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Culture
09/26/13

A Tangled Web: Don Jon Highlights Real-life Effects of Internet Porn

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new film raises a good question: Does our culture have an unhealthy relationship with porn? In  Verily’s upcoming Nov/Dec Issue, Mary Rose Somarriba gives an answer.

“How do you watch that s***?” exclaims Scarlett Johansson in what is possibly the best minute of acting in her career. She’s playing Barbara Sugarman, the flame of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his recent film Don Jon.

Barbara is livid with rage and baffled; she found a string of porn sites in her boyfriend Jon’s browser history. They had a good relationship, she thought. Why did he need to look at other women?

“Everyone looks at porn,” Jon retorts. As he sees it, porn is as American as apple pie. While he may keep it private—the only real person he tells is his priest in the secrecy of confession—porn is a big part of his life, something he needs on a daily basis.

For Gordon-Levitt’s first written and directed feature film, Don Jon (which sensitive viewers should know is filled with porn clips) raises a good question: Does our culture have an unhealthy relationship with porn? Has it diminished our view of women, relationships, and sex in general?

Don Jon is a bold contribution to a recent trend in entertainment, giving audiences a real—and grim—snapshot of 21st-century relationships. Call it post–Sex and the City realism. There’s the recent film Lovelace, contrasting the exciting story, as we were told it, of Deepthroat star Linda Lovelace, and the completely un-sexy version as it really was. There’s Girls on HBO, known for showing ugly, lifelike sex scenes. There’s Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, managing to make ultra-risqué performances devoid of any sex appeal. It’s as if sex is no longer sexy in pop culture. What was once a warm and alluring mystery is now a cold, anatomical display. If intimacy is dead, porn may have killed it.

Still, many think porn has mostly good effects. Porn helps people express their sexuality, some say. It helps men live the fantasies they can’t with their partners. It’s an escape. It can even add spice to tired relationships, Oprah and Dr. Ruth suggest.

But in reality, porn can make it harder to appreciate real sex. As Pamela Paul documented in her 2006 book Pornified, dozens of men whom she interviewed anonymously revealed, “I used to view porn online, but I began to find it more difficult to stay aroused when having sex with a real woman. . . . Real sex has now lost some of its magic. And that’s sad.”

How Porn Affects Women

That sadness comes through the many laughs of Don Jon. It was sad, for instance, to see the way the men treated women. How Jon and his clubbing buddies constantly sized them up—comparing each to the fantasy women in porn. An all-around attractive girl was a 10, also known as a “dime” (Scarlett Johansson qualified). But most girls fell short of the ideal, so the boys resorted to zeroing in on different body parts. One woman’s breasts were a 4, for instance—hardly worth their time.

Here the film offers a glimpse of reality. In a 2004 Elle/MSNBC.com poll of 15,246 Americans, one in ten men admitted that porn had made him more critical of his partner’s body.

Not surprisingly, many women feel deficient next to porn-star competition. According to Paul’s commissioned nationwide poll conducted by Harris Interactive, six out of ten women “believe pornography affects how men expect them to look and behave.”

Of course porn isn’t the only avenue through which unrealistic expectations of beauty can make women feel inadequate. Major motion pictures, television shows, even commercial advertisements have long employed sex appeal as an effective draw. But the mainstream acceptance of porn has no doubt influenced other media; content once considered too explicit is now regular fare on network television. And, while television networks may deal only in Porn Lite, it’s no less disruptive to our perception of women.

Don Jon captures this well in a family-dinner-table scene. With the large-screen TV playing in the background, a bikini-clad model suddenly steals the conversation. Jon and his father (a cringe-inducing and convincing performance by Tony Danza) are mesmerized by the suggestive ad, while Jon’s mother and sister (Glenne Headly and Brie Larson) avert their eyes and wait for it to be over. Within seconds, the tableside dynamic is shattered—something that could have been avoided with just a click of the TiVo-fast-forward button. But of course the boys are oblivious, both to how the ad affected them and to how it affected their female counterparts.

Later in the film, the television once again serves as the women’s antagonist in a climactic scene. Brie Larson’s character, who thus far hasn’t uttered a single line in the film, opens her mouth to share her feminine intuition about Jon and Barbara’s relationship. But no one can hear her over the television.

This is where Gordon-Levitt gets it. His nearly seamless script reveals remarkable acumen for a man of his generation. He’s done his homework on the porn issue, and he tackles it extremely well. He loosens up the audience with laughs, all the while sprinkling the film with digestible insights.

How Porn Affects Men

Does our culture have an unhealthy relationship with porn? Don Jon’s portrait of a porn user suggests at the very least that we might not be aware of its overall effects.

The Don, for example, never stops to consider the seeming strangeness of his behavior. Why does a man who has no trouble getting attractive women to sleep with him on a regular basis need to sneak out of bed after each encounter to follow it up with porn?

The answer is that porn-using men aren’t exactly feeling fulfilled in bed. In the Elle/MSNBC.com poll, 35 percent of men said real sex with a woman had become less arousing, and 20 percent admitted real sex just couldn’t compare to cybersex anymore. Porn, on the other hand, is exciting more men than ever.

As Gordon-Levitt’s character put it, “I lose myself. . . . Nothing else does it the same way.” Girls in porn will do things real girls won’t. And the shock-value element can be addictive.

Many young men today become porn junkies, making a daily habit of visiting porn sites, hiding it from their partners, and having trouble stopping. Those who try to stop as an exercise in self-control, as Jon does later in the film, often cite feelings of withdrawal and increased difficulty maintaining their resolution if they so much as have Internet access.

Jon’s quirky, middle-aged night-school classmate, played by Julianne Moore, aptly (and rather jarringly) captures the experience of the porn addict after listening to him describe his addiction: “So you like porn better than sex.”

When the imitation of a thing becomes more desirable than the thing itself, what does that mean? To put it lightly, it means that these men have been sold a bill of goods. To put it gravely, it means these men are facing the irrationality that is addiction. Sure, the experience porn offers may feel exciting while it lasts, but it’s often followed by feelings of guilt or disappointment. There’s something unsatisfying about being alone seconds after you just had a woman looking utterly enthralled by you. And there’s something universally depressing about seeing that hours of time have passed on a rewardless activity.

As one man interviewed for Pornified put it, “A man starts to feel like a computer himself when he realizes that he’s dependent on computer images to turn him on.”

Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, described in his best-selling book The Brain That Changes Itself how pornography consumption can rewire men’s brains, restricting their free choice. As he put it, “Those who use [pornography] have no sense of the extent to which their brains are reshaped by it. . . . The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor. Not all addictions are to drugs or alcohol. People can be seriously addicted to gambling, even to running. All addicts show a loss of control of the activity, compulsively seek it out despite negative consequences, develop tolerance so that they need higher and higher levels of stimulation for satisfaction, and experience withdrawal if they can’t consummate the addictive act.”

Doidge describes this pattern as a sort of urgent thrill-seeking. “Porn is more exciting than satisfying,” he explains, because of the “pleasure systems in our brains. . . . Porn viewers develop new maps in their brains, based on the photos and videos they see. Because it is a use-it-or-lose-it brain, when we develop a map area, we long to keep it activated.”

For many men, Internet porn is a gateway to strip clubs, escort services, and prostitutes—real, live women who are paid to feign enjoyment and perform acts similar to those in porn. Norma Ramos, head of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, finds this a disturbing trend. “Porn is corrupting male sexuality by moving it in the direction to buy prostituted sex,” she told me in an interview. “Johns are not born, they’re made.”

One man revealed in Pornified that he too developed interests he previously didn’t have, like the day he stumbled on child porn. “It was scary for me because I was turned on and also because it obviously depicted kids who had been abused and tricked.” Another man said, “I would see some young girl in porn and then read a horror story in the newspaper about sex trafficking in Eastern Europe, but I just mentally discarded the connection. . . . I couldn’t let myself feel anything toward these women other than the means to satisfy my desires.”

All of this can further a false sense of what is pleasurable for women. As one sex therapist in Paul’s book explains, “In pornography all a man does is touch a woman and she’s howling in delight in two minutes. If men think this is how real women respond, they’re going to be horrible lovers.”

What Porn Does to Us

In 2009, I attended a conference at Princeton University, sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute and the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. The findings, later compiled in the book The Social Costs of Pornography (2010), include papers from nearly a dozen experts. But the words that have stuck with me most are Roger Scruton’s concluding remarks: “Psychologists and psychotherapists are increasingly encountering the damage done by pornography, not to marriages and relationships only, but to the very capacity to engage in them. . . . This, it seems to me, is the real risk attached to pornography. Those who become addicted to this risk-free form of sex run a risk of another and greater kind. They risk the loss of love, in a world where only love brings happiness.”

And there’s the rub. If porn affects individual men and women, then it affects relationships. It prevents the possibility of an us. Porn sells the idea that you can, literally, put a person on pause, fast-forward through the messiness of human feelings and foibles to the “good parts,” and, when you are through, discard him or her for another. The tragedy, Scruton recognizes, is that while glutting a person’s sexual appetites, porn risks thwarting another human desire: to give love.

This is what is captured in the poignant line from Moore’s character in Don Jon: “If you want to lose yourself, you have to lose yourself in another person. And she has to lose herself in you. It’s a two-way thing.”

This line comes just moments before the most awkward sex scene in the movie. While the rest of the film’s slapstick sex references filled the theater with uproarious laughter and crack-ups, at this moment you could’ve heard a pin drop. It was the kind of encounter that was as special as it was private—the kind that makes you feel as if you shouldn’t be watching, as if it was just for the two of them, as if they are just for each other. Despite the film’s many porn-infused snippets, this one offers something much more powerful: intimacy.

When You’re At the Bottom, the Only Way to Go Is Up

Does the prevalence of porn use among today’s young men mean we’re all doomed to pornified love lives where intimacy is dead? No. If there’s a lesson to the fable of Don Jon, it’s that it’s possible to get beyond this.

Porn is not the only way in which we can poison our relationships—a point that Gordon-Levitt expertly weaves into Don Jon. One could easily add possessiveness and jealousy to the list, or impatience with others’ flaws, or the all-too-common temptation to try to manipulate and change the other to our liking. The popularity of pornography has been fostered, perhaps, in part by a larger cultural tendency toward individualism, a perception that relationships are primarily tools used by an individual on his or her solo journey of self-understanding and satisfaction.

Don Jon responds to the question of pornography not through statistics (although, as we have seen, they’re there) but, ultimately, through a simple assertion, powerfully made through the stories of the characters: Like it or not, authentic relationships are not one-sided. “If you want to lose yourself, you have to lose yourself in another person. And she has to lose herself in you. It’s a two-way thing.”

Mary Rose Somarriba, culture editor of Verily Magazine, is completing a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship on the connections between sex trafficking and pornography.

Subscribe now to Verily Magazine to receive the Nov/Dec 2013 issue and read articles not available online!

Mary Rose Somarriba - Mary Rose is the Executive Editor and Culture Editor for Verily Magazine with years of experience in magazine publishing. She has written articles and organized events on women’s issues for several publications and organizations. Among her favorite things in life are Latin dancing, karaoke, and a Basil Hayden manhattan on the rocks.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful! I cried during half this article. THANK YOU, Verily, for being unafraid to address a nitty gritty truth which so many refuse to see.
    The only thing I would say, though, is that in this article you address only men as having a problem with porn. Is that because you were looking at it purely from the “Don John” perspective, or because Verily, like so many others, incorrectly believes that this is only a “man’s problem”?
    Thank you for reading my comment!

  2. Marina says:

    This is possibly one of the best movie reviews and popular treatments of the porn issue I have ever read. Mary Rose, fantastically well done. I hope to keep reading your thoughts on these issues!

  3. Sarah says:

    One thing I noticed about the trailer is when JGL is looking up SJ on facebook is that her photos aren’t exactly inviting him to see her inner person. Perhaps there is another critique of our society to be found here, in that a woman will take sexy photos of herself and post them for the whole world to see but then she gets upset and feels violated when men view porn.

  4. Susan B. Anthony says:

    It’s revealing that the author of the article views the issue of porn as being entirely a male problem — that it’s somehow the fault of men and/or porn producers that this is happening.

    What about women? Why are so many men unhappy or unsatisfied with women that they seek fictional, imaginary partners?

    Rather than taking the standard tack of blaming men, why not look at how women have failed to uphold their side of the sexual balance? Perhaps if women tried something other than shaming and hostility, they’d find men less interested in porn.

    I know, that’s crazy sexist talk. True equality will only come about when women are free to be as angry and aggressive as they like, and men are denied all outlet for sexual expression. Isn’t that the goal of modern feminism?

    • Dire Badger says:

      you know, considering the fact that 70% of all marriages end in divorce, Suicide is the leading cause of death among divorced men, and the sheer danger and lack of reward to young men getting married for the first time, I think that internet porn is a good alternative.

      Maybe more grass-eaters will clue people into how abusive America is to young men these days.

    • Lindsay says:

      I don’t think I could disagree with you more, but not for the reasons you think.

      Men don’t “go out looking for porn.” Porn goes out looking for them. The average boy encounters porn long before he is even aware of an interest in girls–back when girls are still “icky.” He’s caught before he even has a chance.

      And that’s no accident. The porn industry knows it’s a huge, addictive business. The sooner they can hook a boy, the more they can sell him over the course of his life.

      There’s really nothing a real woman of any age should do to attract and keep the interest of an elementary school-aged boy. It’s not the boy’s fault either, but it isn’t fair to blame women for not being satisfying for men when men have been exposed to and hooked on pornography way earlier.

    • Tara n. b. says:

      Seriously? That’s like telling a woman that it’s her fault that her husband cheated on her because she wasn’t being exciting enough in the bedroom or nagged him too much. She may have contributed to his motivation, but he is one who made the decision to do what he did. His actions are 100% his responsibility and his alone.

    • Phil says:

      “I know, that’s crazy sexist talk.”

      No, just silly and ignorant. Post-internet, most young men have developed a porn habit long before any women in their lives have had the chance to fail “to uphold their side of the sexual balance.” The porn has come to set the pattern and expectations men (and women) have long before they start experiencing and negotiating them with actual members of the opposite sex.

    • Alex says:

      On behalf of every male, thank you for being so honest. No one is perfect, and I know a lot of guys who are doing everything they can to try to uphold the perfect image of a man that women imply that they want: emotional, intelligent, caring, loving, and, most important, sexy but not sexual. If you want that, go be with a woman. Men and woman are wired completely differently, and that’s a good thing.

      • Cassie says:

        I couldn’t agree with you more! There are a lot of issues with our society not only in the way that we act but also in the way we talk to each other. Why must we use the adjective “sexy” so much these days?! It just goes to degrade our respect for the dignity of each human person further! There are other words to describe both girls and boys! Beautiful, intelligent, bright, gentle, caring, glamorous, stunning, dazzling and intriguing are all adjectives that women appreciate hearing! I refuse to believe that pornagraphy is strictly a male or female addiction but there must be mutual respect between people. Without this, the world is going to destroy itself!

    • Mary Ascheman says:

      What? Feminists should be truly outraged about pornography. It is utterly degrading and abusive to women. It teaches men to view women as solely objects to be used for pleasure. It gives men (and women) a very unhealthy and disordered idea of what sex should be. Plus, many people involved in this industry and the industries tied to it, are trafficked people. How in the world can someone who claims to support women’s rights endorse the use of porn at all!!

      • DARTH VADER says:

        @ MARY ASCHEMAN you are 100% correct in all instances and I applaud you

    • Kate says:

      Stats indicate clearly that the male gender engages in porn use far more than their female counterparts. And one only has to look at the way women are treated in society to acknowledge that this really is primarily a male issue. (And it’s learned, not hard-wired, as some might argue.) Pornography has become commonplace today — and is so accessible now. It frightens me to think where we’re headed as a society.

    • MsAmericanPatriot says:

      @ Susan B Anthony__You are correct. Woman FAIL to keep up their end of it thanks to feminism. If they did keep it up we wouldn’t need the porn industry. Susan, I bet if you saw what your suffragette movement would have morphed to you would have thought twice about starting it.

  5. scooter morphis says:

    i know a lot of male students on college campuses who have rationally and consciously opted for porn over real relationships. They are terrified of ‘sexual offense’ policies written in such a way that any woman can destroy their careers with a false accusation, where having sex with a woman who has had a few drinks is by definition rape, and where codes of sexual conduct demand constant and continuous solicitation of consent such that all spontaneity and excitement has been regulated out of sexual discovery.

    • AMW says:

      I wonder whether using a defense (sexual offense policies) are an excuse by these male college students, to chose not to have REAL relationship which require effort, self control, and self giving. Porn excuses you from doing anything, it’s entirely selfish, doesn’t have any real-life ramifications (because it’s not a real person who you can have a relationship with) and in the long run prevents you from even entering into relationships in the first place (as mentioned in the article).
      I think bringing up the topic of these policies you mention is a huge cop-out, consent doesn’t even exist because it only involves you saying yes to viewing it.

  6. Very good in every way. But, if I may: isn’t there a problem (for Catholics certainly) in even watching “Don Jon”? You mention that it contains clips from porn films, so — even if those clips are brief — doesn’t that amount to watching porn?

  7. @ SBA: I also noticed how the article deals with men in relationships and guys who can get women with ease going for porn, but it completely neglected the guys who would love a relationship but can’t get one.

    Not only is there an enormous contrast physically between porn stars and “real women” (often obese), the women in porn will never rip you to shreds for the audacity of introducing yourself to her.

    Sorry, ladies, but quite a few of you aren’t exactly pleasant to be around.

    Of course, you don’t care about that, and there are lots of awful men, too. Nevertheless, there are millions of men today with absolutely no chance for sexual gratification whatsoever. You don’t even notice their existence. This article didn’t notice them and you don’t notice them, either, but they’re alive just as much as you.

    Were these the only guys who used porn, I doubt you’d give it a second thought. However, the guys you like are into porn, too, so it’s time to take notice.

    This article makes some good points, but if we want to solve the problem we’ve got to look at it from the male perspective, too. (and that includes some losers)

  8. Bruce says:

    Is it just porn? Aren’t video games and movies and TV also making real life seem less interesting?

    As I understand it the current generation of teens have an easy time of creating superficial relationships via facebook/twitter , but have a hard time with deep friendships.

    • Jen says:

      I agree that the issue is more than just porn that harm “real” relationships (vs. online only relationships). I think that the more time we spend on our devises and online, the less time we are spending on deepening our relationships with those who are physically with us.

      One of the biggest issues with porn is the connection to human trafficking. While I don’t have the stats in front of me, there are many women who end up in porn who don’t want to be there but are there because they are forced to be there. There are a lot of resources out there about human trafficking and the connection with the porn industry.

  9. Ken says:

    I’m prepared to admit that porn is damaging relationships, as soon as women admit that girl porn (such as The Notebook and romance novels), dildoes, the “you go girl culture”, and particularly the anti-male bias in sex laws and family laws are just as damaging.

    I also find it hilariously ironic that the article itself is misandristic. Headline: Men Addicted to Porn, Women hit hardest. You first start by talking about how some men are becoming addicted to porn, which causes problems in their lives, but quickly turn to your main point: how it affects women. Men’s problems are only discussed when they affect men.

    You also claim that culture is to blame for women to have an unrealistic expectation of women’s beauty, but fail to recognize the culture WOMEN brought into existence claiming that inner beauty is all that matters, as well as non-judgement. The result: the fattest, laziest, most self-entitled generation of women in history.

    If you want men to “man up”, women have to “woman up”. This one sided expectation that all problems with relationships are rooted in male behavior MUST END. Women are at least as much to blame, but probably more, as feminism’s explicit aim was to bring mainstream the idea that men and women compete against each, rather than complement each other.

    • Rex Morgan says:

      I didn’t get that at all. As a recovering porn-addict, I found much of the article truthful and insightful towards both sides of the porn culture we have in society.

      I also believe that she, as well as the movie, delves into the destructive culture on both sides of the sexes; for men it’s porn-fantasy and for women, the idea of Prince Charming or Mr. Perfect. Both notions can inevitably lead to impossible expectations of significant others that could be avoided early on in a relationship so long as both partners were honest with each other.

      Citing a line from the movie, the author notes that, Like it or not, authentic relationships are not one-sided. “If you want to lose yourself, you have to lose yourself in another person. And she has to lose herself in you. It’s a two-way thing,” implying that both men and women are responsible for the development of a loving, respectful, and honest relationship. I always say that giving 50% of yourself to someone you love means you’re withholding the other half. You will both be filled when you realize that it is a giving of your entire self into one another. She gives 100% and you give 100% (and not just the nice and shiny parts either)!

    • Katherine says:

      You claim that the “inner-beauty” movement is the cause of the “fattest, laziest, most entitled generation in history”. Can you support this position? Can you give evidence?

      Because during the same period of time you also have an increase in fats and sugars in food, an increase in processed food, an increase in individualism, radicalization and consolidation of tv, etc… Causation is really difficult to prove, but I’d love to hear your rationale.

  10. @ Ken: And I’m sure you’ve also noticed that despite how evil it is to set such impossible beauty standards for women, somehow insisting that men fit into those impossibly long lists of standards on any internet dating site is perfectly reasonable.

    I’ll feel guilty for wanting a woman like Jessica Alba the day women feel guilty about wanting Edward Cullen (the character, not the idiot who played him).

    As “impossible” as male standards may be, our ideals are a hell of a lot closer to reality than you’ll see requested by women on almost any match.com profile.

    • Harasha says:

      Wow, harsh words. There are definitely women out there who don’t like Edward Cullen or the human being who played him.

      However, I think the point of this movie, in JGL’s words (in several recent interviews) is that objectifying people, whether male or female, because they are hot or famous, or because they are nobodies, leads to living only a half-life. I noticed he made a point of connecting with his interviewers and he was always respectful, as though he were fully conscious of not wanting to come off as a hypocrite. I’m 100% positive JGL is not a saint. But he’s got a good idea and he’s trying to be a good human being by influencing the culture for good. I can respect that.

  11. Frank says:

    I find it interesting that so much of the thread of the article is dedicated to the idea expressed by one of the female characters: “Am I not enough for him? Why would he even think of someone else?” Any male subjected to 1970s vintage feminism already know the answer to that one. It’s always all about HER, as though males have no identity of their own.

    • Kate says:

      Frank, I think you’re missing the point here. When a woman asks the question “Am I enough for him?”, she really wants to know. It’s not a selfish desire to be the center or attention, but rather a query on how please her man better. What can I do differently to make him whole?

      In a relationship, women want to know they are valued and needed the same way men need to know they are valued and needed.

      We want desperately to fulfill you guys just like you try so hard to fulfill us.

  12. Anon says:

    No argument from me . Porn can have a deletrius effect on some men.

    However men who are not in nor interested in relationships really aren’t being harmed by it. A surprising number of men are simply in the situation where they able to have a girlfriend, a regular sex life or any of the things people assume they should have. Granted porn can impact the ability to attain those things if they are desired and for the jaded lead to shifts to harder material than is healthy for some people.

    as with anything, moderation.

    Also given the big decline in rape rates, there maybe a positive correlation (which is not proof of causation of course) between porn and public safety. More porn may mean less rape whic is good

    Now as for the sex trafficing issues, trafficing mostly exists because prositution is illegal. Making it leagal and under strong regulation will reduce the market space. Its not perfect and the number of women with full agency and desire for such a career will probably be smaller than the demand for prositututes, However at leats women will be under protection of the law and while some of them will have diminished agency (i.e they need the money badly) at least its a workable solution. Illegal thingsaregarder to control.

    Last, I’d very much like to see the effects rom coms, romance novels espeically the pronier ones , actual porn (yes women use it too) and other things have on women. Its fashionable to complain about “the men” but it takes two to tango or not tango as the case may be and the cultural memes that women are exposed to may give them just as unrelaistic a view of what men are as men think women are and get from porn.

    • AMW says:

      Are you for real Anon? More porn, less rape? Give me a break.
      That’s like saying that men need a physical relationship with a women to prevent him from sexually offending.

      Here’s an idea – porn and other things you mention are an escape from reality, how about we both (men and women) work harder to make reality more palpable, more generous, better to live in, so that there’s no need to escape and live a fake life?

  13. craig says:

    Martel says: “…the article deals with men in relationships and guys who can get women with ease going for porn, but it completely neglected the guys who would love a relationship but can’t get one.”

    It deals with men in relationships preferring porn to real women; it doesn’t deal with men in relationships being frozen out by their women from any reasonable hope of relations. Maybe they’re ‘losers’ and thus don’t count, but I think you’d find a lot of them turned to porn after being tired of Charlie Brown-and-the-football ritual humiliation within the relationship that they had thought included intimacy.

    • JW says:

      That’s a good point Craig. I can see the hopelessness and have been there myself as a matter of fact. The POINT is however, that something has value in and of itself or it has no value in and of itself. Porn has no value. It’s fake, addictive and robs you of what is real or could be real for you someday.

      As men we have to do what is right regardless of others and how they treat us. You can get through the hopelessness. There are plenty of women on the other side who are not the “pretty little red head girl” and who have also been humiliated and need love. Every Charlie Brown has a chance in my opinion.

  14. Another article about all the things that are wrong with men. It seems to be the only thing women ever write about.

    With attitudes lkie this in abundance, is it any wonder that men are becoming less interested in real women? Who wants to be criticised 24/7?

    • That’s a major cop-out. Man up. There is nothing truly masculine about porn and defending it makes me wonder what you would tell your daughter or neice if one of them were to find you watching it? Would you then blame women?

    • Ansel says:

      First off, I’m one of those youngsters. I have not seen the movie and have had difficulties with porn. Second off, what I just wrote has nearly nothing to do with what I’d like to say. Here’s the helpful version: I think that you really need to reconsider your position.
      Ms. Somarriba made some very good point there. While there were a few points that weren’t universally true, pornography is a much bigger problem than you think it is. It isn’t the sole problem in the world within it’s genre, but you can only ever focus on a few problems at a time. And honestly? If you’re being criticized for one part of your behavior (out of the thousands of parts) then there usually is a reason. There are a lot of good women out there, among the crueler ones. They’re the ones that you want to know–and they will criticize you when you’re doing something bad. It’s kind-of what they’re supposed to do, as friends before lovers.

  15. Ana says:

    Lovely article, Mary. Wonderful conclusion. You’re doing such great work!

  16. Justin Nelson says:

    What do women want?

    • Walter Sobchak says:

      revenge.

    • Amy says:

      To give ourselves to someone who will cherish that gift wholly, and to be blessed with the opportunity to care for another’s whole self.

    • Mary says:

      For their spouse’s love to be as full, unconditional and committed as theirs is. For their spouse to find hurting them, via pornography or anything else, as abhorrent as they would find hurting their spouse.

  17. ZmbaZumba says:

    Many women see porn as competition. It has evened up the sexual playing field. The female sexual wiles of temptation aren’t quite as alluring as before, there is a new ‘girl’ on the block. Just turning up and getting naked in the bed room doesn’t cut it anymore. This what this rant of a review is really about.

  18. Arjuna says:

    “Porn” is a generic term covering a variety gender interactions (M-F, M-M, F-F, MM-F, FF-M, cuckold, BBC) and assorted fetishes. I assume the porn referred to in the movie is M-F and variations. People substitute media when the preferred isn’t available and program types when the desired isn’t at hand (a joke there). Most porn, as with most fictional media, is life idealized; sexual life. In porn, the women are generally beautiful, at least in the eyes of the beholder, and with the advent of porn sites one can chose the ideal body type. The men, for the most part, are idealized versions of ourselves and come complete with generous equipment and unflagging energy that bursts at exactly the right time. No one goes home unfulfilled in the porn story world and that includes the F-F variety. The variety available via the internet is staggering and on one site runs from “acrobatic” to “young 18-25.” Unlike the “real” world, you can chose exactly what you want from the cafeteria selections. Of course, it is ultimately fantasy.

    In the hyper sexualized contemporary culture, porn is simply a testament to our desire for the ideal; an ideal we would like to have in our lives but don’t. It’s no different from historical forms of popular culture which reflect
    the idealist fantasies of that age. In the long run it’s mostly harmless because ultimately we live in the real world of the chubby, clumsy and clueless. In the short run, it may be problematic for some but so is football.

  19. josh daniels says:

    Many of the comments said it well: women’s jealousy of other attractive women; intolerance of men while men are attacked for a lack of sympathy if the issue is reversed (it’s then a “freedom issue” – women own their sexuality); a movie that titilates with porn, and then acts above it by deploring porn (of course, they are pulling in an audience with the porn); the latter hypocrisy of women, the presentation of men in the media, the article itself, answers the question about why men would turn to fantasy figures rather than the grim sexless controlling ideologues they encounter. Don’t these clueless women realize they will have sons who will live in this thought-police world they created? Porn creates molestation the way marijuana creates hard drug addiction.

    • DARTH VADER says:

      My wife and I have a mutual deal that pornography of any kind is off the table. It’s not a one way thing, both people in a relationship have to commit to sexual exclusivity. (or they do in a loving relationship, anyway.)

      And I don’t think it’s anything to do with attractiveness: if my wife cheated on me with a man of any physical appearance I would react the same!

      My son is growing up in a household where he sees a loving, intimate relationship between his parents, and he has been educated about the harms of pornography (and recreational drug use). That isn’t “thought-policing” it is good parenting!

      • JW says:

        The Force is strong with this one… keep up the good work.

  20. AMW says:

    You know what surprises me about the comments here? There’s a whole lot of wounded and bitter men.
    Is that the fault of women? Maybe, maybe not. But perhaps we all need to man, or woman up and behave the way we’d like to be treated by others.
    A line much repeated, but rarely practiced.

    • MRS says:

      So true. And for those who disagree with this article, they are more than encouraged to go see the film and judge for themselves!

    • RMW says:

      AMW — yes, I was really surprised by that, too! It’s like these readers took the article personally and made it all about them, failing to actually understand the author’s point and intent. Also, I see a lot of rationalizing here… “Oh, women nag us and complain all the time, so no wonder we turn to porn!” As if that’s an excuse…

      • RMW says:

        Oh, and I forgot to mention the comments that point out how fat or ugly women are nowadays… priceless irony! If I didn’t know any better, I would think that some of these men were angry because this article touched a nerve about their own behaviors.

    • Amy says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The comments on overly-critical woman = duly noted. It’s good to know/see how you dudes out there feel about this topic. Thanks for being real with us :)

  21. Locomotive Breath says:

    As someone else said, men like to look at porn, women like to read it. Put down that romance novel (never mind 50 Shades) and then you can judge men.

    • Katherine says:

      I read science fiction and nonfiction. Please don’t assume you know me.

      Porn made me believe that the definition of “attractive” was making a man want you so much that he lost control of his animalistic side.

      Counseling and an honorable man helped me discover that the definition of “attractive” is developing myself to the point where I value and protect myself. That attractiveness was self-development to the point where the other party wants to control themselves in order to preserve my value.

  22. This is such an intelligently written article, and I think it tackles a very important issue.

    However, I hope it isn’t inappropriate to share my own experience. I’m a woman, and I’m still on the fence about porn and how we as a society should deal with it. As soon as I hit puberty, I was a very sexually curious teen, and that led me to look at porn for the first time. Although I was told that we (women, youths, etc.) should be ashamed of our sexuality and hide it, I never found anything wrong with it, and it certainly was a safer alternative to the (f)risky activities my classmates were getting involved in. It was simple gratification, not confused with relationships or expectations. For me (for whatever reason) it didn’t escalate into something perverse and scary – it was simply a means to an end.

    Fast-forward some years, and I’m with my life-long partner, and to be perfectly frank, we both view porn occasionally. If you’re wondering why two deeply in love people who have the utmost respect for each other would bother watching porn, the simple answer is that we can’t always be there for each other. We have an ideal love life, but we’re both very busy people, and sometimes our schedules just don’t match up. For us, porn is simply a visual aid, even if our hearts and thoughts are with each other. Neither I nor my partner have never felt attraction to porn stars, desired to be with them, or compared each other to what we see on screen. Why? Because it’s all fake, actors merely mimicking the motions of sex to trigger a physical response. Nothing can compare to the intimacy of loving your partner in every way possible, and we both know that.

    Porn and sexuality don’t have to be a poisonous barb in a relationship (or your mental health) if you expect the best from yourself. You should be aware of the difference between self-gratification and self-giving in sex. Educate yourself about the differences between fantasy and reality. You should do your best to build up your partner and have them know that you value them far more than their appearance. You should completely immerse yourself during intimacy with your partner. You should handle sex as a bonding experience, not a thing or treat you can just receive. Don’t trivialize intimacy, and you will be able to appreciate how real sex makes any crude, distorted imitation pale in comparison.

    Of course, I guess this sort of thinking has to start young. I can see in the comments that some offended people talk about sexual expression like it’s a competition for how much you can get away with. Pointing out the flaws of others to justify your lowered standards is nonsensical. This isn’t about us vs. them or passing judgement – this is about treating yourself and your (perhaps future) partner with respect. This is about understanding how to avoid hurting yourself and those important to you the way others have been hurt. Desire to be the best version of yourself, and you will waste less time being bitter, jealous, and dissatisfied with the real world out there.

    • Joanne says:

      Those “actors merely mimicking the motions of sex” are REAL PEOPLE having REAL SEX.

      I wouldn’t feel comfortable if my boyfriend watched two people having sex real-time on Skype, and pornography represents exactly the same thing.

      I understand you have a different perspective but if you are going to allow pornography into your relationship at least recognize and be honest with yourself about what it really is.

  23. Didi says:

    Great review! As a partner in a 40 year old blissful relationship, I can testify that there’s no better stimulus to love making than “LOVING & SHARING” intimacies. Porn dehumanizes a sacred relationship and eventually erodes the necessary trust to conjugal happiness.

  24. ted says:

    The woman who wrote this article is a victim of gender studies. It’s not that men are bitter, they are just telling women what they do not want to hear. Porn is not the problem; the problem is the indoctrination of women in the universities as self-righteous victims.

  25. Not to state the obvious, but why two segments on why porn is bad for women? Really, when you wrote “How Porn Affects Men”, it came across as a gross caricature of what a female centrist/female supremacist would try and think of how porn affects men in a way that is bad for women.

    On this issue, you have to ignore in totality “how porn negatively effects women”. You have to understand that in many ways we live in a social matriarchy that views any form of legitimate compassion for males as detestable . Look at your article, you felt comfortable talking about the emotions of women and how they are impacted, but the emotions of men, and how porn impacts them (men’s emotions)are totally taboo to you, and how you incorporated typical shaming language(via the allusion to pedo behavior). It is typical herding mechanism of the social matriarchy to try and “shame men into line”; men pickup on it at the emotional level, and it builds resentment.

    This issue is like quicksand. The more you try and fight it for self serving(or visibly self serving) purposes, the more it will become entrenched. If the anti-porn crew actually looked at it from a purely male perspective, and grew the ability to feel compassion for males, far more could be done.

    Because your blatant female centric antics, you are only causing an “us vs them” type of dialogue to be created.

  26. robert108 says:

    The women’s liberation movement started in the Sixties to drive a wedge between men and women in this country, and to give women power over men in all aspects of American life. Disempowered men find refuge in porn, because it gives them back a sense of power in the porn “relationship”.
    Men are constantly portrayed in the popular media as inept, stupid and crass, and, IMO, this porn addiction is just a consequence of all that.

    • DARTH VADER says:

      my wife and I believe in equal rights for both sexes and that doesn’t hurt our relationship.

      If anything: her being able to vote and earn equal pay is sexy!

  27. JustRed says:

    My ex-husband, who was not my first, was addicted to porn, which he “forgot” to tell me about before we were married. He’s been using porn since the age of 11 and when I told him he’d have to chose between me and the porn, he chose the porn. It destroyed every relationship he ever had. I can’t say why men turn to porn, especially married men or men in a significant relationship other than they cannot, for whatever reason, handle the intimacy of a real sexual relationship. That’s something each man has to figure out for himself. Anyone who thinks who thinks porn is harmless is delusional.

  28. Huh? Watching something on a screen is the same as the real item? Someone needs to have to their head examined.

    Excellent article, and a spur to see the movie, which I didn’t know about.

  29. hurt says:

    My relationship ended recently largely because of this reason. I loved him dearly and he loved me, however progressively over a year living together, he began to spend more and more time with porn, and also rejected me more and more for sex (btw, my body and physical appearance had changed little over that time). Other than the porn issues, we had a wonderful relationship, we got on extremely well, had the same sense of humour, and treated each other with kindness and respect. There was also a genuine mutual attraction, which my boyfriend did have for me, when we initially together he couldn’t take his hands off me. I tried multiple things to get him interested again, however a year of rejection took it’s toll on my self-esteem and eventually I gave up trying, I still wanted him just as bad, but frankly, he did prefer porn over me and I knew there was no way I could compete with the waxed, tanned, anal-loving porn stars. Our relationship became more of a close mother-son, brother-sister, or father-daughter relationship, which suited him fine, but not me. I became angry because he wanted me all to himself, I couldn’t have an open relationship which would satisfy my sexual needs, yet it was perfectly fine for him to get his sexual needs met by porn. Although he did try and improve our sex life, and admitted he had a problem, he was unable to stop, and I knew that when he had sex with me it was more out of obligation than because he genuinely wanted it (can you imagine how that feels). Needless to say, that if it wasn’t for internet porn, we probably would still be having a wonderful relationship.

    • Elizabeth C says:

      That is exactly the same story with my current relationship except with help from a therapist he was able to quit.

      I know exactly how it feels to have your partner lose interest in you through no fault of your own. I became seriously depressed.

      I hope you find happiness in relationships in the future.

  30. Courtney says:

    Mary Rose Somarriba, this article is pure brilliance and now saved in my Favourites folder. Thank you in so many ways. This is SO needed.

  31. liz says:

    saw the trailer for the movie. it appears that the only thing that would deter a man from enjoying dirty gangbang cumshots is the promise of a relationship and love affair with someone as attractive as scarlett johansson. she’s “the one,” the woman who will teach him and mold him and change him. this sets up an unrealistic standard for girls and women who believe this, as well as men who think that there is a woman out there, somewhere, who will one day be enough to stop him from getting off to “white trash sluts” or “young, dumb, and filled with chocolate cum” or “max hardcore”

    *porn titles all real and from my ex boyfriend’s collection or the video store where i used to work

  32. DM says:

    Men are turning to porn because feminism has made women so masculine that they are no longer attractive mates.

    • Greg says:

      Men are visual, porn is freely available. As many have noted, boys are exposed to porn before they fully understand what it is. Far more explicit than finding Dad’s Playboy as a kid. the Gloria Steinem man-hating feminism did gender relations no favors – a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and all that. But it’s a pendulum. The totally dominant male and totally submissive female dynamic from which feminism erupted was not healthy for women either. Now we’ve just swung too far the other way, and in recent years I’ve seen women turn away from the militant man-hating feminism to a more balanced approach, only to find men have become emasculated beta-males who won’t dare express opinions or dare to take charge of anything.

      There’s more truth in the traditional gender roles than the feminists want to believe and there’s more truth to 50 Shades of Grey than anti-feminists want to see. There are plenty of strong, feminine women out there, just avoid the masculine ones… and work on what it means to be a man who can lead and be respectful and strong and adventurous. It’s a dance.

  33. Luison says:

    Wonderful article Mary Rose – very brave!
    I’m impressed that you referred to Roger Scruton: one of my favourite contemporary philosophers and social analysts.
    Well done and thanks.