not in Primary anymore

cool-girling ‘til it hurts: some thoughts on porn

 

Cool girl is half boy

 

CW: Some strong language and imagery

Sometimes, I feel like I just flat-out identify with the worst characters in a story. Take Amy Dunne, for instance. I’ve never read Gone Girl, and I don’t remember why I agreed to see the movie. But I liked it, really liked it, especially that titillating “Cool Girl” monologue. I found myself nodding along to some of the things she said, and even though her character is portrayed as a vengeful psychopath, her speech resonated with me. I decided I wanted to see how the “Cool Girl” speech played out in the book. Turns out, I liked it too.

 

Cool girl Monologue (book)

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping; who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.

 

But why, WHY in the name of all that is good and plenty do ANY of us pretend to be that girl? Oh, come on, admit it. Like that time you attempted to impress that girl or guy that caught your eye? You pretended to love Coldplay, because Chris Martin really does feel the music. You hate to bake, but that didn’t stop you from busting out some Tollhouse delights when the occasion called for it (or didn’t). Oh, and when the potential love of your life played Call of Duty for hours on end? You got to watch the victory happen in real time! Awesome!

So how do we as women find ourselves here, in this limbo of coolness? Perhaps because we are instilled with and maintain the idea that as cool as we are or act, there’s someone even cooler right around the corner, ready to take our place should we screw up somehow. And it doesn’t help that no matter where we turn, in the church or out of it, we are slyly being pitted against each other, like some sort of modernized gladiator sport.  Modern American culture has progressed to the point where men, as Amy pointed out, should be able to do whatever they want without feeling bad about it; enough with  the PC bull already! So yes, you should probably go with your boyfriend to Hooters for lunch because, you know, hot wings. And the more, the merrier, so ménage à trois it up! Don’t be such a little prude.

But even inside the warm cocoon of Mormon purity values, the expectation to be a righteous cool girl persists because there is often a perceived dearth of priesthood-bearing brethren in the church. So, get ready to be on display and put on the proverbial Ritz at single adult ward sacrament meetings, single adult activities, etc. And yes, that also means attending institute classes, come hell or high water. You’ll want to participate for good measure, but make your answers are more, er, spiritual than knowledgeable. If you’re not willing to come across as meek and unintimidating, someone else might be.

If you choose to be LDS cool, it may mean guarding your vagina from incoming penises like it’s the gateway to Mordor. That is, until one fine day, you find yourself with an eternal companion and suddenly, you’re expected to go from zero to a hundred between the sheets just because the sealing ceremony is over. If The Book of Mormon (The Musical) taught us anything, it’s that sexuality does not come with an on-off switch, and being told you’re a walking Penthouse magazine (I’m looking at you, Elder Oaks), only drives home the idea that we as Mormon lasses are indeed the guardians of purity and should be icy-cool in how we relate to the opposite sex regarding, well, sex. And speaking of intercourse, there is very little discourse on the realities of sex for women, even for those sisters who are lawfully wedded and would have the church’s seal of approval to be engaging in it. I’m not talking about talkin’ dirty during Relief Society, but I do mean just discussing basic self-care, consent, boundaries, and other such relevant talking points.

Still, I can recognize the church’s outdated and flawed teaching of sexuality while also acknowledging that the rest of the world doesn’t have it figured out either. Case in point- porn, aka, internet sex ed. I hate porn. Hate it a lot. I can’t even pretend to be objective about it. I hate the way it has seeped into every corner of our culture. I hate how cheap and easy it makes sex look. And I especially hate how it portrays women. I know sex is a natural act, but so is pooping, and I don’t want to watch anyone do that either. So, I don’t and I won’t. But for those of you who think porn is life and has helped bring you and your partner closer as a couple, I hear you. I get it. I have friends who feel the same way and I respect their choice to do whatever works for them in their consenting adult relationship. Just because I loathe onions doesn’t mean someone else has to. And onions aren’t going away anytime soon (which literally makes me cry). But I can dislike them and cut them out of my own meals if I so please. What one person finds revolting, another may find enjoyable. But right now, I’m speaking specifically to those who find porn to be an intrusion or unwelcome third party in a relationship, but feel scared to bring it up to their boyfriend, partner, husband, etc. because, well, #ALLmendoit. This is most definitely uncool.

 

“Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

 

It seems highly hypocritical to claim that men are intelligent human beings capable of self-control over their own actions, sexual or otherwise, and then give credence to the idea that all men need to and will watch porn, ergo, porn is a given in all relationships. I can’t get over the number of Q&A articles or “secret confessions” in women’s magazines where a woman will give a variation of the following scenario: “My boyfriend watches porn, which I’m ok with, but he seems to prefer it to me. We don’t have sex a lot. I know it’s normal for him to watch porn, but I still feel uncomfortable and inadequate sometimes. What should I do?”

 

There are things so deep and complex
that only intuition can reach it
in our stage of development as human beings.
-John Astin

 

What you should do is listen to your intuition, and as Jewel would say, it will lead you in the right direction. Everyone experiences the phenomena of intuition differently. But if yours is telling you that your partner’s porn use is making you uncomfortable, anxious, or upset, listen to it! You are entitled to your feelings and you feel them for a reason. We can’t say that on one hand, women’s intuition in powerful and purposeful and then on the other hand, claim it’s causing them to act crazy, jealous, or irrational. And the most bothersome part is that all too often, the well-intentioned advice columnist or online commentator will respond by telling the worried woman posing her concerns that maybe she should just watch porn with her man because he’ll find that arousing, or to not worry, just because he finds other women’s bodies desirable doesn’t mean he doesn’t find hers attractive too.  The problem with these pieces of advice is that they insidiously ask a woman to be untrue to herself and go against her intuition. It is no more appropriate to call someone a prude for refusing to watch porn than it is to call someone a slut for having sex. Acting against your own desires and neglecting self-care for the sake of someone else rarely ends happily. Just ask the Giving Tree.

And most importantly, a woman should feel safe in her relationship. Her inner gladiator should not constantly be in a state of fight-or-flight, weapon unsheathed, ready for battle. She is in a competition with no one. She should never have to fear that if she doesn’t fulfill her partner’s needs that he’ll just find someone hotter, more flexible, always willing, online or anywhere else.  She shouldn’t feel the pressure to be available to him at all times, just so he won’t look elsewhere. To tame that bush into a landing strip, or look on-point constantly, just-in-case, because heaven knows, she will.  We can’t compete with fantasy. No one, can really. That’s why the synonyms for fantasy are make-believe, imaginary, unreal. To try to be what we are not is a losing battle. And we should know this. We probably do, somewhere deep down. But we need to know it in thought and action, and not just in theory. So, before forcing yourself to try that Cosmo move that will drive him wild, watching the amateur skin flick, or contemplating getting that body-altering enhancement procedure, ask yourself this: are you doing it for you, truly for you? Or are you doing it to be cool? To be the most desirable gladiator on the field? Because your partner outright asked you to? Or simply because you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t?

So, in case there is someone reading this who didn’t already know it before, or who is struggling to believe it still, know this: you are enough. You are good. You are more than good enough. Your opinions, feelings, and intuition matter. And at the end of the day, you and only YOU get to decide what is normal, appropriate, and acceptable for you, in both your personal life and your relationships. You make the rules. You set the boundaries. You do you. Cool? Cool.

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “cool-girling ‘til it hurts: some thoughts on porn”

  1. Elizabeth

    I think you articulated so many things well in this article, and so many things that frustrate me within the Church and out of it. And although I totally understand allowing people to make their own decisions about porn, I also think there is zero justification for porn, how it portrays women, how it portrays sex, and what it does to both women and men (no matter if people say it has “helped” their relationship). It is gross, objectifying, and a blatant perpetuation of inequality and misogyny, whether or not “cool girls” recognize it. But what the Church itself fails to recognize, is that although the institution itself is so anti-porn, it makes excuses for the socialization of men as inherently more sexual than women, and perpetuates (at least culturally) the idea that female bodies are inherently more sexual than men’s… This, in turn, only worsens the pornography problem! Obviously, the issue of pornography (or sexuality in the Church) is extremely complicated and can’t be discussed in a mere comment. All in all though, I deeply appreciate your thoughts and feel comforted to know I am not alone in these thoughts!

    Reply
    • Sweentasia

      Thank you for your comment Elizabeth. I don’t disagree with you, because it is very hard for me and has been very hard for me to realize that other people get to make their own decisions when it comes to porn, and that since it is so pervasive, it is probably not going away anytime soon. I guess that is part of people’s free agency. But in realizing that, knowing that other people watch it and say that it is healthy and appropriate and okay, seems to normalize it and make it seem like the damages it can cause are minor, when I really don’t believe that is the case. From what I have seen and experienced in the world around me, heard from friends and family, and just plain feel from my own personal intuition, porn does a lot more harm than good. It seems to create distrust, jealousy, and insecurity. And too often, those are seen as merely issues on the part of the partner who has a problem with the porn, when in reality, as I said in the article, there is nothing wrong with being upset about your partner looking at other naked bodies and fantasizing about them. A lot of people would feel hurt or upset if they caught their partner lusting after women at a restaurant or the mall, but for some reason because it’s on a screen and the privacy of a bedroom, the lusting and gawking is supposed to be less offensive somehow? I was stunned when I read a Cosmo advice column the other day where the writer, Logan Hill, was telling womenwith porn-based concerns that their men are going to fantasize, look at photos of their exes and that fillling their hours by looking at photos of hot Instagram models is perfectly normal. But then he is very clear that cheating is wrong. When people tell him they have done so, he tells them how inappropriate they were, and how terrible it is that they broke their partner’s trust. But really, I don’t see how one is okay and the other is not. Not all people’s fantasies become reality, but people fantasize for a reason. Because there is something that they want. If the person you are with is constantly desiring other people, then to me, that would be a problem. And the fact that we tell men that this is okay just because porn exists and is easily accessible and we feel like we have no other choice because they will do it anyway, is, at the end of the day, legitimately awful.

      Reply

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