QotD: “The idea that women should ‘experiment’ and perform sex acts that they do not want to has become a popular model for women’s sexual behaviour in heterosexual relationships since the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s. It is an idea frequently reinforced and legitimated through sex therapy”
The idea that women should ‘experiment’ and perform sex acts that they do not want to has become a popular model for women’s sexual behaviour in heterosexual relationships since the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s. It is an idea frequently reinforced and legitimated through sex therapy (see Jeffreys, 1990). Women are still encouraged by therapists to sexually fulfill their male partners, even if they have no desire to do so, or experience pain or discomfort (Tyler, 2008). For example, in the widely recommended self-help manual for women Becoming Orgasmic, therapists Heiman and LoPiccolo encourage women to try anal sex (an increasingly ubiquitous sex practice in pornography) if a male partner is interested in it. The advice from the therapists is: “If any discomfort does occur, try again some other time” (Heiman and LoPiccolo, 1992, p. 187). The central premise is that pain and discomfort for women are not acceptable reasons for discontinuing a sexual practice, but, rather, are reasons for women to undergo further ‘training’, ‘modelling’ and coercion. Instead of understanding that using pornography as a coercive strategy is harmful, sexologists extol pornography’s virtues, stating for example that it is useful for “giving the viewer permission to model the behavior” (Striar and Bartlik, 1999, p. 61).
Exactly what type of behaviour women are expected to model from pornography further exposes the way in which the promotion and legitimation of pornography in sex therapy poses harms to women’s equality. Even at the most respectable end of therapist-recommended pornography, sadomasochistic practices and acts such as double penetration, or DP as it is known in the porn industry, can be easily found. Take for example, the Sinclair Intimacy Institute, run by a “well known and respected sexologist, Dr Mark Schoen” (Black, 2006, p. 117). It consists mainly of an online store that sells therapist-recommended pornography. On the Institute’s Website, customers are assured that the pornography available is reviewed and approved by therapists who choose only “high quality sex positive productions” (Sinclair Intimacy Institute, 2007a, n.p.). Among the list of “sex positive productions” are the mainstream pornography titles The New Devil in Miss Jones, Jenna Loves Pain, and Deepthroat.
The choice of Deepthroat is particularly revealing given the amount of publicity surrounding the circumstances of its production. Linda Marchiano (Linda Lovelace at the time of filming) detailed her extensive abuse at the hands of her husband and pimp in her book Ordeal, explaining how she was forced, sometimes at gun point to perform in pornography (Lovelace, 1980). She once stated that: “every time someone watches that film, they are watching me being raped” (quoted in Dworkin, 1981). That such a film is labelled ‘sex positive’ by therapists should be serious cause for concern. But Deepthroat is not an isolated case.
Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry