On Pornography

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Sexual fantasy is as old as civilization (as opposed to as old as the race), and one of its outward and visible signs is pornographic literature, an entirely middle-class phenomenon, since we are assured by many investigators (Kinsey, Pomeroy, et al.) that the lower orders seldom rely upon sexual fantasy for extra-stimulus. As soon as possible, the uneducated man goes for the real thing. Consequently he seldom masturbates, but when he does he thinks, we are told, of nothing at all. This may be the last meaningful class distinction in the West.

Nevertheless, the sex-in-the-head middle classes that D.H. Lawrence so despised are not the way they are because they want deliberately to be cerebral and anti-life; rather they are innocent victims of necessity and tribal law. For economic reasons they must delay marriage as long as possible. For tribal reasons they are taught that sex outside marriage is wrong. Consequently the man whose first contact with a woman occurs when he is twenty will have spent the sexually most vigorous period of his life masturbating. Not unnaturally, in order to make that solitary act meaningful, the theater of his mind early becomes a Dionysian festival, and should he be a resourceful dramatist he may find actual lovemaking disappointing when he finally gets to it, as Bernard Shaw did. One wonders whether Shaw would have been a dramatist at all if he had first made love to a girl at fourteen, as nature intended, instead of at twenty-nine, as class required.

Gore Vidal
Pornography (1966)
United States: Essays 1952-1992

Photo by Frank KovalchekWhat’s been on man’s mind for a long time! Carnivale mask, Venice (2007)

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One thought on “On Pornography

  1. More wisdom by Vidal on the value of repression. And he was a decidedly unrepressed man with hundreds of lovers! Trolling for paradox, I could also say that Vidal was one of the last American aristocrats with sympathy for the lower orders of Whites who were his intellectual responsibility. With family lineage in D.C through Arkansas and Oklahoma, Vidal had a feel for half-literate Whites living in a culture. It wasn’t a cosmopolitian culture, but it was a culture all the same.

    To his credit as an elite American blue-blood, Vidal never affected to identify with poor Blacks. He supported Civil Rights on principle. But the man wasn’t paradoxical. He was transcendental in his intelligence while remaining deeply staked to his American Brahmin bloodlines. This, I think, is the Lost Grail. It’s not just the lower-orders who forget who they are in the matrix. The higher-orders compromise, sell-out, and lose orientation. All nobility is lost.

    Let me repeat: Gore Vidal was transcendental in his intelligence while remaining deeply staked to his American Brahmin bloodlines. All this while being a sworn atheist!

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