Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

On porn in the 20th century

A reply to Alex Greenberg

Alex Greenberg’s recently printed thoughts on porn in the 21st century got me thinking. I agree with one of his points wholeheartedly. He argues that, these days, “with a laptop and an Ethernet cable, any kid can lock himself (or herself) in the bathroom for days, watching naked people with exaggeratedly large sexual features do it with each other,” essentially finding libraries of pornography with little to no effort. His next comment, though, sticks in my craw: “The romance of sex is gone,” he says. I disagree. It’s not the romance of sex that’s evaporating with the ever-more-numerous, easily accessible, YouTube-like aggregators of free porn; no, the romance of sex is fine. It’s the romance of porn that’s dying.

When I was a boy, back in the information dark ages of the 20th century, Internet pornography was something to be revered and respected. Back then we, the pioneers of free Internet porn, overcame such hurdles as sub-56-kilobit-per-second connection speeds, shoddy antivirus software and difficult-to-delete Internet histories on shared computers. We traded pictures on floppy disks and stifled shouts of joy when one of our AIM friends sent us a safe link to a 15 second clip of the Pam and Tommy sex tape. If the video had sound, that was a huge bonus, but never necessary.

Those of us at the vanguard only dreamed of the smörgåsbord-like situation today’s porn lovers take for granted. We now enjoy the ability to find any genre, star or specific act in full-length films with only the gentle tap of a Google search. No longer must we wait minutes for pictures to load. No longer must we download video sight unseen. It takes seconds to find exactly what you want, not the hours of careful scrutiny it took when the Internet was new. Where’s the danger? The intrigue? Isn’t it the challenge of love that creates romance?

Pornography has existed since people learned to draw, so Alex’s assertion that his parents’ generation had an unsullied upbringing is ridiculous. Every generation seems to think they invented sex, or at least reinvented it. Somehow, they’re always wrong. But he has a point in exposing the dangers of its availability. People no longer appreciate the wonder of anonymously watching two other people having sex. Or seven other people having sex. There was a time when couples would go to a theater together to enjoy the experience—nay, the privilege—of watching people do freaky things to each other on film.

Fact is, Alex, people do freaky things to each other in real life, and have been doing them for years. Ever read anything by the Marquis de Sade? Well, don’t. I think it’s gross. But that is what’s so wonderful about free speech and the availability of smut. As an adult, I’m free to make my own choices of what I think is hot and what is not (awesome ’90s Internet reference, anybody? hotornot.com? no? anyway…).

Can porn warp kids’ minds? Maybe. But so can Glenn Beck, and no one is accusing him of destroying romance or sex. Some entertainment is trash and some is estimable. For Alex to suggest that porn has a negative effect on sex is ridiculous, especially when it allows many to realize that they are not alone in enjoying the “gross details” of their “weird fetishes,” as he puts it. But I do agree it shouldn’t be readily available on the Internet. Why should kids these days get to enjoy so easily what used to take me hours to find? Bring back the challenge to pornography, and restore the romance.

Brian was the managing editor of new media in 2008-2009. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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  • Nate says:

    I remember camping out in my basement on Thursday nights just so I could emerge at 11:30pm to watch “G-String Divas” on my parents’ HBO subscription with the volume turned down to one.

    Who nowadays experiences the thrill of seeing that glorious “N” rating at the star of a movie? Instead of spending an entire evening watching a two hour movie for the six seconds of nipples, you just set your DVR and ask Mr. Skin exactly what time index to skip to.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878