Maybe there's nothing women can do about men being "hardwired" to lust after other people. Maybe all we can expect is for them not to act on that instinct. Maybe we just have to "get over it." But can you give some advice on how? Maybe it's "natural," but can you give us a pep talk to make us accept it? --No Clever Acronym
Before I get to your question, NCA, I'd like to say this to all the women who wrote in asking if I thought it was OK for men to spend all their time downloading porn and watching dirty movies: No, it's not OK. While men have a right to their porn, it, like everything else, should be consumed in moderation. What's more, women who are uncomfortable with porn have a right to make certain reasonable demands on their porn-consuming partners--like having their feelings taken into consideration. Recognizing his right to look at porn now and then doesn't give him the right to be a jerk about it.
OK, NCA, here's your pep talk: I've always found that the quickest way to get over something is to fake it--I think you'll be surprised by how quickly that "over it" feeling sinks in. When it comes to porn, well, you might try checking out some porn and--no, wait, I'm a man, as hundreds of outraged female readers wrote in to remind me. What right do I have to tell you, a woman, how you should feel about porn, these many angry women demanded. So I'm going to shut my big male mouth and run some letters by women, for women, about how women should feel about porn:
I understand that some women are threatened by porn, because I used to be, until a boyfriend took me to a store, told me to pick a video, and then sat down with me to watch it. The incident didn't turn me into a raging porn addict, nor did it "cure" him of the desire to look at porn. It did help me to understand, learn to enjoy, and get over "the porn issue." My advice to other women is to experience porn with your lover--log on to his favorite Web sites, watch his best vids. A good look at these things helps a girl realize how little there is to be upset about--and most guys will find it a turn-on. Hell, most of the girls will too. --Not Bothered
My husband married me because, among other things, I love porn. It cracks me up that some women have yet to figure out the whole "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" thing. I learned a long time ago that a man who loves me is not going to leave me for a stripper or a picture. As for the girl who isn't getting enough sex...USE THE PORN! Men are horny after they watch a video! Let go of those insecurities and use porn to your advantage! --Porn-Happy Wife in Colorado
My boyfriend and I are very serious about each other. I've seen his porn collection, and there's not a lot and there's nothing too freaky. So when he presented me with the gift of a digital camera, I put it to good use and added half a dozen pics to his collection. My point is that "Get over it" is pretty damn good advice.
--Amateur Private Pornster Loves Excitement
Thanks for sharing, NB, PHWIC, and APPLE. Now let's get this out of the way:
From last week's column: "Of course you're not satisfied with just one sex partner--no man ever is! Men aren't wired for monogamy. Period." Women are not satisfied with one sex partner any more than men are. Humans, male or female, aren't wired for monogamy. Thanks for perpetuating a tired stereotype. --Michigan Girl
It was stupid of me not to have included a parenthetical like this one after that line about men and monogamy: "(Women aren't wired for monogamy either--but that's another column.)" This omission wasn't only stupid--remarkably stupid!--but nearly inexplicable considering that I wrote at great length about the nonmonogamous natures of men and women in Skipping Towards Gomorrah, my most recent book. So let me set the record straight: Men are pigs, women are whores. I stand corrected.
And now a word from the not-so-loyal porn opposition:
A few words for you and all of the tedious, pathetic porn apologists in the world: The sex industry involves a lot of exploitation, and the victims are typically young and vulnerable. Conservatively speaking, a large percentage of the "yummy and harmless" images every "normal" man in the universe simply has to see is nothing but evidence of the suffering and humiliation of youngsters. Boy! I am soooo wet already.
Why do so many otherwise healthy men waste so much time and money on porn? Wouldn't it be nice if we could all have adult relationships with other fully individuated consenting adults? --Wanda
Considering that the vast and overwhelming majority of male (and female!) porn consumers can and do have "adult relationships with other fully individuated consenting adults," Wanda, I don't see how porn is a problem in most people's lives. Your point about exploitation, however, is well-taken: some people are exploited during the production of porn. But the solution your letter implies--ban porn--is unrealistic. Porn will continue to be produced, legal or not, so the question isn't "Shall we permit porn?" but "How can we best regulate the sex industry in order to protect people who appear in porn?"
Girls who cry because men are visually stimulated sexual creatures are sissies. That said, am I a hypocrite to think there's something creepy about a man who doesn't put his porn away when you come over for the first time? I'm dating a guy who didn't bother to squirrel away the porn in his bathroom the first time I came over. He lives alone and, sweetly, had cleaned before my visit. But he didn't chuck the nudie books in a closet. I'm trying to put my finger on why it bothers me--I mean, if I'm OK with him looking at it, I shouldn't be aghast when I see it, right? --Manners Maven
I can put my finger on why it bothered you: This guy had no way of knowing you weren't the kind of girl who would be bothered by his porn stash. By not hiding his stash, he demonstrated that he may not be as thoughtful or considerate as you would like and/or thought him to be. Are you a hypocrite? No, you're not. You're probably OK with this guy, like all guys, beating off from time to time. Nevertheless, you would have been bothered if his bedroom floor had been covered with crusty tissues and spunk-stiffened T-shirts. By tucking away the porn stash and clearing away stiff T-shirts, MM, your boyfriend isn't denying that he uses porn or jerks off; he's only demonstrating that he's not an inconsiderate boor.
Dan Savage signs Skipping Towards Gomorrah Saturday, October 4, at 11 AM at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm, Winnetka (847-446-8880).