Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The One Insane Taboo

Today our reading is an article called "Hard Core" from The Atlantic. The article explores the relationship between porn and our sexuality, and I suggest you read it for yourself. I think the best way for me to approach discussing this is to take just the quotes that stand out to me.
"MEn, so the conventional wisdom goes, tend to desire more than women are willing to give them sexually. The granting of sex is the most powerful weapon women possess in their struggle with men."
We saw a bit of this in the Duke article from yesterday, as we see it in our daily lives. It's rare to find a man, virgin or not, who wants to "wait" in a relationship. We know this not just from stereotypes, but from personal experience. Only once have I personally known such a man; and
we're not talking about men who will wait until the woman is ready, but rather the man who tells the woman that he is not ready.

As for the granting and withholding of sex being a powerful female weapon, that's true too.

"But the reactionary political correctness of the 1990s put forth a proposition even more disastrous to women than free love: sexual equality."
The article argues that sexual equality, and the idea that by communicating our boundaries we could teach men to respect female sexuality, is an "intellectual swindle that leads women to misjudge male sexuality, which they do at their own emotional and physical peril." The argument that sexuality is not neutral stands in direct opposition to my pipe dream from the last post, but I'm okay with that; in our generation and the next couple at least, it's true. Societally, we embrace egalitarian sex because it makes us feel better, but:
"Internet porn, on the other hand, shows us an unvarnished (albeit partial) view of male sexuality as an often dark force streaked with aggression."
Porn, according to this article, shows us not a hyperbolic version of male sexuality, but the real thing, the brutishness that really underlies what we encounter. I find this a little extreme, but not impossible; the best sex, which stripped them of their shame, that Connie and Oliver had in Lady Chatterley's Lover was undoubtedly the roughest and least tender. The article says that this kind of sexuality is "unattractive" and sometimes "dangerous," but not deviant. Porn is not the source, but the result.
"It’s the clash between vulnerability and indifference that transpires after sex that is so savage. This is what Kael called “realism with the terror of actual experience.” The most frightening truths about sex rarely exist in the physical, but instead live in the intangible yet indelible wounds created in the psyche."
The article seems to wish porn were less pervasive, and I'm not sure I agree. I think the furtiveness with which sex and it's attendants have been treated in the past have contributed a lot to this vulnerability and indifference: fear of getting caught, pretending it didn't happen, etc. etc. We've achieved sexual openness. What hasn't happened yet is the combination of acceptance and morality to that openness. We know porn exists, but like sex, do we really think it's okay? Or do we just pretend to because it's the modern thing to do? We still lock the door, pull down the blinds, and test our headphones just to make sure no one but us will hear.

I don't have too much to say on this subject. It's exhausting.

I'm reminded of a quote from Lady Chatterley's, and that's what I'll leave you with:

“It’s the one insane taboo left: sex as a natural and vital thing” (291).


  1. I read the article and think I can limit my response to a couple short thoughts:

    1) Can't we (men) do anything right?

    2) If the author's arguments are accepted (and I have criticisms of a number of them), what the hell should we do to maximize utilitarian pleasure and minimize harmful side effects of incompatible sexual expectations/desires/perspectives?

  2. 1) Individually you can. As a gender, nope. :D

    2) My biggest criticism of the author's arguments was their extremity in regards to male sexuality. I mean, it's ridiculous to place all the blame for rough sex on men when women sometimes encourage it. Primitive men used sexual aggression to maintain power, and women sought sexual aggression so they could find the best mates. It's a chicken-or-the-egg cycle and all parties play a role.

    As for what the hell should we do, who knows? That's why the article exhausted me, haha. I refuse to look at this as black and white, which makes it incredibly difficult to discuss.