Pornography From Another Perspective

So let me just start out by saying that the title of this entry is a bit edgy for even me. Pornography is an uncomfortable and awkward topic. And my thoughts here are likely going to be uncomfortable, awkward, and provocative for some folks.
Some years back, there was a “disturbingly candid” essay by a pastor in the Christian periodical, Leadership about his struggles with pornography. There were several noteworthy insights about pornography from this essay, but I’m going to focus on just one.
The insight is that the pastor was attracted to these images because they were unreal. The women in the pictures never had bad days, they were never anyone’s daughter or mother, never crabby or demanding, always suited his moods, needs, and wants. There were no mood swings. They were always respectful and encouraging. They were unreal.
Dan Phillips (via Pyromaniacs 29Mar2011) continues this thought: “That is why so many women resent actresses and models, in general. It isn’t catty pettiness or smallness. It is that they know how visually-tempted men can be, and they know that they can’t compete with a fantasy …”
In other places, the unreality of these women has been exposed by the use of photographic manipulation and the recognition that, at the best, merely one to two percent of women have – at any one point in their lives – ever looked anything like the images that are displayed. The vast majority of real women just do not look like that. The women in the pictures are unreal.
Any so-called ‘relationship’ the man viewing these images had with these women was fantasy, wishful thinking, a daydream, a willing delusion. The whole basis of pornography is anchored to the pleasure that this fantasy creates. And none of this is really news. We understand male pornography pretty well.
What about female pornography?
Hold it – what?? Is there such a thing?
Most certainly. The mistake is to think that female pornography is about beefcake male models at Chippendales. That is a significant minority of what I have come to recognize as female pornography.
Let’s back up and take a 50,000 foot view. What is it that makes images of naked women a starting point for male pornography? It is because they are images. Men tend to be far more visual in their ‘attractiveness’ criteria. Men are attracted to visually pleasing women. To be blunt, men want to have sex with a physically attractive woman.
Now let’s look at the other side. Are women attracted to visually pleasing men? Sure, but that is not nearly as strong an attraction as to emotionally pleasing men. Stereotypically, women want romance, conversation, emotional connection, relational intimacy, and so forth. To be blunt, women want to have sex with an ‘emotionally attractive’ man.
So what is female pornography?
Where can women readily gain access to depictions of emotionally attractive men? Where can they perceive of men who are always attentive, relationally intelligent and engaged? Men who express unconditional love, romance, and excitement?
Romance Novels.
Romance novels are full of men who are unreal. The males in romance novels speak and act very differently than the vast majority of real men – men who actually exist.
A real man comes home from work sitting at a desk where he can’t be as active as he should be and so has put on some pounds. He’s battled the actual job, fought against the tyranny of an idiotic organization, and run the gauntlet of stop-and-go traffic for an hour. He comes home and is exhausted, grumpy, and wound up. He is curt and needy. He’s unreasonable, to be sure. And when he crawls into bed with his wife after the two of them have had a couple of tense moments during the evening, he still wants to cuddle – on his terms – which ultimately means sexual intercourse.
Traditionally, the man in the romance novel is not like this at all. He looks like Fabio-Robert Redford-Brad Pitt-George Clooney. He leaves work in the middle of the day at a moment’s notice and rushes to his lady-love to assure her that he really, truly, deeply loves her and engages in generous slow-motion cuddling for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. This is not a man who really exists. He is a fantasy. He is not real.
By the way, the current version of the romance novel male circles around vampires, shape-shifters, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget the male homosexual market.
Romance novel readers Love That Man. They buy books to relive this fantasy experience again, and again, and again, and again … Sound familiar? There are A Lot of books being sold to support these female addictions. Whatever else you may call them, romance novels are clearly making a lot of money. To top it off – they are displayed and on sale by the yard-length shelves at Walmart, Target, Kmart, and other fine ‘family-friendly’ stores all over the country.
It is more than interesting for me to observe that digital book readers (such as Kindle) are much more popular among women. The technology of the digital tablet is partly fueled by the market demand for electronic books. “Romance readers buy in volume and velocity, making them optimal digital readers.” I am reminded of a quote that I heard in the early 1990’s. It went something like this: “All emerging publishing technology (books, photography, movies, radio, VCR-DVD, internet) has been propelled by two forces: religion and pornography.” Think I’m making this up? Check this out: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/157/angela-james-harlequin-ebook. 
Kindle technology and female pornography – linked at the hip.

Yes, Virginia, there is female pornography. I hope your mother is having a responsible conversation with you about it. Just as I hope that your daddy is having a responsible conversation with your brother about pictures of naked women. And that is pornography from a different perspective.

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