Wednesday 4 May 2011

Davy Rothbart cums to a conclusion

Proclivity, propensity, penchant, predilection, preference, partiality, and predisposition. I've managed to create quite a list of words starting with the letter P, all meaning surprisingly enough a liking or a fondness for something. And that something I want to talk about in regards to Davy Rothbart also starts with the letter P: porn. I have an interesting and far-reaching story to tell. I'll trust you'll stick with me to the end.

An article in the New York Magazine of January 30, 2011, "He’s Just Not That Into Anyone" by Davy Rothbart gives the author's frank telling of picking up a woman in New York, going back to her apartment to have sex, then being unable to complete the, ah, mission.

The dried-out condom had a full-bodied choke hold on me, but I’d already stopped twice to put on a fresh one, and I knew, as I kept earnestly pumping away, that one more condom wouldn’t make the necessary difference. Had I just given up, things might have played out the way they often did, with shades of confused disappointment and inadequacy on the part of the woman and mumbled apologies and awkward shame from me. But that night, ingenuity struck—unable to actually get off, I found myself flying a fresh route: I faked it.

He goes to ask why he, a healthy guy in his thirties, would need to fake an orgasm. After going through a list of possible reasons like alcohol, drugs, and health in general to explain his failure to perform, he arrives at what he thinks is the most obvious one: masturbating to pornography. He then gives a quote from the musician John Mayers who talks about waking up and looking at porn. "There have probably been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed."

Davy Rothbart goes on to lay out specifically the objective of the article he's presenting.

Porn’s allure and ubiquity isn’t exactly titillating news. The question that still remains, however, is how this tsunami of porn is affecting the libido of the American male or, more selfishly, mine. First I came across a post on Sanjay Gupta’s blog by Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor, who wrote that he noticed a distinct rise in the number of men approaching him with concerns about delayed ejaculation. Kerner went on to attribute much of the problem to a “rapid proliferation of Internet porn” which leads to “over-masturbation,” something I’m very familiar with. Then I read about a University of Kansas study that found that 25 percent of college-age men said they’d faked orgasms, which, I’ll admit, was oddly comforting to hear. But it wasn’t until I interviewed dozens of men with varying porn-watching habits (and a few very open-minded women) that some unexpected themes began to emerge. Porn is not only shaping men’s physical and emotional interest in sex on a very fundamental neurological level, but it’s also having a series of unexpected ripple effects—namely on women.

Mr. Rothbart goes on to tell the stories of several men who watch porn. I mean they seem to watch porn a lot. One guy claims he watches porn for an hour a day, every day and masturbates. These stories also mention an inability on the part of the men to perform during "real" sex or a lack of interest in real sex. They also mention "faking it." Mr. Rothbart ends his article with this admission:

"I went without porn for a day. Then I tried it for two. Then three. On the fourth day, I had the fortune of having sex with a woman. And nothing was faked, although I can only speak for myself."

[I stare at the ceiling, furrowed brow, perplexed look] You're kidding me, right? This is a joke. Davy Rothbart, who turns out to be some sort of entertainer slash author (more of that later) and is in no way a scientist, concludes in his article that his inability to orgasm is attributable to pornography. Remove pornography from the equation and his life is turned around.

Yes, I have a few issues with Mr. Rothbart's article and with your forbearance; I will attempt to go through each one of them as comprehensively as possible.

I have written about the topic of porn before and discovered some theorists prefer a neutral term such as sexual materials over the charged word pornography. The word itself is imbued with so many negative connotations just as with many things sexual that the mere use of the word is to immediately condemn any such material. (see my blog Pornography: What is it?)

Porn is the cause
Mr. Rothbart at the end of his article decides to skip looking at porn for a few days. He then reports, maybe triumphantly, that he has returned to his old self with no need to "fake his orgasm". His conclusion is that the source of his problem or of his humiliation is pornography.

The men in the article above including the author are reflecting on their "loss of appetit". I couldn't help thinking of a scenario where each of these gentlemen gets off of work at 5 o'clock. On the way home, they stop at McDonalds and eat a Happy Meal around 5:25pm. Arriving home at 6pm, they each sit down for dinner and wonder why they don't have an appetit. Mr. Rothbart's conclusion is that McDonalds is bad.

Supersize Me
In this 2004 documentary, the author Morgan Spurlock eats only at McDonalds for 30 days. The larger purpose was to talk about obesity in America, but to also point out the problems of bad diets. As you can well imagine, at the end of thirty days, Mr. Spurlock's doctors were not giving him a clean bill of health. In fact, they were quite alarmed at how quickly his health was showing signs of deterioration. The obvious conclusion from the filmed experiment is that nobody should be eating at McDonalds every day.

My McDonalds Metaphor
Eating at McDonalds before dinner spoils your appetit. Eating at McDonalds every day is bad for your health. Now in saying that, I don't think anybody would deny or should deny themselves the occasional guilty pleasure of a Big Mac, but everything in moderation.

However, if you eat a Happy Meal then come home for dinner and wonder why you're aren't hungry, you're an idiot. If you eat at McDonalds every single day then wonder why your health is affected, you're an idiot. If you start telling everyone that McDonalds is evil and the cause of all your problems, you're an idiot.

Think about it. If these gentlemen were going down to their neighbourhood pub every day and drinking, we would probably be suspicious that they were alcoholics. However, I don't think we'd be condemning the pub or saying that alcohol is the drink of the devil. We would lay the blame on their behaviour and be using such terms as obsessive-compulsive.

Do these men know anything about their bodies?
The term "refractory period" refers to the time after orgasm during which a man can't have another orgasm. It is also sometimes defined as "the time immediately following orgasm during which a man cannot achieve an erection." The penis may be hypersensitive and further sexual stimulation may even feel painful during this time frame.

While the term is usually applicable to men, it may refer to women. Unlike most men, most women do not experience a refractory period immediately after orgasm and in many cases are capable of attaining additional, multiple orgasms through further stimulation. The female sexual response is more varied than that of men, and there are many women who experience clitoral hypersensitivity after orgasm, which effectively creates a refractory period. These women may be capable of further orgasms, but the pain involved in getting there makes the prospect undesirable.

The Wikipedia article points out that the duration of this time can vary from individual to individual, from minutes to hours to days. Whatever the time, it is obvious that having one orgasm lessens the possibility of having a second one, or should I say lessens the desire of having a second one.

I go back to my McDonalds metaphor. If you eat a Happy Meal, you're not going to feel like having dinner. At least not for whatever time is necessary to get hungry again. If you've had an orgasm, you're not going to want to have another. At least not for whatever time is necessary to get horny again.

Porn Addiction
Now here's a term which is being bandied about left, right, and centre: porn addiction. An online article quotes Dr. Alan Grieco (Licensed Psychologist; Sex Therapist certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators; B.A. from the University of Miami; Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology; Post-Doctoral Clinical Fellowship at the Masters and Johnson Institute - in other words, he just may know what he's talking about):

"If you're spending over 14 hours a week -- or two hours a day -- doing something sexual or quasi-sexual, like cruising the Internet for porn or cruising the streets looking for a particular type of prostitute, you're in the addictive range."

2 hours a day? 14 hours a week? Hmmm, how many guys go to their neighbourhood pub and drink that much?

However, I would like to add a warning that critics of pornography paint with a broad brush stroke any consumption of porn as an addiction as if anybody having a beer at their neighbourhood bar is an alcoholic. (see my blog: Pornography: Is it an addiction?)

Sex Education
Mr. Rothbart quotes two women in his article who complain about the behaviour of men by saying that the undesirable behaviour has obviously come from what the women consider to be "stupid porn". Monkey see, monkey do? Would this statement mean that these men are mimicking what they saw in a pornographic film somehow thinking that such behaviour was desirable?

In my posting Cindy Gallop: Make Love Not Porn I talk about this New York self-professed cougar who talks about dating younger men in their twenties and running into undesirable behaviour they had picked up from watching porn. When confronted with the news that such and such a thing is not appreciated, they reply something to the effect that they thought women liked that. Ms. Gallop's conclusion was that the sex education these young men had came from nothing but porn. How is this possible?

Now the first thing somebody might say is that porn is evil. However, I must ask the question. How in heavens name did any man reach the age of twenty without any sex education? What happened to the parents? What happened to the education system? Is every young person "expected" to learn this stuff on their own?

Ah, but some will say that porn is evil. Okay, nobody is the least bit concerned with the amount of violence that every child is bombarded with from TV. In my blog Carnography: Vegetarians need not apply, I quote from the Journal of the American Medical Association where Dr. Brandon Centerwall writes of television and violence:

if, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.

What? Everybody is jumping up and down about porn and I don't see anybody jumping up and down about this!?!

Mundane Sex
Mr. Rothbart makes an interesting statement:

For a lot of guys, switching gears from porn’s fireworks and whiz-bangs to the comparatively mundane calm of ordinary sex is like leaving halfway through an Imax 3-D movie to check out a flipbook.

The mundane calm of ordinary sex? Pamela Madsen is a 43 year old mother of 2 who recounted her personal journey to discover her sexual self in the book Shameless. (see my blog Book Review: Shameless by Pamela Madsen) In the auxiliary article "Who Trains the Men?", she writes about going to a sex workshop with her husband and what happens when they get home.

He took me in his arms, kissed me, and laid me down onto the bed. Where he proceeded to ask me "just to receive" his touch. I was not to touch back. This was not "lover space," this was his place of becoming my sexual healer. It was amazing. My darling husband touched me and loved me with no agenda other than to please me. And he touched me in all kinds of new ways. There was even a moment when he said, "Open your eyes. Let me see you." I think I climaxed right there.

Mundane? What's mundane about what Ms. Madsen experienced with her husband?

Hotter and Wilder
Elsewhere in the article, Mr. Rothbart writes about a man he interviewed.

"I used to race home to have sex with my wife," says Perry, a 41-year-old lawyer. "Now I leave work a half-hour early so I can get home before she does and masturbate to porn." Throughout the course of our conversation, Perry insists that he’s still attracted to his wife of twelve years. Still, he says, she can’t quite measure up to the porn stars he views online. "Not to be mean, but they’re younger, hotter, and wilder in the sack than my wife," he says. "Me and her, we still ‘do it’ and everything, but instead of every day, it’s maybe once a week. It’s like I’ve got this ‘other woman’ … and the ‘other woman’ is porn."

"Hotter, and wilder than my wife?" Tracey Cox is an author specializing in books about dating, sex, and relationships. (see my blog Sex Ed: Tracey Cox) In the January 26, 2011 edition of Cosmo magazine in an article entitled "15 Ways to get him hard" with the tagline "Sexpert Tracey Cox shows you how to turn him and you on in an instant", the author describes various ways a woman can spice up her own love life by turning on her man. Has Mr. Perry ever had a frank discussion with his wife about sex? Does he know what turns on his wife? Does his wife know what turns him on? Would he consider sharing the article by Tracey Cox with his wife then talking about putting such "hot and wild" ideas into practice?

Final Word
Porn, you love it or loath it. Is there a middle ground? Whatever the case, sex is primordial to our existence and pornography - or if you prefer the term erotica - as an "artistic" representation of our sexuality is not going away. Humorously enough, the greatest consumers of porn appear to be Conservatives. (see my blog Pornography: Who buys the most? Conservatives!)

Unfortunately, there is so much misinformation floating around about this subject that it is virtually impossible to get the straight goods. To some of the most vocal, possibly with leanings to right wing Conservative religious fundamentalism, the sky is falling and we're all going to hell in a handcart.

In my posting Pornography: My Conclusions, I wrote about the "real problem":

We can't talk about sex. We are all scared to death about revealing ourselves, revealing our sexual side. I'd say we are all taught to hide our sexuality; certainly we have countless examples of how people have gotten and can easily get into all sorts of trouble about sex (see my blog Sex: Still Dirty After All These Years. In my blog Carnography: Vegetarians need not apply I talk about how our system of censorship allows untold amounts of violence on television even to our children but we freak out if Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction. I don't mind my kids watching a murder but a bare nipple may scar them for life?

I'm just as guilty as everybody else when it comes to being open and honest. What reaction am I going to get if I reveal a personal part of me? Will it be, "tell me more" or "let's discuss" or will it be a freak out with "Eew, that's disgusting"? Yes, I'm hesitant. Yes, I'm uncomfortable. Yes, I'm apprehensive, no, sometimes I'm actually scared. I have a lifetime of experiences both direct (my own experiences) and indirect (those around me, in the newspapers, on television) which have reinforced the idea that silence is golden; do not talk about certain things under penalty of ridicule, being ostracised or even criminal prosecution. Do we need a frank discussion? You bet! However, I'm apprehensive; you're apprehensive; we're all apprehensive if not scared and that is a big hurdle to get over.

I would like to end by quoting from an interview with Pamela Madsen, author of Shameless:

To be sure, many people won’t examine their own fantasies and desires. More often than not, we sit in such judgment of sexual desires in general and our own in particular, then we hide them away as if they were somehow shameful.
So this concept of us being unique sexual beings could be really big news for people. And that we can be two separate beings in ONE marriage is really startling.

Mr. Rothbart would have us all believe that his problem stemmed from pornography. I'm afraid, sir, you and those you interviewed are displaying a collegial drink-a-keg-a-night frat house approach to your sexual lives, something I would no more recommend to a twenty something than to a forty or fifty something. Your problem isn't porn; it's you. Just because the bunch of you don't know how to hold your liquor, doesn't mean one should think about bringing back prohibition for the rest of us. I don't deny any of you the occasional Big Mac, but maybe you should all be having dinner at home more often. And when you do, maybe a little "hot and wild" might spice up the meal.


New York Magazine - Jan 30/2011
He’s Just Not That Into Anyone
Even, and perhaps especially, when his girlfriend is acting like the women he can’t stop watching online.
By Davy Rothbart

Wikipedia: Davy Rothbart
Davy Rothbart (born April 11, 1975) is an author, filmmaker, contributor to This American Life, and the editor/publisher of Found Magazine.

[Okay, this is just too funny. Mr. Rothbart wrote an article in the August 2006 edition GQ about him having phone sex. This was turned into a movie called "Easier with Practice"]

The Verge - Feb 24/2010
Davy Rothbart Explains His Masturbation Movie to His 93-Year-Old Grandmother

Rotten Tomatoes: Easier with Practice: 90%
story: Davy Rothbart
screenplay/director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Easier with Practice Trailer

official web site: Easier With Practice
In an effort to promote his unpublished novel, Davy Mitchell sets out on a road trip with his younger brother. However, the idealism of being on the road wears off and it quickly proves to be a lonely and unfulfilling experience for Davy. One night in a motel room he gets a random phone call from a mysterious woman named Nicole. They start a funny and intimate long distance relationship that leaves Davy happier than he has been in years. Hoping there is more to the relationship then a voice and a phone bill, Davy decides he wants to meet Nicole. Ultimately, he will have to face not only the truth about their relationship but also about himself.

my blog: Pornography: An investigation
10 articles; 1 set of conclusions; 58 pages; 22,000 words; 4 weeks of research.

my blog: Sex: Men fake it too
Wait until Davy finds out that someday he may be faking it and he won't be faking it.


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1 comment:

Unknown said...

yeah ... parents teaching sex ed? i had to learn about it in school