Men and Porn

by Chris de Serres

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When I was a child I was very curious.  When my parents weren’t home I used to go through their drawers.  On my father’s top drawer was an array of items.  A keychain with a brass figure that had a huge penis.  Coins from Spain, Turkey, and France.  An Olympic Games hat that had a somewhat hidden message under the bill.  It said Fuck Russia.  There were old keys from the 20’s.  I always wondered what locks they fit.  On the top of his dresser he had this box with a hidden key tucked in a side panel and a keyhole hidden in a slot underneath it.  It was a magical box.

He kept his pants in the very bottom drawer.  Underneath the folded pile was a Playboy.  It was the edition with the pictures of Vanna White.  I began to look at it more and more when I reached an age where I noticed girls.  I wondered why he put it in a hidden place.  Maybe he didn’t want us boys to find it.  Maybe he didn’t want Mom to know he had it.  Maybe he was ashamed.

Maybe we all are.  Us men.  We have porn.  We watch porn.  A lot.  Yet, we secret it away in drawers or we delete our browser histories.  Is it our Puritanical Christian background that drives us to cover it up?  I have friends, women and men, in France who don’t carry this weight in the same way we do.  Sex is like breathing over there.

The first time porn felt normal to me was the day I started listening to the Howard Stern Show.  For all the vulgarity and showmanship, he talks a lot about his personal life.  His family life with his wife.  Their love for animals and support for no-kill pet shelters.  He is in many ways remarkably normal.  He watches porn when his wife is away.  He uses porn to relieve himself.  He experiences the shame we all feel from porn, but he sees it as part of the male experience.  I have never seen porn spoken about so freely.

I have female friends who tell me that their boyfriends or husbands don’t associate with porn.  I’m not sure I believe them.  It’s so ingrained in the male experience.

In my childhood you had to find a way to get a magazine.  Now it’s free and available on demand.  You can watch it anywhere, on any device.  There is a conversation to be had on this.  What the proliferation of porn is doing to our relationships.  How it alters the male perception of what sex should be, should look like.  How an attractive, sexual woman should behave and look.

It creates an unattainable sexual standard for women.  Is it the reason why some men go to strip clubs or pay for prostitutes?  They need to find a woman who will do to them what the women in porn are willing to do.

There is no doubt that porn complicates our personal relationships with women.  We see women as objects for gratification.  We have trouble developing sexual intimacy because that’s not what we see in film.

The moral question of pornography only obscures and distracts from the deeply rooted problems with porn.  The barrier it creates to a man’s healthy sexual life, experienced with someone we love, respect, and care deeply about.

What we do in childhood stays with us for the rest of our lives.  It creates a persistent blueprint we go to again and again.  My early sexual experience involved looking at pornography, relieving myself, and feeling strangely ashamed of what I just did.  This aftereffect stayed with me when I began having sex with females.

It is a weird feeling making love to a woman you respect and love and feeling shame afterward.  Where did this shame come from?  Is it now built into my experience of sex?

This made my early sexual adulthood quite complicated and generally unsatisfying.  I wanted to feel that sex was good and right from beginning to end.  This post-sex hangover I experienced for so long had been ruining my sexual life and many relationships.

]Many men are locked into this pattern of shame.  Often you don’t realize it’s an issue unless you talk about it, but us men don’t like to talk about our sexual issues.  It’s part of the male experience to portray sexual potency loudly and proudly.  We are quite ostentatious in our display of virility.  Just like the brass figure in my dad’s top drawer.  We don’t seek counsel for sex.  We are too easily emasculated by such conversation.  Even though, if we did, it could improve our lives forever.

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