News & Politics

Bigger, Harder, Faster

Pornography -- America's closet sex educator -- has gotten more technologically sophisticated, explicit and accessible. What's happening to a nation bent on titillation?
Read about love, I got you on the test-bed.
So why, don't you moan and sigh?
And why do you sit there and cry?
I do everything I'm supposed to do.
If something's wrong than it must be you.
I know the ways of a woman I've read about love.
Well, well, well, when I touch you there it's supposed to feel nice.
That's what it said in reader's advice.
In this 1991 song, Richard Thompson recalls a teenager who, after getting his sex query slammed by an ashamed Mom and Dad, "read about love in the back of a Hustler" and figured out "what makes a woman and what makes a man."

In today's "sexually open society," most parents remain uncomfortable talking to their children about sex. Teachers aren't allowed to educate their students, and boys and girls are left to learn the ways of love through the onslaught of commercial sex. Getting spanked at 11 after my parents caught me with a Playboy didn't stop me from rummaging through their sock drawers for more forbidden images. One pictorial that continues to slip into my fantasies is of a glowing naked woman caught in a spider web as the leathered and spiked "Black Widow" advances to devour.

Only pornography -- America's closet sex educator -- has gotten more technologically sophisticated, explicit and accessible. I didn't grow up with a VCR, let alone a computer. And, yeah, I'm glad that I didn't stumble earlier across a lot of the boom-bam-wham that's circulating now to trigger my turn-ons. Even the "softer" porn glossies zoom in on double, triple penetration. Videos have responded to the Internet's market with more fetishes, while websites vie for the 60 million daily porn consumers by pushing the outer limits of taboo.

Lessons learned often lack intimate exchange. One 27-year-old software engineer, who boasts knowing the names of a hundred porn stars, mostly comes on his girlfriend's face to draw attention away from her small breasts, which he says make her feel inadequate. A young wife I interviewed has never had an orgasm, but mimics the porn stars she grew up watching; she makes all the right faces and moans in all the right places for her honey. She says, "I never thought that pleasure had anything to do with me."

And one 30-year-old hottie I spoke to can't lure her boyfriend from his computer to their bed, as he racks up tens of thousands of dollars a month in Internet porn bills. "After hours online of bigger, harder, faster -- a slow, soft kiss just doesn't cut it anymore," she shrugs.

I say porn sucks, and not in a good way, once the aficionado starts getting off more behind his computer than he does with his sweetie and, when he does do her, it has to be up the ass while she's wearing stilettos and sporting a shaved pussy.

"I see how pornography always played into domestic cases, often men whose passion for it had eaten away at the family's core," says Utah porn czar Paula Houston, a single Mormon and presumed 41-year-old virgin. She has promised to crack down on Internet porn, which, among other evils, is thought to be the force behind a growing number of evangelical and Pentecostal sexual recovery ministries, such as RSA -- Renewal from Sexual Addiction. One Pure Desire seminar last fall attracted 400 straying pastors. A rural church recently burned "Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights" by ACLU President Nadine Strossen.

Various local, state and federal obscenity laws strive to keep porn out of the hands and away from the eyes of children and "perverts." But banning pornography to cure "cybersex compulsives" or other sexual addicts is as silly as banning food to shrink America's obesity epidemic. Like food, even junk food, porn serves its purpose. Today's hyper-porn reflects America's supersized culture. Bigger, harder, faster is the name of every game. Extreme is gold.

I agree that a lot of porn can be more alienating then enhancing for lovers. But so is much of our consumer culture that spends billions of dollars each year to urge you to find your sexiness in a new pair of boobs or your power in the latest Lexus. Government can't restore moral order to society and re-ignite romance between husbands and wives by taking away sexual candy. Its consumption may or may not be good for you, but it's not what makes you gluttonous.

For those concerned with the crass vacuity of today's mass sexuality, lasting change happens with greater diversity of thought, information and images. As is the case with ex-porn star Candida Royalle, who creates erotic flicks from a woman's perspective for her Femme Productions. Or David Steinberg, who photographs couples in long-term, loving relationships, capturing their sexual connection, mystery and play. His black and whites, including those of a man with cerebral palsy and others of a woman with polio, are by far the sexiest porn I've ever seen. Porn reflecting humanity -- the most radical taboo.

Lara Riscol is writing "Ten Sex Myths That Screw America," a book she began while completing a master's degree in contemporary issues and public policy at the University of Denver. Write to her at [email protected]
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