Secular Liberal Pounces on Effects of Pornography

By Richard Nelson

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January 30, 2014

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Part of the mission of the Commonwealth Policy Center is to advance a culture than honors all that God has given to us—to honor what is true, good, and beautiful. So, at times, it's necessary pause from the routine and focus on items that help address and discern the culture we're in and ways to forge a better culture. In this post, we won't be highlighting the latest policy debate or news item, but an article written by a secular liberal named Naomi Wolf. One would think that a secular, liberal, and feminist writer would be indifferent, even celebratory about the supposedly freeing affects of pornography. Not true. In a liberal outlet like New York Magazine, Wolf discusses the effects of pornography on men.

At a benefit the other night, I saw Andrea Dworkin, the anti-porn activist most famous in the eighties for her conviction that opening the floodgates of pornography would lead men to see real women in sexually debased ways. If we did not limit pornography, she argued—before Internet technology made that prospect a technical impossibility—most men would come to objectify women as they objectified porn stars, and treat them accordingly. In a kind of domino theory, she predicted, rape and other kinds of sexual mayhem would surely follow.

The feminist warrior looked gentle and almost frail. The world she had, Cassandra-like, warned us about so passionately was truly here: Porn is, as David Amsden says, the “wallpaper” of our lives now. So was she right or wrong?

She was right about the warning, wrong about the outcome. As she foretold, pornography did breach the dike that separated a marginal, adult, private pursuit from the mainstream public arena. The whole world, post-Internet, did become pornographized. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training—and this is having a huge effect on how they interact.

But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?

The article is mildly lengthy, but it's an article that deserves wide attention and readership.

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center