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Beauty, Pornography, and Sex: Are we just kidding ourselves

Message Sara York

The human body has the distinct ability to give pleasure, enjoyment, happiness, love and nurturing, but it also has the ability to bring about extreme offense, causing people to turn on other humans, treating them like dirt, calling them names and in the extreme event, ending their lives through acts of violence or exerting enough social pressure that suicide seems the only way out.

A few days ago a quote floated across my Facebook wall. It seemed innocuous enough, until I looked deeper.  - People who are attracted to you because of your pretty face or nice body won't be by your side forever. But people who can see how beautiful your heart is will never leave you.

The quote seems harmless, but it plays on our worst fears, I'm not beautiful. The one taunt that people use against others, knowing that beauty is subjective, thus making it hard for any person, regardless of their looks, to refute the fear, driving them to think they aren't beautiful. The quote also plays on the fears of those who are considered beautiful in our society.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Bobby Momenteller, a professional model and body builder. I asked Bobby if he ever wondered if people want to be with him because of his looks. His answer - "I definitely feel a lot of relationships are jaded and not of the right intention but because of your image and what you do...You get a lot of insincere people in your life that can cloud who is real and isn't..." [1]

Even those who are deemed by society as more aesthetically pleasing suffer from the curse of beauty, not knowing if it's their outward appearance or their inner soul that has won them friends. The thing about the human body is that it is beautiful. It goes beyond our finicky limits we force ourselves into by picking a type, and it strikes straight through our prejudices. When we can love and accept ourselves for who we are, then we can begin to see the beauty of all.

Our lack of confidence causes us to hide our bodies even in our most private moments. Walking around in the buff is frowned upon by most in conservative America. I asked the question of everyday people if they were comfortable walking around their house naked. The response was an overwhelming "no." I understand their position. For some, they stay clothed because of their children, for others it's the fear of exposing their body to their partner or spouse. Mandy wishes she could lose weight, a common complaint that is heard across the country. Our insecurities are fed by societies view on our body shape, thus ramping up the discomfort. [2]

I asked model Bobby Momenteller if he is comfortable posing nude, he says that he feels most free and alive, uninhibited and proud of whom he is when he is unmasked and naked. Bobby goes on to say that nudity is even more frowned upon where he is from in the Midwest. "They definitely try to sabotage something beautiful and artistic into being a dirty pornographic event." [1]

Because Bobby poses nude, he sometimes feels that his sexuality and everything of his personal self comes into question, but he doesn't hide whom he is. "I'm big on not hiding anything about myself from anyone so I'm not living a fake existence. I have two little girls as well that it's not hidden from whatsoever. I will educate them as they get older and find my openness will be an actual plus to them in not growing up inhibited with shame of their own body and self-image. In America that negative trait is pushed by society from the time we are born. Family, friends, or people may not like what I do, but I don't base my decision for my family around other people's opinion." [1]

Momenteller goes on to say "... the little family that I associate with regularly are ok with most of it, some they don't care for, but that's all in part of being a muse. I'm not portraying all the different roles and character's to please everyone else, I'm trying to do the best job I can, doing so with all my passion...and hopefully there is something for my fans within it." [1]

But many people confuse what Bobby Momenteller is doing with porn instead of art. I'll admit that o ver the past year my porn viewing has increased significantly. I know what you're thinking, Oh my God, that's awful, or it may cause some people to burst into fits of rage or anger, citing this article as invalid, but previously to this year I didn't view porn except for one or two times with my husband many, many years ago before we had kids. I can't say I'm addicted to porn or nudity of others. A few times a month doesn't seem addicting. I don't seek out illicit images or have to go masturbate in the bathroom while I'm out in public. All of my porn viewing now is for research, sifting through scenes that give me inspiration for my books. If anything, viewing naked images has allowed me to see the beauty in all forms and sizes. My marriage is better, sex is better, and I'm happier.

Porn -- Just say the word and it strikes a cord with people. Porn has a stigma that has survived through out the centuries. Nudity is seen as bad in most cultures. Steven C. Hayes in his  article in Psychology Today  points out "Through August 2010 not a single controlled treatment study had ever been published on the "problem that must not be named.'" (He's talking about porn.)[3]  You may see various studies claiming the dangers of porn, but they aren't controlled treatment studies, they are statistics that are bendable, the questions skewed to meet whatever criteria the researcher is trying to find.

I can't talk about pornography without discussing where the word comes from. The word pornography is derived from the Greek word porn-" meaning prostitute or pornea  meaning prostitution. [4] There is a strange fascination to degrade people who are comfortable with their body. Many see pornography as nothing short of prostitution. And everyone's definition of porn is different. Some consider even the hint of the male rear end pornographic while others see fully nude women as acceptable.

Throughout modern history, media has shunned images of naked men, instead focusing on peeling the clothes off of women. In my opinion, men have an untamed beauty that far exceeds the beauty of women. From their narrow hips, to their beefy thighs, the flat plane of their pecs and the long sinew of their lats, men are beautiful. However, because men have controlled the images in magazines and print for so long the lack of male nudity has prevailed. In some twisted way, the insecurity of a few men who had the decision making powers of what was acceptable in public media effected us all, leading us to believe that any shot of a naked man was pornographic.

Models who pose naked aren't cheap, crude, lazy, or the bane of society. Nudity is a beautiful expression of life, showing off what can be accomplished with the human body. It isn't a mandate of what everyone should look like, but something to inspire others. We can no longer blame beautiful people for our insecurities. Beauty becomes evident when you are happy with yourself. Yes, some people are born with a certain set of features that a majority find pleasing, but every human on the planet has a beauty about them, they just have to let it shine through for others to see.

Insecurities drive us to this place where we feel comfortable making fun of others, and calling names. Where we trash people who we call pornographers, saying the name like it's a bad thing. I'll never look like Angelina Jolie, I don't want to. I want to be me. I'm happy with who I am, how I look and my body, and you should be happy with yours. My father spent too long trying to knock me down, show me how unworthy I was because I didn't fit his ideal expectations. It was all jealousy and insecurities on his part. It had nothing to do with me. Learning to rise above the petty remarks, the jealous stabs and other's insecurities took me years, hell it took me decades to finally come to a place where I don't let others define me.

Beautiful people face discrimination. People want to knock them down a peg or two. It's a sad fact that jealousy causes people to become bitter, hateful people who can't help but vilify beauty. Bobby Momenteller relates the following on the subject of being discriminated against. "Oh yes tons of people discriminate against you, its just part of the business. Even some of your biggest fans do eventually. You have to be prepared for it the further you go and better you do. You do get people not taking you seriously because of the job, and they think that you can't do much else (which I've very well proven untrue, I think) and its one of those taboo things were people really hate that you're making money and working off your own physical being." [1]

Porn stars and models get a bad rap. They are blamed for the ills of society when it's society making the situation ill. Yes, female models need gain some weight and not be so anorexic, but society forces the issue, demanding smaller models. Male models are forced to maintain perfect proportions, cutting all carbohydrates. It's not healthy the way some models live because they are convinced their bodies have to be beyond perfection, but we can't blame the models for having beautiful bodies.

Porn stars are people, just like you and me; they just have sex for a living. Their lives are crazy, fun, interesting, boring, normal and not normal. They have families, children, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. They cook, clean, eat food and buy groceries. They can't be blamed for problems people create by watching too much, or what some people think is too much porn.

Distinguishing exactly what constitutes porn is a hazy line that leaves society confused. Marti says that a photograph becomes porn when bodily fluids are exchanged or when there is actual penetration. Brad has a different idea about porn that has evolved. " Years ago I would have flippantly said "insert shots' but after becoming familiar with Larry Clark's photography as well as seeing some rather beautiful artistic shots of guys shoving things up their asses (everything from bananas to garden gnomes), my thoughts of what constitutes porn has changed and so now I have a "I know when I see it' attitude to the subject." Ben says that art is the nude form, porn is the sex. [2]

When asked about how do you see porn stars, the answers varied from people seeing them as not real or cartoon characters to respectable people who just have sex in front of a camera.  But how can there be so much difference of opinion? And what does it matter anyways? Do we really need to define nudity to the point of shaming those who see no problem with viewing all forms of nudity if it has no negative impact on their lives? That's like calling a person who had one beer a week an alcoholic.

The question of how can one person see porn stars as respectable and others see them as damaged comes up. I think it goes back to beauty and our insecurity about our looks. Bobby Momenteller has good insight about beauty.

"It isn't about society's perception of "beauty.' We are all created in the divine eye of complete Beauty and while some more attractive to the eye...which can be deceived, it's the WHOLE person inside and out, and how they view THEMSELVES is most beautiful and shines to others. We should all be so filled with love and uninhibited to be able to display all of ourselves with pride! When you go to a nude beach in another country or even in south Miami, its not supermodels sitting out there...its 400lb men, men and women in their 90's as well as small children with their mother and father..that's beauty! None of them notice that they're naked, carrying their coolers around having a beautiful lunch...its not longer just about sex, it's our true selves uninhibited in the nature we're from, accepting one another because we first love ourselves. That's a good example for me in what I saw, being a sheltered boy from the Midwest where Hollywood is just TV and people vacation here twice in their lifetime and if you do anything nude your just weird or gay."  [1]

Porn or viewing nudes is blamed for relationship breakups, work failures, and the end of traditional family values. Recently Rick Santorum had this to say about porn.  "America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.  A wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences. Addiction to pornography is now common for adults and even for some children. The average age of first exposure to hard-core, Internet pornography is now 11. Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women.  It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.  [5]


Once again, porn is blamed for what Mr. Santorum sees as the ills of society. Long before there were cameras, pictures or pornography, there were toxic marriages, bad relationships and horrible problems. Just read the Bible and you will see that the problems started long ago. Or you can read an article Does Pornography Cause Social Harm by Michael Castelman that explains that since the Internet has become so prevalent, many of the issues Rick Santorum is blaming on porn have actually lessened. Since the arrival of Internet porn sexual irresponsibility has declined, teen sex has declined, divorce has declined, and rape has declined. [6] Yes, we have actual statistics gathered from various sources from the CDC to the Justice Department negating Rick Santorum's statement.

Pornography and pornographers are not the cause of our issues. Self-deprecation, unrealistic expectations, and lack of knowledge lead people to emphasize the wrong things in relationships. Our own narcissistic tendencies lead us to make bad decisions, pushing us to form bad habits. We seek satisfaction outside of our own lives and call it porn addiction, when in reality we have an avoidance issue, projecting our problems on porn instead of focusing on our real relationships.

Of course real relationship are tough. We've heard from Bobby Momenteller and some of the difficulties he's had in relationships, knowing whether they are real, or false. We've heard from everyday people and how they feel about pornography. What makes people so angry about sex, nudity, and pornography? Let's go back to the definition of pornography from the Greek, it's important to really think about what that word implies. Prostitution. [4] Can you really say that those performing in what we see as pornography are selling a part of themselves? Or are people who perform nude in front of a camera, just like other actors, and just like other actors, you don't own a piece of them.

Beauty, it drives our insecurity, thus feeding our need to hurt others, calling them names and degrading them. In interviewing normal, every day people I asked them this question: "Do you think you are beautiful?" The overwhelming answer was "no." Marti came back with a "flat no." Brad said that all through high school he was told how ugly he was and it still affects him over nine years later.  It pains me to see so many of my friends do not see the beauty I see in them. Society has taught us to ignore beauty unless it's a very prescribed set of features.  But a t what point do we stop believing we are beautiful, or handsome, or cute? [2]

Is there a certain age? Or is it more complex than that? Again, when talking to normal people about beauty, they said it depending on our feelings or perceptions. What we've been taught at home and the environment we were raised in has a huge impact. If you're told the human body is ugly, then you begin to see others and yourself as ugly, inciting anger when you see someone comfortable with their body.

Maybe it's because we hate that part of us that feels desire. We hate that we don't understand how love and lust and desire are all mixed together. We don't see what makes up passion, and therefor we must hate it. When viewing nudes, it is supposed to stir something inside of you. Whether it's the vulnerability the model expresses or the strength you see in the model's eyes, you are supposed to feel, but you shouldn't feel disgust just at seeing a nude photograph or painting.

Some times we become so jaded that the way we deal for our issues when viewing nudes is to objectify them. What does it mean to objectify? If you look at a naked person, are you objectifying them? Not necessarily. Objectification happens when you degrade the person to a mere object. It goes back to seeing the people posing or actin nude as people.

I know I'm not perfect, and have been guilty of objectifying people too. I'm not proud of it. I want to be able to see all people as beautiful creations, not things that can be used or bought. I think there's a weird mix of caring and not caring when you're talking about beauty. If you think you're beautiful, at some point you have to not care what other's think.

This article has turned into so much more than I ever thought it would. At first it was going to be a pithy little blog about my feelings on nudity and objectification, but now it's twisted me inside out, kept me from sleep, forced me to wake at odd hours and filled my mind with pain, joy and wonder. I've cried, smiled and laughed more over the last two weeks that I've spent writing this piece. It's caused me to awaken the pain from my youth and feel it all over again. I don't think I'll ever be solid on the subject of beauty, nudity and porn. There is too much to the subject of beauty and nudity, too many variables and too many thoughts. When you stand far away and look at the whole of beauty, it's too much to take in, but breaking down each part, studying the issues you see that there is more to each person than what they look like on the outside, the particulars of their features, what activities they participate in, or how much of their body they show.

I want people to see the beauty in themselves. To see that they are beautiful like Ben, who has the confidence that was drilled into him by his widowed mother. She told him he could do anything. I want people to have that confidence so they can see the beauty in themselves, and maybe that will cause them to look at models and porn stars differently, seeing more than just the outside shell. [2]

Your quest for self-acceptance is not a contest; you don't have to judge yourself based on what others look like. We humans have a strange fascination with doing that. We check out the magazine articles, pleased to see Reese Witherspoon have an ugly day, or happy that Julia Roberts looks flustered. Then we compare ourselves to the overly Photoshoped pictures that are made to make us feel less than so advertisers can sell their crap to us. We shouldn't be judging ourselves on what other people look like. Judge yourself for who you are and your own path to self-improvement.

Growing up, I heard over and over again that pretty people were more important, that beautiful people were better than others. It's not true. Because beauty is so subjective, how can we say that one person is better than another based on their looks?

Some people may say I'm crazy for tackling this subject. That I'm unqualified to write this article and talk about beauty because I write novels that place aesthetically pleasing models on the cover. There are a few people that may even call my books pornographic because they deal with emotions, sex, erotic desires, lust and love. But inside those books, it not the physical beauty that makes the characters, it's the beauty of the way the character lives and solves his problems. You might say that I'm contributing to the problem by writing books about beautiful men, maybe I am. Readers know it's the characters themselves, not the covers that please them the most.

Sure the covers are packed with beautiful men. Men with hard bodies, great abs, delicious pecs and other assets that make people swoon or see red, but as a cover artist and an author I know that books with beautiful people sell well. People are drawn to that which they find appealing. Which takes us back around to the start. Why do we focus so much on outward beauty, trying to crush those who are beautiful, or use them, objectify them and turn them into toys? Is it because we fear that we will never be as beautiful as they are, that we'll never be enough?

I have a different take on beauty than others. A few years a go I had a rather severe illness that caused minor brain damage. I lost the ability to recognize people I knew, even those closest to me. For about six months I couldn't even recognize my husband in room full of people. It took years to recognize people outside of my family on a regular basis. Even today, if I have a headache, I may or may not know who you are. When I sat down to talk with Bobby, because we were doing an exchange over email, I didn't remember what he looked like. I had to have his picture up in front of me, or honestly, it could have been anyone. He could have been the ugliest person on the planet, but it was the way he spoke, the kindness with which he spoke that drew me to him, not his body. If I ever met him on the street, I would have no idea who he was. It's something I've grown used to and adapt to. I think of people in terms of their personality now, not their looks, because honestly, looks really mean nothing to me.

I may look at beautiful men for inspiration, see their attributes, but that's not what makes me like them, it's deeper than just their surface appearance. Find the depth of others instead of just seeing their outer shell.

I hope that this article made you think. Maybe it opened your eyes to issues outside of your normal life. People are beautiful. You are beautiful. Don't let your insecurities stop you from seeing your potential and loving yourself and loving your body instead of trying to become someone else.

1 (Momenteller, 2012) Bobby Momenteller (personal communication March, 2012)

2 Series of interviews with everyday people done March 2012

3 Watching Porn: The Problem That Must Not Be Named by Steven C. Hayes; Psychology Today click here

Greek words beginning with porn  on

5 Protecting Families, Women, and Children through Enforcement of Federal Obscenity Laws, Rick Santorum.

[6] Does Pornography Cause Social Harm by Michael Castleman; Psychology Today click here

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Sara York is an author of popular fiction and thrillers. She lives in the south with her family.
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