Intimacy Porn

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Hook-up culture promotes intimacy and teaches 20-somethings how to build relationships.

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I used to watch a lot of porn. No more than the next guy, but definitely no less. I cut back a few years ago only when I learned how porn negatively affects the brain. It burns out pleasure receptors and leaves a buffer of boredom between you and girls—you know, real girls. Talking to girls, dating, and even sex aren’t as stimulating to the porn-soaked brain, much in the way a heroin addict would be unsatisfied from a shot of morphine. There are even cases of porn-addicted men who develop erectile dysfunction because the pleasure their bodies require to make an erection is too great for regular women to fulfill. Regular women have BO sometimes, especially after a drunken, summer night of ignoring your glaring flaws.

When I learned about this insidious nature of porn, that was it for me. Of course, I still watch porn, but not nearly as much as my internet access and alone time allow for.

But my brain may be getting strung out on something else. A recent New York times article clued me in to what’s happening.

Hook-up culture promotes intimacy

The main point of this article was to discuss research that shows college-aged girls are just as complicit in the hook-up culture as their male counterparts. (When you write for the New York Times, you need to do research to understand girls like sex.) Less notably, the article goes on to lament, in the typical, roundabout NYT style, the current hook-up culture itself. Because 20-somethings are indeed readily having sex, they’re not learning how to build intimacy with each other, so the argument goes.

It makes sense at first glance that hook-up culture would damage us emotionally—if culture promotes or at least accepts hook ups, then there’s no point in dealing with all that icky, emotional stuff. Just do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.

But I have found, through my own experiences and corroborated evidence, the exact opposite to be true. Since, sexually, we have become more free and open, we have necessarily become more intimate than what was previously acceptable.

It’s precisely because we do not wait to become familiar with each other before having sex that allows us to become more intimate. Think about it. If you’re out with a girl who doesn’t know anybody you know, and may not even know your last name, she’ll share stuff with you that she wouldn’t tell even her closest friends. Effectively, everything you two say is confidential. First dates have become tantamount to therapy.

I’ve been out with girls who told me things they never told their past boyfriends, boyfriends they were with for years (yes, I know girls will lie about telling you something new, but sometimes girls don’t lie—weird but true). The problem was, they went through the typical, 20th Century mating process with these boys. They met through mutual friends, they endured social convention and waited maybe two months before having sex, and they planned out their future together before it was necessary. Since there was no freedom of the hook up, the relationship came with strings attached, so there’s a potential downside to being as honest and open as possible. Priority is placed on the structure and pretenses. In these general-issue relationships, familiarity tends to grow faster than intimacy, and so intimacy is sacrificed.

We all know the best way to get stuck in the friend zone is to not make a sexual advancement. After a certain period of time, the relationship is set up in a non-sexual way, and effectively, the door is closed on you two having sex.

The same is true for emotional intimacy. If you let familiarity build too much, then the freedom of anonymity is lost. As you spend more time brushing your teeth next to each other like you were brothers, the girl slowly and unconsciously blocks off certain parts of her life. You’ll only find out about her $80,000 credit card debt a couple weeks before the wedding.

Think of relationships the same way you would think of a developing brain. You can learn a foreign language when you’re 15, but you’ll learn it better and easier when the brain is younger, in a stage of high neuroplasticity and development. Similarly, relationships develop continuously throughout their lifespan, but it’s in those first few weeks in which most of the parameters are set.

Maybe you’re in the stage of your life in which you don’t want to find out about the time the girl you’re dating was molested. And that’s fine. But if you’re not only looking to have sex but create deep connections with girls, fortune favors the fast. Ask those seemingly inappropriate questions about her father. Bring up her relationship with her mother. Inquire about how she feels about her small boobs, and let her go. She will be comfortable with it as long as you’re comfortable with it. The female mind craves a man’s sincere communication like nothing else. To paraphrase the plight of a girl I dated: “Jesus Christ we’re all so bored we just want you to talk to us. You know? Really talk to us.”

You know you’re doing this correctly if you and the girl feel the need to get naked just to keep pace with the emotional atmosphere.

The irony here is the men who do want to create deep connections with girls are usually the men who are too wussy to do it. Broaching provocative topics may get you burned a few times, but like creating physical intimacy, creating emotional intimacy takes practice. As with boner pressing a girl, after a few blow ups, your brain will adjust to sensitive situations, and question like “so, when were you molested?” will become as natural as “what do you do for work?”

How to build relationships

As I alluded to at the beginning of this article, like the brain can get strung out on porn, maybe the brain can be strung out on intimacy. Too much, too soon, over and over again, may feel good at first, but the costs of the bender eventually outweigh the consequences. The weekend is only two and a half days for a reason.

The promise of deep connection and intimacy is one less thing driving us to get married. After you’ve known more than ten girls on a deeper level than their husbands will know them, there’s less of an incentive to pick one girl to know. The mystery of intimacy, of the process by which two people know each other, is gone. Our brains no longer get boners when we relate to this seemingly alien creature in front of us.

The first time I approached a random girl, I was 13-years-old. To this day I could tell you everything about that interaction. Not just what we said, but what I was feeling, infinitesimal moment to infinitesimal moment. I approached a girl yesterday and, in order to make the interaction more exciting for me, I had to effectively put on a show for the people who were listening in.

I don’t even get girls’ phone numbers anymore because I know I will never call or text them. Either I give them my number, or we make plans to meet somewhere. As I’m walking or taking the subway to meet her, there’s a part of me that sincerely hopes she flakes.

Sometimes, when I’m out with a girl, my brain will hit a wall of boredom, and I’ll be obnoxious as a way to wake myself up. It’s not uncommon for me to make a good rape joke when on a date, and by “good” I mean “unfunny.” Last weekend, one such rape joke caused a girl to look at me in total horror, and then she stormed out on me. There’s some fodder for her women’s studies elective.

These scenarios represent a challenge I, and many of my peers, face. How do we stave off boredom when meeting somebody new? You can do it for a while, but eventually, one girl runs into the next. I don’t even try to remember dates I’ve been on as early as even a few weeks ago. It’s as excruciating as trying to remember all the buildings you passed on your walk today.

It feels grim, but in this emotional numbness is a lesson to learn about relationships, and how to make them not only healthy, but exciting. It’s a lesson only the most advanced relationships integrate, and so I believe this is an opportunity to evolve relationships to a higher order.

The mistake we, as a race of social creatures, have been making in relationships is to base the mystery of the relationship on each other. The mystery, up until now, has been experiencing the other person. We treat the other person as if they’re a time bomb, waiting to blow up in an explosion of boredom. So if we talk too much and spend too much time together, the mystery is gone, and so is our interest. Eventually, we come to know our girlfriends and relationships like a savant knows a Rubik’s cube. It’s as easy as it is boring. The natural endgame of such relationships is jogging pants and Netflix. Girls will date guys like Chris Brown if it means a little excitement. And guys will incorporate a little Chris Brown because boredom easily snaps into hate. You probably would never kill your girlfriend, but if she died in a car accident maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

The real mystery, I’m beginning to learn, is to experience life with each other, and to experience the mysteries of life through each other. It’s not only a relationship between you and her, but a relationship between you and your life and her, and her and her life and you, and you and her and every new thing you do. The world, and everybody and everything in the world, is now a part of your relationship. It’s a spiritual orgy, always challenging yourself with the new, to make the relationship exciting by way of making your life exciting. This requires a level of excitability yet seriousness that most people never cultivate, but we’re a generation that, on first dates, talks about how our parent’s alcoholism informs the kind of people we’re attracted to, so I think we’re up to the challenge.

Conclusion

I’ve sung the praises of The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo before, but here we go again. That novel is not only original in its story, but the themes it deals with have never since been dealt with in quite the same way. Hugo only wrote TMWL, I would argue, not because he wanted to, but because he had to. At that time, he had all the success and fame he could want. Naturally, he was bored and depressed, so he wrote The Man Who Laughs to keep himself alive. Hugo was an author of the people, but The Man Who Laughs was a product of total self-indulgence.

The millennials born of hook-up culture are in a similar position. We’re not like our parents. There was rarely a need to challenge themselves in relationships because simply being in a relationship was something cool for them. But we have to make relationships a fun and exciting thing. We have to. Otherwise, we will continue to be as miserable as is our repute, and all the psychosocial insights in the world won’t make a damned bit of difference. But when we combine our sentience and strife with the relationship, the very concept of the relationship, and how people relate in general, will evolve into a completely new organism. 

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DatingMark Derian