New York Magazine considers the impact of I-porn in “Not Tonight, Honey. I’m Logging On”.
[T]he mass consumption of cyberporn has slyly moved from the pathetic stereotypes (fugitive perverts, frustrated husbands) into the potent mainstream (young professionals, perhaps your boyfriend). Thanks to the advent of cable modems and DSL connections, it’s now easier than ever to scan lewd material in the privacy of your own home. One minute you’re reading the New York Times, and then two clicks on Google and–oops!–you’re downloading highlights from Jenna Jameson’s oeuvre.
And why not? After all, we live in a society that not only has embraced porn but giddily lavishes it with high-brow attention. Frank Rich “analyzes” adult entertainment in the Times. Writer Irvine Welsh revisits the Trainspotting crew as it makes a skin flick in his latest novel, Porno. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders offers a coffee-table book of photographs of porn stars–with essays by literary types–and it’s snatched up by an A-list publisher. Porn is not merely acceptable; it’s hip.
Of course, for those not just talking about it but consuming it, cyberspace offers the luxury of total anonymity…
Emily Kramer, the 25-year-old co-founder of Cake, a “female sexual-entertainment company,” explains that the subject is utterly commonplace among her nouveau-bohemian pals. “It’s like a joke among my close male friends,” she says. “I’ll ask, ‘What did you do last night?’ and they say, ‘I was up till five in the morning jerking off to the Internet.’ It’s just like, ‘Oh, whatever…’”
It may be a viable laugh line, but when does it stop being funny? Over beers recently, a 26-year-old businessman friend shocked me by casually remarking, “Dude, all of my friends are so obsessed with Internet porn that they can’t sleep with their girlfriends unless they act like porn stars.” A 20-year-old college student who bartends at a popular Soho lounge describes how an I-porn-filled adolescence shaped his perceptions of sex. “Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says. “I mean, in school, it was just, ‘Here’s a gigantic wooden dildo, and now we’re putting a condom on it,’ whereas on the Internet, you had it all. I remember the first time I had sex, my first thought as it was happening was, Oh, this is pornography. It was a kind of out-of-body experience. I was really uncomfortable with sex for a while…”
Rick admits his isn’t exactly the healthiest outlook on dating. “I think it’s a substitute for reality,” he says. “What you can’t get through real life, you can get through porn…”
Though Rick, who has never had a serious girlfriend, doesn’t consider looking at cyberporn a problematic pastime, he will admit that it has affected his interactions with women… “I think it’s made me more picky,” he says. “These girls on the computer are just so hot. Obviously, you want to get with a girl like that. So you may be at a bar with a girl, and she’s really cool, but she’s not a ‘10,’ you know? She’s cool, she’s cute, but you quickly start to notice flaws…”
“At first, it was kind of a natural thing, and then it got compulsive,” [says 23-year-old Dan]. “I’d feel unnatural when I went to bed if I didn’t look at it. Then I said to myself, Okay, I’m gonna go a week without it. But I could only make it three or four days…”
“[E]specially in urban environments, our professional lives are very much go-go-go!, and we put our emotions to the sides,” [explains psychologist David Marcus]. “Porn can provide an instant soothing to emotional stress.” Ursula Ofman, the Manhattan-based sex therapist, agrees: “The Internet provides such an easy out that you can manage without any real-life contact for a long time,” she says. “And since Internet porn is so accessible, it’s often very difficult to wean men from it.” Marcus prefers to classify I-porn consumption as a compulsion rather than as an addiction. The difference? “There’s an anxiety component to it,” he says. “In medical terms, we call it ego dystonic, which basically means that it’s a behavior that goes against your sense of self.”
Jill was in love. It was the late nineties, she was a sophomore at a competitive state university, and she found herself smitten with Kyle, a junior with a confident strut who also happened to be the editor of the school newspaper, which won him instant parental approval. By the end of that year, they were a serious couple. Jill knew that she had discovered not only true love but, to put it bluntly, great sex as well.
So when, after a year, she learned that Kyle spent quite a bit of time looking at pornography—first online, then, eventually, on videos too—she wasn’t immediately put off, despite being a psychology major who seriously questioned the morality of porn. “I was the kind of girlfriend who was up for anything sexually,” says Jill, who is 25, has hazel eyes, and works in PR. “When we were having sex, he’d call me his porn star, and I thought that was hot.”
In time, this changed. Kyle would sometimes e-mail her links to sites “he thought were really hot,” which made Jill more than a little uncomfortable. Sometimes, she’d drop by his house for a surprise visit and he’d have already “exhausted himself” with the computer…
They have since broken up, and have stopped talking. “He was a lot more innocent when he was younger,” she says. “He was looking for love and companionship. Now he just wants a good lay. I’m sure he’s looking for some huge-breasted, tight-assed bitch…”
These days, she feels “very jaded about love and sex,” but every so often, she finds her cynicism dissolving… “I think it will be really rare, and hopefully it will happen, that I can meet a guy who will be happy with only me.”