08/17/2012 01:24 pm ET Updated Oct 17, 2012

Women and the New Pornography: Embracing Our Sexuality

Most women, at one time or another, have viewed some sort of pornography, either alone or with a partner. From the hot "soft" porn scenes in Unfaithful with Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez and Body Heat with Kathleen Turner and William Hurt to the triple X-rated movies with actors whose names are forgettable, the majority of us have sampled pornography.

Pornography is as old as human kind. Observing couples in a sex act has always been a form of pleasure, as well as a form of education, for many people. The word itself has an interesting history as does the viewing of it as "good" and a normal part of life.

The word comes from two Greek words, porn, which means whore, and graphos, which means writing. Though prostitution was a respected profession, the porne were considered to be the lowest class of the prostitutes and were found only in lower-class brothels. They were virtual sex slaves. They were either forced or coerced into the profession, or poverty-stricken and willing to do whatever the customer demanded. Because they were thought to be vile and unclean they were looked down on, not only by the populace but by their higher-priced sisters, the highly skilled Hetaira, who were sheltered in clean, upscale "houses of pleasure" and lived quite well.

Pornography was thought to enhance the sexual act between partners who were literally taught techniques and "ways to pleasure" each other through the observation of the prostitutes. Married couples of means either frequented high-priced places of pleasure or had their favorite prostitutes, male and female, come to perform in their own homes. In Pompeii, you can see special rooms in the houses of the wealthy dedicated to sexual pleasure. The depiction of graphic murals and certain alcoves in the room were designed for engaging in sex. There are many places throughout Europe and the Americas with areas similar to those in Pompeii.

Patriarchal religions put an end to the idea of female viewing pleasure. The idea was that if a woman enjoyed sex or was stimulated visually by erotic pictures, she would be considered "poor wife" material. Bottom line: if she enjoyed it she would not be faithful and the man couldn't know for sure if any children from the marriage were truly his!

While the viewing of pornography has not always been considered to be "sinful," some women still feel uneasy about it. Religious beliefs and family teachings have a great deal to do with the idea that the unclothed human body is a source of sin. Believe it or not, some religions still believe and teach that all sex, even married sex, has the taint of sin attached to it because it is a "carnal" act. Sexual pleasure is not a consideration; copulation, it is taught, is for producing offspring.

The adult entertainment business, online and in video form, is big business. According to LA Times Magazine, porn usage can be measured by the second. More than $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography every second of every day, every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography and every second 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Pornographic videos in the U.S. are produced, on average, every 40 minutes. Sex sells.

Is there a place in your life and relationship for pornography? It wholly depends on your feelings and your views of what is proper and good for you and what you consider to be moral and immoral. There are sex therapists who feel that some type of pornography will help women achieve more pleasure in sex and aid them in reaching orgasms. However, many therapists caution that it helps to remember that pornography, when viewed by couples, should be seen as an aid to pleasure, not the source of pleasure itself. If one partner shows more interest in viewing pornography than you do, then there is a problem. The viewing of pornographic material, whether soft or hard-core, should be a mutual thing. The arousal from the visual can lead to both of you focusing on and enjoying each other. They feel strongly that videos should never be the sole source of pleasure.

Thankfully for women, pornography has changed. A number of women, tired of mainstream male-oriented porn, began producing and directing erotica they themselves would want to watch. These women distance their films from mainstream porn, making theirs romantic as well as erotic. They are referred to as "art-core" films.

There are videos that cater to all needs and wants, satisfying the ideas of both men and women, and showing affection between them. They are a far cry from the "films" of the past that objectified women, making them out to be no more than slow-brained sex-slave idiots, and making men seem like brutes with a nonexistent IQ.

Whether you see pornography as acceptable or not is your personal choice. Embracing our sexuality is healthy and very normal. We are much more open about women's bodies, healthy functions, and sexual pleasures. Many women who have positive self-esteem see pornography as only one aspect of a healthy sex life.

With the contemporary phenomenon of women creating pornography, women have more say in what they can view but ultimately, it is an individual's personal beliefs that determine what is acceptable and what is obscene.

If we see our own sexuality as healthy, and we should, pornography can be part of a normal sexual life for women.

© 2012 copyright Kristen Houghton

"And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First" ranked in the top 100 books by Tower

Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious new book, No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon available now on Kindle, Nook, and all e-book venues.

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