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Jan 28 2013

Cosmo “studies” porn, says it hurts relationships

In an amusing bit of irony, one industry that promotes an unrealistic and largely unobtainable set of standards on sex and sexuality is criticizing another industry that promotes an unrealistic and largely unobtainable set of standards on sex and sexuality, over what the former claims is the latter’s harmful effects on relationships. Without having seen the title, if I told you that one industry was porn, and the other was Cosmopolitan Magazine, would you necessarily have guessed which was which?

So Cosmo asked 68 self-professed “relationship experts”, and the majority said porn was harmful. The credentials and peer review of these opinions are, of course, not up for debate. The sample size is, of course, perfectly adequate. The methodology is, of course, free from potential bias and leading. And the sample is, of course, totally representative. Trust them.

Alternet covers the story:

The glossy surveyed 68 “relationship experts” and found that the majority think X-rated material can harm relationships. The magazine also found that said experts believe porn damages women’s confidence, which is rich coming from a publication that inflames women’s insecurities in order to sell them a consumerist wet dream.

Yeah, there’s that irony I was talking about.

This isn’t at all to negate the potential for porn to be legitimately damaging. Reasonable people can agree that mainstream porn, as with most popular media, often produces unrealistic aesthetics and expectations — not to mention poor sex education and instruction, right? That’s something worth discussing in a relationship, no doubt. But instead of condemning all erotic material as an enemy to sex, what about taking the more productive route of talking about how porn can actually be good for relationships.

But strangely enough, Cosmo seems to have elided the stories of relationship experts that contradict their thesis:

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and author of “She Comes First,” tells me, “There are a lot of people who would prefer to be somewhat private about their masturbatory habits and that’s to be respected,” but he adds that communicating clearly about sexual fantasies can inject novelty and healthy experimentation into a couple’s sex life. Herbenick tells me that porn can help couples “learn how to talk ‘dirty’” and “exposes people to any number of things that they try, or not try, as they see fit.” Watching porn together is not only a way “to make it easier to become aroused or to experience orgasm” during partnered sex, but also to “open up communication about what they like or don’t like or would or would not be into (which can help them draw boundaries about no-go areas as well as ‘want to try’ areas).”

Kerner also sees porn as a way to deal with a sex drive disparity.

Of course, I’m sure someone would rebut that any relationship that has a sex drive disparity is naturally unhealthy, because reasons. This rebuttal is naturally stupid, because same reasons. If you love someone, and they have a lower or higher sex drive than you, it might be a point of contention, or it might be something that’s resolved by some private fiddling or, say, even negotiating different boundaries in the relationship. Most problems can, in my experience, be solved with patience, compromise, and communication. And most intractable problems stem from a lack of one of the three. Though even that’s an oversimplification, because there are some intrinsic things that might not be resolvable about one’s self that makes a particular relationship less plausible to maintain.

And some people have no sex drive whatsoever, but still maintain healthy romantic relationships. And some people enjoy porn together. And some have differences in sex drives without porn, and have relationship issues; and some resolve those issues without porn. There’s no real trending data here! So, stop being so damn judgemental, Cosmo.

Meanwhile, every time I make my way to the checkout counter at my local supermarket, Cosmo blares its headlines about “that one move that drives men wild”. I often snark to Jodi, “…she touched my penis, it was totally hot.” Yes, like in the XKCD comic (or is it SMBC?) about sex researchers who believe they’ve tapped (heh) every sexual position possible, and discovered they all amount to eight basic position categories with minor variations, I strongly suspect that every time Cosmo “discovers” a new sex position, it’s something they already talked about a hundred-odd issues back and figure people have a short enough memory to not even notice.

And that’s not even mentioning the myriad ways the mag teaches girls they’re not pretty or sexy enough, and tries to sell them the “cure”. Remind you of anything? Religion, perhaps? Perhaps someday soon Cosmo will realize this untapped market, and will start helping exorcize the porn demons from people:

Anyway, I anxiously await the counter-study produced by Vivid Video that suggests that Cosmopolitan harms relationships.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    scrawnykayaker

    A hundred issues back? Judging by the headlines I see at the supermarket checkout line, Cosmo re-runs their entire content every 10 to 15 months. Does anyone even work there, outside of the advertising sales department and the art director?

    “Of course, I’m sure someone would rebut that any relationship that has a sex drive disparity is naturally unhealthy, because reasons.”

    Yes, because it’s so easy to find someone with whom you have matching, or at least tolerably compatible, ideas about music, humor, politics, kids and other pets, housekeeping, diet, exercise, recreation, where to live, money, etc. AND have exactly matching sexual tastes and drive. Said nobody, ever.

  2. 2
    khms

    In an amusing bit of irony, one industry that promotes an unrealistic and largely unobtainable set of standards on sex and sexuality is criticizing another industry that promotes an unrealistic and largely unobtainable set of standards on sex and sexuality, over what the former claims is the latter’s harmful effects on relationships. Without having seen the title, if I told you that one industry was porn, and the other was Cosmopolitan Magazine, would you necessarily have guessed which was which?

    Well, let’s see. One side is an industry that depends on selling conflict. The other side is an industry that depends on selling lust. No, I would totally not have guessed what side would talk about conflict based on flimsy evidence. (Now, if that story had been about how one side is doing much good …)

  3. 3
    Aliasalpha

    What’s the bet that the vivid one would be better researched? At least I’d be more inclined to trust them because they seem a bit more self aware than the average pretentious issue of “everything thats wrong with you monthly” and only have their heads up their arses for specialty videos…

  4. 4
    noelplum99

    I agree.

    Mags like Cosmo will print pretty much whatever sells, their ethical limits in terms of what is reasonable editorially only extends so far as what their readers would take exception to and no further. Like you say, the hypocrisy this leads to is sometimes hard to take in: on top of the example here I am thinking of the articles on how women should feel happy with their bodies and how cellulite is nothing to be ashamed of which they happily print alongside a ‘celebrity beach cellulite shame’ expose.

  5. 5
    Riptide

    And, of course, the anti-porn crusaders never seem to get that the answer to “Porn is bad sex education!” is “Get better sex education!” instead of “Eradicate porn!”

  6. 6
    Yellow Thursday

    My hubby has this habit of reading, loudly, all the sex headlines off Cosmo and other mags in the checkout line at the supermarket. For a short while, they put a black cover over the Cosmo, but it must not have sold as well, because they took it away.

  7. 7
    Sansgerd

    “Porn can harm relationships”
    Even if this is proven true, what the ever living fuck is the point?
    Lots of things can harm relationships for people with addictive personalities…

  8. 8
    scrawnykayaker

    a ‘celebrity beach cellulite shame’ expose.

    In Cosmo’s defense, that sounds more like US Weekly.

    :D

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    There are lots of things that can harm relationships. Is Cosmo going to list them all?

  10. 10
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, if somebody asked me the stupid question “Can porn harm relationships” I guess I would have said “yes”, since we’re then talking about all sorts of porn, all kinds of consumers and all kinds of relationships.
    I think there are even some credible studies out there that indicate that heavy users become more dissatisfied withtheir sex-lives.
    But such an open question with no specifics is a stupid question.
    “Do you think that water can kill?” Well, obviously. I’m still drinking it…

  11. 11
    teh_faust

    SMBC – and it’s a video;)

    Apart from that: Yes.

  12. 12
    John Horstman

    As teh_faust says, it was an SMBC video (a hilarious one); here’s a link: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/f2c3dcb8c1/cosmotopian

  13. 13
    John Horstman

    @10: Agreed; in fact, we can say porn DOES harm SOME relationships. The problem is the universalizing language, which completely ignores the fact that contextual factors (of the relationship itself, the personal histories of the people involved, and the porn e.g. what kind, how produced) are what determine whether it’s harmful.

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    While I’m of the opinion some universal language is not intended to be universal, in this case, there’s no “other side” presented, and the memes are demonstrably incorrect even as generalizations. So… yeah. “Some porn harms some relationships” is as useful of a phrase as “sometimes people die because of water”.

  15. 15
    alain

    Well I guess the argument for “porn control” goes like this…If it saves one relationship…it’s worth banning it.

    Either control everything or control nothing.

    Right and left sides of every argument is either control or don’t control.

    abortion: right-control, left-don’t control
    guns: right-don’t control, left control
    porn: right-control, left-don’t control

    Get out of peoples lives, everyone wants to meddle in other peoples business. What happened to live and let live?

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