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Sex and Salt Lake City

The war on porn

During a discussion group at my house not long ago the topic of pornography came up. The overall consensus was that nearly everyone in the room watched it from time to time. And, nearly everyone in the room had shame about it. Until my professional career as a Clinical Sexologist, I also had shame about viewing porn.

Several years ago, while attending grad school in San Francisco at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (also known as the “Institute”) the study of the history of porn was a course requirement. Being raised a sweet LDS lady, at 35, this was my first exposure to anything pornographic. I have to admit, much like the people attending the recent discussion group in my home, I was incredibly intimidated by the concept of it. I honestly felt any exposure would corrupt me or harden me in some way. And a part of me was certain I’d end up setting all my heathen classmates straight about the evils of porn.


Much to my reluctant surprise, when I was challenged to sit down and actually study pornography (it’s creation, background, etc.) the judgement, shame, and fear I had about it melted away. There I was confronted with my personal fears and bias’ regarding pornography, but in a space where every aspect was discussed and presented objectively. It changed me.

Prior to this class I had never considered all the examples of erotic art (aka porn) that are prevalent in the world. Pornography found in the form of carvings on cave walls to painted pottery to mini, life-size, and giant-size sculptures of people depicting sexual acts. What’s even more impressive is these findings, in one form or another, are found globally. I was confronted with my own feelings and how much my fascination, acceptance and even a bit of reverence around sexual artifacts were seen as artistic solely because of their age.

Most astonishing to me was discovering how most everything found in porn today was once originally filmed over a hundred years ago during the silent film era. And trust me on this one, some of it would be considered so raunchy and controversial by today’s standards that they cannot be found anywhere legally. Nothing we see is new.

Porn is not new. The format that makes it so readily available may be, but graphic, orgasmic, group sex, same sex, solo sex, cum shots, sneaky sex, outdoor sex, religious sex, age play sex, on and on and on, and yes, even animated sex, is not new.

I have a personal theory. I believe that ancient sexual artifacts are no longer seen as pornographic because we now have other, more realistic, pornographic things to look at. If ancient items still provoked arousal in people and not just mere curiosity, they’d still be considered pornographic. The fact that many people are sexually stimulated by their visual sense should not be seen as shameful. The vast majority of porn is produced by people of a legal age and in very consensual agreements. The performers in the porn are full aware, and hopeful, that people will be watching their content and pleasuring themselves in the process.

So, it’s probably apparent by now that I am a supporter of the erotic arts, and at the same time I do understand the controversy around it. After all, I was also once one who was fearful of its exposure. Mind you I am not advocating for porn to be accessible to those who are underage or for the trafficking of individuals; and I also recognize that there are those whose compulsive viewing habits are destructive, but this is not the majority.

So why all this talk of porn? Well, I’m honestly tired of seeing people’s self worth destroyed by shame or people living in guilt because of their viewing habits. For those who do consensual performing and for those who are viewing legal content, who am I to judge? Who are any of us to judge what people do in a consensual manner? The pleasure police are hard at work to keep people in a shame ridden head space. I’m here to advocate for each of us to feel free to express and seek out whatever forms of consensual pleasure are available – even if that pleasure is through pornography.

For more information on the effects of pornography to people both at a personal and societal level, I recommend the books Ethical Porn For Dicks by David Ley Ph.D., and America’s War on Sex by Marty Klein Ph.D.

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a Clinical Sexologist with a private practice in Salt Lake City. She also leads the educational group Sex Positive Utah which can be found on Meetup. To reach Dr. Laurie email her at DrLaurieBennettCook@gmail.com

About the author

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook

Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a graduate level Clinical Sexologist, with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Doctorate Degree in Human Sexuality.

As a Clinical Sexologist, she believes a large part of her job is to be a sex enabler. Through counseling, workshops, and hands on exercises, she assists others in achieving the level of sexual function they desire. She enjoys the study and research of not only what people are doing sexually, but how they feel about it.

Dr. Laurie divides her time between Los Angeles California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to seeing clients in either of her offices or via skype, she is President for the non-profit, Sex Positive Los Angeles inc. (SPLA) and recently began a chapter in Salt Lake City, (SP-SLC). Her non-profit offers sexual education and support programs throughout Los Angeles and Salt Lake Counties.

Rounding off her work, she is an IPSA certified Surrogate Partner Therapist working with clients and therapists in a triadic model to assist in bringing clients comfortable with their sexual selves.

Dr. Laurie can be found in various publications; radio, podcast, and television interviews. For individual consultations or appointments please contact her at DrLaurieBennettCook@gmail.com

Welcoming and affirming of all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all sexual and relationship expressions.

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