Emotional Remove and Porn Fantasy, Part II

>Most of our cultural experience, through media in general and porn in particular, does little to dispel the difficulty of incorporating emotion into our sexual lives. Particularly since we all know that porn is supposed to be bad and that we’re not supposed to be watching it, that remove we impose upon ourselves early on to avoid awkwardness remains in full force. Here are these bodies doing these things, and it’s hot and it’s sexual, but it’s not something we need to get fully invested in. The repeated practice of emotional removal from our private sexual practices can carry over into our shared practices, where there’s actually someone else there to see our weird faces and judge our inadequacies. We end up stilting ourselves on purpose to avoid looking like an ass in front of our partner or partners. As such we expose ourselves to a much more perfidious danger than that posed by awkward social situations: the impossibility or at least mountainous difficulty of combined emotional and sexual experience.Do something often enough and it becomes very difficult to learn how to do it another way; experience sexual pleasure without emotion at home alone, then do it with a partner. It can become incredibly difficult to learn to incorporate the two.

I’m making generalizations here, and I know I am. But I’m speaking from personal experience, too. I was raised, in all my privilege, in an incredibly straight-laced environment where sex was never spoken of and emotions were looked down upon. My family never yelled or cried in front of one another, and I grew increasingly angry as I grew up that any display of emotion was seen as an unnecessary outburst. My anger translated into willful sexuality; I picked the most controversial topic in my environment and I became obsessed with. I dated boys I knew my parents would hate. I experimented with them. I flaunted it. But even as I began to embrace my sexuality, and even though I knew that much of this was done as a “fuck you” to the parents, I still found myself holding my emotional connections and my sex life far apart. I dated a lot of different people during high school and college, but looking back I can see a very distinct pattern: I didn’t let the ones I cared about touch me. I fooled around with and fucked a few guys here and there, but the ones I truly fell in love with were never given the go-ahead. Sex became an act of rebellion for me, but the fires of passion were nothing compared to the powers of emotion, and I never let the two get mixed up for fear of falling headlong into a pit I couldn’t crawl out of. I wanted to piss off my parents, but they’d taught me well that sex was bad and emotion was dangerous; I was only ready to play with one at a time. The boys I loved deeply, wildly, passionately, with the utter abandon that only the young can muster… I felt like I was jumping off a cliff when I looked into their eyes, and had we been entwined bodily as well as emotionally, I had no idea where I’d land.

As years went on and I was no longer concerned with making my parents angry with my sexual activities, I found that I’d formed such a habit of only connecting physically with men I didn’t care much about that it took me two months of dating to permit my new boyfriend, for whom I’d fallen very hard and with whom I was deeply in love, to get past my pants. And when I did that, I cried. I couldn’t even finish having sex with him. The emotional build-up I’d put myself through, which by this point involved sexual trauma at the hands of one of the men I’d held at an arm’s length emotionally and who got frustrated with my remove, crashed down along with all the barriers I’d set up in my own head, and the combination of physical pleasure and unbarred emotions was too much. I was overwhelmed. Years of work and trying and even theorizing about sex and porn later, and it’s still a difficult thing to allow myself to feel anything during sex. It’s easier to just go through the motions without the emotions. (That was cheesy, I know. But there it is.)

And I realized just how much I’d been compartmentalizing these two parts of my life, which I’d been taught are supposed to go together. Aren’t we all told that? And yet we end up finding sex without emotion for the majority of our lives, experiencing other people’s sex in pornography without even looking for an emotional connection between them, because it’s easier than incorporating two such powerful forces into our experiences of pleasure. And, you know, it’s not all bad. I’m not a real big advocate for the “sex should only happen between a Mommy and a Daddy who love each other very, very much” line. Casual sex is great, and important for many of us. Not every orgasm needs to come along with deep and meaningful connection to the other person, or with difficult reflection on our feelings. But certainly the idea that sex can be a powerful instigator, catalyst, or realization of strong emotions comes from somewhere, and surely those of us who have experienced a transformative fuck will agree that the best sex involves the locking of eyes, the loss of conscious thought, the unfettered experience of the act, along with all the yelling and thrashing and whatever else. Certainly those rare porn scenes in which the performers truly seem to care about each other’s pleasure and to have a deeper connection than that of their bodies, are the ones we go back to again and again because they carry such intensity we can’t look away.

But those scenes, as I said, are rare. And for good reason: most of us aren’t looking for that in our porn, and much less than we’re looking for it in our sex lives. I think most of us have a dream that someday we’ll meet/fuck someone we can feel completely comfortable with and who can help us experience sex and emotion simultaneously. But until we find that person we build up a very strongly-ingrained habit of keeping the two things at opposite ends of very short but very definitive spectrum. At the one end is sex, at the other is emotion, and maybe somewhere in the middle, for many of us, is porn.

1 Comment on Emotional Remove and Porn Fantasy, Part II

  1. >Thanks for such a candid & honest tale. It hits home to more privileged women than not.

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