India Uncut

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Conditioning, orgasms and sexual insecurity

Naomi Wolf comes up with an interesting insight in a piece in New York:
[P]ornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.
The bit about orgasms and Pavlov might explain how fetishes originate: get off on a pretty shoe when you're a child, and boom, before you know it, shoes turn you on. For people who do develop fetishes, it might just be a matter of luck whether they land up with one they can harmlessly indulge, or whether it gets more complex than that.

Anyway, Wolf's larger point is that "[t]he onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as 'porn-worthy.'" She writes:
Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification? [...] Today, real naked women are just bad porn.
I think Wolf overstates the case: most men keep porn in a separate domain from their love lives, and one does not impinge on the other. But I get the point she makes about sexual insecurity. Indeed, the handful of times that I have watched porn movies (no pun intended), I've shuddered everytime the guy has bared his organ, because he's always had an eight- or nine-inch you-know-what. (A veritable anaconda, as it were.) This is true of erotic literature as well, where the man is generally immensely well-endowed, enough to hang a week's worth of laundry when he's, um, excited.

If women consumed porn as much as men do, I dare say I'd be worried, and would insist on the lights going off before the pants went down. (And I'd have my dialogues ready -- "It's so cold, darling." Or "Trust me, I'm actually half an inch larger than average, you mustn't believe the pondy." And "What do you mean, 'Is it inside yet?'") So I can quite sympathise with the young women Wolf speaks of, who have to compete with the J Los and Jessica Simpsons and innumerable porn goddesses with their perfect, big, firm glandacious things. (I'm not good with euphemisms, but I will not write 'breasts' on my blog.)

It would be so much better if the only kind of nakedness that turned people on was not of an exaggerated ideal, but of normal people, like these (NSFW): these aren't models, and both the men and women here are, well, modestly gifted. A large part of our spam mail would also be reduced, as insecure men who have nothing to be worried about wouldn't then contemplate enlargement.

Anyway, having said that, I disagree with Wolf's overall thesis. Porn isn't killing sex and will, sadly, not solve our population problems anytime soon. More's the pity.

(Wolf link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 11:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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