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Emotional Porn (WaoW the Fifth)

The weekend that our new roommate moved in, she sat in the living room while the other three of us sat in the adjoining room discussing our culture's views on pornography, masturbation, and sexuality. I'm not sure how far into the conversation we realized this was strange and uncomfortable for our new arrival, but I do think this probably didn't make the transition easy for her.

However, I am a big believer in frank (but sensitive) conversations.

To start, I am decidedly anti-porn. In all of its varieties and forms. (This is a huge topic, but today we are only going to take a small bite out of it. If there is a demand, though, we can come back to this another time.)

One of the major reasons I am anti-porn is because it is incredibly selfish, treating sex and sexuality as a commodity, fulfilling the 'needs' and desires of the consumer without any sacrifice on their own part, dehumanizing the relationship. It actually hinders real-life relationship building, as it creates expectations that are unrealistic, two-dimensional, and self-serving.

I used to feel slightly self-righteous and pious for being a non-user of pornography. But one day I had a startling revelation.

I am not so different.

I may not watch XXX movies or surf the net for adult only content, but I am guilty of consuming media and feeding stereotypes that hinder healthy romantic relationships, just the same.

As women, we have our own not-so-hidden culture of objectification and unrealistic expectations. I call it emotional porn.

Romantic comedies, chick lit, love ballads on the radio... Most media that portrays romance and is targeted at women is intentional in feeding unrealistic emotional expectations. In the same way that conventional pornography objectifies bodies to meet physical "needs," emotional porn turns the man into an object meant to fulfill all our emotional longings. Is this any less unhealthy, dangerous or detrimental than objectifying women's bodies?



I remember one of my friends telling me that on a bad day, she thought to herself, Wouldn't it be great if my fiance brought me a latte when we meet up later? He didn't. And she found herself annoyed with him. Because in her mind, he should have. In the movies, he would have.



This way of thinking is so ingrained in our minds as women. And it's so unhelpful. It prevents us from interacting with men as they are, because the dream-version (TV-version/movie-version) of a guy will always be better than the real-life man.


My point is that I have a strong dislike for the ways that we objectify each other as men and women, and how culture and media feed us lies and we buy into unrealistic expectations that only harm our relationships.


Let's cut that shiznit out, okay?

Comments

becca said…
i definitely agree with you - let's cut the shiznit. ...but this does remind me of a book i saw in a "quaint" shop in seattle. it was titled, "porn for women." i saw it, walked around the store, and came back to it because i had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't what i was thinking of when i think "porn" (not that i think about porn, but you know what i mean... ;). it was full of men, gray-haired and at least 50 year old, doing things around the house happily. my favorite was a photo of a man holding ribbon scraps and paper with the quote "yes, i'd love to scrapbook with you." ha.
Ariana said…
I thought I had a lot of thoughts about this, but here you've just laid them all out and I have nothing to add but a resounding, "I AGREE!"

Real relationships are ever so much more fulfilling anyway.
RyRy said…
I wish more women realized this!

Thanks for spreading the word.
Mavaddat said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mavaddat said…
Beth, I think you're absolutely right that pornography can distort our expectations. But I also think it's a bit unfair to characterize all pornography with the same problems, especially when there's such a great variety of (very human) pornographic styles.

Art can be pornographic and pornography can be artistic. Both modes of expression have the potential to give us insights about ourselves and, simultaneously, to inspire us to creative new ways of living together.

Yes. Porn can really do that.

Of course, two-dimensional stereotyped porn can also be really bad. As Cindy Gallop rightly argues, junk-food porn gives us mistaken ideas of how sexual encounters work: http://blog.ted.com/2009/12/02/cindy_gallop_ma/

But just as not all movies give us stereotyped everyday human interactions, so not all pornography gives us stereotyped human sexual interactions. To judge all movies or porn by their worst is, I think, to confuse an incidental property as an essential one.

Incidentally, you are right that "emotional porn" can be damaging to relationships between men and women. Studies are beginning to show this, apparently: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/7784366.stm
Beth said…
Mav,

Thanks so much for commenting! When I started writing this, I thought to myself, Man, this would be a good conversation with Mav. (No joke!)

Those links are both great - and I feel affirmed that research is proving my hypothesis :)

Also, I don't believe all portrayals of sex/nudity are pornographic (I would classify pornography as those representations that are intended to be sexually stimulating), and there is definitely "gray space" in my mind on the art-to-pornography spectrum. I know that there are growing movements of pornography creators and consumers that value equality/realism/etc. At this point, I am not convinced that they are the best or only way to inspire people to "creative new ways of living together." And I think the mass quantities and widespread normalizing of what you've called "junk-food porn" does validate some generalizing on the topic...

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