You've officially been warned that this is a poorly written, disorganized rant right here in the title.

Holy Christ on a cracker, do I have a lot to say about this. Mostly, it takes me straight back to the time I somehow ended up on the Ariel Levy discussion panel when she was coming to give her reading at university, and what an unholy nightmare it was, trying to sit in that room with those.... female people while they flippantly attempted to discuss feminism and female sexuality, the whole time only managing ridiculous posturing without any substance or real thought or emotion or any kind of inkling whatsoever that what they were talking about was themselves.

People get so arrogantly detached off into theory sometimes that they forget that theory doesn't exist without humanity. What I see and touch and smell and feel and taste is not less real than the reasons I might see, touch, smell, feel or taste something in a certain way.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?

K, first of all, I'm not "competing" with shit. How out of touch with reality do you have to be to take a statement like this seriously? A guy would rather sit in and watch porn on his own than be with a less-than-perfect real, living, breathing, flesh-and-blood woman? Since when? And what kind of guy, exactly?

The women in porn do not look like real women. They are not supposed to look like real women. Of course, there are all kinds of variations these days, but the stuff your regular, run-of-the-mill type of guy is watching does not contain images that will ever, ever remind him of his girlfriend (or his sister or his mother) -- that's done on purpose. Get back to me when you want to go a bit deeper than "her tits are bigger than mine and her tan is so perfect wah wah wah" and maybe we can get into this. Get a fucking grip.

Furthermore.... how can I compete with a woman who has no sexual needs of her own, no voice of her own, no will of her own and who is completely submissive and under the control of her 'partner'? Answer: Who fucking cares? Who wants to go anywhere near a man who finds those traits desirable, let alone coming to the conclusion that he allowed, of all things, pornography to develop this desire in the first place? This is where this article takes a real Cosmo stance right from the beginning -- I'm going to talk about women! women! women! now! I'm going to give women a voice! I'm going to tell you how women feel! are affected! All through the frame of how desirable they are to men. I mean. Oops.

For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.

Utter bullshit. How many men do you actually know? Not even worth responding to.

... pornography—and now Internet pornography—has lowered their sense of their own sexual value and their actual sexual value. 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... Our younger sisters had to compete with video porn in the eighties and nineties, when intercourse was not hot enough. Now you have to offer—or flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face scene.

Again, congratulations on marginalizing women within your own article. Standing in front of a man naked and willing isn't enough anymore, so I've lost my sexual value? I can't even respond to that. And. AND. Intercourse alone isn't enough anymore? Well, thank fuck for that. See, I live in a world where sex isn't work -- it isn't about me performing for my male partner, or being a living, breathing place for him to wank off. I live in a world where women can enjoy sex and be satisfied by their partners and experience pleasure through exploring and pushing the limits of their own sexuality. Last I heard, intercourse alone wasn't really enough for most women to begin with. As for me suddenly feeling like I have to let some guy jizz in my face to feel like I have any real sexual value, well... I think anyone who thinks that way probably needs to be in therapy for a few different reasons. And furthermore, Ms. Wolf, I don't have to offer anything. To anyone. Ever.

The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what
they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy. The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman. Mostly, when I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike. They know they are lonely together, even when conjoined, and that this imagery is a big part of that loneliness. What they don’t know is how to get out, how to find each other again erotically, face-to-face.

Sloppy. For some reason, she's now presupposing that there was some imaginary time in America's not-too-distant past when women, I guess, felt completely free to ask for what they wanted in bed, and were somehow not going to be judged by and for what they were or were not willing to do there. This mythical place in the past apparently also had all men completely in touch with female sexuality and aware of (and concerned with) how to please a woman, with the two genders sexually connected on all levels. Then porn came along and destroyed all of this, apparently.


Like they say, boys and girls -- the world's oldest profession is the world's oldest profession for a reason. Commodified sex and sexuality has always existed in some form or another, and it always will. For some people, this causes problems. Like for some people, alcohol causes problems. But blaming pornography for our sexual and social dysfunctions is going at it backwards, no matter what moral stance you take on the issue. We make pornography. We -- the human beings -- make pornography. There is nothing inside of pornography that we didn't put there. It doesn't have a will of its own -- it's only a symbol. Like so much of Wolf's work, here she is again trying to make something new out of something ancient, and sounding quite ancient herself while she's at it. And I wish to fuck she'd stop making a victim out of women. Pop-feminism at its absolute worst -- worse than even Cosmo, because some people actually mistake this claptrap for theoretical writing, and then it gets published in fucking New York Magazine and then I'm forced to write a six page rant about it over my lunch break.

Ms. Wolf says: I want to talk about what porn is doing to human sexuality.

Then, Ms. Wolf says: This is what porn is doing to male sexuality.

If we're going to do this, let's do it all the way: How do women feel when they watch porn? Are women sexually stimulated by porn? Have women raised their expectations for the performance of male partners based on watching porn? Do women only watch porn while in the presence of their male partners, or do they (can they) enjoy it alone? With other women? How do men feel about not being able to live up to the size standards set by pornography? Are men emasculated by porn in this way? Is there a woman out there who has secretly been praying for years that, just once, her husband would ejaculate in her face?

Yeah. Maybe it's not New York Magazine material. But if you're gonna play at it, mama, you better be ready to admit that you're just playing.

Good grief. I'm sorry. But it had to be said. By the way, if you're dating a man who can't watch porn without (in any way, shape, form or fashion) comparing you to it, dump him immediately. And post his photo online so everyone else knows to stay away from him. Because that is not fucking normal, no matter what Ms. Wolf would have us downtrodden fairer feminine masses believe. That kind of man has seen his day come and go -- he's outdated, and soon he will be marginalized. No intelligent woman would go near him in the first place. With any luck, natural selection will take over and these people will get bred right out of existence, along with all the homophobes in the world.

Too far?

Anyway, I haven't the foggiest idea why Wolf takes such pleasure in trying to resuscitate these kinds of issues and place women squarely back in a 1950s secretary box. One might even begin to find it suspect, and wonder which side she's really on.

Happy Tuesday!


Kali said...

Good, clean, rant.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I agree with your stance on theory and how it affects argumentation -- negatively.

But I will side with her to some extent (even though I haven't read the article you are referring to).

Pornography, television, models, Hollywood, and pop-culture in general has created idealized images of women and men. In order to create an extraordinary experience to draw audiences (and their money), the media had to create an institution of idealization that leaves audiences dissatisfied with reality.

It creates women who are thought to be superior. Renee Zellweger is a good example. She is marketed and sold as very attractive and desirable... and yet... without the make-up... she is pretty average. In fact, take the makeup off of most actresses and actors, and they all look pretty damned average. Because they are.

People are aesthetically compared to these mythological, synthesized people. But so what? The vast majority of well-balanced, psychologically fit people know how to separate reality from fantasy.

But what they are perhaps not aware of is how this affects their judgments of other people. What if most of the people do not physically meet the idealized image that you were raised with? You will still date, fornicate, befriend, etc., as normal. But how do you value them? If we were to associate a monetary value to human company, how does your *real* boyfriend or girlfriend compare in value to those being paid millions in entertainment? Are you less satisfied because you cannot have the ideal image?

In my experience: No. Nobody thinks this way. Nobody even feels this way, is affected this way subconsciously, and if they are it is a result of far too much subversion into the media and a lack of real-world interaction with real members of the opposite sex.

But then there are the idiots. The idiots *do* promote this kind of shallow, bizarre fetishism with the unattainable (and ultimately undesirable, as fiction can never match reality). They enforce the necessity of eating disorders and plastic surgery. They can be found all over television and mostly in the ever-so-popular reality television shows. They are freaks, to many people, but as these types of programs gain legitimacy and the stars (who were formerly victims) gain credibility, we encounter a bit of a problem. The young, the naive, and the otherwise idiotic will entertain these peoples' opinions and actually consider them to be feasibly normal.

Normal, intelligent, educated people are not so easily affected by portrayals of beauty and sexuality in the media. But I would not be so quick to dismiss the affect of idiots upon the media. Their voice is louder, after all, as there are few intellectuals to be found in the mainstream entertainment media. And when they are there, does anyone ever really listen to Dr. Drew? (And he's the best we'll get of an intellectual on MTV -- that lovely institution of psychological distress in young people).

On the whole, I agree with your position that reality neither reflects abstract theory nor is it greatly affected by abstract sexual performances. But there are other forces at work that undermines the satisfaction that men and women receive from members of the opposite sex in real social interaction. In other words, the absence of intellectualism, social grace, and other facets of the mind in the media causes a fixation upon the physical qualities of a person. Such is a shame -- because you can't airbrush-out the faults of the genepool.

I actually feel stupider for writing this. But I did. And I did it poorly. And I'll hit "publish" anyhow. Oh well.

Tuttle said...

Actually, Liz, the rant wasn't all that poorly written or disorganized. It did lack any comeback to Wolf's arguments much beyond "if your man compares you to pr0n queens, dump him." And your first graf is devastating!

Wolf never comes close to showing that pr0n turns turns men off to the real thing. But alas, I don't think you make much headway rebutting her contentions.

Also, I think you're wrong, at least on the guy end of it. You make some good points--there's nothing in porn we didn't put there, Wolf's mythologizing of the past, etc--but you miss (IMO) the main truth, which has always been true, and is arguably even more true in our overtly sexualized age: men view women as sex objects.

Of course, women are more than merely sex objects, but men size up women on a first viewing in terms of their desirability (and availablity) for sexual congress.

Back in the early 80s, I remember a James Lincoln Collier (one staid, establishment writer if ever here was one) essay in Reader's Digest whose thesis was that men get married principally to have a regular sexual partner. Reader's Digest!

"the stuff your regular, run-of-the-mill type of guy is watching does not contain images that will ever, ever remind him of his girlfriend (or his sister or his mother) -- that's done on purpose."

Dunno where you got that idea from, but the women in pr0n have pretty much all the same things any girlfriend of mine ever did, just maybe moreso.

I have had beery-eyed 2 AM talks with guy friends who sort of confessed that during sex they were more or less masturbating (to some idealized figure) into the girl. I have known guys who tape their encounters for later viewing.

Now, as to whether women are in competition with pr0n images, I don't think so, beyond what I already said--I do think it has changed the level and value of intimacy.

But you don't really have much of a rebuttal other than your personal view. Which is well and good, but even less authoritative about the zeitgeist than Wolf's citations of when she "speaks to women on college campuses".

Indeed, I think the best thing you write is the graf that begins "If we're going to do this, let's do it all the way:" Answers to those questions would illuminate the subject considerably. And Kinsey's probably been there.

MikejGrey said...

Robert Pollard has a song called Soggy Beavers. I'm sure that has something to do with all of this.

Kel said...

"Normal, intelligent, educated people are not so easily affected by portrayals of beauty and sexuality in the media." --- I strongly disagree with that comment. It's not only "the young, naive and idiotic" that are affected by all this...I know plenty of "normal" and "educated" and "intelligent" women who have struggled for years with eating disorders that are fueled by this whole media circus.

Also, just for the record, women can view other women as sex objects, too ^_^

And I like living in Korea where I don't have to be bombarded with all of this on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

This is where the otherwise-lovable .38 shows his other .06 calibers of fury.

"--- I strongly disagree with that comment. It's not only "the young, naive and idiotic" that are affected by all this...I know plenty of "normal" and "educated" and "intelligent" women who have struggled for years with eating disorders that are fueled by this whole media circus."

Intelligent? Intelligent how? Reads Shakespeare like a champ, but cannot digest a letter of Darwin? To whom do you converse?

There is a lot to be said about eating disorders. There is a lot to be said about media circuses. But there is very little to be said about distinguishing between the two. There is nothing normal about eating disorders. The sooner this is recognized, the sooner we can overcome such a silly notion as idealized physical forms. You are what you are; self-destruction is temporary at best, permanent at worst.

And I like living in Korea where I don't have to be bombarded with all of this on a regular basis."

Good for you. But I suppose that the sexual revolution will eventually come to Korea, and when it does the unintended consequences will be thrice as severe. Not only will sex become desanctified and comodified, but it will likewise become a nationalized necessity. Men in Korea are all ready de-sexed. The consequence is that women are ultra-sexed. They make up for the imbalance with makeup, mirrors, and flaky behavior. If you cannot compete, your genes vanish.

Ultimately, the educated and the refined will reject notions of sexual compartmentalization. As long as the argument is relegated to an "us v. them," patriarchal heterosexual royal, rejection of "womyn," there will be no headway against notions of heterosexual chauvinism with either gender. Whether the fact that lesbianism exists (determined by your adamant supposition that women can subject other women to sexual fetishism), then you will fail to grasp the notion that fetishism is a state of mind.

Fetishism is a form of projection. Feet do not equate an evolutionary advantage worthy of determination in reproduction. But the fetishism does exist. Likewise, there is a greater value placed upon intellectualism in today's society. Those who mindlessly adopt the notion that sex-appeal is proportionate to their relativity to the representations found within television -- likewise will they be passed over to an antiquated specimen of the species.

But if puking up everything you eat is your thing, then by all means go analog. If physical sex is your primary motivation for sexuality, then by all means perpetuate the notion that the human body is a physical symbol for a base reaction.

Those of us in the 21st century, however, will continue to fight the good fight for humanization of the human body and equalization between the two spheres of genetic conceptualization: physical form and intellectual ascendance.

alan said...

"Holy Christ on cracker" .... you just have to love that opening.
What the hell happened to Ms. Wolf for her to be so threatened? Watchin' too much porn?
Keep ranting Liz.
Also just for the record, women can view men as sex objects too. :)

I'm no Picasso said...

Wow there's a lot going on here, but I'm happy to see it. I could probably spend three hours responding to all of this, but I'll try to condense it down as much as I can.

This is, obviously, a rant and not an article or a rebuttal. Were I to write a rebuttal, it would take a lot more than thirty minutes of unresearched stream-of-consciousness to form a coherent one. My point was not that porn doesn't affect both genders' perceptions of body image, but rather that this is nothing new. Yes -- women are sexually objectified by some men. What about that started with porn? Is my point. Porn changes sexual objectification -- we can't deny that. And discussions about porn, since it has broken through to the mainstream, are extremely important. I just don't feel that Wolf managed to make it to a level of discourse that was worthy of absolutely any print space. She failed as soon as she embraced the singular perspective of "men view women this way and women feel bad about it". It was flat and lacking dimension and any real depth in all directions.

As for the women in porn being "real" women -- of course they are real women. And that's important to think about. And talking to a woman who was involved in the porn industry would have been a hell of a lot more interesting than any of this managed to be. But my point is that, yes real men may want to fuck the women they see in porn. Would they want to marry the women they see in porn? Would they want to introduce the women they see in porn to their parents? Would they want the women they see in porn to be the mother of their children? It's just more of the classic separation between the virgin and the whore. Wolf didn't even try to tackle that issue, which you think would be important in her singular chosen avenue of "men want this out of women".

Of course the media affects body image. Of course real women have issues with the way porn depicts women and the expectations that creates for them. But my issue is with how Wolf almost propagates that practice, by saying "We used to be able to be sexual objects for men in this way, but now we have to work harder to be successful sexual objects for men." What? Why is she not even trying to rail against these practices, but instead complaining about how hard it's become to live up to other people's idiotic expectations? Fail. Fail fail fail.

As for this all being my personal view, of course it is. That was my original point. It seems as though Wolf stopped being a woman when she started writing this article. We have a voice. I don't have to speak about women as the other -- I can speak for myself, as a woman. And Kel can speak for herself, as a woman. And that has real value.

I'm no Picasso said...

As for Spesh, man you know I love you. But it seems to me you're speaking from outside on this one. It's easy to see an eating disorder from the outside and say, "That's silly -- why are you doing that? Just stop paying attention to what others say and have a fucking a sandwich." If it were that simple, people wouldn't die from it. It can take even people who are suffering from an eating disorders literally years to understand the how and why -- you shouldn't be so quick to criticize it from the outside.

As for this:

"But I suppose that the sexual revolution will eventually come to Korea, and when it does the unintended consequences will be thrice as severe. Not only will sex become desanctified and comodified, but it will likewise become a nationalized necessity. Men in Korea are all ready de-sexed. The consequence is that women are ultra-sexed. They make up for the imbalance with makeup, mirrors, and flaky behavior. If you cannot compete, your genes vanish."

That is an extreme, extreme oversimplification, even for a blog comment, and one that has many inconsistencies with what I have observed and how I have processed it during my time here in Korea. I don't mean to sound like cultural relativist in the extreme here, but this is one place where I will say without hesitation that it sounds very much like you are sizing Korean sexuality up using a Western understanding, and it just doesn't work that way. It's far more complicated than that. First of all, comodified sex is very, very much an everyday part of society in Korea already. Comodified sex has little to do with individual sexuality -- in fact, it would seem to me that the more sexually repressed a society is, the more interaction it has with a comodified form of sexuality. It has to exist somewhere.

Furthermore, men in Korea are far from de-sexed. Far. Western men view Korean men as de-sexed because they don't have a clue what's actually going on. Korean men are openly sexual and openly seek sex. I have no idea what them being "de-sexed" means, because it's simply not true. At all.

And Korean women are not ultra-sexed. Their makeup and mirrors have nothing to do with being sexual. In fact, the hiding of their sexuality goes hand-in-hand with the hiding of any other kind of undesirable blemish.

Mr Nameless said...

From my experience it's horses, grannies, midgets and rottweilers that men think of as sex objects.....or am I not looking at the right porn?

I'm no Picasso said...

(L) for Mr. Nameless.

Anonymous said...


But I still stand by my supposition that Jello is sentient.

And you owe me medical bills for the thrashing you just gave me. I accept cash, checks, paypal, and greeting cards.

I'm no Picasso said...

Payment? Mr. Spesh, sir -- some men would pay good money for one of my thrashings, you know.

Anonymous said...

Some men have strange fetishes, it seems.

Perhaps the masochism porn is to blame.