Seriously, Autostraddle?

Autostraddle published another super-gross article that takes an element of women’s oppression and rebrands it as “empowering.” (Of course, there is no end of articles like this in the world—neoliberalism has been deliberately rebranding oppression as empowerment for at least three decades, for the purpose of destroying leftist movements and supporting capitalism.)

Anyway, this article is called “How My Dad’s Dirty Magazines Shaped My Queer Sexuality.”  Like most sex-pozzie articles on Autostraddle, this should have come with a damn trigger warning.

The author narrates how, as a young teen, she used to come home quickly after school to look through her dad’s magazines while she had an opportunity to be alone in the house. She started on motorcycle magazines with sexy women draped over the motorcycles like decorations, and then moved on to magazines with real nudity, then eventually moved on to Internet porn from there. She says she was about 13.

She thinks the whole experience was positive and empowering:

“More powerful than guilt, shame or feeling just plain ugly was the sense of empowerment I got from those magazines. I believe that sexual images of women are a positive thing. Porn and dirty magazines were a huge part of finding myself, taking ownership of my sexuality and seeing other women empowered by theirs. Looking through my dad’s dirty magazines was an integral part of my self-discovery as a queer woman.”

Does anyone else cringe when they hear the word empowerment, because of the ridiculous misuse of this word by third-wave sex-pozzies?

Being a passive object who is sexualized by other people is the exact opposite of empowerment. The people with the power are those who get to be seen as full human beings and who have the ability to reduce others to objects. One of the most important elements of third-wave sex-pozzie politics is the use of disingenuous claims that are so obviously untrue that one wonders how anyone can claim them with a straight face. The claim that black is white, up is down, freedom is slavery, submission is empowerment! Sorry, sex-pozzies, but this is a bald-faced lie, and you look totally silly saying it.

A lot of the things this writer describes happened to me, too. I used to also come home from school before anyone else in my family and relish the time I had alone to look at my own dad’s magazine stash. I also learned the joy of looking at naked women at the ripe age of 13. I also moved on to Internet porn eventually, having developed a taste for it. Like everyone else in the goddamn world, I learned to sexualize objectification, dominance and submission. How could I not—this stuff is everywhere. It’s in our own homes as we grow up.

The difference between this writer and me is that I became a radical feminist and she did not. She is continuing to sexualize objectification while I am writing against it. Here’s my take on why it’s not “empowering” to “discover your sexuality” while looking at your dad’s magazine stash.

First of all, your own sexuality is not what you see other people creating and publishing, your own sexuality is your own thoughts, feelings, desires, needs, and wants. You don’t learn about yourself by internalizing someone else’s idea of sexuality. The best way to learn about your own sexuality is to just interact with your peers in a normal way, and discover who strikes you as attractive and what you find yourself wanting to do with them. You also learn about your own sexuality by masturbating WITHOUT PORN and by thinking about things that naturally interest you.

Using porn is not discovering your sexuality, using porn is looking upon depictions of sexual abuse and learning to find it arousing. There are no depictions of healthy sexuality in commercial pornography. There is dominance and submission, and men are always dominant. Women are objects for consumption, we are painted with make-up, shaved, placed in submissive poses, and sold for entertainment. We are passive things being acted upon. Women’s sexuality is not being portrayed in porn. Men’s idea of what women should be is what’s portrayed in porn.

The girl who uses porn learns to think of herself and other girls as sexualized objects, and learns to identify with both the sexualized object and the oppressor at the same time. She learns to crave being sexualized and objectified because that’s what gives girls validation that they are worthy. She learns to identify with the male gaze and look upon other girls as objects for her use. When a “queer” girl discovers her sexuality through porn, she discovers a world of dominance and submission where she can play both parts, oppressor and oppressed, and where objectification is what makes sex sexy. This is all a process of grooming—it prepares her to be a sexual libertarian and to accept sexual abuse.

It took me several years to unlearn what I learned from porn, to see myself as a subject rather than an object, to understand that to objectify is to abuse, to really understand and feel that my worth as a person is not based on my ability to be a sex object, to separate my own real desires from what I learned to sexualize while viewing porn. The person who helped me the most with this was Gail Dines. Her Ted talk “Growing Up in a Pornified Culture” is incredibly valuable.

What the author of this article is remembering fondly and practically gushing about is something that is abusive and that she hasn’t been able to recognize as abuse. How strange it is to browse through Autostraddle, which is apparently a magazine for “queer women,” and find articles that sexualize the abuse of queer women. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt sick to my stomach after reading one of these articles because something negative in my life that I’ve worked to overcome is being presented as “empowering.”

Of course, I could just ignore Autostraddle entirely, but I read this stuff and write this stuff to “pay it forward”—I learned feminism from anonymous bloggers, and I’m doing the same for anyone else out there who needs it. Women need to know that there’s something more helpful out there than the stupid abusive bullshit that passes for “feminism” in sex-pozzie publications. Women deserve to be able to learn that being positive toward sex means being negative toward abuse. We deserve to learn to identify abuse, since our culture is constantly trying to confuse us by selling abuse as “empowerment.”

There is a vague, eerie suggestion of incest in the idea that girls can “learn their sexuality” from something their dad does. The fact that there is a long tradition of dads leaving porn around the house for their kids to find is a sign of how little anyone cares about sexual abuse. It’s totally normal for dads to groom their kids into abusive sexuality by leaving porn around. It’s totally normal because abuse is totally normal. This writer really should start thinking about the negative effects of dads showing their kids porn instead of waxing lyrically about it.

I hope that, now that people only use porn on the Internet, and every idiot knows how to delete their browsing history, this tradition will stop. But that’s hardly comforting considering that 11-year-olds have their own smart phones, and what they will be exposed to there is much worse than the pin-ups we used to look at.

This is the concluding paragraph from the article:

“In a time where queerness wasn’t as accepted, I’m thankful that I had an outlet (however pervy it was) to explore my identity. Dirty magazines and porn were a large part of my self-discovery and have positively influenced my sexuality as it is today. Even though identifying myself as queer when I was young seemed terrifying, seeing women unabashedly owning their sexuality taught me to be unashamed of sexuality. I missed a lot of shame and guilt surrounding sex, because I introduced myself to it so young. Being in tune with my sexuality, or even being in tune with my confusion — just simply letting myself feel and experience has led to me being a sexually empowered adult. I thank and honor the perverted 11-year-old I was; she created the proud queer woman and writer I am today.”

Nah, porn didn’t “positively influence” your sexuality. This whole article is a demonstration of the grooming you experienced, that you still have not been able to escape from. One of the primary things that helped me recognize my own grooming was the Ted Talk by Gail Dines that I posted above. She mentions that she has gone to prisons to interview convicted sex offenders, and they have told her that they hardly had to groom their victims at all, because the victims were already ready and accepting of sexual abuse. Victims are coming “pre-groomed” now, thanks to porn itself and also porn culture in general. The sex-pozzitive movement is a movement that gets people to accept porn, prostitution, dominance and submission—it’s a process of grooming. Anyone who wants to put an end to sexual abuse needs to name this, analyze it, and then stop it.

It seems so incredibly obvious that I can’t understand how even Autostraddle doesn’t see it. Women who love women shouldn’t be learning their sexuality from abusive men.

How watching porn affected me—Daisy’s story

1) What effect did porn use have on your ideas about sexuality and your sexual behaviour?

I was groomed for childhood sexual abuse using porn. Porn was very different in the 70’s, though, than it is today. It was mostly nudie mags, and I was told how I was just as pretty as the girls (ha – grown women!) in the pictures. And, that I could prove it…

2) Did you notice how misogynist it was and how did you react to the misogyny?

Didn’t notice that at all. I thought ladies were supposed to strive to be pretty and pleasing, and what more could one expect? My mother has a lot of internalized misogyny, so it was normalized for me in my childhood. I thought gender roles were very strict, and that sexually pleasing men was ‘part of the job’ of women, but, at the same time, there was all that Madonna/whore stuff, too, about what good girls and bad girls did and with whom. I think porn as a grooming aid was the natural extrapolation of the general view of the female role. Sexual acting out was a form of rebellion, so I thought the abuse was normal, at the time, and did not associate it with my terrible self-esteem and other issues until much later. I credit my college education with helping me to see how toxic my first marriage was (I left him in second year), and also for helping me recognize how much I had been damaged by the childhood sexual abuse. My new husband is a good man and his actual affection and genuine support has helped me a lot, too. He’s the first man I’ve ever met who is sensible enough to STFU when women are talking about feminism, and our lived experiences.

After the CSA, I wasn’t particularly exposed to porn any further as a child, but my ex loved porn, and used it pretty frequently. I’m pretty sure he also used prostitutes and peep shows and stuff like that.

Sex always felt like a performance with him. He was very interested in how many notches, and what type of notches, he/we had on the bedpost. He loved to push my boundaries, and coerce me into stuff I wasn’t comfortable with. He also had lots of expectations about my appearance, and performance. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I’ve become aware of it since maturing a bit, and reading some feminist theory. This finally enabled me to vocalize what the problem was! 🙂 I don’t think he even realized how unhealthy it was, he was just trying to be so very, very cool and hip, and thought that was normal.

3) What made you stop watching it?

After the ex, I didn’t use it much on my own. (This was before internet!). When I did watch any, it didn’t do much for me, so I kind of quit. Also, my current husband doesn’t like it at all. So there wasn’t much impetus for me to seek it out.

And then, I had babies. No time for porn. When I checked back in on internet porn in the 2010’s it had hella changed from my day! Most of it now is just completely disgusting. I mean, I guess it always was, but at least it used to try to pretend that the sex might be remotely enjoyable for the female performers.

Reading the stories of exited women has just hardened my opinion.

4) What observations have you made in your acquaintances who watch porn and how it affects them?
My ex is the biggest example. He was a fucking sleaze. He played the nice, liberal, new age guy, but he was still a misogynist toad.

I have an ex-brother-in-law who was a heavy porn user in the 90’s. He was also an abusive creep, and none of his children are that healthy, sexually. Lots of abusive partners, and break-ups, and they all try to have the ‘super liberated, I’m much cooler than you’ thing going on, but none of them seem that happy with their relationships.

I would side-eye the Hell out of anyone in my social circles who admitted to me that they used porn today, honestly.

5) Anything else you want to add.

I’m very worried for what porn is doing to the next generation. I’ve seen how it shaped my expectations and views of sexuality and sexual expression, but it seems to have gotten more extreme, and kids seem to be using at younger ages.

I have two school-aged children. Neither of them has had any meaningful, biology based sex ed in their school (some good stuff about what to do if someone is molesting you, though). I’d hate to think that they would learn the mechanics of sex from watching “teen gangbang 69” or whatever the latest horror du jour is today. And, even though I’m trying to teach my kids my views and values, what about their peers? Will my daughter’s first boyfriend try to coerce her into anal on their first date, just because he thinks that’s normal? I hope my son will not be taught to believe that being a man means crossing his girlfriend’s boundaries.

This post is a part of an ongoing series of interviews from women who have watched porn. If you would like to share your story of how porn affected you, please email psage681@gmail.com.

How watching porn affected me—Hester’s story

1) What effect did porn use have on your ideas about sexuality and your sexual behaviour?
Porn meant that I objectified women (though, oddly, not myself). I was attracted to women, and had close relationships with girls from a young age, but I still objectified girls I didn’t know well. Porn also drastically affected how I expected heterosexual sex to be. I think I was lucky in a way in that my exposure to lesbian sex was much healthier, mainly since I was much younger at that point and it was before I really started watching porn.
With sexual behaviour, I felt like my experience with porn made me expect men to act in a way that I would now find unacceptable. I expected heterosexual sex to be rough — I didn’t expect men to think about how it might feel for me, so the fact that it was almost always painful to the point where my vagina or throat would hurt for several days afterwards seemed normal to me.
I think part of absorbing the misogyny of porn, too, was that I wanted to be a ‘cool girl’ — I wanted badly to be seen as sexy and ‘not like other girls’. To me that meant being up for any sexual acts — meaning really pretty much anything. Sex was like an endurance test for me. I let men have anal sex with me with no preparation, treat me in ways I knew were dangerous for my health, urinate on me, ejaculate on my face. Most of this was without prior permission; it was just part of what we both expected from sex.  I think a lot of those men would not have done what they did to me with someone who set more boundaries from the start, but I probably made it obvious I would accept that treatment.
It’s worth saying I think porn was a factor of the specific way in which I countered my huge insecurity, rather than the reason per se that I let myself be treated badly. I felt I had nothing to offer as a person other than permission to use me in that way. Porn was just what made me aware that that was in itself something to offer.
2) Did you notice how misogynist it was and how did you react to the misogyny?
It took a long time for me to recognise the misogyny in porn, but once I did I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t seen it sooner. Having sex is part of what helped me to see this. I had watched porn since I was very young, but I didn’t really have an idea of what penetrative sex with a penis felt like, since I had only slept with women until my 20s.  Once I had experienced it, I realised how painful porn sex must be for women; I find it hard to watch now in the same way it’s hard to watch someone getting repeatedly punched in the face.
I think I responded to pornified misogyny in the same way I responded to the wider misogyny I was constantly exposed to: I assumed I must not be a woman (and I know this response is not unique by any means). I didn’t ever identify as transgender, since I didn’t know women could be transgender, but I felt like I was ‘internally male’. For me objectifying other women was part of how I separated myself from them. I was different: I liked sex without emotion, I looked at women along with the men, I was logical and academic, and women were feely and got easily attached and couldn’t be rational, detached, or sexual (as in autonomously sexual, rather than being ‘sexy’). It put me in a position where men would talk to me in a way they might not with other women, which is part of what helped me realise how deep our culture’s misogyny runs in so many people.
3) What made you stop watching it?
A few things stopped me watching porn; it was over time, though, rather than a conscious decision. A large part of it was involving myself more in what I guess might be loosely described as a ‘scene’. I ended up, through a convoluted path through working in the fetish world, working as a cam girl while I was at university. It was a genuinely interesting job for a while, and I still enjoy telling stories about it, but it was also draining in a way I find it hard to explain to people. It made me look at porn, and prostitution, in a totally different way — I was very aware camming is the nicest, safest, least difficult edge of ‘sex work’, and yet I still found myself feeling, sometimes, invaded, or disgusted, or just skewed. I think the part that drained me was the feeling of pretending to me what these men wanted. It wasn’t the pretence that was draining, though, it was the knowledge that this is what people wanted. I think the closest I can get to describing the feeling is if everyone you knew came to tell you secrets all day, and all the secrets were either things about you they’d always hated, or horrible confessions about people they had abused. I know not everyone is terrible, but when all you encounter all day is men who want unreal women (not physically, but emotionally), or who want to show you their sleeping wife, or tell you about masturbating into their daughter’s knickers, you start to feel like everyone — or at least men — might be concealing that kind of side to them.
At the same time, I started noticing the way my friend/sexual partner at that time talked about women in porn or in camming. He watched a hell of a lot of porn, and talked about it constantly, and I noticed how much he genuinely bought into the kind of myths porn told. I noticed that the more I moved away from acting out those myths, the more annoyed he became with me, complaining that the old me was much better.
Quite quickly, I realised that so many things I had understood about the world to be sort of ‘tongue in cheek’ or ‘knowing’ were completely genuine. He wasn’t joking when he said horrible things about women, or about me, and neither were other men like him.  That made me see porn in a totally different light, and made it hard to watch it without being constantly bothered by that background feeling of something like disappointment and offense.
4) What observations have you made in your acquaintances who watch porn and how it affects them?
I observed in a few girlfriends who watched porn that they seemed to approach it in a similar way to me. When I was younger I used to see those girls as other ‘male minded’ girls like me, but as I got older I realised they seemed to be experiencing the same kind of reaction to internalised misogyny that I had had.
With men, I think it’s hard to say, since I only know two men who do not watch porn (my partner and a good friend). Those men are very much exceptions so I don’t feel I can hold them up as what the world would be like without porn (though that would be wonderful). I always felt, though, that the men I knew who watched porn a lot tended to be immature and to live a little in a fantasy world. This is not necessarily a sexual fantasy world, but more that it was comfortable for these men to live in a world where their interactions with women were controlled (porn, webcamming, prostitutes) so they weren’t at risk of rejection. These were often very anxious men, and I could relate a lot to their feelings in some ways, but for me it represented a big divide in growing up as an anxious man and growing up as an anxious woman. These men were able to construct a world around them where women did what they wanted, at least in their relationships with women, where my response to anxiety was to let anyone do what they wanted to me. (That might be getting too personal/specific, there, but it is how I saw it at the time.)
5) Anything else you want to add.
I think the focus in discussions about pornography tends to be — and rightly so — mainstream, studio-produced pornography. On the sites I used, though (and I don’t think I was necessarily atypical in this), there was a huge variety of amateur porn which was generally just couples in their house having ‘normal’ sex. In this porn, there was a variety of bodies that I’ve never seen anywhere else other than women’s changing rooms, and I think that was a healthy thing for me to see.
I’m conflicted about how porn made me see my body. It’s a part of a deeply damaging patriarchal culture that I felt my body needed to be sexually attractive to be valid, but within that shitty paradigm, porn did help me have a more forgiving attitude to my body than I think I would have had based on mainstream media alone. Mainstream media alone made me feel my body was unacceptable even when it deviated only slightly from the norm.
I still feel like there’s a lot I don’t understand about porn. I read Gail Dines and I know that what she says about porn is completely true, and I understand her analysis of it and tend to agree with it, but there’s still a part of me that feels uneasy with the conclusion. I know that men watch this abuse, I know how many men, I’ve seen enough to know that descriptions of women being gagged and choked and made to vomit or urinated on are, in many cases, describing these things pretty mildly. Analysing it, I see that so much of porn comes from a place of a blatant disgust and anger at women. But I find it hard to grasp that that is true — I don’t see where it comes from, but I see that it exists. I still find it hard to think that we really will never know how much men hate us, I guess.
This post is a part of an ongoing series of interviews from women who have watched porn. If you would like to share your story of how porn affected you, please email psage681@gmail.com.

The thirteen-year-old camgirl

An article was published recently by a woman who was a camgirl at age 13. She describes the experience as her choice and a way of freely exploring her own sexuality. The only negative part of this experience, as she describes it, was the reaction of the people around her, who shamed her for it while letting her male viewers off the hook. The way the author describes this story stays in line with the dominant sexual narrative we are seeing among liberals. Girl “discovers her own sexuality” by performing for the male gaze, some uptight prudes “slut-shame” her, and she goes on to fight for the right of girls to perform for the male gaze without being shamed for it. (Also see: Slutwalk.) This analysis specifically leaves out the sources of the problem: the girl was groomed into this behavior by porn culture, and porn culture is maintained by capitalist patriarchy. Porn culture benefits men and male power by training girls to perform for men sexually so that girls and women think they are making their own choice when they are doing exactly what men want. This narrow focus on the choices that girls and women make is a deliberate way to avoid naming patriarchy as a problem.

Liberal women who write these kinds of articles often inadvertently leave little clues as to the real source of the problem within the article. McArdle gave us some information about the grooming she experienced before becoming a cam girl, although she doesn’t name it as such. She first started looking at pornography at the age of 9, and she started getting sexually harassed by men at age 11. She makes an interesting comment here: “I was aware not only of my own sexual desires but also the desires of others.” Now, when you are eleven years old and you are aware of the sexual desires of male harassers, that’s an obvious problem. Eleven year old girls should actually NOT be aware of the sexual desires of the men around them.

Girls are trained right from childhood to understand that our primary purpose is to be pretty and pleasing to boys and men, and that we should measure our self-worth in terms of how pretty and pleasing we can succeed in being. When pornography went mainstream, the sexualization got much worse. We now have an entire popular culture that looks exactly like soft-core pornography, and that means hard-core pornography has to keep raising the bar to new levels of degradation in order to differentiate itself from all the other media. Everywhere we look, from television, movies, music videos, to magazines, advertising and fashion, girls and women appear as sexualized objects for the male gaze. We are presented as perpetually sexually available and eager to please male consumers, and girls pick up on these messages.

The 13 year old camgirl started watching porn at age 9. It did not horrify her; instead it aroused her. After being trained to see soft-core porn as normal in popular culture, it is easier for someone to find hard-core pornography sexy, even though it is not friendly toward women. Once a child starts watching porn, that’s when the real grooming begins. The main theme of pornography is a sexually experienced man initiating or corrupting an innocent girl. The female bodies that are celebrated in porn are young bodies, usually teenagers who are made to appear even younger than 18. A nine year old girl viewing these images does not have the social criticism skills to understand that what she is looking at are the fantasies of sex offenders being acted out on real women who are often coerced into it. She is simply curious to find out what it looks like when people have sex, and this is what she sees because these are the images that pornographers create. She sees young women with small, hairless bodies performing in a way that pleases men, and she understands that this is what sex is. She is aroused simply because images of people nude and engaging in sexual acts can be arousing, despite the fact that there is sexism involved. She may not see the sexism, because sexism is everywhere around her, so it is difficult to see and analyze.

By the time she turned 13, McArdle had been groomed by pornography for four years already. Some of the lessons she learned are that teenage girls have the best bodies, that exhibitionism is sexy, and that sex consists of women performing for men. All teens are insecure about who they are and looking for validation. It can feel exhilarating and wonderful to receive the validation from your peers that you are indeed hot, sexy, and fuckable, as you have been taught you should be. The young woman who has been groomed by porn culture feels pleasure and satisfaction in knowing that her body is what men want. She won’t understand until she is older that this approval she is receiving from boys and men is superficial and fleeting, and does not represent any real respect for her as a person. These boys and men who approve of her looks would be quite happy to abuse and mistreat her, and she doesn’t see that yet.

When she began camming for her peers at 13, it felt like her own choice. No one was directly forcing her to do it. However, the culture that she grew up in ensured that the conditions were just right for her to make this particular decision.

McArdle claims she was freely exploring her own sexuality. I would like to propose that if a person is freely exploring their own sexuality, then there is no need for anybody else to know about it. Your own sexuality is what makes you feel good; it is what sorts of touch feels good on your body and what sorts of fantasies turn you on. If performing in order to arouse another person is your own sexuality, I think what you’re saying is that your sexuality is not for you, it’s for your audience. Your sexuality is based on what pleases others, rather than what pleases you. We aren’t seeing any boys and men claiming that their sexuality is for other people’s benefit, we are only seeing girls and women making this claim. Boys and men know their sexuality is for themselves. The girl or woman who thinks that her sexuality is for men’s benefit will find it normal when her boyfriend uses her body to achieve orgasm but does not care about giving her the same pleasure. Women are supposed to feel pleasure at the idea of giving men pleasure, rather than fulfilling our own bodies’ desires.

When McArdle was caught by parents, she was made to feel ashamed for what she had done. The reaction from her own parents, as she describes it, was anger, disgust and disappointment. The reaction from her peers was to ostracize her. This is a very common response. Although our culture teaches girls to behave in this manner, when they do, they are punished. Nobody looks at the social forces causing this, they only punish the girl. They look at her individual behavior instead of looking at the social system. Her parents should have directed their anger toward the pornographers who groomed their daughter into this behavior. They should direct their disappointment toward capitalist patriarchy, because guess what? The pornographic pop-up ad she clicked on at nine years old was legally placed there with the express purpose of luring internet users onto pornographic web sites. It was placed there by businessmen who were engaging in the normal business practice of advertising their product in order to reach new customers. They do not care if their new customers are nine year old girls. In capitalism, anything at all is acceptable if it makes money. There is no regard for what is good for the human community or the environment. Parents should try being upset with the fact that there is a multi-billion dollar industry that sells images of girls and women being sexually abused and that the businessmen who benefit from this operation are legally allowed to advertise to their young children via Internet ads. Instead of directing anger at the children who are groomed by these predators, let’s challenge the porn industry.

The 13 year old camgirl should not feel guilty or ashamed of herself. It is not her who committed a wrong. A wrong was committed against her, and it continues to be committed against all girls and women. As long as it’s socially acceptable for businesses to engage in unethical/misogynist practices, and as long as men have social power over women, we will keep seeing these kinds of things happening. I blame the system of capitalist patriarchy, not the choices of girls who are caught in the system.

How watching porn affected me—Kali’s story

1) What effect did porn use have on your ideas about sexuality and your sexual behaviour?

As a 51 year old woman, my ideas about sex and porn generally lined up with what is now called “second wave feminism.” In other words, porn degrades women, has very negative effects on our self-concept, and influences men to treat us with disrespect, if not actual violence. I never watched porn when I was younger, even the ads for it in the back of newspapers made me feel bad; ashamed, ugly, scared, degraded.  But a few years ago, I started watching it due to the sequence of events described below.

It all started about 2-3 years ago. I was entering menopause and found myself feeling spontaneously horny in a way that I had not felt since being a teenager. Fluctuating hormones? Don’t know, but it hit me out of the blue. My libido had been pretty low for years. I’d been married for 15 years and after the first few lustful years, things died down to a dull roar. But now it was back. One day I was watching a TV show that I had watched for years when I suddenly noticed how very appealing the male lead was. Never noticed him before. If anything, I actually  found him somewhat strange looking in the past, but now he seemed like the hottest man ever. I started reading some erotic fan fiction featuring him after exhausting all the TV episodes with multiple viewings.

Somehow the fanfic eventually led me to a site called Lady Cheeky, which was supposed to be a pro sex site for women. Basically the site put up very short clips of sexual scenes, people fucking, blow jobs, extreme close-ups of genitalia. It was the first time I had ever seen a shaved vulva, and at first I didn’t even know what I was looking at! And to think, here I was lamenting the age-related loss of my formerly thick bush and trying to find products that would make it full again, while young women were actively shaving theirs off. This might be the first revelation for me of how out of touch I was with the current state of sexual habits.

So, I found the Lady Cheeky site and instead of immediately clicking out of it, I thought, ‘why not, give it a try?’ After all, the sex positive feminists had been telling us for years that porn was good for women. Women were even writing and directing it, it was liberating and empowering!

There was lots of cunnilingus on Lady Cheeky, so that must be why it was “female friendly,” but there were lots of blow jobs too (boring), and things that looked really painful like face fucking and various scenes of men dominating women. I tried to adopt the sex positive mindset that this was all good, anything that helped arouse me was good and I should just go with it. Following links from Lady Cheeky, I found Tumblr porn ( and the overwhelming number of “submissives”) and eventually found my way to the streaming sites like pornhub.

What I liked about porn was how quickly I could get off when using it — at least initially. When masturbating to my own fantasies, it took 10-20 minutes to orgasm, but with porn, because it was so new and exciting and explicit, I could get off in just a few minutes! This effect diminished amazingly rapidly however, and within a month or so I found myself doing the porn surfing that people talk about, going through dozens of images really quickly, trying to find just that right image to get me off fast.

2) Did you notice how misogynist it was and how did you react to the misogyny?

Yes, right away. Whatever negative thoughts I had about it prior to actually using it, they could not compare to the reality of how disgustingly violent and abusive the current state of porn is. It made 70s porn seem downright quaint. I did not like anything degrading at all and I would try to avoid that kind of porn, but it was always there on any front page of any site, and the pop up ads were worse. I hated the ads featuring very young girls grimacing and crying while being anally raped, but they were everywhere. My strategy to deal with the ugliness of it all was to go to a site and quickly enter “female friendly” and get off the front page as fast as possible. Generally, I was looking for scenes of intercourse where the woman seemed to really enjoy it, where the man seemed to be genuinely interested in her pleasure. These were hard to find, and nothing I watched ever really fit the bill. The lack of ANY affection was a huge disappointment. In porn lingo, female-friendly seemed to mean anything where the woman was not actually being violently abused, for example a long blow job where the man would brush her hair back and smile at her. Oh right, real great for women, yes? What bullshit.

3) What made you stop watching it?

The effect of needing more and more stimulation to get off came on astonishingly rapidly. I was worried about escalation. I shudder to think what sort of place people who have watched it for years are in. I shudder to think about what is happening to people who start watching this stuff when they are only children. I was a grown woman who knew her own mind and was well-versed in the mechanisms of propaganda, and I was pretty helpless in the face of all the porn imagery. I can’t imagine what a child would experience with all this stimulation.

Another reason I stopped involved a specific incident. In an attempt to find something enjoyable, I started trying the amateur stuff (soon found out that most of it wasn’t amateur, of course). I came across one video where a camera was moving around filming a woman who appeared to be sleeping or unconscious. At that moment I was so filled with disgust. The reality that we just can’t know the circumstances of production hit me hard. What the hell was I watching? I turned that video off and vowed to stop watching.

I was also noticing a negative side effect seeping into my life in the real world. You see, it used to be that I saw people as just people. They had bodies, sure, but I was not in the habit of checking them out, I was not always wondering what their ass looked like or scanning them up and down. However in only a few months of porn watching, I found myself overly preoccupied with asses, boobs etc, and I’d be checking everyone out. I hated this, and even after giving up porn, I still do it. I feel like I’ve lost something, some essential thing about the way I used to relate to other human beings and I fear I can’t get it back. I used to see people as unique human beings, each with value, but now I slip into just seeing their sex characteristics, random body parts walking by being evaluated as to how they rate in that regard (MRA bullshit, ranking people in various metrics, hotness, alphas and betas, Etc.)

4) What observations have you made in your acquaintances who watch porn and how it affects them?

In my circle of friends, there are several sex positive activist types, some my age who would have been radical second wave lesbians back in the day, and they too seem to have been taken in by the third wave nonsense. There is just no talking to them about any of this. If you try to discuss it at all, you are called sex negative, prude, kink-shamer etc. So the new reality is anything that gets you off is fine because it is just a fantasy, sex work is empowering, and being submissive is just a fun choice and not a consequence of a damaged sense of self due to growing up in patriarchy. I really feel that many young women these days are kind of shell shocked, and a lot of what passes for sex is actually a kind of self harm. We live in a deeply misogynistic world, that of course has an effect on how women think of themselves.

5) Anything else you want to add.

Thanks for doing this. It is hard to speak out against the tide. We live in a time when even mental health professionals are telling people to watch porn. Dan Savage tells women to just suck it up (literally) and basically do anything a man wants, BDSM forums don’t even blink when women come in asking about 24/7 submission or how to talk to the doctor about throat bruises from being “face fucked,” there are so many people out there grooming women for lives of submission and so-called consensual abuse.

I have been really struggling with myself these past few years. I wish I’d never embarked down the path of porn. It has changed me forever, it has taken something from me, and I wish I’d never seen it. I wish I never knew what tentacle porn was, or Bukkake or gang bang videos. I would be much happier not knowing about these things. I was relatively content before, preoccupied with various non sexual things. But now I find myself rather obsessed with these sexual things, not out of enjoyment, but more out of a compulsive need. I’ve spent far too much time on various message boards trying to find others like me, but I am generally alone there while everyone else is hypnotized with sex positivity. Critical views are not allowed.

I have great concern about where we are going with this and how it will affect all human relationships, not just romantic ones. It seems to me that people are downright mean these days, popular culture is full of mean, sniggering people, people who hate different races, or the poor or women. Empathy and sensitivity are in decline, selfishness and narcissism are on the rise. People will argue that porn has nothing to do with that, is merely a reflection of it, but I disagree. When we have a whole generation being conditioned to violence against women via the use of orgasmic reinforcement, this is not a good thing and it surely does have an effect on people. Fascism is on the rise everywhere, in politics, economics, and in porn. Acclimating ourselves to authoritarianism and violence in the name of entertainment or sexual fantasy is not leading us to a happy place. It is destroying us, slowly.

This post is a part of an ongoing series of interviews from women who have watched porn. If you would like to share your story of how porn affected you, please email psage681@gmail.com.

How watching porn affected me—Stormynightbooks’ story

1) I started watching porn, voluntarily, at 12 years old and it fucked me up. I was thinking/fantasizing about sex constantly, the combination of porn and the mind-killing boredom I found in school. I occupied myself with masturbating in class (I don’t think I was ever found out), masturbating in the school bathrooms, I probably talked about with one of my equally ‘more mature’ female friends. It made me desperately want to have a dick, because I only watched gay male porn. I kept doing this stuff into high school.

2) I knew it was disgustingly awful to women inside myself, I couldn’t bear to watch porn with women being abused in it ‘cause I think I recognized it for what it was. But my ‘tastes’ ran exclusively in the BDSM area, so I solved my moral quandary by just watching gay male porn. I still always felt bad after watching it, but I interpreted it as being disgusted by myself.

3) I quit it as soon as I found radical feminist analysis of it, and intellectually realized how bad it was. However, by then, when I was about 17, I was legit addicted to porn. I was not able to go more than a few days without watching it no matter how hard I tried but, I managed. Probably because I was in a relationship at the time and was at least being regularly touched by someone which soothed the urges. Now, I still struggle with powerful urges to watch it when I’m lustful and lonely in the middle of the night because I cannot masturbate without thinking of vile fantasies that make me sick, and those fantasies make me want to watch porn.

4) My female friends that I knew were watching porn did the same thing I did, only watching the gay stuff because the stuff with women in it was too real. They all fantasized about being gay men and seemed like they couldn’t talk without talking about sex.

This post is a part of an ongoing series of interviews from women who have watched porn. If you would like to share your story of how porn affected you, please email psage681@gmail.com.

How watching porn affected me—Sofia’s story

1) What effect did porn use have on your ideas about sexuality and your sexual behaviour?

It definitely skewed what I thought sex was supposed to be and I tried to adapt my sexuality to what porn showed me. I was meant to enjoy rough sex, I had to enjoy being felt up and groped. It led to me putting myself in situations where I wanted to and allowed men to do these things to me, thinking that it was good and right. Between the ages of 13-15 I had a really big crush on this guy a year above me (and I will note he watched and probably still watches porn avidly. We would discuss porn often) and when he knew that I liked him things became really sexual between us, whenever possible. We’d go to the movies (either alone or with other people) and he would grope my breasts or touch my thighs, this happened a lot. I can also recall one instance at a party we were in the same room with other people, but as soon as they left I was pushed into a corner and he just, like, groped and pressed against me from behind… At the time I liked it or wanted it, but again, it was conditioned behaviour and looking back on it now I can see the abusive nature of it all. I would definitely not repeat the process, but there are times where I find myself seeking out or fantasizing about similar situations. I think it’s something about how victims of certain traumatic situations will seek out a similar setting and re-traumatize themselves in an effort to change the first instance of trauma? Maybe. I know that I still today have bad urges to do things like, having sex with a guy in a public bathroom or letting someone grope me at a bar and I suspect that the times I pursue these urges are definitely due to what happened to me.

Also, the compulsory heterosexuality in the scenes, even so-called lesbian ones, made me look at sexual relationships as having to include men otherwise they weren’t “real”.

2) Did you notice how misogynist it was and how did you react to the misogyny?

I did not notice the misogyny until much later, after giving it up. I began watching at a very young age, maybe 12/13 years old and was addicted to it for many years. When I was younger I watched daily, but started to taper off before giving it up completely around 19 years old. I know that before I stopped I saw the misogyny as normal. It does, after all, reflect society and how men treat us in public. I just thought it was natural, but it definitely led me to sexualize myself or objectify myself. Obviously I knew I was a person but I saw myself as less than, I was a sl*t and c*m guzzling wh*re, all of that and more. The sex being shown in porn was just how it was, pain was supposed to be there and women are supposed to suffer, was how I saw it.

3) What made you stop watching it?

I stopped watching porn mainly because I’d become so desensitized by it that it did nothing for me anymore. I had grown bored with it, I had seen everything, and watched less and less. I completely stopped after reading many testimonials online by victims of the porn industry and watching some of Gail Dines’ talks on Youtube, that truly helped a lot.

4) What observations have you made in your acquaintances who watch porn and how it affects them?

I feel like I can definitely distinguish between men who watch porn often and those who don’t watch it as much. Those who watch it often seem to constantly be close to boiling point and are always ready to react violently towards women: whether it’s a rape joke or calling them names. Men who don’t watch porn as avidly still react aggressively towards women and turn to the same insults and dehumanizing words used in the videos, but to a lesser degree.

I haven’t consciously noticed anything in women that might result from watching porn besides the general sexualisation/objectification they might do to themselves and others around, particularly when they see other women as competition and might insult them using those same words used in porn.

This post is a part of an ongoing series of interviews from women who have watched porn. If you would like to share your story of how porn affected you, please email psage681@gmail.com.