November 10, 2003

The Desert of the Real
Naomi Wolf writes that “the onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women”

Maxim’s Maxims
Principals and PTA leaders, listen up! “The Porn Myth” should be required reading for every sex-education class. After years of putting up with bewildered guys who live by the advice of Maxim and The Man Show, I cried, “Genius! Pure genius!” as I read Ms. Wolf’s article.
—Elisabeth Kines, Los Angeles

Sublimation and Its Contents
Where is Freud when you need him? Internet porn allows young men to gratify their impulses toward infidelity to their heart’s content and be excused for their misbehavior on a technicality [“Not Tonight, Honey. I’m Logging On,” by David Amsden, October 20]. They want their girlfriends to excuse I-porn because it’s not with a “real” woman. Faithfulness to one partner has been exchanged for a steady stream of virtual replacements. Men have always felt claustrophobic toward monogamy and always will. The stark choice is this: Endlessly gratify these impulses and live a lonely life with the cold comfort of cheap thrills, or sublimate the urges and enjoy the intimacy and companionship that only a long-term relationship can provide.
—Lawrence Josephs, Manhattan

Porn Cocoon
The seductive nature of porn on the Internet is undoubtedly true for all the reasons set forth by Ms. Wolf and Mr. Amsden. As they noted, it is readily available, the women are beautiful, and the actresses will attempt all sorts of sexual acts. However, I believe that this is not the full reason why men may prefer I-porn to real women. Rather, it has to do with the culture between the sexes that exists today in America. Men on college campuses and in the workplace have seen their futures destroyed by a single allegation of sexual impropriety. “Take Back the Night” marches reinforce the image that all men cannot be trusted. The constant accusations of “date rape” and “harassment” that flood the media have created an atmosphere of fear and menace that force many men to withdraw into the safe world of porn, where such issues are not a concern.
—Lawrence Stark, Skokie, Ill.

Jenna and the New Wave
I was delighted to see Jenna Jameson, easily the best actress in the porn world and a real role model for women in search of exciting sex on their own terms, gracing the cover of your recent issue. All of which made Naomi Wolf’s invocation of Andrea Dworkin perplexing. I mean, how long has it been since she was relevant to the pornography debate? Haven’t there been, like, eighteen or so waves of feminism since?
—Amy Miller, Manhattan

Erotica 101
Learning to have sex from porn is like learning how to drive from a car commercial. The ubiquity of fantasy images now makes it more necessary than ever to have accurate sex education that gives adolescents realistic expectations of sex and ideas about how to make it pleasurable for themselves and their partners. People who know the realities of sex can enjoy X-rated material the same way we enjoy other entertainments—by understanding that it’s not reality, but it’s still fun to watch.
—Rachel Venning, Co-Founder, Toys in Babeland, Oakland, Calif.

Cheap Date
All through history, women have blamed the “other woman.” Perhaps in many cases pornography offers men just as much as do some women, and is cheaper and less annoying to boot. Call it the male dildo.
—Chris Dailey, Manhattan

Our children are losing their innocence too early by having to take on all the grief and sorrow that sex brings. By the time they are in college, they have tried everything. Men may become bored with sex with a woman, and Internet pornography might become a new form of birth control as men come to prefer images over the real thing.
—Karl Gayle, Brooklyn

Shame Blame Game
If you could flip a magic switch and turn off every gigabyte of Internet pornography, you would still not stop young men from masturbating every day. I agree with your authors that young adults are having less sex today, and that they have more anxiety about the sex they are having. I only wish you had ditched this porno-addict canard. Pornography is not the culprit behind such loneliness and isolation. There’s no doubt about it: As a group, college-age adults have less—and worse—sex than they did ten or twenty years ago. This generation has been raised on abstinence, body shame, and AIDS-cautionary moralism, in which sex is linked to death, poverty, and dissolution.
—Susie Bright, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Getting Religion
I would like to wish Naomi Wolf a mazel tov on her conversion to traditional Jewish sexual mores—on the road from Jerusalem, no less! And yet I seem to recall certain articles of Ms. Wolf’s in which she writes of the Jewish tradition’s approach to women and sexual intimacy with derision. Well, no matter. The faith welcomes converts, especially if they’re already Jewish. Will we be seeing Ms. Wolf with a head covering?
—Justin M. Hornstein, Highland Park, N.J.

All You Need Is Love
This generation will learn, as it gets older, that what everyone is seeking in their relationships is love, trust, tenderness, plus mental and emotional excitement. In the meantime, why don’t young women develop their own porn sites, geared toward their own pleasure?
—Freda Laugbert, Manhattan

It’s Just A Fantasy
Women’s porn consumption is notably absent from both articles, except as an exercise in pleasing their men. Porn can be a healthy enhancement to a single person’s or couple’s sex life, or a time-consuming dead end that leaves people sexually frustrated, but to blame men’s sexual problems on their porn consumption is a lazy, simplistic argument. The Internet may have made porn more accessible, but if grown men aren’t adult enough to separate fantasy from reality, their issues go way beyond the Internet.
—Rachel Kramer Bussel, Brooklyn

Keep Raising The Bar
Naomi Wolf points out that as a result of men’s increasing exposure to porn, they are holding real women to far higher standards of attractiveness. She even quotes a few women complaining that they can’t measure up to the standard of porn-star attraction. They long for the old days, when their own simply naked presence would be sufficient enticement for their mates. I, for one, am pleased that these standards are being raised. I’m tired of women thinking that they hold all the cards, and that their simple willingness to sleep with us men should make them desirable. As a man who tries hard to make himself attractive in all ways—financially, intellectually, and physically—I don’t see why women shouldn’t be asked to hold themselves to high standards as well.
—Stephen Gross, Cleveland, Ohio

Viva Divas
Peter G. Davis’s review of Renée Fleming’s performance in La Traviata is quite fussy enough without his dig about her “affected ‘glamour’ press photos” [“Classical Music: Career Sigh,” October 20]. He claims to be completely baffled. I see nothing baffling about Ms. Fleming’s taking full advantage of her glorious vocal talent and her considerable good looks and grooming. To suspect, as he does, that Ms. Fleming aspires to be “some kind of crossover version of Madonna” lets us know that Mr. Davis knows little of either Ms. Fleming or the Material Girl.
—Jeffery Campbell, Hackensack, n.j.

Tamper Tantrum
Regarding Joseph Giovannini’s “Disappearing Act” [“Architecture,” October 20]: In the case of the ground-zero design competition, the democratic process worked. We voted for Libeskind’s vision. Does every election in this country have to be tampered with? Art is not created by committee.
—Leslie Bornstein, Manhattan

Corrections: In a recent “Intelligencer” item (“Toe Jam,” by Deborah Schoeneman, October 20), the New York radio station Hot 97 was described as being owned by Clear Channel. In fact, Hot 97 is owned by Emmis Communications. And in last week’s issue, the solution to the previous issue’s New York Crossword was incorrect. The correct solution can be found on page 149. New York regrets the errors.

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November 10, 2003