Feminism, Porn — April 23, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Naomi Wolf’s “The Porn Myth” Is Recycled… Again!

Naomi WolfOn October 20, 2003 an article called “The Porn Myth” by Naomi Wolf appeared in NYMag. The article suggests that porn desensitises men to real women and thus ruins relationships. She says that women now have to compete with a porn star aesthetic:

Now you have to offer—or flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face scene. Being naked is not enough; you have to be buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax—just like porn stars.

The article begins with Naomi saying that “at a benefit the other night, I saw Andrea Dworkin.” Dworkin died in 2005. Naomi also writes that she is 40 in this article. She was born in 1962.

In the almost five years since The Porn Myth first appeared, the article has popped up as a new item in Google news several times, even though the text remains exactly the same. There’s no actual date on the piece. And NYMag has recycled it again this month, prompting another wave of commentators to use it as an excuse to rail against the evils of porn (latest example: Is porn making men too picky?).

I find the whole thing rather frustrating. Why is a five-year-old piece of opinion being recycled like this? Doesn’t Naomi have anything new to say on the topic?

And it’s bothersome because I’m not sure if Wolf’s conclusions are correct. There’s a lot of assumptions going on and not much evidence to back it up beyond anecdotes from friends.

Fact is, five years later we still don’t know what men really think about porn, or what affect it’s having on our sex lives. You only have to see the enormous debate on a post called “How Porn Ruined Sex” at Jezebel to know that this is a complex issue that nobody has really researched.

It’s entirely possible that young, inexperienced men are getting the wrong idea about sex because of porn. If that’s the only info you’re getting, chances are you’ll be a little confused. But it’s a long bow to draw to say that all men are becoming desensitised, that porn is addictive and ruins relationships, yada yada yada. If we’re only going to rely on anecdotal evidence, then there are plenty of guys out there refuting Wolf’s argument on the net, saying “nothing is better than the real thing.” Example here.

And I have to say, Naomi really loses me when she starts to argue that the headscarves and conservative religious attitudes to sex are somehow sexier than the freedom of dress and association that a liberated Western women enjoys.

While I appreciate the point she is trying to make, this article is just too problematic to keep reappearing in the media like this. Where is the new commentary on this?

Ever since reading the Jezebel debate I’ve been thinking about the issue of how porn affects men and relationships and whether porn reflects male fantasy or creates it. It’s probably time I got on with posting about it. Stay tuned.

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: Naomi Wolf Has Definitely Lost It