THE PARADOX OF PORN: Joe Kort on straight vs. gay approaches to porn

Recently, my partner Andy and I shared a barbecue dinner with three straight women in their 40s of various marital statuses — one married and cohabiting, one married but living apart for work reasons, the other not married but cohabiting. It was a wide-ranging adult conversation, and I got up the nerve to pose a question I’d never dared to ask a group of women: how much time do you spend looking at porn? The woman in the long-distance relationship admitted that she sometimes looks at porn when she’s horny (she wouldn’t reveal what she looks at — we weren’t that friendly). The others said they virtually never look at porn, though one said her first exposure to porn came from accompanying friends to a gay bar. They all agreed that their men probably look at porn almost every day.

This conversation confirmed the basic thesis of gay sex therapist Joe Kort‘s recent article in the Huffington Post, “Porn Is Not a Public Health Crisis for Gay Men: Then Why Is It for Straight People?” Kort asserts that men tend to view porn matter-of-factly, as a ready source of healthy sexual stimulation. In relationships between two men, it’s assumed that both partners look at porn on a regular basis and it’s not a problem, whereas in relationships between men and women there is often tension about the men’s porn-watching, which is seen as tantamount to infidelity. It’s a very interesting and complicated topic, which Kort covers with considerable nuance.

Porn typing on the white keyboard. Online porn concept

He says, among other things, “The real public health crisis is a lack of sexual education. A step in the right direction could be having a conversation about gay men and lesbians who watch porn and are not in crisis over it. It would be better if all children in schools could receive a proper sex education that included balanced representation of porn and all the ways that exist to be sexual that are not primarily and only heterosexual. There is no sex education in schools for gay boys, and so they have to turn to porn to get it. Discovering gay pornography is almost a rite of passage for young gay men. For sexually fluid men, or sexually repressed men, watching porn can begin to connect them to who they really are sexually.

“Sex is messy, politically incorrect, taboo on so many levels. Porn is not what we would do in real life. Just like in watching movies, it is fantasy. Straight people need to learn what porn means to men. Men objectify more than women, who are more relational. And it is a scare tactic to say that watching porn leads to infidelity, as some have said. In fact, it is often way of not engaging in infidelity, an outlet that allows them to vicariously enjoy an act that they cannot do, like watching football—they can’t play it but boy to they enjoy watching it. Some may say, ‘see what porn did to you?’ but my belief is that they are discovering something already alive within them, and can begin to move toward more authentic sexuality.”

Check out the whole article online here and let me know what you think.

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SEXUAL HEALTH: sex therapy for wounded veterans

In an article by Joseph Jaafari posted online May 12, The Atlantic covered creative therapies that are teaching veterans with genital injuries alternative ways to be intimate. “While all Veterans Affairs hospitals offer Occupational Therapy, which includes sexual therapy, the VA Long Beach Healthcare System in southern California and Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are unique in that they have introduced courses and counseling focused on this issue. The programs offer guidance as veterans recover from genital wounds, and are part of an increasing effort by the military to both address these injuries and protect soldiers from them in the future.”

The article focuses on the treatment of a former U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant named Timothy Brown. “Post-recovery, Brown has taken a different approach to sex than he had before—shifting the emphasis from his personal satisfaction to insuring that his partner enjoys the experience. ‘I went from being self-centered to trying to encompass everything for the both of us,’ he says. ‘Simple things like feeling [his partner’s] body, feeling their muscles when you hit the right spot.’ While he developed this outlook on his own, he notes that the program enabled him to feel more secure in his sexual life.”

Army Spec. Chris Smith, a soldier from the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum, sits in The Different Drummer Internet Cafe in Watertown, New York April 16, 2008. The Different Drummer is a place where soldiers both active and discharged can go for support, counciling or just to socialize. Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division are among those who've spent most time in Iraq and Afghanistan, making its base at Fort Drum a "canary in a coal mine" for a looming crisis of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Picture taken on April 16, 2008.     To match feature USA-MILITARY/ and USA-MILITARY/MARRIAGE         REUTERS/Mark Dye          (UNITED STATES) - RTR208HV

Army Spec. Chris Smith, a soldier from the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum, sits in The Different Drummer Internet Cafe in Watertown, New York April 16, 2008. The Different Drummer is a place where soldiers both active and discharged can go for support, counseling or just to socialize. Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division are among those who’ve spent most time in Iraq and Afghanistan, making its base at Fort Drum a “canary in a coal mine” for a looming crisis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Picture taken on April 16, 2008. Photo by Mark Dye

The article notes that “Brown’s approach is exactly what occupational therapists at Walter Reed have tried to teach other injured soldiers. Within the hospital there is a sexual health and intimacy service that focuses on education and therapy. According to Brown, therapy sessions were de facto sex classes that included sex toys aimed at stimulating different parts of the body. Officials at Walter Reed wouldn’t comment on what products were used during the sessions. In addition to funding classes like this one, the Department of Defense spent more than $84 million on erectile dysfunction drugs in 2014.”

Check out the whole story online here and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE: gay critique of mainstream tantra classes

Tantra is an ancient spiritual practice that seeks to channel divine energy through human experience. In our time, the word “tantra” is tossed around very lightly, and its meaning shifts wildly depending on the context. In its classic definition, tantra is a school of meditation that envisions universal consciousness as an intricate erotic dance between Shiva and Shakti, form and flow. In the West, the sexual metaphor has gotten literalized so that the most familiar manifestations of tantra are tantric sex and tantric massage, which invite participants to experience sex as energy. People are often drawn to study tantra by the invitation to deepen the connection between sexuality and spiritual practice that other religious traditions tend to keep strictly apart. There are many different ways to study tantra in schools, classes, and workshops, and like any educational process the quality of teachers and teachings can vary wildly. The original tantric teachings rely super-specifically on the dance of male and female energies, which complicates matters for queer people undertaking the study of tantra, as Lisa Luxx discusses in great detail in her article “Why is Gay Tantra So Taboo?” which appears on Ruby Warrington’s website The Numinous (subtitled “material girl, mystical world”). Her description of attending a tantra training and being pressured into ridiculously literal-minded tantric exercises that reinforce hoary old gender-role stereotypes matches my own experience when I first started exploring the world of tantra in the early 1990s, when most tantra workshops derived from the teachings of Margot Anand (best-known for her book The Art of Sexual Ecstasy).

concha on behance
credit: Concha on Behance

Luckily, there are tantra teachers that speak to the experience of queer people. The Body Electric School, founded in 1984 by Joseph Kramer, incorporated tantric and Taoist teachings into a series of workshops starting with “Celebrating the Body Erotic” that taught erotic massage as a healing practice combining breath and touch to connect the dots between the physical, the erotic, the emotional, and the spiritual. While the Body Electric School originally emerged from and spoke to the population of gay men struggling to preserve sexual health and vitality in the midst of the AIDS crisis, it expanded its offerings to include trainings for men, women, and those who decline the gender binary. Other trainings have evolved that address tantra specifically from a queer female perspective, such as Barbara Carrellas’s Urban Tantra program. One of the coolest things about Lisa Luxx’s article is that the comments thread provides information and links to other tantric explorations for women all over the world that transcend simplistic gender stereotypes.  Check it out and let me know what you think.