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Is the media stealing my sex life?

(206 Posts)
DeirdreOfTheSorrows Wed 17-Oct-12 21:01:01

I've name-changed, because this is about sex and feelings and personal stuff and I'm probably pretty identifiable in my normal guise. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, either - but it's been on my mind for a while and I wonder whether anyone might be able to shed some light on it for me. I wonder whether I ought to have posted it in Feminism, too! But let's see how we go.

For a good few years now I've been feeling that my increasing awareness of of porn culture, and media stories about violence, sexual violence and cruelty of all sorts, are impinging on my ability to feel comfortable and secure in my own sexuality. I've never experienced violence myself, and porn hasn't been an issue in any of my relationships, so it's not a flashback type of situation - simply that my associations with sex are increasingly becoming mixed up with nasty and upsetting stories and ideas rather than my own (probably rather tame) experience.

Just as background, I wouldn't ever have thought of myself as a competitive sadder - I think I've got a pretty realistic idea about the way in which certain stories gain currency and play out in the media, and I think I can distinguish between empathy for a tragic or terrible situation and getting caught up in an emotional binge.

But for some reason I'm really struggling to maintain a sense of my own sexual self in the face of story after story of sexual violence or exploitation or coercion. It's as if I can't find the kind of easy lustiness I had when I was younger any more, and my brain can't switch off from stories about other people's dreadful experiences, or my political feelings about pornification, or MN threads in which people have shared how sex was used as a weapon against them, even though I'm in a relationship where sex should be perfectly safe and equal and unproblematic.

I really don't know what to do about this. One can't just stop knowing these things, and withdrawing from engaging with them would seem to be a dreadful cop-out. But how do I find a way to regain some innocence and spontaneity about my own sex life, rather than letting it be overshadowed by things which should be a political, rather than an emotional, part of my life?

HoopDePoop Wed 17-Oct-12 21:06:19

I feel exactly the same as you do, and I hope someone has some answers.

Jimmy Savile etc, porn culture, attitudes to rapists and to rape victims... It's like the sex life I thought I was having didn't exist, it wasn't a mutually enjoyable activity but me being manipulated and exploited. Even though I know DH loves me, I obsess about his almost certain consumption of porn and I will I'm sure never know his true preferences.

<should have namechanged>

HoopDePoop Wed 17-Oct-12 21:07:12

I think either all men are wannabe rapists, or that the media is wilfully portraying them as such.

chipsandmushypeas Wed 17-Oct-12 21:13:06

Completely understand where you are coming from, op. Nothing feels innocent or fun anymore. I feel porn has really ruined things, it's desensitised everything. Women are seen as 'sluts' to junk on and abuse and when I look at men I wonder if they all think this of us deep down.

DeirdreOfTheSorrows Wed 17-Oct-12 21:14:45

It's like the sex life I thought I was having didn't exist - that's exactly it. And since I can't get the old one back, I feel like I need to build a new one, and I don't know how.

HoopDePoop Wed 17-Oct-12 21:22:35

I want to say 'talk to your partner' but I know I haven't - can't I don't think without really destroying it!

DeirdreOfTheSorrows Wed 17-Oct-12 21:29:51

No, I think it might be a Bad thing to do. Because what is the poor bloke going to think if I come to him and say I'm having trouble feeling sexy because there are a lot of nasty exploitative men in the world, other than that I'm telling him I think that he's nasty and exploitative? (He totally isn't!)

OneMoreGo Wed 17-Oct-12 21:36:55

I feel exactly the same as well and am watching this thread with interest.

OxfordBags Wed 17-Oct-12 22:02:17

I was actually saying stuff along these lines to DH at the weekend. You're not alone. Horrible, isn't it?

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Wed 17-Oct-12 23:16:30

Porn, and its ubiquity, is brutalising. It's become totally mainstream. I'm separating and can't imagine wanting to get into a new relationship. My dh uses porn (though not conspicuously) and I'm sure any other man I meet will too.

I hate that porn is available to anyone, any time via smartphones.

I hate that parents aren't responsible or technology-savvy enough to stop their children being exposed to it.

I hate reading threads on here from some woman agonising because anal sex does nothing for her, but she wants to make it work, because her bf 'really gets off on it'. To what does he owe this appetite, and her sense of pressure to satisfy it? Ah...that'll be porn.

Our mothers didn't worry about how good their blowjobs were, did they?

Or feel self doubt because they were nowhere close to the fake plastic stereotype that is female 'beauty' that we have now.

Or feel insecure about their sexual boundaries.

Or feel their body hair was disgusting and required removal.

No-one sold padded bras for seven year olds.

Or T shirts for toddlers saying 'Future Wag'.

Women who got given jobs on telly (who we looked up to then) hadn't made sex tapes that had gone viral - and got them voted World's Sexiest Woman in FHM.

Google 'porn and erectile dysfunction' and you will see men are being fucked up too. Desperate men on internet forums - young fit men - who can't have sex with a beautiful young woman they love because they've hard wired their limbic systems by too much porn (ab)use, so the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

It's horrible. I feel like I don't want to like sex any more. I worry so much about my daughters having to negotiate their relationships in a world like this. I'm sure if I had a son I'd worry about him, too. How the fuck he stood a chance of respecting women. Or having a 'normal' sexual relationship.

Because I'm not sure I know what one is any more, to be honest.

Feckbox Wed 17-Oct-12 23:25:19

I so get this.
Very sad

LilQueenie Wed 17-Oct-12 23:35:42

that is my problem too. It really puts me off. DP left on monday over this (just not those exact words which would perhaps have been better to explain to him my feelings) and hasnt been back since. He sees no harm in certain things but Im sooo uncomfortable.

akaemmafrost Wed 17-Oct-12 23:36:12

I started a thread a while ago about how you meet someone, you exchange numbers, next thing you know they are sending sexually explicit text messages before we have even been on a date. I asked if it was the norm now as had been out of the dating game for a long time. Apparently I am told this IS how it's done now. Porn and its easy accessibility was cited as a reason for this and it makes a lot of sense.

Another thing is that random hook ups seem also to be how it's done now. The boyfriend/girlfriend relationship more unusual than it was. I've noticed it myself with younger people I know who have had no or very few relationships. Someone I know, gorgeous girl, mid 20's has never been on a date or had a boyfriend. It's just hook ups she says, that's what people do now. Don't know how true it is but it certainly tied in with some of the responses on my thread.

savemefromrickets Wed 17-Oct-12 23:37:35

I understand.

And that bloody book (or the three of them) doesn't help. I've always avoided porn as I don't like the unrealistic expectations it sets but thought a book would be different. For me it wasn't. It's left me feeling like I'm missing a trick and we should be whipping, chaining etc! This concerns me as I've got a friend (honest!!) who is a swinger and he's having to push the boundaries to get the thrills he once had from just vanilla sex and I don't want to go the same way.

My only desires re sex are that we only have it when we both want it and we would both be able to fully enjoy ourselves given a bed and bugger all else. I don't think that's too much to wish for, but clearly from some stories on mumsnet some others aren't that fortunate sad

Feckbox Wed 17-Oct-12 23:38:22

I feel I just don't "get" modern sex. I had wondered if it was just about growing old but I think OP has hit a nail on the head, about the pornification of, well, everything. Not just sex

deliasmithy Thu 18-Oct-12 00:12:17

Don't tastes change? I think I've gone from being a Neapolitan ice cream to vanilla, with the odd choc chip.

I would heartily recommend talking to the other half. Better a difficult conversation than a growing white elephant in the room. They could hold similar feelings, or it may serve to help them understand why there are some barriers to intimacy.

My job is such that I'm surrounded by stories of abuse, domestic and sexual. Initially I found it hard to compartmentalize but now it rarely affects me or personal life. That's not to say that I don't have significant empathy for the people involved.
I found the use of some words a complete turn off, so we have silly nicknames for things which keeps the fun and removes the nastiness.

I don't think everyone looks at porn. And most who do know it's false. It's meaningless sex with no love or feelings.

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Thu 18-Oct-12 00:14:45

I don't think everyone looks at porn. And most who do know it's false. It's meaningless sex with no love or feelings.

Fully formed adults might know this. Children and adolescents with developing minds/sexuality/attitudes don't, do they?

janelikesjam Thu 18-Oct-12 00:25:39

You are not alone, Dierdre. I understand a little of where you are coming from, and well, its depressing.

I will look at this thread (and other's responses) in the morning and re-think and respond.

CuttedUpPear Thu 18-Oct-12 00:32:11

Thank you for this thread. I have been thinking about stating one on this theme.
I found out about Dh's porn use a fortnight ago (started a thread then) and ever since I feel cheap and worthless.
I am now almost certain that he is addicted. And I never knew. I feel so sad.

janelikesjam Thu 18-Oct-12 00:42:21

Well - I've re-read thread, and what everyone has said, and its largely what I have thought for a long time.

I really am considering that things have changed drastically in the last 10 years.

Pornography has always had an impact (its been around since at least the 60s/70s) but I think it has really got a nasty edge recently. In my recent dating experiences, and I am no spring chicken, I think there has been a push for more "extreme" sexual practices and the normalisaton of these practices also. Of that I have no doubt.

And I am also worried about the effect this will have on adolescents and young adults. I think there is something of the tip of the iceberg about this too.

sad

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange Thu 18-Oct-12 01:24:31

Agree with you jane.

It's the ubiquity and accessibility of porn that's the problem. It's become mainstream, a daily fix, not a guilty treat which is what those top shelf magazines used to be. Videos streamed into phones and, as you say, normalisation of things that were marginal.

Men get confused by porn, think the women involved are actually enjoying what they are doing, when many are not, and some are coerced. How many women would want their children seeing them in a porn film? It's not OK really, is it?

It's all very insidious and deceiving, because women don't realise they are colluding with its effects... they congratulate themselves on being 'at ease' with sex, what you call 'more extreme practices', even if they are not, really...they are just participating.

It's not actually about being liberated and uninhibited, it's about trying to please men whose tastes are moulded by porn.

Some people argue that this is about female empowerment. Women getting in touch with their sexuality. It's like arguments for breast enlargement or labial reduction... these things are presented as what women want.

Girls asking for implants in their teens 'to boost their confidence' - It's just what I want for myself

It's described as empowering to go out dressed in revealing clothes... women pushing the boundaries, unselfconscious. Never mind that if they get raped they will be disbelieved and shredded.

Women are encouraged more than ever to pander to what men want - turning themselves into caricatures, feeling they are no longer valid when they reach a certain age because older women aren't valued, their currency as sexual plaything devalued.

Other qualities - education, wit, dignity, life experience, kindness - are despised compared with looks, sexiness, being up for it. Look at AA Gill's comments about Mary Beard.

Feminism has been subverted into the 'right' to dress like a hooker, and to behave with sexual abandon.

Being a prude or 'crap in bed' is a worse insult than being cruel or stupid.

Even the most successful women trivialise themselves with cosmetic surgery.

Misogyny permeates everyday life so deeply we don't even recognise it is there.

solidgoldbrass Thu 18-Oct-12 01:43:09

I think it's a mistake to make your feelings All About Porn. Don't forget that there's only been about a 50-100 year window within which it was OK for women to like sex at all. Within living memory, ie less than a century ago, women who had been raped were being locked up in asylums for 'moral feebleness' and 'experts' were advising that sex with the woman on top was a Bad Thing as it was 'contrary to the natural relation of the sexes'.
Having said that, we do seem to be living in a culture of unkindness at the moment. Part of it is the manufactured sentimentality and non-thinking that Rupert Murdoch encouraged so enthusiastically - regard everyone else as either hero or villain, enemy or deity. "Don't think, just feel." And part of this is all the demented bullshit of reality TV, which basically consists of pushing already-unstable people until they break, then laughing at them or patronizing them.

And yes, sex is being 'commodified' but it's less about engaging in sexual display or sexual activity for money, more, MUCH more about 'unless you spend a lot of money on this product, you won't be able to have sex/enjoy sex', whether that's new pants, body modification, the right haircut or the right woo-peddler.

To an extent, OP, what you might have lost is the basic oh-mainstream-up-yours attitude of your younger days, when you thought you were immortal and nothing bad would ever happen. And, at the risk of sounding very very condescending, if you are miserable, could you be around the perimenopausal mark? Alterations in hormone balances do seem to make a bit of a difference to how we feel, though perhaps not as much as being surrounded by arseholes does.

Superabound Thu 18-Oct-12 01:58:54

I do get where you are coming from, there was a comedian on some channel the other night, he was obviously deeply misogynistic. He was all yay I wish I was gay, women are such hard work blah fucking blah.

He was so so scathing about Women, how they should just want to be fucked because he has a penis, but it took so so much effort, you know like behaving like an actual human being, to get them into bed, rather than just asking a bloke and instant sex tada hmm. He is a cunt.

My own "d"p has proclaimed himself a misogynist in the past, hmm, I have tried to leave him many a time but it hasn't been successful yet.

It's tough to actually get to the heart of what many Men actually think of Women, there are lots of decent ones out there, maybe you do have one of them.

I do think you need to somehow separate this from your sex life, it's really really unfair to tar all Men with this brush, maybe your best bet is discussion with your oh.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 18-Oct-12 06:48:45

"One can't just stop knowing these things, and withdrawing from engaging with them would seem to be a dreadful cop-out."

That's where I disagree. I think, when your life is being so negatively affected, it is not only possible but advisable to disengage from a lot of the lurid stuff and casual sexuality you're talking about. Read different newspapers, watch different TV shows, ignore anything 'celeb'. Engage only with the type of media that presents news in a calm, factual manner. Understand what happens in the world but don't immerse yourself in it. Censor your own input.

I know someone that gets so upset over stories of terrorism or war in the press that she is occasionally too frightened to step out of the front door. if you are struggling to separate other people's experiences from your own, then remove yourself from it.

50shadesofmeh Thu 18-Oct-12 07:14:34

I fully agree, I find myself considering this all the time these days , before I met my H and also had previous relationships
We fancied each other we dated for a while and then we had sex , in a bed! ( shock horror) and that has always been enough and I thought it was enough for H too.
Now he has never let on he's not happy
With this but the media and society would lead me to believe, he secretly
Watches porn or dreams of me having a tit job or having anal sex. It kind of taints things for me .

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