Read Me, Touch Me
You’re looking for a little romance; a little tingle—and erotica hands it over, no questions asked, no “@ work; call u ltr.” It’s unconditional love. And everyone remembers a moment of reading so well it might as well have been an actual encounter.
When asked if erotica readers are more relaxed (seems logical: Release = Relax), Dr. Paul says, “Potentially.”
Citing a 2006 paper suggesting a correlation between greater access to Internet porn and a decrease in the incidence of reported rape in particular areas, he notes: “Those states that were higher in Internet uptake had, in some cases, lower rape rates than states that were slower (to get widespread web access).”
That report was by economist Steve Landsburg who, in this 2006 story in Slate magazine, said: “A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines.”
Since other crimes, such as murder, did not show a decrease, one might draw the conclusion that—in some circumstances—porn might actually serve as a substitute for sexual aggression. It’s a theory substantiated by Anthony D’Amato a Leighton Professor of Law at Northwestern University and by, number crunched from a 2008 United States Department of Justice report. D’Amato acknowledges other potential variables might have influenced the drop, like a better-educated public, but believes these factors were minor.
“It seems like people tend to have urges for sexual release, they go online, they masturbate, they no longer have the urge for sexual release,” says Dr. Paul. “If you look at the data, it’s resulting less in people going out and sexually assaulting people.”
Critics, such as associate professor Gail Dines of Wheelock College, argue that porn is not the only factor that fuels the act of rape. And while that is all too true, those who point the finger at porn as “the root of all evil,” may have to rethink their clichés in the light of this recent data.] For writer Jim Crescitelli, it wasn’t specifically an erotic novel, but an erotic passage in a mainstream work that hooked him. He recalls, “I could not stop reading the page in Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby that began: “Rosemary slept a while and then Guy came in and began making love to her. He stroked her with both hands—a long relishing stroke that began at her bound wrists, slid down over her arms, breasts and loins and became a voluptuous tickling between her legs…”
He also used to sneak peeks at Jacqueline Susann novels, which he read while his parents were out of the house. “My grandmother read Susann, too,” Crescitelli says. “She was fluent in English but would often point to words in the Susann books for me to translate: ‘Twat, prick.’ ” (“Prick” in Italian is cazzo; “twat,” not surprisingly, he can’t remember.)
For Jack Boulware, author of numerous books including Sex American Style: The Golden Age of Heterosexuality, about the sex-crazed ’70s, it was some nameless novels of the era he would eventually chronicle. “When I was a kid, my parents’ nightstand was a treasure trove,” he says. “Sydney Sheldon had a novel where a big black guy smeared coke all over his dick and drove some white woman MAD with passion. I found a porn novel in my brother’s college—it didn’t even have a cover. Whenever anybody had an orgasm the writer put this into insane dialogue like: ‘OOOAAAAGGHHHH!!!!’ Line after line, of all capital letters. My junior high friends and I were quite taken with this book.”
“Erotica actually changed my life in many ways,” notes portrait artist Elizabeth Levensohn. “I came from a line of women who hated sex. Erotic stories were the first place I realized that women could enjoy sex beyond the power-wielding aspect.”
They were powerful realizations to have, and while they came long after she became sexually active, literature provided an education that home and school had not. “I learned from erotica what I was interested in by what turned me on,” says Levensohn. “At first it was lesbian erotica that allowed me to venture into that world. After reading Anne Rice’s Beauty Trilogy, I became very clear that I was very interested in BDSM.”
Understanding what’s available through erotica and exploring it can certainly be revelatory. Just this week—I found epiphanies in an Alternet story about women’s sex fantasies; Tess Danesi’s “The Royalton – A Daray Tale,” in Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories, and bits and bites of a Califia short story, “Incense for the Queen of Heaven,” both of which I enjoyed for the sexual psychology even more than the sex, to a degree that —like baklava—I had to stop and wait some time to process the richness of what I’d tasted before taking the next, by now longed for, bite.
The Sexual Synapse
When erotica gives you that tingle you have two choices: You can pull yourself away, which is like trying to get a bumper sticker off your car, or you can keep reading…then maybe touching … then maybe masturbating or having actual sex.
But just how does erotic stimulation leap from lines on the page to repose in our loins and laps? | Peep Show Review by Sundae
Peep Show Review by MuffysPinguLove
Peep Show Review by Mr. Sauce
Peep Show Review by Cynthia]
According to Discover magazine, the temporal lobe is your head’s adult’s-only section, housing the amygdala, the hippocampus, both of which are associated with emotions and memories respectively. But sex takes up some of our more sophisticated circuitry as well, including the anterior insula (body awareness) and “brain regions that are associated with understanding the thoughts and intentions of other people also seem linked with sexual feelings” (which makes sense…at least if you’re going to be any good at it).
That’s where erotica begins to stimulate us, but what about long-term impact? Two of the three people I asked about a favorite piece of erotica cited choices from their early youth. But does thatmean we will gravitate to these passages again and again?
“Unlikely,” says Dr. Bryant Paul, Professor of Telecommunications and Affiliated Faculty with the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. “They’re telescoping in on what they remember, with a ‘first-time’ sentimentality. Most people will remember the first thing they masturbated to, but that doesn’t mean they’ll return to it. What is attractive to an individual is malleable.” |
“Now kiss yourself,” she ordered.
He stared. “Kiss myself where?”
A tsk of impatience followed. “Didn’t you ever kiss your fist when you were a kid, pretending you were French-kissing your pinup girl? Do that … and pretend it’s me.”
“You could come out here, and I wouldn’t have to pretend!”
“I said, do it.”
He raised his clenched fist to his lips, leaving a small gap between the thumb and the first finger. Embarrassment warred with arousal—what sort of idiot idea was this?—but his pride rose. He was a performer, damn it. He’d show her what she was missing, crouched like a frightened bird among the stacked chairs. His tongue flicked lightly around his fist, running over the fingers, before insinuating itself into the gap. The heat of his breath rebounded moistly onto his face. Closing his eyes, he substituted soft female lips and smoky bourbon-sweet breath for his fist. Widening the gap, he pushed his tongue farther in, as if this were a real kiss.
Would she kiss like this? he wondered. Would she open her lips for him, press her breasts against his chest and grind herself on his cock? The image made him gasp; his eyes opened and he lowered his fist, abruptly feeling foolish….
Excerpted from Peep Show (Cleis Press): “Watcher in the Shadows” by Cheyenne Blue] Which explains why our tastes in erotic materials evolve. “Evolution is the key here,” Dr. Paul says. “We spent millions of years as hunter-gatherers and we developed tendencies to be attracted to some things and not others. Electronic media has only been with us for maybe 100 years. There’s no way our brains have had a chance to adapt.” We certainly don’t have a media filter. “We can’t have sex with the computer screen, though that’s coming—but it’s amazing that we even identify two-dimensional computer images as sexual,” says Dr. Paul. “We’re using a Stone Age brain to process Information Age information. All the mating strategies that would have made sense in the Pleistocene age are still with us.”
Which may go a long way to explain why, even in modern times, girls tend to frustrate nice men by liking macho bastards. “Macho bastard” was a positive attribute in Flintstone times. “The macho guy could kick everybody’s ass, except there were no repercussions,” Dr. Paul says.
Still, while part of us is still operating on primal systems, part of us has also gotten sophisticated enough to appreciate the subtle beauties of sensuous literature. “The reason written erotica can be so attractive to certain people is because it allows them to bring some interpretation into it, more interpretation than the visual,” says Dr. Paul, using the Marquis de Sade as an example.
Some people see only aggression in de Sade, others immediately think of it as sexual, “but they’re all creating images of what it means. When you look at an image there’s not as much room for interpretation. Words on a page allow you to more freely create the image in your mind. You’re controlling the image more than you would when you’re looking at an actual image. “Some people don’t like reading because it is a more cognitively burdensome process.”
Pictures are certainly easier. “[Visual] sexual depictions in essence, is the fast food for the Stone Age mind, while erotica is for somebody who is a gastronome,” Dr. Paul says.
But there’s room in our Information Age minds for lots of different apps.
“Sometimes you want to be romanced and have lots of foreplay and sometimes you just want to have sex,” Dr. Paul says. “People like to go to McDonalds and some people like to go to Le Bec-Fin,” and some people like both. “Sex feels good because it’s essential to the continuation of the genotype. One thing you can say about every branch of your family tree: They got laid.”
To purchase the Naked Reader Book Club selections, visit the Naked Reader Book Club Store.
|The Naked Reader Book Club||Selections for May 2010|
|Peep Show – Erotic Tales of Voyeurs and Exhibitionists Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel||Afternoon Delight – Erotica for Couples Edited by Alison Tyler|