Saturday 7 July 2012

Ultimate Insult

I was reading the chapter on pornography in Michael Kimmel’s Guyland when I came across what I think may be the most casually insulting expression I’ve ever heard of in a relationship.  The man had been celebrating how awesome porn is and taking pride in the fact that he doesn’t enjoy offensive material but prefers videos where the sex is clearly consensual and the woman is enjoying herself.  He commented that the expression on the actress’s face was the ultimate turn on for him. 

The interviewer then asked how that translated into sex with his wife.  And this self-proclaimed equalist said he didn’t bother with having sex with his wife because it was too hard.  He would have to talk to her, pretend to take an interest in what she was saying, listen to her boring concerns (his words) and then slowly lead the conversation around to sex.  Then he’d have to waste more time (his words again) with foreplay and her orgasm.  It was easier to stick with words on a page or images on a screen.

My jaw dropped when I read that.  I’ve heard about the epidemic of sexless marriages these days and I’ve wondered what causes two people who love each other to give up sex.  The finger is often pointed at stress, job demands, child demands and the modern lifestyle in general.  I’m wondering if we ought to be looking at the effect of porn.

Because as awful as it is, the man is right.  Having a mutually satisfying sex relationship with a real women is a lot harder than simply passively enjoying porn. 

What bothered me more was the obvious resentment towards his wife.  He wasn’t interested in sex as an expression of his love and passion for his spouse.  He wanted sex but thought the emotional commitment required was too much work.  Implication: his wife is too demanding.  How dare she require him to connect to her as a person and ask for a shot at equal pleasure in sex?  I would be willing to bet that man’s marriage is far from secure.

I don’t generally have a problem with porn, so long as everyone is over 18 and everything is consensual.  I think it’s more than time for sex to come out of the sniggering basement of life.  Sexuality is a vital and vibrant part of our existence and pretending otherwise is the height of silliness.

I have a problem with a pervasive attitude that women’s pleasure is too much work.  I don’t like when women have to choose between crappy sex and no sex.  I have a problem when there is a culture of entitlement which encourages men to take their pleasure and ignore their partner’s.  It completely contradicts any spirit of equality within a relationship.  To be true partners, people have to see their partner’s needs as equally important as their own.  It shouldn’t even be questioned, just taken as one of the basic facts of life.

A lot of the material in Guyland bothered me.  I haven’t decided yet how much of it I should take seriously and how much might be exaggeration and propaganda for the purpose of igniting a conversation.  But some of it seems to fit and make sense of otherwise inexplicable phenomena like the hook-up culture and the personality transformation which many men undergo when in the company of other men.  I’ll probably write more posts about it as I sort out my thoughts.

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