Why pornography hurts men

We’ve heard the arguments before on how porn culture degrades and objectifies women. Each time the subject comes up, there are those claiming to be “pro-sex feminists” who will come to the defense of pornography, and deny that it contributes to a culture of misogyny, as if those of us who are against pornography’s depiction of women are anti-sex, or that we are befriending Christian conservatives who view sex as taboo, and only to be practiced within marriage.
Today, I want to explore a different side of the argument of why pornography is harmful – and rather than echoing the arguments of misogyny, I’ll write on how pornography hurts men. This is, by no means, to ask “what about the men?” Rather, it is to point out that even as consumers of pornography, and even through the objectification of women in pornography, men hurt themselves.

“When I get home, I am going to fuck that pussy raw.”
“I love the sounds a chick makes when she’s sucking cock and really likes it.”
“I am going to bend her over and fuck her from behind …”

Those are the things I am hearing each time a soldier and I sit down and talk about what he misses most about being away from home – that for many of these young soldiers, even those in relationships, what the miss most is sex and not the intimacy and human-to-human connections of relationships. By this, I am, of course, not saying that there is anything wrong with yearning for or missing the physical feelings of sex, but it is undeniable that the comments are reflections of porn culture, which dictates sex is only mechanical, and removes all actual emotional intimacies and feelings sex can bring up.
In short, by associating relationships and sex as merely mechanical and physical, young men lose the ability to truly connect with their partners – and through the objectification of their partners, seeing them as merely body parts for pleasure, they also lose the humanity of sex.
While in the end, women become the objects, and are sometimes viewed and treated as such, is also hurts men as it renders them incapable of talking about their feelings. With each conversation – and this is not just strictly in the military, but overall with young men in a hyper-masculine culture, the purpose isn’t to truly share feelings, but rather, to one-up another in competitions for masculinity. That is, even those who perhaps miss the tenderness of a lover’s touch, or the experience of laying there and enjoying the quietness of the after -sex calm, talking about it is unacceptable.
For men, conversations about sex are strictly about mechanics, not feelings. Fearing being branded less “manly,” men then live in a lie that neither enhances their lives nor allows them to be honest with themselves, the men around them, or the intimate partners in their lives. Being able to have a voice – to truly talk about one’s experiences, is a central part of enhancing one’s lives. It is the very tenets of empowering women – yet for men, even with the male privileges and entitlement of being heard, porn silences them, thereby taking away their power.
For these men, in dehumanizing women, they also dehumanize themselves – and I cannot help but see pornography and masculine culture as being responsible for the majority of their plights.
But the experiences of porn culture aren’t just limited to Type-A personality young men. Even as early as two years ago, in my early 20s, I also experienced the negative effects of porn culture. While this more than likely hurt the women in my life more than it hurt me, I cannot help but think how my relationships were negatively affected by this, and by default, how those the failures of those relationships took away from the positive experiences I might have had with my intimate partners.
Back then, even as a feminist, I was a pornography user. For what it’s worth, consider this the confessions of a former porn user. In school, I was active in both Democratic politics on and off campus, as well as being a part of my school’s feminist organization. This is to say that I was known around campus, and would occasionally make speeches and appear at dinner functions. After each function, I’ve almost always got dates or requests to hang out. Yet, each time, even as we spent time together, my thoughts weren’t focused on actually having a conversation or connecting on a human-to-human connection, but rather, whether or not I’d get the chance at sex with these women. As a result, my relationships moved quickly, and also crashed quickly.
One particular encounter made me realize how porn culture had affected me: I was out at a bar, and talking to a woman I’d hung out with a few times. As the night progress, we began becoming physical closer, and we eventually left and came back to her place. As things heated up, and I received consent, I said, “Tell me what you want.”
“Just kiss me,” she whispered. I was disappointed. In asking her the question, I didn’t so much want to hear what SHE actually wanted, but rather, for her to utter the things that pornography actresses often say. I wanted to hear her ask to be fucked harder and tell me how much she is enjoying in. Rather than enjoying the intimacy and human-to-human connection, I was disappointed because I’d been conditioned to expect something else entirely in sex, through pornography. By telling us what sex is, pornography also tells us what sex isn’t, and worst, that unless sex is rough, dirty, and the way pornography depicts, it really isn’t worth it.
We ended up stopping, and I went home, and I spent the night thinking about the ill-effects of porn. That day, I began my journey to break free of porn culture.
I take responsibilities for all my actions, but I do wonder, had I not been conditioned to view women through pornography culture and sex objects, how many of those women would still remain in my life, what I could have learned from them, and how we could have enhanced each other’s lives in the process. By viewing sex through pornographic lens, I hurt women in my life as well as myself.
But what if pornography can help us? After all, couples have been known to use pornography to spice up their relationships, and to get a dying marriage jumpstarted again. While there is no doubt that pornography can be used as a springboard for a sexual relationship, what isn’t talked about is why couples feel a relationship can be salvaged by Jenna Jamison, Ron Jeremy or anyone in the pornography industry. If a relationship is dying, it’s probably going to take more than a facial or anal sex to salvage it – it takes getting intimately connected with one’s partners, something pornography does not offer. What pornography does offer, however, are expectations of one’s partners – how a partner should act, look, and feel. Over time, I would guess the use of pornography does more harm than good to a relationship, for both women and men. After all, sex is neither the most important about a relationship, nor should it define a relationship. Sex is great, whether with or without love, but in the end, it’s a very small part of the human experience.
Finally, the sex industry, whether pornography or prostitution, tells men they are not good enough – that their only values is in how much money they can produce to buy women. Yes, while women are hurt by pornography in that they are turned into objects, being able to be bought and sold, men are hurt in that they are rendered incapable of truly finding intimacies, and that neither their character, intelligence nor values are good enough to find them sex, but that they have to buy sex with their own money. If it weren’t for money, pornography says, men wouldn’t be able to get laid.
I write all this not to say that each time we have sex, we must have an emotional connection to the other person, or that each session has to be lovemaking. What I am saying, however, is the pornography limits our perceptions of what sex is, and how we should do as well as what we should feel, and as a result, limits us from growing as people, and from being ourselves, as both women and men.
Thoughts? Personal experiences?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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