pornography

Yup. Another Article About Sex (& Why That’s a Good Thing).

Originally posted August 20, 2013

View this article on elephantjournal.com

Ah, sex. It seems like it’s all around us, huh?

We can’t turn on the television without seeing a scantly clad woman holding a beer teasing us to quench our “manly” thirst.

Or open our emails without receiving a barrage of spam promising us hot & horny women, bigger penises and affordable Viagra.

Or pass by a checkout counter without seeing women’s magazines offering advice for “5 Sexy Moves to Blow His Mind” or “How to Catch a Man (and Keep Him).”

From the evidence around us, it seems we are swimming in a sea of sex and it would make sense that many people are sick and tired are hearing about it.

However, the truth behind the “sexy” façade is this: sex sells, but sexuality does not.

Post an article on healing your sexuality and readers blast the entire comments section with angry cries of how the author is a “charlatan” or the publication is “selling out.”

Want to build your business using Facebook? Good luck if you are a sex educator. FB now blocks and even deactivates accounts that “violate their terms”—terms that are vague and vary on an hourly basis. Sex toy shops, sexuality teachers and even breastfeeding pages all face shutdown if enough “offended” people (aka angry and pissed off trolls with nothing better to do) file a complaint.

All the while profitable mega-businesses like Hustler and Playboy continue to operate unscathed in the social media world, despite the proliferation of asinine and even disturbing hashtags like #TittyTuesday, #MorningWood and #BarelyLegal.

The over-saturation of sex-like images in our culture is an example of what I call SEX-sationalism, which is the sensationalistic and commercial use of sexuality for the purpose of making a profit. Profit can means anything from money to relationships to ego-validation. Like any drug, we need it, can’t live without it and have to have harder and harder hits in order to feel its mollifying effects.

We are talking around sex, but never actually experiencing it.

It’s as if we are in a restaurant looking at the menu, talking about the menu, smelling the menu, maybe even eating the menu, but not going anywhere near the food. We fill ourselves up with pseudo-orgasmic experiences, which leave us sexually bloated yet malnourished.

SEX-sationalism works for the business of sex, but not for sexual freedom. SEX-sationalism says “Drive this car” or “Subscribe to this site” or “Buy this handbag” and all your empty voids and insecurities will magically go away.

That is, of course, until you need the next “hit” of pseudo-orgasm.

While SEX-sationalism works from the outside-in (by telling us what is sexy and trying to sell it to us), sexuality works from the inside-out. Genuine orgasm teaches us that turn-on starts from within and that pleasure is our birthright and our most natural state of being.

SEX-sationlism depends upon its customers feeling “less than,” but sexuality teaches us that we are already perfect exactly as we are.

SEX-sationalism offers unsustainable quick fixes, but sexuality teaches us that it takes a commitment to presence, vulnerability and approval to plumb the rich and nourishing depths of orgasm.

When I talk about orgasm, I am not simply referring to that 30-second crashing sneeze known as climax. I mean that living, breathing, pulsing life force that births every moment.

Our cultural fear of the wild and humbling journey of orgasm is what keeps us locked in shame around sex and resorting to recesses of our shadows to steal a tiny taste of the erotic.

The erotic has much more than just the act of fucking.

Eros, the root word of erotic, is originally defined as a form of love connected to our fundamental creative impulses. It is directly linked to our feminine self-expression, power and genius. However when are we cut off from this source (as most of us are in this cut-throat and greed-driven society), we are left hollow, voiceless and searching for anything to smother the aching hunger for intimacy.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the way women are treated regarding sex. In the US, women are fighting to maintain sexual rights in the realms of abortion and planned parenthood. Around the world, women face such atrocities as female circumcision, honor killings and sex trafficking and are routinely blamed and often punished for being rape victims (especially women who work in the sex industry, who are considered contaminated and sub-human in our society).

On the surface we go, “Yeah, obviously rape and murder and mutilation are bad. Let’s do something about this.”

But when women speak up to reclaim our right as autonomous sexual beings, we are treated with derision and contempt.

To say that a woman has found her voice through knitting or singing or being a mother is worthy of applause and a 5-page spread in Ladies Home Journal.

But to say that a woman has found her voice through orgasm leads to everything from ridicule and accusations of being privileged man-haters to death threats and acts of violence.

We say that sex is all around us and that we are tired of hearing about it. I say we are not talking about it enough. The fact that we didn’t even know the full scope and power of the female clitoris until 4 years ago (yet had hundreds of studies documenting the function of the penis) is proof enough that even the medical field has a very cloistered and limited knowledge of sexuality.

Ultimately this post isn’t about shaming anyone who watches porn or reads Cosmo or doesn’t know the first thing about non-ejaculatory orgasms. It’s simply a call to action—a call to the courageous men and women who are willing to educate themselves, experiment with desire and free themselves from sexual shame, especially in the realm of feminine sexuality. From there, porn and Cosmo can be a conscious choice, rather than the default source of education and get-off.

So here’s to more posts about sexuality.

Here’s to giving voice to that part of ourselves that we’ve been so afraid to share.

Here’s to casting an honorable light on the journey to orgasm.

And here’s to ushering in a new perspective of sex: from sex as a bartering tool that wins us scraps of pseudo-orgasm to sex as an expression of our deepest truth.

Porn vs. Erotic Voyeurism: Interview with Laurie Handlers on Sex & Happiness Radio Show

Laurie Handlers

Laurie Handlers

Originally posted July 23, 2013

What an honor and a thrill to be interviewed by incredible Tantra teacher Laurie Handlers. Her work has influenced mine over the years and it was a privilege to talk about porn, erotic voyeurism and my book project, From 6 to 9 and Beyond. Listen and download here.

Pornography vs. Erotic Voyeurism

Image Credit:  BaronBrian /Flickr

Image Credit: BaronBrian/Flickr

Originally posted July 3, 2013

“Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement.” ~ Alfred Hitchcock

Let’s be honest: like it or hate it, pornography is not going away any time soon.

It is estimated that the porn industry brings in $13 billion in the US alone and nearly $100 billion worldwide.

With accessibility going up (thanks to the internet) along with demand (thanks to a growing population and the sharp increase in women and couples who download porn), those numbers are expected to rise.

For those who have had porn addiction or who have been lovers with someone who was addicted, this can seem devastating. Men who regularly masturbate alone with porn are more likely to have problems connecting with a partner, either through premature ejaculation, impotence or an inability to feel emotionally connected with him/her.

Of course to completely demonize porn or attempt to ban it is not the answer either. This “sexual prohibition” will only amplify the cultural embarrassment we already feel around sex, and relegate the production of porn to an even seedier caste of society (is it any coincidence that I can download “Hot Chicks, Small Tits 4” on the same website where I can search for my mail-order Russian bride?). The fact that adult film stars are being denied bank accounts does not represent that porn stars are wrong for doing what they do, but highlights the social stigma around sexual pleasure and our collective fear that someone will “discover” our dirty fantasies.

I think it’s vital that we have a candid discussion around pornography, if nothing else than to get everyone out of the shame closet and admit that we all watch it!

Porn has affected many people’s lives positively. For some, it was the first place they saw people enjoying sex. That can be especially liberating for women, who may have grown up with the notion that sex is something they were obligated to do for men’s pleasure.

Porn can also be educational and shine an approving light on taboos. A man who previously felt that anal sex was not for him, may discover a hidden turn-on when he sees another man taking it from behind (and liking it!).

Finally porn can just be fun and provide the much needed playfulness and variety many couples need in longer-term relationships.

♦◊♦

I feel that porn limits us when we view it as the ultimate authority on sexuality. For those whose only sex education is pornography, sex must equal a penis entering a vagina, a big-busted women screaming as if she’s in the midst of an apoplectic attack, an impossibly endowed men pounding her like a jackhammer and both of them cumming (hard) at the same time, preferably with jiz everywhere (especially on her face).

Porn can also hinder the sexual maturity of men, as they become trained (á la Pavlov’s dogs) to lump orgasm, climax and ejaculation into one act. In reality, all three are separate physical phenomena and can be experienced independently.

Where our relationship to porn becomes especially devastating is when we confuse the business of pornography with authentic sexuality. Porn is built on filling people for the moment, but for the most part is nutritionally deficient. Sort of like the McDonald’s version of sex. Yet, even though we feel a little bloated from it all, we still have an innate hunger (addiction) to consume more. And that’s how most businesses work: in creating a product that people need over and over again.

Therefore sex becomes a commodity. A thing to be possessed. A trophy to be won. And many people who make porn don’t even care if you watch it, as long as you pay for the privilege of possessing it. Fast forward to the end. Grab it, spank it and go on to the next one.

◊♦◊

The antidote to sexual consumerism is something I like to call “Erotic Voyeurism.” In Platonic philosophy, “eros” (the root word for “erotic”) is defined as a kind of love that is a fundamental creative impulse with a sensual element.

I am especially fond of this definition because I believe it provides the extra sexual nutrition that is often lacking in pornography: a way of interacting with visual stimulation and orgasm that is about building energy and utilizing it towards creativity (as opposed to the “jerk it out as fast as possible” approach to which porn often caters).

I recently discovered a brilliant example of erotic voyeurism in Clayton Cubitt’s video art series, Hysterical Literature. In each video, a woman reads an erotic passage from literature while she is genitally stimulated with a vibrator under a table. The results are hilarious, sexy, intriguing, intelligent and, yes, super fucking hot.

We see each woman as a human, rather than a thing. We are invited into her world, rather than trying to stuff her into ours. We ride the wave of her authentic turn-on, which can go from nonchalance to surprise to slight embarrassment to delicious agony to ecstasy to joy to relief. We feel what she is feeling, which fosters empathy and compassion.

We also don’t see any nudity in Hysterical Literature. Because so much is left to the imagination the mind is invited to play and create. Oftentimes, in conventional pornography, we can feel desensitized to what is happening and crave bigger “hits” off the climax crack pipe because of porn’s intensely graphic nature. While this SEX-sationalism, may make for rousing entertainment once in a while, overuse can deaden the subtlety of our sexual palates.

Another site I found that exemplifies erotic voyeurism is called “Gentlemen Handling.” Here, men share with the viewer their own personal style and taste of self-pleasure. The site aims to share the “human-ness” of each of its contributors in a way that is “honest, attentive and reverent.” And although this site still focuses on climax, I appreciate the vulnerability, inspiration and diversity of masculine expression.

This is not to say that we can’t approach conventional porn with an erotic eye. I saw a recent interview on Sex, Lies and Consciousness where a young man said that when he watches porn he likes to see what emotions arise and feel them. Shame, inadequacy, connection, curiosity, horniness — all of it is valuable inquiry to him. I though this was a marvelous and mature way to explore one’s relationship with sex.

Below are ten comparisons of porn versus erotic voyeurism. Of course, not all porn is the same (as evidenced by the rise in feminist porn), and ultimately, it’s never about what’s on the screen, but about our mindset and the level of consciousness with which we engage it.

However, like food, some sexual “meals” offer more nutrition than others. And while a “Big Mac” fuck can be fun every once in a while, it’s important to balance that with a sexuality that is nourishing and fulfilling.

  1. Porn tends to tell us what is sexy. Erotic voyeurism asks us “What is sexy?”
  2. Porn tends to numb ourselves from the present. Erotic voyeurism brings us right into the center of the moment.
  3. Porn often disconnects us from seeing the humanity of the people. Erotic voyeurism is a breeding ground for sensual compassion.
  4. Porn thrives on consumption. Erotic voyeurism demands participation.
  5. Porn relies on scripts and formulas. Erotic voyeurism is spontaneous and unpredictable.
  6. In porn, it’s usually about the money shot. In erotic voyeurism, it’s about the connection.
  7. Porn is fictionalized entertainment. Erotic voyeurism invites out our personal truth.
  8. Porn often feels like one big clanging note. Erotic voyeurism is a multi-textured symphony of surprises.
  9. Porn tends to focus on stimulating the genitals. Erotic voyeurism stimulates our entire being: mind, heart, soul and genitals.
  10. 10.  Porn rushes towards climax. Erotic voyeurism savors lingering in the uncomfortable tension between wanting and having.

Article adapted from its original appearance on The Good Men Project

Can Pornography be a Catalyst for Spiritual Growth?

Originally posted January 11, 2013

View this article on elephantjournal.com
 

“Sex isn’t something men do to you. It isn’t something men get out of you. Sex is something you dive into with gusto and like it every bit as much as he does.” ~ Nina Hartley

“[makelovenotporn.com] is not anti-porn. I’m a fan of hard-core porn. I watch it myself…but because the porn industry is driven by men, funded by men, managed by men, directed by men and targeted at men, porn tends to present one world view: Porn says ‘This is the way it is.’ And what I want to say is, ‘Not necessarily.’” ~ Cindy Gallop

Imagine a society where sexuality is an acceptable part of everyday culture. Where children are taught to appreciate their bodies, rather than fear them. Where it’s not just ‘normal’, but encouraged to explore the depths of one’s sexual desire, kinks and all. Where sex ed isn’t squeezed into a semester of gym class and taught by some ex-football player who keeps stumbling over the word ‘vagina.’

Now return here, to the center of 21st century America. Sexuality, especially female sexuality, is a battlefield for possession and control, as evidenced by the current controversy surrounding abortion, planned parenthood and the definition of ‘rape.’  Our most touted (and emotionally safest) form of sexual education is fear, a.k.a. ‘don’t do it, unless you want to get a disease or unwanted pregnancy. ‘ Archaic sodomy laws linger on the books in many states and the legal recognition of same-sex marriages remains several election years away from nationwide acceptance.

We are a society that’s afraid of sex and we’re too proud and frightened to admit it.

Of course, many may argue that we are inundated with sex: everywhere you turn there is a picture of a half-naked woman selling beer or another article on how have mind-blowing orgasms.

In fact many sexual naysayers are within this very community: people who profess that they are tired of seeing elephantjournal stooping to fashion magazine-level material and discussions on porn.

However, as evidenced by the fact that the #1 elephantjournal article for the past five weeks has been a nude yoga class led by a Playboy model, I think we can safely say that all of us (even the sanctimonious yogis) aren’t done with sex yet.

Of course, we aren’t watching her to perfect our Adho Mukha Svanasana. We watch her because she’s naked and hot. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with feeling aroused when we see two people having sex.

Regardless of our opinions of what we see, we are affected on a primal, physical level by watching porn—whether it’s engorgement of our genitals, watering of our mouths or flushing of our cheeks. It’s all an example of orgasm bubbling to the surface. Whether or not we are in agreement with our experience determines whether this orgasm expresses itself as turn-on (yes, I’m present and totally accept what is arising for me) or tumescence (what the fuck is this BS!?).

Moral indignation is our usual ‘go to’ response when we experience this tumescence. It’s just too easy (or rather lazy) to disown our own responsibility while watching porn and sit in righteousness: How dare Playboy commercialize something as sacred as yoga? We get to feel ‘right’—and there is nothing more satisfying than ‘being right.’ We get to have a place to project our anger (fucking misogynists) and shame (I’m not as pretty as she is), instead of doing the dirty work of admitting just how hungry and—dare I say it—perverted we just might be.

But I wonder: what makes sitting in YabYum any more ‘conscious’ or ‘spiritual’ than a dude just looking to get his jerk on (or off)? In fact, tantric philosophy espouses that everything is fuel for spiritual transformation. Who are we to judge what is the next right step in the evolution of one’s sexual maturation? Besides, if we spent all our time persecuting everyone who‘s ever watched porn, there wouldn’t be a single male (or a goodly number of females) left.

Now, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of Playboy’s yoga video, just as I’m not a huge fan of conventional, i.e. male-marketed & produced, porn. It’s simply not to my taste. I feel like much of what mainstream media bombards us with lacks authentic desire and is meant to capitalize on insecurity and ignorance.  It tamps down our ability to feel rather than invites us to sit in the uncomfortable magnitude of our orgasmic power. It’s something I call ‘SEX-sationalism.’ It is meant to titillate and entice, but rarely satisfies—sort of like Chinese food for your cock.

From a business standpoint this makes sense: if you satiate the customer, then they will not need to buy from you again. But if give him a hit off the sexual crack pipe while keeping the fantasy just out of reach, he will continue to throw money at you in the hope that one day, his needs will be satisfied and thus beginning the addiction (in fact, I found a website with the slogan ‘Porn is the answer to all your problems’).

Therefore, it’s the addiction, rather than the porn per se, that can contribute to marital breakups and intimacy problems. This doesn’t absolve the porn industry from responsibility (frequently depicting woman as decorative jizz receptacles doesn’t help), but it can’t be our scapegoat either.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a nation of Marlboro men masquerading to disguise the fact that we have no idea what to do with a woman’s pussy and hide our fantasies that may (gasp!) involve another man.

On the other side, we’ve become a nation of Cosmo women, who act like we’ve got it together in bed, but have absolutely no sense of our own pleasure. Or we hang on to our virginity for dear life (as if anyone could actually possess such a thing) lest we be thought of as unworthy for marriage.

With all this culturally ingrained pretending, it’s no wonder we fear speaking about sex to our children, who then have to resort to the next best thing for a sexual education: surreptitiously discovered pornography, which, thanks to the digital age, more readily accessible than ever.

And this is where things can really go off track.

If the only reference for sex that kids have is porn, then to them, sex is this secret, dark thing that they shouldn’t be thinking about or exploring, despite the fact that their innocent curiosity is taking them towards what feels natural, i.e. pleasure.

Also, if porn is the primary children’s sex educator, then many get a limiting download of how sex should be: the woman has to be skinny with big boobs, the man has to have a giant cock, she has to scream like a banshee, has to pound her hard and fast and the sex ends when they concomitantly cum and he spectacularly ejaculates somewhere near her orifice. Even the supposedly ‘artistic’ porn, X-Art, adheres to this formula, complete with hot, 20-something postcoitally ogling the camera as if the viewer was the one who just fucked her good.

Therefore, if we wish to be the primary educators for our children and foster their sexual health, we must take a look at healing our own sexuality, And if we wish to liberate ourselves as sexual beings, we cannot continue to scrutinize pornography from the lens of shame and judgment; we must be open-minded and curious enough to investigate the need that pornography serves rather than relegating it to the recesses of our shadows.

Which led me to ask the question, “How has pornography affected you positively?” I know, asking the porn industry to guide in sexual education and healing may seem a little like asking McDonald’s for nutritional advice. But I wanted to plunge below the ‘icky’ surface of addiction and shame and focus on what’s good about porn. By changing our relationship to it from within we can learn its secrets and change our actions on the outside.

For many, the answer was simple: it’s fun. It makes them feel good. Seeing images of beautiful women is a pleasurable experience, and, if kept as an occasional treat and in total transparency with partner(s), can contribute to a well-rounded sexual diet.

An answer that came up repeatedly for women was that it was the first time they had ever seen a female in a state of orgasm, i.e. a woman who was actually enjoying herself during sex. No guilt about taking her own pleasure or touching her own body (my friend, Vixen on the Loose, even wrote a little haiku about it).

Also, for some, porn was the first time they saw someone doing something ‘taboo’ and discovered that they themselves liked it. Perhaps it was around homosexuality, threesomes, anal sex or some BDSM kink that they never thought would have turned them on, but upon watching porn, made that discovery in their own sexuality.

Some couples incorporate porn as a way to ‘spice up’ their sex life. Perhaps by watching and masturbating together or by imitating some of the sexy positions on the screen. In my own life, I’ve sucked a guy’s cock or fucked a man while he watches porn—not because he’s asked me to, but from my own desire. For me, there’s something fun about being an active participant in his fantasy and feeling him squirm in agony as all that sensation builds to a peak.

For other couples, it can be a starting point for better communication, not just around sexual desires, but also around sexual fears and shadows. Being vulnerable enough to say to your partner, “I notice this feeling of betrayal when you watch porn and I have a fear that I can never live up to your fantasies” or “I feel ashamed when I watch porn and feel like I have to hide it from you” immediately unmasks both people and deepens the intimacy in the relationship.

Finally, it can be quite liberating or the only place one feels free to literally ‘let it all hang out’. For some people who have gone years in stifling relationships or have had no sexual partners, porn has been their only outlet and anchor to their sexuality.

With this understanding of the value that porn provides some people, i.e. fun, education, personal discovery, variety, communication and liberation, I then asked myself the question: can we then use porn as a tool for our sexual & spiritual awakening, rather than as an escape from our own fear?

Many people are already working to make that shift: from porn as male-driven outlet of escape to cultural exploration of authentic sexuality.

Forthegirls.com, where some of my material has appeared, is a porn site dedicated to erotica and porn from a feminist perspective.  This means that female pleasure, still a longstanding taboo, and taste is valued. The site also includes toy reviews, advice and erotic writings to stimulate the mind. From my perspective, this can be a jumping off point for women to reclaim their sexuality and take that out into their relationships.

Someone who has been an insider activist within the industry is porn star Nina Hartley. She’s worked tirelessly to promote sexual education as well as defend the porn industry’s right to exist as place where classy, well-spoken and mentally-sane sex workers can create porn with a point-of-view about sex (as opposed to widget-making porn whose only interest is in generating money). She has also worked to eliminate illegal drug use from porn culture and encourage ‘safe sex’ practices, including eliminating alcohol from sexual encounters so people can make more conscious decisions.

Two more sex-positive advocates are Jamye Waxman, a writer and sex educator, and Candida Royalle, a sensuality pioneer. Jamye runs the website gasm.com, which features a variety of sex educators sharing their knowledge on a wide variety of topics. Candida was one of the first female entrepreneurs in the adult entertainment industry, spearheading female-oriented porn and porn with the goal of helping couples in therapy.

Finally, a true trailblazer in the porn revolution is Cindy Gallop, founder of makelovenotporn.com &makelovenotporn.tv. While she’s not creating the porn herself, she is hosting the forum for viewers to create their own porn, or as she calls it, #realworldsex. She originally hatched the idea for makelovenotporn after multiple sexual experiences with younger men who tried to recreate what they have seen in porn, most notably the infamous cum-on-her-face money shot. She wanted to begin a dialogue comparing what we seen in porn to what we experience in real life and through this dialogue, begin to dispel the myths we have around sex.

This dialogue then spawned the TV site, where people can create and upload their own sex videos. Makelovenotporn.tv is different from conventionally-produced porn in three distinct and vital ways.

1.     Desire. The people you see on the screen are not actors (though not necessarily unprofessional). This means that they are having sex with someone they actually like. They are internally motivated to do what feels good for them in the moment, as opposed to the director telling what to do so it will look good for the camera. And they are certainly not adhering to any sort of A+B=C sexual script. Again, this is #realworldsex, #realworldfeelings, #realworldrelationships, #realworldeverything.

2.     Vulnerability. The people in the videos aren’t surgically enhanced starlets or schlong supermen. They are human, with normal-looking (and beautiful) bodies. Also, the sex they have isn’t ‘perfect.’ A slip, a bump, something unexpected flies at them, they laugh and roll with it—thus adding a level of humanity back into the experience. In the short intros preceding each video, the performers themselves give highlights of their favorite moments and will even reveal an insecurity or two they felt while taping. You as a viewer become less of passive voyeur and can more easily connect with the people onscreen. In fact, videos are categorized by feeling words, i.e. romping, gushing, cozy, yummy, succulent, friendly, instead of the cold descriptors of anal, small tits, fisting, SheMale and handjobs.

3.     Participation. Within the forum you are invited to share your voice regarding what you’d like to see and, if you are so inclined, can even make a sexy video to satisfy your inner exhibitionist. And half of all monies collected for a particular video go directly to the artists themselves. That is a huge shift from the way mainstream porn works, where producers and distributors take the lion’s share of profits.

Of course, Gallop sets firm boundaries to keep the content within the limits of ethics (no children, no animals) and taste (no scat). And it’s this part, knowing her edges, naming them and honoring them, that sets a tight, clear and safe container for play.

In fact, setting boundaries has been the biggest takeaway for me from this inquiry around porn. It’s not that we are necessarily bad at sex or that porn is spiritually impure; our wounds go much deeper than that.  We, as children, never felt safe enough to explore what we wanted and hid our sexuality as it grew and now, as adults, we have no clue how to set and maintain proper boundaries. As a result, in an effort to sidestep delving into our own shame and ignorance, our children are now denied their rights as sexually autonomous beings, as documented in Dana Northcraft’s excellent article “A Nation Scared: Children, Sex and the Denial of Humanity.”

I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that if I was old enough to ask about sex, I was old enough to know about it. She never shielded me from proper anatomical terms, made up stories about storks or made me feel ‘wrong’ for asking direct questions. Through this level of respect, acceptance and personal freedom, I made educated sexual choices aligned with my personal integrity.

My belief is once we, as adults, cultivate a healing relationship with our sex and become masters of our own boundaries (without building walls), we can then encourage the sexual curiosity and development of our children in an open, safe and loving way. Then porn will no longer be this dirty, cryptic, calorie-deficient candy bar we stuff down to stop feeling our sexual hunger, but a tool for education, responsible play and maybe even a step towards spiritual growth.

Bah Humbug! (The Porn Scrooge has her say…)

Originally posted on June 1, 2011

I recently had a Facebook exchange with someone who was shocked to hear that my take on pornography is that (for the most part, but not always) it is a reflection of our cultural shadow regarding sex—a result of our own cultural sexual repression.

Um, ok, what?! In plain terms a shadow is a part of ourselves that we don’t claim or own. The best way to discern your shadow is to notice the characteristics in other people that you can’t stand or hate or vilify or claim as “wrong” or “sinful.” This usually stems from some sort of shame or desire to fit within an acceptable norm. However, if you get in relationship with your shadow and integrate it, you develop the ability for compassionate living with all beings because you have a compassionate relationship with all parts of yourself.

OK, so back to porn. We in the US have this thing where what we practice in our daily life looks a lot different than what eeks out in the entertainment and media industries. As “open-minded” a society as we like to think we are, we are still “one nation under God” and for most of us, that means living in accordance to a religious dogma that tells us that sex before marriage is wrong, homosexuals are sick and that anything that happens in the bedroom should stay there and not be talked about in “polite company.” But all that tamped down energy has to find a place to go; so it comes out in sexy models gracing ads for cars and beer, scantily-clad teenage pop stars being our icons of femininity and, as I mentioned, porn.

OK. So let me just say this. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH NUDITY, NAKED PERFORMERS OR PORN. OK? I am not going to take your porn away or condemn anyone who wants to perform a sexy song onstage or watch some fun-time sex play. I myself do burlesque and will be the first one in line to do a crazy, sexy, fetish-inspired photo shoot or intensely erotic film scene. What I am asking from you is to take another approach to exploring sexuality. Much of what we see as “sex” is only one tiny sliver of the whole pie, but we come to think that this one tiny sliver is all there is. And this sliver is, for the most part, a highly-exaggerated, masculinized version of sexuality. Its focus is on sensationalism. On shock value. On money shots. On selling. On going for a goal and producing results. And that’s ok AS LONG AS YOU ARE CONSCIOUS OF THIS DYNAMIC. That it’s a business. Entertainment.

Where we can really damage ourselves as sexual beings is when we being to equate ourselves with what we see on the outside, and if any part of our sexuality deviates from that, we are somehow “wrong” or “broken.” If we as women aren’t ready give a blow job to our husbands the moment he comes home from work, we are frigid. If a man has a cock measuring less than 6 inches and can’t blow his wad within two minutes of a hot woman breathing on him, he is impotent. If our sexual appetite isn’t hearty in the “right” moments and is a raving lunatic in the “wrong” moments, we are very, very bad people indeed. And since we as a culture, tend to have a difficult time understanding the depth of our own sexuality (much less talking about it), how can we possibly teach our kids what it’s like to have a healthy relationship with their sex and their bodies? If porn (and very stifled, clinical lessons in 8th grade health class) is the only education for kids and the sexually curious, is it any wonder that shame and secrecy cloud our most intimate parts? Is it any wonder that men walk around bragging about how virile they are but freak out the moment he has a woman alone in a room (believe me, I speak from experience on this one)? Is it any wonder that women constantly beat themselves up because they don’t look like the images they see?

Another reason that our relationship to porn can also be damaging is that it all-too-often takes the place of truly nourishing sexual experiences. It’s like you see this act of perceived sexuality, you feel your hands on your genitals and there is some sort of release. So it feels like you’ve had sex. And you have. But this kind of experience lacks the very heart of what we do desperately want from our sex—intimacy and vulnerability. You are a voyeur on the sexual ride, rather than an active participant. I mean, every once in a while, you just wanna get your rocks off. You wanna go to Mickey-D’s, order the Big Man and fries and stuff yourself with dirty, greasy goodness. But if this taste isn’t balanced with nourishing, quality meals, you are going to walk around sexually starving and feeling angry, ashamed and confused about why you seem to have an active sexual life, but are somehow still terribly unfulfilled.

The antidote to the shadow is to turn right around and face it. Cultivate a relationship with your sexuality. Learn, stroke by stroke, what your own orgasm feels like and from there discover the nuances that make your sexuality unique. When you climax, it may not be a loud, crazy, screaming fit—and that’s ok. It might take you a full hour of stroking before you even begin to feel the tiniest spark of sensation in your genitals—and that’s ok. You may have thought you would never like anything that was a little too on the fringe, but have a secret desire to be blindfolded and tied up by the Starbucks coffee girl—and that’s ok (talk to your partner first before acting out on that last one).

Ultimately, it’s about shifting our secret, shadowy preoccupation with sex from one with a purely external gaze to one that looks inward towards our personal desire compass. A relationship with sex based on curious inquiry about what I truly want, not one based on what I think I should be. About connecting to ourselves, our desires and the present moment, rather than distancing ourselves from it. About slowing down, stripping away our beliefs, paying attention and moving from the instinctual body. This is a gradual process, but one that is much more fulfilling in the long run.

I am aware that there is a movement to create different kinds of porn—for women by women and based on true eroticism rather than purely profit-driven sensationalism. Cool. Fantasy is sometimes a fun choice. Not every sexual experience has to be a David-Deida-claim-your-woman’s-open-heart-and-soul-and-bring-her-to-God event. Just stay conscious about how you’re spending your energy, where your attention is and what is your true desire. If you are not sure, keep coming back to the sensation in your body. Let your orgasm be your guide and your fuel on your journey towards your sexual self.

Who knows. You might find infinitely more pleasure in the experience of pink silk slowly slipping down the length of your inner arm than you ever could have found in Alien Midget Gang Bang 4.

FYI: Check out NYU professor, Chyng Sun’s intelligent documentary on the porn industry, The Price of Pleasure, at http://thepriceofpleasure.com