This month Cosmopolitan ran a story on porn; ‘Exploitative or erotic? Sexy or sordid? Porn is now not only big business but an accepted part of the male sexual psyche. So what role should it play in women’s lives today?’ All fair and good and the story gave a pretty good range of views including a brilliant piece by Caitlin Moran who wisely observed ‘The act of having sex isn’t sexist so there’s no way pornography can be inherently misogynist.’

My main interest in porn is the way some women seem to think they are entitled to decide what their partner uses. I saw a post on handbag.com many years ago that stayed with me; the poster argued that when entering a relationship with her she expected a man to grow up and put his immature bachelor pastimes behind him. Some games console time was permitted but getting drunk with his mates, junk food and pornography were out.

I thought she was joking at first.

In day to day practicalities men in relationship do settle down of course. The fiancé just about never sees his friends without me because they’re all in relationships and I get on with most of their partners. We generally eat well and we’re far more likely to watch Mad Men than porn (although if I’m fair that’s possibly because Christina Hendricks doesn’t make porn).

But it’s nice to have a break. I’m going away for a few days and while my plans include afternoon tea with the girls, shopping for curtains and discussing baby plans with my newly pregnant friend, the fiancé will probably play a lot of Xbox, order a skanky Chinese takeaway and see what new grot the internet has to offer.

Do I care? Of course! I’m disgusted that after the many beautiful Asian meals I’ve cooked, he’ll still eat a gloopy day-glo possible-rat-not-pork dish.

But it’s none of my business. Likewise, unless it was having an impact on our sex life, I don’t think I have the right to comment on how much or what type of porn he uses. The reason is because I think we all have a secret life and are fully entitled to that.

I’ll start my defence with romantic comedies. Romantic comedies feature unrealistically attractive, funny and romantic men who magically change the lives of women. Their plots tend to be fairly weak and real men often compare unfavourably to the tall, witty and sensitive characters on screen. No wonder most men hate them!

Imagine if a man wanted to control his partner’s consumption of Rom Coms? He’d be derided as being controlling and completely unreasonable. The films would be defended as escapeism and something to simply enjoy. Women know they aren’t real and we don’t really expect life to be like that.

Just like porn then?

I consume Rom Coms like porn. It’s a cheap fix when I can’t be bothered to plan a date. I prefer to watch them alone and keep a box of tissues to hand to clean up the tears that the fiancé has termed emotional ejaculate. I know my habit is a bit unhealthy but it’s not like I do it often and I still prefer the real thing (even if he does insist on self congratulating himself after issuing a kiss that leaves me weak at the knees).

I can’t give a good reason for liking Rom Coms. The best I can offer is that they meet a need. Or perhaps desire is a better word. I have lots of desires. I like to daydream about moving back to Malaysia. I don’t actually want to move back but I like to think about it. I have hundreds of fantasies, many of which I’ve never told the fiancé about. I like that they’re mine. There are things I like to do when I’m alone that I don’t tell him about. We typically exchange emails around lunchtime updating each other about our day and I sometimes leave things out.

I like the statement that there are two types of men; those that watch porn and those that lie to their partners. I’d pick honesty any day. Perhaps it’s because I see curtailing your partner as an alienating activity I see porn as the exercising of a secret life or perhaps it’s an act of self-defence as by demonstrating my reasonableness, I feel more comfortable taking liberties myself (next month I’m going to Istanbul by myself for a fortnight). Perhaps I’m just realistic enough to recognise that nobody can be everything to someone and more importantly that I wouldn’t want to be everything to someone.

So what role does porn play in this modern woman’s life? For the most part, none. I go months without thinking about the stuff. Which seems to me a reasonable way to go about things.

Disclaimer: While not being a consumer of pornography I nevertheless believe in the right of expression whilst protecting the interests of the potentially vulnerable. As such I applaud the efforts of organisations such as CAAN (Consenting Adults Action Network). Unless something is explicitly and demonstratively harmful I do not believe our right of access or engagement should be curtailed.


10/10/2013 03:26:11 pm

I agree with you porn is now not only big business but an accepted part of the male sexual psyche. I really appreciate your work especially the research part of it which made the whole point very easy to understand.

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