Cuddling > Porn

People have been watching other people have sex since time immemorial. It’s inspiring.

But when this becomes our main form of sexual enjoyment…things get a little weird.

Much has been written about pornography, to which we’d just like to add: porn seems to be associated with a distinct loss of perspective.

Divorced as they are from actual human presence and the immediacy of a real moment, arousing images beamed onto a digital screen from 3,000 miles away tend to leave us feeling depleted and a little silly.

STRAIGHT-UP SEX TRAFFICKING 

In pop culture right now, porn is cool. It’s not cool to call it uncool.

I’m not going to say whether it’s cool or uncool, but I am going to say: porn screws up your expectations of what sex will be like. It makes it difficult to be present with real humans. It makes sex harder to enjoy.

There’s a huge range in what you might call “porn”. Some of it is empowering, sweet, and loving, while a lot of it is violent, misogynistic, and depraved, and some of it is straight up sex trafficking.

But all of it is on a screen, displaced from our actual bodies. It is candy for the mind, not embodied emotion.

“Addiction” is a strong word so I won’t apply it to porn right there. Even if you’re not “addicted” to porn, I can almost guarantee you’re addicted to dopamine.

What is dopamine addiction? Dopamine is the little hit of excited expectation you get that drives you to check your phone. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, all social media relies on your dopamine addiction.

The average smart phone user checks their phone 150 times per day [1]. That’s dopamine addiction. And there are billion-dollar companies investing millions of dollars in figuring out how to make you even more dopamine-addicted.

Highly potent sexual stimuli [and highly palatable foods] are the only stimuli capable of activating the [brain’s] dopamine system with anywhere near the potency of addictive drugs.

Dr. Bart Hobel, Princeton

The malaise of our age is being addicted to external stimulus. We’ve gotten really, really bad at being Present:

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.06.57 AM

The Fierce Gentleman gives up divided attention in favor of presence, and modern Western culture is divided attention par excellence. Ergo, the Fierce Gentleman must get over divided attention and rediscover his Presence.

Otherwise, around and around we go, like a dog chasing its tail:

Unnaturally strong explosions of synthetic experience and sensation and pleasure evoke unnaturally strong degrees of habituation. This has two consequences. As the first, soon we hardly notice anymore the fleeting whispers of pleasure caused by leaves in autumn, or by the lingering glance of the right person, or by the promise of reward that will come after a long, difficult, and worthy task. The other consequence is that, after awhile, we even habituate to those artificial deluges of intensity. . . . Our tragedy is that we just become hungrier.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky, neuroendocrinologist, professor of biology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery, Stanford University

Porn is to real sex as Cheetos are to real cheese. Porn is also sexual propaganda; it makes us feel bad about ourselves so we’ll buy penis pumps and Viagra and never settle down to create real relationships, enduring families and durable communities.

Because then we wouldn’t feel so insecure all the time, and we’d buy less crap.

Porn probably isn’t a massive conspiracy to keep us clicking the “Buy” button. (Or maybe it is). But it is a poor substitute for real relationships, and it is increasingly clear that it is causing sexual dysfunction in both men & women when used to excess [2].

Western culture simultaneously represses and celebrates sexuality. The brand of sexuality it celebrates is a titillating, immature, adolescent version: all show and no go, obsessed with surface, size, speed, performances.  It’s sexual materialism at its finest.

The version of sexuality that doesn’t get as much airtime: slow sex. Goalless sex. Sex that doesn’t lead to orgasm. Physical connection. Intimacy.

We’ve got to give at least as much attention to each other as we give to porn and to our smartphone screens.

In real-time. In the flesh. No matter how awkward it is. We’ve got to get intimate.

We create the world through our attention, so let’s return our attention to genuine connection, and real intimacy.

I read an article recently that said “tantra is the opposite of porn.” Maybe so. I don’t know tantra very well.

I have a pretty good idea of another opposite of porn, though: cuddling.

IS CUDDLING THE OPPOSITE OF PORN? 

If you have problems with porn (or intimate partnership in general), you could do worse than cuddling.

Spooning leads to forking. At least that’s what I was always told. But you should try this first: cuddle with a friend.

Seriously. Just cuddle. Keep your clothes on and cuddle. Breath deeply and cuddle. Smell your friends’ hair and cuddle. Tell them to take a shower. Then cuddle again.

Keep your clothes on. Keep your hands away from those sensitive areas. Just cuddle.

I was camping with two female college friends in the Oregon last weekend. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to suggest we form a cuddle puddle, like we used to in college. I’m sure we would have had a great time. Oxytocin for everybody. Cuddling calms the vagus nerve (a big nerve that hits every major organ) and prevents heart disease (probably).

Both of my friends are in relationships – one is married with two kids. That actually would have been okay. Cuddling isn’t a violation of a relationship (well, unless that’s one of the relationship rules — but that would be a stupid rule).

We forget about cuddling. In our minds is a binary: either we’re lovers which means we can touch each other, or we’re not-lovers, which means we can’t. We forget the vast grey area.

Cuddling may or may not be the opposite of porn, but I do think it is the antidote for the overstimulated mind.

Almost no one gets the amount of touch they need.Charles Eisenstein

Cuddles are about connection instead of competition, presence instead of performance, and body instead of mind. In the cuddling process, there is no end goal to reach. There is no measuring up. And there are no unrealistic images of cuddling to compare ourselves to.

When you ask someone to cuddle, they will 100% think you just want to have sex with them. This is okay. (There was once an app developed to find cuddle partners, but everyone just used it to try to do random sex.) So when people think you are just trying to get in their pants, show them this article. Tell them that having sex is too much work for you right now. You’ve got to screen each other thoroughly, get tested, and compare results…..yech. I have to schedule a doctor’s visit just to hook up with someone? No thank you. Maybe later.

Let’s just cuddle for a while and see how high we can get off that. If we like cuddling and do it a few times, we’ll see about sex.

Schedule a cuddle session today. If you do it right, I guarantee you won’t think about porn for a week. When you do, you’ll probably think about a porn situation involving that person you cuddled with. Great. Call them up again and invite them to come cuddle some more. I bet they’ll say yes.

DON’T DO IT ALONE 

Ultimately, porn will never satisfy. It offers no reciprocation. It is not real. For every minute you spend on fantasy, you lose 60 seconds of actual connection.

Step away from the porn. You don’t have to be tethered to that thing, that unrequited needing. Your energy can be channeled into creation, and your creation can feed you. You can build a house or a company. You can raise a garden or a child. You can make sense, make meaning, make money or make love. You can do better. You can cuddle.

 

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Also published on Medium.

10 Comments Cuddling > Porn

  1. Dennis

    Great article, Drew! The level of productivity I’ve reached since quitting porn has been immeasurable. What’s more, the quality of my relationships has too!

    Reply

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