Ethical Porn for Dicks (★★★★★)

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David Ley   *   ThreeL Media   *   November 29, 2016   *   160 Pages

Advanced Review Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

I’ve spoken before about growing up in an extremely conservative and religious family. I never full-on drank that Kool-Aid, but I did go to a Christian high school for two years and to a Christian college for two years. In both places, I was required to attend chapel three times a week. (Groan.) Without fail, at least once or twice a year, we’d have a chapel dedicated to “gender-specific issues.” In other words, male and female students would be separated:  women in one room to discuss eating disorders, and men in another to talk about porn and masturbation.

It’s hard for me to describe how ridiculous these chapels were (and, I’m sure, still are). Just the thought of them makes my brain stop functioning–like, literally, stop functioning. Even in this moment, I’m trying to think of a comprehensive, descriptive, and logical explanation I can give for why these chapels were idiotic, but all my brain can muster is a series of expletives. Sigh. Let’s try harder, Brain…

The chapels bothered me for many reasons. I hated that the school leaders assumed that these were the most pressing issues students were facing. I hated that the chapel speakers talked about sex in such a negative way. I hated that they assumed women didn’t masturbate or think about sex. I hated that they reinforced the idea that sex, masturbation, and lust were shameful. And I hated how this shaming talk encouraged self-loathing, silence, and ignorance. I can’t tell you how many times I heard adult women say that they would only have anal sex because they still wanted to be virgins when they got married. Or that condoms didn’t protect you from diseases so you may as well not wear one. I can’t tell you how many people I knew, especially men, who had extreme guilt about even thinking about sex–let alone about watching porn, or, gasp, actually doing the deed. It was reinforced again and again that sex was bad, bad, bad. Don’t think about it, don’t want it, don’t educate yourself about it. Keep it out of your mind… That is, until you get married, and then sex will be magically transformed into a beautiful physical exchange of love between two spiritual beings. Insert flower and sunshine emojis here! But until then:  SEX IS SIN!

It’s sad, crazy talk. And it makes people sad. And crazy.

So I was eager to read Dr. Ley’s book Ethical Porn for Dicks. The book isn’t really written for women, but who cares. I figured I’d learn some things, and I did. My takeaway from this book, first and foremost, is that it’s okay to be a sexual being. It’s okay to have sexual fantasies. It’s okay to masturbate. It’s okay to masturbate while watching porn. There’s a whole wide range of what “normal” sexual behavior is. If you are a happy, healthy, functioning adult who watches porn, great. Keep on keepin’ on, you know?

Ultimately, porn–like alcohol or money or food or exercise–is a neutral thing on its own. But if you start having bad feelings about your use of porn, chances are there is something going on in YOU that needs to be addressed. Getting to the root of any religious guilt and understanding how it shapes how you view yourself is obviously a good place to start. But even on a less intense level, sometimes people use porn as a distraction from or a coping mechanism for handling problems they don’t want to face. Using porn as stress-relief is fine, but not if you are using it to avoid important issues in your life.

And if porn is something your significant other keeps bringing up, there’s probably something going on between the two of you (something that might not even have anything to do with sex) that needs to be talked about. Sometimes it can be easier to blame porn than, say, deal with the fact that you both have been disengaged from your marriage for years.

For the most part, porn is just porn. On its own, it can absolutely be a component of a healthy sex life. But it’s all that other baggage we put on porn that gives us trouble. Which is why Ley emphasizes the importance of gentle and honest communication and nonjudgmental listening, of being truthful and up front–with yourself and with your partner–so you can recognize and eliminate that baggage so it stops being (or maybe doesn’t even begin to become) an issue.

In short, I enjoyed reading this book. Ley’s no-nonsense approach is refreshing and accepting. He’s clear and direct about how you can (and why you should) use porn in a healthy, ethical, and responsible way. If only he could have been one of our chapel speakers way back when…

 

2 thoughts

  1. Sounds like an interesting book, Lorilin. As you know, my attitude on this subject is predictably colored by hippie roots. The apparent paradox of the 1960s was its celebration of open sexuality combined with a resistance to pop culture’s exploitation and commodification of the female body. How can you point out the exploitative/devaluing side of pop culture imagery without coming off as “puritanical”? On the other hand, how can you celebrate sexuality and the sexual body without opening yourself up to exploitative, devaluing consequences? Unraveling the paradox means seeing that open sexuality can take destructive or liberating forms. The litmus test is whether it returns sex to its fully human value or reduces sex just another commodity for sale. The 1960s bra-burning concept resolved the paradox. “We’re going to openly celebrate our natural sexuality, AND we will not let our sexuality be reduced to the conventional trappings of a bourgeois consumer culture.” I suspect that my litmus test weighs on average against the value of porn and against the main throughline of the book (although everyone must judge for themselves). But the important thing is that, once again, the hippies got it right 🙂 Oh, and I loved your chapel passages 🙂 Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha, I guess the hippies DID get it right. 🙂 And I agree, there has to be a balance. We want to be free to joyfully enjoy our bodies and sexuality…without being so “free” that we end up taking the value or “specialness” away. Avoiding both extremes–both the puritanical “SHUT IT DOWN” mindset and the loosey-goosey “sex means nothing” perspective–is key. And I genuinely think this book does a good job of getting that balance right, which is refreshing.

    Liked by 1 person

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