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September 26, 2016

'His Porn, Her Pain' by Dr. Marty Klein - A Review

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Dr. Marty Klein, the Silicon Valley-based family therapist who sees plenty of patients with sexual and relationship problems, has just released his latest book-length treatise, His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's PornPanic With Honest Talk. And while it may be seen as an outgrowth of his earlier (and incredibly prescient) work, America's War On Sex, the new book does tackle a pervasive problem in modern American society: the delusion that there's something wrong with porn in general, and the equally popular myth that people can actually become "addicted" to it. The book, which seems to have been written as much for therapists as for the general public (though laypeople will have no problem understanding it), notes early on that it is "neither pro-porn nor anti-porn. Virtually everyone’s life is now touched by pornography, and so the book examines ways we can better understand it, talk about, enjoy it if we wish, and tolerate others enjoying it if we don't." Contained in the text are the experiences of several of Klein's patients (anonymized, of course) whose relationships have been affected by porn in one way or another—most often, one partner wants to watch it, the other doesn't—and one of Klein's purposes in writing the book is to examine porn and relationships more or less objectively, without the unscientific scare stories that form so much of modern media's attention to the subject. "I’m actually rather disturbed that so many people find their partner’s porn use upsetting," he writes. "In general, I don’t think it’s porn that ruins people’s lives any more than golf or Downton Abbey. I do think there are people who either can’t or don’t want to moderate their own behavior. It’s easy to blame the external things that people migrate to, but isn’t it more honest to ask a person withdrawing from a relationship to get curious about their passion and their behavior, and ultimately to make different choices?" Klein's thesis is that America—indeed, the world—is "flooded with free, high-quality pornography," and his mission is to examine its effects not only on relationships, but on society in general. And his conclusion as to the latter is, "don't worry so much." But that doesn't mean that reg'lar folks don't get bent out of shape about it anyway. "In our own lifetimes we’ve seen the demonization of then-new erotic commodities and services such as adult bookstores, hotel room porn rentals, thong swimsuits, swingers’ clubs, mass-marketed sex toys, and sexting," he observes. "You might be surprised at how many of these are still criminalized in some states—despite the fact that millions of ordinary people use them regularly ... The pornography industry’s early adoption and promotion of the internet is just the latest example of this two-thousand-year-long historical trend." Yes, the internet has made porn available to almost everyone, and they no longer have to hide out in arcade booths or cower in seats in adult movie theaters to watch it. But with a dedicated, often obsessively religious minority continually bad-mouthing the material to any outlet that will give them space, it's little wonder that many ordinary people are confused about their own sexuality vis à vis porn and are unsure whether their personal sexual preferences and actions, with or without porn use, are "normal." And according to Klein, chances are good that most are "normal"—but that the word has very little meaning when it comes to sexuality, and that people shouldn't obsess about it so much. "Because porn use was pathologized (and porn was demonized), lots of reasonable consumers felt isolated, ashamed, and confused," Klein notes. "Whatever the impact of porn watching on consumers, the impact of this marginalization is larger. Few couples had the communication skills they needed to deal with hurt or conflict about porn." The early chapters of His Porn, Her Pain deal with how sexual subjects have become commonplace, referencing everything from sexy Hollywood movies of the '40s and '50s to the late '60s "hippie" movement, the '90s (continuing) "pedophile priest" controversy, the Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision, and the Meese Commission. Also in the mix: the various media, from photography to the internet to cellphones, that have allowed people easy access to the material; the scientific advances, from widespread availability of condoms, "the pill" and other birth control devices, that have made sex without procreation much more possible; and the disaster of American public school "sex education," which has led to increased unintended pregnancies, increased HIV and STD exposure; and a generation of kids savvy enough with computers to defeat attempts to filter the content they can see. But it's ordinary folks' worries about their porn use that's driven some of them a bit crazy over it, and contributed to what Klein has labeled the "PornPanic"—a single word meant to express the immediacy of the "problem" as many see it. "Almost overnight, couples and families found themselves dealing with anxiety or conflict about pornography," Klein reports. "As both people and their devices became more creative, usage increased; within months of broadband’s introducing porn into every home, new patients came to my office focused on problems with porn." In the chapters that follow, Klein analyzes the entire concept of "moral panics," from worries that comic books are too violent and/or sexy, to the nonexistent "homosexual agenda," to the renewed "reefer madness" scares. He's also been among the first to notice the change from porn as a "morality problem" to porn as a "public health problem," a process that essentially admits that sexuality has become acceptable to talk about in "polite society" while desperately trying to find some way to condemn open sexuality nonetheless. As Klein's thesis progresses, he identifies and analyzes various sexually oriented memes in society, often by using examples he's seen in his own therapy practice, and he debunks both the bogus "facts" and the unwarranted conclusions, "scientific" and mental, reached from them. Along the way, he also touches on the harmlessness of voyeurism, of fantasy—and even relays his experiences of spending a day on a porn set. Finally, he deals with—and destroys—the idea of "porn addiction," an invention of anti-porn zealots and so-called "addiction specialists" who, under the guise of helping "addicts," are mainly in it for the money or for the chance to bash the uses of porn in daily life, which use creates no actual problems for the vast majority of users. "Some people say the solution is to stop watching porn. Probably not gonna happen. And probably wouldn’t solve most of the problem. Rather, I say the solution is to make love consciously, and to watch porn consciously," Klein prescribes. "That helps to keep the two activities separate, which is the key to enjoying both." (He's even got a list, "45 Helpful Things You Can Learn From Porn.") Along the way, Klein has advice on how to deal with when you find out your kids are watching porn, thoughts on sexting and the law, and (very important for him) how couples can deal with situations where one partner is interested in porn and doesn't want to stop viewing it, while the other is put off by porn and is starting to feel the same way about the other partner—which is where many of the case studies he's dealt with come in. All in all, His Porn, Her Pain has something for everyone who loves porn, hates porn or is simply confused by it. It's an important book for modern times, and one which might just help to usher in a new understanding of modern sexuality. Note: This author played a small role in doing some of the research for this volume. His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's PornPanic With Honest Talk from Praeger Publishing; 208 pages; $37 hardcover, $24 paperback; is available for purchase at Amazon.com as well as Klein's own website. Dr. Klein will also be speaking about the new book, including conducting a "book release" event, in Palo Alto on Sept. 30. For a full list of his upcoming appearances, click here.

 
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