Archives for April 2016
The evolution of the mind and the body is fascinating. Science shows it has progressed at a snail pace at times and other times huge leaps propelled people’s thinking, physical adaptation and the way they related to each other as a result of moving from a nomadic culture to farming.
During the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, primitive humans were able to separate sexual intercourse and other acts into recreation and procreation. Timothy Taylor’s Prehistory of Sex is an excellent source for understanding sexual dynamics. In addition, monogamy was not the usual pattern for various female species, according to D. Barash and J. Lipton’s work The Myth of Monogamy.
Monogamy was not part of the vocabulary or thoughts of men and women then. Marriage and associated ceremonies had yet to be created that might resemble what we are familiar with today. There were partnerships but the woman was viewed as having a greater role in the partnership, and depending on the tribe was free to choose with whom she mated regardless of her primary partner. When tribes began developing farming, the introduction of patriarchy emerged, along with the idea of possession such as land, animals, family and servants. Attitudes changed about what belonged to whom.
Jealousy, which was apparently not widespread as some scholars have suggested, became more so when property, patriarchy, servants, slaves and animals were formally incorporated within to the structures of society. Patriarchy and property came hand in hand and were viewed as an investment. Investments seemed to have become siblings of envy and jealousy. It’s about possession and return on investment. Whereas nomadic tribes shared for the sake of survival, farmers tended to share for a price of what they produced.
Sex and relationships became more compartmentalized depending on the tribe with rules, guidelines and commandments to keep people in line. It was about control and power. Moreover, in primitive tribes, sex was a vehicle for more than just producing children and was experienced as part of natural behavior and at times within tribal rites and ceremonies. It was also considered simply as fun and a joyful occasion: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bi-sexuality were natural.
We know that cultural conditioning affects behavior. A number of studies such as The Manipulated Mind by Denise Winn show that people are subject to conditioning, which takes many forms. Monogamy is one form of conditioning, mostly through religious belief. We are raised to see things in a certain way and think it’s natural or unnatural or perverse to whatever the norm is at the time. Our informal and formal education feeds into our conditioning, as noted in Brain Washing by Kathleen Taylor.
We also know that male and female relations are affected not only by religion but also by culture and local social structures that affect how we think, relate to each other and act. Non-monogamy, it seems, was at one time the norm, more for the female than the male according to Taylor’s studies.
Today, monogamous relationships are changing as more people remain single or are in alternative-style relationships. We are in a time of culture, personal value and ethical reassessment. Traditional partnerships? What will that mean in the future? Partnerships and the entire concept of monogamy and marriage will continue to dramatically change throughout the 21st century. We are living in a period of a rebirth of consciousness and thinking as a result of the downstream effects of technology.
I think we will increasingly find that more “females” will become breadwinners and “men” will more often be in roles previously defined as a woman’s while also working out of the home environment and within technological defined settings. The overlapping of roles will be great enough as to completely blur what was once defined as traditional, whereas communication will become more layered. Men will turn more monogamous and women less so. Alternative lifestyles will create new paradigms for relationships.
L.J. Frank is an adventurer, philosopher, historian, author, publisher and artist (commission only). His primary career is a nonprofit executive for libraries, university instructor and advisor. He’s also worked and studied in Asia, Middle East and Central America, and has a lifelong interest in anthropology, which spams prehistoric, ancient and medieval cultures, and architecture. His degrees include a BA in history and comparative religion, and an MA in history and foreign policy.
You can learn more about Frank and his works at the Narrative Paths Journal, his blog for “experimenting with ideas.”
People are led to believe porn is a synonym for sex, therefore porn is healthy and stands for the right to express our sexuality. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Porn is generic, poor, industrialized sex. It’s about business as usual. Yet the multibillion-dollar porn industry wants us to embrace the notion that porn and real sex are the same, and if you don’t support porn, you’re an ignorant prude.
Paraphrasing sociologist Gail Dines, if I’m not pro pornography, it doesn’t mean I’m against sex. If I tell you about the health risks of consuming fast-food, it doesn’t mean I’m against eating. Now, if the fast-food industry can shape eating behavior, if the fashion industry can shape dressing behavior, why wouldn’t porn shape sexual behavior? In the process, “we lose the most important thing that we have – our authentic sexuality, which defines us as humans, gives us connections and intimacy in a world that makes worth living in,” says Dines.
In his article “The Real Problem with Porn: It’s Bad for Sex,” journalist and sex expert Michael Castleman says: porn is the leading sex educator of men, but it teaches sex all wrong. He lists the many sex myths in porn— every man is huge and comes on cue, all women are exhibitionists, everyone is always eager, sex is 95% fellatio and intercourse, etc. etc.—and quotes Marie Silva, a pornstar married to her colleague Jack: “There’s a wonderful playfulness to our personal sex. I don’t come from intercourse, so he massages my clitoris by hand. After sex at work, it’s so nice to come home to the real thing.”
Besides not being the real thing, porn has a negative component in the very root of its name. In her lecture at the Eastern Connecticut State University, writer and speaker Maya S goes back to the origin of the word: porne refers to the lowest class of whores in Ancient Greece, regarded as human trash, and graphos means sketching. So pornography means either “drawings of filthy whores” or “women depicted as filthy whores.” In porn, women are reduced to body parts such as the vagina, breasts, anus and mouth. There’s no human connection to them, therefore there’s no accountability and they can be used for anything: their well-being, preferences and desires become irrelevant.
Nobody wants to watch a girl enjoying anal
Women are presented in positions of submission, servility or display and offered to the viewer as sexual objects that enjoy humiliation or pain, experiencing pleasure in scenes of rape, torture, pedophilia and incest. It’s all aimed at making the abuse of a woman look sexy. In her lecture, Maya shows the cover of an adult video entitled Filthy Office Sluts and also the still photo of a scene with a tied-up woman grimacing as a man holds her head back and pees into her mouth.
The pornographers’ language is very clear about how they depict women: filthy, whores, sluts, meatholes, cum-buckets that are not regular, “human” women but rather insatiable nymphomaniacs who enjoy all forms of rough sex—so it’s okay to abuse them because that’s what they want.
Take the “money shot,” for example, which is the ejaculation on the face. Maya shares an interesting insider glimpse when she gives us a quote from porn director Bill Margold: “I’d like to really show what I believe men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that. The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that, because they get even with the women they can’t have.” And thus gonorrhea of the eye was born to women.
The multibillion-dollar porn industry as we know today started in the 1950s and, interestingly enough, is rooted in misogyny. In the very conservative America of that era, many men were coming back home from the war to find out that in the meantime lots of women had taken their place in the workplace to support their homes. Men were not happy with the situation, as women not only became competitors in the job market but also had retreated from their traditional housewife roles. Maya shares some ads from that era. One Van Hausen tie ad depicts a woman kneeling on the floor while serving her husband breakfast in bed. The accompanying text goes like this: “Show her it’s a man’s world.”
At 25:50, Maya presents an old porn photo of a man overpowering a woman in bed as she struggles to free herself. This is the text embedded in it: “Let’s face it, guys. Some women are just begging for rough treatment. They whine. They nag. They sass you back when you give them an order. There’s just one thing to do—give them what they deserve!” The following photo depicts a naked woman grimacing while tied-up with her genitals exposed, and this is the embedded text: “She won’t open her legs for you, will she? Now they’re open, and she can’t close them! Serves her right for all the times she teased you. Now you can do anything to her, and she can’t resist!”
Back to the 21st century, here’s how pornographer Paul Hesky addresses anal sex in porn, in a quote extracted from Robert Jensen’s book Getting Off: “Essentially, it comes from every man who’s unhappily married, and he looks at his wife who just nagged at him about this or that or whatnot, and he says, ‘I’d like to fuck you in the ass.’ He’s angry at her, right? And he can’t, so he would rather watch some girl taking it up the ass and fantasize … and that is the attraction, because when people watch anal, nobody wants to watch a girl enjoying anal.”
It’s a men’s issue
Such mentality paved the path to aberrations like the double anal penetration and the ATM routine, when the man withdraws his penis from the woman’s anus and sticks it straight into her mouth. Double anal penetration causes internal tears and, besides the pain it inflicts to her, it may contribute to rectal prolapse: it’s when the anus falls out of the body and needs to be stitched back through surgery. As for ATM, it’s responsible for fecal matter infection in her throat, not to mention the implicit message it delivers: the woman is a piece of shit and deserves to eat shit.
The documentary The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun, released in 2008, explores what happens when images of sexual degradation are used for arousal. At one point, it ties together a sequence of clips of staple practices in porn that ends with a man shoving the woman’s head in a toilet and flushing it. What drew my attention was the men’s faces, invariable contorted in rage as they pounded into the women. Seriously? Anyone really believes that’s how sex is supposed to be? In my book, the man looks at the woman with desire, closes his eyes to enjoy the sensation of their bodies connected, and then smiles. But I digress.
The last scene in the documentary shows a woman kneeling before two men. She looks up at them, gaping, and waits for them to ejaculate in her mouth. The camera freezes on her face and slowly pulls back. We see her passiveness and humiliation, we can almost feel the icy indifference in the room. Her eyes are haunting.
So if current pornography hasn’t already made it crystal clear, retracing its origins confirms that porn is about keeping women in their place and getting back at them. To sum it up, it’s about violence against women: we have several categories such as gagging bitches, facial abuse, split assholes, rape, incest, bestiality, murder and so on. One of the most popular categories, teen porn, fuels child pornography as the natural progression for men watching it.
Violence against women is a women’s issue, right? Maybe not. Maybe it’s a men’s issue since men are the perpetrators of violence for the most part. That’s the conclusion reached by violence expert and social theorist Jackson Katz in his inspiring TED Talk, in which he shows us that switching the focus to men—and how social institutions, including pornography, contribute to instilling violence in men—is key to tackle the problem. And it is not just a women’s issue for another reason: most children and men subjected to violence are victims of the violence perpetrated by men.
A piece of advice from a serial killer
When I see a feminist movement like the Slut Pride, I scratch my head. Why on earth would a self-proclaimed feminist movement take pride in perpetuating the negative connotation associated with women’s sexuality? A sexually free woman should be simply called a sexually free woman, not a slut. Or maybe we could come up with a fun name such as butterfly (suggestions, anyone?). Moreover, as much as women are entitled to wear whatever they want, I’m not so sure about how empowering it is to totally embrace the hypersexualized clothing imposed to them by the media and fashion industry—so to train them to be “porn ready,” as pornographer Joanna Angels puts it.
During a chat with author Rachel Kovach (@rskovach) on Wattpad, she offered that the word slut originally meant “dirty” and has evolved to describe a woman with many casual sex partners. She’ dirty. Slut pride? I don’t think so. The word slut shouldn’t even be considered by any “feminist” movement. There’s more: what’s the male counterpart for slut? for whore? There aren’t any because those male counterparts are proudly called studs by other men or else men whores by women.
Like many who defend pornography as sexually freeing for women and society, pornstar Belle Knox says her work is empowering and she loves it. I just checked out a couple of her first videos, Duke University Bella Knox Destroyed and Miriam Weeks Aka Bella Knox Spokane. In both, she is continuously humiliated, gagged, called “a piece of shit,” slapped and spat on the face. It’s hard to watch. I didn’t see any signs of her enjoying it, quite the opposite. Towards the end of the video she’s crying. The guy doesn’t show any concern, though: in a derisive tone, he merely asks if she always cries during sex as he keeps hammering into her. Once Belle conquered fame, she moved on to less unpleasant gigs. But other women are replacing her in those horrible videos, and the cycle continues.
Ran Gavrieli’s, in his TED Talk, tells us he stopped watching porn after realizing how much ingrained violence and anger it brought to his private fantasies—anger and violence that weren’t there originally, and that had do to with domination and submission rather than freedom. “This was not me and I decided to put an end to it.” He gives a poignant account of how pornography killed his ability to use his own imagination when having sexual fantasies. The second reason why he quit was he realized that by watching porn he increased the demand for filmed prostitution. Gavrieli is a scholar of gender studies at Tel Aviv University and made that decision while volunteering to help men and women victims of prostitution traffic. I highly recommend watching his talk.
It is well-known that porn performers often become escorts in order to survive: we hear former pornstars mentioning their side activities all the time. In the 2013 documentary mentioned in my previous post, Date My Porn Star, pornographer Dan Leal offers that “the reality of porn is these days there’s not so much work. It’s just probably 500 girls that are active and less than 50 scenes a day being shot, and it’s the same girls being shot over and over. So all the girls in porn need to have secondary revenue streams. Some of them feature ads, some of them webcam, and the vast majority escort. You’re paying for the pussy, baby.”
There are feminists producing porn with a different concept now, which attempts to have a more sex-positive and organic approach, with a collective creative process involving the performers and in some cases an educational angle. It’s an interesting idea. Just keep in mind it’s still not real sex. It’s a performance.
I’ll leave you with a statement by Ted Bundy about porn. He was a serial killer that raped and killed 30 girls and women. I don’t include it here to imply that watching porn will turn people into serial killers. But Ted Bundy’s words, in the eve of his execution in 1989, are prophetic. He makes a point in stressing that he takes full responsibility for his actions and pornography did not cause him to commit his crimes. He warns, however, to the danger of pornography contributing to mold and shape his violent behavior. Bundy says porn fuelled his urges and eroded his inhibitions to act upon them. “Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago … there are those loose in their towns and communities, like me, whose dangerous impulses are being fueled, day in and day out, by violence in the media in its various forms—particularly sexualized violence. What scares me is when I see what’s on cable TV. Some of the violence in the movies that come into homes today is stuff they wouldn’t show in X-rated adult theaters 30 years ago … I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography—deeply consumed by the addiction. The FBI’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true.”
On my next post, I’ll talk about porn in romance novels. Holy cow… it’s 50 Shades of Grey!
This post by author and poet Tracey Madeley presents us fascinating ideas on gender equality from the 19th century that are still up to date. The surprising author of such ideas, whose identity will be revealed further down, defends that equality promotes closeness and fulfillment in relationships: mere fondness is a poor substitute for friendship, as we will see.
“Like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty.”
This is the central idea behind The Vindication of the Rights of Women, written by Mary Wollstonecraft in response to Thomas Paine’s work, The Rights of Man. Published in 1792 it advocates a more balanced view of the differences between the sexes and how a redressing of the balance would benefit society.
Women occupied themselves with their outward trappings of dress, lace and ornamentation. Wollstonecraft argued that a woman who is simply valued for her looks benefits no one. Women relied on their appearance and any accomplishments which were designed to enhance their marriageability. For an 18th century woman, “when she obtains a husband she has arrived at her goal, and meanly proud, is satisfied with her paltry crown.”
She refers to them as alluring mistresses, rather than rational wives. Such “uncultivated understandings made them entirely dependent on their senses.” In a society which was gravitating towards sensibility of feeling, this was fashionable but not practical, as it turned their character towards manipulation rather than reasoned argument.
At the time the book was published, society believed marriage was the best outcome a woman could achieve. The Married Women’s Property Act was brought into force in 1870 and extended in 1882. This allowed women to keep control of their earnings, in addition to owning and inheriting property, thus providing for a more secure and independent future. Today we live in a culture where women work, but super thin models still hit the headlines and society argues over whose responsibility it is to set a good example.
Wollstonecraft draws a distinction between the sexes, where predominance is based on physical strength, which is perpetuated through women’s ignorance and lack of independence. “Weakness may excite tenderness, and gratify the arrogant pride of man.” But she continues, “Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship.” A view disputed by the emerging gothic novelists of the time, who saw men’s strength and power as oppressive and bullying. Wollstonecraft’s suggestion is that when you put men and women on an equal footing, they both benefit. A man gains companionship and friendship, a woman independence of thought.
She sees society’s way forward, through the education of women. Not just in the fine arts, such as singing and needlework, but in practical skills which will enable them to earn a living. An educated woman is a better companion for her husband, with a relationship based on mutual respect and friendship. Yet it’s strange to see her reject books, as the source of this learning. This is because, during this period, the books women read were fanciful romances, with what she refers to as flowery diction.
“Women who have fostered a romantic unnatural delicacy of feeling waste their lives in imagining how happy they should have been with a husband who could love them with a fervid increasing affection every day.” She sees no benefit in raising women’s expectations. In today’s language we would say the grass is not greener on the other side and it still needs cutting.
It’s a shame that recognition of Mary’s personal life was more prominent than her writing, especially in the early years, due to her relationships with the opposite sex. This has caused her work to languish, neglected for many years and to only receive the recognition she deserves in the last century. Her only marriage was to William Godwin, which produced a daughter, Mary, who later became Mrs. Mary Shelly, author of Frankenstein.
Tracey lives in Wrexham, North Wales with her husband Joe and two cats – Joplin and Fleur. She graduated from Essex University with a Law degree and went on to complete a Literature degree with the Open University, on a part time basis. After getting married in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco in 2004, she completed her Masters in the 18th Century Novel, again with the Open University.
Like most independent authors she works and writes in her spare time, aiming to produce a book a year. Peaceful Meadows was her first novel in 2012, followed by Love & Haight in 2013. Both works are available on Amazon.
On my last post I talked about how porn dehumanizes women and teaches men to regard them as a set of holes meant for their pleasure. Porn is fantasyland, not reality. And a dose of reality can teach a valuable lesson.
Released in 2013, the documentary Date My Porn Star shows what happens when Kevin, Jonathan and Danny, three die-hard porn fans from the UK, go to LA to visit a live set and also meet their favorite pornstars. They see the casting of three girls for an eight-hour live show produced by pornographer Dan Leal, in which the actresses will have non-stop sex with other porn fans. Kevin, Jonathan and Danny ask the girls about their personal lives. One of them is eighteen and only had sex with three boyfriends. Another candidate, a mother of three, is majoring in quantum physics—it isn’t hard to figure she was led to porn by financial pressure. The girls start to emerge as human beings, and when Kevin, Jonathan and Danny learn about the mother of three, they become clearly uncomfortable.
Once filming begins, they see how the live action wears off the girls after the second hour of uninterrupted sex with different men. In the final hours of the marathon, one of the actresses breaks down from physical and mental exhaustion but is forced to keep going because the action is streaming live. In the end of the shooting, as night descends, Dan Leal still makes the girls have sex with him and his crew. “Definitely an eye opener,” says Kevin, while Jonathan reflects that “Maybe porn is a meat grinder for young women.” Danny is disturbed: “It’s just like these people got immunity to care about other people or feelings or love. It’s weird. I can’t explain. What I saw today was absolutely disgusting and heartbreaking.”
The next day the three of them have dates with their favorite stars. As conversation flows, each talks about past romantic relationships and reflect on them. As it turns out, Jonathan may be searching for an unrealistic mate that looks like a pornstar. Kevin shows classic signs of porn addiction without being aware of it: at the age of 28, he finds real sex boring, craves variety and has been intimate with more than 60 women but hardly ever experienced an orgasm with them.
Before going back home, the three men meet up with former pornstar Vanessa Belmont. She tells them about several STDs and injuries she has suffered in her career—chlamydia, gonorrhea, anal and vaginal tears, and a bleeding throat. In her first anal scene, she had to take painkillers in order to be able to smile to the camera and say how much she loved it. When asked about her mental state on set, she says she was drained from doing such unnatural things like having group sex with several men. After their experience in LA, Kevin, Jonathan and Danny went back home with a radically different view of porn, of themselves and their own lives. They found humanity in the women involved in porn, and in the process rediscovered a part of their own humanity.
Like many in the industry, Belmont got into porn by doing nude and girl-girl scenes, and then rapidly moving to hardcore material. There’s pressure for girls to keep crossing their boundaries: directors want them to do it, they have signed a contract and need the money, and if they don’t comply they may not get another job. Judging by the various interviews I watched with pornstars, this seems to be common: the contract doesn’t specify in detail what the performers are supposed to do, and things change in the set.
The 2005 TV show The Dark Side of Porn: Diary of a Porn Virgin gives an idea of how things progress. In it, newcomer Frankie expressly tells her agent she won’t do anal sex, and in her first professional job she finds out in the set that she’s required to perform it. She refuses, and the pressure is diffused when another girl agrees to do it. However, in the end of the shooting, Frankie changes her mind and tells the director she’ll have anal intercourse next time.
Female performers are at a much higher risk than their male counterparts when it comes to STDs, and in the numerous interviews I watched, all girls mention having contracted several STDs like gonorrhea and Chlamydia, which can cause infertility. The use of condoms on set is rare, and it doesn’t offer protection against all venereal diseases anyway. Girls still working in the industry and former porn actresses alike say they would never have sex in their private lives the way they do on camera. It’s common for porn performers to take drugs or alcohol on a regular basis in order to endure physical and mental stress.
The life expectancy for a pornstar is 38 years.
In an interview in Prime Time Live, popular pornstar Belladona talks about her first gang-bang scene with twelve men, and how she couldn’t stop crying afterwards: “It was really hard because I really felt like a piece of meat. You really took a piece of me and threw it into a lion’s cage. Twelve lions. I had to do a lot of things that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do.” On another occasion, she mentions being high on dope during a scene. Former pornstar Tiffany Million says in this interview she would disconnect while filming, as if she were “a fly on the wall” just observing and feeling nothing. It was her way of coping.
So does porn stand for sexual freedom and the things women really enjoy in bed?
On my next post I’ll share with you what a very special man has to say about that. I mean, a very special man. Stay tuned!