Internet Porn is not that Big of a Deal-a Man's Perspective
Today, when it comes to matters of sex and sexuality, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we men really are from Mars and women from Venus. In the past decade, doctors, psychiatrists, sociologists and writers across all manner of fields have been churning out study after study on human sexuality. The factors that increase or diminish male and female sexual desire and arousal have come in for particular scrutiny. The general consensus from these studies seems to be that male sexuality is much easier to understand and predict than the factors that affect female sexual arousal, which are much more complicated in comparison. Who knew?
Another conclusion drawn from these innumerable studies is that men’s sexual arousal and orgasm are mainly triggered by visual stimuli, while for women it is again much more complex; anyone notice a pattern emerging here? In other words, what turns men on sexually doesn’t necessarily turn women on, and vice versa. Not exactly groundbreaking. Regardless, assuming we are to take these results seriously, the following question arises: How can adult men and women form long-term relationships and marriages when this sexual chasm exists between them? How can either party ever hope to fulfill the needs and desires of the other?
When it comes to men’s libido, apparently a picture is really worth a thousand words. Or, to put it bluntly, a picture or a video of a young, naked, sexually uninhibited woman is worth a thousand male orgasms. There is a perception out there that men’s sexual expectations have become twisted and unrealistic because of the undue influence of the media and the Internet, where the majority of women are depicted as young, skinny and buxom. Internet porn takes a large portion of the blame from people that hold this point of view. They claim it is seriously affecting and in many cases destroying intimate, romantic relationships between real men and women.
It all sounds a bit alarmist if you ask me. Were us men averse to scantily-clad young blonds before the advent of the Internet? No, I didn’t think so either. This hasn’t stopped the media jumping on the notion like a porn-hungry male, if you will excuse the simile. For their part, the ever-edgy and provocative New York Magazine put out an issue this year dedicated to the omnipresence of Internet porn. An article titled “He’s Just Not Into Anyone” documents the sexual habits of attached men who preferred the “virtual” company of online sex actresses to that of their girlfriends or spouses. Davy Rothbart, the author of the article, says, “Porn is not only shaping men’s physical and emotional interest in sex on a very fundamental neurological level, but it’s also having a series of unexpected ripple effects—namely on women.”
Rothbart quotes Stefan, a 43-year-old composer, who has no problem getting aroused when he has sex with his wife. “In order to reach orgasm, though, I’ve got to resort to playing scenes in my head that I’ve seen while viewing porn… [in them] I’m no longer with my wife; I’m inside my own head.” Another man says that porn actresses appeal to him because “they’re younger, hotter, and wilder in the sack than my wife.” Following on from this Rothbart asks “Is it possible that porn is causing men to detach from their partners in more profound ways?”
Well, Mr. Rothbart, perhaps in the case of the men you interviewed, yes, but this is a classic case of selection bias. Rothbart states himself that he interviewed men with “porn habits,” so of course their views are going to give a screwed-up depiction of things. If you are watching enough porn to the point that you have to classify it as a habit – like drinking, smoking, drugs – then you certainly aren’t representative of the average, normal male in my opinion.
But wait, here’s the science part. It’s not proven (of course), but it is speculated by scientists that a dopamine-oxytocin combo is released in the brain during orgasm, acting as a “biochemical love potion,” as behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski calls it. If this is the case, then it means this reaction is responsible for the fact that, after having sex with someone, you’re probably more inclined to form an emotional attachment. But you don’t have to actually have sex in order to get those neurotransmitters firing according to Kuszewski. When you watch porn, “you’re bonding with it,” she says. “And those chemicals make you want to keep coming back to have that feeling.”
Modern women are more educated, professionally accomplished, financially independent and have equal access to the media and the Internet outlets that their pesky men are supposedly perpetually using for their own sexual fulfillment. Yet it has been said that these women now feel pressured to mimic the behavior of the women their men watch online.
But men don’t like it when they do this. Rothbart again: “Men, oversaturated by porn, secretly hunger for the variety that porn offers. Women, noticing a decline in their partner’s libido, try to reenact the kinds of scenes that men watch on their computer screens. Men, as a result, get really freaked out. They don’t want their real women and their fantasy women to inhabit the same body.”
Cindy Gallop is a former advertising executive who, in a 2009 speech on TED.com and through her website makelovenotporn.com, attempts to squash the myths of hardcore pornography. She wants to start a dialog about how real people have sex, after noticing – as a single older woman dating younger men – that men’s bedroom habits seemed to mimic the habits of porn stars and were totally out-of-sync with the sexual needs a real woman. Gallop lists the specific factors that she thinks turn women on, which are as follows: comfort with who/how they are, acceptance, respect and appreciation from their partner for who/how they are and look, and a sense of personal accomplishment achieved on their own, in a field of their choice, outside the home base.
I would argue that, while these factors are depicted as being specific to women, these are the very same traits men look for in a potential female partner. Many men may watch women contorting themselves in a state of undress online, but that doesn’t mean they want a girlfriend who is constantly naked with no personality outside of her ability to moan very loudly and unrealistically.
For his part in the saga, and in another TED Talk, Stanford psychology professor Phillip Zimbardo says that men are being surpassed by women, both academically, socially and in intimate male-female bonding areas, where he claims that young males are becoming wiped out. “Every year there’s research done on self-reported shyness among college students. And we’re seeing a steady increase among males… It’s a social awkwardness like you’re a stranger in a foreign land. They don’t know what to say, they don’t know what to do, especially in one-on-one encounters with the opposite sex.”
As you may have predicted by now, he goes on to suggest that this growing social awkwardness, brought on by the empowerment of women, is being exacerbated by the culture of Internet pornography that has arisen over the past few decades. Oddly, he also blames the fact that most males have played “10,000 hours of video games” before the age of 21, which seems a bit trite, if not wholly inaccurate. Is there anything we don’t blame on video games these days? Anyway, I digress.
It can’t be denied that the Internet has brought about a massive increase in the prevalence of pornography and that in turn this has had an effect on both male and female sexuality. But from my point of view, as a straight male, I think all of these psychological analyses and accompanying scare story statistics are more than a bit unwarranted. For instance, are we to believe that women don’t watch pornography, or get aroused by pictures of impossibly perfect men for that matter?
There is plenty of evidence that men and women are “wired” differently, sure. But there is always a counter argument that should be examined before we get too worked up anything, and in this case I think all we need to do is look at the romance genre, which women often turn to for their own fix of sex-based entertainment. Romance novels, romantic comedies, various sitcoms and more all paint an impossibly idyllic picture of how a relationship should be. Rom-coms always have a happy ending, and male characters always know the right thing to say to melt a girl’s heart. Couldn’t it then be argued that men are expected to match up to the same kind of unrealistic media portrayal that women are, and that this could be just as likely a reason for relationships failing these days?
When it comes down to it, when a man falls in love with a woman he doesn’t care how many positions she can contort herself into in bed. It is at this point that both male and female sexual desire come together as one and, praise the lord, we can finally throw all the over-analytical drivel from the likes of Rothbart out the window. Ultimately as men we desire and seek to be desired in return, just as women do. And whatever these studies, talks and magazines may say, the vast majority of men know that an image or a video on their computer screen can never replace the very real affection you feel when you love a real woman.
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 11:04 PM
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