I'd seen it in listings before but never watched it. In fact, last night I missed the beginning and the end of it. But the part that I did see did provoke some thinking.
Amongst a series of other issues, the married couple that it featured had never spent time discussing sex. They hadn't talked about expectations, desires, fantasies. Almost nothing at all. They had just done it and, I guess, were at a place where they weren't enjoying it any more.
During the program the guy was taken into sex toy shops and featured as a sex expert on a spoof radio phone-in show. The girl was given a whole series of demonstrations of sexual positions by a couple of scantily clad models.
In a way I felt a sense of empathy. I don't remember talking about such things with my own wife for years and years. Sex always seemed to be a thing to do ... or not do. Not a thing to talk about.
As time passed it seems to have become less and less of a thing to do. And, though we have sometimes talked about it, we don't seem to any more. There's just a passive acceptance - perhaps more a passive resignation - to the way that things are.
So why? How did things get to be this way?
It's complex, I guess. And yet maybe it's also simple.
Either way ... here are some of the contributing factors.
When we got married, TV shows didn't discuss such issues. A lot of mainstream society seemed to think it wasn't important. Or maybe that whether important or not, sex wasn't really a thing to discuss.
As a young (late teens / early twenties) born-again Christian I learned that sex was a gift of God within marriage. It was about having children. It was about people demonstrating and sharing a love for each other. Maybe as well it was about satisfying needs. I remember one of the New Testament letters where Paul the Apostle says something about it being best for people not to get married. But - if they couldn't live without sex it was better to get married and do it rather than just to do it without getting married. OK ... this is it ... taken from I Corinthians:
It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband . . . I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am [i.e., celibate]. . . To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
So there is kind of an acceptance that people seem to have a need for sex.
Actually, though, I never noticed before how strongly this piece of writing seems to suggest that people should only ever get married if they can't hold off from having sex with each other. It doesn't mention they should get married because they love each other. So, in a way, it's almost suggesting that all the Christian people that are married are the ones that couldn't live without sex. If they could have lived without sex then there was no reason to get married.
Anyways ... that's not really the point that I'm making here.
I think once in a while at meetings people would talk about the idea that sex should be fulfilling and satisfying. But no one that I knew of in Christian circles was teaching about the Kama Sutra. Also, there didn't seem to be much of a notion of fun. And no notion of fantasy. So there was no way to really talk about it as such. No experimentation.
And then there is pornography. There's a lot I could say about pornography. I can feel myself getting distracted from whatever point I was trying to make. So anyway. Here goes.
The first pornography I remember using was, I guess, stuff that my dad had cached away under the bed. At least if it wasn't his it was my brothers or my mums. Maybe a lot of people's first experience of pornography in those days was from unintentional parents. There were no videos, DVDs or Internet. No sex on TV to speak of. Just magazines.
The magazines were all "soft". But they added to the pleasure of masturbation. I've read and heard that men tend to enjoy the visual stimulation offered by porn in a way that doesn't so much appeal to many women.
A few years later as a student I remember realising one day ... hey ... I am 18 ... I can buy this stuff for myself. And so I did.
Soon after that I was Born Again. I remember praying about masturbation. Well ... what I really mean is praying and asking if masturbation was wrong. It would have been round about then that I discovered these words in Matthew 5:28,
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
That, as the saying goes, seemed to put the kibosh on masturbation and pornography in one fell swoop.
But it didn't really. It just marked the beginning of a struggle for me.
A feeling inside of me that it was wrong. And yet an inability to stop. Occasional masturbation. Occasional use of pornography. A sense of guilt. Of shame. Of sinfulness. A need to keep it secret. A fear of discovery.
Every so often I'd perform a purge. I borrowed this term from a t-girl that I chatted with once in Portsmouth. She asked if I'd been through a purge - feeling so bad about things that all things girlie go into the bin.
Well, at regular intervals all things pornographic were purged.
But only for a while.
I remember a time as a student. I was staying at a place where three of us shared a room. All strangers to each other.
I got back one night and discovered one of my magazines on the bed rather than under it.
I'd never really had a "holier than thou" kind of an attitude about Christianity. But people knew about my beliefs. That I went to church. If you've ever had the feeling of your stomach dropping through the floor, you know how I felt as I walked into that room.
My first response was to head for the landlady and ask her if she knew who's magazine it was. Inside I felt like I just wanted to disappear.
A few days later one of the guys asked me if I'd managed to find out who's magazine it was. I'd decided by then to just come clean. I told him it was mine. I don't remember what else I said.
I read stuff as that explained why from a Christian perspective all things pornographic are sinful and evil. It was about devaluing women. Lust. Abuse. The use of pornography was a sickness ... maybe even a manifestation of demons ... a thing to be healed from ... a thing to be cast out.
And yet ... I cared about people. I wanted to help other people. I loved other people. I just used porn and kept it a secret.
A part of me thought that marriage would be a cure me. But it didn't.
I'm not sure exactly when my wife found out.
In an ironic kind of way I think it was maybe when we first moved into a house together. The previous occupant had left some furniture and, stuck beneath one of the drawers was a magazine.
I think my wife was sure that it was mine. But we didn't talk about it. Just got rid of it.
In fact it wasn't mine - I was more careful about hiding places.
But a person can't hide something like that all of the time.
Sometimes she would find things and ask me about them. But I wouldn't talk about it.
I've spoken to t-girls that have been discovered dressing by unknowing partners. These girls have vowed to never do it again. And yet ... having purged for a while ... it comes back. I know people that have partners that have learned to accept this. And others that have separated.
I think it comes back because for many people being a t-girl isn't an illness. It's not something to cure. It's about how a person is. It's about who a person is. To purge it completely would be to lose a part of yourself.
So ... is pornography like that? I suspect not. But it fills a need somewhere. In my own case I think it's maybe associated with never really sharing fantasies. Not feeling comfortable about talking sex.
Other things that come to mind are conflicting levels of sexual need. My appetite for orgasm is daily. My wife's has never really been more than weekly. And she is comfortable with the concept of celibacy.
As a child my wife was the subject of sexual abuse. That has sometimes made the experience of sex uncomfortable. My use of pornography hasn't helped her. And we didn't talk about these things until many years into our marriage.
At times I justify myself to myself. The masturbation and the pornography fulfil a need that is a part of me. They provide a way of satisfying needs without making impositions. They provide a release of some kind.
God, though, there are times when I see a scene in a film that fill me with a sense of emptiness because I don't remember it happening for almost longer than I can remember. The scenes were a wife grabs a hold of her husband urgently and ... well ... I don't need to get too graphic really. I guess that it isn't just a fiction that happens in films. I know it has happened to me ... but it's one of those far off memories. Like something you remember from your childhood and you wonder ... do I really remember that or did someone tell me about it? To not have to make the first move. To feel as though it was something that she wanted. In a way I feel like I want to give such a lot more than I receive and yet mostly have only ever had the chance to take.
I remember one time a minister at church invited me to a service at a church a few miles away.
Afterwards he asked if I hadn't felt like going forward when there was an offer to pray for healing for people.
Of course, he hadn't had a divine word of knowledge. Just a chat with his wife, who had chatted with my wife.
After that there were prayers. A purge. I read a book that explained why pornography was so wrong. How it led to child abuse. Destroyed people. Ruined lives.
It remained purged for a while.
I talked things over with my wife.
In a sense though perhaps this marked the beginning of the end of my close association with the church. I couldn't go on forever keeping it secret. And really, deep down, I didn't really believe it to be a sickness that required healing. Not in the sense that Christians seemed to believe. And it wasn't an acceptable form of behaviour within a church. Just like Andrea ... a kind of an abomination.
Since that time my wife and I have talked more. We've faced up to some of it. Other things happened that caused a lot of pain. There were real struggles.
In a lot of ways my wife and I have a better understanding of and acceptance of each other than we have ever had before.
Sexually we are not so close as we were. But in almost every other respect we are closer. It's a better place to be. But ... I do miss the sex. A lot. More than a lot.So ... where am I now? How do I see pornography? Transvestism? Christianity?
The Born Again evangelicalism is mostly a memory. I don't think I could ever go back there. Not just because of the fact that I use porn or that I am a t-girl. I also find it hard to believe.
I've embraced the fact that I am a transvestite. I'm not ashamed of it. It doesn't frighten me. At times it's a bit of a nuisance ... but so is the more masculine part of me.
The pornography isn't quite so easy.
The anti-pornography stuff that I've read seems to be composed of half truths, perhapses and sometimeses.
Pornography can, but doesn't inevitably, lead to abuse.
Users of pornography might, but do not inevitably, view women as objects. They do not inevitably view women as lesser beings. They do not inevitably just use women. Actually I suspect that an honest historical analysis might reveal that excessive religion was more likely to do this.
The pornography industry isn't exclusively about the degradation of women, nor is it totally made up of women that feel used and abused and preyed upon. Granted, that there are times and places where this is the case. But it is not inevitably so. No more than it is inevitable that every kitchen knife be used as a murder weapon.
I don't believe that people that use porn are just a small minority. The average newsagent seems to have a much better variety of porn magazines than magazines about TV, golf, computers, football, religion ... than almost anything. And there are an enormous number of web pages devoted to it.
I'd rather experience real sex than masturbate and use porn. But, having said that, both of these things help satisfy a need in me that I believe to be natural.
So, in the end I guess I have to say that I'm at a position with this where I don't feel guilt or shame about it. Like the the fact that I'm a t-girl, it's not something I'm planning on shouting out from the mountaintops. But neither will I hang my head in shame any more.
And ... is it art? Well ... maybe sometimes. Really ... it's what a person makes of it. But personally speaking I don't frame it and hang it on the wall.