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Is There a Gap Between Pornographic and ‘Real’ Sex?

by Jürgen Dewulff in Media & entertainment , 09 december 2013

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

In an interview with Dutch newspaper “Het Parool,” Bram van Montfoord, the twenty-six-year-old author of “Een jaar offline” [Offline for a Year] states that at first, he thought it was “incomprehensible” that “he did not download any porn during those last days before January 1, 2012.” As the title of his recently published book indicates, the author lived without a computer and a mobile phone for a year. Later on in the interview, the charming student, who went online again on the first of January 2013 says: “Like a madman, I started listing to music on Spotify [...] and visiting porn sites. I wanted more, more, more!”

The explosion of pornography on the Internet is one of the influential developments in recent times. Pornography is still on the increase, with legal pornography representing one third of all global internet traffic, and could have a massive impact on our sex life, according to some experts. From couples that feel the pressure to “have sex like porn stars” to young men who grew up with the consumption of pornography and have become addicted to it to such an extent that they really have to make an effort to have “normal” sex.

The first issue is a familiar one in the gay scene. As pornography no longer needed to be watched in sleazy cinemas but became available on home video, people started using dirty talk in darkrooms. Often with the same limited vocabulary and sweet-brutal intonation of some of the porn stars. “Suck that cock, punk!,” the top moaned in the dark. Or you could hear the bottom beg: “Fuck my ass... harder..., harder...”

Educational Experience

Earlier this year, a survey of over two-thousand young people under 24 by the current affairs program “EenVandaag” showed that more than half (53%) of the boys watch pornography on a weekly or even daily basis. Even though most of them watch it for pleasure, twenty-five percent of the boys also say they are learning something from pornography. They are using it to copy the art of certain techniques or for inspiration. Pornography also helps them discover their own sexuality. One of the questioned youths states: “By watching porn you learn to feel comfortable with your own sexuality. You learn about different preferences, and about what appeals to you and what doesn’t. Sometimes you see things you would like to try out, and it is a source of inspiration for the bedroom.”

Although a direct link with the consumption of pornography is not made, the survey by “EenVandaag” among sexually active youth also shows that twenty-five percent has experimented with bondage and blindfolding by or of their sex partner, while thirteen percent has engaged in role playing with a partner, and eight percent has experimented with inflicting or enduring pain.

Despite the educational aspects of pornography, many young people are certainly aware of the fact that porn evokes a dream world. On this subject, one of the respondents says: “I often find pornography extremely fake, but it can be quite educational when it comes to certain positions or movements. I think that porn is mostly for entertainment, and that you can only have good sex by doing it a lot and being honest in bed.”

Yet some experts fear that the ever-increasing consumption of pornography will warp people’s expectations about sex and that this will inevitably damage their sex life. In reaction to the results of the survey, sexologist Goedele Liekens is of the opinion that it is “dangerous” for their sexual development when young people are involved with fetish sex at such an early age: “It’s like driving on a racetrack when you are still taking driving lessons.”

Teenagers and Porn

For the British broadcaster Channel 4, the increase in the consumption of porn was the reason for its participation in the Campaign for Real Sex. Its purpose is “to reclaim sex from the airbrushed, surgically-enhanced, depilated, gymnastic fantasies and celebrate the joy of real sex.” Channel 4 wants to make sex - real sex - subject of discussion, the kind of sex that is actually taking place in the bedroom. This Real Sex season started on the 30th of September with the documentary “Porn on the Teenage Brain,” made by journalist Martin Daubney. Daubney resigned as editor of the erotic magazine for teenage boys “Loaded” after becoming a father and becoming aware that he no longer wanted to have anything to do with soft porn, which he had been peddling for over a decade.

In this documentary, he set himself to the task of understanding how pornography has changed over the last decade and what its impact is on young people, who are increasingly consuming more extreme material now that it is available free of charge and with an uncontrolled click. Daubney realized that his son will soon reach the age that most children will see pornographic images for the first time (at ten) and is trying to understand a world for which he feels partly responsible. He is trying to find out which effect pornography may have on a malleable teen spirit.

Whatever the results of Daubney’s exploratory journey may be, hopefully Dutch broadcasters will also air his documentary. Because as Gert Hekma stated in this magazine last year: “The Dutch are far from progressive and tolerant, but think the opposite, resulting in misunderstandings and erroneous politics.” A documentary such as “Porn on the Brain” could start a discussion on the pros and cons of pornography that is also necessary in The Netherlands.

Fuck Talk

The part of the show that was getting the most advance publicity is “Sex Box,” in which a gay couple and two other couples have live sex in front of a studio audience and talk about it. The term “live” should not be taken too seriously, as the couples “will be shielded from view in an opaque, sound-proof room attached to a studio, and will emerge to discuss their experiences with sex experts.” The person who came up with the idea for “Sex Box,” David Glover, calls the program “a rather mischievous, fun idea that actually allows sex to be completely private but the conversation to be truthful and immediate.”

The two gay men, who are both in their thirties, hope to crush myths about gay sex with their televised lovemaking. After their invisible and soundless session in the “Sex Box,” the gentlemen can take their place on the bench for a talk with agony aunt Mariella Frostrup, psychotherapist Phillip Hodson, sexpert Tracey Cox and American sex columnist Dan Savage. The latter was once the enfant terrible of homosexual agitprop, but has now become the wise father who always knows what to say to the boys after his commitment to husband Terry and the adoption of their son D.J.

The publicity stressed that the couples having sex are volunteers. This is understandable, as getting paid for their sexual pleasure would make it some sort of pornography, even though the porn would only take place in the mind of the viewer, as the studio conditions make it impossible for anyone to check whether these couples are having wild sex or having a cup of tea, only to recount a hopefully juicy sex story.

Diversity of Sexual Activities

As often is the case, the reactions to the announcement of this program are more interesting than the program itself promises to be. On for example, James Arthur White II, who works for a church organization, says: “Perversion period... Two hairy men having anal sex is disgusting.” Someone else is of the opinion that “Irrespective of how much they try and sanitise this stunt to make it acceptable for mainstream television, it will be extremely damaging to the gay, lesbian & transgender and intersex rights movement. The reason why is because it is over sensationalising sex and this is the one thing many straight people in society struggle to try and get their heads around as it is.” This criticism goes to the heart of an issue that is also sensitive in The Netherlands, as research shows that ninety-five percent of the Dutch are accepting of homosexuality.

But other figures show that almost half of the Dutch population would rather not see men kissing on the street, while only ten percent has problems with a straight couple kissing. And showing more than just kissing will obviously evoke more resistance. James Savik is not in favor of the program as “they will betray all of our best gay sex secrets!” The most relevant comment was made by DragonHawk1959, who wondered: “With the wide range of sexual behavior in the gay community exactly what myths are they planning to dispel?”

The emancipatory value of “Sex Box” may be debatable, but the program is a sign of progress in a country that was famous for prudish Victorian views that prevailed far into the twentieth century. Because of these views, still in the late 1980s gay men wanting to watch porn had to revert to illegally smuggled video’s or extremely blurred copies of copies of copies. Meanwhile, gays are also allowed to get married in the United Kingdom, but this legal emancipation of homosexuality does not mean complete social freedom. In many western countries, homosexuals are accepted, but should not be too flamboyant in their expression of their sexuality, and should behave heteronormative.

Also in The Netherlands, as Gert Hekma argued last year in Gay News, “traditional sexuality and gender values are imprinted on children.” This is what makes me think that a bourgeois gay couple will perform in “Sex Box,” and that the sex will not have a kinky, or even somewhat rough character. That is why I am glad that there is porn, because when it is consumed to a somewhat knowledgeable degree, it provides insights into the large diversity of expressions of (homo)sexuality. As Hekma concluded, “we do not value the cultivation of erotic pleasure. Their sexual urges are not the problem for young people, but how to find and enjoy sex. They need cultural knowledge.” This does not only hold true for young people, but a proper sex education that also pays attention to pornography could ensure that people have a healthy sex life that fully satisfies their desires.

Sex and Virtue

The survey by “EenVandaag” reveals that more than fifty percent of youth thinks that secondary schools should pay attention to pornography, but that only at one in five schools it is discussed in class.

An open discussion about sex should be applauded, but it should not demonize pornography. Too often people think that pornography, as author Alain de Botton states in an interview, “asks that we leave behind our ethics, our aesthetic sense, and our intelligence when we contemplate it.” He sees as an ideal “a version of pornography which wouldn’t force us to make such a stark choice between sex and virtue - a pornography in which sexual desire would be invited to support, rather than to undermine, our higher values.” But those who follow developments in the world of pornography know that this kind of material is already available.

That is to say: for those who feel the need for this category of pornography, as I suspect that most consumers are watching pornography to submerge themselves in fantasies that are most likely unattainable in real life. A European bottom would have to take a lot of coordination and organization for granted to get fucked by seven black men, like the title hero of “Joe White And The Seven Bros” (2011) and other guys in a large number of similar productions. Not to mention the fact that Joe “likes it raw and juicy,” and that in reality, common sense might make one rethink plans for a bareback gang bang.

The Rough Joys of Prison Sex

Someone would also have to go through a lot of trouble and take drastic measure to fulfil prison sex fantasies, an important theme in gay pornography for decades already. Exactly thirty years ago Al Parker landed in jail in “Weekend Lockup” (Falcon 1983), where two tough cops groped him salaciously before the three gentlemen removed their clothes to indulge unabashedly in all kinds of fleshly pleasures. Porn legend Jeff Stryker was also able to deploy his impressive tool behind bars and bring greedy bottom jailbirds to the highest states of ecstasy. And this development hasn’t stopped yet...

In Titan Media’s 2008 “Folsom Prison” Tony Buff is a corrupt corrections officer who seems to be pulling all the strings in a notorious prison, until Diesel Washington tries to break free and uses his massive manhood to forcibly fuck prison guards Markus Ram and Bjoern Giger. Ram en Giger’s colleagues Tony Buff and Vinnie D’Angelo, however, aren’t that kind of receptive punks and together they give both of prisoner Alex Baresi’s holes a hard pounding during an interrogation.

And what to think of Johnny Rapid, that incredible bottom slut of recent years who looks so innocent, but frequently lands up in jail, where he turns every top’s head with his greedy hole. The first time Johnny finished up in prison and was ordered to take a shower he was cornered by none other than brutal hunk Rafael Alencar, who unwaveringly let the lad get acquainted orally as well as anally with his huge pole. When this turned out to be not enough for Johnny, luckily a guard was on hand to present mister Alencar a black nightstick, which could also be inserted in the punk’s fuck hole. Often enough Johnny doesn’t shy away from being screwed by two cocks at the same time, and whether these belong to guards or other prisoners doesn’t concern him in the least. So, it’s not surprising that in December last year “Manhunt Daily” proclaimed that “everyone knows what the holiday season’s really all about - gay porn prison rape! Johnny Rapid and his gaping young anus can’t catch a break.”

Those who are watching “regular” movies, will never be informed of the fact that the depicted circumstances may not reflect real world situations. It would be commendable if people at first would see pornography as material in which also a world is evoked that only indirectly is connected to reality.

Source of Inspiration

One of the underlying problems of discussing (the use of) pornography without taboos is that our society still sees a monogamous relationship as the ideal starting point for sex. However, to quote Hekma yet again, love and sex are “different emotions that are sometimes related, but that relation is not imperative. And often it is better to experience those emotions separate from each other.” But because of this, sex is linked to such an abundance of emotional and moral restrictions that many people cannot see sex solely as a recreational and lustful activity. It is not for nothing that people who experiment with a large number of sex partners quickly get the negative label “slut,” and that watching pornography is seen as a form of cheating.

When pornography is consumed in a conscious and knowledgeable way, the unbridgeable gap between pornographic fantasy and “real” sex does not have to exist. It can be a source of inspiration for lust, also with a regular partner, and even when not all pornographic fantasies can be put into action.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 322, June 2018

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