Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I recently wrote a more in depth article than I normally write for the Huffington Post on how internet porn has changed the way all of us have sex. You can check it out here or read my reposting below.
Internet porn has entered your bedroom. You may not realize it, your boyfriend may rarely watch it, but the kind of sex you are having has internet porn to thank for its life-imitating-art effect. An entire generation of men has spent the last ten to fifteen years watching porn in quantities unimaginable to previous generations and the consequence is that they have unconsciously been asking you to have sex like a porn star.
I realized this for the first time when my girlfriends were having one of those scandalously frank discussions about sex. Confessions abounded regarding who liked a little hair pulling, who had had a threesome, who had tried anal. It was at this point that one girl confessed that the guy she was seeing really seemed to enjoy calling her a “slut” during sex. She didn’t see anything wrong with it and she wanted to let it turn her on, but she couldn’t help the fact that she didn’t enjoy it. A few other girls said they had experienced the same thing. At this point, another friend chimed in that her boyfriend did this thing where on occasion, during passionate lovemaking, he engaged in a little light choking. Nothing serious enough to impair breathing, he barely did more than use one hand to hold her around the neck, but she was surprised by it, and every time he did it, she was just waiting for it to be over. Then someone else added a story about a guy she was seeing who had used the c-word. He didn’t mean it derogatorily, she explained. He said he just wanted hers so badly and it was meant to be foreplay, though for her it wasn’t a turn on and in fact ruined the mood—and her night.
It occurred to me that everything my friends were describing was hazily familiar. Where had I heard all of this before? Oh, that’s it! Porn! The men my friend’s were dating had subconsciously allowed common scenarios from pornography to creep into their sexual behavior. A generation ago, it would have been shocking for a girl to report that her boyfriend called her a slut. These acts would have been taboo or even fetishist and men probably would be embarrassed to even ask for such a thing from a lover. But after watching it on your computer thousands of times, men have come to believe that this type of sex is the norm. When did it become normal to objectify your wives and girlfriends in the bedroom? Women have made so many advances in so many ways: My friends are dating guys who respect them and are trying their darndest to communicate their feelings and are supportive of my friends’ careers. And yet, when the lights go off, these same men expect their girlfriends to act like a wanton schoolgirl from a barely legal website. Ludacris once rapped that he wanted “A lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets”—and it seems he’s not alone.
There’s been a lot of attention paid to porn addictions and sex addiction in recent years and clearly those are serious issues and addicts need real help. But only about 10 percent of men who visit porn sites are thought to be addicts. The 90 percent of men who are not addicts are our boyfriends, husbands and the guys we are dating. And watching porn has changed them. And now they are asking us to change too.
Let me get right out in front of this issue and say I have absolutely no objection to porn itself. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching it. But on the other hand, if has affected what the average man expects from the average woman in the bedroom, is this an unexplored problem we need to address? Much attention has been paid to how women feel when they compare themselves aesthetically to a porn star. Many women feel insecure because they look heavier or their breasts are smaller or their butt isn’t as fill-in-the-blank. But men don’t really expect or even want to date women that look like most porn stars. If you’re dating a guy, he knows you don’t look an adult film actress and he’s probably pretty happy about it. The focus on women’s insecurity about their appearance disguises the much more complicated issue that he’s happy with how you look, he just wants you to beg to be choked.
Which is fine if you’re also into it, but if a woman doesn’t want to be called a slut during sex, will there be any men left for her to have sex with?
A man may not realize it or intend it, but studies have shown that when a man watches more porn, his attitudes toward women change. I spoke with Robert Weiss, the foremost expert on sex addiction and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, about this sexual subjugation revolution that is taking hold of all our sex. Weiss cites recent research that demonstrates how porn affects men who previously had no sort of sexual disorder or problem. A study was conducted of men who were instructed not to change their lives in any way except to spend more time watching porn. Nothing special or unusual, just your average run of the mill, highly rated video on youporn.com for instance. The study showed that very quickly, the porn had affected the men’s daily lives and relationships. The men were less interested in sex with their partner/spouse, more likely to objectify the bodies of strangers and reported an increased view of all females as sexual objects, and not just physically, but also in terms of a lower regard for women as people in general (i.e. he becomes less respectful, less considerate of feelings). The inference being that a man who is viewing a great deal of porn will show a reduced empathic connection to women.
Furthermore, we have to assume that despite our best efforts, teenage boys now will grow up seeing porn and not just the naked images of yesterday, but hardcore porn. How will this affect their ideas regarding what “normal sex” is and what kind of sex will they expect to have on an average basis? I was hoping soft core porn might be the answer: If we could get young men to watch romantic sex, maybe we could change what turns the average man on.
But Weiss quickly disabused me of that notion. He assured me my quixotic idea was all well and good till you have to face the fact that “men might not be turned on by that type of porn.” As in, even if women made a version of porn that was romantic and sweet and filled with rose petals, men are not going to be interested in watching it. It seems we just have to accept that internet porn is literally changing the ways we have sex in and what we say while we do it.
So what hope do women have then if they do not subscribe to the please call me a slut flock? “Any interventionist will tell you, that the idea of losing personal relationships is what motivates most people,” Weiss explained. So if we women want to change the sex we are expected to have, we have to ask for it. We have to say that if you want to have sex with us at all, it has to be of the more skinemax variety.
But this got me thinking: Is there anything inherently wrong with what these men want in the bedroom? If a couple has a completely respectful relationship outside the bedroom, but during sex the husband wants to call his wife a slut and she doesn’t like it, why am I so quick to judge that the man has to change? The study Weiss cites is a study done on increased porn consumption but the research does not prove that having dirty sex changes the relationship between a couple. And anecdotally, my friends were quick to assure me that they felt completely respected outside Of the bedroom.
If nothing negative arises in the relationship from this type of sex, maybe my friends are the ones who should change? Perhaps, the woman is the one who should see if she could get comfortable with a slightly different type of sex and eventually enjoy it. We’re asking for so much from men in relationships these days—expecting them to communicate like women. Maybe learning to enjoy doggy style is something women should be willing to do for men?
Of course, this has its limits. If a man is asking for something that his partner finds truly abhorrent, he probably needs to find someone who shares that interest with him. But on the other hand, if he’s asking for a little leeway to use some dirty words, should women be willing to try new things?
On the one hand, it could be argued we’d be encouraging men to objectify us by adding this spice to our love lives, but on the other hand, maybe this would counter the issue of men losing interest in a long-term partner. Maybe by allowing them to share it with us, we’ll create even more intimacy in our relationships. It’s hard to know what the answer is but it seems important to start discussing the issue. A societal shift has quietly creeped into our beds and women didn’t get a chance to decide whether or not we’re ready to welcome it in or ask that it be left at the door. Each one of us is going to have to make that decision for ourselves, but the first step is to wake up and realize that, like it or not, the venue for porn has long since left the San Fernando Valley; it’s in your own bedroom.
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February 22, 2012 | 9:11 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
A few weeks back, my boyfriend offered to pay my health insurance premiums. I am unusually poor right now, which I’ve discovered doesn’t well suit me, so I have slowly been dwindling down what little savings I have to almost nothing. Essentially, if I don’t sell a screenplay soon, I’ll either have to take his help or move back in with my parents or worse get a job as a lawyer. My boyfriend is very supportive of my current career goals and so has offered in multiple ways to help me out financially. Up till now, I’ve drawn a clear line in the sand. I pay for my necessities (rent, utilities, and I’m sure a few other things). He pays for pretty much everything else: eating out, seeing movies, taking trips, paying for cabs, ski lift tickets, drinks at bars, etc.
To my mind, this is a clear division. If we broke up tomorrow, I’d still be able to subsist. This allows me to remind myself, I’m not a hooker. But I’m starting to think more and more about taking his money. So if he does start paying my rent, have I crossed the line into the murky waters of prostitution? I decided to look for signs. Signs that I am not a ho. And so, here is a list that perhaps you will find helpful too.
Ten Reasons I Know I’m Not a Hooker
February 17, 2012 | 12:37 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I went to my second script reading series for Film Independent at LACMA. Jason Reitman directed an all African American cast reading the script for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Terrence Howard was so funny, he almost out-shined Laurence Fishburne in a cast that included Cuba Gooding Jr. and Anthony Anderson. Naturally, I almost fell all over myself when I got to chat with Elvis Mitchell of KCRW’s The Treatment fame.
It was interesting that when Elvis was introducing the film, he commented that a lot of African Americans thought the dialogue in the film reflected “how black people talk.” Of course, most of us when we saw the film back in the day, didn’t think much about the race, but that clearly was the point of Reitman’s casting. In a movie where the characters are named Mr. Brown and Mr. White and they talk about how much they like Black actresses, we were forced to think about how the race of the characters changed the story when the robbers become African American. The think that was most interesting was how the relationship between the group of robbers and the police takes on a new dimension. When the three robbers beat up a police officer, trying to get him to give up the name of the rat, it’s suddenly three black criminals beating up on the LAPD and in some way, it almost over complicates the film. It was an interesting experiment but the thing that of course is most interesting in the movie and in the script are the relationships between the men as they try to find out who amongst them is a liar. And because either way, the race between the robbers is the same, it didn’t seem to affect the story as much as I thought it would. In any case, it was a very exciting evening. How often do you get to watch Terrence Howard read a script where his character gets shot and he’s having so much fun playing a crazed psycho he looks at the audience, breaking character to say “but I’m not ready to die, yet.” Movie magic.
February 14, 2012 | 5:29 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
There was a time in my life when Valentine’s Day really mattered to me. Now that I’m in love and in the best relationship I’ve ever been in, I keep forgetting about it. In fact, I accidentally made plans with a girlfriend last week to get together tonight not remembering what today was or that both our boyfriends had made plans for us.
When I was single, the day could be painful. Wishing for love and wondering if it would ever come. In other relationships, I tried not to expect anything but hoped for something amazing. Or at least hoped he had remembered to make dinner reservations in advance. Flowers on Valentine’s Day seemed to mean so much when I was in a relationship where I constantly felt under-appreciated or even ignored. And when today would come, and he’d call in the morning to say what do you want to do later, I’d feel disappointed and bite my tongue.
But in my current relationship, where my house is still filled with orchids my boyfriend sent months ago just because and he remembered weeks ago to get an 8 o clock reservation at a restaurant I told him I wanted to try, tonight doesn’t seem to mean much. In fact, we decided to cancel the reservations and go see a special screening of a sexy burlesque documentary downtown. We go to great restaurants pretty often and my boyfriend does so much to show he appreciates me on a regular basis that I’d rather skip the manufactured romance of tonight. I convinced him that we’ll get better food if we go to the restaurant on a night where they’re not desperate to turn the tables (once a waitress, always a waitress).
But just to get in the spirit, I did stop by his apartment at 6 this morning to bring him some Valentine’s Day cookies. I found this great raspberry shortbread recipe at Joy of Baking and stayed up last night to make imperfectly molded heart cookies. He was late to work cause he sleepily forced me to cuddle as he told me how much he appreciated me.
The thing I’ve realized is that romance can’t get injected into a relationship one day of the year. If you’re desperately hoping your boyfriend might do something special for you tonight, it might be because you’re unfulfilled in the relationship. It’s only now, in a relationship that exceeds my romantic desires on an average basis that a day dedicated to love has come to mean so little. I don’t need him to prove anything to me tonight because examples of the proof I used to look for abound in my relationship. It makes me laugh at a much younger me that knew today was stupid but couldn’t help imbuing it with meaning, hoping my boyfriend would surprise me with something special. If only I could have been wise enough to understand that this hope really belied a hole in my relationship that no amount of restaurant reservations or flowers could fix.
That being said, if you’re single, tonight is really one of the best nights to go out. I’m almost sad to miss it. I have to wonder if there are statistics on the percentage of one night stands that occur on Valentine’s Day compared to the rest of the year. I can only speak anecdotally but it seems to me my friends have found great romance and a lot more (or a lot less) when this time of year comes around. And even if you’re not looking for a one night stand, many of my favorite Valentine’s memories center around getting a bit tipsy with my girlfriends as we watched men prowl around the bars. There’s nothing like looking for love.
And in the meantime, a nod to some of my favorite Valentines from none other than NPR.
February 13, 2012 | 9:15 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My boyfriend and I were in a car accident this weekend. We both are fine. Nothing more than a few bruises on us. The cars were not so lucky, though of course we know it could have been much worse. But when the storm had passed, the incident afforded me an unexpected peak into an aspect of my boyfriend that that I was rather mystified to see. He invoked God. Out loud.
The car crash was jarring. It definitely shook us pretty good and for a long five seconds, it was incredibly scary. There’s a lot you can tell about a person by the way they handle life’s unexpected adversity. Of course, it’s easy to be in love when times are good, but we’re also looking for someone who will be with us when dealing with the inevitable fear and sadness that life might mete out at any moment. It came as no surprise to me that my boyfriend was fairly calm and overly concerned about me from the second of impact till well, he hasn’t stopped being concerned. The moment the car stopped moving when I had barely processed what happened, let alone stopped hearing the screech of tires and metal frames crushing in on themselves, he turned to me and steadily asked me if I was all right.
The next hour or so was an awful blur of police officers and phone calls and tow trucks and shaky hands and wobbly legs and grabbing hold of the person I was lucky to be with. But luck was what I attributed it all to. I am not an atheist but at the same time I don’t really think much about God in my daily life. When good things happen I don’t thank him(/her/it) and when bad things happen I try not to blame him.
So I was almost shocked after a year of dating to hear God invoked for the first time. In the middle of the night, I finally crawled into bed still shaking from the impact, him holding me tight, giving me tiny little kisses on the forehead the way boys do when they want to take care of you but can’t offer anything else up. When my boyfriend mentioned that if the other car had hit us a few seconds later and not hit the wheel well on his car but actually the driver’s side, he could have been seriously hurt, I thanked my lucky stars. But he thanked God. It was short and only a sentence long but it was something akin to prayer in which he thanked God for keeping us safe and out of danger and watching out for us.
Now let me back up here and say that in today’s day and age, especially in the educated liberal part which let’s face it is pretty much the only part I know, there’s not much talk of God anywhere. It’s just not something that comes up in conversation much. We certainly will talk about religion or going to temple or church or interfaith marriages or whether or kids will go to Hebrew school. But outright talk of God is rather rare. Perhaps it has become so much associated with fundamentalist Evangelicals that we’re scared to invoke God for fear of being associated with a nutjob who wants to bring stoning of adulterers into Congress? Perhaps we scared of sounding anti-intellectual? So although my boyfriend and I have talked extensively about religion, we haven’t much talked about God. It came up once early on and I sheepishly confirmed to him that as much as I would like to be completely convinced by Christopher Hitchens, in the abstract I’m still a believer. He told me he also believed in ‘something’ and comforted us both with a reminder that Einstein too believed in God. And we left it at that. It seemed there was nothing more to say on the subject.
But then there I was, in the middle of the night listening to my boyfriend uttering words out loud to thank God for keeping us safe. And it caught me off guard. Humbling and touching yes, but it made me realize that God is a very different thing for both of us. For me, God wasn’t keeping us safe. God was probably irritated with us for not being more careful and it was simply luck that kept us safe. Because otherwise, if something worse had happened, then we’re stuck believing that God didn’t keep us safe on purpose and that doesn’t conform to my notion of God at all. And yet, there are plenty of times when I’m defeated that I tell myself, it’s all meant to be and everything happens for a reason. But to be honest, I am nervous to voice this at times. It seems that one of the last social taboos left around is belief in an active God. I imagine I would be mocked in certain left-leaning intellectual circles if I voice this opinion. We seem to have succumbed to a tacit understanding, that though some of us are unable to give up a belief in God, we have all agreed never to speak of it so that no one has to fess up to this crude belief. This way no one can mock us for refusing reason and rationality which of course are the same ammunitions we use to degrade the other side in the fight against religious extremism.
But I guess what shocks me most, is not that he let this utterance escape in a time of stress but rather that I didn’t know this about him. Although, I can’t say I know how most of my friends feel on the subject. I know all of my friend’s religions and I can probably tell you how religious they are i.e. how often they go to church or if their children will be raised with religion. But I can’t tell you at all, if they really believe in God and I have no idea which of them might utter a thank you similar to my boyfriend in the quiet of their bedroom at night and which ones never utter a silent prayer at all.
So much has become so public these days. If I went to check up on an old friend from camp, in a few seconds I can find out if she’s in a relationship, what her politics are, what her “likes” are, and what she looks like. But I don’t really know if my own sister believes the same way I do about God. Why do we all feel compelled to keep this from each other? Is the real face of religious liberty a culture of secret religiosity.
It took a frightful scare for my boyfriend to open up about his God. I wanted to talk more about my God but in the dark of night, it all seemed insignificant. It didn’t matter to me if it was luck or God that kept me safe. I was just glad to be there, in a cozy home, listening to the still-quick heartbeat of my lover. And when he finished his pithy prayer, I thought to myself amen.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. Psalm 121
February 8, 2012 | 12:24 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’m co-hosting a special Valentine’s Day Edition of the The Angry Therapist’s Radio show tonight. TAG TEAM - Valentine’s Day Episode on Angry’s Radio It might not be NPR, but on the flip side, we won’t be asking for money.
Tune in for the live broadcast on Feb 8th, Weds at 7pm (PST). If you don’t catch it live, you can also listen on demand anytime.
Call in to ask your relationship / dating / love questions!
February 7, 2012 | 11:46 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just affirmed a lower federal court decision that determined that Prop 8, which bans gay marriage, is unconstitutional. While this is a great step toward creating marriage equality for all, it also makes me a little nervous. There is only one place this case can go now….the Supreme Court. And a decision there is going to be huge. It could be a few years before the Supreme Court actually hears the case as appeals take a while and it’s possible that the make-up of the court will change by then, but unfortunately I don’t see Thomas or Scalia retiring quickly enough to allow the composition of the court to change in time for this case. The Supreme Court could chose to not hear the case, which means the decision today will stand for the 9th Circuit, but it’s also unlikely given the current political climate.
This case was only decided 2-1 and I took a peak atthe dissenting judge’s opinion. It foreshadows the arguments that will likely be made at the Supreme Court if it gets there and they are better than I expected. The decision focuses on the fact that a state should be allowed to define marriage however it wants and he offers a lot of precedent to support this. The majority concedes this fact but argues that no state can define marriage in a way that violates a person’s constitutional rights as defined by the 14th Amendment. A decision at the Supreme Court will likely also be a 5-4 decision with Kennedy now the only hope of a swing vote. It’s hard to believe that so many millions of American lives will be touched by the words of one man, but as of now, that’s probably what it’s going to come down to. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to do now but wait. And of course pray for early retirement. In the meantime, we celebrate.
February 3, 2012 | 1:45 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Lana Del Ray’s stereotypical, codependent, frivolous girlishness is a regression for feminism according to a new article in the Atlantic. Definitely worth a read. Spencer Kornhaber’s contention is that for Lana “in every instance, her stated belief is that without being beautiful, she’s nothing. And what’s really uncomfortable is that she can’t seem to conceive of the world in any other way.” As a lover of all things romantic, I am too sucked in by her idealistic devotion to her man. But Kornhaber rightfully points to the fact that Lana may have crossed over from romance to unhealthy obsession. “We all know people in unbalanced relationships, where one party’s more enamored than the other, but Del Rey sells this problem as not a problem at all—and as inevitably tied to gender.” Is she redefining being pathetic as the new girly?