Just when I thought progressive morality could no longer astonish, along comes Time magazine to prove me wrong. Last week it ran a lengthy cover story about the unprecedented saturation of pornography in American culture, using all the statistics that the most concerned preachers would cite to bemoan . . . “the threat to virility.”
That’s right: The biggest problem with porn is that it ruins America’s chance at great sex. It turns out that some men report having trouble performing in the bedroom after living porn-saturated lives as teenagers, and some women report feeling pressure to act like porn stars during their most intimate moments. In other words, some men’s minds are so damaged that they have to experience either porn or a porn-like encounter to be sexually satisfied.
But while the progressive ideas are darkly comic, the reality of lost intimacy is tragic. I can’t count the number of friends and neighbors whose marriages have been impacted by porn — from wives feeling betrayed when they discover it on their husband’s computer, to husbands who find themselves no longer attracted to their wives. I’ve seen porn cause divorce, and I’ve seen it cause years of heartache as couples struggle to rebuild frayed sexual and emotional bonds.
Step-by-step, pornography decays moral character, and when character decays, so does culture.
Lost intimacy, however, is but one piece of the puzzle. Step-by-step, pornography decays moral character, and when character decays, so does culture. Porn use compels a young teen to engage in systematic, comprehensive lying and deception. Rare is the family that hands a kid a smartphone and says, “Son, if you’re going to watch porn, I recommend Pornhub.” No, the kid sneaks. He finds the loopholes in blocking software, he learns how to cover his tracks by erasing web histories, and he vows that while his friends watch porn, he never would. Trust me, Mom and Dad. You raised me right.
Instant gratification is porn’s mission and purpose. The concept of restraint is completely alien to the porn culture, and the very moment that the gratification is less than instant, there’s always a new form of porn out there, ready to give the user his next high. The entertainment always has to escalate.
Thus, sex is rendered purely transactional, completely separated from the God-ordained purpose not just of reproduction but of cementing a lifelong bond between a man and a woman. There’s even an acronym for the porn “process” – PMO, short for porn, masturbation, orgasm.
People want to trust each other. They want the benefits that come from restraint and self-control. They want true intimacy more than momentary pleasure. But living those virtues isn’t a matter of flipping a switch. Rare is the person who lives the libertine life but suddenly becomes responsible the very moment they “fall in love.” The virtuous life requires devotion, moral instruction, real work, and real accountability. Yet our nation builds morality around consent, not character, and it is strangely puzzled when the result is an ocean of heartache.
There’s a reason why so many romantic comedies end mere minutes after the promiscuous jerk vows to change his ways and runs through the rain to carry his “true love” to the world of happily-ever-after. Keep the camera running for six months, and you’ll find that same guy alone in a dark room watching celebrity sex tapes on his iPad before flipping through his Tinder options.
Porn makes men pathetic. Its true toll isn’t the loss of “virility,” but the corrosion of values that sustain family life. A generation of young men are now experiencing the high cost of low character. PMO isn’t worth the price.
— David French is an attorney, and a staff writer at National Review.