Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I'm reading: PornifiedTweet this!

We were getting ready to leave a recent holiday dinner when M, a 63 year-old family friend, asked, “So Kim, what would you do if you walked in on your husband while he was viewing hardcore porn on the internet?”

Before I could respond Mr. Smartypants sailed into the room. Thankfully he’d missed part of the question because that would have been even more awkward. Still, he didn’t hold back. “No, you’ve got it all wrong,” he told M. “My MOM is the one who is always on the internet.”

While everyone laughed at his response I quickly escaped without answering. The topic of porn has hardly even come up in my book group. I certainly wasn’t about to go there with the family crowd—one that consisted almost exclusively of 60 year-olds. (Maybe there's a reason they're called sexagenarians?)

I’m not gonna go there in this blog either. But I will say I was titillated when I saw Pornified (Pamela Paul, 2005) seductively displayed in the new book section of the library a few weeks later. I couldn’t resist bringing it home with me.

  • The inside cover reads: Pornography, once the taboo vice that no one dared mention has become part of our daily lives…. The all-pornography, all the time mentality is everywhere.

Well, clearly Ms. Paul hasn’t visited my little corner of cyberspace, but her eye-opening book makes the point that today’s easy-access internet porn is a far cry from grandpa’s nudie deck of cards or even your dorm-mate’s worn copies of Hustler. Informed by interviews and other research her findings are alarming and perhaps alarmist. Is every boy or man who happens to click on a risqué pop-up ad destined to slide down the slippery slope to an addiction to hardcore internet porn? Paul makes it sounds like the odds are pretty good.

As the mother of boys (MOB) this concerns me. As almost any member of the MOB can attest, there’s more truth to the idea that “boys will be boys” than we would have ever believed. Indeed, Mr. Smartypants had his first pinup poster around age three when he became infatuated with a Baby Gap ad featuring a pregnant Marlee Matlin.

The book’s section on children and porn is full of shocking statistics, but it is unfortunately short on advice. Like some mothers and therapists quoted in the book I am concerned about how exposure to hardcore and/or large quantities of porn will affect generations of young men. What will it do to their views of women? How will it distort their sexuality and impact their future relationships? How detrimental might early exposure or reliance on porn (again we’re talking internet, not Uncle Joe’s Playboy) be to adolescents who have not developed emotionally and physically?

Clearly it’s much more challenging and intimidating to approach a potential date, let alone maintain a satisfying, intimate relationship than to look to the internet for some quick satisfaction. So where are my boys and their peers headed? Perhaps my almost-forgotten, half-written essay about college, Masturbating Monkeys and Lesbian Lizards, has a title that is more predictive than provocative. The title, by the way, refers to my academic life-- courses in evolutionary biology and the like--it’s not a comment my social life back then.

My favorite line from the book was from 30-something mom whose husband has a collection of Playboys. She admits that she doesn’t know if he still looks at them and says, “Quite honestly, with two kids under the age of two in the house, I don’t know where he would find the time. And if he does have the time, he should be doing the dishes.”

While this line had me LOL; DH was less amused when I read it to him. And then he suggested perhaps I should be doing the dishes instead of blogging. He does have a point there. As Mr. Smartypants observed, I do spend a lot of time with e-mail and on the net. Many would be shocked if they saw a list of sites I’d be browsing if only because they are so mundane. “She stayed up until all hours reading THAT?” you’d think.

Plus, although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I do check up on celebrity gossip although I tend to feel ashamed and dirty after reading about the latest TomKat escapade. We can all get stuck in the worldwide web no matter our vice.

As for the book, I think it’s worth a look, especially for the MOB. That said, it will likely be the last porn-critical book I read for a while. A couple of years ago I went on a bender of books about the cattle industry, meat processing and foodborne illness and I still won’t let my kids eat hamburgers. Who knows what I’d do after continued reading on this topic?

However, if your interest is piqued and you’re ready to take it to the next level, a friend recommends Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs as well as the somewhat more humorous Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway.


jim mcnelis said...

My grammar school friends and I used to huddle in the basement and snicker at my dad's old National Geographics (the African tribe issues of course). Now that I've set up a wireless laptop, I can just imagine my son dragging that off into the corner. Better chain that down ;)

Incidentally, I read an interesting article on American Prospect's website today that mentioned Ariel Levy's book.

jim mcnelis said...

2nd try: maybe this link will work.

Mike said...
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