For all of my life, since I was old enough to understand it, I’ve heard the phrase “Men are visual creatures.”
I’ve heard these four words used to justify men’s tendencies to look at other women in desire, for wishing their spouses would lose a little weight, & especially for men’s preferences in viewing pornography. There have been many males in my life that have attested to this idiom — boyfriends, guy friends, & coincidental overhearings of conversations between gruff, male strangers — but my father was the one that truly hammered this lesson into the depths of my brain.
“Be sure to ask Jonathan upfront if he’s okay with the possibility of you gaining 30 lbs. down the line,” he suggested when he found out we had gotten engaged. “Guys are visual creatures & that extra weight has the potential to ruin your marriage.”
Despite of my father’s shallow advice, I have no problem with the exclamation (even the explanation) that men are visual creatures; it’s the truth, really. Men derive sexual pleasure from being able to see & fantasize about the things that turn them on.
But what “Men are visual creatures” implies rather unfairly is that women are not visual creatures. That we are able to get off by dreaming up things in our heads; that we don’t necessarily need visual stimulation in order to get turned on because our imaginations do the job just fine.
“Guys are visual, women are whimsical.”
That belief is a crock of shit.
While it’s true that women are very good at closing their eyes & getting off by mental imagery, we are just as much visual creatures — if not more — than our male counterparts, & it’s infuriating to know that one of our five senses is being dumbed down because of our particular gender. Even more infuriating is the number of women who hide the fact that they are visual creatures by denying that they look, watch, read, & enjoy porn for fear of seeming abnormal & perhaps even a little unlady-like.
The amount of women viewing porn is growing quickly; the numbers just keep increasing, despite the fact that we remain acutely silent about it.
Just like masturbation, pornography is not very much discussed amongst women. It’s kept hidden away, never mentioned or acknowledged.
When I’m having an in depth conversation with a girl friend, for instance, neither one of us ever blurts out, “Oh, & speaking of which… I was watching this erotic film last night that really got me off. Would you like to borrow it?” It just doesn’t work this way for some reason. & if by chance porn is mentioned, it is often clothed in negativity & disgust.
Why is this?
Perhaps it’s because women have been taught in society to be the most agreeable of the genders. At a very young age, we are taught to sit with our legs closed, to keep from touching our lady bits, to shy away from overt sexuality, lest we be referred to as “whore” or “slut.” & heaven forbid that we lose our virginity to a man we will not eventually marry.
All of these things indirectly reinforce the idea that women are meant to keep their sexual impulses under control, which is the exact opposite of men, who are usually encouraged to masturbate & be openly sexual human beings. “Boys will be boys,” as they say, which is very much like the phrase “Men are visual creatures” in that it gives men an unzipped type of justification for their sexual manifestations, whereas women are expected to keep their skirts down; to stay clean, elegant, & composed.
& porn, in a lot of ways, isn’t usually any of those things.
It would be magnificent if there was an alternative approach to women & porn. That rather than porn be heavily laced with shame, embarrassment, & denial, women were able to rejoice in the awareness that we are fully carnal human beings & that that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could speak just as openly about our relationship troubles to our girl friends as we can about the things that turn us on visually, that being porn? Wouldn’t it be absolutely freeing to be rid of the guilt that often comes with getting off?
So, we need to talk about this more — to our partners, to our girl friends, to our close family members — if only to perpetuate the fact that we are wonderfully erotic; that we are visual creatures, too, & that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. & when we do talk about porn, it should be entangled with positivity & confidence. It needs to provoke feelings of pride, rather than embarrassment.
I encourage you to give yourself permission to explore yourself as a visually human being. Come clean about your very natural porn habit & inspire others to be just as open. If you can’t do that, then at least acknowledge that you are a woman who enjoys an erotic film or sexy story every so often.
The moment we decide to change our mindset around pornography is the moment we rise above & empower ourselves.