Friday, May 23, 2008

On Being a Bookworm, Part Two - why do men look at porn?

Probably the most radical way that being a Feminist impacted my everyday life is that I found myself morally conflicted over my very large stash of porn. After discovering that many people are anti-porn without the usual religious justifications (see: One Angry Girl's website), I found it much easier to throw out my collection without feeling like I was anti-sex or pandering to moral conservatives.

Because pornography is something that used to be such a big part of my life, the first book I picked up at the library happened to be Pamela Paul's Pornified. I hoped the book would help clarify various opinions that I entertained about the adult industry.

Even though I am only fifty or so pages into the book, I can already tell that Paul is an excellent author. Her first chapter frames later arguments in such a way that the conclusion she wants you to make seems natural. She only introduces her radical or controversial premises where the reader should have already entertained them with the presented data. Her writing is manipulative, so to speak, albeit in an admirable fashion.

Through polls and first-hand narratives, Paul identifies various reasons why men view pornography habitually:

  1. As a learning tool - how to get women, interesting sexual practices, anatomy, what turns him on and what does not
  2. Instant gratification - cheap, a way to quickly get aroused and masturbate,
  3. Dissatisfaction - SO will not be adventurous in bed, he is lonely, he wants some variety, SO isn't around, SO is cranky or not attractive
  4. Boredom - it's entertaining, the really disgusting stuff is funny, something to do at work, out of curiosity, a voyeuristic look into someone else's sex life
  5. Insecurities - puts men in power and control always, lets a man look at women he feels he cannot attract in reality, a way to demean women after having to treat them as equals all day, a haven for men, looking at abusive painful situations for attractive women as punishment for not having sex with them, critiquing porn stars to make themselves feel better
  6. Safety - no emotional investment, no chance of rejection, no need to be attractive yourself, no hard to please women

And how they excuse the habit:

  1. Men are beastial, without porn there would be more rape and murder
  2. Men need variety, to sow their oats
  3. Everyone does it unless they are frigid or overly religious
  4. It's an appreciation of beauty

I thought her passage on the porn fantasy was especially poignant:

The women in pornography exist in order to please men, and are therefore willing to do anything. The will dominate or act submissive. They can play dumb or talk back, moan quietly or scream, cry in anger or pleasure. They will accommodate whatever a man wants them to do, be it anal sex, double penetration, or multiple orgasms. The porn star is always responsive; she would never complain about a man being late or taking too long to come... She's easily aroused, naturally and consistently orgasmic, and malleable. She is what he wants her to be. She's a cheerleader, a nurse, a virgin, a teenager, your best friend's mother. She is every woman who was ever out of your league. She's the girl next door, the prom queen, the hot teacher, the supermodel, the celebrity. She is every woman who ever did the rejecting. She used to be a lesbian, she used to be frigid, she used to be a virgin. She is every woman who cannot be had. Now she loves sex, she can't get enough of it; she can't get enough of sex with you. She is every woman who should appreciate you... each encounter begins anew, meeting as welcome strangers and parting with gratitude.

Of all the requirements for enjoyable pornography, men most commonly cite the appearance of a woman's pleasure as key. She has to seem as if she's having fun... she should make the viewer feel that she's doing what she does because she wants to.

"The women in porn tend to act as though the sex act is earth shattering every time, even though realistically speaking, it's not like that all the time," Ethan says. "But it's still fantastic--that enthusiasm really appeals to me." Asked if his wife is enthusiastic about sex he says in a lackluster voice, "yeah, I guess so." But he goes on to say, "the women in porn are just different, though, and that's the appeal. I like the whole innocence vibe of young girls. The tautness of youth, tighter and clearer skin, the bright faces." His wife, Candace is already twenty-nine years old, a good decade past his ideal.

What porn presents is the complete objectification of women. Not only do they exist only as you want them, when you want them, they are always happy to serve you.

If I spent my day looking at pictures of expensive sports cars, nobody would doubt that I would jump at the chance to own one. The same principle applies to men and pornography: what they look at is undoubtedly what they want. However, they don't want a Porn Star--a woman using her body for a paycheck, who is sexually available to anyone with money--they want a monogamous porn star: a woman that is sexually available only to them, who thinks first of their pleasure in bed, asks for nothing in return, and is infinitely grateful for their attention. I do not want the car payments that go along with the sports car. I want nothing of the expensive reality of owning a high-maintenance vehicle. Men who view porn are the same; I surmise that they do not want the sexually empowered porn star, they want someone whose sexuality is dependent on his whims, someone that only exists solely please him. He does not want the porn star, but the character she plays.

View previous parts of this series: Part One

25 comments:

Amelia said...

Very interesting. In my first gender and women's studies class, we were supposed to take sides in the pornography debate. I felt confused about it because I have never watched porn.

But this post made sense to me.

And on youtube, someone named (I think) the AmazingAtheist argued in a rant against radical feminism, that pron stars and prostitutes are more respectable than doctors and lawyers. Also, that there are sooo many women who want to be porn stars.

I don't know. Pornography is not a topic that I have studied much, except for reading academically about it.

I do not doubt that there are women out there who want to be porn stars. But I wonder why they would want that? I think it has something to do with the "glamor" of porn stars like Jenna Jameson, etc. And that bothers me because who is deciding that porn stars are "glamorous?" Not women.

Hmm. Interesting post. Thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

As a learning tool - how to get women, interesting sexual practices, anatomy, what turns him on and what does not

And this one is a problem, how?

Instant gratification - cheap, a way to quickly get aroused and masturbate

Again, I see no problem here.

Dissatisfaction - SO will not be adventurous in bed, he is lonely, he wants some variety, SO isn't around, SO is cranky or not attractive

Once again, where's the problem?

Boredom - it's entertaining, the really disgusting stuff is funny, something to do at work, out of curiosity, a voyeuristic look into someone else's sex life

Where's the issue?

Insecurities - puts men in power and control always, lets a man look at women he feels he cannot attract in reality, a way to demean women after having to treat them as equals all day, a haven for men, looking at abusive painful situations for attractive women as punishment for not having sex with them, critiquing porn stars to make themselves feel better

You're linking too many here. Looking at someone you can't get is human nature, and not a problem. Combining it with things like "abusive painful situations" and such isn't really related.

Safety - no emotional investment, no chance of rejection, no need to be attractive yourself, no hard to please women

Again, where's the problem?

I mean, you can critique and hate pornography all you like, but women look at it too, and the people who enjoy it aren't evil scumbags like you're trying to paint them.

Amelia said...

In my own opinion, a problem with porn is not the people who view it, but the business itself. It creates women-as-objects to be consumed by viewers whose own actions may be harmless, except for their promotion of women-as-objects.

Anonymous said...

In my own opinion, a problem with porn is not the people who view it, but the business itself. It creates women-as-objects to be consumed by viewers whose own actions may be harmless, except for their promotion of women-as-objects.

They're doing it privately, they aren't forcing you to look at it, and honestly, I can't see a problem with it.

No one is forcing you to look at it, or to hang around people who do, or while they do, and it's for someone's private masturbatory entertainment.

Amelia said...

I never said anything about anyone forcing porn on anyone else.

My problem is that when people view porn, they are (consciously or not) supporting an industry that objectifies women, often for non-empowering purposes.

That's what bothers me.

former addict said...

For a long time I was addicted to pornography. I was totally consumed by it. It did in fact give me a false set of standards to maesure women up to. And while I no longer view porn, I still feel the effects of it my marriage has suffered as a direct result of my addiction and still hasn't fully healed. There were times that if my wife didn't do what I want her to, which is usually something I'd seen online or on a porno, I would get upset even angry sometimes.

Anonymous,

You seem to think that there is no problem with men viewing it for their insecurities and because it gives them a sense of power. I beg to differ. Did you know that Ted Bundy started out as a young man who found a porno mag on the side of the road? What I'm saying is, when is simply viewing porn not enough to satisfy? Next they move to in-person meetings such as dates. And when she doesn't want to give it to him, then what? He forces her too. That was the final straw for me, when I started acting like that, i never raped anybody, but I felt rage when I didn't get what i want. That's when I knew I needed help and when I got help, I realized that this isn't a small problem for a few males. A vast majority of men have dealt with some form of this. I wish I could give you the full scope of the problem that I dealt with, but I can't. It was far too much to explain here.

There is nothing good that comes from pornography. And i'm not trying to tell you what to do. I just want to help you understand what can happen. The things I went through are things I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. This is a problem that no one can help you with. A cop can't come and arrest it, a fireman can't come and put it out, an exterminator can't come and kill it, and the military can't come and destroy it. but I beat it with a lot of determination and alot of prayer. So please guard yourself and try to remember what I've told you.

Anonymous said...

My problem is that when people view porn, they are (consciously or not) supporting an industry that objectifies women, often for non-empowering purposes.

There are plenty of things in the world that don't empower a particular group of people.

Everything in the world is not wrapped up in empowering this or that group.

I mean, working at McDonald's isn't exactly empowering, but people still do it.

I should mention that I don't care for the title of this article.

"Why do men look at porn?".

Why not "people"? It's obviously not just men that look at it. It singles men out as some sort of "problem", while ignoring/excusing women that do so.

There were times that if my wife didn't do what I want her to, which is usually something I'd seen online or on a porno, I would get upset even angry sometimes.

So? The author of this article has articulated previously that women are perfectly allowed to have sex be focused on their pleasure, why can't you get the same privilege?

Did you know that Ted Bundy started out as a young man who found a porno mag on the side of the road?

Correlation does not equal causation.

You don't give me much faith in your ability to debate, or discuss things intelligently and rationally if you start out with a fallacy like this one.

A vast majority of men have dealt with some form of this.

Doubtful. Statistics, please?

I'm afraid I can't really take you seriously in terms of this discussion.

Michael said...

they want a monogamous porn star: a woman that is sexually available only to them
Nothing wrong with monogamy, is there?

who thinks first of their pleasure in bed, asks for nothing in return,

Not at all true, at least for me. I am a 'feminist' in some ways. ;)

and is infinitely grateful for their attention

Who doesn't like being appreciated?

Personally, I do agree that a lot of men think only of their own sexual enjoyment. It's a shame; sex should be enjoyed by all involved parties. Is this necessarily a result of viewing pornography? I'm not sure... people in general are pretty selfish, in my opinion. Of course, I'm a pessimist, so there you go.

former addict said...

"So? The author of this article has articulated previously that women are perfectly allowed to have sex be focused on their pleasure, why can't you get the same privilege?"

You're missing the point about me being angry about it. And di i say somewhere that I agreed with everything in the post?

"Correlation does not equal causation."

The porno mag triggered his fascination, which in turn triggered whatever it was that made him act the way he did.

"You don't give me much faith in your ability to debate, or discuss things intelligently and rationally if you start out with a fallacy like this one."

You don't give me much faith in your ability to debate when you cherry pick my comments.

"Doubtful. Statistics, please?"

Why do you need statistics? Have you never had heavy sexual urges? All men may not have had it to level that I have, but most men have had those feelings to some degree. And if you haven't, you are a rare breed my friend.

"I'm afraid I can't really take you seriously in terms of this discussion."

Take it however you want. But I've felt the full effects of it and overcome the struggle. there is no sense in trying to debate you because unless you've been where I've been, you'll never get it,

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point about me being angry about it. And di i say somewhere that I agreed with everything in the post?

It's natural to be upset when you don't get what you want.

The porno mag triggered his fascination, which in turn triggered whatever it was that made him act the way he did.

Again, you can speculate all you like, but correlation does not equal causation.

It's like blaming the game "Doom" on Columbine, or Grand Theft Auto on Virginia Tech.

Why do you need statistics? Have you never had heavy sexual urges? All men may not have had it to level that I have, but most men have had those feelings to some degree. And if you haven't, you are a rare breed my friend.

Because if you make a wild claim, I require proof. If you claim a "vast majority" of men have a "problem" when it comes to porn, I require you to back that claim up with hard facts.

Jen said...

I'm in agreement with Former Addict here. I used to be well on my way to being addicted to porn. I couldn't get off without it, and I probably looked at it for 5-10 hours a week. By the time I finally figured out what it was doing to me, pictures of naked men and women no longer aroused me and I had to search for more explicit and "harder" things all the time to get the same buzz.

Not everyone has the same capacity for addiction. However, the theoretical idea of porn objectifies the subject and the gender of the subject (when that gender is much more present in a subservient role than the other). Many studies have found that increased viewing of porn, especially hard-core porn, leads to less sympathy with women's issues, more sympathy for rapists and abusers, and more traditional view of gender roles (my next post will include those studies).

Anonymous said...

By the time I finally figured out what it was doing to me, pictures of naked men and women no longer aroused me and I had to search for more explicit and "harder" things all the time to get the same buzz.

You could say the same thing about having sex with a significant other.

In fact, I'd say it would be faster that way. I mean, you wouldn't even have variety, you'd see the SAME naked person, day in and day out. And you'd need more to get off.

So, I find blaming porn for something you could easily do in your daily life without it, to be a bit implausible.

any studies have found that increased viewing of porn, especially hard-core porn, leads to less sympathy with women's issues, more sympathy for rapists and abusers, and more traditional view of gender roles (my next post will include those studies).

And do they come from respected, unbiased sources?

Because honestly, if they did, I figure I'd have heard of them before now. If they come from, like, "The Feminists Center for Eradication of Pornography" (or somesuch), I might find their conclusions a bit dubious.

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry but this article is just seeking to vilify men. why do "men" look at porn. men are "bestial". please. trying to make men feel guilty or to cast a man's sexuality in a negative light. propaganda at best. brainwashing at worst.

porn has liberated men from their sexual dependence on women. porn is a good thing. it doesn't objectify women. there is plenty of porn where the woman dominates and abuses the man. it's called bdsm and it's no big deal. there's also plenty of porn where the man eats the woman out- not using her for pleasure, but giving her please. i'm sure it's easy for people to stand on the outside, cherry pick a few scenarios, and attack porn as a whole based on a scenario. but really, porn is as diverse as the people who watch it. it comes in many varieties and styles and it is not always the man in control, sometimes the woman is.

why are feminists so interested in liberating their own sexuality, but then turning around and trying to regulate men's sexuality? i don't understand this.

and porn doesn't objectify women- women do that to themselves every time they go out in skirts barely below their buttcheeks, tons of make-up, and really tight shirts. or opt to be porn stars! i don't see feminists complaining about that- probably because women don't like to be told what to wear! heh.

or how about a man who can't get a date or has trouble interacting with women for whatever reason? he's lonely. so he looks at porn. he's not objectifying women. women have become objects to him because he cannot interact with them. they become "other"- and through their own actions (ignoring the poor man).

former addict: it sounds like you had some *personal* issues with porn. please do not make the mistake of taking your anecdote and projecting onto the entire world. if you want to talk about serial murderers and rapists and child molesters, i will gladly inform you at this moment that the majority of male child abusers and serial killers are in fact homosexual. so to be pro-gay and anti-porn simply because a serial killer looked at it, is lacking any conceivable form of logic.

there are many gay men who do nothing to children and kill nobody.
there are many (the majority) of people who watch porn and don't kill, murder, rape, or molest or even bother anybody.

so your argument lacks logic and is based solely on 2 anecdotes.

"Many studies have found that increased viewing of porn, especially hard-core porn, leads to less sympathy with women's issues"

what's the problem here? i don't see much sympathy with men's issues in our society.

"and more traditional view of gender roles"

and this is a problem how, exactly? if a man wants to live traditionally, that's his choice. same goes for a woman. there is nothing wrong with a traditional lifestyle and if people choose to live that way, let them.

freedom of choice, right?

Amelia said...

why are feminists so interested in liberating their own sexuality, but then turning around and trying to regulate men's sexuality? i don't understand this.

There is a lot of debate among feminists about porn, sex work, and sexuality. It is not as if all feminists think the exact same things.

Also, just because a post focuses on men viewing porn does not mean that the author thinks only men view porn, etc.

Faith said...

"i will gladly inform you at this moment that the majority of male child abusers and serial killers are in fact homosexual."

Your entire comment is full of holes and distortions, but this part I can't let slide: This statement is absolutely completely and utterly false. The majority of male child abusers, rapists, and serial killers are white heterosexual males. The most common form of child sexual abuse is quite possibly, and even probably, father/daughter incest. The majority of child sexual abuse is committed by male relatives of the child - male heterosexual relatives. And, most child sexual abusers and serial killers used pornography.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse

Anonymous said...

ahh yes. the feminist survival tactic "split up and run!" - just say "not all feminists are like that." but where are these elusive other feminists that always get mentioned, but seem to be a rare sight?

Amelia said...

Anon, your last comment was uncalled for. Most of the time on this blog, when people make "feminist think..." or "feminists all..." comments, there have been at least 3 feminists who write for this very blog that did not fit the statement.

Calling it a "feminist survival tactic" sounds like an attempt to derail the conversation because instead of focusing on the topic of this post, you are trying to put down feminists in general. If I am wrong, please continue discussing the topic of this comment thread. If I am right, then you do not need to be commenting here.

The Blasphemer said...

faith: according to the fbi and american medical association you're wrong. a child is more likely to be abused by a female family member.

"Children who had been physically abused by their birth parents were more likely to have suffered at the hands of their mothers than their fathers (60% versus 48%)"

"On the whole, children are somewhat more likely to be maltreated by female perpetrators than by males: "65 percent of the maltreated children had been maltreated by a female, whereas 54 percent had been maltreated by a male."

children are most likely to be abused by a female family member, second most likely is by a non-related male (boyfriend in the cases of single moms, step-father in the case of remarried moms) and last is biological father.

the majority of child abuse is not committed by related males, despite feminist propaganda, and fbi statistics do not support your assertions, faith. rather, looking at the over-all picture, we find that men and women abuse children at about the same rate, with a slightly higher average amongst men. however, the difference of a few percentage points hardly calls for such grandiose statements as "all child molesters are men" and "the majority of child molesters are men.", the latter statement being misleading at best. to be fair, following that logic, we could say that men are smarter than women, since, on average, men have iq points 5 - 10 points higher than women - however, one could only assume the reactions if someone asserted that men were smarter than women- in fact a professor was even forced to resign when he merely stated a fact that all our great technological and scientific advancements have been made by men because, on average, most of the people with iq's higher than about 125 are men, and almost all of the people with iq's higher than 140 are men.

also- i find it very difficult to take anyone who uses wikipedia to support their argument seriously.

Faith said...

"according to the fbi and american medical association you're wrong. a child is more likely to be abused by a female family member."

I'm quite well aware of those statistics and do not deny that women abuse children. However, most sexual abusers are male. And most sexual abusers are heterosexual white males according to what we do know. Also, the problem with stats surrounding female "child maltreatment" is that they do not often distinguish between actual physical abuse and simple neglect. It's obvious that more women are going to be guilty of child neglect due to the fact that more women are the primary caretakers of children, and they are also the ones most likely to live in poverty. However, I hardly consider it a woman's fault if she can't provide for the child's needs due to living in extreme poverty.

"also- i find it very difficult to take anyone who uses wikipedia to support their argument seriously."

I could provide quotes from a variety of sources. I use wikipedia because it's one of the easiest. You are perfectly free to not take anything I say or quote seriously. I promise my feelings won't be hurt in the slightest.

Amelia said...

On the topic of child abuse:

In a book I am reading (Domestic Violence at the Margins: Readings on Race, Class, Gender, and Culture, chapter 13), there was a discussion of two cases of women who battered their child to death. Both of them had one thing in common: They had been battered by their husbands.

The chapter in the book that tells these stories also talks about the different effects of battering on men and women. For example, the book says that "Research on severely violent men suggests that "[o]nly husband violence produces fear in the partner. It is largely this difference that accounts for the unique ability of husbands to use violence as a means of psychological and social control."

This sort of violent control that is more often exercised by men over women seems to me as, perhaps, a reason for female-inflicted child abuse. I can't speak from experience, but if I was being battered, whose to say I would not lash out? And if I were to do that, who would be the likely target?

Not an excuse for abuse of any kind, but something to keep in mind.

Also, I don't want to be accused of saying "But women beat mean, too!" I know that. And I never said otherwise.

Jen said...

That book sounds interesting, Amelia, I might check it out once I'm done with my long reading list.

I surmise that almost all crimes of abuse (be it rape, neglect, objectification, physical, emotional, etc) are examples of a perverted power structure. Either the perpetrator is taking advantage of his or her power, seeking to enforce it, or lashing out at others because of a general feeling of powerlessness.

It just so happens that the male gender role instructs that the acquisition of personal power is more important than almost any other character trait. The fulfillment of this gender role leads to a culture that lauds a very powerful collected man, and demonizes a powerless and helpless man. A man's worth-in his own measure, and in that of others- cannot be extracted from the perception of power.

It just so happens, therefore, that when a man feels powerless (when he is unsuccessful at work, the product of a broken home, rejected by women, ugly, fat, etc) he displays behaviors that objectify others. Which is why a poor man is more likely to beat his wife than a rich man, or a fat man is more likely to look at porn than a fit man.

The result is that the victim will always be someone less powerful-by physical stature, class, age, etc- than the powerless man lashing out. That person is most commonly his wife or girlfriend.

However, when it's the woman who feels powerless (and we do sometimes, the weaker victim is almost always only her children.

Which is why women are more likely to assault their children than men, but men are more likely to assault their wifes.

When seeking to identify a power structure, always look for the statistical victim of powerlessness.

(Note: I got most of this from college psychology courses and Stoltenberg's gender theories)

Lindsay said...

"Children who had been physically abused by their birth parents were more likely to have suffered at the hands of their mothers than their fathers (60% versus 48%)"

"On the whole, children are somewhat more likely to be maltreated by female perpetrators than by males: "65 percent of the maltreated children had been maltreated by a female, whereas 54 percent had been maltreated by a male."

children are most likely to be abused by a female family member, second most likely is by a non-related male (boyfriend in the cases of single moms, step-father in the case of remarried moms) and last is biological father.


Are those stats for physical abuse or specifically sexual abuse? I think in society the phrase "child abuser" has come to be synonymous with abuse of a sexual nature as opposed to the wide connotations of different kinds of abuse.

Lissette said...

I'm sure Anon has left at this point as he was bordering on the verge of getting hateful, but I'm one of the small percentage of women (by the looks of it) that does not see that big of a deal with porn. Does it objectify women? In many instances it does, but at the same time there are instances where men are objectified too.

My biggest issue with trying to do away with porn is that it kills that choice for people. I'm going out on a limb here, but there are a lot of choices that I've made that I'm glad have been available for me to make that have been on the border of being seen as moralistically wrong to a lot of people in society, just like porn is on those same outskirts, but I wouldn't want to take that choice away from men and women because some people find it wrong.

As for the issues of men turning to porn and growing violent, or being desensitized to women's issues, and things of that sort, as Jen mentioned, women can go through the same thing. Whether they turned violent or not, I don't know and I don't think there have been any studies relating porn to female rages, but I'm almost certain that women can have the same effects from an addiction to porn as men.

An issue that I have with the addictiveness of pornography is that people who are prone to addictions can get addicted to just about anything, but to deny the other part of the population a right to enjoy this simply because the other half can get addicted is wrong. There are people who are addicted to gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, etc who if they are truly hard core about they're addictions will turn violent just the same, and rape has been associated with alcohol I think more than porn has (put I'm not 100% on this) and all these that I listed are legal just like porn. Should they be? Yes because people have the right to choose their own vice and they have the right to seek treatment when their vice turns nasty, but they need to have the right to choose on their own, otherwise where to do we draw the line on rights?

OK, I'm leaving the soapbox for now.

Goose said...

This is hypocritical. Either you support the standard feminist argument that men and women are the same, or you undermine your whole foundation. This post is essentially saying men are more susceptible then women, and therefore different

Amelia said...

Goose, you are obviously not a feminist.

I am, and I never said that men and women are exactly the same. That's stupid and just wrong. But why should women be undervalued or denied rights because they are different? That's the problem I see, and that's why I am a feminist.