Images half-inched from pornSFW.com
Tuggin’ It Old School
I have had a somewhat ‘bulimic’ relationship with pornography. By that I mean ‘binge and purge’. Of course, when I was a kid, porn wasn’t as readily available as it is on the internet now nor the kind of thing that would normally be the subject of public blog posts and discussion.
I only really got access to the internet in 1997 or so and by that time I was already 22. The internet was already too late to provide me with a sex education or sated curiosity, not that I was a total stranger to porn. Prior to the age of the internets you had to be one cagey, cunning motherfucker to get your hands on wank material – or you had to lower your standards to lingerie catalogues, fantasy art, your imagination or that one time you got an accidental look into the girl’s showers after PE.
You couldn’t just Google up ‘Redhead dressed as Santa getting a facial from a ghetto pimp’ you took what you could get and there weren’t many options for that.
1. Find it: Some guilt-riddled teenager or adult would occasionally dump a treasure-trove of smut at the side of the road, on some waste ground or in the woods. It’s amazing we didn’t grow up thinking women were naturally wrinkly and covered in black mould.
2. Steal it: High risk, high reward. You could shoplift a jazz mag from the top shelf of the newsagent if you were sneaky and tall. The penalty for fucking it up would be huge though. Sometimes, someone’s old man who went travelling would have a stash and this could – perhaps – be nicked with impunity as they wouldn’t want to get into trouble with the missus by striding about the place bellowing about stolen porn. Of course, the corner-shop stuff was tame as hell and stealing someone’s dad’s wank material could be psychologically scarring. “Do you think he pees on your mum?”
3. The Black Market: Every school had one and pre-internet there was also a loose means of trading porn between schools. I used to sneakily sell some on after I’d tired of it with a chum up north and made a fair bit of extra pocket money.
4. Buy it: I don’t know how porno shops made money even before the internet. Even if you were old enough there was an aura of shame involved and what was on offer was tame as hell anyway. Hardcore was barely a music genre, let alone a kind of porn so far as you’d know from these places.
Compared to the old ways, the internet with its full-bore firehose of pornography was a revelation and highly educational, even to someone in their 20s People diss porn for creating unrealistic expectations of sex but it provided a much better and more accurate education than any number of mumbling, embarrassed school teachers or red-faced birds-and-bees conversations ever could.
Prior to ready access to porn it always seemed like sex was a terrible imposition upon a woman that a man had to essentially apologise, wheedle and beg for. Like the terribly rude imposition of needing to borrow money. This isn’t entirely untrue even today, but an important revelation that porn created was that women had desires of their own and that they could enjoy and pursue sex for their own sakes.
The other thing pornography teaches you, even if it perhaps belabours the point, is that there’s more to it than just a bit of the old ‘in out’ and lots of fun things in the form of foreplay, kinks, positions and so on that even the people forced at gunpoint to educate teenagers don’t talk about. You’re going to get a wall chart of a floppy penis and ovaries, not PE classes on how to do the reverse cowgirl or the horse-eats-the-lotus.
In short, porn may provide a distorted and imperfect sex education, but it’s a damn sight better than the one you get in ‘Life skills’ class. Not to mention the variety of women – and men – in porn runs the full gamut of shape and form, unlike fashion and pop imagery which is decidedly Aryan. Porn has to account for people’s kinks and desires and a size zero just doesn’t jiggle enough for some people.
Much like prostitution, pornography also provides comfort and relief for people with no other outlet. A safety valve for erotic urges that otherwise go unsatisfied. I find this is one of the strongest arguments for legal prostitution as well as porn. Not everyone has success with the opposite sex, I certainly didn’t for a very long time. Are we really going to deny these people sexual relief or sexual contact – even if its only by proxy – with the opposite sex? What a miserable thing to do to people! What about widows and widowers, people with disfiguring conditions or crippling social disorders? Even if you can’t get sexual contact, everyone capable of it deserves some sexual pleasure don’t they?
Of course, when you finally do manage to get a girlfriend (or boyfriend) you probably have to dispose of your stash (see option 1 above) and you also have to wrestle with the difference between your expectations and the reality of doing the mattress mambo with an actual human being rather than a mere image of one. People don’t like to feel they’re competing with porn models though why they feel this I’m not entirely sure. After all, firemen don’t compare themselves to Superman.
It’s popular to try and say that porn is ruining real sex by creating terrible, horrible expectations in people heading to the bedroom for the first few times. Usually the men are blamed for that, for the kinky, demanding stuff that porn leads them to expect is de rigeur. This is the same sort of reality blurring argument that is popular to make about video games, role-playing games and was probably made about cave paintings back in the day. The assumption being that people who consume media somehow can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. An attitude that is more insulting than any number of ‘Yo mamma’ jokes.
Obviously I’m only one, single, data point but I can’t regard myself as particularly exceptional and in my experience people are far better at differentiating reality from fantasy than people give them credit for. I didn’t develop my particular kinks and proclivities as a result of porn, but rather as the result of a oral-sex based accidental explosion and a control-freak personality trait that manifested in an interest in BDSM long before I ever even knew what it was. Porn hasn’t created any desires, it has only provided a means to indulge and expand upon what was already there. It wasn’t a ‘gateway to harder drugs’.
Porn – most of the time – can only really satisfy a physical need and that isn’t enough sometimes, even for us horrible, nasty, smelly boys. Sometimes you need something different and more, something that gets into the emotional and feeling aspects as well. Some people are trying to get into that, as women have taken over the adult industry more its become even more prevalent. There’s more attempts at context and not just ‘I’ve come to fix your phone… oh, all your clothes have fallen off!’
Erotica covers that to an extent as it gets you inside people’s minds and not just their ‘bits’. Then there’s cybersex of course, anonymous or otherwise. A creative outlet and one that can be – in many ways – better than any amount of visual porn. I imagine that’s a dying art in these days of sexts and photo-sharing and that’d be a shame. I like to imagine many erotica authors cutting their teeth hunched over keyboards, desperately searching the thesaurus for another alternative to ‘cock’ or a word for ‘vagina’ that doesn’t sound stupid or horrible and which can easily be typed one-handed.
Feelings, of course, inevitably get involved when there’s more than one active participant and it all goes horribly wrong more often than not – just like any other sexual relationship. People who say it’s ‘just sex’ often seem like sociopaths or to have levels of self-delusion (or control) that even Batman would consider ‘pretty damn hardcore’.
Even when you’re with someone then mismatched desire, time apart, distance and non-negotiable kinks can leave a void that pornography can fulfil, It can banish frustrations and annoyances with a flash of seminal magic to the plane of not-giving a shit. It’s not really a threat to anyone, so long as it’s under control and everyone’s up front about it. So long as everyone can be grown up and mature about it as well. ‘You’d rather read a novel than have a conversation with me?’ is an argument that rarely – if ever – happens, unlike arguments over porn.
Even porn production these days isn’t what it once was. Studios are having a hard time, the money isn’t there to beat people over the head with. More women are heading it up and women have always earned more in the industry. Like everything else, perhaps even more so, the internet has disrupted the adult business and democratised it. That seems to be for the better. It’s a lot more direct, a lot more ‘amateur’, a lot more fan-oriented and direct from maker to market, artisinal porno if you will.
Porn isn’t like a gun or a toxic chemical. It’s not inherently dangerous. Your ancient copy of PRIVATE can’t ‘go off’ accidentally and kill someone. Porn, even the hardline super-kinky shit doesn’t make anyone a rapist or a molester. If anything evidence is to the contrary. Since the internet firehose was turned on sexual crimes have declined rather than increased, yet people treat it with the same disdain – often – as smoking in public or openly carrying a loaded pistol to a political rally. Porn is inert in and of itself, harmless. As with so many other things the idea that it is harmful rests upon the patronising idea that ‘problematic’ media warp everyone else’s minds but not the people highlighting them – and that’s bollocks.
What’s the take-home from this? Much like piercings and tattoos, kink, porn and sex are now part of the culture as a whole, not just some hidden subculture. Attitudes towards it from without – and often from within as well – seem to be stuck in the early 90s and haven’t progressed much since. Teens are sexting each other, making amateur porn, writing slash-fic and everything else under the sun but our attitudes are those of shock and horror. Apparently we’ve forgotten that we used to play ‘doctor’ or sneak peeks at each other all of this ‘wild’ behaviour is just a more public form of the exact same sexual experimentation and curiosity we all had growing up and its no reason to shame someone or even to make that much of a fuss over.
Share some of your experiences and thoughts in the comments, dress ’em up in humour if you want to feel a little safer about it, I did!