The Corner

Pornography: Some E-mails

First, skepticism:

Blaming pornography for the anonymous woman’s husband leaving her is sort of like blaming public bathrooms for Larry Craig cheating on his wife.  It’s an outlet for the disconnect between his public life and who he is deep down inside.  It’s just as likely his withdrawal into viewing porn in the basement was a result of marriage problems, not the cause. 

From a woman who has experienced the harm pornography does but who doesn’t think it’s an addiction:

I read the Anonymous piece with interest, and found much to sympathize with as my ex-husband could have easily been the male figure in her piece. However, I am not quite buying the “porn addiction” line.  Speaking from experience, my ex-husband’s problems stemmed more from a lack of maturity, an unwillingness to shoulder adult burdens and a shirking of responsibility, both for himself and the people in his life.  Does looking at porn all day eventually desensitize a man, disconnect him from reality and make him yearn for a fantasy life, etc.?  I do not disagree.  But before it rises to the level of “addiction” it starts out as poor impulse control, most of which, I believe, hearkens back to my original premise, which is just that people don’t want to grow up and be responsible for themselves, let alone the for the commitments they have made to anyone else.  They’d rather do what feels good.

Labeling something an “addiction” has become a convenient way to legitimize a whole range of unacceptable behavior from drug use to Tiger Woods/Jesse James level philandering to computer use to obesity (have you heard the latest stories on the studies done on “food addiction” that are making news this week?). All of these people who have committed these deplorable, hurtful and harmful acts against themselves, and the people who care about them, aren’t so bad now because, as everyone knows, addiction is a disease, therefore none of it is their fault.

There’s the we-men-are-men-so-deal-with-it argument:

Dear Ms. Lopez, or K-Lo,

 

I’ve enjoyed porn for about 3 decades now, to various extents. Now in middle age and with computers, I see more porn now than I ever have. Even the Fox News home page has softporn and titillation at the bottom of the page. Porn is EVERYWHERE.

 

A couple thoughts:

 

I think porn fulfills the role Prostitution did. Porn is more time consuming but cost-free. It’s safer for everyone, and for those sensitive to such things, less degrading for all concerned. I think you could correlate the rise of porn with the demise of prostitution.

 

Also, masculinity is severely constrained and diminished in the modern world. We don’t compete, don’t fight, don’t hunt, our sports are corrupted by money and odd socioeconomic factors that increase the psychic distance between fan and participant, you can’t have a beer with the boys after work anymore. There are women everywhere, each one a potential problem; there is NO male world, and very little male life left. Even commenting privately to another guy about a woman’s appearance is risky, as half the men are self-appointed Protectors of Approved Social Norms. Women don’t really need us anymore and the partnership doesn’t seem as equal as it used to; every guy is 1 lawyer away from losing half of what he has and most of what he’ll have in the future. Infidelity? Most men can’t afford it.

 

On the flip side of all this is a barbaric ghetto culture that most men want no part of and likely doesn’t exist outside of hip hop and the NBA.

 

So some of us enjoy porn. Like anything, you can take it too far or let it affect your day-to-day life. You can’t let it affect your perception of real-life women, but women seem to be able to separate People magazine from real-life men. I think porn is relatively harmless unless taken to extreme, is a relief valve of sexual tension and sometimes adds to my marriage of 21 years. What’s better than watching porn with your spouse?  In a perfect world, men wouldn’t have high-voltage libidos. Sorry about that.

Women make the difference, and they can be distant, one man explains:

I have a good marriage, but not without a lot of work. Not to mitigate the man’s side, the woman’s side has a lot to answer for. Somewhere in the Victorian myth that still percolates through the woman’s soul is the teaching that the woman doesn’t need to have sex after a short time in marriage. That sex is still somehow something to be hidden away. You shouldn’t have sex that the children might hear.  You should only be having sex once a week, perhaps after date night, if you aren’t too tired.

Men thrive on passion.  Love is wonderful, friendship is necessary, but passion is glue which keeps the man thinking of the woman even when his world is turned over.  When he is emotionally hurt, unstable, and is attracted to someone of the opposite (or possibly same) sex, he should have the memory of his wife’s arms strong in his mind.  His passion and desire for her should fill him, letting him pass through the difficult times and remain focused on his true life.  Without passion, the hard times just get too hard for “love” to be binding.  The husband becomes withdrawn and seeks excitement and passion elsewhere.  This can lead to addictive or risky behaviors.  Sometimes the pornography is simply a means to stave off the real problem for a night or a year.  Pornography doesn’t involve attachment to “real” women, and thus allows a more objectified sexual experience.  Can it ruin your love life?  Yes.  But competing with pornography is easy, the actors aren’t there and she is.  All it requires is the wife to act with true desire, and pornography is shown to be a poor substitute.

Unfortunately, discussing passion and desire is hard for men and rare for women.  While women have a rich emotional language, it tends to stop short of the passions experienced by men.  Men have no viable emotional language, and are reduced to being stoic about their needs.  Another Victorian concept, men should just “suck it up and get over it.”  But a passionless life is a terrible life. 

When people talk about pornography, it often seems like they are talking about cigarettes.  “Well, it isn’t like you need them.”  Pornography fills a need left by women who have sexually distanced themselves from their husbands.  Not to mention the understandable needs of unmarried men who just need sexual release and do not wish to be involved with loose women or risky situations. Pornography fills real needs. Keeping it out of marriage involves a real commitment by the wife to explore and fulfill her husband’s needs.  Treating it any other way will simply alienate men, forcing them to be yet more stoic while telling them what they want is wrong.

What about women?

K-Lo,

Will Pamela Paul, Mary Eberstadt, Laura Ingraham, and Mona Charen be as quick to condemn the kind of pornography that women enjoy, like romance novels, Cosmopolitan and Redbook?  How different, really, are bodice rippers from porn? Romance novels exist for the purpose of titillation, just like the porn that men prefer. And just like male oriented porn, female consumed porn fosters unreasonable expectations. Guys wish their women were like Jenna Jameson and women wish their men were like Fabio. What’s the diff?

There’s the disillusioned young man:

As a twenty-year-old male college student, I am familiar with, first, the very high use of internet pornography within my demographic (even on fairly conservative campuses), and, second, porn’s powerful effects after even light exposure.

I have to conclude that, by 2020, Anonymous’s story will become the story of most couples. I hope that I am wrong. Right now, I can’t imagine how I could be.

There’s the man whose life has changed post-pornography (and ditto his wife’s):

Since I gave up porn my sex life with my wife has improved greatly.  She’s pregnant with our third child and had confessed that she felt sort of dead from an interest standpoint.  She said this in tears, and she did not understand why this was happening.  As we’ve been married a while, things haven’t been what they once were for either of us, and I had done what I had done ever since the internet came out.  Please note her lack of interest did not cause me to do this, I had been doing it ever since I was a teenager with magazines.

Anyway, lately I was convicted to stop, and I did (interestingly it was a result of studying Dante’s Divine Comedy that inspired me to stop).  To make a long story short, I found myself working harder to woo my wife, and the result is we’ve been together more, and the times have been better, than quite some time.  Nothing really changed with her, but my own actions have initiated this change. I think she feels more loved, and that is what has translated into more physical loving.

I wonder why I was never told this before.  I’ve read a great deal about the harms of porn, but little about the benefits of giving it up.  Is my experience typical?  Will it last?  Are there any other men who have given up porn, and what were their results?  Please encourage others to share their experiences, and let me know if I’m alone in this or not.

From a lonely married man:

First off, my wife and I have no children  We married seven years ago, after dating for about four years.

The first thing my wife decided, after we married, was to make me the sole breadwinner, drop out of the regular workforce, and pursue her assorted entrepreneurial interests,  I didn’t get a say in this decision.

Seven years on, I am still the sole breadwinner, she’s still pursuing her journey of entrepreneurial self-discovery, and I have lost a lot of respect for her.  I’ve let her know what effect her decision is having on me.  No matter.  She has her hooks in, she has a roof, heat, food, water, etc., so it seems all the one to her.  For myself, her behavior so disgusts me, I really don’t even want to touch her.

I use porn for relief.  I don’t think I’m particularly addicted.  Certainly I feel nothing like the urges described in the article you referenced.  Oddly enough, porn might be what keeps us from being a statistic.

Tell you one thing:  I’ll never marry again.  As far as I’m concerned, most women just want a way to get out of the rat race and live a life of bonbons and Oprah.  After marriage, the guy can watch all the porn he wants, as long as the lower levels of Maslov’s hierarchy are supplied.

I’m sure the mileage varies, but that’s my take.

From a military man:

I absolutely agree it is damaging. It damages my respect for my wife, and she has done nothing to deserve that damage. It damages my self-esteem and respect for myself, because I know it is not helpful to our life, to our marriage, to our love.  (I would say, “actually harmful to” rather than “not helpful to”, but I know that formulation would cause many people to reject my testimony out of hand…) It reduces my satisfaction in a wonderful woman. It makes me yearn for things that I should not want. It is disruptive to my inner peace. I don’t like myself when I’m looking at porn.  I don’t like the way I feel about myself when I’m looking at porn. Heck, I don’t like the time I waste looking at porn that I could be using to play guitar, or read good books.

But I can only do without it about 6 months.  Then the urge to look at pornography overwhelms me, and I spend a few weeks seeking and looking–sensations are more intense, more pleasurable . . . then I feel shamed and throw it all away.

And then 6 months later, I seek out the same pornography I saw before, to rebuild “my collection.”  It has been an endless cycle.

I’d be dishonest, however, if I didn’t explain: Prayer hasn’t helped one bit. 25 years of prayer didn’t make even a minor dent.  Church hasn’t helped.  Confession hasn’t helped.

Maturity has weakened the cycle, but not destroyed it.

I’m hoping this last time *will* be the *last* time.

And there is a plea from one married man to others:

Kathryn,

Like many men I know, I became addicted to pornography as a young man, and my addiction continued into my marriage.  I thank God that I never accepted it as normal and always fought it, always felt ashamed of it. The best thing I ever did, as hard as it was, was to admit my problem to my wife.  She is an amazing woman, and her reaction to my telling her was even more than I hoped for.  I kicked the addiction because she was willing to help me and help hold me accountable.  She may be unusual in her reaction and love, but I doubt it.  I suspect that any married man in the same position would be amazed at how loving and helpful his wife would be if he could find the courage to reach out to her for help.  I implore you married men with an addiction to porn to confess your problem to your wife.  I know how ashamed and embarrassed you feel.  Please get her involved.  She loves you, and she will help you.

I don’t begin to think that pornography is the problem. So much of our outlook on human sexuality, on men and women, on life and love has become warped in recent decades. Pornography, no doubt, is an outlet for some who were already in bad situations. But it makes bad situations worse.

And while I’m not running to Congress for a solution, if we’re members of families and churches, if we have friends, if we’re employers, we should ask ourselves: Are we ignoring problems? Do we women treat the men in our lives with a full respect for and appreciation of their masculinity? Do we even know what that means anymore? And do we even feel free to be feminine? Are men hesitant to even hold doors for us? Are we — individually or collectively — part of a problem? I don’t expect everyone to become some sort of anti-porn activist. But are we, men and women both, addressing issues as they come up? Are we preventing problems? Do we seek help if we need it? Do we even talk?

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