ShrinkWrapped

Making sense of our unreal world.

The Triumph of Feminism: Porn Star Sex

Violet Socks complains that "ordinary" sex cannot compete with porn-star sex.

A more appropriate title might be: The Triumph of Modernity or The Triumph of Post-Modernity or The Triumph of Progressivism, but the current purposely provocative title will sell more papers.

Violet Socks appears to be a thoughtful young woman of the left who laments that Sex is losing its pleasurable aspects as it becomes pornified:

Looks like my generation may be the last to actually enjoy sex

It's amazing what conditioning can do. "Ordinary sex," which today's pornsick dudes find so dull, is actually pretty thrilling. You know: Intimacy, passion, affection, love. That sort of thing. But I suppose if you've been conditioned to respond sexually to the sight of plastic fembots being anally raped, boring old mutual love and passion aren't going to float your boat.

It's really a pathetic situation. Men are so warped they can only respond to the pornography they've imprinted on; women are stuck with trying to supply a reasonable facsimile of same. Nobody's actually making love. They're just acting out stupid porn videos.

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The proximate stimulus (pun intended) for her reaction is an article in Salon which takes as its starting point a New York magazine feature:

What women want: For you to want them

New York magazine's porn package gets to the heart of women, smut and lust

This week's issue of New York magazine is a triple-X triple-feature. The three cover articles star the familiar characters: "Sexting" teens in junior high, porn-obsessed young men, and the digital frontier of free smut -- with a guest appearance by Sasha Grey and a comedic interlude of personal tales of failed dirty talk. That's the world of porn: sometimes scary, sometimes sexy and occasionally very funny. But what's most compelling about this package (mind out of the gutter, you) is that it illuminates something that is present in almost all conversations about the influence of porn but that is rarely talked about explicitly as much as it should be: the female desire to be an object of lust.

I would never question whether a journal of such profound intellectual gravity as New York magazine might not, after all, have gotten to the "heart of women, smut, and lust" but might note that a synecdoche is not, by definition, a full description of reality and the desire to be desired, including all the permutations of the fantasy to be lusted after, does not define a woman's sexuality.

The commenters at Violet Socks come from the usual post-women's lib weltanschauung, which assumes that all difficulties in the relationship between the sexes is caused by the beastly nature of men. This is partly true but, as with so many today, is also ahistorical and incomplete.

The notion of sex being an intercourse, in all the multiple meanings of the word, between men and women meeting each other as relative equals in a mutually gratifying and enriching, occasionally transcendent, experience, is a relatively recent development in human history. We need only recall that it is just within the last hundred years that men and women have become enlightened enough to re-define the words "All men are created equal" to mean men and women. For most of human history, women were the property of their men (as they remain in much of the world today, including, especially the Muslim World); if there was love and affection in a relationship or a quasi-equality (since there was no legal equality) it was simply the great, good fortune of the woman involved to have been found by a liberal-minded man. Romantic love, which is lust leavened by love and affection, was idealized because it was so rare as to be a fantasy that both men and women aspired to.

Neither men nor women are inherently civilized beings. Children must learn to tame their impulses; that requires tolerating frustration, delaying gratification, developing a future time orientation and a host of other difficult to acquire cognitive skills. In the golden days of yore, these questions were irrelevant. For the 99 percent of the population for whom life involved constant efforts to eke out a subsistence living, love was an afterthought, if thought of at all. It was only the very wealthy who had the time and refinement to imagine romantic love (and even there the woman was hardly an autonomous agent.)

And this is where Porn Sex appears, in the appetites and "refinements" of the debauched wealthy and narcissistic; for what is Porn Sex except the reification of perverse sexual fantasies? That is, Porn Sex is sex without regard to the desires and gratification of the partner.

Consider that historically the very wealthy and powerful had open access to whatever perversion they desired. Nero was famous for his debauchery. Droit du seigneur was first described in the Epic of Gilgamesh, 2700 BC. Marquis de Sade was surely not the first nobleman to amuse himself with the behavior that now bears his name. The incontrovertible truth, as painful as it may be to many, is that "True Love" could not exist before women were freed to be legal equals to men.

Consider what has happened since women were first freed by the legal system. All of the pillars supporting the moderation of our drives, our sexual impulses, have been systematically stripped away by our prevailing culture. First, God and religion were abandoned as unnecessarily restrictive. Then the frightening consequences of the sex act were mitigated (first by Penicillin and then by the pill.) Then, the Women's lib movement, in the hypomanic flush of their first bloom, realized that once free, women could be freed from all restraints. Why shouldn't a woman be free to have any and all the sex she wanted? As with all revolutions, this went too far. Men were not just vilified for oppressing women for so long but traditional male characteristics were demonized; male aggression was the cause of all the world's problems; male sexuality was insensitive at best, considered rape by the more extreme in the movement. Along with the devaluation of male gender identity, women's gender identity was also denigrated. A woman who may have been inclined toward domesticity, who desired a traditional marriage, was not even considered a woman. (Note the animus directed as Sarah Palin, who should be seen as the apotheosis of women's liberation but is hated by the radical feminists because she is not one of them.)

Once male and female traditional roles were unbalanced and fluid, and the prevailing ethic became no longer one which included responsibility and the taming of impulses, all bets were off and the race to the bottom was on in full force.

In a post describing Why Tyranny Fears Art - UPDATED, Elizabeth Scalia quotes Bono:

About ten years ago, maybe longer, I read an interview with U2's Bono, and he said (paraphrasing from memory) "art and lovemaking are the ways to touch God."

I think he meant that art and lovemaking were transcendent because they are both activities that are a means of self-revelation - that they take us out of ourselves and make us vulnerable in an act of creation, or co-creation, and there is tremendous power in that.

Well, I happen to think - if that's what he meant - that Bono was correct. The co-creative power of sex is so powerful it can create life despite science's best efforts to prevent it. And art is so powerful, it can topple egos, open souls, and defeat ideologies.

Once sex and the sacred have been dissociated, pleasure is all that is left. It is not impossible to capture transcendence in a hedonic relationship but it is surely more difficult and exceedingly rare.

Young women who find themselves with men who only know how to interact with a Porn fantasy or imagine they can only find a connection by way of enacting their version of a Porn fantasy will, of course, be disappointed, as will all those men who are their mirror images. After enough disappointment they may, if they are lucky, learn before too late that a truly intimate relationship between a man and a woman can emerge, even from the porn-saturated culture in which we live, but it requires nurturance, a slow dance of engagement, time, and commitment. Tragically, too many have no patience for such a dance and prefer the quick release of inflammatory passion. They can expect to emerge sated but should not expect to emerge intact and happy.

Perry R. Branson, M.D., is a psychiatrist in New York.

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