Letters pile up in response to pornography column

What was the point of your article on pornography? It made no sense to me or my wife, you just seemed to be rambling like some sidewalk preacher. We both noticed that you made no mention of women liking to watch pornography. For the record, my wife and I both like to watch pornography on occasions (and no, it's not always my idea to put on a "dirty movie.") It is not the most important thing in our lives; it doesn't consume us. We don't need it for great sex, it's just something different. It also has given us some ideas on or different ways to enjoy sex; even after 40 years of being together in a monogamous relationship we haven't thought of everything. In short, it appears you are the one that has a problem with (the) idea of sex and pornography and should re-examine your thoughts (on) this.

-- P. and C.P., Las Vegas

You will be happy to know that I got a ton of unhappy mail regarding the March 14 Las Vegas Review-Journal column (http://snurl.com/uwg4t) about which you are commenting. Conservatives were unhappy. Liberals were unhappy. Hedonists were unhappy.

I, on the other hand, always feel happy when I can make conservatives, liberals and hedonists unhappy with the same column. Always makes me feel like I've told the truth.

You both completely missed the point of the column. I was addressing men who attach themselves to pornography as compulsion, specifically to dodge the work of marriage. Of course I said nothing about women as consumers of erotic material. I was addressing men. Men use sex compulsively much more often than women.

Rambling sidewalk preacher? I went to great pains to say overtly that my motives were not at all related to religious moralisms. My motives were and remain critical questions of meaning versus meaninglessness.

But, now to you and your wife: Perhaps I can generate more unhappy mail.

Modern culture has abandoned so many vital symbols, ceremonies and other meaningful festivals. If you read my column, you know I harp on this incessantly. Well, here I go again: Modern Western culture is absent healthy, corporate erotica. I mean public, ceremonial celebrations of human sexuality.

Oh, I know what you're thinking: Our modern world is overridden with public sexuality. But narcissistic acting-out, exhibitionism, voyeurism, etc., are not the same as healthy corporate erotica.

You have to go back to premodern times to catch sight of what I'm talking about. Tribes that, during appointed seasons, would put the kids to bed, light bonfires, give drums a ferocious beat, and invite adults to dance naked together in rhythms and movement designed specifically to provoke eroticism and desire.

There is no evidence these activities broke down the mores and customs of faithful marriage or meaningful sex. Nobody swapped. Folks went back to the appropriate grass hut and had a romp with the appropriate partner.

And the next day hunted and gathered with an ease, a smile and a lightness of step.

The closest thing we have in our culture are exercises shrouded in ideas of vice, taboo, sin or outright sordidness: pornography, adult book stores, strip clubs, sex clubs, clothing optional adult resorts. I'm saying that these phenomena in our modern day are, from an anthropological view, half-baked efforts to reclaim corporate erotica. Half-baked because, in a culture of sexuality shamed and repressed, corporate erotica can only emerge from the shadows and the unconscious, instead of from consciousness, intention and the light.

When we reach for corporate erotica from The Shadow, the outcome is invariably fraught with moral dilemma, and that, on a good day. The people in those films are somebody's father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter. And the simple truth is that the people earning a living thusly are so often tragic, wounded people. And the world of the modern sex industry is pervasively grim and exploitative. It is not rendered benign by the cheap and easy protestation of "consenting adults."

Having said that, it might surprise you to know that I'm a big fan of couples who can find healthy ways to participate in corporate erotica while navigating the moral ambiguities. In the way you describe it, it sounds like your marriage is a fun and joyous playground. Good for you!

The most important rule for socially edgy sex adventures in marriage is "it's about us." Meaning, that it's a vehicle for joyous connection and celebration, not a dodge from the marriage and the work of intimacy.

In short, I hope you two have a lifetime of joyous, erotic adventures.

My column wasn't about you.

Originally published in View News, April 6, 2010.