Ethical Porn for Dicks

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[This is the text of the book review from episode 32 of the podcast.]

The book this episode is Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure by Dr David Ley. I received this book for free, but if you want to know if I can give a negative review about a free book listen to the previous episode.

This could be my shortest review yet. I could say:

This is possibly the most useful, best book I’ve read this year.

And then be done with the review.

And I have read some really useful, incredible books this year.

Or. This review could be two hour-long episodes because there are so many quotes and thoughts to expand upon. I’m going to try to find a balance. This is the first review I’m going to do without quotes because if I have to choose I’ll lose my mind. If you’re here for the quotes, I’m sorry. You’ll just have to read the book. I was highlighting something every third page or something insane.

Happily, the author will be on the show next week so it’ll be sort of like two episodes on the subject.

You should read this book.

Early on, Dr Ley says it’s geared towards men because that’s who our society punishes most for their porn consumption and also who he sees in his therapy practise talking about their guilt over porn use, but it’s for anyone who struggles with guilt, shame, or any sort of ethical or moral issue around porn or masturbation.

I would expand that and recommend this to spouses of people who view porn, people who are curious about the differences in the way men and women relate to porn and the way our culture views male and female sexuality in general, who want to consume porn more ethically…

Look, just read this book.

If you’re pro-porn or anti-porn I’m not trying to change your mind and neither is the author, but this thing will make you think. About, like, so much. It was blowing my mind, man.

There’s so much practical advice. About how to talk to your kid if you find out they’re watching hardcore BDSM and you want to be sure they know that’s—what Dr Ley calls ‘varsity sex’. About what to do if you accidentally download child porn.

When he was talking about that he said that was a common fear of the men he spoke with and almost none of the women. Yeah, I’ve never worried about that. Dr Ley contacted the FBI and asked what to do in those circumstances—I will be asking about that experience, which I’m sure was delightful during our interview—and he explains what to do. It does not involve setting your computer on fire and it does involve alerting the authorities and having an uncomfortable conversation about how you wound up with the images, but he explains why that’s the far better way for things to go.

There’s also advice on how to know if the porn you’re watching is ethically produced or pirated and how to find and support ethically-produced porn so more of it is made.

An overarching theme is that porn is not the problem—you are. Porn is a coping mechanism like alcohol. It’s something that feels good. If you’re depressed or anxious or nervous or whatever, and you’re not allowed to talk about your feelings—like men in our society aren’t allowed to do—then you go to your coping mechanism. You do the thing that feels good. Some people eat comfort food. Some people shop. Some people grab their crotches for dear life.

It’s like that joke: Why do girls play with their hair? Because they don’t have dicks to grab.

People with dicks get nervous and they grab their dicks like it’s a safety railing.

While I’m on the subject of ‘people with dicks’ Dr Ley is super inclusive. We’re talking about a straight, white, cis dude, here. But he gets and is inclusive of the spectrum of all the people and kinks. I thought it was going to be uber-heteronormative due to the title, but it’s more pragmatic about the way society treats men—when I say men on my show I mean any person who considers themselves to be a man—in regard to porn and sex. The world does treat people it perceives to be men differently than it does women. And, because of that, we treat ourselves differently.

I mean, why hadn’t I ever worried about accidentally downloading child porn? That shit will ruin your life. Probably because you never see women with it in the news. You never see women called perverts and dragged out of their houses and had all of their computers confiscated, etc.

At one point he uses the metaphor of model trains. If a man’s hobby is collecting model trains and it expands to the point that his wife can no longer get to the washing machine—she’s going to have a problem with it. If someone did an article on the guy whose model trains take over his house and life he’d just be seen as eccentric or quaint or maybe sort of a loser, but if a dude is collecting porn to that extent—well it has to do with filthy sex (which nearly everyone has so how filthy can it be!)–so he’s just a disgusting pervert.

What if there was a story about a woman who was collecting that much porn—if it was taking over her life? That changes the story. That’s kinda hot, right? Our culture tells us male sexuality is aggressive and gross and female sexuality is sexy and tell me more about that. How much porn are we talking? What kind? Like… threesomes or…

Ethical Porn for Dicks covers every myth or concern there is about porn—whether using it is cheating on your partner, does it change your brain, make you bad at sex, make you a bad human, turn you into a rapist, etc.

On that last point—many studies in different countries have shown that porn is good for society and lowers rates of sex crimes. Dr Ley and I will be discussing that because wow.

Could it be because people get to see their fantasies? They get to know they’re not alone in feeling and thinking the things they feel and think? After all, someone else—several someones—got together to write, direct, produce and film the thing they think about. Knowing other people think the same things they do removes some of the shame and when people are less ashamed perhaps they’re less likely to be enraged. Shame exhibits itself in weird ways. Some people hate their own homosexuality so much they beat up people who are gay. Others just pass anti-LGBTQ laws.

In the afterword, porn performer Chanel Preston says people think about things all the time that they wouldn’t do in real life—shoving their annoying neighbour down the stairs, punching someone who cut them off in traffic and so on—but when they fantasize about something unusual they want to know what it means. Chanel tells them, ‘Probably nothing.’ Just like you’re not a sociopath for wanting to gag that loud neighbour.

Our culture gives such weight to sex that if someone is fantasizing about something ‘not normal’ whatever that means people worry about it. Or if they watch porn rather than have sex they feel guilty. Do you feel bad when you have an easy meal rather than making a full dinner? No? Because it’s all food. Just different kinds.

The author does give advice on how to deal with any anxieties you have and how to talk to your spouse about your porn use. He also gives tips on how to decrease your use if you really think you need to once you figure out the role porn plays in your life. If you’ve been jerking it a bit too much and are having some difficulties with biological sex—there’s advice there, too. There’s advice all over the place. As well as observations and information on gender, culture and sexuality. In 225 pages. It’s also funny and accessible.

And there are resources in the back for any further information you’d like to follow up on.

Read this book. Have I said that? No one should be ashamed of their sexuality, thoughts or porn use.

I want to send massive crates of this thing to Parliament. But that’d be no guarantee they’d read it. Dr Ley needs to come speak.

Clearly this is a 5/5.

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