One of the polarizing topics in sex positive circles is pornography. I’ve learned that many people will stop following me on social sites or discredit my opinions when they learn I am pro-porn. They like everything else: Body identity empowerment, yes. Sex and disability, awesome. Honesty, respect, communication to enhance sexuality, of course! Porn as part of a healthy, balanced sexuality… no, never, get the pitchforks and torches.
This might be confusing as the stereotype for people who rage against porn are radical conservatives who have a Puritan outlook on sex and the human body. But this isn’t the case. Even people who are 100% fine with religious taboos like same-sex marriage, premarital sex, or birth control are very uncomfortable about porn. I have had countless people I know say that though they are not religious they do not think it is right to have an orgasm thinking about anyone but your partner, that porn gives an unrealistic view of sex that will cause resentment in relationships or that watching porn takes attention and care away from your marriage.
I personally believe these attitudes are strong because monogamy is still the reigning social norm. I believe Christianity influenced this heavily, but there are a lot of other biological and social reasons why monogamy would be enforced so strictly in modern society. There’s nothing really wrong with this, but the myth of monogamy has infiltrated our minds as well as our bodies. Not only are we to be sexually monogamous, we are also not to think about anyone else other than our spouses. We aren’t supposed to fantasize during sex or masturbation, we are not to flirt or have emotional relationships with persons of the opposite sex and we are not to watch porn.
If you ask me, I think it’s impossible to be 100% monogamous in both mind and body. Even before my husband and I opened up our relationship I found I would get crushes on other guys. I was perplexed and a little freaked out. I was in the best, most fulfilling relationship of my life, why was I still getting crushes? Why did I still like reading erotica? I think it’s hurtful to everyone to enforce this myth that unless your spouse fulfills your desires 110% you must be doomed to divorce or misery. It’s just not true.
I think porn, erotica, and fantasy are wonderful ways for couples to remain sexually monogamous while not denying natural urges to be sexually non-monogamous.
Of course cheating is destructive. Obviously it means you are lying to your spouse and there would be physical risks having sex with someone secretly then having sex with your spouse. A man I knew gave his wife a STI this way. But that is when you are lying and neglecting your spouse. Those behaviors are bad.
Now take the example of another man I know who found he had a crush on and felt emotions toward his female coworker. He never had sex with her and actually told his wife because he wanted to be honest. She flipped out, moved out, and threatened him with divorce. They had been married for nearly 20 years. I think this is horrible. He acted responsibly and respectfully by not having sex in secret. Then he was honest to his wife instead of hiding it. And yet he was still punished for simply having an attraction toward another woman that wasn’t his wife.
As a society we don’t know how to blur the lines of monogamy at all, even when it could be healthy and grow a relationship. The example above could have gone much better. The wife could have listened, expressed her concerns or hurt, they could have talked about it and become much closer and more secure having mutually shared a time of vulnerability and honesty.
Porn is similar. In many ways it feels like cheating, because of what society has taught us about monogamy. After all, if you were “good enough” your spouse wouldn’t want to look at porn. It’s not true. Even people in wonderful stable relationships still want to see other people naked. It should not be compared to cheating. Once again it comes back to society as a whole. It’s not Jesus making us think this way. It’s Jerry Springer.
And because even secular society continues to reinforce this model, men will continue to hide their porn viewing and women will continue to spend nights in hotels feeling betrayed and hurt.
Anti-porn advocates say they are trying to protect women from abuse and eliminate sexual objectification. The problem is by demonizing porn there are many negative attitudes perpetuated: like women don’t/shouldn’t like porn, that being attracted to femininity is inherently abusive, and men really are so feeble minded that to them big breasts are more important than meaningful relationships. When I subscribed to anti-porn advocates I always felt bad about my body, because it didn’t matter what my boyfriend said, he must hate my body because he still wanted to watch porn. I saw pretty much every other woman on the planet as competition because if she was prettier or had bigger boobs than me then I was done for – because that’s what porn does to men. Once again, this isn’t a religious argument.
I believe the truth is that the majority of men do value, cherish, and need the women in their lives and porn doesn’t change that. Arguments against porn, especially secular ones, wreak havoc on relationships and make women even less satisfied with their bodies. It’s also not right to tell men they are horrible objectifying monsters because they get turned on from seeing naked women or watching sex acts.
This is depressing for everyone involved. Which is why we need to encourage the discussion of porn instead of simply trying to ban it or scare people by comparing porn viewing to deplorable behavior like cheating or neglect. We need to have realistic conversations about porn. When approached honestly and openly, with respect for each partner’s tastes and boundaries, porn and erotica can and does bring couples closer and strengthens intimacy. But in order to discuss porn honestly we need to shed all the stigmas of pornography, both dogmatic and secular.