Short Take: Demon Porn

Maybe it’s not entirely about porn, but Ross Douthat says it doesn’t help.

For anyone who grew up with the ideals of post-sexual revolution liberalism, there is a striking pathos to these educators’ efforts. The sex education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all.

All that sexual enlightenment gone to pot. Why? Porn.

Compared to those idealists, the people teaching “porn literacy” have accepted a sweeping pedagogical defeat. They take for granted that the most important sex education may take place on Pornhub, that the purpose of their work is essentially remedial, and that there is no escape from the world that porn has made.

Implicit in this call to arms is that porn has been co-opted by academics, and apparently pundits as well, to serves an educational purpose. That alone could take the sizzle out of porn.

As a young boy, the closest I came to porn was the women’s girdles section of the Sears catalogue, and (hoo boy) the occasional Playboy magazine carelessly discarded. The Victoria’s Secret catalogue today would have made our hair stand on end. Times change.

[W]e are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut.

Smut makes it sound dirty, rather than educational. And that’s Douthat’s problem.

Trump’s grotesqueries have stirred up a feminist reaction that’s more moralistic and less gamely sex-positive than the Clinton-justifying variety, and there’s no necessary reason why its moralistic gaze can’t extend to our porn addiction. And indeed, I think the part of the #MeToo movement that’s interested in discussing sexual unhappiness and not just sexual harassment clearly wants to talk about pornography, even if it doesn’t quite realize that yet.

Didn’t we get past the notion that porn makes men all rapey? Maybe, but it also fails to teach men to be the kind of man women say they want them to be.

[Y]ou see a kind of female revulsion, not against Harvey Weinstein-style apex predators, but against the very different sort of male personality that a pornographic education seems to produce: a breed at once entitled and resentful, angry and undermotivated, “woke” and caddish, shaped by unprecedented possibilities for sexual gratification and frustrated that real women are less available and more complicated than the version on their screen.

While Douthat acknowledges that porn, as it currently exists on the internet, remains protected under the First Amendment, that doesn’t mean the living Constitution can’t change to accommodate the moment.

The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere.

Where there’s a will, there’s censorship for the purpose of making good men.

So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.

Would the eradication of porn produce “better men”? Is the absence of abstinence merely a matter of feminine shyness to speak out against porn? Are young men being schooled on porn, taught to be entitled and resentful? Will young boys wait at the mailbox for the postperson to deliver the new Monkey Wards catalogue to get their jollies?

And of course…

24 thoughts on “Short Take: Demon Porn

  1. DaveL

    Douthat jumps on the same reality-denying bandwagon regarding #MeToo as the radical feminists – this idea that all this misconduct coming to light by men in positions of power, particularly in show business and media, is a result of the way we’ve raised and socialized little boys. This idea is insane. No man or boy that I know was raised to think it was okay to rape, or to expose yourself to your co-workers, or to masturbate into a potted plant in a restaurant. They didn’t get that message from porn, they didn’t get it from parents, they didn’t get it anywhere in mainstream culture, though I can understand the reticence of those involved in the media and show business to look anywhere closer to home.

  2. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    There are too many assumptions in Douhat’s writing for a response. Who cares what porn “seems” to produce. What does it actually do? Can I really blame my inadequacies on porn or not? That’s the real question millennials should be asking.

    The NYT article, “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn,” which apparently scared Douhat admits that there is insufficient data on the link between porn viewing habits and behavior. You can guess all you want with Douhat, but everyone is swinging at a piñata that isn’t there yet. Correlation is only scary to the superstitious.

    There’s depraved shit out there. Kids need to be prepared for it. I wonder whose responsibility it is to prepare them or keep them from it until they are ready? Hm. Pa?

    Best,
    PK

  3. Skink

    We should all be glad we aren’t 16 or 17 years-old. No sex with each other. No sex with teacher. No sex with pets. No sex with mannequins. Now they want to take away the catalyst for self-sex. What’s a kid gonna do to get laid?

  4. Dan T.

    The “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” article Douthat links to is a real piece of work, obscuring the distinction between giving a critical review of a book and sending the cops to ban and burn it, and claiming that the sort of porn that’s particularly dangerous and worthy of banning is not the sleazy stuff sold in back streets, but that which is labeled by the intellectuals as literature; this reverses the Supreme Court doctrine that redeeming literary value saves obscenity from conviction. Does that writer, and Douthat, really want to have a government bureau of literary criticism with the power to put people in jail for disagreeing?

    1. Patrick Maupin

      His middle name is “Don’t you dare!” and, to shg’s point, he appears to be the sort of person who would have no reason for existence in a perfect world.

  5. James L. Smith

    I kinda suspected the metooers would resurrect the vitriolic ravings of McKinnon and Dworkin. And just when an old man like me was enjoying safe porn without the viruses.

    Porn is universal and has been around since time immemorial. Sam Clemens wrote implicit approvals of porn in _Letters from the Earth._ Boys got much of their sex education from reading the Song of Solomon. What are the radfems gonna do, dynamite the beautiful technicolor pornography on the walls of Pompeii’s brothels?

  6. Christopher Best

    I wonder if Mr. Douthat is familiar with Ms. Carry Nation. I wonder if he will also take up a hatchet and march into establishments that deal in the object of his ire and smash them up. Seriously, this all reads like a pamphlet spewing fire and brimstone from the turn of last century over how the ‘demon drink’ corrupts a man’s soul and turns him into a monster that abuses his wife.

    He even argues that the industry being forced into the shadows will somehow be *better*. Better for whom? Mr. Capone could tell you.

    None of this is even ancient history! There are people with living memory of our experiments in legislating morality!

      1. Christopher Best

        Yeah, choked on my coffee when I re-read the title an hour later. Mea culpa. The only reason I can guess SHG didn’t trash my comment is as a monument to my idiocy.

  7. Scarlet Pimpernel

    “[Y]ou see a kind of female revulsion, not against Harvey Weinstein-style apex predators, but against the very different sort of male personality that a pornographic education seems to produce”

    What I see is someone who has very little experience with women and sex who is engaging in an insidious form of slut shaming. Anytime anyone tries to make broad moral generalizations about sex, or define what women consider to be acceptable sex without at least some acknowledgement of the many weird and freaky ways women like to f&%#, is implicitly making a value statement about women who do enjoy those things. What would be bad sex to one woman is good sex to another and something that revolts one woman may be the thing that leaves another climbing the wall. And yes that even includes “porn sex” and no it can not be blamed on the internet. Even back in the 80s, when I came of age sexually, there were women who were into things that would make the average porn star blush.

      1. Sacho

        Women are the real nemesis of feminism. If only they would shut up and listen to feminists, we would be rid of the patriarchy in an instant.

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