Insert Heavy Existential Sigh Here

I find it very sad that someone believed – and I suspect correctly — it was necessary to put up this site to make things clear to young men that there was a difference between porn sex and sex with a real live girl. It’s like when you have to tell a five-year-old that cartoon physics only apply inside of cartoons, except fifteen years on, and somewhat messier.

I don’t know. Maybe I was wise beyond my years, but I figured out early on that any piece of film designed to get a guy off in under three minutes probably wasn’t going to paint an entirely accurate representation of a woman’s own desires. I thought everyone knew. You knew, right?

(Hint for the men: This is where you say, “Oh, yes, of course!”)

(Hint for the women: This is where you resist rolling your eyes.)

Also, the above link? Possibly not entirely safe for work. And no, there’s no porn there.

113 thoughts on “Insert Heavy Existential Sigh Here

  1. i have a friend whose ex-boyfriend could have used this site and no i will not go into details… suffice it to say that she was VERY unhappy and he was an idiot so, yes they’re out there!

  2. A post about porn right above a post containing the word “stimulus”. Trying to tell us something, Scalzi?

  3. Two things to note:

    1) Let’s not exacerbate the stereotype that it’s only the guys with perceptions about sex. The site and information on it is meant for BOTH sexes. Cluelessness knows no gender boundaries.

    2) A number of the slides are user-submitted and not fact-checked. Take it all with a grain of salt.

  4. I can’t imagine being a teen in today’s youporn world. I’d probably need this website if I was a teen today. I sure as hell wouldn’t talk to my parents.

  5. Yeah, well, I just had to tell a guy who I, regrettably, went on a date with earlier in the week, that I wasn’t porn’s market demographic.

    ….

    He didn’t understand.

    ……

    I explained that porn was not intended to get me off, cause my brain does not work in the matter that porn wants it to, (getting off in three minutes) it was intended to get him (male) off.

    Or to put it more simply:

    He: Microwave.
    Me: Crockpot.

    Insert light bulb *here*

  6. ::womanfully resists rolling eyes, especially when thinking about ex-boyfriends who really could’ve used this site::

    I think the problem lies in the fact that there’s very little counter-information out there for men except Real Live Women telling them “Ow, that hurts” or “No, that wasn’t fun.” And since by the time most men encounter such real women, they’ve spent literally years absorbing the messages of porn, they tend not to believe those RLWs. To use your own analogy, if you’d somehow been completely sheltered from the real world and only given cartoons as preparatory data, then yeah, it’d be perfectly logical to assume cartoon physics were the way things worked.

    This is why I’ve always wished schools would teach sex education not as a means of preventing pregnancy or diseases, or instilling morality, but as a simple how-to. I can’t help but think how much good that would do society, by a) giving kids an early exposure to the idea that fantasy =/= reality, which would serve them well in our media-saturated culture; b) promoting the idea of sex as a skill that needs to be developed, not a goal in itself, which might actually deter some kids from doing it too soon; and c) probably reducing the divorce rate.

  7. My browser dies on the site linked to in the thread, so I can only guess at its contents.

    Suffice to say that there are two kinds of porn giving men and women — and boys and girls — untrue ideas about real sex (and real love) in 21st century America.

    1) visual porn, produced almost exclusively for males, because males are hardwired to be very visually sexual.

    2) situational porn — aka: romantic fiction in print and in film — produced almost exclusively for women because women seem to be hardwired for the ‘foreplay’ and interactional element of sex and love.

    So while our young American males are thrown a diet of super-boobed nymphomaniacs with impossibly perfect bodies, and are lead to believe that every girl secretly wants it up the back door while you film her with your digital camera, young American girls are thrown a diet of Fabio clones with zero body fat and forever-flowing hair; men who somehow manage to be pirates and cowboys and frontier raiders and barbarian princes that a) always have a big enough penis and b) never prematurely ejaculate, and can keep going for hours and hours and hours without letup.

    One would hope that all well-adjusted adults would realize the total fantasy of these portrayals by the time they’re in their early twenties, but there are tons of men and women who have apparently not gotten a clue.

    Which is not to say that porning up your love life can’t be fun. Just as romanticizing your love life can’t be fun.

    By all means, men, we need to hit the gym and avoid the cupcakes and shave the back hair. Work on the manners and the hygiene and talk to our women about the kinds of things they’d like to hear from us during the heat of the moment.

    Ladies, same thing. Find out what your dude is into. Could be something as simple as a naughty pair of shoes or boots, or accruing a ‘naughty drawer’ collection for those nights when getting him (and you) in the mood needs a little prop work.

    Most importantly, folks must learn that NOBODY CAN READ MINDS. Men, and especially women, seem to make this mistake over and over, and get mad when their partners and spouses don’t magically fulfill their every sexual and romantic desire without a single word ever having to be uttered.

    Ask questions, be receptive to what your partner/spouse wants, and be ready to reciprocate when you ask for things.

  8. because males are hardwired to be very visually sexual

    Hell with you, Scalzi, I’m rolling my eyes now.

    It is true that if you get a collection of test subjects together and show them pornography developed for a straight male audience that primarily focuses on depictions of naked women having sex, that – wait for it – the straight male subjects will report more arousal than the straight female subjects! Damn, Science, you workin it!

    It is not true that Science has therefore proven that men are turned on by looking at things and women are turned on by, oh, well, they’re not really turned on at all, because women are all romantic and stuff and it’s men who think with the little head.

    I really think the porn issue is not one limited to porn – but it’s sad because it’s what happens when your only information about a topic comes from fiction. If you don’t know anything about guns, you might well believe, as action movies tell you, that people can take a shot to the shoulder or leg and keep on trucking all the time. If you don’t know anything about horses, you might not roll your eyes when Hernia the Barbarian Princess is shown on a “three day nonstop ride” galloping her horse the entire time. And if all you know about sex comes from porn, you probably think people have sex in those positions because it feels good, not because that’s the only way you can get that camera angle.

  9. #10 — dunno about the women’s-expectations-are-shaped-by-romance idea. I’m not sure most women do read stuff like that, or at least not until they’re older, married, and bored. Young girls certainly aren’t reading the Fabio-covered stuff; it’s way too corny for them. (They might be reading fanfiction, though, which is filled with entirely different unrealistic expectations.) Whereas I suspect guys and porn is more ubiquitous, and probably starts before puberty.

  10. I don’t know. Maybe I was wise beyond my years, but I figured out early on that any piece of film designed to get a guy off in under three minutes probably wasn’t going to paint an entirely accurate representation of a woman’s own desires.

    I’m not going to say how I know this, but it seems to me that a lot of porn would leave men with the impression that they’re role requires them to slog away for 45 minutes straight with full intensity in multiple different arrangements to please a woman to the maximum extent, which is of course a most daunting and intimidating expectation.

    I would say the most misleading element of porn is that everybody seems to know exactly what they need to do to please the other person to the maximum extent, which of course is not at all true in real life. Not that there isn’t communication in porn; it just seems to be of a more self-fulfilling and spontaneous variety.

  11. everybody seems to know exactly what they need to do to please the other person to the maximum extent

    Or, nobody really needs to do anything special to please the other person. Merely performing a sexual act of any sort is enough.

  12. Or, nobody really needs to do anything special to please the other person. Merely performing a sexual act of any sort is enough.

    This is a decidedly male opinion, being as “a sexual act of any sort” is usually enough to satisfy us (or so we tell our wives and girlfriends, after a dry spell at least.) However, I would recommend clarifying the definition of “sexual act” with your partner in advance, in case their personal preferences are considerably different from yours.

  13. I’m pretty unfamiliar with straight porn. I’ve seen some brief clips, and pictures of the stars. The women are all (in what I’ve seen) grotesque caricatures of real women. They might be attractive if they’d used the makeup trowel more lightly, or if they didn’t have giant balloons implanted under their skin.

    The men are perfectly realistic hideous trolls. It’s clear who the porn is aimed at. No one could possibly identify with the women, and I don’t want to know the guys who identify with the men.

    I’ve seen quite a variety of gay porn. There IS some gay porn in which men treat each other the way men treat women in straight porn.

    It’s called “sleaze porn.”

  14. What? Real life isn’t like a porn movie?

    Damn.

    :::goes to turn off the boom-chicka-chicka-bow-bow sound track:::

    So, porn movies, bad example. Hmmm, OK, what movies should we use for instruction? SciFi, chest bursting aliens and Luke Skywalker kissing his sister?

    I sense an AMC column, Scalzi: Everything I need to know about pleasing a woman sexually, I learned from SciFi movies! or The Complete Geek’s Guide to Sex!

    _____________________________
    And I agree with the comment above: you really need greater separation between this topic and the “Stimulus” one.

  15. Sub-Odeon: RE: Website access – Do you have parental controls turned on, perhaps? A lot of times that happens by default. And -oh noes- this site has “porn” in its domain name.

    Can’t really argue with the site or with most of the comments here. Shameful episode from my youth: Thanks to all the stills I had seen of women “getting off” with panties stretched against their genitals, I once gave my then-GF a nasty wedgie (well, a melvin really), thinking it would be a turn-on. It ended up being painful for both of us.

    Yes, I have grown up since then. I only give wedgies upon request now.

    Incidentally, I think the impossibly perfect bodies shown in porn (or heck, in most media) affect women’s self-perception more than they affect men’s ability to be turned on by real women. Men are easy that way. But, as the site asserts, the damage that porn does is to men’s understanding of how real women relate to, and enjoy sex.

  16. Scalzi – Please stop grabbing other people’s stimulated packages when they aren’t expecting it.

    (Website access – It didn’t work for me in IE, but loaded fine in Firefox)

  17. What are these ‘impossibly perfect bodies’ in porn? Impossible, yes, in that “no curves except tits” does not exist in nature and nobody’s public hair really grows like that, but perfect?

  18. Speaking of porn and stimulus packages, the congressional office in which I work got a letter from Larry Flynt (of Hustler, for anyone just joining us) requesting a stimulus package for the porn industry. Because, like cars, a lot of porn is American-made and they could really use a hand keeping American workers employed in these trying times.

    Congressional offices actually receive a lot of correspondence from Hustler, and pretty much all of it is hilarious. Mostly free speech stuff, but as above, some other issues as well. Those guys are a scream. The Christmas card we got from them was hands-down the funniest of the season.

  19. The pictograms on that site are, well, interesting. The gagging one looks like the London Olympics symbol.

  20. I guess it all boils down to what my Granddad used to tell me: “The main difference between men and women is–Women require a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”

  21. So, I guess I’m with Scalzi. I thought it was pretty obvious that media depictions of life don’t reflect actual real life. Maybe all movies (not just porn) need this disclaimer at the beginning.

    RE: Sex Education: Suspecting that my daughter wouldn’t want to talk to me about such things, I supplemented her education in such things at church. Yes I said church –we attend a Unitarian church that uses the Our Whole Lives sexuality education curriculum.

  22. Panmixia (panmictic heterozygosity) is a theoretical extreme in the same way that porn is science fiction describing an alternate universe where creatures who appear quite human (or slightly exaggerated and lacking refractory period) have utterly different motivation, such that any sexual suggestion from anyone is accepted passionately by anyone else.

    In physiology, a refractory period is a period of time during which an organ or cell is incapable of repeating a particular action, or (more precisely) the amount of time it takes for an excitable membrane to be ready for a second stimulus once it returns to its resting state following an excitation.

    I had an awkward moment when I told a female professor of mine (with PhD from Harvard) something about the TV series “24” of which we are both fans.

    I said that it was science fiction, set in a world that appeared to be ours, except that several times per hour, one is presented with a moral dilemma. What? Break into FBI headquarter? Well, okay. What, shoot my friend in the neck so the bad guys will think that I shot her in the head? Okay.

    I said that each time that Kiefer Sutherland as Agent Jack Bauer, who heads a field operations unit of the Counter Terrorist Unit, is either asked to, or asks someone, to throw aside all laws and all common sense, they pause for a second, make a face, and then agree.

    “It’s as in porn where when asked for sexual favors, the other party will always say ‘I can’t, I’m a virgin’ or ‘I better not, I’m married,’ then pause, make a face, and say, ‘Well, why not?'”

    The professor gave me an odd look and said “I don’t watch much porn.”

    “Oh,” I said, “I don’t either. I was just making a critical analysis trans-genre, as one person with a degree in English to another.”

    But she’s been skeptical ever since.

  23. *tries to recall Fifth Form sex ed classes*

    I know we learned about STDs and safe sex and how to put a condom on a broom handle (and modelled the human reproductive system out of plasticine, I kid you not) but I don’t think they covered the actual *act* beyond the level of “Tab A goes into Slot A, unless you and your partner want to put it in Slot B”.

    There wasn’t, thankfully, a hint of teaching abstinence. I guess the school was wise enough to realise that trying to keep teenagers from fooling about is just not going to work.

  24. Dave Hall@14 – another one of those cultural myths which I can assure you, from bitter personal experience, ain’t so.

  25. Say, while we’re at it, could we maybe get a website that explains to women that real men are not like those portrayed on the flippin’ Lifetime channel?

    I.e. chisel chinned hunks with flowing auburn hair who love tofu and bunnies and long walks in the park -or- chisel chinned hunks with flowing auburn hair who turn out to be evil psycho killers from a past life that killed the woman’s previous incarnation by drowning her at the lake cabin and are identified by unfocused dream sequences that occur while looking into an heirloom mirror inherited from their grandmother?

  26. John,

    Stephen Colbert wants his stimulus package joke back.

    While I’m sure his writers are the first ones to capitalize on the double use of “package” I do distinctly remember that joke on the show last week.

    I just think you want to avoid being in the same boat as Carlos Mencia…

  27. You know, I once had a boyfriend who held onto his virginity much longer than he should have (trust me). He watched a lot of porn (go figure). He was…weird. His expectations were obnoxious. I dumped his ass, watched some porn later and this ENORMOUS light went on. “Oh, so THAT was what was wrong with him! He thought porn was real!”

    It made so much more sense after that.

  28. Scalzi and Mythago,
    I dunno, there were a few Playboy centerfolds in my youth whom I think had close-to-perfect bodies; or about as perfect as one might get without huge amounts of surgery or fantastical fitness and dieting programs. Granted, it was awhile ago that I actually bought or owned any issues of Playboy. Ergo, late teens and pre-marriage, 1989-1993. So maybe they’ve lowered the bar? I kinda hope not. Seemed to me Playboy, at least, strove for “girl next door” qualities, and usually succeeded because most of the centerfolds were not actually working in porn and didn’t have the Jenna Jameson or Tera Patrick femmebot sex droid thing going on. But then again Playboy spent (spends?) gobs of cash for professional photo shoots, makeup, lighting, and ‘processing’ such that they can make virtually any woman look way better on the page than she might in real life.

    Jim Wright,
    I am LMAO at your Lifetime Channel comments. Truly, if there has ever been a more amusing window into the supposed romantic wants and desires of women, it is the Lifetime Channel. I would also add that it’s an eye opener — whenever you find yourself at the local Big Brick book store — to go spock out the romance section. Talk about chiseled chins! Doesn’t matter what his supposed occupation is — texas rancher, midievil knight, street cop, vogue vampire, Native American warrior — his jaw is always square and handsome, his eyes are always piercing (yet sensitive) and his carved, smooth (do all these guys go to the same gay wax salon?) chest is always bare. And yes, his hair flows and flows, like the rivers of her unbidden lust! Oh wait, that’s the blurb off the cover jacket….

  29. P.S: I am using IE and the site just flat doesn’t work in IE. I don’t have any other browsers loaded. Ah well. I’ll trust that the content is sufficiently amusing.

  30. Sub-Oden, I’m assuming that when you say ‘centerfolds’ you mean the photos, not the live models. Your last sentence is correct. Yes, in real life these are very pretty young women with nice bodies, but they don’t look just like that in real life, and you’re mistaken if you think all of them got their breasts from the good Lord’s beneficence.

    Of course, if you know what to look for, you can see where the magician keeps the hidden rabbit, as it were. Here’s a pose that’s clearly intended to make this girl look bustier than she is; here’s one where they were obviously minimizing thighs that are a little rounder than perhaps is fashionable; in this one they’re trying to make her look taller so you don’t lose your amazement at a 22″ waist by realizing it’s on a woman who’s five feet tall if she stands on tiptoe.

    Porn’s a little trickier because people are moving around, but the principle is the same.

  31. I’ve got your stimulus package right here.

    Please tell me that’s the first line of The High Castle! You’re really going to have to work to beat “Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident” and the brilliantly sustained 20 page fart gag that followed. :)

  32. Annalee Flower Horne:

    You are extracting the urine, aren’t you? This is one of those topics where the surrealism of real life makes it hard to tell.

  33. Mythago (in re: Sub-Odeon):

    “Yes, in real life these are very pretty young women with nice bodies, but they don’t look just like that in real life, and you’re mistaken if you think all of them got their breasts from the good Lord’s beneficence.”

    As it happens, in my youth I interviewed a Playboy Playmate, Kerry Kendall, and she mentioned that the poses they put her in to make her look like that in her photos were contortionist enough that she ended up with bruises — not serious injury, mind you, but a reminder it takes considerable effort to look busty and hot. And that was before all the airbrushing, which the Playboy rep insisted they didn’t do, but which they did anyway (Miss Kendall had light acne scarring on her face that never made it into the magazine), and lighting and make-up and so on.

    In real life, she was an attractive young woman with a nice body, to be sure. But you wouldn’t necessarily have known she was Playmate “perfect” just looking at her.

  34. That site scares the living daylights outta me. Rather its existance and the probable need for it…

    Intellectually and so on I knew about the fact that some people are rather ‘misinformed’ but seeing it in a children bookish format is more shocking than I realized.

  35. women aren’t like the actresses in porn movies?
    men are not like the heroes in romance novels?
    marriage is not like it is in fairy tales?
    families aren’t like they’re shown in after school specials?

    You’re saying that “fiction” isn’t true?

    I’m shocked, shocked I say to discover gambling on the premises.

  36. The biggest issue this whole thing is about is communication. You have to be able to have the “Do you like X” talk with whoever you are intimate with. Also having the trust level high enough to say, “Hey, let’s try this” is great also. On both sides, being confident enough to say “That felt great, do more of that” or “Nope, sorry that doesn’t do anything for me” helps a lot.

  37. Spherical, that is a fascinating article. Thanks a ton for the link.

    All,

    One thing this subject brings up in my mind, is physical fitness. Here in Utah I tend to harp on this one quite a bit. People are pissed that porn consumption in Utah has skyrocketed. And there are endless Mormon jokes aplenty in there. But when I look at the problem, I see an endless series of muffintop waistlines.

    How many relationships and marriages gradually drift into sexlessness because one or both partners capitulate to calories? Being fat is not only bad for your heart and body, it’s bad for your sex life.

    I believe men and women, husbands and wives, owe it to each other to keep in shape throughout their lifespans. Yet how many women and wives, especially after the babies come, throw in the towel and let themselves balloon? How many men grow a huge gut and just act like it’s normal? Yet both parties have the nerve to get upset if they find their partner/spouse looking at porn?

    I know one very religiously devout woman who is a good wife and a good mother, and she has sheepishly admitted that she’s into gay male porn. Small wonder. The gay porn dudes hit the gym! Her husband, nice guy that he is, has really let his body go to seed. So has she. And they wonder why their marriage is dry?

    And no, I am not saying I’m any different than anyone else. My wife and I have struggled with the fitness thing over the years. But we both agree that having a trim, fit body is in the best interest of every adult. For health. For sex and relationships. For just feeling good about yourself. And especially for the children. Because it’s statistically proven that obese parents have obese kids, and obese kids are perhaps the most glaring health issue of our day.

    The flab cycle has got to stop somewhere. And I think a lot of people would be surprised at how much benefit they can get from a bona fide fitness and eating regimen.

  38. This is one nice thing about male-male relationships. Both parties like quick and sleazy porn-style sex.

    There are exceptions, of course.. but by and large, coming from a guy “you pig” is less likely to be genuinely admonishing in tone. In fact, my first long-term relationship essentially began with the words “you pig”. That was fun.

  39. Our esteemed host in quite correct when he suggests that male/female brain difference account for our different reactions to porn. The part of the brain that responds to sexually oriented visual stimuli is on average 250% larger in men than in women. (Insert size matters joke here.)

    We see that behaviorally as well. Some people see it in their bank account.

    My concerns about porn are spiritual and neurological. Spiritually, I believe that it is sinful so I am not supposed to do it. That does not mean that I am supposed to keep you from doing it, and that is a good thing as it was difficult enough for me to stop doing it!

    More interesting for discussion is my concern that given how powerful orgasm and sexual attraction are neurologically speaking, what happens to the brain when that huge brain event is routinely tied to looking at photos. Something HAS to happen in that situation. The question is just what happens.

    On one side of the discussion is the idea that all that happens is a pleasurable response. The other side would be that pernicious imprinting happens. I don’t know, but I am certainly more concerned about the latter than the former.

    Trey

  40. Jim @ 32: you’re crushing the stuff of dreams there Jim – What do you mean guys aren’t wired like the one’s on Lifetime???

    Oh, wait, those guys never have morning breath, fart or belch, or leave their underwear in an inappropriate place in the living room, dining room and kitchen or…shall I go on?

    Then again, most real women are not able to hold a pose that requires them to put their ankles behind their ears for extended periods of time! Even for the previously mentioned 3 minutes needed for the guy to get the job done, let alone real time for real men!!

    ok, my job is done, everybodies dreams are crushed!!

  41. And here all you guys thought I was a “nice” girl…

    bwahahahahaha!!!

    Actually, had a guy-friend for a roomie at one point, he would “accidently” leave his movies in the VCR on a fairly regular basis. Boring. Not even educational, have no idea what the interest was there.

  42. So, am I the only one who will admit to enjoying porn? My wife and I have about 2 dozen movies, and will often throw one in the DVD player, maybe one out of every four or five times we have sex. Helps keep things interesting, and my wife often says it makes the sex better, as we go a little slower to begin while watching. Hell, she just bought a couple more movies last week as a surprise.

    No, it’s not realistic, but neither is good SF, and I still enjoy that…

  43. Johnny, you get an award for honesty. From my point of view, integrating porn into a relationship is different than using it outside of a relationship. WHat you described sounds like porn as part of foreply.

    And for the record, porn is interesting and fun to me, but it really hurts my wife’s feelings and I have decided that is is not good for me or her and me, so I avoid it.

    YMM (obviously)V. 8)

    Trey

  44. Party Girl@7:

    Insert light bulb *here*

    Wow, kinky! But please, be careful.

    How many relationships and marriages gradually drift into sexlessness because one or both partners capitulate to calories? Being fat is not only bad for your heart and body, it’s bad for your sex life.

    The solution, of course, is to fuck more often. Aerobic exercise, don’tchaknow.

  45. Chimpo,
    Kudos to you and your spouse for being secure enough to integrate porn into what sounds like a good relationship. Because security is where a lot of couples have problems anyway, and porn can often exacerbate that. Ergo, “What, am I not enough for you??”
    Me, I was a porn hound as a teen, and was surprised how this legacy caused trouble for me as a married adult. It took me awhile to re-train my libido for The Real Thing as opposed to Make Believe, and I’ve come to conclude that there might be something to the emerging idea of Porn Addiction. Some men — and a few women — just can’t let it go, even if they want to. And its fixation for me has been strong enough that I’ve had to exert a conscious effort to keep it at arm’s length. Which I am not always successful at.
    If I could go back and disuade the Teen Me from going whole-hog into porn, I’d do so, not because I think it’s evil, but because I do think it had a warping effect.
    Overall I believe America’s billion-dollar porn habit is a side effect of our incomplete recovery from the Puritanical suffocation of our sexuality during earlier eras. Hopefully we’ll move through the porn phase just as we moved through the sexual revolution phase, to a point where sex and intimacy and relationships and tastes can all be discussed openly, studied effectively, children can be given proper and healthy exposure to sex and sexual topics, and a new societal sexual maturity can emerge that is neither Puritan nor Girls Gone Wild. But something else I don’t think the U.S. has seen yet, and might not see for some time to come.
    Which begs the question: is there such a thing as Healthy Porn? I don’t think much of what gets produced these days qualifies, but as more couples add porn to their love lives and make it work, there does seem to be something to the idea.

  46. Spherical Time @45 – the research described in the article is interesting. The article itself is about what you expect from the NYT.

    SubOdeon, no matter how fit you keep yourself, how much effort you put into being attractive, no spouse can turn themselves into an entirely new human being, and that’s really the attraction of porn. It’s not that the star of Bumper Butts Part LXXII is so much hotter than your wife; it’s that she’s not your wife.

  47. How many relationships and marriages gradually drift into sexlessness because one or both partners capitulate to calories? Being fat is not only bad for your heart and body, it’s bad for your sex life.

    What about the people who are ugly to begin with?

  48. S-O,

    Odd. My husband and I have a good sex life, despite my no longer having the trim figure of my youth. My muffin-top has not put him off in any noticeable way (nor his me).

    Oh, and I work out nearly fifteen hours a week, and eat healthy, so no self-satisfied advice about how bad for my health “letting myself go” is please.

  49. Jim @ 58: dunno, just the so called “porn timing stat” quoted in the original post.

    Personally, if a guy can only go for “three minutes” ya gotta problem not even porn and Viagra can help!!
    Just sayin’.

  50. Obviously no amount of exercise can help someone who is ugly in the face. But some people are into bodies more than faces, and if your face isn’t all that great, but your body is in great shape, I’d bet the farm on your ability to a) find a mate who is better looking than you are and b) have a good sex life with that person regardless of how your face looks.

    Tappetum, it’s not “self satisfied”, it’s an admonishment based on medical science and common sense. Extra pounds never do anyone any favors. Exercise is essential. You say you work out 15 hours a week and you’ve still got a muffintop, which tells me your eating is out of balance with your burning. I mean, do what you want with your life, and if your hubby and you are fine with muffintop, then more power to you. I’m not saying it’s impossible to be happy in a relationship where one or both partners are a little (or a lot) on the heavy side.

    But I’ve seen and met too many people slouching around with extra pounds — unhappy with themselves and with their sex lives — to be fooled into believing that fitness and the lack thereof is not driving a lot of the physical despondency that is itself connected to porn consumption among many adults. The dots are connecting way too often.

  51. mythago@11: It is true that if you get a collection of test subjects together and show them pornography developed for a straight male audience that primarily focuses on depictions of naked women having sex, that – wait for it – the straight male subjects will report more arousal than the straight female subjects! Damn, Science, you workin it!

    It is not true that Science has therefore proven that men are turned on by looking at things and women are turned on by, oh, well, they’re not really turned on at all, because women are all romantic and stuff

    Well, if that’s what was measured in the lab, then yes, actually, science would have proved that is indeed the case.

    What it would not have proven is why men and women are different that way.

    It would take a different kind of experiment to figure out whether those differences are biological or social. I’m not sure how it could even be done, because behaviour is always a function of culture, and there’s no objective way I know of to separate cultural responses from biological responses. You just measure responses.

    As far as I can tell, we’re currently left with science saying that men and women behave differently on a sexual level.

    Whether that difference is biological or social, I don’t know if science has an answer or can even attempt an answer.

    Probably more important, though, is whether these differences are important as far as the relative standings of men and women. I don’t think it matters if men and women react differently on a sexual level, other than in the bedroom, between the individuals having sex. Outside of the bedroom, I see no reason why this difference would make any difference as far as how men and women should be treated as individuals or as genders or as a species.

  52. Sub-Odeon, I’m pretty sure Scalzi didn’t intend to start an “exhort the fatties” thread here.

    If what you’re trying to say is that men turn to porn because their wives failed in their obligation to have the bodies of 16-year-olds well into their 50s, that’s a different kind of silly.

  53. mythago,

    Actually, the one instance I did cite was that of a married female who indulges in porn because her husband refuses to hit the gym. So I’m not sure where you get that I’m even trying to suggest that married females need to look like 16 year olds into their 50’s. Not sure where you got that at all.

    I am saying that you don’t have to be young to have a fit body. And being old is not an excuse to not pay attention to diet and exercise. And if more Americans spent more time hitting the gym — in addition to communicating sexual wants and needs with partners and spouses — perhaps porn wouldn’t be such an issue?

    Call it a hypothesis based on observation of behavior.

    As it is, we have an alarmingly overweight America that feasts on porn at the same time it feasts on junk food and sits around on its butt.

    I sorta suspect these two issues are not as far apart as we might think.

  54. Greg London wrote: “It would take a different kind of experiment to figure out whether those differences are biological or social.”

    Actually, the most exciting current brain research is being done with brain scans. To find out what is happening, they do a scan at rest and a scan of the brain on Penelope Cruz and compare them. That helps them find the areas of the brain that work harder when they see Penelope. These scans are functional, so they show the level of activiation and activity from the neurons.

    Then they do the same things with women and Brad Pitt. They can measure the areas of the brain that are active, and it turns out that the average man’s visual excitation area is 250% larger than that of a woman.

    In an interesting parallel, there is an area of our brains that keeps up with our relational surround, who is in and who is out, who is mad at who, etc. Women have 250% larger areas of the brain given over to that task than men do.

    There is a great and relatively cheap continuing ed program on this kind of stuff that is run across the country. It shares all the latest hard science from brain scans and gender differences. I think it was called “His Brain, Her Brain” and cost $75 here in Nashville. I know, cute name, but the company that runs it does a good job with their budget continuing ed courses.

    Trey

  55. “Porn would exist even if people uniformly had great sex lives with their spouses, I suspect.”

    I agree. We men are hardwired to appreciate it.

    Trey

  56. Indeed, Mr Scalzi, porn would. Just as Science Fiction would still exist, and be enjoyed to an immoderate extent by some, even if we lived in a world where we could instantly and cheaply communicate to the globe, via small portable terminals, while wearing our bathrobes.

  57. This is one nice thing about male-male relationships. Both parties like quick and sleazy porn-style sex.

    WTF? Seriously. What. The. Fuck. If that’s what floats your boat, fine, but try not to make silly generalisations straight from a Focus on The Family mail out.

  58. Sub-Odeon, do you deliberately set out to be insulting and offensive to people who are not a perfect size or are you so blinkered in your attitudes that you see nothing judgmental in what you say.
    It may come as a surprise to you, but fat and ugly people are quite capable of having a great sex life. It might have something to do with loving the person your with, the whole person, not just the body.
    Oh! and knowing the one your with loves you for who you are, just loves you unconditionally.
    My SO has put on a bit of a tummy, and yes the subject comes up occasionally because of concern of his health, but never in the bedroom. i love him, I enjoy him, what has his weight got to do with that.
    As for the porn, well as long as the porn is not all he is enjoying where is the problem in that. He has his switches and I have mine, sometime we have the same.
    I think we all (mostly) went it to our sex lives woefully unprepared, nervous and fairly ignorant as to what to do to make our partner happy, half the fun is learning. At least with porn around we aren’t as shocked as “in the old days” I had no idea what an erect penis looked like, for that matter didn’t even know what a penis looked like.

  59. JS,

    I think porn will exist as long as there are single young men. JMHO.

    But our overall societal consumption would probably change if we made some adjustments in how we communicate with our partners and in how we conceptualize sex and in how we take care of our bodies.

  60. Dot, back up a sec.

    I never claimed that it was impossible to have a good sex life or a good relationship unless you were a ‘perfect size.’

    I do believe that it’s not a total coincidence that we have a lot of sexually unhappy Americans at the same time we have a lot of overweight Americans. Just in my own social circles, time and again, the people who I see having the most problems with intimacy and who express the most unhapiness with their intimate lives, are also people struggling with obesity.

    Being overweight is not a “lifestyle”, it is unhealthy and nobody every did themselves any harm by cutting down on sugars, starches and fats, ramping up the veg and the fruit and the protein, and developing a demanding fitness routine.

    And no, I am not saying everybody should be Lance Armstrong or have Spartan physique. Though I do think the 300-type total body workout is awe-inspiring and have tried to incorporate elements of it into my own fitness.

    Look, I know this is a soap box issue for me and if JS wants me to shut up about it he just has to show the fish and I will shut up about it.

    But really, philosophically, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us as a society to just tell ourselves that being chubby, or overweight, or obese, is “normal” and that somehow we just need to learn to love ourselves like this and accept our flab and expect our spouses and loved ones to “love us just the way we are” when the best way I think we can show our spouses and loved ones we love them, is to be in shape and stay in shape so we can live longer, be healthier, be happier, and in the end, sexier.

    If that’s offensive and rude to some people, I guess it’s rude and offensive. It’s the mindset my wife and I live by, and while neither of us is always successful with fitness or weight goals — I’ve seen her plummet through some doozy bouts with high weight — it’s one of the things that drives and inspires us. Especially as we get older and we see friends and family having knee problems, diabetes problems, and other health issues — beyond sex — connected to bad diet and no exercise.

  61. In fact, I do think we’re beginning to drift a little bit, topic-wise. I’m going to make the executive ruling that:

    a) People of all shapes and sizes can have robust and awesome sex lives;

    b) All things being equal, being healthy in one’s body is a good thing.

    Having settled this, let’s move on.

  62. Sub-Odeon; it may have escaped your notice, but there are many people on this thread who are not concerned with changing the porn-watching habits of your nation, or mine. You seem to think enjoying porn is a substitute for something else. For many, it isn’t. Nor is it immoral or unhealthy or a sign that something is wrong in their relationship. It’s a bit of fun, and part of their balanced sex-life.

    This thread was about mistaking the fantasy of porn for the reality of fan-fragging-tastic sex. (which is a bit like confusing great chiili-cheese fries with a meal prepared by Paul Bocuse).

    And may I add to the chorus of objections to “people use porn because their partners aren’t hawt – get thee to a gym” tone? It’s silly. Sex in a relationship is sex with a whole person, not just their body. And some people are disfigured, or disabled, or otherwise don’t meet society’s current expectations of attractiveness, but guess what? They can and do still have fabulous sex with partners who adore them. I’m one of them. The most important sex organ is the brain, after all.

  63. trey@67: it turns out that the average man’s visual excitation area is 250% larger than that of a woman.

    There was a psychology test some researcher recently performed. They got a group of asian women, put them in a room, told them they were about to take a test to determine the mathematical ability of women, informing the women that statistically women generally score lower than men, then gave the women in the room a math test.

    Then they took a group of asian women, put them in a room, told them they were about to take a text to determine the mathematical ability of asians, telling the asian women in the room that statistically asians generally score higher than nonasians, then they gave the asian women in the room a math test.

    then the researchers compared the scores between different rooms. When asian women were told a narrative that got them to focus on the fact that they were women, and told that women generally score lower than men, those asian women generally scored LOWER than a room full of asian women whom the researchers got to focus on the fact that they were asian and believed that asians generally do better on math.

    Everyone taking the test was an asian women. How they scored appeared to be directly affected by how the researcher tried to reinforce either a “asian” or “woman” stereotype. The asian women who were told about “women” statistics consistently scored lower than asian women who were told about “asian” statistics.

    There is no biological difference between the asian women. They were all randomly selected, and randomly put into one of two rooms. The only criteria was that they be asian and female.

    And yet, the test seems to show that culture can have a real effect on our behaviour. Expectations. Biases. Even to the point that people self-censor their behaviour. Even if it is on a subconscious level. Even if it is self-damaging.

    The point is that the influence of culture isn’t something you can measure in a cat scan.

    There may be differences between men’s and womens’s visual processing centers of their brains. But even among a group of people that have similar brains, culture can produce weird results, non-intuitive results, even self-defeating results.

    As for biological differences that DO exist, I don’t think we’re at the point where we can definitively say how all of these biological differences directly tie into the subjective experience. Men may have bigger visual processing centers, but women usually can detect more individual colors. How does any of that correlate to how you feel about a picture of a naked person?

    Do women appreciate visual art less than men? Do men have some biological reason that draws them to the Mona Lisa and women are drawn to some other medium like Opera? Or is the split betwen men and women and the different mediums the same? If they are different, can we attribute it to biological differences only?

    If you took a random sample of women artists, and broke them down into categories by medium, say its 25% visual, 60% music, 15% structural (physical), would an equally random sample of male artists have the same percentage? or would men tend toward one art and women toward another art?

    The thing is art doesn’t have the social stigmatisms around it that sex does. So if women and men seem to have equal distributions around the art they get involved in, that would seem to say that the biological differences don’t actually make a difference in what drives men and women to create.

    And I think the most important thing about this sort of research into the sexual behaviour of men and women isn’t to make pigeon holes to put individuals into, but to help individuals potentially see themselves, see where they may lie on teh bell curve, and then compare that to the expectations they may have of themselves, and the expectations that society has put on them. The most important thing is that we be willing to ignore the statistics for any individual who doesn’t fit the group curve. Let teh individual be individual, rather than use the statistics to try to force them to be somethign they’re not.

  64. To say that having available great sex would kill the demand for porn is something equivalent to saying that available flying cars would kill the desire for science fiction. As noted above, not hardly.

  65. I sorta suspect these two issues are not as far apart as we might think.

    Please. Porn has been around since humans were drawing on cave walls. (There’s a plausible scientific theory that the Venus of Willendorf was not merely intended for chaste mother-worship rituals, if you follow me here.) Playboy was started in an era where sexiness in a woman meant 3-4 dress sizes larger than we think appropriate today.

    Porn is driven by curiosity, novelty and an interest in sex. Period. When I was a stripper the guys paying my rent weren’t there because their wives were fat; they were there because they wanted to look at attractive strangers.

  66. So many engaging insights. I wanted to respond to one and say something probably already spoken to in some fashions.

    There was a comment that everyone in porn knows what to do and how to turn each other and the timing is so orchestrated – duh it’s a show. But that the other person should know all our wants, or know just which taboos a person will enjoy breaking is part of a much larger mythos that can be found in bodice ripper novels, porn, and some romantic comedies… they do present a kind of impression that these two (or 9!) people are communicating outside of necessary vocalization. This is a fantasy. Together they are a mixed bag of very enjoyable fantasies which don’t often occur in the real world. I enjoy the link you put up Scalzi because it talks to exactly that problem or delusion which comes about from any person who’s gotten taken away with the fantasy and lost out on real life.

    Regarding one of the site’s options, Skin, and how the joy of touching is great! I was thinking how very rarely do porns ever EVER seem to involve any of the ways I or other people I know who are having sex have had fun with each other as part of sex, communication and vocalization, laughter, chasing each other, glompings! When they try in porn it comes out canned and stale because the fiction isn’t that sex is something we all enjoy, the fiction is that that a penis and a vagina and damaging amounts of friction could possibly be more fun than playing with another person. When people play, I am using the slightly child-like use of the word, as in “Play nice or go to your room.”

    Finally, as a young man of 20something the porn rich internet and the significance of similar dress in women my age or in bloom can be at times quiet distressing/confusing: was it attractive that they dressed the same as women who were always strangers only known to me as they were sexually witnessed? For awhile it did make it difficult for me to assess if they expect me to slap them and then spit on their face to show my sexual interest, porn made sex an interuptive part of people’s lives. But more difficult was the depiction of sex > personal interest. I got confused for a long time about interest and sexual interest not being the same, although it did cure me of expecting monogamy from my girlfriends.

    … is it strange to anyone else how important sex seems to be, to talk about? That it’s not a part of life we understand and join openly with, share anecdotes and laugh about but instead analyze and orbit around … in some cases acting as if “I’d never!”

  67. *blinks*
    Wow. Just look what happens when you take a night off the internetz!
    ‘Whatever’ rocks, Scalzi!

  68. Mythago was a stripper(!!)

    The things you learn at Whatever!

    Curious question:

    Did your work as an exotic dancer:

    a) heighten your overall opinion of men.

    b) worsen your overall opinion of men.

    c) change your opinion of men not at all.

  69. Mythago,

    I think you’re missing a crucial facet in that porn is also ‘easy’ because it allows people to vicariously get off from the anonymity of their homes and apartments, no social interaction required. For folks who are uncomfortable with their bodies or who find themselves in a lustless doldrum with their mate/partner, porn is far, far easier than a) talking b) getting in shape c) having an affair d) breaking up.

    A society that is overall a) in better shape and b) better able to discuss its collective sex life probably won’t be using porn so much, because the need would not be as high as it is right now.

    I don’t think I ever said that porn would vanish or cease to be consumed if certain aspects of our health and communication changed. But I don’t think it’s accurate to say that consumption would be untouched by an improvement in relational communication combined with an overall improvement in physical fitness.

  70. For folks who are uncomfortable with their bodies or who find themselves in a lustless doldrum with their mate/partner, porn is far, far easier than a) talking b) getting in shape c) having an affair d) breaking up. … I don’t think it’s accurate to say that consumption would be untouched by an improvement in relational communication combined with an overall improvement in physical fitness.

    The fairly standard running joke about Star Trek and Star Wars geeks is that they’re all virgins. William Shatner on the infamous Saturday Night Live skit, for example, or Triumph the Insult Dog puppet/comic when Phantom Menace came out. (both are probably on youtube)

    The idea that getting Star Trek and Star Wars fans to lose their virginity will cause a drop in SF audiences, is not terribly dissimilar to the notion that getting people into “healthy” relationships will cause a drop in porn audiences.

  71. I think you’re missing a crucial facet in that porn is also ‘easy’ because it allows people to vicariously get off from the anonymity of their homes and apartments, no social interaction required.

    At-home video porn is a fairly new phenomenon – until VCRs existed you pretty much couldn’t watch a porn movie except at a theater, a peep show (once they was flocks of ‘em). And until the Internet really got going, you still had to go out and get the tapes; you couldn’t simply decide you wanted new porn and one-click your way to whatever video you wanted.

    Is it easier than sitting down and having a heart-to-heart talk with your partner about deficiencies in your sex life? Well sure. But porn is, by definition, masturbation, not having sex with another human being (even simulated sex, like a lap dance), and so it’s not really a replacement in that sense.

    As for stripping, I wouldn’t say that it changed my opinion of men so much as it dispensed with a lot of the myths that women tend to believe about men. Which is to say, I certainly didn’t come to the conclusion that all men are assholes who hate women; but there are an awful lot of men who pretend to be nice to women and like them as people but really think of them as glorified fuckholes and housekeepers, and I got to see these men when their wives and girlfriends weren’t around, so they didn’t feel any need to keep the mask up, so to speak.

    On the other hand, it also taught me a lot about how ridiculous many of the beauty standards foisted on women are. Most men simply aren’t as picky as women think they are, and (meaning this in the nicest way possible) you can use smoke and mirrors for the rest. As anyone who ran into me at Scalzi’s reading in SF would probably agree, I’m never going to win a Diana Rigg look-a-like competition, but to a large degree you can do the Playboy equivalent of lighting, poses and airbrushing live if you know what you’re doing. So that kind of put paid to the idea that only a handful of women could ever naturally be beautiful, and the rest of us should be desperately scrambling to hide our ugliness, lest the entire male half of the species reject us.

    Um. Sorry, John. Here’s your blog back now.

  72. “Did your work as an exotic dancer:

    a) heighten your overall opinion of men.

    b) worsen your overall opinion of men.

    c) change your opinion of men not at all.”

    Easy one. B. Far and away, B.

    I was never a stripper, but I’ve had peripheral experience with other areas of the industry and I’ve had stripper friends. You see the worst parts of the worst people doing that, and after a while it can get hard to remember that there are decent guys in the world. I think it’s more or less impossible to remain in that field for long and not get massively scarred.

  73. “On the other hand, it also taught me a lot about how ridiculous many of the beauty standards foisted on women are. Most men simply aren’t as picky as women think they are, and (meaning this in the nicest way possible) you can use smoke and mirrors for the rest.”

    Also this is a really good point.

    One of the things I actually like about porn is that it demonstrates that pretty much any type of body is attractive to someone out there. Niche lines exist for old, young, thin, fat, big-breasted, small-breasted, every race on Earth. No matter what you look like, someone out there is paying money to get off to a porn performer who looks like that.

  74. In reference to the earlier comments about porn actresses having unrealistically perfect bodies, believe me, folks. I watch pornography for a LIVING. It is my JOB to watch them critically, and perhaps this has jaded me, but many of the most popular actresses in those films are probably so plain without the thick makeup, you’d never give them a second look. (I’m looking at you, Carmen Luvana.)

    And yes, surgical enhancements are the norm.

  75. Did your work as an exotic dancer:
    a) heighten your overall opinion of men.

    The patrons at a strip club will give a person about as much insight into the full spectrum of humanity as the patrons at a bar.

    If someone goes to a strip club, or a bar, and that changes their overall opinion of all people, then they’ve committed an error in their research.

  76. and after a while it can get hard to remember that there are decent guys in the world

    Well, the problem wasn’t really the obvious jerks. I mean, they’re obvious jerks all the time. The problem was the guys who clearly passed for decent in real life – but when they were in a group with their buddies, or when they’d had few drinks and realized that none of the women whose continued presence they might want in their lives were present, they felt free to kick off their shoes and be themselves, as it were. So it was a little disheartening to learn that a lot (emphasis: not all) of the men who are nice to you ‘in real life’ are just pretending to listen to your irritating feminine twaddle long enough to talk you into a blowjob.

    But then again I was cynical before, so.

  77. One of the nice things about getting older (for me, anyway), was realizing that the tyranny of media-approved body shapes sucks.

    And not only doesn’t suck, but on the ground, largely doesn’t exist. Getting back to the original thread here, it’s sad when people think ‘porno bodies’ (which are, as The Fighter notes, largely illusory) are either perfect or normal. Having sex with real people tends to disabuse you of the notion that you couldn’t possibly find anyone who doesn’t look like [porn superstar] attractive or sexy.

  78. So it was a little disheartening to learn that a lot (emphasis: not all) of the men who are nice to you ‘in real life’ are just pretending to listen to your irritating feminine twaddle long enough to talk you into a blowjob. But then again I was cynical before, so.

    LOL, nah. You’re not cynical. The world is just living down to your expectations, that’s all. ;^)

    Thanks for the feedback, mythago.

  79. Mythago, attorney and former stripper. Wow. You do realize that Marg Helgenberger would play you in the movie of your life? (Not a slam, as I really LIKE Marg Helgenberger.)

    Another reason for liking porn: inability to physically perform “the real thing.” The current condition of my hip joint makes it impossible for me to do certain motions that I find essential to good sex, and at the moment I’m sufficiently overweight that I don’t have enough stamina to do the kind of hammer-and-tongs going at it I like best.

    I will lose weight and have my hip replaced and find a boyfriend, and then I will live happily ever after, watching porn only occasionally. Until then…eBoys will keep getting chunks of my money periodically.

    Craig 72: I agree. My definition of ‘quickie’ is “what you do when you have less than two hours for sex, but can’t wait.” I can count the quickies of my life on the fingers of one hand, or could, if I bothered to remember them at all.

  80. Fighter,

    Does this job come with a company Ferrari and a thousand dollar per-diem? Because I know a guy who might be interested in applying. A friend of mine. This guy I know.

  81. On strip clubs…

    I never went to a strip club when I was younger. I had friends who swore by them, when it came to having a ‘good time’, but I didn’t have much interest to be honest. Why go to a place where naked women get you hot, and there is nothing either they or you can do about it? No thanks!

    But then in 2005 I decided to visit one, just once. I am not sure why I changed my mind. I still suspected it would be an utterly alien experience. Maybe I just wanted to step beyond my comfort zone and have a thrill?

    Boy, talk about being a stranger in a strange land!

    It was one of the the Deja Vu clubs in Seattle. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d entered a casino, what with all the lights and flashing crap and loud noises. I found a seat and immediately noticed that the place was sparsely populated. Next I noticed the television monitors near the stage showing unedited XXX porn.

    OK, I suppose that was to keep us “going” when the girls were not on stage?

    When the girls did come out they were all in their 20’s and all had trim, attractive bodies. The “dancing” if we can call it that was pretty standard pole stuff, and what struck me almost immediately was that the girls’ eyes seemed to be in another world altogether, as if the stage and the entire room belonged to them alone and we weren’t even there. There was no passion nor even much interaction at all as they went through the moves. Sort of like a technically competent pianist playing a piece of music: the notes all fall correctly, but there is no magic to it. No zest or enthusiasm?

    They went down to full nudity, which I had not expected. And it was an odd feeling considering that the only female I’ve ever seen fully in the nude in person is my spouse. It almost felt clinical, like being in a doctor’s office or something. No arousal at all. At least not for me. I couldn’t tell with the other patrons because one thing that was also clear was that all the patrons — who were men anyway, we had a few girls walks in, which was interesting all by itself — were very ‘closed’ guys who didn’t show anything on their faces. Not even small smiles. So whatever they were experiencing, emotionally, they were keeping it to themselves. Was there even pleasure taking place?

    After each girl finished her short routine, she recovered some of her clothing and then went out onto the floor to ‘work’ the patrons for lap dances. Which is, I suppose, where a lot of the money was? Now, before I went in the door I had already determined that I was not a) going to get a lap dance and b) going to spend a lot of money. This was a one time “see what it’s like” deal and I wasn’t going to cross financial or personal barriers that seemed inappropriate.

    Maybe it was my Army t-shirt, but a lot of the girls bee-lined for my chair right off the bat. I felt sheepish telling them I’d never been to a strip club before and that I wasn’t going to be taking them up on their offer of a ‘private session,’ for personal reasons, even though I did tell each of them that I thought they were very beautiful. Most of them detached and went elsewhere the second they discovered I wasn’t laying out any money. One or two stuck around to chit chat a teeny bit. When the one red-headed girl — who did seem a bit sassy compared to the others — whispered breathily in my ear that she’d be happy to come back if I changed my mind, and then kissed my ear, I knew it was time to go. That kind of contact was the sort of thing that I knew would be borderline when my wife and I discussed the experience — because we discuss everything in our lives, even the ‘out of bounds’ things we have occasionally done — and so I politely excused myself and left.

    I have not been back to a strip club since, and consider the event to be an entirely uncomfortable, odd, and even slightly disheartening experience.

    Because the entire operation was so bloody-minded cold. It was all about the money. Everything was geared to getting me to open my wallet and shell out the bucks. In that sense it really was just a kind of casino. I was supposed to be lured in by the ‘fun’ and spend money without noticing. Why this shocked me so much I am not sure. Yeah, I know, duh. It’s a business, stupid. But I had not expected the very atmosphere of the place to be so darkened by the money aspect. The lights were flashing and the girls were pretty and they took their clothes off, and the best way I can describe how I felt is to say that I felt like Sam, Frodo, Pip and Merry as they first enter Bree in the movie version of Lord of the Rings: lost, somewhat spooked, in an utterly alien and almost hostile place surrounded by alien and almost hostile people.

    There was no gentleness there. Not a hint nor a spark of mirth, from the girls or the patrons. There was hunger, oh yes. For the money of the patrons, and from the patrons towards the girls on a very base-line subliminal level. But as I got in my car I mused that I’d not been aroused even once, in over an hour of sitting and watching pretty young women take their clothes off and cavort evocatively.

    My wife was pretty interested in what I had to say about it all, and agreed that when the girl kissed me on the ear it was definitely a ‘borderline’ incident, and time to bail out. Overall my wife is a very open person and it takes a lot for her to feel threatened by my behavior around other women, but in that environment such contact as I’d received was too close for comfort for both of us. So I am glad I made the right call.

    In the years since I made that single club visit, I’ve always wondered one thing: where are those strippers now? I suppose I hope that they were college students who eventually moved on to ‘real’ careers and maybe they’re married with families now. Or something? I fear that the reality is that some of them were scared and desperate and doing drugs and might be dead now, either from a violent boyfriend or a needle in their arm. This scenario seems scarily realistic.

    Who knows? I just know I thought the entire enterprise turned out to be even stranger and less inviting than I’d expected, and I’ve not wanted to go back. I can’t imagine women who strip for a living have much fun doing it, and I pity the man who must use strip clubs on a routine basis to find arousal, or intimacy.

    Which reminds me of one of my wife’s friend’s husband’s brother. Poor guy had a serious weight problem all his life, and the only way he could get near a woman was through strippers or hookers. Self esteem, non-existent. And he was so warped by so many years of “buying” female attention, when he finally got surgery and lost all the weight and didn’t have to pay women to be with him anymore, he literally went crazy! Lost his touch with reality, did some bad stuff, and is in jail now.

    Holy cow. I know he’s an extreme. But his story has simply reinforced my suspicion about the porn-intimacy-fitness-relationship connection(s).

    Sorry JS. Didn’t mean to have it turn into an essay. As mythago said, here’s your blog back.

  82. the only female I’ve ever seen fully in the nude in person is my spouse

    It almost felt clinical, like being in a doctor’s office or something. No arousal at all. At least not for me.

    my suspicion about the porn-intimacy-fitness-relationship connection

    Sub, think of a flavor of ice cream you like (say, chocolate) and a flavor of icecream you don’t like (say, raspberry).

    Pretend that in your entire life, you only tried one flavor of ice cream, chocolate, and liked it and only ate chocolate ice cream ever since. And then at one point, you tried a small sample of raspberry, just a dab, and didn’t like it, and never tried it again.

    Do you think that’s enough observational data to make connections between flavors of ice cream, who eats them, and what it means about those people?

    If you like chocolate, and that’s all you ever want to eat, that’s fine with me. But I think you might be missing a basic issue that could come up when you make pronouncements about what raspberry means and the only reasons why people would ever eat raspberry is because of blah blah blah. You know what I’m saying?

  83. Greg, so you’re saying people like porn because they couldn’t get their hands on any Neopolitan?

    (sorry, I could not resist)

    JS: I thought the entire point of blogs was overshare. (shrug)

  84. It was one of the the Deja Vu clubs in Seattle.

    In terms of how they treat their employees, Deja Vu is the 1990s WalMart of the titty bar world. Just so you know.

  85. Mythago,

    Because I am an infant in the realm of titty bars, don’t they all treat their girls like crap? Was there any in your experience that actually treated its girls like human beings?

  86. Actually, Squid, the job comes with a psychotic amount of office politicking and chronic, abject terror that anyone can be fired at any point with utterly no warning.

    But hey; boobies.

  87. Dear Playboy Advisor, whomever you are at the desk formerly occupied by Frank M. Robinson, who has a small part in “Milk” because he used to be a speechwriter for Harvey Milk, and who coauthored with Richard Martin Stern the novel “The Tower”, which was adapted along with Thomas N. Scortia’s novel “The Glass Inferno”) by screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, to make the film “The Towering Inforno (1974):

    “Having available great sex would kill the demand for porn” is something equivalent to saying that having available great computers would kill the demand for Mathematics.

    Or having available great bandwidth would kill the demand for face-to-face human conversation.

    So then, when I was hitchhiking, these cute octuplets picked me up.

    “What’s your sign?” I asked.

    They answered in unison:

    “Pyrex.”

  88. Greg, sorry I was offline to not thank you for taking the time to make your point clear to me. So thanks! You are of course correct, culture is an important factor in behavior and does not show up in SPECT scans.

    Sorry I was slow on the uptake and slower on the thanks you.

    Trey

  89. “Because I am an infant in the realm of titty bars, don’t they all treat their girls like crap? Was there any in your experience that actually treated its girls like human beings?”

    There are a fair number of strip clubs where the owner treats the employees no better or worse than employees in any other low-skilled occupation with a high turnover rate. Whether that counts as “like human beings” depends, I guess, on your perspective… but it’s no worse than what cubicle rats or McDonald’s employees deal with. There are some sketchy ones too, of course, but they’re not all like that. For the most part the crap comes from the clientele.

    “The problem was the guys who clearly passed for decent in real life – but when they were in a group with their buddies, or when they’d had few drinks and realized that none of the women whose continued presence they might want in their lives were present, they felt free to kick off their shoes and be themselves, as it were.”

    Yeah, that’s kind of what I meant. You see obvious jerks, then you see deceptive jerks of assorted stripes (those guys, the guys who get actually outraged when they learn that a $1 tip + some sweet talk will not, in fact, get them a trip to the back room, the manifestly unattractive guys who seem to think “I’d do you!” is a valid compliment, etc.), then you see misguided jerks who make all kinds of patronizing assumptions about how you must have been abused as a child and just need rescuing by a Good Man, bla bla etc., and the upshot is that after a couple of months of looking at the world through puke-colored glasses, it’s hard to remember what it looked like before. I honestly think they developed a more jaundiced view of life than I did, and I was not living in Happy Sunshine Land myself.

    Anyway, wow this is going off on a tangent. Sorry!

  90. Trey way back @67,

    I would suggest that if they showed my heterosexual self Penelope Cruz instead of Brad Pitt, they may have gotten higher results.

  91. Yea, lots of sharing.

    So, this comment:
    “The problem was the guys who clearly passed for decent in real life – but when they were in a group with their buddies, or when they’d had few drinks and realized that none of the women whose continued presence they might want in their lives were present, they felt free to kick off their shoes and be themselves, as it were.”

    Seems to sum up a lot of my confusion with glamour/porn as a production money engine.

    Granted it might be a niche or a sub-level, but the idea that people’s fantasies might be at either end of the brutality spectrum. Seemed really absent of people. The people weren’t fake, but muted down, viewed behind glass… and maybe that’s the whole point but I usually don’t get past my own recognition of a person being far more than their sexuality. Not that I’m denying maybe some people are, but I haven’t talked to anyone like who truly is only their sexuality. Sometimes I talk to women, girls, boys or men who are avoiding themselves in their presentation-trying to present themselves as if their sexuality was the only thing to them.

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