One of my problems, if you can call it that, is that I easily see both sides of an issue and can understand where both sides are coming from. This is why I rarely flame-out on Facebook or become excessively passionate about a hot-button issue. It’s not to say that I don’t have an opinion—I am passionate about standing up for universally accepted morals and for righting obvious wrongs (but then again who isn’t), so these topics rarely need me to advocate for them—just act upon them.
Having said this, I’m addressing sexism in the media. Its presence isn’t new, nor is its controversy. Claims of sexism are repeatedly dredged up and discussed, more often as a way to get likes or sell advertising. Such a story appeared in Time magazine regarding an ad that displayed female tech executives in their underwear. At least two sides of this traditional argument are as follows.
Parity: Women don’t do this to men, so why are women letting themselves be debased by men?
Choice: Women recognize that the sexes are different and are empowered as their conscientiously chose to display their body in the way they want.
And I can see both sides and many others and multiple facets of all, so I chose to come down on the side of “Ehhh, next topic.” This isn’t to say that I’m aware of the impact that the public display of sexual triggers have on observers, but I chose to take a more measured approach to help all (even youth) see the issue from a more lofty peek.
An example of where I use this approach is on the topic of pornography. Like many enticing things, people can become obsessed with pornography. It’s not unreasonable to use the word “addicted”, but the term is overused and implies some loss of responsibility. Admittedly, there may be those who are addicted to prescription drugs, sugar, video games, but most of those who consume these are do not fit the criteria for addiction. Likewise, not everyone who views sexually provocative media become addicted. I use that word to mean an obsession that interferes with the person’s ability to adequately work, socialize, sleep, and develop healthy interpersonal relationships. Just as everyone who has consumed alcohol or taken a Percocet doesn’t become addicted, not all who view sexually explicit media becomes addicted or dependent. While I fully support those who chose to completely avoid these things, whether it be because of their values or because of concern for the risk of addiction, it’s not reasonable in these technological times to expect that people, including youth, will never be exposed to pornography. When I was a young woman, if a teen in my neighborhood wanted to view porn, they had to misappropriate an adult’s magazine or jerry-rig a friend’s cable box. Today, if a young person feels a sudden urge to see the most graphic of sexual acts in HD video, it takes no more than five seconds using their smart phone, (or their friend’s smart phone if a parent thinks that denying their child one will prevent exposure). So, knowing that youth today are exponentially more likely to view porn than a generation ago, and knowing that the same tactics that our parents used on us may not work on our kids, (scare tactics of destruction and damnation aren’t as helpful as they once were), I therefore suggest a more measured calculated approach.
Not long ago, I came across a letter online that a mother wrote to her son about pornography. I was so impressed with the tenor of her letter, that I absconded it and asked my husband tailor it for delivery to our 14 year-old son. (My son gets enough of the female perspective on sex from his mom; it was dad’s turn to do some instructing.) In addition to reinforcing our values to him, the letter explained why porn could be problematic. The version we sent to my son is below.
I know this is probably not a conversation that you want to sit down and have with me, so I’m going to let you off the hook. Sort of. By writing you this letter, I’m going to spare you from having a face-to-face conversation with me about porn. But it’s a conversation we must have. If you don’t want to read this, then we can talk about it face-to-face. To make sure you read this, there will be a test on it later. Seriously, I want you to read all of this. It’s not going to kill you to read this.
I would be failing in my duty as a father if I did not share the following information with you—information that will greatly impact your future sex life and marriage. So listen carefully. This is important.
First of all, I know that you’ve probably seen porn. The world is different from when I was your age, and from the moment we gave you a smartphone and a computer, it was inevitable that you’d see porn.
There’s nothing wrong with sex, and there’s nothing wrong with being interested in it. But watching porn has the potential to affect your own sexual experiences in a really negative way. And it’s not just me. This is a proven fact. Men who watch a lot of porn have trouble enjoying real sex with real women. And I don’t want you to be that guy – not for yourself and not for your wife.
I truly wish you and your generation could be free to embark on your sex lives without all the porn. I wish you could all have had the chance to explore sex naturally with your wife, with all the surprises, the thrills, and even the spills. Without expectations or preconceptions. That’s the way it used to be, back in the olden days. For us, when we got married, sex was a wonderful, sometimes awkward experience of discovery. Lots of fumbling and bumbling and working it out as we went along.
Today though, by the time people today have sex for the first time, they’ll almost certainly have seen lots of porn stars going at it in many, many different ways. This will be the visual wallpaper in your mind as you explore your own sexuality, and that’s truly unfortunate. I understand that the porn genie can’t be put back in the bottle. Your generation is a product of our time, and you’re all in the same boat. So I guess you’ll all figure it out. However, there are a few important things you need to know. I don’t think anyone else is going to tell you these things, so here they are. Remember them.
1. Porn Is Not Real Sex. Most of what you see online is commercially produced sex. These are people having sex for money. It’s their job. Just like models in advertisements aren’t representative of what regular people look like and Call Of Duty isn’t representative of actual war, neither is porn the same as real sex.
2. Do Not Compare Yourself to the Men in Porn. Male porn stars are chosen for their giant penises and their ability to keep an erection for a really long time. Sometimes they use drugs like Viagra to do this. Other times, the video is edited to make it look like one continuous sex session when it’s not. They are also usually always hairless and without pubic hair. This is for the purpose of close-ups – not because women prefer hairless men.
3. Don’t Compare Your Wife to the Women You See in Porn. Female porn stars usually have fake boobs that point up no matter what position she’s in. Regular boobs don’t look or move like that. Often, women in porn have also had surgery on their vulva to make them look smoother. So the vulvas that you see in porn look very different from real-life vulvas, which are more diverse in appearance. There are all sorts of other things female porn stars do to alter the appearance of their genitals, everything from lasering off their pubic hair to bleaching their anuses. There’s nothing natural about the bodies you see in porn.
4. Women in Porn Are Faking It. Female porn stars are paid to look like they enjoy everything—all of it—no matter how uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassing, or painful. These women are paid to fake an orgasm even when they’re being degraded or abused. The more humiliating and dangerous it is, the more they are paid. Think about that: if you have to pay someone more to do something, it’s because they don’t want to do it.
5. You Don’t Want Your Wife to Fake Her Enjoyment. Real women take a lot longer to warm up than the women you see faking it in porn.
6. Porn Sex Is Not Indicative of Mainstream Female Taste. There are some things that porn portrays as enjoyable for all women when in fact many women are not okay with them. Ejaculating on her face is one. Anal sex is another. Did you know that female porn stars are paid twice as much to have anal sex as they are for vaginal sex? And remember what I said about women being paid more for certain types of sex—it means the porn stars need extra incentive. The same goes for spanking, hair pulling, or any kind of rough treatment. Just because you’ve seen it in porn, don’t assume it will work in real life. Never make the mistake of thinking that your wife is into something just because you saw it in porn. Always ask first.
7. Porn Is Made by Men for Men. What you see in porn is usually what men want – not what women want. Let’s compare porn to food. There are certain foods that only a few people like – say, Brussels sprouts. Sure, there are some people who genuinely enjoy eating Brussels sprouts, but these people are not the majority. Now imagine if every cooking program on TV featured Brussels sprouts in every meal. It would be weird, right? But if you watched a lot of cooking shows, you could be fooled into believing everyone loves Brussels sprouts. EVERYONE. ALL THE TIME. They don’t. And porn is like that. By making things like anal sex, double and triple penetration, and ejaculating on women’s faces standard in most porn, you could easily be misled into thinking every woman liked those things. They don’t.
Anyway, that’s it. I just wanted you to know that I love you and admire you, and I encourage you to not seek out porn, but if you do happen to come across it, please keep these things in mind.
Love, Dad (and mom)
My husband emailed the letter to our son. It shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that our son didn’t want to have a face-to-face conversation with his parents about this, but he did read it, and this was confirmed by him correctly answering questions about the letter.
So in summary, I make an appeal to readers to be thoughtful in the positions you take on issues. Read and ponder. Your stance need not be at the extremes. Be judicious in your admonitions. And don’t be surprised if your measured responses don’t generate a world of buzz. Being a media darling isn’t the goal, making the world a better place one step and one person at a time is.