Found an old, unpublished draft sitting in my queue. Not sure why I didn’t publish it. I hope I’m not overlooking some glaring error I meant to come back and address…
So, heads up. NSFW. Read and click the links at home.
A reader posted a clever video titled “Porn vs Real Sex: The Differences Explained.”
Later, they posted their own response to it. Towards the end of the review, they state:
Naomi Wolf wrote a really interesting article for the NY Mag you may be interested in called ‘The Porn Myth’ and it basically discusses the fact that men no longer consider a naked female a novelty. Instead she needs to be naked, on her knees, and willing to have a ‘facial’. As I said, I don’t think porn is solely to blame for such behaviour but nonetheless, it is interesting to investigate. Here is the link to the article:http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/
Here I believe they get two separate issues with two vastly results conflated. We’ll take them in reverse order.
- As the review states, the point of the video is that many aspects of human sexuality are factually misrepresented in porn. Typically this takes the form of skewed frequency distributions. Certainly there are people who look like and act like porn stars, but the misrepresentation happens because 100% of people in porn are porn actors, and therefore are a poor sample for setting expectations for one’s own encounters. This is a function of quality, or what one expects from a given encounter (ie, “on her knees, and willing to have a ‘facial.'”) This can be corrected with an education on facts.
- The review also states concern that “men no longer consider a naked female a novelty.” While porn certainly plays a factor in this, the author’s error is that novelty is a function of quantity. No education on the difference between what is seen in porn and what is seen in the real world is going to change the fact that there is a lot of porn out there. Whether the porn is statistically representative of the general population’s appearance and preferences is irrelevant.
Why is this distinction important? Because although I don’t think the author intended casually lump these together, I suspect the author they cite, Naomi Wolf, probably did.
People usually try to conflate issues when they are employing a sleight of hand. The trick is to use an emotional reaction to one issue to get you to look past their flawed reasoning and also accept their position on the second issue.
In 1965 you could get a husband without sleeping with someone
In 1975 you could get a fiance without sleeping with someone
In 1985 you could get a boyfriend without sleeping with someone
In 1995 you could get a date without sleeping with someone
In 2010 you’re lucky to get a phone number if you don’t have sex first.
The fact that real-live sex is abundant (quantity) was a direct, and in fact intended and desired outcome of second-wave feminism and the sexual revolution. However, modern women are beginning to realize what was always an inevitable consequence of this shift; difficulty in finding and keeping a marriage-minded man.
What Naomi Wolf is attempting to do is conflate this issue of quantity of freely available sex with the unattainable looks of professional porn stars, which is an issue of quality. She hopes readers will identify and commiserate with not being able to live up to these standards. From there, she can work backwards and guide her readers to conclude that it is these standards which are lowering the value of sex, because no one in real life is “porn-worthy.”
However, she slips up in her own writing when she says:
When I came of age in the seventies, it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman. There were more young men who wanted to be with naked women than there were naked women on the market. If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up. Your boyfriend may have seen Playboy, but hey, you could move, you were warm, you were real.
Notice that the era she seems to yearn to return to was defined by access (“be able to offer”) which is, again, a measure of quantity, not quality. The looks of porn stars have little to do with the modern-day value of sex; the fact that sex is everywhere has everything to do with it. The link between supply and demand is unbreakable.