Savage Love: The ‘patriarchal gaze’ killed porn for me 

I've been with my partner for a year and a half and have been long distance from the start and she's working towards moving closer to me in a more permanent way. But I'm worried about the sex as I feel a lack of desire for her. I believe it could be my newfound awareness of "patriarchal gaze." I used to enjoy kink, but I no longer consider it sexy. Loving care has replaced dirty games and I feel wrong now if I try to watch porn and I no longer enjoy touching myself because I cannot get off without thinking in sexist ways. I'm feeling pretty confused. Although I love my partner in a very special and deep way, it's confusing.

—Still Horny Deep Down Somewhere

There's nothing wrong with objectifying someone who wants to be objectified by you and there's nothing wrong with being objectified by someone you want to be objectified by. (That's what you mean by the "patriarchal gaze," right?) In addition to being three-dimensional human beings with wants, needs, agency and autonomy, we are also physical objects, SHDDS, and sometimes we want to be appreciated for the objects we are. (Or the objects we also are.) So long as the person you're objectifying—the person on the receiving end of your gaze—enjoys receiving that kind of attention from you and vice-versa, there's nothing wrong with it. To gaze at someone who desires your gaze, to touch them and play dirty games with them, isn't inherently sexist or dehumanizing—so long as it's consensual and mutually pleasurable, which I realize it all too often isn't, particularly for women. But we shouldn't let assholes (mostly men) who can make people (mostly women) feel unsafe or uncomfortable with a look ruin what isn't just enjoyable when consensual, but affirming and at times transcendently pleasurable.

To be perfectly frank, SHDDS, I'm concerned about your relationship. If you feel so awful about your sexual desires and sexual history that you're incapable of enjoying sex anymore, and those awful feelings entered your life at roughly the same time your partner did ... maybe your partner is part of the problem. If you were moving away from power games and toward something else, I wouldn't see a problem. But you aren't opening up to something new in this relationship, you're shutting down. Even if your partner hasn't said or done anything to make you feel ashamed of your sexual desires or history, I'm not sure she's right for you.

mail@savagelove.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @FakeDanSavage. On the Lovecast, Emily Bazelon from Slate's Political Gabfest. www.savagelovecast.com

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