As a male writer in New York City, I’ve come across no shortage of women-scribes who aspire to be the Carrie Bradshaw of urban media. The seductive lifestyle of record release parties, open-bar velvet rope events and celebrity sightings has drawn plenty of talented ladies into “The Industry”. Before marrying six years ago, I even fell in love with a few of these starry-eyed sisters. My fellow Aidans and Mr. Bigs never seem to share our own stories of love, sex and city life; instead, our voices are typically relegated to the locker-room topics of politics, music and sports. “Common Sensual” breaks that silence. Listen up if you dare.
I mentored a writer named “Layla” who once vented to me about a guy trying to take her from behind their first time in the bedroom. He sorta shoulda built up to that, she complained. That was ten years ago, before the broadband Internet omnipresence of free pornography. Nowadays, it seems that a new suitor with a bootylicious appetite would be the least of Layla’s problems.
Last month in GQ magazine, Siobhan Rosen wrote: “Porn used to be the poor man’s substitute for sex; now the latter has to be gussied up with facials and ball gags and D-grade dialogue to be even half as enticing as porn.” The relatively recent popularity of books like Mr. Marcus’s The Porn Star Guide to Great Sex and Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star prove that it’s not enough to switch from the bed to the couch for a change of pace anymore. (Was it ever really though?) For better or worse, the adult film industry has pushed the boundaries of what’s expected between the sheets.
As a junior-high virgin, somewhere around Michael Jackson’s moonwalk on Motown 25 and his infamous Pepsi commercial, I saw my first “porno.” A boy in class had found his dad’s hidden stash of blue Betamax tapes and at lunchtime, three or four of us went to this latchkey kid’s place for pizza, and freaked out to Vanessa del Rio, Heather Hunter and whoever else doing things previously left up to our youthful imaginations. In 2012 you’d be hard-pressed to find a 13-year-old who hasn’t seen Two Girls One Cup (please don’t google it) and all other kinds of sex clips off the ’net. Oakland MC Too Short recently caused controversy by coaching boys on performing a sex act on young girls, but the real scandal is that they probably don’t need the instruction. They’re way ahead of him.
From Betamax to DVDs, from behind paywalls to completely free liberation, XXX material is now instantly accessible nearly everywhere. Its ubiquity was bound to change our tastes. The GQ writer protested about new boyfriends asking to orgasm all over her body way early in the game, and all sorts of demeaning slutty talk new lovers learned from adult-movie stars like Max Hardcore. With a pornographic backdrop the new normal of male sex ed, we don’t consider hardly anything taboo anymore. Ménages à trois weren’t that uncommon in the 1990s New York City of my twenties (more on that in another column); you could even stumble upon an orgy if you were lucky. But if everyone is a freak—and these days, almost everybody claims to be—then nobody is.
When it comes to outré sex, a generation gap of mores is always at play. During the time I was a teenager reading my pop’s Troy Conway erotica novels, Vanessa Williams and Madonna appearing in Playboy threatened to ruin their careers (and in my dad’s time, maybe Marilyn Monroe in Playboy was the big deal, or the James Bond nemesis Pussy Galore from Goldfinger.) In the ’00s, we’ve seen leaked images of Rihanna’s breasts, Britney Spears’s crotch and more with no repercussions for them at all. Today’s teens have seen Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Pamela Anderson give blowjobs and watched their careers blow up even bigger. Nothing’s shocking, not anymore. And so when men impolitely ask women to swallow on the third or fourth date, how appalling or surprising is it really?
In the interest of TMI, Zoë used to like to rub it in, so to speak. And Epiphany loved for me to go drilling for oil on the moon (google that). But I was already in committed relationships with them, and none of that naughty behavior went down in the earliest days of our dating. Has porn killed the mystery of slowly, eventually exploring the outer limits of sex with our partners?
How has the easy access to porn and the widened acceptance of “shocking” sex acts changed the game for lovers? Is ‘sexy’ losing its sexy because its just too easy to find? Speak!