#Love: Thanks, Porn

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As a modern married male, the times spent alone with my computer and a box of tissues are, in some ways, the best times. That is not to say the manifold pleasures of family life and the wild menagerie of mere existence aren’t amazing, but a body likes to be alone.

For this I thank porn. While there is no doubt that there are dark corners of this industry and that porn, to some people, is often considered unpalatable at best and horrendous at worst, I’m willing to sing its praises, at least with moderation.

Porn used to be hard. It used to be hard to acquire. I remember my first foray into a 7-Eleven when I was of age and interested in procuring some reading material. The material in question, a three pack of magazines that, to be honest, would be laughed off of Kink.com today, were sealed in a plastic bag that allowed only the titles to be seen. I skulked to the counter, placed down the bag and coughed something about buying it for a bachelor party.

Or you could acquire it by chance. Dad or an Uncle might have had it in a file cabinet or bedside table, the flesh of lost summers peeking out from under the toenail clippers and copies of Omni. The best porn was the porn found in a culvert, in the woods somewhere, where the porn fairy often alighted and dropped her dewy offerings, usually striated with lines from repeated cycles of drying and being exposed to the elements.

Porn also used to be hard to make. Cameras were expensive and even with the rise of the Polaroid you were only able to produce blurry squares of titillation, washed in the muted tones of the 1970s. Good porn was expensive and the industry revelled in the money it made, mad kings calling for more wine and more models.

Porn exists because we, the human animals, exist.

Now there is a low thrum in the media, a bass note under the endless cavalcade of news and chatter and commerce. That thrum is porn, vibrating like a secret chord through our lives. But porn is not some offshoot of perversity. Porn exists because we, the human animals, exist. And that, for better or worse, is the state of affairs.

But solo time is more than just ogling. It’s a breather, a chance to vent (literally and figuratively) and an opportunity for reflection. I long ago smashed the iron codpiece that Catholic school wrapped around my loins, so the guilt is no longer an issue. I can only assume the lady wife knows of my digital manipulations (or she will now) and that it doesn’t bother her. A person who admits to no self-pleasure is either lying or genuinely unmoved by the activity.

A person who admits to no self-pleasure is either lying or genuinely unmoved by the activity.

How is this about love? It’s about self love, and not the narcissistic kind. It’s about escaping the relentless tug of the reproductive act. It’s about the art that is made by two people thrust together. It’s about finding out what you like and don’t like. It’s about figuring how to talk to yourself – not others – about sex. We are born wanting a few simple things and those few simple things slowly morph into needs of real consequence. This desire is one of those. To deny it is to deny humanity.

There are some who are fighting the good fight. Cindy Gallop has always been a quiet inspiration and her efforts at MakeLoveNotPorn are, in a word, Herculean. The Internet economy pretends like porn doesn’t exist and, although there are a few exceptions, the only things that get funded are “dating” apps like Tinder, which is little more than a Hot or Not for lonely people.

So we plod ever forward, casting off the fear and embracing the inevitable. We move through our daily endeavors with blank faces, careful to hide the secret, solo assignations with ourselves. We look and easily find porn.

Porn is the ultimate web service. The ultimate platform.

“Every man is a moon and has a side which he turns toward nobody: you have to slip around behind it if you want to see it,” Mark Twain said, and I think his opinion of this dark side doesn’t suggest a nefarious dark side.

Instead he is talking about the side we show to our families, our close friends, our spiritual guides. And, just off the edge of that dark place, in a plain that is quiet and clear and secluded, is a place of no judgement, where even the endless hum of humanity falls away and we are at our most alone and most free.

#Love is a new column on TechCrunch dealing with digital matters of the heart. It explores our relationships, their relationship with technology, and all the gory details that come with it. I will be leading the charge, and am looking for guest writers to tell their own stories each week. Maybe you found your soul mate on Tinder, or got dumped on Facebook, or have an outrageously interesting sext life. We all have our stories. If you’re interested in contributing, send an email to jordan@techcrunch.com with the subject line #Love for more details.

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