Porn On A Treadmill

 A while ago, I figured out that the best way to deal with the gym workouts that my broken neck require of me (as opposed to what I used to call "real" workouts, doing real things in the real world,) is to watch TV and movies on my iPod. Today I watched the first two hours of a truly interesting documentary about the history of porn as it relates to the history of civilization.

The other thing that came from my broken neck workouts are extremely modified movements, intended to eliminate jostling of and impact to my neck. As such, though I used to be an avid runner, I have now developed a strange no-impact gait. It must be very funny looking, like someone running in slow-motion, with an exaggerated long gait, deep bends, exaggerated movements happening slowly. In order to make it more challenging, I often "run" sideways and backwards, which has proven to be an excellent workout.

The gym is crowded, as it always is on Sunday. I am engrossed in my porn documentary.  I am intensely fascinated with the way sexual power is used to control, enslave and sometimes liberate people. It fascinates me in one-on-one relationships, it fascinates me in how sexual manipulation is used to control people, it even fascinates me in terms of how organized religion uses it to enslave people into turning their own personal sexuality into a sort of fuel that serves the church instead of the individual.

As such, looking at how porn has developed, from the earliest cave drawings to internet chat rooms, fascinates me.

What I hadn't thought about previously was the origin of the word. Indeed, although graphically sexual art of all forms has been around since the dawn of civilization, it wasn't considered to be any different from any other art and was displayed and discussed the same way. The word porn didn't exist until the Victorian period, faced with a sudden political need to hide sexual images from society (and drive people into the pews as a way to amass "armies" for a religious war that would define political power.)

Specifically, it was a reaction to Pompeii. It seems that when the buried city of Pompeii was discovered, so was the largest collection of porn you can imagine. This revered civilization revealed houses with graphic depictions of sex on nearly every wall of any  house. Painted onto the walls, not well-hung on them. The social standing of a person could be judged by both the quality and the quantity of these artworks - especially "fine" people even had the paintings placed on their servants quarters, even if those quarters were usually in the rear, of the house. There were statues of people engaged in all manner of sex acts in public squares, including one of the most famous pieces of erotic art in existence, a marble statue of Pan having sex with a goat.

Needless to say, given the era of this discovery, these works of art were all scuttled immediately into a secret room in the back of a museum in Naples. The last thing that anyone wanted, as we all descended into what would eventually lead to a Puritan revolution, was to see sex celebrated as something that everyone did, in lots of ways, and was as natural as eating, breathing and making art in the first place.

It was around this time that the word pornography came into being, with the sole purpose of protecting people from images of sexuality that may cause them to not think clearly, or...  The political and academic discussions around the word, and the future legislation that would use the word in order to censor artistic expression for centuries to come, focused on the idea that people needed to be protected from images that tapped into their sexual energy. Because, it seems, people cannot control themselves when their sexual energies are tapped into. (Not that I haven't done stupid things in the presence of a hot guy, but it never occurred to me to blame the guy.)

Eventually, "porn" became understood as something that is created for the sole purpose of turning people on sexually.  Looking through the history of art that involves fucking, that's a hard argument to make, (academics agree that it was as much about education and humor and lightening the pressure around sex as it was about turning people on) but we'll save that for another day. It seems safe to say that the "mainstream" world thinks of porn that way. And has bought the idea that we need to be protected from it. We need to be protected from things that turn us on.

At this point, I'm totally into my "run." I'm sweating like crazy, my breathing is heavy, my skin is flushed, and I have that glow of someone who is in the throes of a great endorphin release. I'm wearing what anyone would consider normal gym clothes - tight black running pants, through which you can see the dimple in the side of my ass, the line that divides the primary muscles in my quad. A tight nylon running top with spaghetti straps, a tad low cut, my nipples are stiff from friction and endorphins, my clothes cling to me as the sweat acts like both an adhesive and a magic magnifying glass highlighting every curve and movement of my muscles.

After watching an hour or so of this documentary, and pondering how to deal with the fact that people need to be taught to understand and deal with their sexual impulses rather than be shamed and protected from them, I enter into a "sideways" run portion. I am plodding along in the bouncy trot that my body knows so well now, well aware of my breasts bouncing with each thrust of my legs, and I lock eyes with a 12 year-old boy who has been running on the treadmill directly behind me. The kid's gaze is locked on me. At that moment, I may as well have been Phoebe Cates in a red bikini or Bo Derek in braids on a beach. He couldn't have moved his eyes if he wanted to. There was no escaping the fact that this boy was lost in a world of sexual impulses that he didn't know what to do with.

So, was it porn? Was I porn?

I was, though not through design, an image that was turning this kid on. I didn't "ask for it," and he wasn't looking for it. But there it was. And it was obvious. He finally broke his gaze when he realized that I noticed. He shook it off, continued running, I turned around and that was that.

It is at this point that I realized that one of my largest objections to the puritanical anti-porn, anti-sex bullshit is that it removes all responsibility for our actions from us. "The porn made me do it." This is the root of victim blaming. We have let these institutions suggest that we are too weak to handle ourselves when presented with sexuality. So, the "sexy" is to blame, not the people who did something "wrong", like cheat or rape or make a bad business decision. "It's not my fault" became a legitimate explanation for bad behavior. If this kid, high on hormones, had done something bad, someone would have felt justified in blaming me.

Further, by removing our sexuality from our selves, it enables us to judge and violate the sexuality and sexual organs of others. "I would never hurt anyone, but that guy's a fag." "It's not like she wasn't asking for it."

Nevermind the incredible damage that results when we are told that our basest impulses, which in many way define us as individuals, are things to be afraid of. Ashamed of. Punished for.

The moments that that kids eyes were locked on me were intense. No one did anything wrong, at all. And nothing "indecent" transpired, in any way. But it was, for me, a really graphic illustration of the fact that creating a world in which no one's sexual impulses are triggered is like trying to create a world in which there is no rain.

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Alyssa's Endless Musings on Life & Everything Else: AlyssaRoyse.com

Photo by LuluLemon on Flickr.


 

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