There’s a very strange article about sex and porn in The Atlantic, which I cannot decide quite how to respond to. On the one hand it strikes me as wrongheaded and sad, especially in author Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s apparent opinion that male sexuality is essentially brutal and violent and, in her word, “extreme”. On the other hand, she has a clearer-than-usual view that men and women are different, and that the modern batch of anti-porn crusaders seem to want a “pygmy race of sexually neutered males” that is not achievable and wouldn’t be “all that enticing” even if it were. It would be easy to pull paragraphs and sentences out of this article and mock them, but on balance, I think I shan’t. Instead, it’s thoughtful enough — and such an intricate piece of interlocking arguments, each needing to be considered with the buttresses of its supporting paragraphs — that I shall simply point you there, with fair warning that it may piss you off if you don’t already have a somewhat negative view of male sexuality.

However, there was an amusing personal anecdote from the article that stands easily on its own while also, I think, serving quite handily to illustrate why I think Vargas-Cooper has somewhat bizarre ideas about male sexuality:

At the heart of human sexuality, at least human sexuality involving men, lies what Freud identified in Totem and Taboo as “emotional ambivalence”—the simultaneous love and hate of the object of one’s sexual affection. From that ambivalence springs the aggressive, hostile, and humiliating components of male sexual arousal.

Never was this made plainer to me than during a one-night stand with a man I had actually known for quite a while. A polite, educated fellow with a beautiful Lower East Side apartment invited me to a perfunctory dinner right after his long-term girlfriend had left him. We quickly progressed to his bed, and things did not go well. He couldn’t stay aroused. Over the course of the tryst, I trotted out every parlor trick and sexual persona I knew. I was coquettish then submissive, vocal then silent, aggressive then downright commandeering; in a moment of exasperation, he asked if we could have anal sex. I asked why, seeing as how any straight man who has had experience with anal sex knows that it’s a big production and usually has a lot of false starts and abrupt stops. He answered, almost without thought, “Because that’s the only thing that will make you uncomfortable.” This was, perhaps, the greatest moment of sexual honesty I’ve ever experienced—and without hesitation, I complied. This encounter proves an unpleasant fact that does not fit the feminist script on sexuality: pleasure and displeasure wrap around each other like two snakes.

And as for our “honest” man, I think he’d have saved himself a deal of trouble and psychodrama by investing in a good pair of nipple clamps.

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