“The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture” by Don Shewey— Porn: the Role and the Paradox

Shewey, Don. “The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture”, Joybody Books, 2018.

Porn: the Role and the Paradox

Amos Lassen

I am sure that many will agree that porn has been an integral and important part of gay life for years. It has taught us what desire between two men looks. Porn has gotten us through times of loneliness and isolation, disease and disconnection, and it has contributed to our pleasure. At the same time, the images from porn have shaped and often distorted how we think about sex, what normal bodies look like, how we make connections, and how we feel about ourselves. “It’s been hugely liberating and hugely oppressive. And that’s the paradox of porn.”

Don Shewey’s “The Paradox of Porn” is an excellent analysis of what gay porn means to gay men, and, to go a step further, by extension, the state of sexual culture in America today. By following what Shewey has to say here, we begin to think about porn in different ways— psychologically, aesthetically, ethically, and socially Shewey excites the reader to think about porn – and culture – in new ways. Like many other gay men, I enjoy watching porn every once in a while and I thought that I understood why I found porn interesting and entertaining. “The Paradox of Porn” has much to say about pornography, about the lives and imaginations of gay men, and about the state of erotic gay culture.

Don Shewey is a writer, a therapist, an activist for pleasure and a gay man who has written a comprehensive history about influence of porn. I do a lot of reading and I cannot remember ever having read such a complete look at porn before. We read of both the positive and negative influences that porn has on one’s life. Without question, eroticism is “titillating, transformative and transcendent.” As if we did not know, we read here that for many men porn is much more than just a masturbatory experience. Porn can be educational and liberating as well as cause insecurity, inferiority and self-doubt. Shewey shows that porn can reveal our inner desires and thus empower us to accept ourselves and become “sexually enriched men.”

Many have love/hate struggles with porn. The knowledge, humor and wit that propels this study makes this an enjoyable read. I identified with so much that I read here. The serious and frank discussions about how porn has affected our own body images, and influenced our insecurities regarding sex about performance. For many, porn is a taboo subject; a topic that is rarely spoken about. Shewey opens a dialogue that we are all part of.