CB commented: To go back to one of Kurt's excellent points ("a repeat customer who asks much in the way of service"): porn is also marked out by the fact that it is a fucking waste of time.
That set me off thinking, in my usual contrary fashion, about what we might think about it if it weren't a waste of time. Suppose we just changed its name, and called it a spiritual practice. what kind of practice is it? What does it cultivate? It behooves me to know, since I've spent more time practicing it than I'm ever likely to spend in any other practice.
What it cultivates is not all negative. There is that extraordinary moment, the few seconds' wind-down after orgasm, which is a faint echo or parody of the dissolution phase of a visualization practice. The images that were so vivid and compelling fade away, transformed into simple pixels or glossy paper. If you have any introspective turn at all, you have to think, "what kind of thing is desire, that it can so involve me with a computer monitor or a magazine? And are any of my other desires really different, except in scale and accidental detail?
In this time of pornographic abundance, too, I can locate the exact images that most move me, and the strangeness of that specificity has a similar effect of turning the mind. Yes, this is the exact image I chased with such resource and determination when I was young and porn was scarce. Here it is, the image that has haunted my imagination . So... so what? Why this particular image? And then, too, in the searching I've sorted through millions (I'm afraid that number is probably accurate) of images that don't interest me in the least, but which clearly are the precise image that a thousand other men were desperately seeking. Pause at this brassy, over-lit, over-titted, fake-smiling, long-legged, vapid-staring blonde. This is the summit and end of all desire?
Well, yes, for someone. Mine is no different in essence. When I was young I took it, somehow, as a great virtue and distinction in myself that my taste in women didn't run on the Raquel Welch theme. Seriously, I did -- there is nothing, nothing, that can't be turned into ego and personal territory. I somehow managed to identify a taste for dark-haired women with small breasts as a signal of some moral distinction. The distinction escapes me, now, but I believed in it devoutly, once upon a time.
So much for the positive. What of the negative training? A narrowing of the sense of beauty, and of what one does with it. A practice in the sort of single-minded predatory trance that so many men seem to go into when they're aroused, by which all context and compassion is excluded. The long, intent, baleful glare of wanting, and only wanting. It doesn't seem to have bled over into my non-virtual sexuality, which is a wonder. But it must have bled into something -- what? Will I ever know?