The Sexualization of Summer

Preface: This is actually something written by my 13 year old daughter. In class they have been listening to some of Rick Mercer Report’s rants and as an assignment they had to write thier own and keep at the minute mark or just under. They will be filming their rants and compiling them together as a class.
I always encourage my kids and try to teach them as much as possible. I’m sure like most parents I have my moments when I question how effective my parenting is not just as a mom but as a woman…a guide. This is a short piece but it’s yet another small piece of evidence for me that I’m not doing as bad as I think I am sometimes.
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The Problem With Porn

The Problem With Porn

Porn is everywhere today. It’s impossible to pinpoint when it happened, but some time in the last couple of decades, porn went mainstream. Before you had to go to the seedy part of town to pick up a magazine or order a stag film that came in a non-suspicous brown package. Now, you can find porn pretty much anywhere you look. On TV, at your local bookstore, and especially on the internet.

This movement of porn into the mainstream is generally viewed as a healthy liberation from the suffocating sexual mores of older generations. While it’s fantastic that society has gotten past its Puritan prudishness, I do think the pendulum has swung too far when it comes to the ubiquity of pornography in our culture. Unfortunately, the ill effects that porn can have on men and women often go unnoticed by the media. Many men are left with the impression that  the proliferation of pornography is an entirely healthy phenomena.  But what effect is porn having on men? When I look around at guys today, I would say without equivocation that it’s sapping their manliness.

A Level-headed Approach

Pornography is such a polarizing issue, that it’s easy for people to take extreme sides when approaching it. Oftentimes, religious people, while very sincere in their beliefs, brand porn as vile filth that turns good men into sexual perverts and unclean lepers. I’ve sat through plenty of church sermons where porn is approached this way. However, such a approach hardly helps men rationally think through the issue. Rather it transforms porn into an even more desirable forbidden fruit, pushes porn consumption into a secretive underground fetish,  and prevents men from being honest in their need for help.

The other extreme sees porn as just a healthy expression of sexuality. Pornography is heartily encouraged in order to help people discover what pleases them sexually, no matter how graphic or violent the material is. The people in this camp will argue that as long as consenting adults are involved and no one gets hurt, then anything goes. However, this approach fails to recognize the detrimental effects porn can have on an individual, on women, and on society.

Neither extreme is helpful. What I want to have today is a frank, rational, discussion about porn and its effects on men. I’ll lay my cards out on the table from the get-go. I don’t think porn is good in any setting. I’ve just seen too many people hurt from it. But I understand that reasonable people can disagree on this issue.

Porn Can Ruin Your Life

Some people have argued that porn use can be as addictive as drugs. Personally, I don’t like the addiction label. It’s too easy to hide behind it as the reason you can’t help yourself. When I think of addiction, I think of people who suffer physical withdrawal symptoms when they finally quit. I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten the shakes when they go a week or two not looking at porn.

There is, however, no doubt that porn can be a full-blown compulsion. It’s more like food to a compulsive over-eater. Once you make those pleasure connections in your brain they can be very hard to break. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that porn can ruin your life. I know of a couple of marriages that broke up because of the guy’s insatiable addiction to porn. And I know of long-term boyfriends and girlfriends who have split up because of it. The stories out there are real and numerous. The man who gets out of bed at night and sneaks away from his wife to watch porn in his office. The man who keeps a secret stash of magazines in his car. The man who watches porn on the job and gets canned when he’s caught. I could go on.

I won’t deny that some men can consume porn and not suffer these kind of consequences. Just like I know men who have an occasional drink and aren’t alcoholics, I know men who dabble in porn and don’t become compulsive porn users.  But even if you’re one of those men who can consume porn without becoming dependent on it, I still think there’s a case to be made that porn should be avoided.  It simply won’t make you a better man in the least. And it can diminish your manliness for several reasons.

The Ways in Which Porn Saps Your Manliness

1. It objectifies women.

A real man sees a woman for who she is. He respects her and her individuality. He sees her as his equal and as a person that deserves respect. It takes a lot of work and effort to interact with women, but a real man has the cajones to do it.

Porn, on the other hand, objectifies women. It turns women into “things” that are only there to gratify a man’s sexual urge. Porn eliminates any need to connect with a woman emotionally or intellectually.

If you want an idea of how insiders in the porn industry feel about women, just ask Bill Margold, a long time performer. For Margold, his “whole reason for being this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don’t care much for women and want to see men in [the porn] industry get even with the women they couldn’t have.” One writer for porn movies (they have writers?) said that pornography creates the illusion “that women are really in their rightful place and that there is no serious challenge to authority.”

If you have to view porn so you can feel like a man, you’ve got some problems. Real men don’t have to turn women into things to feel like a man.

2. It supports a filthy industry

Almost no man I know would hire a prostitute for sex. The idea of paying a stranger for sex violates their sense of propriety. But porn is basically prostitution, just a few steps removed. No matter how you slice it or rationalize it, you are paying a stranger to have sex. It’s pretty gross when you take a step back: you’re paying people to have sex so you can watch them do it. No man would ever want his sister to be a porn star, so why is it okay for someone’s else’s sister to do it? The more porn that is consumed, the more porn that is made. Even if you’re sitting in your den in Omaha, you have a hand in making the industry grow.

3. It will mess with your expectations of sex

Porn creates unrealistic expectations in the minds of men about love and sex. In porn, the women are always hot and ready to go and have perfect airbrushed bodies. Best of all, the women don’t talk. Men don’t have to worry about nagging or having to interact with the women they view in magazines and videos. Men can just have their way them, and be done with it.

The reality is that women don’t want to have sex all the time, not all women have cantaloupe-sized tatas, and women like to talk. Sometimes a lot.

Porn-obsessed men thus have a hard time starting any type of meaningful relationship because the girls they meet don’t measure up to the women in their magazines and on their websites. And when a man does establish a loving sexual relationship, many sociologists have noted that men who have used porn view their partner through a “pornographic filter.” They’ll resort to impersonal fantasy of some porn scene when they’re having sex because the love for their partner isn’t enough to satisfy them.

The porn-brained man also pushes his woman into doing things she’s not very comfortable with, seeking to act out the exotic scenes he’s seen on film. And he’ll think women are all about it. On sites like Jezebel (the writers of which are far from prudish women) women complain that men of this generation will sometimes do things like ejaculate on their face the first time they have sex, thinking that every women thinks that’s really hot. What a sad commentary on today’s men.

If you want to have a good love life, avoid the porn.

4. It creates a cycle that diminishes your sexual pleasure

While society says that more is always key to happiness, the truth is that moderation is. The pleasure receptors of our mind are sensitive mechanisms. When you first try something new, be it travel, food, or porn, the stimuli easily activate these receptors. But after repeated exposure to the stimuli, your pleasure plateaus. At this point, people often reach for more-more food, more sex, more porn, etc. in order to recover the initial pleasure they once took in the experience. But this only begins a vicious cycle in which you must seek ever greater and more intense stimulation to return to your initial pleasure level. Eventually you overwhelm and numb your pleasure receptors.  Studies have shown that when looking at porn you get used to the level of graphics-ness that is portrayed and then need to ratchet up that level to get the same thrill from it. And where will that cycle end?

While society may sell you on the idea that the more sexual images you cram into your life, the happier you’ll be, the opposite is true. To quote Naomi Wolfe:

The reason to turn off the porn might become, to thoughtful people, not a moral one but, in a way, a physical- and emotional-health one; you might want to rethink your constant access to porn in the same way that, if you want to be an athlete, you rethink your smoking. The evidence is in: Greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity.

After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.

5. It saps your manly confidence

Porn saps a lot of confidence you have in yourself. Men usually turn to porn when they’re depressed and lonely. Instead of making the effort to get out and meet real women, many men take the easy way with porn. More often than not, after getting their fix, men feel even more depressed and lonely because the only intimacy they can get is with a magazine or a web video. It leaves them feeling empty inside. Even worse, pornography can become a crutch for a man, which in turn can sap even more of their confidence.

Porn gives both men and women a skewed view about how our bodies and genitalia are supposed to be like. Just like fashion models, porn models sets the standard for how we should look. Almost all men in porn have 8+ inch perfect shaped penises, that only about 10 percent of the population posses. And the women all slim with huge breasts. Porn tells us we have to be like these models in order to have sex and be attractive to the opposite sex. I think this causes many to suffer in silence and it causes low self-esteem and bodydismorphic disorder.

Girls Going Wild In Red Light District

Most of the women express that prostitution was not their career of choice. In a 1998 study, 88 percent of the prostituted women surveyed stated that they wanted to leave the sex trade industry. The majority of prostitutes interviewed believed that selling themselves was their only alternative for survival. Further investigation showed that these women shared similar circumstances that led them to prostitution. Many came from dysfunctional homes, had few friends or family members who cared about them, and were drug addicts or alcoholics. Arrest and contact data indicated that most of these women were between 18 and 29 years old. Unfortunate situations and poor choices made them vulnerable.

Most of the women described their path into the sex trade as a boyfriend transforming into a pimp or a girlfriend becoming a prostitute. A man recognized the woman’s situation and gained access through affection, compassion, and a promise to care. He became a companion who listened, understood, and shared the desire for a better future. The new beau quickly made an offer—leave with him and he would take care of her. She left for a better life. The man quickly moved her to another county or state. Once relocated, the partnership transitioned into an abusive domestic relationship. The man dominated the woman and controlled where she stayed, when and what she ate, what clothes she wore, what she did, and when she did it. Even if the woman could call for help, she had no one to rescue her. The man told her that they needed money and that she would have to earn it. People see a pimp as someone who obtains customers for a prostitute. The reality is that they use manipulation, threats, and violence to keep these women from leaving. They depend on the women they recruit into prostitution. These men use mental, emotional, and physical abuse to keep the women generating money. Out of fear or a desire to be cared for, hookers protect their pimps. The men abandon women who are unable or unwilling to provide any more revenue. Most prostitutes recognize their actions as illegal; however, a substantial number of them truly are victims.

Pimps use various control methods to keep the women working the streets. Many of the prostitutes spoke of daily physical abuse, emotional dominance, and lies about caring. These men burned the women with curling irons, strangled, and punched them. They told the prostitutes that their families would be ashamed of them for being a hooker and that no one else would care for them.

Alone and removed from family and friends, these women have no money and depend on their pimps for food, shelter, and clothing. Human sex trafficking victims equate to modern day slaves. The research findings supported the argument that “The most insidious and common pattern appeared to be young women being convinced to exploit themselves for the financial benefit of someone else. Betrayals by the people closest to prostituted women appeared to be only the first injustice in a path . . . rife with violence, degradation, and extreme physical stress.”

After close analysis of prostitutes and their situations, several police departments instituted a new approach where it viewed prostitution as possible human trafficking. The recognition, rescue, and aid of these victims became the most important tactic in addressing the problem.

Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them. – JERRY FALWELL, Crossfire

Say You Love Me…

“…I’m TIRED. I’m so very fucking tired.”

Why is it so hard to say you love me?

I KNOW you do. Because when I say I love you, you (sometimes) say it back.

It’s those times when you don’t say I love you… those are the times I need it the most

It’s not even just those three words.

I want for you to say, “you’re wrong” when some random politician says that what happens in my uterus is a political issue, and not a health issue.

When I ignore another man’s catcalls and he whips a beer bottle at me? I want you to say to him “that shit ain’t cool motherfucker” Instead of just saying ‘oooooooh shit!”.

I want for you to say “yo, that shit ain’t right” when a guy jokes about how much he wants to just grab me and fuck me in the alley, but he won’t wait for me to…

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To Parents of Small Children: Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud

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I am in a season of my life right now where I feel bone-tired almost all of the time. Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes burning exhausted.

I have three boys ages 5 and under. I’m not complaining about that. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I know that there are people who would give anything for a house full of laughter and chaos. I was that person for years and years; the pain of infertility is stabbing and throbbing and constant. I remember allowing hope to rise and then seeing it crash all around me, month after month, for seven years. I am working on another post about infertility that will come at a later date.

But right now, in my actual life, I have three boys ages 5 and under. There are many moments where they are utterly delightful, like last week, when Isaac told my sister-in-law that, “My daddy has hair all over.” Or when Elijah put a green washcloth over his chin and cheeks, and proudly declared, “Daddy! I have a beard just like you!” Or when Ben sneaks downstairs in the morning before the other boys do, smiles at me, and says, “Daddy and Ben time.”

But there are also many moments when I have no idea how I’m going to make it until their bedtime. The constant demands, the needs and the fighting are fingernails across the chalkboard every single day. 

One of my children is for sure going to be the next Steve Jobs. I now have immense empathy for his parents. He has a precise vision of what he wants — exactly that way and no other way. Sometimes, it’s the way his plate needs to be centered exactly to his chair, or how his socks go on, or exactly how the picture of the pink dolphin needs to look — with brave eyes, not sad eyes, daddy! He is a laser beam, and he is not satisfied until it’s exactly right.

I have to confess that sometimes, the sound of his screaming drives me to hide in the pantry. And I will neither confirm nor deny that while in there, I compulsively eat chips and/or dark chocolate.

There are people who say this to me:

“You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!”

I usually smile and give some sort of guffaw, but inside, I secretly want to hold them under water. Just for a minute or so. Just until they panic a little.

If you have friends with small children — especially if your children are now teenagers or if they’re grown — please vow to me right now that you will never say this to them. Not because it’s not true, but because it really, really doesn’t help.

We know it’s true that they grow up too fast. But feeling like I have to enjoy every moment doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels like one more thing that is impossible to do, and right now, that list is way too long. Not every moment is enjoyable as a parent; it wasn’t for you, and it isn’t for me. You just have obviously forgotten. I can forgive you for that. But if you tell me to enjoy every moment one more time, I will need to break up with you.

If you are a parent of small children, you know that there are moments of spectacular delight, and you can’t believe you get to be around these little people. But let me be the one who says the following things out loud:

You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out a way for your children to eat as healthy as your friend’s children do. She’s obviously using a bizarre and probably illegal form of hypnotism.

You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.

You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise.

You are not a terrible parent if you’d rather be at work.

You are not a terrible parent if you just can’t wait for them to go to bed.

You are not a terrible parent if the sound of their voices sometimes makes you want to drink and never stop.

You’re not a terrible parent.

You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning.

One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are oversaturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.

So, maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next president who knows how to read when she’s 3 and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.

So, the next time you see your friends with small children with that foggy and desperate look in their eyes, order them a pizza and send it to their house that night. Volunteer to take their kids for a few hours so they can be alone in their own house and have sex when they’re not so tired, for heaven’s sake. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes, and tell them that they’re doing a good job. Just don’t freak out if they start weeping uncontrollably. Most of the time, we feel like we’re botching the whole deal and our kids will turn into horrible criminals who hate us and will never want to be around us when they’re older.

You’re bone-tired. I’m not sure when it’s going to get better. Today might be a good day or it might be the day that you lost it in a way that surprised even yourself.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You’re not alone.

This post originally appeared on The Actual Pastor.