When I first heard about Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Grey I rolled my eyes and didn't pay much attention and I certainly didn't think women would care. The next thing I know, 50 Shades of Grey has become a phenomenon and that Magic Mike is the girls night out movie of the year - at least until that last Twilight is released.
After all, men are more visual than women. Naked bodies, revealing clothes, suggestive dance moves, provocative literature (you know, for the brainy guys) are much more likely to get a guy excited. It takes more than just a few pictures and sexy words to get a woman revved up. A little movie about male strippers or a steamy novel isn't going to do it, we need romance and roses, mood lighting and music with the man we love. Lust really isn't our issue, right?
But it is. A 2006 survey on internet use revealed that 30% of the 72 million porn users in the world are women. 17% of those women identified themselves as addicts. A 2003 survey reported that 1 in 6 women admitted to pornography addiction. Addiction. As in a behaviour that cannot be stopped even if you wanted to. There are a number of websites devoted to helping women kick a porn addiction*.
Women not men.
Men have always taken the brunt of the shame associated with pornography, seeing as women just didn't do that. I think we have been hiding behind their shame knowing that we didn't have to take responsibility for what we do behind closed doors, because they are always going to be worse than us. I have always looked at these statistics and acknowledged them, but disassociated myself from them. I don't doubt that they are real, but they don't describe me. I don't have an addiction to porn and I never have.
But I could. This possibility never occurred to me until I sat down recently with my husband to watch an episode of Saturday Night Live featuring none other than that Channing Tatum guy. Halfway through the suggestive first sketch I had to tell Aaron we needed to turn off the tv or watch something else. We did and I found myself surprised and not sure how to react. I've never been remotely turned on by another guy, especially one that is pretending to be a cheezy male stripper. When did Channing Tatum go from cute mediocre actor in dorky movies to potential threat?
I suddenly felt a huge sense of what it must be like for a man (or woman) who struggles with lust. It made me aware of how innocently it can creep in.
You may wonder what this has to do with Magic Mike or the 50 Shades books. It's simple, really. I believe the movies, books, suggestive commercials, a permissive culture, that snowballs on top of each other to create a perfect storm, ripe and ready to wreak havoc on our minds. The more we see, the more we are desensitized. Remember when Beverly Hills 90210 debuted? Or Melrose Place? Remember how steamy and sexy and "on the edge" they were? Sadly, now they just seem quaint and silly. Sitcoms today are edgier and more suggestive than those two shows ever were. Guess who got a little desensitized?
Even if porn isn't something you struggle with, as a woman I am bothered by movies and books mainstream story lines and topics that are sexually explicit. It normalizes behaviour that even psychologists believe is damaging. Women are fighting daily against sexual violence in the US and the world.
At some point we need to admit to ourselves that not all images and words are safe, even some that seem to be not such a big deal. Even Channing Tatum. Add in a little discontent in our marriages or a desire to "spice things up" and you could go down a road you don't want to travel.
What are your thoughts? Am I being a Pollyanna Prude or have I struck a chord somewhere? I especially would love to hear from those who don't agree with my point of view.
*Websites that offer help for porn addictions:
The Pink Cross
Dirty Girl Ministries