Dear Amy: Here’s a Lesson in Men

In my last entry I suggested that there was nothing else I could contribute to the topic of pornography. But I was wrong. Well, actually I’m right. Advice columnists though have it all wrong. They just don’t get pornography and men and never will. Perhaps it’s because most of them are women. Anyhow, today’s Ask Amy shows once again that if this attitude represents typical American women-think, American women are seriously out of touch:

Dear Amy:

You ran a letter recently from “Broken Wife,” who found porn sites on her husband’s computer’s tool bar.

Before this woman and her husband head off to marriage counseling for his supposed actions, might I suggest that they have their computer scanned for spyware and viruses? Awhile back my husband, bless his heart, came to me because he was getting strange e-mail and his Yahoo Messenger had weird names on it. We found out that our computer had been hijacked and that all sorts of porn and other rather obnoxious stuff was being saved to our hard drive. His e-mail was flooded with messages, and his messenger had “buddies” he never approved.

I’m not saying that this man is or is not having a virtual affair, but given the propensity of Internet hackers, I’d say give this man the benefit of the doubt before condemning him.

Virtually Been There

I appreciate the possibility that a hacker might have infiltrated a computer’s hard drive, but there is a world of difference between a husband who comes to his wife with evidence of hacking and a wife catching her husband with evidence of porn.

Sometimes the computer needs a virus scan.

Sometimes the computer’s owner needs a virus scan.

Attention women: men are hardwired to enjoy pornography. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are rushing down to the 7-Eleven to buy the latest Hustler on the first of the month. That doesn’t mean they prefer the airbrushed women in magazines and dirty DVDs to you. It just means the same way cats instinctively love catnip, men enjoy pornography.

Yes, a husband in a committed relationship who spends his time trying to pick up women on Craigslist instead of working through his bedroom issues with his wife has big problems. He and his wife should probably be seeing a marriage counselor to work through some issues. But a guy who occasionally watches pornographic videos, spends some time in the bathroom in private with a Maxim, or who download pornographic pictures or movie clips off the Internet is a normal man with a normal sex drive.

Here’s the thing, ladies: men are not women. No doubt you have heard it before but clueless women dispensing dubious advice like Amy Dickenson need a reality check. With men our libido is always on. Sometimes it’s like a Christmas light and hardly there at all. At other times it’s a 500-megawatt behemoth. But anyhow, it’s always on. We’re not like women who often need thirty minutes of foreplay to get in the mood. Stop projecting your values on men! When you do so you just make yourself look stupid and foolish.

Women, if your husbands are looking at smut on the Internet, maybe it’s time to have a civilized discussion with your husband on the topic. It’s okay to tell your husband that you don’t like pornography and you don’t want to see it but it’s not okay to demand that he get rid of it unilaterally just to spare your feelings. Most of us men pick up your attitude from the ether. That’s why we don’t usually download it when you are around. When we do this it is not because we are ashamed of seeing Internet porn, it is because we respect you as a human being and are sensitive to your feelings. If it strikes you as “sneaking around” that’s your problem. Don’t give your husband an unnecessary guilt trip. Just relax. Most likely if you extend trust to your husband then he is not out trolling for whores and bimbos. He may be getting off on occasion when his testosterone levels are high but yours aren’t. But if his worst sin is he is he is using his right hand — well, you can’t get safer sex than that.

Yep, I’ve got porn on my computer. It’s there if I want it. I don’t save it on my desktop. It’s not conspicuous and I have it reasonably secure in the unlikely event that minors want to troll my PC looking for stuff. I realize it may not be your cup of tea, but it is mine, at least on those times when I want to look at the stuff. It’s not an obsession. I wouldn’t even characterize it as a hobby. It comes way behind lots of other stuff including chores, blogging here and my responsibilities as a parent and a spouse. It’s there if that’s how I choose to spend my leisure.

Ladies, when you take out that little silver beeper and press it to that delicate spot, dream of that delicious ex-lover you had or that hunky lover you wistfully might want to have, do you feel guilty that you are denying your husband something? If you do perhaps you need some counseling, but there is nothing inherently wrong with you self-pleasuring yourself from time to time. And since most men (I suspect) have a higher sex drive than their wives, stop the worrying if your man gets off by himself now and then without you. He doesn’t need the guilt and you don’t need it either. When a man is making love to you that’s all the proof you need that you are still sexy. Erections don’t happen unless a man is turned on. Every erection is obvious proof that you are desirable to him.

Now it just so happens that my wife is into homoerotic fan fiction, or Slash. Slash is full of sex. Take away the sex and I suspect it just becomes trashy romance. Here’s the thing: I don’t get Slash at all. I often wish I did because perhaps it would ripple over to our sex life. But I don’t. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. But I’ll never get it, just like women don’t get men’s interest in pornography, I don’t get Slash. And if you are the type that reads romance novels, your husband probably doesn’t get your interest in them either. For a while I was concerned. But now I’m okay with it. My wife can read and write as much of this Slash stuff as she has the leisure to enjoy. And I happen to know she collects not just written homoerotic fan fiction but has some explicit videos (likely with Slash related themes) somewhere on her hard drive. I am sure she watches it on occasion. But since she knows it doesn’t trip my trigger she watches it when she has time and privacy. And that’s cool! It means she’s a sexual human being instead of a Stepford wife. It also means she respects my feelings and isn’t trampling on them. I could I suppose snoop around her hard drive and find the stuff. I could even give her a hard time about it and suggest that Slash is destroying our marriage. But I don’t. I keep things in perspective. And it doesn’t offend me. I don’t understand it, but it doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t give me any anxiety. It doesn’t mean I am worried that our marriage is in jeopardy and she’s about to run off with a lesbian girlfriend. It means I am okay with her having personal sexual space and she is okay with me having personal sexual space. It’s all okay! Marriage does not mean tearing down every wall of intimacy. It means leaving a few to ourselves so we can remain unique people.

Of course you are unlikely to measure up to the lurid pictures of airbrushed women in Penthouse. And likely your breasts will never be as perfect as a porno star’s. (After all you had the good sense not to get implants.) Pornography is about fantasy. Men understand that. Those of us who have been around the block understand that women are not sex objects, but complex people. Relax. Take a Valium if you need to. Find more important things to fret over. As long as your husband isn’t spending hours every night downloading porn instead of spending time with you there is nothing to worry about. Respect him by giving him a little space. Make sure you get a little space too. Most likely you will both be happier.

Danger Will Robinson

My wife has been part of a community of Slash writers and readers for about four years now.

In case you don’t know, Slash is a form of fan fiction that accentuates implied same sex longings of established characters in TV shows and movies. It started with the original Star Trek series. Kirk and Spock appeared to many people, women in particular, to be a bit more than good friends. Kirk/Spock, get it? Erotic fan fiction started appearing at Star Trek conventions everywhere in the form of “zines”. Zines are fan fiction stories loosely bound together, often sloppily assembled and edited and sold at cost. Based on early “Slash” zines it appeared that Kirk and Spock had deep feelings and sexual longings for each other, at least in the minds of a largely female population of fans. In numerous Slash stories there are many a tender and not so tender homosexual act between these principle characters where the full depth of their soul is endlessly plumbed. There are probably millions of Slash stories on Kirk/Spock alone out there.

From such humble beginnings a genre was spawned. My wife got into it as a result of watching “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” movie. She was a huge Star Wars fan from the beginning. She found some Phantom Menace fan fiction stories on the internet, enjoyed them, and started writing and corresponding with a number of fellow fans. Before long though it was the slash stories she was mostly reading and writing. In the movie Obi-Wan is an apprentice to Qui-Gon. The female fans of the Star War series went nuts imagining erotic power play between these two characters. There are numerous web sites, fan fiction archives and mailing lists just for this one erotic fandom alone. Yes, the Internet is a beautiful place where virtually any need can be gratified.

For fans of female erotica there is perhaps a lot to be admired about this genre. I always knew women were a lot more erotic than they often let on, even in private between the sheets. A lot of these stories would make sailors blush. Most male pornography is just graphic. These stories are not just graphic, but rife with deep emotions and conflicts as the relationships between these same sex pairings invariably gets deeper and deeper. It’s a shame, in a way, that it is an art form I can’t appreciate very much. Being a heterosexual male I find reading endless stories of two guys (and sometimes two gals, such as Xena/Gabrielle) get it on and having heavy relationship conversations just doesn’t do much to trip my trigger.

My wife Terri wrote a very successful series called “Wheel of If”, based on the Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon relationship. Just last week it was formally published and released to the Slash universe as a zine for those who want to part with thirty bucks or so. It was an effort of love for her and it generated a lot of comments and a lot of fan mail. And now finally it is in zine form, with many full color illustrations by talented artists. She is a published author, of a sort. She beat me to it. In that sense I am a bit jealous. But I’m also proud of her because she is a terrific writer.

This weekend she returned from a slash convention in California full of fellow slash writers and fans, many of which are into her two fandoms. Her other fandom is “The Sentinel”. These two fandoms alone so consumes her she has no energy to join another. I am grateful she stopped at two, but that doesn’t stop lots of other women. It would not be an exaggeration to say lots of slash writers and readers are addicted to this world they are in. I often feel like my wife is right on the borderline. I don’t feel capable of making an accurate assessment because I am not a clinical psychologist nor am I particularly unbiased in the matter.

She has naturally made lots of friends in this new world, to the point where most of her friends now come from her Slash world. I have enjoyed meeting a number of them. Back in 2000 my wife even sponsored a big party for her friends at our house. (I was wisely out of town that weekend). Most live far away, but a number live within commuting range. A couple of her friends make it to the house every month or two and have enjoyed dinner with us, or have camped out in our spare room.

The Slash world is populated with interesting, but often very troubled women. My wife is a bit strange in that she is quite heterosexual in a domain full of lesbian and bisexual women. As a general rule men don’t write or read much Slash. Those that do enjoy it tend to be homosexual men.

The good points about the women I have met into this universe are that they are very bright and creative people as a rule. My wife is certainly that way. She is also an excellent writer who could probably be a successful writer if she wanted to channel her energies in other directions. But these women are often very troubled. Some are in bad marriages. Some have no marriage prospects at all or even want to be married. Lots are into role playing, or would like to be in submissive-dominant relationships. Many are overweight. Many have large self-esteem issues. Many, probably most based on my observation, suffer from clinical depression. And it’s no surprise that many of these women are struggling with mixed feelings for their own sex. But there are also a fair number of otherwise ordinary women who just enjoy Slash as their hobby.

At four years this newest obsession of hers shows no signs of ebbing, so I am likely going to have to deal with it for the long term. It is not always easy because I often feel she loses herself in the genre, sometimes to the expense of her obligations as spouse and mother. It is my nature to be supportive and encouraging, so I try not to complain too much. In many ways she is a happier creature, having found an online home and a set of friends with similar interests I don’t think she has ever had before.

But I wonder how healthy it is. It seems to my myopic eyes to be an obsession. I see an addictive nature to it, just like gambling. It’s almost compulsive. Given any free time she will almost always choose to spend it in that universe.

I’m not sure what conclusions to make from all this. My initial impression was that Slash was pornography for women. But it’s more than that I think: it’s an expression for a longing for a sort of relationship that is probably impossible in real life.

Whatever she is getting from it, it is something I apparently cannot supply. But I still wonder what it is about the genre that draws so many women into it, and makes them so compulsive about spending so many of their free hours imbibed in it? I’d like to think it is harmless. Perhaps it is just another low level vice. But it brings out my inner robot:

Danger Will Robinson!