When I think about pornography and its impact on society these days, I am stunned by how things have changed over the last 25 years. As a sex therapist certified in the very early 1990’s I was trained in the late 1980’s, and back then, all of us viewed pornography as something that could be helpful to couples. Watching it could be fun. It would spice things up. I and other AASECT members never thought of pornography as ” Sexual Education.” But neither did we think of it as imparting despicably horrible messages to young men who might happen to look at it. I do now.
Back then, as part of the AASECT annual conferences, we used to screen erotica/ pornography as part of our education. Some of it was Candida Royalle’s femme-friendly erotica/pornography, although some of it was more male-centric. There were directors like Cecil Howard who created porn where there were actual plots, and stories were creative, fun, and humorous. In Howard’s movies, production values were high, there was no violence towards women, and women were normal looking, with different sized breasts (many small and perky) and glorious pubic hair. Men generously gave women oral sex . Watching much of this porn was arousing. I have to confess that back then, I and other AASECT members shamefully seemed ignorant of the exploitative and abusive way that the actresses were treated by the producers, and to my recollection, we never talked about the kind of porn that actually is human trafficking.
That was porn then. Internet porn now has permeated thoughout society, and it has poisoned young people’s visions of what sex is. Pornography is having an increasing negative effect on what is seen as normal in sexual relationships, and it frightens me that young women are either buying into this dark vision of sexuality (as some part of their version of feminism and the fight against slut shaming) or they don’t have the assertiveness skills to stop men in their tracks when dating feels more like an assault.
Here is a piece I wrote (Mindful Dating) for Boston public radio after the Aziz Ansari date tell all and it’s still relevant today.
Aline Zoldbrod Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, seasoned sex therapist, teacher and trainer in sexuality, and author of multiple books on sexuality.
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