Mink Stole brings up a point from ‘Lesbian Caricature’ that I have been meaning to address for a long while but have been unable to formulate words on the topic. Women and porn.
It’s high time I did something on it though because, quite frankly, it comes up rather frequently. It’s almost as if the phrase, “But BB, women look at porn too” is intended to completely remove any and all problems with porn just because, ‘women look at it too’.
It’s a topic that needs addressing and, quite frankly, I’ve held off on it because I don’t want to alienate any women reading who are currently ‘on the fence’ so to speak, over pornography and the harm it does. Unfortunately it’s been coming up more and more lately and I don’t think I can hold off on it anymore.
First I want to acknowledge Mink Stole and her (rather brave) comments. Kudos to you for telling us about your experiences as well as filling in some of the blanks I had on gay male pornography. And now I’m going to jump right onto the bandwagon and come right out with my story.
I too used porn and I am a woman. For a many years when I was younger, I looked at pornography. My soon-to-be-X really started it for me. Until that time I had obviously seen porn and I had even watched it at the prodding of my first X but I never ‘used’ it myself, as in, I never popped in a video when I was by myself to masturbate to. My second husband changed all that and within a few months of moving in with him I was actively watching it as well.
Like Mink I also watched quite a bit of BDSM porn. It didn’t start out that way, but it sure as hell ended up that way. My X inaugurated me into it and my ‘porn phase’ lasted around 2 years (give or take). Mind you, that was 2 years that I was actively using it myself rather than just watching it to pacify the man I was with.
Like Mink I too changed my mind. This happened slowly however. What I can tell you from my experiences as a woman is that initially I was repulsed by pornography. My stomach would churn and grind and my face would remain frozen in a mask of disgust and, I daresay, apprehension and fear. Slowly though, this changed for me, but it never changed completely.
Even whilst I was actively seeking porn out I would always feel dirty and stained after I watched it. I would look for the stuff I wanted to see, watch it, masturbate, orgasm and then promptly go and shower. It’s a very difficult sensation to describe, this sort of revulsion coupled with the compulsion to look at it in the first place, this strange cycle of compulsion, justification, masturbation, revulsion and cleansing.
I began to realize that there was a serious problem when, one night, I was having sex with my husband and realized that I was seeing porn images in my head while we were being intimate. I noted this relatively early on and it troubled me. It bothered me that I was ‘seeing’ porn in my mind, that I was seeing the degradation of women (and yes, it was pretty much always women) and getting off to it even when the actual tapes were no longer playing.
At first this was an unsettling occurrence, a strange intrusion, but I wrote it off. I would recognize the image in my head and I would try to turn my mind elsewhere, like maybe onto my actual husband, the man whom I loved and cherished (at that time anyway). But, after a time, focusing on my husband began to feel strange, harder somehow than just thinking about the images I had seen before. It was easier to regurgitate the stuff I had seen earlier in the day, or earlier in the week.
There came a point where this became very troubling. A point in which I began to feel dirty and stained from the images my head and my television were spewing out at me. There came a time when I began to shower after sex, NOT because I just wanted to shower, rather because I felt just as dirty as I did when I was watching the porn.
There was a problem and it was making me feel simultaneously dirty, sexual and self-conscious. Slowly but surely I began to question the things I was seeing. I began to wonder why I despised those women and yet was using them, even in my own head, to get off to. Slowly the veil began to thin and the guilt and disgust I would feel afterwards would grow stronger than the compulsion to look at the stuff in the first place.
Eventually I sat down and had an honest discussion with myself. I asked myself honestly, what was I getting out of porn? The answer surprised me. It terrified me. It shamed me and disgusted me and the twist in my gut that I felt when I heard my own answer, the defensiveness and immediate arguments that sprang to my mind proved, more than any lie detector test, that the answer was indeed correct.
I was getting a sense of power from watching the humiliation and degradation of the women on the screen.
I was claiming power, the all-elusive power that women strive for their entire lives, from degrading and enjoying the degradation of other women. I had absorbed a lesson from the patriarchy: women are easy to degrade, weaker, and more vulnerable, so much so that even another woman can take their power. Watching women being slapped and hurt was filling that void within me that was taken so many years before by men. It allowed me to feel powerful and in control.
That’s what I was getting out of it. I was getting a sick satisfaction at watching other people be humiliated.
For me it had to be women I watched. The thought, the very idea of taking control from a man could not, ever, manifest in my mind. The idea of humiliating a man was so foreign to me that my mind discounted the possibility of it immediately, before it even blinked on the radar. I had spent my life with men controlling me it was clear, at least to me, that I would never get power from them. Instead, I turned to women even more vulnerable than me. Women who were even EASIER targets to take power from than I was.
Clearly, these women were pained, and I watched it. I saw it in every movie, in every picture, in every scene. I watched and heard the fake screams and I took power from their misery. I watched their faces twist for just a moment into a face of pain when they were penetrated anally; I saw it and I used it to make myself feel better. In some way I was taking their power. It was ME, it was certainly ME wielding the power over them in my mind, and it was the thought of ME taking their power on the screen that brought me to climax.
It wasn’t the sex, it wasn’t the vaginas or the breasts or the tanned skin. It wasn’t some sort of biological excitement from seeing two people having sex (although, that’s what I told myself for a very long time). It was the power that is inherent in degrading and humiliating another human being that brought me climax. I was stealing THEIR power, taking it from them in my fantasies and on my TV. With every orgasm I was stealing the little dignity that these women had left and using it to feed my own, seriously lacking, seriously damaged, sense of power and control and self-esteem.
And I hated them for it. I hated them for reflecting my own weaknesses back at me. I despised them for allowing their dignity to be taken from them, just as I had done myself. These women were, in so many ways, a reflection of me, of my OWN powerlessness, and I hated them for ‘letting’ themselves be used in such a fashion.
At the same time I hated MYSELF for using them. I hated myself for being a vampire of sorts, a kind of ‘self-esteem vampire’. A creature which was incapable of making her own self-esteem and who therefore took it from other humans. But self-esteem garnered at the expense of another human being does not, and never can, replace your own. It simply drains from your body because it never belonged to you in the first place. Power that is stolen from another person is always empty power, it never fulfills, it never leaves its mark on you for more than a few days, sometimes even a few hours.
This is the hallmark of EVERYONE I have ever met that uses pornography, males and females alike: low-self esteem and a horrible fear of being exposed as being weak. The common theme inherent in everyone that I have ever met who uses porn is low-self esteem, oftentimes depression, a sense of worthlessness, and a sense of being out of control. Porn becomes the mechanism by which these folks, males and females alike, gain control. There is an almost universal deep-rooted sense of insecurity, combined with a fear of failure. And these fears and these worries are alleviated, at least for a time, through porn.
But it’s not as simple as that because stolen power is never power and the sense of control only lasts for a little bit before the same old fears come creeping back in. The same old doubts, the same fears of failure, the same insecurities.
Pornography is about control. It’s not about sex, it’s not about lovemaking. There is nothing natural, normal or healthy with pornography.
Yes, women use pornography, but the fact that women use pornography doesn’t make the dangers of pornography disappear. Rather, it brings them into sharper focus. Women who are using pornography are getting high on the same sense of control that men are. Women who are using pornography are degrading the women in their mind and hating them for the same reasons that men are. The difference is that women will many times wake up of their own accord. Since we ARE women, we see the degradation and we, just as men, train ourselves to get off to that degradation. Unlike men however, we realize that we ARE women and sometimes, oftentimes, this realization hits us when the men we’re with begin to want to degrade US in the same way that WE are degrading the women in our minds, or the women on our computers or on our TV’s.
It is then that many times we will realize the dangers and see that WE were only a tiny margin away from being THAT woman ourselves. When our partners begin to want to degrade US the way that they degrade THEM, the false distinction that we make in our own minds between US and THEM disappears entirely. Then we realize that we are just as vulnerable as they are. It is then that we understand that we are no different than the porn stars, we are just as vulnerable to men as they are, and the power and control that we believed we were getting was simply not real. It was just a phantom, and now we’re being asked to perform those same acts.
That moment comes for many women. That moment when their partners ask for the things that the porn stars did. And we recognize the trap that we’ve laid for ourselves.
That’s what happened with me. Soon my husband began to ask me to do the same things for him that the porn star was doing. What could I say then? I mean, after all, I was watching the same damn thing he was and he knew it. If I didn’t do those things then I would have to admit to myself that they were degrading and I’d see the paradox, I’d see the holes in my illusion. I’d be forced to see that I wouldn’t want those things done to ME, and yet I wanted to see them done to other people.
So I did them. I did them and I tried to pretend that I liked them. I tried to act like the porn star because I was invested. Soon however, I began to see JUST how horrible it felt to have cum on my face. Just how terrible I felt when he called me a ‘whore’ and a ‘slut’. I realized that when he asked me, “Do you like that you little whore?” and I moaned “Yes, fuck me harder” that I really didn’t like the way I felt afterwards.
I finally saw it all for what it was and I finally sat down and had that talk with myself. I finally saw my intentions and what I was getting from the porn, what I was getting from watching women be called names and be spanked. I saw it and it fucking scared me to death. It scared me and it shamed me and even now, at 6:30 pm on a Monday night a full 12 years later I am still shamed.
This was a post I didn’t want to write. This is my own confession; this is the story of a woman who watched pornography, who consumed the pain of other women to soothe my own painfully damaged confidence and self-esteem.
It was only after I pushed the pornography from my life that I was able to feel good about myself. It was only then that I began to be able to be honest about the things that I liked and didn’t like. My husband didn’t like it. He raged at me, angry that I would ‘suddenly’ take away ‘his right’, that I would do such an about-face.
He continued to watch. He continued to ‘indulge’, openly at first, and then on the sly when he realized that I refused to let it in my home. I watched his slow progression into wanting more from me. The way he took his confidence from me, the way he fought the battles with me over sex, over the things I would and would not do for him.
For those men and women who insist that pornography is harmless I ask, why do you watch it?
For most people that answer is, ‘Just to masturbate to’, but I’ve found that I’ve never met someone who watches porn who is truly confident.
When I was watching porn I was more insecure than I have ever been in my life. I was chaotic, I drank too much, I self-medicated with alcohol and sedatives to numb myself to my own sense of worthlessness. I allowed degrading things to be done to me because I was numb, I was dead inside I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Since I have stopped watching porn, since I stopped allowing it in my life and in my home, I began to heal. That healing took a long time; it was hard to do when I was living with a man who was still taking power from a real, live woman, the way he and I had both taken power from the women on the screen.
For those of you out there who do not believe that pornography is degrading to women, I ask you something. For men, would you want your daughter, your sister, or your mother being treated the way that men treat women in pornography? Think for just a moment about your father calling your mother a whore while making love to her? How about the thought of your daughter laying on her back spreading her vagina wide open for a stranger and the camera?
You don’t think porn is degrading? I suspect that if you ask yourself the above questions honestly you will find yourself with answers that belie what you say to others.
For women. If you don’t believe that you’re getting power from pornography then ask yourself, would you really WANT to have 3 men ejaculate on your face? Would you really want a woman to don a strap on and fuck YOU doggy style while calling you a whore and a slut?
Would you be a porn star yourself? With everything it entails, rather than the Jenna Jameson fairy tale? Would you be the free internet girl?
Then why should you be orgasming to them?
~ Biting Beaver