Porn-agains: meet the middle-aged men - and women - warped by internet porn

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Society's anxiety about online porn has been so focused on the young that its impact on the older generation has gone largely unnoticed

I met a nice, middle-aged, middle-class mother at a dinner party who told me  that she was very worried about the effects of internet porn on adolescent males. What, she wondered, was all this internet porn doing to the young? Did we really want a generation of teenage boys whose idea of emotional intimacy was anal sex?

Weeks later we ended up in bed and it left me wondering: what is all that internet porn doing to nice, middle-aged mums you meet at dinner parties? Do we really want a generation of forty/fifty-something women whose idea of emotional intimacy is anal sex?

Society’s anxiety about internet porn has been so focused on how it affects the young that its impact on the older generation has gone largely unnoticed. Over the past few years I’ve noticed the steady pornification of a section of the adult metropolitan middle class.

Porn’s influence has seeped into the British bedroom. The good news is that here’s a lot more variety on offer; the bad news is that some of it’s pretty scary stuff. (You try uttering sweet nothings wearing a leather ‘gimp’ mask with wooden ball strapped inside your mouth.) Between the sheets, educated middle-class women now talk and act like working-class porn starlets. And middle-class, middle-aged men have a new set of erotic expectations based on what they’ve seen in porn videos. Sorry kids, but Mummy and Daddy have become ‘Porn-Agains’.

You can hear it in the way they talk. When in 1907 Bloomsbury’s Lytton Strachey uttered the word ‘semen’ in mixed company, Virginia Woolf wrote that British life would never be the same again because ‘all barriers of reticence and reserve’ had broken down. But Woolf would have been shocked to hear how at dinner parties porn talk has filtered into polite society. What Keynes called the educated bourgeoisie now discuss blowjobs, anal sex and penis size as if they were talking about the weather. And no one bats an eye, blushes or complains for fear of being labelled a prude or dismissed as judgmental.

Out on the dating scene I have encountered the Porn-Again Mum in action. An Oxbridge graduate, she grew up on Sex and the City and in her thirties was a Yummy Mummy. Now in her late forties she’s proud to be considered a Milf. She has two lovely kids, a well-paid career, an ex-husband or two, a collection of ‘erotica’ — a term she prefers to porn, which is ‘too tacky’. She will tell you that Fifty Shades of Grey is ‘total rubbish’ — but read all three volumes and ‘loved it!’ Two drinks later you will know her entire sexual history. Three drinks and you’re back at her place, trussed up like a turkey and trying to smile for the camera.

And men are no better. I have heard dads discuss their worries about their daughters growing up in a world of internet porn. They begin the evening with showing you pictures of their cute kids; they end it with pictures of their favourite porn stars.

If you want to see the effect of pornography on the older generation, consider the rise of the middle-aged Brazilian wax — a fad popularised by porn. I’d assumed that this was something that only teenagers and young women did: now it’s practised by women old enough to be their mums — in fact, who are their mums. And they don’t go for just a trim or a tidy-up, but total pubic annihilation.

Like the moment when President Kennedy was shot, I can remember exactly where I was the first time I saw the shaved pudenda of a woman over 40. This woman had the face of Ava Gardner, the cleavage of the young Elizabeth Taylor — and the sex organ of Shirley Temple. Not a hair in sight.

‘Oh my God!’ I cried and leapt back in horror.

‘What’s the matter?’ she asked.

‘You’re… bald!’

OK, I concede it’s not a great way to start a romance, but what could I say? That was about six years ago — now it’s the norm.  It’s odd that at a time when we have become more anxious about child sex, middle-aged women — even ones who have children — are setting out to make their sex organs look like those of children. What sort of man finds that sexy? Answer: paedophiles.

Just for the record I’m anti-waxing for all women of whatever age, culture, colour or religious creed. And yes, it’s a woman’s right to choose — and a man’s right to gag. And judging by what I see in the gym, older straight men are shaving too. For that we have gay porn to thank. Thanks guys.

Why are these women doing it? I asked a friend in her late forties — a new convert to pubic annihilation — who after 15 years of marriage found herself back on the dating scene. She’d asked a long-term male friend what was the first thing she should do now that she was single. ‘Get a Brazilian wax and be prepared for anal sex,’ he told her.

His answer suggests that, like teenage girls, middle-aged women are under pressure to conform to porn’s idea of female perfection. But where is this pressure coming from? Porn-consuming husbands or lovers? Or could it be that it’s a way for older women to feel young, fashionable and a touch daring? In the 1920s when a women wanted to flaunt her modernity she took to smoking in public or bobbed her hair; today she watches pornography and removes her pubes.

Each to his own. But I can’t help feeling a kind of nostalgia for the old days before older people discovered internet porn. I miss the pubic bush. I miss middle-class reserve and reticence. Where have all the Nice Girls and Gentleman gone? I don’t want to go to a dinner party and hear jokes about anal sex. I want the bourgeoisie to be bourgeois — repressed, hypocritical, moralistic — and not all tolerant and transgressive.

It’s said by professional trend-watchers that whenever older people take up a practice that was once the prerogative of the young, it goes out of fashion and looses its appeal and audience. There is some evidence that the Brazilian wax is on the wane — at least with the young. Now that mum and dad are all porny too, it can’t be long before the young return to romance and we won’t have to worry about them any more. Mum and dad, however, are another matter.

Original article - By Cosmo Landesman. This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 2 August 2014.