like to conjugate, on the island? :)

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  26. "However, I am totally going to refer to my marriage as "my domestic gulag" from now on. That's kinda hot."

    Totally read that as "domestic goulash". Hey, whatever floats your boat...

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  27. Jack - I think what you're getting at there is covered under the difference between "hot-degrading" and "just unhappy."

    I don't even know what this author thinks about female masochism, though. She doesn't get into female desire at all--she "complied" with the uncomfortable buttsex and sounds happy about it, but doesn't disclose any motive other than being super impressed with the guy's "honesty." Whether it was uncomfortable for her, and how she felt about that, aren't addressed, and that's a huge hole (haw) in this article.

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  28. So he was sexually honest -- not so sure about her. Without that viewpoint it never coheres.

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  29. I agree with some of the other posters that the article was very unfair and negative towards male sexuality (while also erasing the existence of female desire and its darker components). Clarisse Thorn had a good take on this subject recently and I just thought of it while I was reading the recent comments; it also is a good example of how my particular brand of sex-positive feminism includes examination and breaking down of stupid gender stereotypes that restrict male experiences:

    http://clarissethorn.com/blog/2011/01/02/men-dont-deserve-the-word-creep/

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  30. All I have to say is that given her opinion that normal women don't like degrading sex or patriarchal relationships it is abundantly clear she is unacquainted with the entire freaking wall of bad romance novels found in most libraries.

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  31. I'm a male switch who tends a little more submissive, so "devastating" doesn't exactly fit my paradigm too well. My most recurrent fantasy involves begging for a footjob after cunnilingus, and it's kind of hard to imagine how my lover is devastated by this. I want to devastate even less than I want to be devastated. Instead I want to put my lover on a pedestal, and sometimes have her do the same to me.

    The granting of sex is the most powerful weapon women possess in their struggle with men.

    This leaves me with the question, what is the struggle she's referring to for? What does she hope to win from that struggle? Presumably she's trying to get something from men; surely not love in her view. If she isn't looking for love, what kind of partners will she attract? Is she looking for money or security? Is she writing about the results of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

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  32. Like Svutlana mother always say, "Misogynist porn metanarratives be total tiresome."
    Poor Ms Natasha who expect hostile humiliate male sexual arousal and--surprise!--get exact what she expect. Svutlana expect happy celebrate male sexual arousal with balloons and big smile and get me that too.

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  33. This response is classic, and soooooooo satisfying to read. Surprising that the author here comes right out & says men are naturally evil and sadistic -- "A warring dynamic based on power and subjugation has always existed between men and women." Usually writers like this make vague assertions about "men and women are DIFFERENT! Don't you feminists understand that men & women aren't exactly the same?", & readers are left to infer the details (e.g. that men are all horny sadists). Surprised she thinks she can just, like, assert that with no evidence, though. Great job hiring responsible journalists, Atlantic.

    "The ho-hum of husbands filming their scrawny white wives having sex with paunchy black men in budget motels." Eww! It's so kinky and perverse of those people, how they're too fat or too skinny, and don't look like movie stars! What an extreme, degrading kink! This sort of thing seems to pop up a lot in "critical" or "intellectual"-y writing about porn and sex -- describing people in such a way that it sounds like they're disgusting & depressing if they don't fit the mainstream beauty idea. All that stuff about "saggy" rear ends on middle-aged people & "shabby" corsets. As if people who don't look like swimsuit models ought to just give up on sex, for fear of degrading themselves by having sex with each other.

    No hint at all that it might be a positive & joyous thing for people who don't have universally praised body types to take pleasure publicly in hot sex. & it's a massive example of begging the question. Trying to prove that porn is grim, depressing and dark? Just use grim, depressing, dark adjectives for everything you describe, & readers will feel depressed by the end of the article! GREAT JOB, REAL COGENT ARGUMENT.

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  34. It's also worth noting that anti-porn crusaders throughout history have been happy to reinforce people's prejudices and unconscious fears, while pretending to be engaged in "science." In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, any kind of masturbation at all would sap your strength & make you go insane. Now, apparently, masturbating to some kinds of porn (vanilla, with hot people) is fun & normal, while getting off on other kinds of porn (kinky, queer, amateur) is a degrading expression of men's inner hatred of women. But it's important to have no historical perspective, if you want to rant about "eternal truths about men and women."

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  35. So, the only way women can get published in a major literary magazine...

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  36. Emily H - I took offense too at the way the author degraded people with less than standard perfect bodies. With these sort of attitudes around, no wonder so many women are too worried about their appearance to enjoy sex and being unclothed with their husbands! I even started to worry a little when I read her words....

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  37. Actually, what she brings up isn't funny at ALL - I'm a woman and a feminist, and for the longest time I had serious issues about sex and my sexuality.

    'Cause guess what - I like to be degraded and humiliated during sex. I want a man to devastate me for his pleasure (which usually gives me enormous amounts of pleasure as well...).

    And for years I thought that something was wrong with me - that I had internalized a harmful Patriarchal narrative, that I was setting back feminism a thousand years by showing man that women do want to be dominated, I was afraid that if I did admit my sexual fantasies to a man, he won't be able to tell the difference between dominating me sexually, and dominating me in other aspects of our relationship...

    Yeah, it took me a long time to shake off that shit, a long time to come to the conclusions many of you have stated above - time in which I was not having the kind of sex I really wanted. And that sucks.

    And that's the harm in these kind of ridiculous articles - they make people ashamed of what turns them on, and ashamed of their sexuality, and ashamed of expressing it.

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  38. So, male readers, I have a question. Is the desire to subjugate and degrade women something that just naturally sets in around the time the deep voice and body hair get going?

    I had a period during which my interests ran almost exclusively to non-consensual porn. I think it was mostly because my "suspension of disbelief" would crash at the idea of someone being consensually sexual with me. Because nobody ever had. As soon as that biographical situation changed, my interests changed as well.

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  39. Whenever somebody gets started on what porn reveals once and for all about the relationship between men and women, the question you have to ask is:

    So where the fuck does gay porn fit in your thesis?

    Seriously, if every single act in porn is revelatory of a masculine attitude toward women (even the stuff that includes no men, because "of course" that's still made for a masculine audience...) then what about the stuff that doesn't include any women? What does that reveal, anyway?

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  40. @Nentuaby -

    It's like the proofs that all odd numbers are prime. You know...

    "1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 7 is prime, 9 is an outlier / outside of safety tolerances / etc".

    Except that some people actually believe the bullshit that this woman spews.

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  41. So where the fuck does gay porn fit in your thesis?

    I bet they'd say it's men play-acting the subjugation of women, and men getting off on the appropriation and utter negation of the plight -and even existence- of women, all for the pleasure of men, or some such.

    But what about yaoi fangirls?

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  42. Quote:

    1) Porn is always dark and miserable.
    2) Therefore, male sexuality is always dark and cruel.
    3) Therefore, sex is always grim and destructive.
    4) Therefore, please publish me in "The Atlantic."

    I feel like I'm reading something from Warhammer 40K. "In the grim darkness of the far future, sex with men is grim and dark."

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  43. (now that I got my browser working and can post comments):

    I just want to say thank you to Holly and all the commenters here. When I first read this article in the Atlantic, I knew it was a load of shit. It just happens to be the same shit that was taught to me when I was too young to be skeptical, and it's hard for me to rebut it. I felt disturbed and weighed down by it.

    It is quite a relief to be able to laugh at it, and see it thoughtfully and eloquently and even sarcastically debunked. Thank you all.

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  44. Awkward! I've gone from angry to sad to embarrassed for this woman, Vargas-Cooper. She's clearly mistaken her own personal issues with porn and men and sex as some kind of psychological insight about humans.

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  45. Anonymous-

    Ah. Right. Now that you mention it, I have heard that one proposed before in all serious. (There's entire movies about it!)

    *bangs head on desk*

    As for Yaoi Fangirls, one word: "Who?" Remember, its axiomatic to those with this thesis that all porn is consumed by men.

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  46. Hershele OstropolerJanuary 26, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Holly, you give good fisk.

    So, why is it that "midget porn" is always used as an example of the Ultimate Weirdness in these sorts of pieces?

    if you do mind the sexual politics, all you get is the following:

    1) Porn is always dark and miserable.
    2) Therefore, male sexuality is always dark and cruel.
    3) Therefore, sex is always grim and destructive.
    4) Therefore, please publish me in "The Atlantic."


    3 does follow from 2. I mean, they're both wrong, but if 2 were true, 3 would be as well, at least as applied to sex with men in.

    * * *

    Personally, i find her comment here more damaging than the porn she complains about. Sex for me is always about the desire or passion the people have for each other, never weapons to be used in a struggle. That sounds forced and not remotely fun. I think her comment there reveals her opinions on sex in general.

    Absolutely. She seems too academically or God forbid, personally invested in the idea of sex as something men do to women and women do for men that she doesn't even believe that other people believe it's something people do with each other.

    And of course there are no lesbians, only women who do other women to satisfy the male gaze (an understandable confusion if your only source of information on the subject is girl-girl porn).

    She has defined men as the evil other, and is using porn to prove her point. I've actually seen similar attitudes among certain people I know. They have unhappy, unfulfilling, antagonistic relationships. They assume this is normal and the way things just are

    There's a chicken-and-egg question there: do people who other their partners have atagonistic relationships, or does an antagonistic relationship lead people to other their partners?

    "So, male readers, I have a question. Is the desire to subjugate and degrade women something that just naturally sets in around the time the deep voice and body hair get going? Do you have boyhood memories of waking up with unexpectedly sticky sheets and a sudden urge to see a woman devastated for your pleasure?"

    For me, personally (and I DON'T think I'm a good representative sample for all men), yes. I enjoy that, and get my rocks off with it. But I've just about always been very careful to search out female partners who complementarily enjoy being subjugated and degraded (at least by me+at least in certain contexts). If everyone walked away with no permanent scars (or at least none they weren't happy to have) and with happy memories, I think we were doing okay at avoiding the Tragic Darkosity of Evil Male Sexuality (Boo!) Whirlpool.


    Yeah, I like things I'm not sure the writer of the Atlantic piece would be comfortable with, but I have no illusions that the customs of my psyche and libido are the laws of human nature.

    Actually -- and I'm not going for a cookie here -- one of the things that will turn me off about (text)porn is when it comes through loud and clear that the writer has Issues With Women (generally in the form of celebrating subjugation*). And I can actually see why people who have Issues With Women would have tastes that overlap with mine, even though I (hope I) don't.

    *With apologies for killing your productivity.

    Now, apparently, masturbating to some kinds of porn (vanilla, with hot people) is fun & normal, while getting off on other kinds of porn (kinky, queer, amateur) is a degrading expression of men's inner hatred of women.

    On the other hand, IME it's nigh impossible to find producers who promise not to extradiegetically degrade or humiliate the performers who will even make vanilla porn with hot people, almost as if that's a degrading expression of men's inner hatred of women.

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  47. Hershele OstropolerJanuary 26, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I posted a comment that got eaten, but the key part was, there's a chicken-and-egg thing there, do people who other their partners have bad-degrading sex, or does bad-degrading sex lead people to other their partners?

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  48. I think that even the phrase 'male sexuality' is ridiculous. People have all sorts of different sexualities.

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  49. "Sometimes, man... sometimes I'll be having sex and I'll look up (down, back, in the mirror, behind the robotic octopus) at the guy and he's just smiling. Just grinning like an idiot that he's getting laid. There's no secret hatred. No dark psychodrama. Just "Dude, there's a cute chick on my cock! How awesome is that? Dude!""

    -I think this is the best paragraph I'll read today.

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  50. The "domestic goulash" misread made me lol.

    Time for my own misread: " . . . two women simultaneously working their *crutches* on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo . . . " Not gonna lie--disabled women fucking each other with the ends of their crutches sounds hot as hell.

    As for wanting women devastated for my pleasure, the answer is yes, and I'm kind of surprised you'd think it would be otherwise after spending time with lots of dominant men as lovers or as part of the BDSM scene. I'm inferring your point was that this isn't the majority of people, but on a blog about kink (among other things) the audience's answer to your rhetorical question is not going to be, "Oh God, no! I've never, ever, had a fantasy about subjugating women or consensually role-played this out in real life!"

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