Opponents of pornography often claim that it is harmful and warps minds. I am here to testify that this is completely true. If it had not been for straight porn I might not have turned into a homosexual.
Unlike my peers I did not stumble into a stash of dirty magazines when I was younger. I do remember finding a naughty calendar (Miss April wore some overalls that barely covered her nipples, and Miss June was embracing a pillow with no underwear on!) but that was about it. It wasn’t until I made the worst decision of my life (using the Internet) that I was exposed to pornography.
I confess that I found those initial images titillating. Boobs! Hips! I also confess that I found myself looking at wee-wees and chest hair more often that I should have, but that is not what this entry is about. This entry is about power.
There is an Internet quotation often misattributed to Oscar Wilde that says “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” Once I got beyond the novelty of seeing the mechanics of coitus, the power dynamics in pornography quickly became evident, and they were horrifying. The pretty women in the pictures and 10-second video clips did not seem to be enjoying themselves. Their male partners often were domineering and comtemptuous of their female partners. Even those women who claimed to “want it” did not really seem to want much at all. Was this what sex was about?
As most of you know, I am manipulative and abusive. It’s part of my family history and it is a part of me. I felt traumatized by displays of aggressive domination in my family home (aren’t I a special snowflake?) and I despise this aspect of myself (even though I am unwilling to put in the work to change it). As such, displays of coercive power are a real turn-off to me, as are situations where I witness forced consent (sometimes called “choiceless choices”), where a party chooses an option they actively dislike because no other option is better.
I interpreted a lot of that early porn as forced consent. I am not even talking about degradation porn or BDSM stuff — just the run of the mill depictions of baby-making between men with large ding-dongs and young women. These depictions further cemented my beliefs that women don’t have sex drives or enjoy sex, and that straight porn is exploitative. Ordinarily these are post-orgasm realizations, but in my case seeing these things ruined the mood entirely.
This is not to say that gay porn was a lot better. There is an awful lot of “broke straight boys” nonsense out there, and a lot of dynamics involving very young men. Normal gay men find these kinds of young bodies hot, and I guess I should have as well, but again I saw too much exploitation and forced consent for my comfort.
For some reason I felt that older men and women had more choices in life, and it was easier to fool myself into thinking that depictions of sex between older people was voluntary and not just consensual. Furthermore the older people having sex occasionally seemed to be enjoying themselves. But there were other power dynamics at play as well. We like underdogs, so seeing the kind of person who is usually powerful (namely, middle-aged white men) being dominated stings less than seeing an already-exploited young person exploited further.
Moreover, even though gays classify themselves into “tops” and “bottoms” even the bottoms seemed less coerced into their roles; they had penises too, and could become tops if they so chose. To my warping brain, it seemed as if bottoms had more agency and choice than young women. And then there was reciprocity. It was rare to see men performing oral sex on their female partners, and when they did it was perfunctory and short. Meanwhile, extended fellatio sequences were mandatory. Even rarer than cunnilingus was cuddling; male partners did not seem to enjoy the company of their female consorts much. In contrast, even tops would perform oral sex on bottoms, and sometimes they would hug and cuddle.
But my real downfall was categorization. I am sure there is good straight porn in the world, but it is a real chore to find it in the sea of awful exploitative junk. Even finding porn between middle-aged men and middle-aged women seems impossible. In contrast, the gays provided many convenient search terms for less-exploitative sex between older men: “older”, “mature”, “bear”, “daddy”. There was still noise in this taxonomy, but it was easier to find smut that did not horrify me. What are the corresponding terms for straight porn? “milfs”? Good luck with that. The best I have been able to do (and this was years later) is “swinger” porn.
As I have aged my views have shifted somewhat. For one thing I find myself much more bored by porn than I used to be. The hunt for new scenes can be exciting, but the results are almost uniformly disappointing, and searching for them is huge waste of time. Overall I am much less happy with professionally-produced porn than in my younger years. Intellectually, I have also softened my stance on sex work. It is true that many of the people depicted in porn don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, but how many of us look forward to our jobs? It still really upsets me to see exploitation, but working at a fast-food joint is also exploitative, and for some reason I am willing to tolerate that. Furthermore some of these depictions of exploitation are just an act, and even though I still find them awful to watch, it does not necessarily mean the participants are actually being exploited. Finally, I have come to realize that sex is about power, and lots of people find these displays of power hot. (Hello, 50 Shades of Grey.) But for the most part these depictions are not for me, even as I harbor my own illicit power-based fantasies.
But the damage has been done. Pornography warped my impressionable mind. Now I am a homosexual, and not even the respectable kind of homosexual who is attracted to muscular twinks who are strictly above 18 years old. Obviously the best course of action would have been for me to chastely avoid the Internet entirely, but even if I hadn’t how much better might my life had been had I been able to find appropriately-categorized straight porn easily, instead of turning to man-on-man smut? Might I have been spared this lonely, loveless life?