Have you read those headlines that warn: Porn Destroys Marriages or Romance Novels Ruin Relationships? I saw this article on porn addiction and after I stopped laughing about the “how to get them to stop” part, I got to wondering why women don’t find porn as compelling as men. That got me to wondering why women find romance novels so irresistible (and men mostly don’t).
Let me give you the disclaimers first: Too much of just about anything can destroy a relationship: too much bowling, too much shopping, too much snoring. I don’t happen to believe that porn or romance novels are innately evil, but they can give one a warped sense of what’s normal, especially if a person doesn’t have a lot of real-world experience. Most men do not rip the clothes off a women they just met (and would you really want him to?), and most women don’t have giant breasts, perfect (hairless) bodies, and a fascination with big dicks (and would you really want her to? If you’re tempted to answer yes to either of those questions, think back to a time when you were in a relationship with someone who turned out to be single-mindedly clingy, or imagine living with someone who was inclined toward random violent attacks. Great fantasy; horrible reality.)
But, back to my original question: Why don’t women become addicted to porn? I’m sure there are some out there who do, but for most women, I think the fantasy is a fail. It’s not good sex. Sure, some of the images are erotic, but the fantasy is constantly being broken:Ouch, that position must hurt, or her skin must be painfully sensitive from shaving it so much, or there’s no possible way that move would ever make her orgasm, or her plastic surgery bill must have been huge. I also don’t happen to find random penises (erect or otherwise) to be erotic (which is why I find the whole Weinergate thing so hilarious: he’s sending photos of his dick to women he doesn’t know, and women, in general, find that particular male body part to be cringeworthy, even disgusting. How can an obviously intelligent, well-educated guy be so clueless?) And whether or not it is actually true, I’m left with the feeling that the man in the porn video is actually enjoying the sex, while the woman is just acting (i.e. faking). That is, the woman is doing it for the money, fame, and ego trip–not because she would choose to have sex like that. Good sex isn’t a giant dick, unusual forms of intercourse, and cum shots. At least not for most women.
So what about romance novels? Why are women so drawn to them (and not men)? Do women consider the intimate relations in romance novels to be good sex? Would a man agree?
My teenage son has a t-shirt that reads “I killed Edward” that he loves to wear to school. For those of you who have yet to take the plunge, Edward is the “beautiful” vampire heart-throb who is devoted to the mousy, inept human heroine, Bella, in the Twilight book (& movie series). Although my son is quite well read, he has never picked up any of those books. I asked him why: “Because the books makes guys out to be stupid, artificial robots, and the girls all think that’s great.” He’s got a point there. Now that I think about it, a big part of the reason I don’t watch porn is because it makes women out to be stupid, artificial robots, and the guys all think that’s great. Maybe he’s on to something.
I avoid romance novels as a rule (I find the writing overdone, and the stories unrealistic), but I decided that if I wanted to debate the merits of the Twilight books, then I was obligated to read at least the first one. Millions of women and girls find the books to be compelling. (Any guys out there that love them?) I found the book to be phony and unsatisfying. (Yes, it’s a young adult book, but that’s no excuse. I read quite a bit of YA and the writing is often excellent.) In Twilight, my suspension of disbelief was constantly being broken: The hero spends all his free time standing in Bella’s bedroom watching her sleep? (stalkers, anyone?) He finds it endearing that she’s a klutz? (really?) He’s a hundred years old and still wants to go to high school? (scary.) He drinks blood a couple of times a month but can run as fast as a car and carry her about like a baby? Get serious, or perhaps I should say, get science.
I started thinking about why girls (and women, too) like the books so much, and I think the answer is: the vampire guy is the perfect, devoted mate (or so they believe). He thinks of nothing except protecting, caring for, and satisfying his female love. He is willing to die for her. He is absolutely gorgeous (and doesn’t care that she’s Plain Jane.) He’s a strong, capable athlete (and finds it quaint that she’s clumsy and awkward). He follows her everywhere, protecting her and showing up just in time to save her. He’s rich and happily spends his money on her (buying her dinner and prom dresses). He drives an expensive and prestigious car, wears attractive clothes that show off his perfect (upper) body, and is well-educated and smart. He puts her first at all costs, and never thinks of himself. He has super-human reflexes and knows what everyone is thinking (but he can’t read her mind). And despite the huge disparity between them, she is enough to satisfy him. More than enough: he croons “I love you” over and over.
It’s emotional pornography. I keep thinking that it’s all great for her, but he’s just pretending because there’s no possible way a human being (even a vampire, for that matter) would be happy with his lot. Does he have no self-respect? She may think it’s good sex, but I doubt he does. Sound familiar?
So where does that leave us, men and women? We have different ideas about what makes hot sex (at least in our fantasy worlds), and they seem to be pretty far apart. Is it possible to mix both fantasies is a real-life relationship and have it feel honest and compelling? I think it is. How about you? If you don’t fit the norm, I’d love to hear about why you think that is.