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The article by Salmon (2012) is devoted to the inquiry into the reasons for the popularity of pornography among men and romance among women. The author insists that previous studies fail to address this question, focusing on other aspects of the objects of his article (such as their social impacts) or consider the reasons for their popularity but leave them understudied. At the same time, the topic is admittedly intriguing as it is aimed at further developing our knowledge about human sexuality.
Moreover, the approach of Salmon (2012) is also relatively unusual due to the fact that the author considers the evolutionary psychology perspective. Therefore, Salmon (2012) attempts to fill a number of blank spaces in our understanding of human sexuality with the help of this article, which makes its analysis especially promising.
To discuss human sexual fantasies and their correlation with the preferences for pornography and romance, Salmon (2012) uses an “evolutionary lens” and emphasizes the role of the “psychological adaptations specialized to process information about mate quality” (p. 154).
In other words, the author’s primary claim consists of the idea that the evolution-conditioned psychological differences in male and female sexual preferences define the gravitation of the interest of men towards pornography and women towards romance novels. The author points out that the human evolutionary history shows that monogamous families are more successful with respect to reproduction, but insists that it is the adaptive problems of ancestral people that had shaped our current preferences.
To prove the point, Salmon (2012) uses literature and content analyses. The author considers the mating issues of ancestral people and brings forth the facts of minimum investment in reproduction, which is disproportionately small for males. The author insists that the possibility of such minimum investment inspires the fantasy of “low-cost” sex with “high mate value women” (p. 155). At the same time, high mate value women have always had more to gain from a long-term relationship with an equally high mate value man, which inspires the fantasy of romance that involves “taming” the mate and controlling him (in part, by using the sexuality of the woman). Thus, the author backs up the claim with the help of the discussion of the mating patterns, preferences, and issues of ancestral people.
After that, Salmon (2012) considers the content of modern pornography videos and romance novels (films). The author discusses the qualities that make a valuable mate and points out that they are always present in the mates that can be found in pornography and romance. For females, the features include the cues of fertility and quality genes (as well as a willingness and ability to orgasm when the short-term mating is concerned), all of which are present in pornography, and for males, the features include the capability to attain resources and the cues of good genes, all of which are present in romance.
Fidelity is a desirable trait for a long-term mate, which is why it is seen in romance; in short-term-oriented pornography the females are in abundance, always willing, and require no mating courtship, thus minimizing the effort invested. Also, the author demonstrates that the most frequently searched pornography videos include the topics that are associated with short-term mating and analyze romance heroes to show that their qualities and traits embody the ideal long-term mate. The analysis of the titles of the most popular pornography films and romance novels also demonstrates similar differences in the content.
Finally, the author considers the aspects of pornography that are typically regarded as discriminatory with respect to women and offers explanations for the external ejaculation popularity from the point of view of evolutionary psychology, thus demonstrating the applicability of this perspective to various aspects of sexuality. The author concludes by stating that while pornography videos and romance novels are relatively recent phenomena, they trigger our “ancestral mating adaptations” that carry the ideals of short- and long-term mating. Therefore, pornography can be termed as pornotopia (the fantasy of the ideal short-term mating), and romance can be described as romantopia (the fantasy of the ideal long-term mating), which are valued differently by males and females.
The article has some limitations because the author occasionally expresses a personal opinion rather than provides research-based evidence, which happens, for example, in the passage titled “Is Pornography About Degrading Women?” (Salmon, 2012, p. 156). What is more, the article often borders on excessive generalization. In particular, it does not take into account the influence of societal and cultural norms, which are expected to affect the complex phenomenon of human sexuality. Naturally, the article is not aimed at considering these aspects; rather, it attempts to deny their influence by implying that the preferences are universal for people all over the world (Salmon, 2012, p. 152).
However, a one-sided approach imposes limits on the author’s conclusions, which Salmon (2012) does not discuss in detail. It should be mentioned, though, that the author does not insist that women never watch pornography or men always avoid long-term relationships (Salmon, 2012, p. 155). Rather, Salmon (2012) claims to describe the “heart” of sexual fantasies, which appears excessively general and assertive as well (p. 158).
Salmon, C. (2012). The pop culture of sex: An evolutionary window on the worlds of pornography and romance. Review of General Psychology, 16(2), 152-160. Web.