The Deathly Lure of Porn

Porn. The secret vice of  … “men like me. Not all men, but men like all of us. Men who can’t get a date as well as men who have all the dates they could want. Men who live alone and men who are married. Men who grew up in liberal homes where pornography was never a big deal and men who grew up in strict religious homes in which no talk of sex was allowed. Black and white and brown and any-other-color-you-can-imagine men. Rich men and poor men … ”

Porn. Four letters that carry with them the weight of $97 billion in revenue from the sex industry worldwide and the almost equal burden of ‘getting off’ on lust which quickly slides into guilt, shame, secrecy, self loathing and misplaced search for intimacy in the lives of millions of lives around the world.

Many men are ‘gaga’ over porn without truly understanding its power to destroy

We live in a porn-saturated culture. There has been a drastic growth in the demand for and consumption of pornography around the world. The annual turnover of the porn industry in 1972 is estimated to be around 10 million dollars. The corresponding figure for 2010 is almost ten times that amount, (in 1996 it was just $8 billion) and surprise, surprise, a large proportion of the time people spend on the Internet is dedicated to consumption of pornography.

In many countries today, we find considerable discussion of what is often called the sexualization or sometimes pornification of the public sphere where ads on TV and music videos a la Lady Gaga find their influence in the porno industry and in the depictions of bodies and sexuality that prevail in this commercial sphere.

Society tells us that porn isn’t a “big deal” and that “normal people” can use it without negative consequences for themselves, their relationships, and society as a whole. This is the porn myth and men are falling for it hard!

Andy Muirhead.

Classic example is the very sad case of baby faced Andy Muirhead – a much loved Australian TV presenter, host of the genteel ABC TV antique show, Collectors, recently charged by Australian Federal Police for allegedly using the Internet to access child pornography. In one foul swoop, he lost his career, his reputation and his standing in the community.

So while sexuality and the erotic are often associated with transgression and freedom, what are they doing to the hearts, souls and lives of men (and women)? How does porn erode our sense of true intimacy and masculinity?

The porn myth

Contemporary youth are well acquainted with pornography. Young people are living in a society where pornography and a commercial market based on sexuality have a strong position. Technological innovation has made the furtive peeps at father’s Playboy an unknown experience for most young people today. Author Robert Jensen, describes in his book, “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity”,  his own adolescent fascination with pornographic magazines and the lengths to which he and his buddies would go to acquire porn. However what’s available today online – even for free — is infinitely more vivid, infinitely more hardcore, and infinitely more interactive than it was in Jensen’s youth.

And the evidence of this, is the increasing ‘porn creep’ into bedrooms and relationships all over the world. Just yesterday I heard another of the many stories I’ve been privy to recently – a young man demanding that his girlfriend perform the crudest sexual acts in the bedroom, sometimes even inviting strangers into their bed.  Consequently, the young woman in the relationship was left bewildered, wondering why her partner could not enjoy sex without the heightened reliving of a pornographic act he’d seen recently.

The subtlety of how advertising lends itself to porn

Jensen is clear — and he cites others, like Ana Bridges, who has published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy on the impact of men’s porn use on their relationships with wives and girlfriends — that ordinary, everyday guys who would “never actually rape anyone” do indeed have their entire sexuality shaped and distorted through pornography. Jensen asks:

Does habitual use of pornography, especially those movies that feature extreme sex acts, ever give a “good guy” ideas about, and desires for, specific sex acts that are denigrating to women that he otherwise might not have considered?

A great many men look at porn and don’t rape women. But “not-raping” is hardly proof that porn is harmless. There are many ways in which pornography can damage our sexuality short of turning men into rapists.

Some of Jensen’s finest writing comes when he describes porn’s impact on men’s ability to empathize and connect with other human beings:

In my experience, which is also the experience of many men I’ve talked to over the years, we feel ourselves go emotionally numb when viewing pornography and masturbating, what in common parlance might be called “checked out” emotionally. To enter into the pornographic world and experience that intense sexual rush, many of us have to turn off some of the emotional reactions that typically are connected to sexual experience with a real person — a sense of the other’s humanity, an awareness of being present with another person, the recognition of something outside our own bodies. For me, watching pornography produces a kind of emotional numbness, a part of which is a process of objectifying myself.

So why is pornography the most addictive thing in the universe for men?

Katie Price, soft porn’s pin-up girl … and the icon of many young girls especially in the UK … hmmm?

“The deeper reason is because the seductive beauty reaches down inside and touches your desperate hunger for validation as a man you didn’t even know you had, touches it like nothing else most men have experienced  … You see, every man remembers Eve. We are haunted by her. And somehow we believe that if we could find her, get her back, then we’d also recover with her our own lost masculinity.” (Author, John Eldredge).

Yes, that’s true. What man hasn’t sought some woman (real or fictional) for a sense of masculinity at some point in his life?

John Eldredge’s book ‘Wild at Heart’ describes men who so desperately want to feel like men that they end up going to a woman to prove it.

“But the deadliest place a man ever takes his search, the place every man seems to wind up no matter what trail he’s followed, is the woman. A woman is a captivating thing. More captivating than anything else in all creation. … Femininity can arouse masculinity. But femininity can never bestow masculinity.”

“When a man takes his question to the woman what happens is either addiction or emasculation. Usually both. But once he’s given her the ability to make him feel like a man, she can also take away his feeling of masculinity.”

At some point, as a man you have to realise that you can’t run to another man or woman for validation.

However it’s easier said than done. It’s an incredibly difficult thing. Many men look to women to give them that boost, that a chance to “be a man. “If I could just get that first, second, and fifteenth date, I’d be a man.”

But being a player or stud still leaves men empty in terms of “being a man.” Why? Because getting dates, dating a woman, or even getting married to one won’t make you more of a man.

So men run away and indulge in porn, immersing themselves in the images of women who have also given up their own sense of self and identity to please a man far far away.

Whether or not the women who perform in porn are exploited or not, there seems little doubt that the male user of porn, the fellow whose masturbatory reveries are conditioned by images of women being gang-banged or facialized or sodomized, is participating in his own exploitation. His own sense of what he really wants is shaped, distorted, and ultimately replaced by what pornography tells him he ought to want. And he grows a little more numb, a little less human, a little less kind. And as high a price as that is to pay, the price that the women in his life pay is higher still.

One man describes his pain and shame of porn on a blog post*:

“Porn and how I deal with it both numbs hurt from and feeds hurt into my married relationship. When my wife doesn’t want what — or as much – as I want, porn offers escape to a fantasy in which I am entitled to relate to The Woman of My Dreams as I want her to be, rather than as who my Beloved really is in this moment. It lets me disconnect and disregard what’s truly beautiful and trade it for what’s immediately gratifying. Porn’s easy availability and quick gratification erodes my willingness to stay emotionally with her when she doesn’t want what – or as much — as I want. No doubt that, in turn, reinforces her lack of interest in me and what I want. None of this “proves” that life in a world without porn would be any better than what we have here and now. I would still have my human tendency to avoid what’s hard or painful, and I’d probably find other ways to accomplish that.”

Can men rise above pornography and embrace true masculinity?

This D&G ad was widely panned as encouraging the seedier side of pornagraphy  … easy to see why …

Eldredge argues that most men spend the energy of their lives trying to eliminate risk, or squeezing it down to a more manageable size.

We run away from our women’s unspoken want for intimacy, from our children’s requests for love, we run away from our bosses’ challenges, and we secure our life against risk, winding up in a cocoon of self protection, wondering all the while why we’re left suffocating.

If our self-protection doesn’t work, we curse God, redouble our effort and consequently our blood pressure.  We indulge in a pornographic sexual haze that allows us to disappear … to run away from true masculinity, to miss the point of what this life is all about!!

Eldredge encourages men to recover their heart’s desire by getting away from the noise and distraction of daily life for time alone with his soul. He urges men to head out into the wilderness, to silence and solitude. Alone with himself, he allows whatever is there to come to the surface. Sometimes it is grief, and beneath that, the sense of desires long forsaken.

In the wilderness, or in solitude, men should try asking themselves:

-        What is written in your heart?

-        What makes you come alive?

-        Will facing my fears, embracing my wife, laughing with my kids, engaging in life and winning over mediocrity, make me more or less of a man?

-        If you could do what you’ve always wanted to, what would it be?

-        What makes you laugh?

-        What brings out the wild man in you?

-        What is your ultimate adventure?

Gents, the MSP crew is dedicated to a healthy, intimate view of sexuality and we believe that it’s only by truly knowing and risking yourself, that you can truly reach out, beyond the lure of pornography to embrace, a real, rich life a fulfilling, shared intimacy and satisfying sexual and committed relationships.

Your calling is written on your heart and your life should be an adventure, where you release control and self-protection for the recovery of dreams in your heart.

A man is never more a man when he embraces an adventure beyond his control, or when he walks into a battle he isn’t sure of winning. But he does it anyway!

_____________

References:

“Hegemonic masculinity and pornography: young people’s attitudes toward and relations to pornography”, The Journal of Men’s Studies – January 01, 2007 | Johansson, Thomas; Hammaren, Nils

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul – John Eldredge (Author)

Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity”, Robert Jensen (Author)

Men and Masculinity, Porn, Porn and Masculinity Series, Sexual ethics and transformation and SexualityHugo Schwyzer, November 30, 2007*