Internet porn has entered your bedroom. You may not realize it, your boyfriend may rarely watch it, but the kind of sex you are having has internet porn to thank for its life-imitating-art effect. An entire generation of men has spent the last ten to fifteen years watching porn in quantities unimaginable to previous generations and the consequence is that they have unconsciously been asking you to have sex like a porn star.
I realized this for the first time when my girlfriends were having one of those scandalously frank discussions about sex. Confessions abounded regarding who liked a little hair pulling, who had had a threesome, who had tried anal. It was at this point that one girl confessed that the guy she was seeing really seemed to enjoy calling her a "slut" during sex. She didn't see anything wrong with it and she wanted to let it turn her on, but she couldn't help the fact that she didn't enjoy it. A few other girls said they had experienced the same thing. At this point, another friend chimed in that her boyfriend did this thing where on occasion, during passionate lovemaking, he engaged in a little light choking. Nothing serious enough to impair breathing, he barely did more than use one hand to hold her around the neck, but she was surprised by it, and every time he did it, she was just waiting for it to be over. Then someone else added a story about a guy she was seeing who had used the c-word. He didn't mean it derogatorily, she explained. He said he just wanted hers so badly and it was meant to be foreplay, though for her it wasn't a turn on and in fact ruined the mood -- and her night.
It occurred to me that everything my friends were describing was hazily familiar. Where had I heard all of this before? Oh, that's it! Porn! The men my friend's were dating had subconsciously allowed common scenarios from pornography to creep into their sexual behavior. A generation ago, it would have been shocking for a girl to report that her boyfriend called her a slut. These acts would have been taboo or even fetishist and men probably would be embarrassed to even ask for such a thing from a lover. But after watching it on your computer thousands of times, men have come to believe that this type of sex is the norm. When did it become normal to objectify your wives and girlfriends in the bedroom? Women have made so many advances in so many ways: My friends are dating guys who respect them and are trying their darndest to communicate their feelings and are supportive of my friends' careers. And yet, when the lights go off, these same men expect their girlfriends to act like a wanton schoolgirl from a barely legal website. Ludacris once rapped that he wanted "A lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets" -- and it seems he's not alone.
There's been a lot of attention paid to porn addictions and sex addiction in recent years and clearly those are serious issues and addicts need real help. But only about 10 percent of men who visit porn sites are thought to be addicts. The 90 percent of men who are not addicts are our boyfriends, husbands and the guys we are dating. And watching porn has changed them. And now they are asking us to change too.
Let me get right out in front of this issue and say I have absolutely no objection to porn itself. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with watching it. But on the other hand, if it has affected what the average man expects from the average woman in the bedroom, is this an unexplored problem we need to address? Much attention has been paid to how women feel when they compare themselves aesthetically to a porn star. Many women feel insecure because they look heavier or their breasts are smaller or their butt isn't as fill-in-the-blank. But men don't really expect or even want to date women that look like most porn stars. If you're dating a guy, he knows you don't look an adult film actress and he's probably pretty happy about it. The focus on women's insecurity about their appearance disguises the much more complicated issue that he's happy with how you look, he just wants you to beg to be choked.
Which is fine if you're also into it, but if a woman doesn't want to be called a slut during sex, will there be any men left for her to have sex with?
A man may not realize it or intend it, but studies have shown that when a man watches more porn, his attitudes toward women change. I spoke with Robert Weiss, the foremost expert on sex addiction and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, about this sexual subjugation revolution that is taking hold of all our sex. Weiss cites recent research that demonstrates how porn affects men who previously had no sort of sexual disorder or problem. A study was conducted of men who were instructed not to change their lives in any way except to spend more time watching porn. Nothing special or unusual, just your average run of the mill, highly rated video on youporn.com for instance. The study showed that very quickly, the porn had affected the men's daily lives and relationships. The men were less interested in sex with their partner/spouse, more likely to objectify the bodies of strangers and reported an increased view of all females as sexual objects, and not just physically, but also in terms of a lower regard for women as people in general (i.e. he becomes less respectful, less considerate of feelings). The inference being that a man who is viewing a great deal of porn will show a reduced empathic connection to women.
Furthermore, we have to assume that despite our best efforts, teenage boys now will grow up seeing porn and not just the naked images of yesterday, but hardcore porn. How will this affect their ideas regarding what "normal sex" is and what kind of sex will they expect to have on an average basis? I was hoping soft core porn might be the answer: If we could get young men to watch romantic sex, maybe we could change what turns the average man on.
But Weiss quickly disabused me of that notion. He assured me my quixotic idea was all well and good till you have to face the fact that "men might not be turned on by that type of porn." As in, even if women made a version of porn that was romantic and sweet and filled with rose petals, men are not going to be interested in watching it. It seems we just have to accept that internet porn is literally changing the ways we have sex in and what we say while we do it.
So what hope do women have then if they do not subscribe to the please call me a slut flock? "Any interventionist will tell you, that the idea of losing personal relationships is what motivates most people," Weiss explained. So if we women want to change the sex we are expected to have, we have to ask for it. We have to say that if you want to have sex with us at all, it has to be of the more skinemax variety.
But this got me thinking: Is there anything inherently wrong with what these men want in the bedroom? If a couple has a completely respectful relationship outside the bedroom, but during sex the husband wants to call his wife a slut and she doesn't like it, why am I so quick to judge that the man has to change? The study Weiss cites is a study done on increased porn consumption but the research does not prove that having dirty sex changes the relationship between a couple. And anecdotally, my friends were quick to assure me that they felt completely respected outside of the bedroom.
If nothing negative arises in the relationship from this type of sex, maybe my friends are the ones who should change? Perhaps, the woman is the one who should see if she could get comfortable with a slightly different type of sex and eventually enjoy it. We're asking for so much from men in relationships these days -- expecting them to communicate like women. Maybe learning to enjoy doggy style is something women should be willing to do for men?
Of course, this has its limits. If a man is asking for something that his partner finds truly abhorrent, he probably needs to find someone who shares that interest with him. But on the other hand, if he's asking for a little leeway to use some dirty words, should women be willing to try new things?
On the one hand, it could be argued we'd be encouraging men to objectify us by adding this spice to our love lives, but on the other hand, maybe this would counter the issue of men losing interest in a long-term partner. Maybe by allowing them to share it with us, we'll create even more intimacy in our relationships. It's hard to know what the answer is but it seems important to start discussing the issue. A societal shift has quietly creeped into our beds and women didn't get a chance to decide whether or not we're ready to welcome it in or ask that it be left at the door. Each one of us is going to have to make that decision for ourselves, but the first step is to wake up and realize that, like it or not, the venue for porn has long since left the San Fernando Valley; it's in your own bedroom.