Thursday, March 18, 2010

Touched

Today I want to talk about pornagraphy. I am going to be as frank as I can be about this topic so consider this your disclaimer now. If any of my dear readers have any qualms about this topic. This is your chance to hit the escape button. This is an incredibly difficult topic for me to talk about...not only because of my own experiences with it, but because the topic itself has so many permutations. It is nearly impossible to discuss it without someform of judgement...no matter how slight. It is not my intention to offer judgement against others. Heaven knows I have no right to that.  It is my intent to strip the topic down and perhaps see it from a different perspective...as much for myself as for my readers.

When we named our Youtube channel Gay Family Values we never intended, in chosing that name to set ourselves morally above anyone else. Often when we hear the term "family values", it comes from a religious-conservative viewpoint that is using it as a weapon against others...we automatically brace for the impact of the moral brow beating to come because we are  gay, a single parent, atheist, or merely young and finding yourself in a world of bewildering options and infinite choice.

Thats not us and was never meant to be the message we sent. Jay and I are human beings and are subject to the same flaws and vices that most people are. Gay Family Values was meant to be a name that reflected that. We are not perfect, we are people, and our relationships and families count the same as everyone elses....that said...

Pornography, prostitution and sex work of any kind is generally a topic most people shy away from because it touches something primal within us...whether that something is past pain, need, shame, or what have you. Sex work seems to affect men and women in entirely different ways and the gay community is surely no stranger to it. Women...from what I have experienced...seem to have a much harder time dealing with pornography and prostitution and are more often victimized by it. Men on the other hand don't seem to let it touch them in the same way...even when they are the ones being objectified...case in point..

Queerty recently posted a review of "Like A Pascha" from the SXSW film festival. The film tells the story of one of Europes oldest brothels. Take a peak:



From the Queerty article:
His film focuses mainly on Sonia, a voluptuous brunette prostitute at Pascha who's ashamed of her job. She feels that sex work is the only way to save money for an education and eventually a family. Through a series of intimate scenes with her at the zoo, a restaurant, and in front of her laptop, viewers sense Sonia's deep sadness and stunted emotional growth. She's like the animals on display, served up as easily as a plate of noodles, and nostalgic for her younger, slimmer self. She was raped seven times before entering the world's oldest profession. Since then, very little has changed.

This to me is one very short example of the emotional impact of women and the sex industry. For women sex is an intensely personal and emotional thing. It is rarely an event that isn't somehow attached to self-worth. I don't want to make a blanket statement, because I believe differrent people handle the same situations in widely different ways. However, By and large work in the sex industry seems to touch women in a way that is very hard to come to terms with for them. Some women in the porn industry can talk frankly and without any shame about what they done. However...that doesn't mean that filming porn or prostitution  was their first choice of career. Many women land in porn or prostitution when events in their lives have gone bad. Like Sonia, above.


From my own experience, my female friends by and large have very little tolerance for their boyfriends porn habits. One friend in particular sees any porn use as deeply threatening to her...as if viewing the women in porn will make her pale by comparison. This very firm stance has led to alot of friction with her boyfriends and consequently...to alot of boyfriends. The last one to fall by the wayside had a picture of his family above his computer that he would turn around when he viewed porn...she figured this out and sparks flew....eventually he did too.

Expanding our view a bit to a wider slice of female perspective....try looking up sex addiction sometime. Forums on the subject will contain posts from women who feel betrayed by their husbands use of porn. Many communicate as much hurt as if their husband had been carrying on a physical affair. Of course some of these men are...thats the nature of sexual addiction...seeking bigger highs. "Why am I not good enough?" is a really common question asked. Their feelings are valid feelings especially considering that sex addiction is something that catches a spouse off guard until it comes to light that their husband has lost his job for viewing porn at work. The pain these women communicate is palpable.

Men, on the flipside, seem affected by being in the sex industry in different ways. From opensalon.com comes this story "Confessions Of A Callbear".  The story is written by Rusty McMann, a 6'3" 245 lb. 40ish male prostitute. His article...if it is written from an honest perspective...was remarkable for me not so much for its surface content, but for the attitude in which it is written. Rusty seems to carry no shame in his game. Selling his body doesn't seem to affect his emotional state and self esteem to the same degree that I often see in women doing the exact same thing. Read for yourself:


This is the part where people ask me for the sordid details of my life on the edge of society, and the strange requests I must constantly get in my seedy little demimonde. But the boring truth is that those dark dabblings are few and far between. There was this one time in Phoenix when I was called to the far edges of the suburbs very late at night. When I pulled in the driveway the entire house was dark, including the doorbell. After a few knocks, someone looking like Gollum came to the door and brought me to the only room in the house with furniture or light. He poured Welch's grape soda into the chamber of a clear glass water pipe and started smoking either crack or crystal meth.



All I remember of that session is how he kept telling me to pull on his nipples as hard as I could and then barking, "Don't leave marks! My kids don't know I'm gay!" After as much time as I thought I could reasonably call an hour, I told him I needed to get going. I let myself out while he smoked another bowl and returned to the porn that he'd been watching when I came in.


Creepy? Yes, but not once was I afraid for my own safety. More than anything I felt sorry for the guy. I spent most of my time debating whether or not to suggest he get some help.


But these wacko incidents make up a small percentage of what I deal with on a regular basis. A good deal of that, I think, has to do with how and where I operate: Guys see my ad and get a chance to think about it before giving me a call, a process that seems to do a fair amount of screening for me. Now if I were walking up and down the Strip offering unsolicited $50 blow jobs to drunken fraternity types, I would expect to be beaten up on a regular basis. Instead, I'm amazed at how "normal" most of these guys are.

If this was a Woman, would the scenario have gone the same? Would her feelings for her own safety be the same? Would this john have been more comfortable physically abusing a woman than a 6'3" 245 lb. man? Is it a mans perspective on sex...or the sheer size of this man that makes him less emotionally effected by encounters like this one?
 
o.k...heres where we dive into darker waters...my own experience with porn. My first encounter with pornography was finding my dad's stash of porn. As a teen, I discovered the stash that he used to keep under his bed. "But Bryan, you gay", you might say. What would straight porn have to offer you? Well...the type of magazines I had access to were the kinds that had men and women in pretty explicite poses. Those were my first images of what men looked like without their clothes...which for a  you gay teen can be mind blowing. It didn't help me come out of the closet but those magazines did help me figure out that I deffinitely prefered the man over the woman. Judge that however you will.
 
Later...as a young man on my own, pornography was a part of my experience. Growing up the way I did, it also carried with it alot of internalized shame. But that aside...you see things...sometimes images that are heartbreakingly beautifull...some that make you wish you had never seen them. The sale of sex is an industry, whether its pornography, prostitution, or the next cover of mens fitness magazine. For every taste...there is someone out there offering it. Thats a thought that makes me shudder sometimes.

When I brush across the image of a young girl I can't help wondering what her story is. What brought her to that place? The often make me sad when I see them. This is largely because I believe that women rarely...if ever...seek out jobs in the sex industry. Young men, on the other hand, idolize being in the porn industry and there are plenty of men running around in "porn star" tshirts to demonstrate this difference in attitude. Being a porn star would then be seen as a sign of their virility as young men....this crosses sexual identity and can be found in gay and straight men alike. Within the gay community pornography is considered by some to be an element of of sexual freedom and shaming it an expression of the same repression that creates homophobia. For myself, Images of men online I usually see as being done with intent on the part of the man in the picture (or movie). Its harder for me to see a man as taken advantage of by a porn producer...with the exception of those who are too young to understand the long term ramifications of what they are doing...what 18 year old can concieve that the video he did for $100 would come back to bite him in his job search...or adoption, years down the road. Alternatively, are the "straight" men who do gay porn for money...There's tons of websites showing straight military guys having gay encounters. This to me seemed exploitive...until I considered who these men were and the fact that they more than likely knew exactly what they were getting into. After all, we can trust them with a rifle but no to manage their own sexual affairs?

The sex industry will always have two poles. The purveyor and the user. each end of the transaction involve human beings that can be driven to and effected by the transactions in very different ways. What you find freeing...I may find shame in. What one man does with no emotional reprocussions may produce a lifetime of emotional damage in a young girl.




Because of my upbringing, pornography has always brought alot of shame and guilt to me....Not loving sex with my partner mind you...but pornography. I have struggled with it for a long time....whether I am harming others..directly or indirectly. I alternate between the electric feeling that the images present, to feelings of utter shame...wondering if there is somethink intrinsically wrong with me as a human being. But, presuming that we have these feelings as a natural part of our existence...and that the people posting their pictures online..or appearing in a movie have done so of their own free will...where is the harm in that? Why should it come with so much guilt?

Partially because I come at a topic like pornography from two different points of view. Intellectually I know that sex is a human need and expressing it through porn is natural human action that has been practiced since the beginning of recorded time. On the other hand all the sunday televangelists line up in my head and I feel like a predator of sorts. Like the guy skulking in the back of an adult bookstore..even though I'm in my own home in totall privacy. With the action, comes the inevitable guilt...to act on something you believe to be wrong or harmfull repeatedly puts you smack in the realm of hypocrisy and often, in my own mind, I dee myself as Ted Haggert junior. I know none of this makes a great deal of sense...and I need to say that its not an attitude that I hold toward others. I try to set people free from those feelings when I can because I know what they are like. I also know I'm not alone in this schizophrenic attitude to sex. Its the legacy of a religion that hides sex in the closet even though its scriptures do not. Its a part of my journey in life and I own it.

Sometimes I envy those who can see something pornographic and not be burdened by the emotional baggage I have created/inherited....even I consider myself pretty average when it comes to the topic. 99% of men are sexual in some way outside of the bounds of their relationship...whether that is pornography, private mental fantasies, or, at the extreme end, something as dangerous as prostitution. As the old saw goes..the other 1% are lying about it. So, this leads me to the title of this post..."touched" refers less to the act of being physically touched and more about how we are affected by this basic and primal part of our existance..sex. This is how pornography has touched my life and I acknowledge that different people see the same thing from widely different perspectives. Judge me how you will...you will never judge me as hard as I have myself.

 Becoming a father now has changed how I live my life in many ways, but one thing is for sure. While my kids are going to one day be exposed to the sex industry(its inevitable), I want that they never discover it like I did. Though I hold no judgement to my dad...he was just being human...I don't want my kids to learn about it like that. I hope that by the time one of Daniel's friends haul out the Playboys that we will aready have had "the talk" and that the emotional charge he will get from the images he sees will be tempered by the knowledge of what sex really is..and that its not something dirty that needs to be hidden under the bed and discovered by accident. It is to be faced honestly and with responsibility, as a natural part of a healthy human life.

13 comments:

  1. You need to sent that to psychology today. Well written article. I think parents and teachers should read this.

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  2. Bryan, I can see where you are coming from in that I was raised in a strictly catholic household and any form of sex, whether it be porn, a magazine of morning wood was thought of as disgusting. I'm surprised by the conversations I have with my guy friends (both gay and straight alike) on how they discovered sex, masturbation and porn in general. Perhaps it is a generational gap with all of our parents, but we were all lost, trying to make sense of it all. Most of the stories between us were awkward and hilarious, but all were due to the shame attached to it. Having now lived on my own and coming out has completely destroy any shame I feel about it now though. Not so much that I've shunned religion in any way, but It's a natural part of life. It's nothing to be ashamed of. I look at it as the world would be a worse place if it didn't occur, haha.
    As per your guilt over the young men and women in porn... I can see your point ever so slightly. I don't really see a big difference between men and women in the industry. I read the "callbear" article and he began with explaining/hinting at being suprised anyone would be attracted to him. I think that anyone you interview in regards to porn is going to say (if being honest with themselves) that they have body image issues, issues with feelings of acceptance, issues with self confidence and self worth. The shit of it all is that everyone feels the same exact way, to a certain degree. We're all trying to find our meaning in life, a path to one-upping what it means to define yourself. Do people in porn have issues? ... yes. But I dont think women that much more than men. It's just men are expected to hide it moreso... macho persona, agressive alpha male and what not syndrome. but thats another topic.
    Like I said, you have no reason to feel shame over a natural process. No different than peeing or coughing (when you think about it). And I'm fairly sure Daniel is going to be fine when the day comes to have the talk... afterall, he has 2 dads. I barely had 1, and I came out great. :-D peace.

    sincerely,

    Jason
    Davis, Ca

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  3. Better start talking to Daniel now. I was in grade school when I saw my first Playboy. Friends' older siblings always have a stash that makes the rounds.

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  4. Footnote: http://m.apnews.com/ap/ydb_15996/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=WRBNn06b

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  5. @ hayofray

    as to the article you linked, I can't believe they even need to study the need for condoms in the porn industry. Isn't that kind of a big "DUH!" ? It would save lives by requiring an industry act for the health of their performers...nuf said

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  6. My first encounter with porn... Age 9, Playboy and Venus ( tv stations, very explicit stuff) But I don´t remember being aroused or anything)
    First encounter with gay porn? Fan fic about Green Lantern Get it on with Batman, in the same page i saw the first pics of nude men...

    Good Ol´times

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  7. Clearly I have a male brain when it comes to sex. Yes, I think it belongs within a loving relationship, but I also have a lot of room for maneuver within that - and that certainly includes pornography. I tend to see a difference in porn between two people being shoved together on a crowded set one day, waiting for their paycheck, and a couple who, to put it bluntly, get off on other people getting off on them. But that just may be me.

    When it comes to prostitution and porn actors, I agree with you to an extent - I think a lot of people get pushed into it by the circumstances. But I also think a significant number of both men and women make a deliberate career decision that they like sex and may as well get paid for it.

    I totally agree with you that the worst thing is to have sex be hidden as this dirty little secret. My parents never gave me 'the talk', and luckily my school actually did an OK job at it, but I've never quite managed to buck that little voice telling me it's something to be inherently embarrassed about.

    And I would definitely suggest talking to Daniel comes sooner rather than later... really wasn't so long since I was his age, can't imagine it's changed much :). But I think you guys know that.

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  8. Interesting entry. This is 1 of those topics that obviously doesn't get talked about in public really unless it involves those comfortable with it or a close friend you can share anything with. I'll just share my experience with it so you have another glimpse at how somebody else reacted to porn.

    First, I think a lot of why there is a large difference in women and men in sex work is due to our culture and the different value systems of masculinity/femininity. When men get sex they are seen as "studs," "players," "healthy". When women have lots of sex they are considered whores and sluts. There is a double standard and traditionally the feminine quality of sexual purity and chastity was viewed as the ideal. The whole Virgin Mary having babies without actually having sex thing. From a biological perspective, it goes back to that promiscuity topic that men are expected to spread their seeds and impregnate different female partners to ensure the survival of their genes, so that may be why the ideal for men is so different for women sexually.

    Next response I will talk about my specific experience.

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  9. Some background: My family is not religious, so I never had to deal with the paralyzing concepts of sin (which is tied to sex for Christianity and a lot of other religions. Still my parents are fairly conservative. I have never had "the talk" from my parents and I'm in my late 20s now. I saw virginity as a good thing (even though I'm a guy!), and to this day I still am one.

    I didn't run into much porn when I was young. I thought sex was gross and people's sexual organs were gross (yes dicks too--I was disgusted by it). The first straight porn I saw was at a friend's house, where 1 of my friends had the rest of us watch some porn channel. I was both bored, grossed out, and it did nothing for me. Since my friend was making us watch it, I actually felt more pressure/shame for NOT being interested in watching porn.

    Right when I was going through puberty I got the internet. So literally as soon as my family got a computer and I could use it I looked up muscled guys. I knew I was interested in the male body (minus dicks). When "gay" sites popped up on the search engine looking for stuff on muscle guys or wrestling, that's how I found out that I was gay. That the label fit me and that I was one of "those" people. I remember it being very difficult to click out any site that had the "gay" word in it, and I avoided them all at first. It felt shameful. Eventually though, my desire to see male bodies overcame my fear of visiting a "gay" site. There weren't that many websites back in the earlier days, so that's why I checked out gay sites when I probably would've avoided them longer if there were say more bodybuilding sites around like these days. Once I visited a gay site for the first time and liked what I saw, I knew what I was, even if I hated it. I never went through those denial stages like other people. I didn't like it but to me it was just a fact to accept.

    From there not exactly sure how I started watching porn, but basically when it became available (faster download speeds, more gay porn of the type I liked) I started getting them. I also didn't think of any ramifications of porn or why it would be bad or anything. I just knew that I wanted to see male bodies, so I saw them.

    Kind of like you Bryan, I felt some shame watching porn at first. Probably way less intense and enduring shame than you though since I didn't have the religious baggage about it. I just felt like a pervert lol. I hated completely naked bodies at first. I thought dicks were gross. After seeing so much porn though, I'm used to it now, although I still sort of prefer the semi-clothed/semi-naked over full blown nudity.

    In college I had a class where we learned about sex work and rethought my ideas on what sex actually was. In addition college is where sex is cool and normal, and you're looked at as weird if you're NOT getting any, so that obviously changed my mind a lot about it. I came to grips with realizing that we're all sexual beings and it's okay.

    "It is to be faced honestly and with responsibility, as a natural part of a healthy human life"

    ^ I think that's the best thing. It seems far better for society to just be upfront about these issues rather than turn them into deviant or negative topics that's so taboo that it should never be mentioned and shoved into the closet. That's what makes being gay seem so bad. To this day I am still not out of the closet just because I have enduring homophobic social programed issues with being public about my sexuality. People aren't really doing anybody favors when they hide the facts of life and think they can protect people without educating them.

    Europe is way more open about sex and they think we're unnecessarily paranoid about sex. The U.S. has a specific historical background shaped by the religious Puritans.

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  10. Trust me: it was written from an honest perspective. best, Rusty McMann

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  11. This is really good/ interesting, and well thought out. Thanks for posting it.

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  12. You constantly amaze me that you have a clear head, and a greater heart that put things into perspective with wisdom and compassion. Thank you for the well written insights and heart-warming honesty on a topic not often discussed without prejudice.

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