sexual education

SEX & PORN

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PORN SEX & REAL SEX!

 

I found this video while reading this Huffington Post article recently. Obviously, this video is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek look at the differences between ‘real sex’ and porn sex, but it also underscores a very real and serious problem in our country:

A severe lack of sex education.

As Nina Hartley says in the aforementioned HuffPost article, “Pornography is a paid, professional performance by actors. It is a fantasy, it is not meant to be a rulebook and guidebook or a how to as a general rule. And it goes to show how poor our sex education is in this country that people are reduced to looking at an entertainment medium for information about the body.”

I could not agree with Ms. Hartley more. In fact, if you’re already following the MFB Facebook page (good for you!) then you probably already know that I am the biggest advocate of education in general (it’s only the best tool in the shed for rebuilding this old house we call ‘Merica!), but sex education is of particular importance to me— largely because a lack of it engenders some specifically unique consequences. One of these unique consequences stems from its inevitable interconnection with porn.

What teen or young adult in this country isn’t looking at porn, if not for “educational purposes,” then out of pure curiosity? And guess what— I’m not even here to slam porn as some of you may be expecting at this moment. Oh, no… I’m just here to talk about sex, much in the same way that Salt n Pepa once did: “Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…” Sex can be great. And so can porn. However, modern-day “mainstream” porn has brought with it an onslaught of problems:

  • People will look to it for sexual guidance (i.e. what to do and how to do it)
  • People will judge their own bodies against the bodies they are viewing, often castigating their own bodies as “wrong,” and believing that they should, instead, look like the ones onscreen— hairless, bleached, six-pack abs…
  • Women are consistently portrayed as passive sexual actors, with even the woman on woman sex scenarios (I hesitate to use the word “lesbian” here, for obvious reasons) usually centered around male pleasure
  • HETEROSEXIST ANDROCENTRISM, pure and simple.

Now, the first two bullet points mentioned above are not directly the fault of porn, per se, but rather, are inescapably bound up with our lack of education regarding the human body and human sexuality. But on that same note, porn could be a useful tool in displaying and promoting bodily diversity, yet, sadly, mainstream porn does not. Now as for the last two points…

Androcentrism is the key word here as far as I’m concerned.

Mainstream porn is no doubt heterosexist (i.e. biased towards heterosexuality), and it is also highly androcentric. Whether literally, as in, the movie itself revolves around a heterosexual male and/or his fantasy, or behind the scenes, as in, it is being written, directed, and produced by heterosexual men.

This lack of authentic female sexuality (and it’s representation in porn) is evident in what artist Sophia Wallace calls our society’s lack of “cliteracy.” As she said to Creem magazine earlier this year, “It is a curious dilemma to observe the paradox that on the one hand the female body is the primary metaphor for sexuality, its use saturates advertising, art and the mainstream erotic imaginary. Yet, the clitoris, the true female sexual organ, is virtually invisible.” “Even in porn, the clitoris is treated as this optional, kind of freaky, ‘wow he’s doing her this huge favor’ thing,” she told HuffPost, adding that women often feel “embarrassed” to ask their partners to pleasure them. “It’s insane to me that this is still happening in 2013.”

Can you hear my applause for Ms. Wallace right now?

Yet another interesting facet that Wallace hints at with this last quote (ahem, “embarrassment”? Read: “body conscious”) is the issue of physical insecurity, and guess what— it isn’t just for women and girls anymore. Take the following statement from writer, Phoebe Baker Hyde:

“A cultural anthropologist shared this observation with me: Pornography consumption on campuses is changing because women can now access porn privately and anonymously on the Internet. While this can lead to butterfly Brazilians and “designer vaginas” in sexually active young women, it also gives these women considerable performance expectations of their sexual partners. It’s hard to imagine a man showing off his fake orgasm over a pastrami sandwich the way Meg Ryan did in When Harry Met Sally, but it seems that young men are becoming more self-conscious and body-conscious during sex, so we may be headed in that direction.”

It is here that I must stop and reiterate: Porn is not evil. It is not a social ill, nor is it comprised of, and/or made by ill-minded people. Moreover, porn can be a really progressive and feminist and overall awesome thing. And sometimes it actually is. Plenty of other sex-positive feminists like myself like porn. And as one article very rightly observed: “Porn never goes away when it’s banned.”

In fact, in the article referenced above [CLICK IT!], the author gives a lot of wonderfully thought-provoking insight on the conflation of mainstream porn, everyday sexism, and ‘real sex.’ What makes her contribution on this topic all the more interesting: the backdrop for her analysis is her experience of YALE SEX WEEK. Here’s an excerpt:

“Censors which stigmatise one type of pornography as ‘bad’ implicitly elevate the alternative, ‘acceptable’ porn. And far too often, that ‘normal’ pornography conveys images of passive femininity that are more easily absorbed into everyday life: artificial conventions of beauty in porn are as dangerous to real women as movies that reveal, astonishingly, that sex and power are linked.

Start banning anything that comes close to a rape scenario, and you’ll block out feminist attempts to reclaim or experiment with centuries-old erotic traditions. You’ll even block sado-masochism that has women on top (does it degrade men, this time? Or does it degrade women, because the dominatrix is still sexualised for male lust? It’s all too confusing!) Gothic images are obviously fantasy (how many castle-owners can afford the metal-polishing costs on gleaming dungeons, nowadays?), but impossibly curvaceous cheerleaders ‘consensually’ putting out for the football captain do a far better job of masquerading as ‘real sex’ guides for today’s teenagers.”

And thus, I am right back where I started. (see what I did there?)

Porn serving as ‘real sex’ guides for today’s teenagers…

I shudder to think of the many boys and girls out there right now thinking that they are “learning” a thing or two from porn (ahem, and probably plenty of grown men and women, too). The many girls trying to comprehend this ostensible link between sex and power, and the many boys absorbing insidiously sexist images and messages. Ladies and gentleman, can we please stop thinking that porn is the same thing as real, regular ol’ everyday people sex? Because it’s not. It’s a movie, it’s part of the entertainment industry— it’s a farce. If you want some real talk, check this out (warning: it really only applies to the straights and lesbians) or, I don’t know… find a cool coloring book to begin your journey of learning about yourself and the wonderful world that is ‘real sex.’