The fad of hating porn - English

The Porn Myth

By Jesse Van Mouwerik23.12.2014Culture and Society

Porn, like any vice, can matter as much or as little as you want it to. Imposing a ban on it is the wrong solution to a much wider problem.

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Kay Fochtmann / photocase.com

Just about anyone with a computer is only seconds away at any given moment from being able to see thousands of different people whom they don’t know having sex with each other in endless positions, numbers, and arrangements. You can see everything from a heterosexual couple lovingly cuddle each other to Japanese women being ravaged by alien tentacles. Pornography, something as old as mankind itself, is more accessible now than ever before, and some are handling that reality far better than others.

It is true that reported cases of sex addiction have spiked since the onslaught of free Internet pornography. Many do have compulsive issues with watching too much porn that can be damaging to their professional and personal lives. In addition to sex addiction, more people are also concerned that too much pornography reinforces sexism as well as emotional detachment.

An outlet for violent and misogynist behavior

In recent years, there have also been some stunningly good films that focus on this issue. Everything from Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “Don Jon” to Steve McQueen’s “Shame” make an effort to examine the damaging effects that both pornography and indeed all of hook-up culture can have on an individual. Although one film is a comedy and the other a brutal tale of mental illness and abuse, both films have male protagonists who are using sex as a distraction from other personal issues, trying to fill the void left by little to no personal intimacy purely with random sex and masturbation. The men, as you can imagine, have fairly mixed success with this approach.

An even more recent film, Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomanic”, which so violently pursues shock value that it makes Don Jon look G-rated, goes as far as to suggest that the inherent animalistic drives that dictate all sex are somehow fundamentally destructive in their truest form (other brash allusions in Lars von Trier films include the ideas that nature is Satan’s church and that there is a degree of wickedness partially driving all human choices). Some have called the film repulsive, but in von Trier’s defense, his use of a female protagonist and something of a Freudian approach to understanding sex does merit some serious intellectual questioning about what role individual experiences, particularly suffering, can play in shaping the intimate lives of us all.

Some very specific criticism from politicians and everyday people alike has been that the exaggerated scenarios in many pornographic films cause men to be more sexually aggressive than they otherwise would be, as well as cause them to have a more misogynist worldview. Women, too, are said to take on overly submissive roles. It’s also argued that both men’s and women’s real sex lives suffer from the expectation of instant gratification that amped-up online porn promotes.

On the counter end, one could also argue that if these feelings already exist in an individual, for whatever reason, the option of experiencing them through pornography is safe and acceptable, even preventing people from expressing some of their more violent or misogynist feelings with a real partner because they have the outlet of pornography for those feelings. There are certainly individual cases where either point can be true, but it’s impossible to proclaim that either situation is more or less true for everyone.

No right or wrong

These two perspectives have been argued when attacking or defending all kinds of institutions and acts, including playing violent video games, listening to gangster rap, playing contact sports, drinking alcohol, and even just the simple act of having sex. One person’s release therapy is another person’s corrupting force. Overall, however, the truth about sex is that it’s very personalized for most people. Assuming no one is being harmed and all parties involved give consent, there is no right or wrong way to engage in sexual intimacy. Sex, regardless of its level of intensity or mundanity, can only be condoned or rejected by the adults who are involved. Any attempt by any individual or institution to say what type of sex is right or wrong within those parameters has no place doing so.

Still, the fad of hating porn continues. In the United States, it’s not uncommon now to hear people proudly announce that they have given up watching porn as if it were heroin. In Iceland, the government is actually taking measures to make all online pornography illegal one day. Still, most parts of the world where we see the least institutionalized sexism are places where pornography is rampant. Most typically, people who are not violent or deeply sexist are influenced by factors like engaged parents or access to education, not a lack of access to pornography. If anything, we see more sexism and violence in countries with higher Internet censorship.

The entire narrative of protecting young people from being corrupted is also fairly archaic. Corruption is coming no matter what. But individuals must have the chance to make their own choices about how they will respond to it. Porn, like any vice, can matter as much or as little as you want it to.

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