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When Even A Porn Star Feels Guilty…

Whenever I go to a Christian college to speak, I talk to professors, staffers, and campus ministers about what they’re seeing among the students. Two things always come up: 1) far too many of their students know next to nothing about the Christian faith, and 2) pornography is a massive problem.

At one Christian college I visited over the past few months, a professor said, “For the first time, I’m starting to see it becoming a problem for my female students, not just the male ones.” A campus minister who works with young undergraduates headed for professional ministry told me that every single one of the men he mentors has a porn addiction.

Every. Single. One.

A Catholic priest who ministers on campus said that porn addiction is the biggest problem he deals with in his work. “Nothing else even comes close,” he said. And these are the undergraduates who recognize that it is a problem; many of them don’t see at that way at all.

A lot of Christian parents are totally in denial about what they’re aiding and abetting by providing their kids with smartphones. You know who’s not in denial? The porn superstar James Deen. In this piece from The Atlantic [1], Conor Friedersdorf takes note of Deen’s concern about pornography and the young. (Warning: there is some graphic description in the piece.). He begins by quoting from this 2012 profile of Deen by Amanda Hess: [2]

Emily was sitting in her fourth-grade classroom when she was first introduced to porn. “These boys were sitting next to me, talking about boobs,” she says. Emily asked one of them what that meant, and “he stared at me like I was crazy.” In school the next day, the boy slipped her a piece of paper with a URL written on it. She caught “like five seconds’ worth of humping” before closing the page.  Now 17, Emily is distributing porn links of her own—this time, to other teenage girls across the United States.

Emily runs a Tumblr blog dedicated to her two obsessions: Twilight and James Deen. Thanks to Deen, Emily is no longer watching porn for the generalized humping. “When I watch his videos, I don’t really pay attention to the sex,” Emily says. “I watch his videos for his reaction. It amazes me.”

Friedersdorf quotes at length from Deen’s recent interviews, nothing that “he now feels there is an ethical dilemma in porn.

On one hand, the industry’s success depends on its being accessible to mass audiences online. On the other hand, Deen is convinced that the accessibility of porn is harming young people.

Here, he quotes Deen:

I’ve had conversations with business partners, the people that run––well, they run a bunch of adult web sites. This guy, he’s a father of two, and we were having a conversation about how I want all adult web sites, I want everything to be behind an age-verification wall. You can’t just say, “Yes, I’m 18”—you actually have to input a credit card, or something, the best you can, to create an 18-and-older environment… And he said––and I agree with him––“As a father I agree with you 100 percent, I would love to do that. As a businessman, I will go out of business in a day.”

Think about that: here is a man who makes his living exploiting young people, enticing them to watch things that he does not want his own children to see. If this were a just and sane society, he would be out of business, or in jail. I am not remotely a libertarian on this stuff.

Friedersdorf:

Just as likely, the industry will instead invest in virtual reality, and the teenagers of 2023 will see pornography that even Deen’s teenage fans could scarcely have imagined.

Insofar as that is a problem, it is not because seeing sex is inherently damaging to young people––for thousands of years, a village’s adults had no bedroom walls for privacy––but because what young people see, when exposed to hard core pornography, resembles real sex only as much as a Jackie Chan sequence resembles a real fist fight. Yet it creates the illusion of reality, then reaches sexually inexperienced porn consumers in a society where there are few graphic but non-pornographic portrayals of sex, and where accessing hard core porn is (properly) legal, but a teenage couple texting naked pictures to each other is a criminal sex offense.

No one would choose anything like that information ecosystem for the sexual acculturation of young people. But technology evolved in a way that made it so, changing the social landscape faster than humans evolved norms to mitigate its flaws. Mercenary concerns are delaying any hedge. The consequences remain to be seen.

Read all of Friedersdorf’s piece. [1]

This society has a death wish. I wish I had some idea how it could be saved. What concerns me most of all right now is the horrifying complicity of conservative, even conservative Christian, parents in the spiritual, moral, and emotional ruin of their children and of their moral ecology because they, the parents, are too damn afraid to say no, my kids will not have a smartphone, I don’t care what they and society think of me.

If this is you, stop and think about what you’re doing! If even a porn star is worried about it, why aren’t you?

I strongly, strongly urge you to buy my friend Andy Crouch’s new book The Tech-Wise Family.  [3] It’s about how and why to reclaim a space for your family from technology. It’s not mostly about sex and technology, but that is the focus of the final chapter. According to data in the book, more than half of teens ages 13-17 seek out porn, and three out of four young adults aged 18-24 do. He writes:

The porn-saturated culture comes to see sex itself as a kind of technological enterprise — to be assisted with various devices and techniques that ensure satisfaction, remove vulnerability and uncertainty, and require neither wisdom nor courage, just knowledge and desire (and knowledge of one’s own desires). The next frontier in porn will be enhanced by virtual reality and robotics, so that devices substitute entirely for other people, allowing for a perfectly controllable experience of solitary ecstasy.

But Crouch cautions:

The truth is that if we build our family’s technological life around trying to keep porn out, we will fail. Pornography saturates our society even if you somehow manage to never click on an “NSFW” (not safe for work) website. … The path to health is not encasing our children in some kind of germ-free sterile environment that they will inevitably try to flee; rather, it is having healthy immune systems that equip us to resist and reject things that do not lead to health.

According to Barna Research, whose data Crouch uses in the book, “the vast majority of teens (79 percent) say they have no one in their life helping them to avoid pornography. And those who do are most likely to say it’s a girlfriend of boyfriend rather than a parent or spiritual advisor.”

Andy Crouch concedes in this chapter that he once had a porn addiction. His wife helped him overcome it. He doesn’t come at this topic from a position of outside judgment, but as a Christian who has struggled personally with it. There is no mere technological fix for this challenge. It has to involve the whole family. I was talking earlier today with a couple of readers who administer a classical Christian school. I mentioned the Friedersdorf piece to them, and said that I really want to help parents realize how serious this situation is regarding kids, porn, and smartphones, “but I don’t want to freak them out.”

“Freak them out,” said one of the men. “They need to be freaked out. That’s the reality we’re dealing with.”

So it is.

100 Comments (Open | Close)

100 Comments To "When Even A Porn Star Feels Guilty…"

#1 Comment By Sam M On May 3, 2017 @ 9:52 am

[NFR: I understood him to mean that all these young men watch porn and can’t stop themselves though they want to do so. They feel as if the desire to watch it controls them. — RD]

OK. I just think that’s a really loose definition of addiction. Lots of people eat way too much pie and wish they didn’t, because they would like to have rock hard abs. But they keep eating the pie. That doesn’t mean they are addicted to pie. It means that when the pie is in front of them, their desire for pie outweighs their long term desire for fitness and they eat the pie. Are some people addicted to food? I guess so. But not everyone who regrets their consumption choices in the long term is an addict.

This goes beyond a simple matter of semantics. Addiction has become a catchall way to indicate a lack of agency, and in many cases it has become an excuse. Oh, see, I can’t go to work because… I’, addicted! To video games. To the internet. To porn. I feel for people who are really in the throes of a damaging addiction, but some people just need to straighten the hell up.

Finally, I also think there’s a the question of harm. I am with you when you say we can’t necessarily use “data” to talk about the full impact of the cultural changes going on around us. Just because inner cities are not as murderous as they were 25 years ago doesn’t prove that all is well. At the same time, we should at least wrestle with the fact that the damaged moral sense that’s supposed to come along with rampant porn viewing has NOT come to pass. Sexual initiation is later than it was in the past. VD and unwanted pregnancies and abortions are decreasing. It’s perplexing to think that these porn addled kids behave better than our generation did in many ways… but they do. Which isn’t everything, but it’s something.

Are all of the kids that guy mentors addicted to porn? Maybe some of them are, by some definition. But I suspect that many of them are young men who really like to look at naked women in lascivious positions, and when given the opportunity do so.

I wish I exercised more and watched TV less. I have wished this for a long time. I keep not acting on that desire, though. I would argue that this does NOT mean I am addicted to TV. It means that the priorities I claim to have are not fully aligned with the priorities I seek in practice.

Some of these kids wish they could tell this guy they watched no porn when he asks. But they did watch porn. Because they like it. Not because their neural pathways force them too, or because withdrawal makes them so ill that they are finally forced to seek relief.

They don’t need rehab. They need self control.

#2 Comment By Joel On May 3, 2017 @ 10:02 am

I worked in campus ministry for 7 years and can confirm. Every young man I knew. And 5 years before that, I began in middle school youth ministry in another state. All the struggles began there. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with an 11 year old boy and his mother.

[NFR: Would you mind telling us about it? — RD]

#3 Comment By Lester Burnham On May 3, 2017 @ 10:25 am

A thoughtful piece, thank you.

All I can observe is that perhaps what is happening in the culture is a huge pendulum swing away from the stringent morality of the past into the opposite extreme. I think these things operate in long term cycles, which implies that the pendulum will swing back to what it once was.

Also, morality for a society at large cannot be predicated upon Christianity alone, if for no other reason than a lot of us are not Christian. In this, perhaps morality with regard to sex should be based fundamental human decency.

#4 Comment By ADC Wonk On May 3, 2017 @ 10:26 am

Pornography is not an essential part of freedom. It is not an essential part of the liberal-democratic order. It is just something that lots of people today want

Free market at work, eh?

When you pretend to care about morality . . . but really only care about money . . .

Bingo!

Free market in a capitalistic/materialistic society.

#5 Comment By FL Transplant On May 3, 2017 @ 10:34 am

John_M @ 11;23PM–

I went to a military college. Our time was completely controlled, and there was very little free time to engage in shenanigans and stupidity.

But graduates were notorious for what someone called “The Springing Effect”. Just like a spring that’s been compressed pings out when the pressure’s released, graduates were known for trying to make up for the four years of control by going wild in their first couple of years out of school. There were a number of organizations that did their best to avoid having grads assigned to them for their first assignment or two, until they’d settled down, to avoid having to deal with lots of problems with their junior officers.

So good luck wth your kid. But don’t be surprised if you see a Newtonian “for every action there’s an opposite and equal reaction” once you’re no longed compressing the spring.

#6 Comment By March Hare On May 3, 2017 @ 10:49 am

Thanks for pointing out Deen’s statements on this issue. I don’t think pornography is anywhere near as catastrophic a cultural issue as you do, but it is good to see at least some acknowledgement of potential problems from a man who makes his living in the industry. The fact that Deen is a near-criminal creep to boot makes this case for introspection stronger, not weaker.

Can we take a step back, though, to put this in historic context? Virtually every new graphics technology and new communication technology ever invented has been used for sexual titillation purposes, and in many cases such images have become a major economic factor in advancing the technology.

Video, still photography, lithography, all have been used to produce nudes, and at least some of them were not modest images of Eve before the fall. Before that, simpler technologies like the use of charcoal and ochre on cave walls served a similar purpose. Some of the oldest stone carvings ever made were busty, nude fertility goddesses. What are we to make of an archaeological discovery of a solitary male, found with hunting tools, camping gear, and a stone nude statuette? Well, what would you make of a solitary modern male found under similar circumstances with an iPhone and a porn site on his browser?

This is not to say that anything goes, or that it should. But it is not a new issue–just an old one on steroids. I see the problem not with porn per se, but with porn that is abusive, porn that encourages coercion and violence, porn that essentially teaches uncaring and commercial attitudes toward sex. That’s of a piece with a culture that encourages uncaring and commercial attitudes toward everything.

#7 Comment By anonymousdr On May 3, 2017 @ 11:08 am

I understand why people want to use the language of addiction to describe compulsive pornography use, but I think especially for Christians we need to hold on to the language of sin. A phenomenon like pornography use helps to clarify the true definition of sin-which as Rod and Dante have often pointed out is a sort of “missing the mark”. Such addiction language may offer some practical help in getting young people to seek the help that they need, but it should be replaced ASAP with the traditional language of sin.

The use of addiction language cedes far too much intellectual high ground to the therapeutic/Freudian culture against which RD frequently and rightly launches his Jeremiads.

I was in college once, and had all of the vices that young men have—in Spades. But, at a certain point I realized that there was a choice before me: “He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”

I could no longer commit these sins and call myself a Catholic. I think that too often we think of holiness as being something soft and comforting but the reality is the opposite. Fast, pray, keel on the hard cold ground, deny your self-small pleasures, take control of the eyes, take a cold shower, go for a run, whatever it takes steel yourself against evil.

As The Man says:
“I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.”

If you can’t resist the relatively small temptations of wine, women, and song (at least for a moment) you will never resist the big ones. You don’t have to be mean or arrogant, but you do need to develop physical and mental toughness, preferably with other like minded men. Remember: “Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

Be a man of iron.

#8 Comment By joelle On May 3, 2017 @ 11:31 am

Porn has been around forever and I don’t think withholding smartphones or other devices is going to curtail the attraction one bit. My 16 year old son has a smartphone he never uses and a tablet he does. He watches porn sometimes. I know because I asked him last year and he answered me honestly. I’m not going to punish him for a natural curiosity, that in the decades before technology, was satisfied by magazines hidden under a teenagers mattress. I am however, making sure that we have open and honest conversations about sex, porn, love, commitment, relationships, marriage, etc., so that my son not only understands intellectually, but also experiences on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, the importance of real intimacy in human relationships, whether they are sexual in nature or not. Which is probably exactly what pornography is being substituted for in those young adults who are addicted to it.

[NFR: I’m sorry to hear this, and in 20 or so years, you will be too. — RD]

#9 Comment By Michael On May 3, 2017 @ 11:43 am

I share your concerns but I’d caution against loose use of the “addiction” language. EVERY kid he mentor S has a porn addiction? Or every kid watches porn regularly? Or has seen it? What’s the definition of these very different things? I’m. Or poo-pooing this, but seeking to avoid the medicalization of yet another problematic activity. Not everyone who drinks beer is an alcoholic. That’s not an argument for allowing your 13 year old to drink beer. But there’s a really important distinction there.

As a 30 year old who went to a Christian college and used to struggle with this (don’t anymore, thanks to the Sacraments and the Rosary, but that’s a story for another time), I do agree strongly with Sam M. A lot of the language and concepts around addiction are useful when trying to break destructive habits, but they also tend to remove agency. “I can’t help it, I’m an addict.” You have often referred to the acedia of Western society–I think porn is a manifestation of that. But surely the denial of agency is a consequence of acedia, too–being too spiritually tired to stand against the tide of one’s own desires. It is a form of pusillanimity.

It might sound like I’m being annoying and pedantic, but I think it’s an important distinction. While I was in the middle of it, I would have said I was a porn addict. But now that I’m a few years removed, I’d say that I had a porn problem. The former implies a medical solution; the latter implies a spiritual one. That’s not to say that there’s no one for whom the term addict is appropriate, but it is to say that there are a lot of young men calling themselves addicts who really just don’t want to pray and grit their teeth enough to get out of the muck. Because 1) it’s hard, and the MTD-flavored Christianity (or Christianity-flavored MTD) that they were raised on has left them completely powerless to do hard things, and 2) they rather like the muck.

#10 Comment By VikingLS On May 3, 2017 @ 11:56 am

With streaming live cams actually any kid with internet access not only has access to porn, but can see naked and nearly naked people committing sex acts in real time.

As to smart phones, might it be easier to keep a child from having one, by not having one yourself.

#11 Comment By William Harrington On May 3, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

Philly Guy

Do you sell phones for a living, or what? I think you overestimate the value of cell phones in education. I regularly meet, and teach, a lot of people who are quite proficient with a smart phone but are deficient in basic skills. The phone didn’t help them compete. I know successful you g people who were raised without having a smart phone. Frankly, knowing ghow to swipe left and swipe right is not a marketable skill and texting is far less useful than knowing how to write clearly.

#12 Comment By Annek On May 3, 2017 @ 12:11 pm

ADC Wonk:

Pornography is not an essential part of freedom. It is not an essential part of the liberal-democratic order. It is just something that lots of people today want

Free market at work, eh?

When you pretend to care about morality . . . but really only care about money . . .

Bingo!

Free market in a capitalistic/materialistic society.

The free market and unfettered capitalism without morality are a disaster. A sane country, with leaders who care about the well-being of our children and even adults, would never permit pornography to be as readily available on the internet as it is today.

#13 Comment By minimammal On May 3, 2017 @ 12:14 pm

I remember my high school statistics teacher was a huge comic book nerd who also happened to be an evangelical Christian. He told me once that he did not allow his teenage son to have his own computer; instead, he had to use a communal computer in the family room with his parents’ supervision. I remember scoffing at this at the time, thinking how puritanical and absurd this was. Now, I see the wisdom in it.

My parents were somewhat strict, as well. I didn’t get my own laptop until my senior year in high school and I never had a smart phone until I was an independent adult. My mom was very strict on what kinds of movies and TV shows her kids watched and we didn’t have cable until I was in my late teens. Yet none of this ultimately stopped me from getting ensnared in porn.

Like so many young people these days, porn became my means of sex education, even though I understood that it wasn’t realistic. It warped my mind and contributed to my inability to find a girlfriend and forge a real romantic relationship. Even though I desperately yearned for real human interaction, both sexual and, especially, romantic, I convinced myself that I didn’t really need a girlfriend since I had porn. But I hated myself for using porn, especially since it would lead me to watch things I never expected I’d ever watch and never even imagined existed. I always felt disgusted after watching porn, yet I would inevitably end up watching it again. It didn’t help that throughout my teenage years and into my twenties I was not religious. But even without a proper moral grounding, I knew porn was not harmless or right.

I was lucky, though. I didn’t start watching porn until I was a teenager. Now, children in elementary school have smart phones and are being exposed to this stuff and all kinds of other explicit and raunchy media. Sadly, a lot of parents simply don’t care enough to want to try to control this & keep the corruption of their children from occurring. I’m thankful my parents were at least vigilant, even if it wasn’t a perfect success. If I ever have children, I will follow their example and the example of my teacher and make sure, as much as I possibly can, that my children do not have access to the internet without my supervision. I don’t want them to suffer and pervert themselves the way I have.

#14 Comment By ginger On May 3, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

“I wish I exercised more and watched TV less. I have wished this for a long time. I keep not acting on that desire, though. I would argue that this does NOT mean I am addicted to TV. It means that the priorities I claim to have are not fully aligned with the priorities I seek in practice.

Some of these kids wish they could tell this guy they watched no porn when he asks. But they did watch porn. Because they like it. Not because their neural pathways force them too, or because withdrawal makes them so ill that they are finally forced to seek relief.

“They don’t need rehab. They need self control.”

+1000

This is what I mean by survival of the fittest. I suspect that those who can make wise decisions and exert self-control most of the time will continue to thrive and those who can’t, won’t. Nature has its own reward/punishment system built in, whether we like it or not.

With the exception of those who suffer from true addictions, most of us make conscious choices to eat that 3rd piece of pie, stay on the couch, or turn on the porn. Because in the moment, we want to do those things more than we want those rock-hard abs, better health, or healthier relationships and attitudes about sex.

How badly do we want it? For most of us, not badly enough to do what we have to in order to get there. Humans are not very good at delayed gratification. But those who can exert self-control usually do reap the rewards.

#15 Comment By The Wet One On May 3, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

[NFR: I’m sorry to hear this, and in 20 or so years, you will be too. — RD]

Why exactly?

#16 Comment By Hound of Ulster On May 3, 2017 @ 1:30 pm

I notice a pattern here of porn becoming a substitute for full-spectrum sexual/intimacy/relationship education…the failure of the parents and faith leaders is obvious.

And many right-wingers attack feminists precisely because feminism has had issues with porn since forever.

Porn is the ultimate product of capitalism. And proof that capitalism is the enemy of Christ.

[NFR: Erm, wow. — RD]

#17 Comment By Tx On May 3, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

Rod,

This porn problem will never go away as long as we as a culture continue to view our society as a mere collection of individuals each with our own “rights” whose primary role is to be consumers (consumers of whatever: gasoline, water, entertainment, spirituality, etc.).

The way our culture views it (and thus our legal view of it) is that porn-viewing is a consumerist choice (“You are free not to do it!”), along with the “freedom of expression” right that the porn industry always hauls out to justify itself.

This started hundreds of years ago with the de-sacramentalization of society, thanks to John Calvin, Zwingli, etc. The de-sacramentalization of society is responsible for all of this crap. When our lives are viewed sacramentally — we were created by our Creator to live in communion with Him, and everything in creation should be toward that goal — the mass legalization and distribution of porn makes no sense.

A sacramental view of life requires that physical matter be blessed and sanctified by God, but the gnostic protestants rejected this, turning Christian faith into an only-cerebral matter. Sadly, gnostic protestantism dominates American culture.

The Western experience of Christmas is a wonderful case in point. Christmas in the West has devolved into mass-hysteric-consumerism, with some religious overtones thrown in to make us feel better. The Christian who observes advent as a fasting period, who attends mass or liturgy regularly throughout Advent and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then maybe exchanges a few gifts during the celebratory post-Christmas/Epiphany/Theophany period, is decidedly countercultural nowadays.

Some in the West get thrown up in arms about more conservative cultures (I am thinking of traditional Catholic and Orthodox cultures here: Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece possibly, etc.) who restrict their children’s exposure to porn, or restrict flagrant displays of homosexuality (“gay pride marches”), and the West deems these as oppressive. Indeed, our state department policy over the past few years has been to actively export and promote sodomy and abortion to traditional Christian cultures!

But these traditional cultures are trying to preserve a sacramental way of life which is largely unknown in the West. We don’t understand it, it’s not our “enlightened American experience,” so it must be bad!

The porn epidemic is largely responsible for the modern Western crisis in masculinity. Western churches have been thoroughly feminized (yes, even the evangelical protestant churches).

Western culture is dead, and barring a miracle, it will not resurrect. The only way to resurrect it is to rediscover its traditional Christian roots, in pre-protestant Christianity, and to begin viewing life as a sacramental communion between man and God. Men and women need to have as their goals to be the men and women whom God designed them to be. Fortunately, since we are all created in His image, even the most outspoken porn advocate understands innately that porn is bad for the soul (regardless of what he claims on CNN). So there is some hope, dim as it may be.

Spend Saturday evening going to Vespers, contemplating God, not watching porn. Get help when you need it, and go to porn or sex addicts meetings. Flee gnostic Protestantism for sacramental Christianity. These are the first steps to recovery.

#18 Comment By Charles Cosimano On May 3, 2017 @ 1:49 pm

I’m with MH. Expecting intellectual rigor from a campus minister at a Christian college is probably like expecting the Sun to stand still in the heavens. It may happen, but if it did we would all go flying off into space from inertia.

I would think the wise response to his charges would be, “The problem is not that you are looking at porn. Obviously the vast bulk of folks who do are not bothered by it one little bit. The problem is that you are letting it bother you.”

Could it be that we are looking at this from the wrong end of the telescope and in fact the concern about porn to the point of obsession (Are any of those folks really addicted to anything or has he just persuaded them that they are?) is the symptom of profound mental illness on the part of the minister? It may be far safer for the young men to be watching porn than it is to be listening to him.

It really is coming across like some poor devil in the clutches of AA thinking that just because a person has a drink before dinner that person is an alcoholic. Such people are never to be taken seriously.

#19 Comment By Rob G On May 3, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

In addition to the Adam Alter book I mentioned above, Addiction by Design (Schull) is also well worth a look, even though it deals primarily with gambling.

The point is that the designers and producers of a lot of this stuff know that it can be addictive, and they design/produce it in such a way as to maximalize its habit-forming potential.

The concern about lack of agency is a valid one, but you have to remember that, to paraphrase Alter, on the other side of that magazine, game, device, etc., are hundreds of people whose business it is precisely to get you hooked on their product. They know the science and psychology too, and use it against your power of agency.

#20 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On May 3, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

Porn compulsion stems from intimacy issues that have arisen from/been generated by the cult of (hyper)individualism in our culture. When a society teaches people to focus on the self as the primary concern (often to the exclusion of other people/concerns), everything and everybody slowly, but inexorably, become mere tools for self-maintenance and desire fulfillment (with a concurrent disavowal of the daily sanctity/sacredness with which life should [dare I say “must”] be lived/experienced).

Also, I would go further than Annek and say that “[t]he free market and unfettered capitalism are a disaster”–full-stop. In order for the free market and capitalism to exist, every person is taught to cultivate (and then maintain) a status as “consumer” resulting in a set of desires/tastes/styles unique to them that in turn serves to define them. These desires must be satisfied on a regular/frequent basis or the sense of self will collapse, which is to be avoided at all costs. The only morality that is compatible with a free market and capitalism is one that stands in opposition to sacredness.

#21 Comment By kgasmart On May 3, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

Porn is the ultimate product of capitalism.

I agree with this, actually, though what throws a monkey wrench into the machine is the fact so few actually pay for porn, so the “capitalism” part breaks down.

Nonetheless – sure. Sure, the unfettered market has figured out a way to give everyone what they (think they) want. Visceral images that hit like a lightning bolt – at first, anyway, until you get so numbed to them they become a bit of a bore.

The desire for sex is hardwired and porn taps directly into that wire. The ultimate creation of the market, giving the people what they most want.

#22 Comment By kijunshi On May 3, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

With all due respect, Rod (and I do respect you) – this issue is your personal bugbear. As a member of the generation you’re worried about, I can announce that ubiquitous porn is with us, much like the air we breathe, and save the total collapse of capitalism along with society itself, will be here with us until the day we die. We could lament – but why bother? And honestly it is helpful to us, locked as we are into long, lonely years during our peak fertile periods, where we struggle to establish our careers before we can get married. Many of us, for various reasons, will never successfully manage to unite themselves with another human being. And when I think of those poor wretches, I find pornography to be the kindest balm, and a prop for our age (in the past many of them would have gone on rape raids or spread disease and unloved children among prostitutes – now they can mercifully and painlessly fade from humanity over time).

Also would like to say that those who do not manage this circumstance of modern life well are as distinguishable to their peers as an alcoholic stands out from a social drinker. The best, most realistic hope for the “issues” that come from intake of pornography are the creation of social norms that mock and shun the person without moderation, thereby creating a social environment where those with a problem are compelled to seek help (which could include your “complete avoidance!!” method, for those that need it). Perhaps ironically, I find the most promising social change on this front comes from feminism…

#23 Comment By Miles On May 3, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

Pretty obvious and natural consequence of decades-long shaming of male sexuality.
Nothing to see here, move along.

#24 Comment By VikingLS On May 3, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

“And many right-wingers attack feminists precisely because feminism has had issues with porn since forever.”

Do you always believe the things you write here?

#25 Comment By Michael Guarino On May 3, 2017 @ 6:41 pm

To be rigorous about the concept of pornography addiction requires the definition and measurement of problematic personal or social consequences. These might include: excessive time spent viewing pornography, social isolation, career loss, decreased productivity, or financial consequences.

My understanding is that porn use has been associated with male impotence (but I can’t remember where I read it unfortunately).

Also, it’s just an unfortunate fact that some of the things we ought to be concerned about relating to porn are qualitative, like a damaged view of intimacy or women, etc. Mathematical rigor is basically voodoo in that domain, and it is fine to admit that and recognize they are still meaningful questions.

#26 Comment By Michael Guarino On May 3, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Can we take a step back, though, to put this in historic context? Virtually every new graphics technology and new communication technology ever invented has been used for sexual titillation purposes, and in many cases such images have become a major economic factor in advancing the technology.

This is not to say that anything goes, or that it should. But it is not a new issue–just an old one on steroids. I see the problem not with porn per se, but with porn that is abusive, porn that encourages coercion and violence, porn that essentially teaches uncaring and commercial attitudes toward sex. That’s of a piece with a culture that encourages uncaring and commercial attitudes toward everything.

If you are going to play the “step back and get a historical perspective game”, you have a burden to provide decent analysis. What is entirely unprecedented about modern pornography (in video or image form) is that it is both instantaneously accessible and there currently is no way modern parents can limit the accessibility of pornography (short of going truly Amish). As long as a kid has access to the internet, he can access porn in under a minute. Simple as that.

This has never happened, even if cavemen learned to draw pictures of naked women.

A historical argument that this is not unprecedented is like saying the current opiate epidemic isn’t unprecedented because people have been farming poppy for millennia. It is a way to put your head in the sand while still appearing knowledgable.

Also, regarding the porn capitalism link, I would note that significant intervention into the drug market is widely accepted among most American “capitalists”. The issue with pornography is there are purely ideological hangups around labeling it as harmful, not that we are not politically willing to intervene against addictive consumption.

#27 Comment By kgasmart On May 3, 2017 @ 7:59 pm

Many of us, for various reasons, will never successfully manage to unite themselves with another human being.

Did you ever stop to consider, however, that porn may deepen this isolation, may actually drive a wedge between you and those you might otherwise unite with?

#28 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 3, 2017 @ 8:16 pm

@Michael Guarino, I never heard about pornography induced erectile dysfunction, but a Google search did turn up one study of 350 people who used pornography for hours a day. Apparently when they stopped they returned to baseline.

In terms of studying how pornography effects intimacy or views of women, that should be amendable to psychology study methods. A rigorous study would look for social problems associated with those attitudes, and then look for correlation with pornography usage.

#29 Comment By Philly guy On May 3, 2017 @ 8:50 pm

William Harrington- No, am not in the cell phone business. It’s not about education, but access and familiarity with information and technology.People without that access and long term familiarity with it will be at a disadvantage with those who do.Hope there are plenty of opportunities for agrarians, woodworkers etc in the future.

#30 Comment By Redeemed-Deplorable On May 3, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

Sorry, but I hear the sound of a crunchy snowflake.
There IS a problem about the stuff on the web which teens and younger can freely view. Without child-proofing the adult world, this is difficult to fix. I agree that we should try.

But much of the tone here is hysterical. Porn addicted seminary students? That’s like blaming Mexico for your drug problem. Don’t buy drugs, and Mexico won’t bother shipping them over. You want someone to hold your hand when you reach for your wallet, or, uhm, elsewhere? Sorry, the USA is the wrong place for you, try Iran.

Oddly (and sadly) I suspect the major effect of youth consuming much internet porn early will be much less sex later. A screen isn’t real life, and stuff that’s made to be sold to sexless frustrated people is (probably) promoting anti-sex, not romance or even a healthy sort of lust. That’s my opinion, I’ll leave the intensive research to others.

(Slightly O/T)
Sex isn’t a recent invention. It’s the only thing that all of our ancestors agreed on, and most of them had to get busy early because they didn’t live long past puberty, and half-starved people don’t conceive as readily as we (or your kids) can.

With far better nutrition, fewer childhood diseases and (maybe) endocrine disruptions floating around (probably far less than the hype about them) people mature earlier, and on the other side we’ve pushed up the age of adulthood from 13 in Old Testament times, perhaps 15 in the Middle Ages, to 18 or 21 now. Thus we’ve artificially created an extended semi-childhood which did not exist for 98% of human history. Nature doesn’t like being disrespected, and like the tide it flows around or digs under whatever obstacles we throw in its way. Creating a time of childhood in adult bodies (“teens”) may be necessary, but it’s not natural.

#31 Comment By Brendan from Oz On May 3, 2017 @ 11:17 pm

Comparing internet porn made of bits & bytes to drugs that have to be physically transported and injested etc? Not so much, IMHO.

Not many high tech jobs require smartphone use: we may be required to enable and restrict smartphone use for clients and operatives, but you do that on a computer not a smartphone.

Not many corporate applications live on phones: spreadsheets, databases, documents etc are all on desktops etc. Angry Birds amd most apps are coded on a computer for use on a smartphone.

Education regarding technology has little or nothing to do with smartpohones or IoT. That’s end-user/consumer fodder, not tech development.

On the other hand, a games machine to learn driving, flying, drone flying and tank driving actually does have real world employment applications.

PlayStation at school makes more sense than smartphones.

#32 Comment By Daniel McAdams On May 4, 2017 @ 12:52 am

Dan you misunderstand libertarianism. Yes, there are many libertines and they grab the headlines. But many, many more of us reject the state because we understand that it is the state which is hand in hand with those who would undermine our traditional Christian values. I am surprised that you of all people make the mistake of not understanding that. Read more Mises Institute and less Reason. More Ron Paul and less Jamie Kirchick.

#33 Comment By Daniel McAdams On May 4, 2017 @ 1:14 am

Typo – sub “Rod” for “Dan”

#34 Comment By Rob G On May 4, 2017 @ 7:47 am

“And many right-wingers attack feminists precisely because feminism has had issues with porn since forever.”

On the contrary, the conservative “attacks” on feminism w/r/t porn have to do with feminism’s studied ambivalence on the issue when in reality there should be none. In my experience the right has largely welcomed anti-porn feminists as co-belligerents.

“The issue with pornography is there are purely ideological hangups around labeling it as harmful, not that we are not politically willing to intervene against addictive consumption.”

Yep.

#35 Comment By George Crosley On May 4, 2017 @ 8:53 am

The gist of so many contra-posts here is this: “Why, Mr. Dreher, what a prude you are! Porn is harmless, it’s a useful safety valve, and it has no effect at all upon the way men view women, nor upon the health of their future marriages. And as soon as the vile free-market economy is done away with, porn will magically disappear. The alternative to capitalism–hopefully socialism (a roaring success everywhere in the world) will transform men into creatures without such longings.”

#36 Comment By russ On May 4, 2017 @ 10:03 am

@Philly guy, are you at least employed in a technical field? Have you seen this play out in real life or something? You’re not really supporting your assertion here. I (for background, a tech writer for a software company, and a notorious late-to-the-game consumer when it comes to my personal electronics usage) had about half a message written in response to your first post about kids without smartphones being tech disadvantaged, but deleted it because I figured you’d get plenty of pushback without my input. You did get that pushback, and you just reasserted your position without supporting it at all. You have yet to construct a scenario in which this might actually make sense. Will you give it a shot, at least?

#37 Comment By Brendan On May 4, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

Clearly parents should make every effort to delay the onset of porn use (I doubt it can be completely eliminated for the longer term, but if it starts later its effects can be somewhat less).

I don’t think, however, that you can separate porn from the sexual revolution in that personally defined sexual gratification — whether mutually shared or self-procured — is now at the very core importance of human existence as defined in our culture. Perhaps nothing is more central in our culture. In that context, I don’t think you can or will see any meaningful restriction on porn, at least not for adults — it goes well against the centrality of personally-defined sexual gratification that is now at the core of our culture.

I wouldn’t be so worried about sex robots, as another commenter above seems to be. They will always be used by only very extreme outliers. I would be much more concerned about virtual reality porn, which will be much more mainstream (I’d wager about as mainstream in use as conventional porn is today), and therefore much more impactful in a broad way. It’s the next step, I think. The last big one was the introduction of broadband internet and then smart devices that made consumption of HD streaming video feel private (it isn’t really private, but it can feel private to the user). That’s what makes contemporary internet porn very different from the sneaked Playboy under the mattress — the difference in degree became so extreme (so much access, so apparently private, endless variety, lots of extreme stuff etc) as to become a difference in kind. VR porn will be the next increment in this, by making the experiences more interactive and real and therefore more compelling (and problematic and/or addictive, take your pick). And it won’t require you to purchase some creepy $15k sex robot, either.

The other thing that has been changing about porn is, as you write, more young women are getting ensnared by it. Like every other marketed product, it makes sense for it to be well marketed to the entire population, not just primarily the male part. So more porn is being produced for women, in ways that interest women more — Deen has been a part of that (ironically, given the accusations against him) — and which suck them into visual porn in ways that even 10 years ago would have been surprising to many. Expect that trend to also continue — again, it “makes sense”, given that you’re talking about marketing to the rest of the population, making it a “growth market” in porn for women. I think in particular after 50 Shades, lots of eyes were opened about the possibilities, and those possibilities are now being commercialized as well. It’s likely never going to be the same issue with young women as with young men, but it’s also likely to become more of a problem among young women than anyone ever thought it could possibly be.

I think this is just another aspect of the experiment we’ve embarked on with the entire sexual revolution. This part of the experiment is “how can we maintain healthy family lives for most people when most people are exposed to more hardcore pornography than at any time in human history”. An open-ended experiment and one of many that are taking place right now.

#38 Comment By KD On May 4, 2017 @ 12:50 pm

I think porn is analogous to junk food. No nutritional value, and substitutes for something wholesome and nourishing.

But porn is not analogous to junk food. Finding and nurturing a decent relationship is MUCH requires time and emotional investment, and it gets harder and harder each day, as people are increasingly more interested in ME than THOU.

BTW, porn is very much like heroin and refined sugar. It utilizes instincts which are very primitive, and pro-survival, but refines them into something unnatural, and then manipulates the outcome into something anti-survival.

It is funny the way we are incredibly punitive with respect to drugs, which operate similarly to porn, and we are somewhat punitive, with fat taxes and regulations, with respect unhealthy foods, but lackadaisical with respect to porn.

I’m not sure where I would draw the line, and I’m not sure you would agree with me, but no one even seems interested in drawing a line somewhere, or even acknowledges the need for a line.

#39 Comment By Hound of Ulster On May 4, 2017 @ 1:19 pm

@VikingLS

Take a look at the discourse among MRA types in the ‘Manosphere’ to see my point. There is now considerable cross-pollination between MRAs and the Alt-Right. They both despise women who say no.

#40 Comment By Brendan from Oz On May 4, 2017 @ 7:59 pm

“Take a look at the discourse among MRA types in the ‘Manosphere’ to see my point. There is now considerable cross-pollination between MRAs and the Alt-Right. They both despise women who say no.”

Do watch The Red Pill, about a feminist who investigates MRA and is disturbed by how wrong her assumption were.

Not all MRA folk fit the caricature. They discuss depression, suicide, loss of children etc whilst being condemned and heckled by SJWs as woman-haters.

#41 Comment By Lllurker On May 4, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

The porn issue needs to be defined as a parenting matter. Our legal framework makes it impossible to do much of anything regarding adults — anything that is public policy oriented — but regarding kids it’s entirely different. It has always been illegal to let 15 year-old boys hang out in strip clubs, and it needs to also be illegal to make porn available to 15 year-old boys.

This should be promoted as something that is needed to facilitate good parenting. The parent should be the one who decides how and when their child learns about sex, and when and if their child gets exposed to this online stuff.

Technology always advances faster than the legal framework that is needed to keep it from running off the rails. It’s just how democracy works, and right now we are living through the lag period for online porn. It does seem to me that in the short-term Apple might be pretty vulnerable to a concerted parental/religious campaign to get the ball rolling. Internet porn is a worldwide issue so it shouldn’t be too hard to get parents from other countries and religions on board.

Incidentally I do suspect that having porn available 24/7 is hard on a lot of marriages, and it probably becomes the proverbial last straw in some.

Someone above mentioned the idea of keeping just one computer in the house to give parents more control. We did this with our son and it worked out pretty well. We always just kept it right out in the middle of everything. Smartphones were just becoming ubiquitous when our son was in high school, and we managed to be one of the last families to get them. (This saved us a lot of money in addition to helping with the parenting.) I don’t know if this is still realistic in today’s climate, but a parent can always work at delaying things like this. Eventually you’ll hear your kid say things like: “my dad’s a Neanderthal so we’re always behind on everything,” and at that point it gets easier because he/she will expect boundaries that are a little more restrictive.

#42 Comment By VikingLS On May 4, 2017 @ 9:45 pm

“Take a look at the discourse among MRA types in the ‘Manosphere’ to see my point. There is now considerable cross-pollination between MRAs and the Alt-Right. They both despise women who say no.”

Okay, and you can find 3rd wave feminists who think porn empowers women. You don’t see conservatives here saying the reason feminists don’t like the right is because they oppose porn.

Now, again, be honest, you claimed that the reason the right doesn’t like feminists is because they oppose porn. Of all the reasons for the right not to like feminists, that’s what you HONESTLY believe?

Don’t dodge, don’t throw out red herrings, is this honestly something you believe to be true? Yes or no?

#43 Comment By Brendan from Oz On May 4, 2017 @ 9:56 pm

Once the refrigerator (yes, they can stream pornhub), toys and everything else that can be chipped, has a screen and connected and is the only choice available – too late.

The Dark Web and other such things don’t exist in a geographical location subject to national or international law or democracy, let alone parental control.

The genie isn’t going back in the bottle. And we’re giving it lots more screens and connections – most very hackable and insecure by design or cost-cutting – daily.

Control of all this is illusory, and whilst porn may be threatening, hackable porn is another level of nightmare.

And the spooks want you to watch it, so they have something over you if/when your time comes to vist the Ministry of Love.

#44 Comment By VikingLS On May 4, 2017 @ 10:02 pm

“On the contrary, the conservative “attacks” on feminism w/r/t porn have to do with feminism’s studied ambivalence on the issue when in reality there should be none. In my experience the right has largely welcomed anti-porn feminists as co-belligerents.”

Well maybe Hound of Ulster is playing that game you can play with the word “many”. Sure only 5% of conservatives might feel that way, but five is more than a few, so we can say “many”.

Honestly, this is one of those times when I really wish we could see each other. If Hound of Ulster is a teenager, well I said dumb things like that when I was a kid too, and even mostly believed them.

On the other hand if this is from someone out of their college years, I’d suspect either fanaticism or dishonesty.

#45 Comment By Philly guy On May 5, 2017 @ 12:34 am

Russ- Have a degree in Environmental Engineering and worked in the field for 25 years.The concept of denying twelve year olds access to technology or information is alien to me.

#46 Comment By Hound of Ulster On May 5, 2017 @ 3:31 pm

I love when people insult me online…so much fun ?

Yes, it is true that you do see some defense of porn among third-wave feminists, but that is a minority viewpoint. The issue is consent, and many PUAs and allied MRAs reject the concept of consent, and make up fake statistics about false rape reporting by women to justify their contempt for women. For every MRA who is concerned about suicide and child custody claims, you 2 or 3 who are part of this movement because they feel entitled to sex from women for reasons. Conversely, for every feminist who is cool with porn, you have 2 or 3 who are not cool with the cultural impact of it.

#47 Comment By VikingLS On May 5, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

@Hound of Ulster

So now you’re telling us that we can discount 3rd wave sex positive feminists because they are a tiny minority of feminists. However, MRAs, who are such a small minority of conservatives, and aren’t even necessarily conservative, represent the right?

Remember you initial charge had nothing at all to do with feeling entitled to sex, but was about capitalism.

Now once again, do you ACTUALLY believe the reason the right doesn’t like feminism is feminist opposition to porn? Or were you playing a word game where you picked out a tiny minority of a the right and used the word “many” to slander the majority that disagree with them.

“I love when people insult me online…so much fun ?”

Who insulted you? To suggest that conservatives are pro-porn as a group requires you to either be young enough to be ignorant of recent history, willing to play dishonest word games, or too fanatical to care about facts. I don’t know which it is with you. That’s not an insult, that’s me being honest.

#48 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On May 5, 2017 @ 6:53 pm

The issue is consent, and many PUAs and allied MRAs reject the concept of consent, and make up fake statistics about false rape reporting by women to justify their contempt for women

It’s interesting you have such high regard for consent now. A couple months ago you were all-but-defending the Pakistanis in northern England who sexually assault children at eleven to twelve times the rate of white English people, by essentially saying ‘you can hardly blame them, the poor things get side-eye from white people and aren’t accepted as truly English.’

Maybe you’ve backed off that position, and if so I’d be glad to hear it, but your excuses for those savages in northern England bordered on exactly the kind of rape apologism that you rightly criticize some of the ‘manosphere’ types for.

I don’t know what figures the MRA’s provide for the rate of false rape accusations. I do know that the estimates you often see from liberals are too low by an order of magnitude, and rely on some extremely unethical statistical legerdeman. As estimated by police departments and by the most rigorous studies, the rate of false rape accusations is probably closer to 30% than 2% (which does mean that any given rape accusation is still probably true, by more than a 2 to 1 margin).

The research community defines false accusations as those that can be proven false beyond a reasonable doubt, and all others as true. Yet many – maybe most – false accusations are not provably false and so will not be included.

So there’s reason to believe some of those 2-10% of presumed false accusations are actually true, and other reasons to believe that some of the 98% – 92% of presumed true accusations are actually false.

What is an upper bound on the number of false rape accusations? Researchers tend to find that police estimate 20%-40% of the rape accusations they get to be “unfounded”, (for example Philadelphia Police 1968, Chambers and Millar 1983, Grace et al 1992, Jordan 2004, Gregory and Lees 1996, etc, etc). Many scholars critique the police’s judgment, suggesting many police officers automatically dismiss anyone who doesn’t fit their profile of a “typical rape victim”. A police-based study that took pains to avoid this failure mode by investigating all cases very aggressively (Kanin 1994) was criticized for what I think are ideological reasons – they primarily seemed to amount to the worry that the aggressive investigations stigmatized rape victims, which would make them so flustered that they would falsely recant. Certainly possible. On the other hand, if you dismiss studies for not investigating thoroughly enough and for investigating thoroughly, there will never be any study you can’t dismiss. So while not necessarily endorsing Kanin and the similar studies in this range, I think they make a useful “not provably true” upper bound to contrast with the “near-provably false” lower bound of 2%-10%.

[4]

In any case, do you have any statistical evidence for your claims about how many feminists vs. conservatives like porn?

#49 Comment By VikingLS On May 5, 2017 @ 11:22 pm

@Hector

Have you ever even met an MRA in real life? I haven’t.

I strongly suspect we are dealing with a kid here.

#50 Comment By B On May 6, 2017 @ 11:40 am

I’m largely in agreement with this, even though I’m not religious. When I was growing up, there was still something of a wall between pornography and children: I remember buying the Playboy issue with Madonna’s nudes when I was 18 at a mob-owned newsstand, and I STILL felt nervous. Now, I’ve looked at porno download sites, and there are ads that are CLEARLY aimed at teenage boys:”Would you do your friend’s mom?” That’s not aimed at a 40 year old. If Trump addressed this, the left would call him a hypocrite (and they’d have a point), but it’s the least he could do.