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My Experience with Pornography

I am sixty-six, raised Catholic, from a British and European mixed-class background. My mother was born in a Catholic country, and my father was a Catholic convert.

I was vastly overprotected as a child. My upbringing was very controlled, including in convent schools. I had zero exposure to anything remotely sexual. We did not have television until I was twelve and then could rarely watch it. I do recall seeing a naked woman on television late one night when I came downstairs and caught my father guiltily watching. When I was a teenager, he would tell me that he was protecting me from the badness of men “out there.” I had to work hard for all my information and labored under the belief that males knew all about sex.

Women of my generation in Britain grew up without the Internet or wide exposure to what came to be known as “the underworld.” I was a young adult before I saw photographs, or soft-porn mainstream movies, considered to be “art forms” or eroticism—such as Marlon Brando’s Last Tango in Paris. I have not used pornography and don’t find it attractive. I do worry about the brutality and the humiliation of women (or anyone). I see even more graphic forms of “romance” as heavily imbued with normalized and glamorized male domination. This includes sexily protective males being women’s champions. When my then teenage daughter and I would go to a “romantic” movie, she would sometimes say, “Don’t spoil it for me” (with any sort of gender critique for awareness raising). I do feel relief that I wasn’t exposed to pornography as a young person.

A female colleague of mine who is a psychologist used to advise male clients to use “healthy sexual outlets,” including adult legal pornography. When I questioned this, she thought I was being prudish. A year later she told me she had come to realize how pornography creates and maintains distorted (anti-human) relationships.

I have a regular three-way session on pornography with a young heterosexual couple. The woman has strongly objected to her partner’s even occasional porn consumption, saying that her generation is the first to be with men whose first sexual experience was likely to have been pornographic and that this directly affects her. Initially her partner just seemed to be trying to do the right thing by her, but now he is owning the harm that pornography has done to him. Together we have watched documentaries on pornography and discharged together. I am impressed by and grateful to be part of these young adults’ work to make their world more inclusive, present, warm, and connected.

Sometimes my material* tells me that “the damage is done” for me and other women of my generation, that we have to give up on being knowledgeable and relaxed about sexual matters or ever having real, rational connections with men. But now I have a worldwide community connection. I can discharge on these topics and keep deciding to remain hopeful.


* “Material” means distress.

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00