Is porn the norm?

14/05/2011

Photo of graffiti near my home.

My morality, your morality, his morality…

When you are from Paris and you live in Melbourne, people say Oh la, la and laugh when they see my tiny dog. For them it is so incredibly French. In the hope of escaping that cliché, I explain that I never say ‘Oh, la,la‘ and that I got my dog at the Lost Dog’s Home without having any idea she would stay so small and, I insist: ‘ Oh la,la I have owned big dogs before.’

I have since realise that when I do say Ah, la, la quite often, like a lot of French people. But, I wonder, must my views on sex also be French? Do I think that unfaithfulness is inevitable? Do I believe that all men look at porn as a matter of course?

As a child my father once pointed out a small cinema to me. ‘I don’t look at their pornographic images anymore,’ he confided, ‘I turn my head away!’ He made it sound like a kind of triumph. He would always assume I understood anything he told me. I glanced at the grey pictures and saw people who appeared to be floating between grey sheets. Their bodies stretched out and yawned in their strange positions. ‘Pornographic’ was just a word to me. Some words were like cars, their content shielded behind smoky windows, speeding away to the outskirts of my understanding where they floated in grey limbo (a bit like the people in the sheets). These words were not unfriendly, just impenetrable. After living with two men I discovered a few things of course. Through the years, I have also heard other women relating their own experiences. One of them walked in her partner’s workroom one evening. He had his computer facing the door and didn’t notice that the porn on the screen was reflected on the window behind him. (One of my partners had a similar arrangement, except he had his back to a wall instead of to a window).

Photo taken near my home eight years ago

I discovered quite by chance sadistic porn literature on a website created by this man. (It had never come to my mind to google him before we broke up.) ‘Poor men’, my father would tell me, ‘poor men, it’s hard for them.’ I’d look up at him and nod wisely. Men are fragile, they are animated by strange mechanisms, they can even explode at any time…

Sex was one of my father’s subjects. ‘Man has a little finger,’ he explained, ‘that he has to put in the lady several times a day where it becomes as big as a bottle of coca-cola and then,’ he would pause impressively, ‘it explodes! And if he can’t explode his bottle in a lady every day, he can become very sick!’ After that I wasn’t so keen for any more explanations. I would look at men and wonder. Where had they hidden their bottle of coca-cola? In their briefcase maybe? What if it exploded out of hand? I kept a weather eye on men. Their explosive nature also made me vaguely philosophical about the mysteries of their behaviour.

‘You can’t legislate pleasure’, another woman said to me. ‘That reminds me. I must get batteries for my vibrator,’ she added. I nearly fell off my chair. ‘Yes’, she nodded with her sweet smile, ‘zzzzzzzzz, it’s fun’. What an adult does to him or herself and what two consenting adults do to each other is nobody’s business. But her free spirit admitted being happy her partner was not into porn. What makes porn sound distasteful? Yet why has porn existed since time immemorial?

But is porn such a party? Why do so few women look at porn? Even the least Jane Austenish amongst them? Do they ever gaze into the eyes of the porn stars and wonder what they are thinking? Could they be lonely and sad as they straddle their male counterparts? Could they be talking of jam and crumpets and joking about the whole thing? Or do they blank out and dream of a garden?

A sister? A friend? A wife?

Some need to whip up their fantasies to be able to ‘make love’ as if you could ‘make’ love and  love didn’t happen out of the blue. Many men seem to need to separate sex from feeling. while women appear to blend the two more easily. Romantics come out as dinosaurs today, as if emotion were a new sort of shocking porn, as if it was more courteous to keep one’s passions within the safe realm of bodily postures.

Photo taken from my car.

The strangest thing about porn is that is universally frowned upon and universally accepted in the same breath. When I discovered the man I had loved not only created his porn website but had penned every story on the site himself, I stayed in my bedroom for six days. Porn flu. Why of all the men on earth had I got involved with this man? He was a compassionate, clever, tender, humorous companion. Yes, but he also lived in fear. Fear is powerful bond. When two people live in fear – even if their fears are not similar – they are both on survival mode. And they prefer lie to themselves and never be real people to each other rather forsake their strategies of survival.

Men may be even more scared of death than of their ‘explosions’. Eros and Thanatos were intimately linked for the Greeks. It could be a sacred terror for men to penetrate the place they crawled out of the very first day of their lives. In the Ancient Mysteries, initiates had to go down into holes in the earth and lie there in the dark in a parody of birth and death. The vagina itself is strangely evocative of the tunnel Near Death Experiences all speak of. Maybe porn is the mysterious loci, the Purgatory, where one rubs against one’s most intimate sorrow.

The image of the small, grey cinema of my childhood comes to my mind. The photographs of those grey bodies seemed disincarnate, a crepuscular emotional region, a ‘cave of forgotten dreams’. Sexuality between adults is indeed nobody’s business whether they be participants or voyeurs. Human sexuality appears to have as many branches as a genealogy tree. Doctor Richard Kraft Ebing’s  exhaustive list of all the sexual practices and deviations on the planet in his Psychopathia Sexualis fits to a T with the Marquis de Sade’s enumeration sexual fantasiesWhen a doctor’s research echoes a writer’s imagination, the archetypal world seems very close. Yet, porn is tainted. To admit openly to have been as drunk as a skunk the night before, brings out a smile. Admitting to an evening of porn could create a lull in a conversation. Our Judeo-Christian culture could be the culprit. The Ancients handled things much better. They had the bacchanals and the dyonysian mysteries instead of having small grubby grey cinemas in side streets.

Now porn has taken a violent, cruel turn. The internet has provide easy access and a discretion that the Marquis of Sade did not have locked up in the Bastille Tower. Someone told me that men look at porn in the same proportion women consume romantic fiction. We console ourselves of an existential wound that hurts us all in different ways.

I worked in Melbourne in a second hand bookshop for a few months and a blond, slim girl bought a book. I loved the author but had not read that one yet. We talked about it. She paid and left. A few days later, she returned and plonked the book on the table. ‘For you’, she said. After my effusive thanks, we pursued our conversation. I asked her what kind of job she did. ‘Oh, I’m a stripper’, she answered. I swallowing quickly and asked her if she liked her work. ‘Oh’, she said, ‘it lets me read as much as I want.’ I stared into her eyes and we smiled at each other. I suddenly felt she was one of the delicate hinges of this complicated world. She wasn’t happy, she wasn’t unhappy, she performed a balancing act between her nature, the nature of society and men’s nature. I was staring at the mystery in action. It was there, in front of me. An unexplainable human being.

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