Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Davy Rothbart and His Wankers: It's Harder Online

Natasha: In Davy Rothbart’s semi-confessional piece about the alleged effects of porn on the male libido he basically says that dudes have so much access to porn that they ‘over-masturbate’ and lose their desire to penetrate human lady vaginas. Do you think this is a problem a LOT OF DUDES HAVE 2 DEAL WITH?

Julie: To be sexually dysfunctional around real ladies who have real lady parts? The answer is in your answer! Okay, this piece caused me to become mentally ill, and I’ve been thinking about why. It’s not because I don’t like subjective journalism — I love when people insert their own journey into a subject that affects more than one person including the reader.

Natasha: Journeylism.

Julie: But I think Rothbart put himself out there with the assumption that there are a lot of other guys exactly like him. And, maybe because of that, he described his dysfunction with no shame whatsoever.

Natasha: This is a different sort of shamelessness than the Tucker Max brand.

Julie: Completely. Tucker Max is about exhibiting braggadocio and conqueror’s arrogance. Notches-in-the-bedpost stuff. Rothbart’s piece is the opposite: "Hey everybody! I can't come inside of a lady until I stop checking my email for a week!" It’s odd. To say, I can't keep my erection when my penis is in a human being's vagina, because I watch a lot of internet porn should be embarrassing.

Natasha: Right, there seems to be no humility about the fact that most other men are able to look at porn star b-holes and still want to fuck their wives/girlfriends/interns.

Julie: To make a trend piece out of this phenomenon almost seems under-ambitious — if what he’s saying is true or even universal, this should be on a way bigger scale than porn. This could be a “What’s wrong with men?” piece. And the kinds of men he’s really talking about are those who constitute the intellectual class. These are guys who maybe use their bodies when they make it to the gym and jerk off, ONLY. They're not lifting luggage. They're not in coal mines.

Natasha: “Before I return to my slum, I like masturbating, to relieve the stress of the blood diamond mine.”

Julie: Oy, and that thing about pumping away into a dry condom while Neil Young plays.

Natasha: The thing that makes me GROAN SO HARD about this piece is that Rothbart and his group of pouty-faced masturbators feel put upon by porn! A kingdom of women putting all sorts of things in all kinds of holes, and they're the ones with the sour puss.

Julie: Again, shameless.

Natasha: Do you think these men are ultimately flummoxed by human woman?

Julie: Yeah, probably. Which is a bummer, because we used to inspire. If you think of, say, CIVILIZATION — Greco-Roman sculpture — getting that grunt just so in stone tittay. Writing plays about the mysteries of the muses. We would fascinate. Now it’s, “Me scared!”

Natasha: “My dick can’t handle all this access to Lusty Cougar Camz!”

Julie: But that’s the thing about the internet. Online porn is all SEO stuff. The filth we watch online is what the internet is for, and how its content providers make money. I mean, it's not Arianna Huffington's fault if your brain is an SEO-driven bag of stupid garbage. She’s still going to publish lists like "The Ten Fattest Dogs!" It’s the same thing with porn. “Ten Hottest Gang Bang MILF Scenes.” Duh, click.

Natasha: Right, it’s not so much that porn is rewiring — we are already hard-wired to dig watching people fuck. Rough.

Julie: If I wanted to stop checking my email to read a book or article about how the internet is changing my brain, I would.

Natasha: Although, I’m not into enthusiastic porn consumers. I prefer desperate porn consumers. Those who turn to porn out of out of necessity, because otherwise they’re just a compulsive masturbator which IS UNAPPEALING.

Julie: You know, “wanker” used to be an insult.

Natasha: Right. So not only does Rothbart misdiagnose the problem –- which is nothing new, by the way: a cluster of the male population over-masturbating...

Julie: So Catholic.

Natasha: … who're sexual neurotics, plagued with tepid virility and a limp peen when it comes to flesh and blood. Women have always existed and will continue to exist regardless of the mass proliferation of porn — he also has a certain pride in being a compulsive masturbator. Which I have no tolerance for. It’s like when alcoholics tell their war stories of being sooooo fucked up they peed in their roommate’s bed.

Julie: Rothbart is also blaming the symptom.

Natasha: What do you think is the cause?

Julie: Pass.

Natasha: I think we agree that men grappling with their virility is best left private.

Julie: At least I think you, me, and Rothbart would all agree that we're contemporaries to a generation of damaged men.

Natasha: What would you tell a young lady who didn't know what to do with this news of a boyfriend needing to ‘unplug’ because he likes to pull his peen to porn all week?

Julie: I'd tell her that there will be another trend piece out next week that will scare her in a different way. And otherwise, just know there are SO MANY GUYS who are AS damaged as these, but will at least fuck her. I mean, at least get hurt and get fucked.

Natasha: I would say, even if this dude could fuck you, on occasion, that when he admits this you've got to bounce. Because some girls I think may view it as a challenge or a project — to save the dude.

Julie: That's what Etsy is for. Learn to make dioramas instead.

Julie Klausner wrote a BOOK and Natasha Vargas-Cooper wrote a BOOK, and both of them are experts in concurrently frightening and arousing weak men with discourse and panache.

Photo via ArtinthePicture

70 Comments / Post A Comment

Bonnie Downing

Just the thought of a guy being so porned out that he doesn't want actual sex anymore is making me lose my desire/ability to perform.


Yeah, for real, this bummed me out. Though not as much as the grimace-y pictures that went along with the article - and those just bring up a whole new set of questions, chiefly who the HELL agrees to have their face photographed while jerking off? Blech.

to me, the most pathetic part of the story was the guy who's so transparently in love with whatsername, the porn star. Sure, a lot of people might think that way, even consciously, but admitting to it? To a reporter? That's a whole other level of lack of self-awareness.


Yay, internet porn! Taking out of circulation the sort of damaged humans incapable of a reciprocal relationship, much less a loving one! Instead of hurting others, they can now sit home and whine about how much they sit home whacking off!!!


Really? The article was basically "here's something that's happening, I and people I know look at too much porn, and it affects our ability to be with actual people. And when I looked at less, that helped." And Julie and Natasha's response, and the comments here, essentially say "Don't tell us that! Why would you share that? This thing you admit is a problem, it's a gross problem!!" The audience for the article is dudes who might say, hey, I may have that problem too and should maybe lay off the porn.

Also, the photos were of guys looking at porn, not jerking off to it.


But GrayDuck, isn't it that "I jerk off to porn too much, hence, maybe I should do it less" should be, you know, kind of a self-evident thing? And NOT something that deserves credulity in a national news outlet, much less something that should elicit sympathy instead of eye-rolling?

If this were a trend piece about a guy saying "I only ever eat french fries, and I do it so much that I literally cannot eat other foods, hey, maybe I should eat french fries less" I'd imagine my reaction would be more or less the same.

Bonnie Downing

Yes, exactly: Don't tell us that! It's a gross problem!


Yeah! Not just "it's a gross problem," but "it's a gross problem and you're kind of an idiot for not figuring out how to solve it without whining to New York Magazine." Sorry, dudes, you get no sympathy from me.


I guess I didn't think the article was asking for sympathy. More like the guys were admitting to be in a sort of pathetic self-caused situation, one that may be more common than people want to admit. The article could definitely have benefited from more reporting, like actually talking to sex therapists about this 'phenomenon.'


Grayduck, you are correct.


MoonBat, we are both obviously incredibly wicked and lacking in empathy, because this was pretty much my reaction as well.

"You're having trouble relating to real women because you spend so much time looking at porn? What are you, 12? Turn off the laptop!"

Natasha Vargas-Cooper

Ha! Yes! The invisible fapping hand!


@GrayDuck: Yeah, this was weak and honestly kind of offensive. Like, criticizing specific aspects of the particular article -- totally fine. But "Shut up about your weird, gross sex thing"? Oh, that's a healthy and thoughtful response. And yeah, of course -- just close the laptop! [ROLLING OF EYES]


I wrote off Davy Rothbart forever after hearing the Studio 360 segment about "On the Road" when he told a dude that "anybody who has a curiosity about people we share the world with" HAS to love that book. And now this! It's like listening to a really "intellectual" 16-year-old boy impressed by his own deep thoughts.

Smear Campaign

Why is no one thinking of the dudes? Won't someone please think of the dudes?

In all seriousness, it's interesting that the word "shame" gets brought up a bunch of times. The tone of the article seems to be that the dudes are openly wallowing in their damaged state (they are) and should instead be cowering in a closet somewhere, assuming that closet has an internet connection. A lot of people (including me sometimes) feel a visceral rage when these dudes, or the dudes that fuck dolls, or some other group, talks openly about how they have a totally fucked up view of relationships and women.

You want to shake these people. When reading this, my immediate reaction was "Why are you just talking about this like it's the weather, you need to DOOOO SOMMEETHING". But, in a roundabout way, talking about this in a matter-of-fact way that does not add stigma to the issue, may be the best way to go here.

Bonnie Downing

But can't we have a little stigma? Like just a smidge?

Internet Girl

I know what you mean. The modern vogue is that shame is always a bad word that needs to be scrubbed out of consciousness for good.
And with things like mental illness, that are out of one's control, yes please – less shame! But the total elimination of any personal embarrassment about porn addiction is a refusal to take responsibility for your own fucking choices.

"I didn't do this to myself – society did! CURSE YOU INTERNET, YOU HAVE RUINED ME." If a woman had written a piece like this about, say, a shopping addiction, I can't imagine NY mag rushing to print it.


"But the total elimination of any personal embarrassment about porn addiction is a refusal to take responsibility for your own fucking choices." EXACTLY. Thank you. Also, to Ironhoneybee--HAA!


Exactly! I just want to shake him and say "DAVY! Get a grip on yourself!"
Oh. Wait.


This is why I only let myself pull it to old episodes of Roseanne.


Original Becky or Becky #2?


Oh c'mon. Darlene all the way.


@Puns-n-Roses jackie FTW


What pissed me off about this was the supposition the writer and some of the men he interviewed make--towards the end of the article--that women are becoming more "vocal," more willing to do kinky stuff, because they are trying to "mimic" porn and make their partners happy. They don't seem to entertain the idea that some women talk dirty and are more willing to try new stuff because the women themselves want to.


I know! Dirty ladies, so dirty because they want to be porn sluts and not REAL ladies. REAL ladies just want to CUDDLE.

(n.b. I am also a fan of cuddling, because I am a modern lady who can HAVE IT ALL)

(n.b. also, I do find it believable and also troubling that women would try to mimic porn stars. But this guy equates that to "women being more vocal in bed," which just makes me fucking angry.)


I took "vocal" to mean just that: making fakey-porny sounds in bed. With voices.


but it's also like, the two possible positions (so to speak) for women are either a) observing dudes react to porn by bringing it in the bedroom or b) acting like porn stars to get men's attention. Do women watch porn? do we think maybe that affects their behavior in the sack? but you know, that would be journalism and not journeylism, because it would be about someone other than Davy Rothbart (and John Mayer).


@atipofthehat "ooo yeaaahh..yeahyeahyeahyeah....umm hmmm....ahh ahh ahhhahahahah ahhh" ugghhh! i hate porno chick noises!!

Katie Walsh

Natasha: What do you think is the cause?

Julie: Pass.

NO, Julie! No Pass! I need to know what you think is the cause! This is v. important!


I was trying to decide-- did she pass because she doesn't know, or doesn't want to say? Curiousity!

Internet Girl



The thing though? Is that this is probably an extreme example of a more widespread common experience among men, and while I think the article is hitting some super key things, I think the extremeness may make men be like "oh but I CAN do it to a lady" and think they are off the hook even though they are fantasizing about some specific porn sequence while 'doing it to a lady', and that is sad because our brains are just wired to be bored during what is supposed to be a blast! Ugh, real things here, and sad things.

Katie Walsh

Yup. Real things and sad things. Watching porn can be so emotionally detached and disconnected, whereas great, successful sex should be intrinsically tied to the intimate mental bond between two people. Men, get your head in the game! Your boners need your brain. Focus up dudes,


I think most adult men do agree Katie! Lots and lots of guys - most of the normal ones I've talked to - watch an amount of porn that is somewhat staggering, really. Often, it's not about (explicitly, legit arguments can be made in a lot of directions) objectifying women, or needing to re-affirm our something or other, or sometimes even getting off. It's just....well, most of what is on tv is really crappy, and porn is PEOPLE DOING IT, which is awesome.

But it's awesome in a porn-y way. Just like watching Die Hard doesn't make us think we have to stop Hans Gruber to be real men, watching porn doesn't make us think that's the right way to bang you. We're well aware you all like different things, and any one of you might like a different thing tuesday than you did tuesday morning (cuz you're people, like us!)


It's probably partly the "death grip" phenomenon. Dan Savage explains:


This is all David Denby's fault.

Lily Rowan

Ugh, now I'm worried about a Gentleman Caller of mine because every so often, I know he's only suggesting something because of watching the porn.

And also my friend changed her appearance significantly (including a boob job) to make herself look more like the porn stars her husband was into, and it still didn't help, due to her being an actual person in the house and not an actor on the screen. But that dude is super fucked up! In more ways than just that. So.

I dunno, TMI or whatever.


The porn aspect of this is boring to me because the men involved are losers. End of story. But the "journeylism" thing is interesting and maddening and worth further investigation. The worst case of this was when Franzen (in the New Yorker) tried to convince himself that on 9/11 the first thing NYers thought was, "oh shit, this is going to make my commute a mess for a while." Actually, no.

The writer was trying to make himself feel better about being an utter douche, and the rest of the country gets the impression that this was a common sentiment among NYers. Ugh.

Writers need to be called on this kind of shit. As you did with Rothbart.


Hard not to read this piece as a "Here's What's Wrong With Men" thing but I don't think it is really. The odd nastiness and unwillingness to consider any alternative perspective on sex or porn or even masculinity, different than the the ones you put forth above belie any sense of intellectual arousal or coherent discourse. People can fuck and fantasize in all sorts of ways. There can be wanton, extreme, and "porn-like" sex that is completely safe, satisfying, and consensual. Conversely there can be intimate, emotional, and "connected" sex that is absolutely devastating and terrible. Pleasure and consent are where things have to begin, but beyond that, I mean, why is what this guy does to get off deserving of such ire? I agree, Max Tucker is terrible for so many reasons, and if Rothbart mistreated or abused any of his partners in the article or beyond then he would be an awful person too. But he doesn't. At least not in his article or in your treatment of it. His writing may be not to your liking and, yes the image of his faked orgasm and Neil Young is tough to take, but having a problem with his writerly abilities is different than casting him and the other dudes you lump together as broken or damaged only displays an unwillingness to consider any perspectives or lifestyles that differ from whatever it is you think men should be doing or how you think they should be having sex with women. And the advice for the young ladies? Jesus. What about talking to one another? Communication? Saying that ladies should bounce on the guy sounds much too much like the countless conversations we've all seen/heard a couple of bros have with one another from the "Pussy Posse" to whoever about getting rid of a "clingy" girl or an "emotional" girl or a "_________" girl.


haha, WHAT?


Funny, this is similar to how I feel when reading/listening to complaints about the effects of Fashion/Madison Ave on diets/body issues of women.

Internet Girl

I made a similar point up-thread, with the conjunction that self-indulgent "wymmyn problems" aren't allowed to be nearly as shameless and masturbatory (lulz) as this article was. And they don't get this kind of SERIOUS coverage in SERIOUS literary/intellectual circles.


Not sure if NY Mag is really literary/intellectual. I'd say it's three parts Time Out New York and one part New Yorker.


I'm surprised nobody mentioned what I thought was the weirdest part of the article, the liberal quotation of John Mayer as an example of Dudes Today. It was hard for me to take his anecdotal problem seriously.


THANK YOU. Ladies, if all men start thinking like John Mayer, you have my explicit permission to do away with us entirely and reproduce through cloning.


Does this mean Charlie Sheen is the ultimate man's man? He watches a tremendous amount of porn; yet, he still has a strong compulsion to fuck (and to so with sexual olympians, no less) while (apparently) overcoming the detrimental sexual side effects of a Bolivian snowstorm?

Miles Klee

The real question is why nobody made fun of David Foster Wallace for publishing a story about this twelve years ago.

Hot mayonnaise

Footnotes instead of porn faces?


guessing because it was well written?


Maybe what I meant was that this piece never took his article seriously by asking questions or trying to arrive at any kind of understanding. They made up their minds about the idea of the guy's issues and cast judgement and arrived at conclusions in ways I find problematic.


Yes, I agree, but what were you expecting? The only serious trend piece in all of recorded history was the recent parody in the Awl. Why take this NY Magazine piece seriously? The authors of this send-up are not running a symposium, they are, let's say, getting high and indulging in a festival of light misandry invited (as it may have seemed to them) by the clumsy sincerity of the article. Also, this is Women are Threatened by Male Fantasy (and the Crudity and Horror of its Real-World Manifestations) Month at the Hairpin. So there's plenty to celebrate.

Niko Bellic

How much you wanna bet this guy used to talk about how guys can't be friends with pretty girls because he tried to bone one that way? This is just something he didn't learn to shut up about yet.


So much denial in this dialogue and in the comments. On the one hand, it is too obvious to talk about; on the other, please don't talk about it. Frankly, the lack of curiosity about the thesis of Rothbart's article is probably a large cultural part of what makes porn a place for guys to find their satisfaction (whether or not Rothbart is a dick, which I agree he probably is; or whether guys should be more into real women, which they should be).

Niko Bellic

I think the point is that Steve Jobs has already said everything that needs to be said about this: "Not an issue. Just don't hold it that way."

Coon Chicken

Thank you so much for this comment. I think both the authors of this piece entirely missed the point of his article. It was simply intended to be a view into what the influx of porn has done to some men's libidos. I don't think the point of it was to elicit sympathy, and beyond reading inferences into the tone of the piece, I can't see where Rothbart attempted to elicit sympathy.

On the other hand, I thought that this discussion was completely juvenile. While the criticism that it could have used clinical and empirical data to buttress its argument was entirely valid, the "he shouldn't have talked about it because it's gross and shameful" makes it sound like it was written by 15 year old girls from the 50s. The point of an open and honest discussion piece about sexuality like this is that the discussion revolves around something taboo. In light of Natasha's recent piece in the Atlantic on sexual arousal and discomfort (which always has its genesis in the taboo, in my opinion), I found it particularly odd that she would turn around and attack Rothbart for writing about something similar in nature.


The Rothbart article was at least interesting. The Hairpin's response was just dull, glib and superficial. Julie and Natasha seem like the kind of bores who watch a lot of television.


Yeah, I never watch television, I'm too busy inventing Mozart and starting DIY projects with homemade yogurt.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper

Meet you in compost garden!


"Porn has ruined me" = "I'm a moron."

I understand drug addictions. There are chemical dependencies there. If you're watching too much porn...stop. You want to stop, you've admitted it. So install a parental control program that doesn't let you watch porn. Bam. Problem solved. Bang a woman. Go for it.

Coon Chicken

This to me is akin to asking someone to get over a gambling addiction. Here is an article about some people who can't just "get over" something like a porn addiction.



I'm not trying to be truculent here, but I don't think anybody is going to get anywhere with this until we acknowledge the real issue: the proliferation and normalization of porn isn't making men SCARED of "real" women - it's making men BORED with "real" women. Calling men "scared" may make women feel better, but it isn't going to do anything about a problem that is affecting all of us, male and female.

Times change, and we just need to accept that the bar has been raised: bedroom behavior that used to be "slutty" is now "normal," and what used to be "normal" is now "boring." Porn isn't going anywhere, and every guy watches it. Women can complain about it, or just accept that more and more guys are going to need you to wear high heels to bed and keep up a constant stream of dirty talk in order for them to be interested - not necessarily because they're "losers" who watch porn all day, but possibly because they've had *other girlfriends* who were into watching/emulating porn and got used to their behavior, next to which you look... well, boring.

Is this really any different from women's expectations about male "sensitivity" being raised in the 1970s? Look at how differently men were expected to act before and after feminism. Whether we like it or not, women are now experiencing a similar shake-up due to porn, and will simply have to sink or swim.

Internet Girl

Yeah totally, dude. Women don't like sex, only sensitive guys.

PS The reasoning behind this comment is why your girlfriend hasn't had an orgasm since 1995


@InternetGirl: Wait, was that a response to me…? I don't get it. How is that at all related to anything I said? I didn't say women don't like sex. I said expectations about male sensitivity changed quickly in the 1970s, just as expectations about female performativity are changing quickly now. Honestly, was this not clear to anyone else…?


What has been written in this blog is really nothing short of the alarming. Ladies do yourself a favor and don't make yourself the VICTIM in all of this or you very well will become the victim. What this reporter stated is happening to several of my friends. Females are having a difficult time wrapping their arms around it based on the fact that your emotional and men are visual. Porn is like drugs, you build up a tolerance and you need more potent injections the next time for the same results of the past. Trust me when I tell you, this is a problem.


SexoGrammaticus is spot on with his statements. Make no mistake about it, men are getting off, just not with you. It's not based on confusion, or whether they are gay or not. It's based on what is satisfying them, and currently what they are seeing in porn makes their sexual relationship with you boring. I would recommend all of you open your mind to this issue, unless you want to control population growth.


People blame porn, but I bet it's something else. Like maybe trying to feel close to women who think it's cool to tell you to shut up about that gross stuff you find so personal.


One of the first comments when this Rothbart's article ran was that it sounded made up. I really, really suspected that it was. Lines like (and I'm paraphrasing, because I don't want to pull this up again...no pun intended), oh, meeting a girl at a Broadway play but it was HE who should've been awarded for his performance. For picking up some poor, unwitting lady at a discount showing of 'Rock of Ages' and somehow sweet-talking her pants off...nice humble-brag there.

The detail I keep coming back to is the guy (an architect, I want to say?) who MAKES HIMSELF LOOK NICE AND PRESENTABLE FOR PORN. He changes shirts because he'll most likely be watching a specific performer. It just feels so fabricated.

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