Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the season for porn?

I will be called names for writing this column. It always happens. Raise the issue of the pornification of the culture and its fanatical devotees will come gunning for you. If they hope to be intimidating, they've forgotten what delete keys are for.

It's Christmastime and the Fox News Channel, the most conservative of the major media outlets, is running an ad for PajamaGrams, "the only gift guaranteed to get your wife or girlfriend to take her clothes off." The ads feature soft porn images of women disrobing and tossing slips and bras to the floor. The ads run at all times of the day and night. Thus do we usher in the season supposedly devoted to the Prince of Peace and the Festival of Lights.

We all know how far the pornification has gotten. A mainstream movie apparently treats the subject as cute and fun (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) and it runs at the multiplex next to Four Christmases and Madagascar. Hotels offer pornographic movies and omit the titles from the final bill. Victoria's Secret graces every mall — and its windows resemble the red light district of Amsterdam. Viagra and its imitators are hawked ceaselessly. Television, music videos, and supermarket checkout magazines contain the kinds of suggestive words and images that would once have been labeled soft porn.

We know this. But what is less well understood is the world of hard-core porn that was once the province of dingy "adults only" stores in the harsher parts of town but is now available to everyone at the click of a mouse.

Earlier this month The Witherspoon Institute convened a conference on pornography at Princeton University and invited scholars from a variety of fields to contribute. The statistics are mind-numbing. Pamela Paul, author of Pornified, reported that "Americans rent upwards of 800 million pornographic videos and DVDs per year. About one in five rented videos is porn....Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66 percent of 18- to 34-year-old men visit a pornographic site every month."

Read "The Social Costs of Pornography" (The Witherspoon Institute)

They are not, Paul and others explained, looking at Playboy magazine-like images of naked women. Instead, they are descending into darker and darker realms where sadism, fetishes, and every imaginable oddity are proffered. Sex and violence are offered together. Women are presented in a degraded — not to say disgusting — fashion.

Surely only people with peculiar sexual tastes are drawn to this sort of thing, right? Not exactly. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, noted that pornography use actually changes the brains of consumers. Like other addictions, pornography use breeds tolerance and the need for more intensity to get the desired result. He quoted Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, in which a college kid asks casually, "Anybody got porn?" He is told that there are magazines on the third floor. He responds, "I've built up a tolerance to magazines...I need videos." Tolerance is the medically correct term, Doidge notes, which is why pornography becomes more and more graphic.

The men (and they are overwhelmingly men) who become hooked on this bilge are often miserable about it. They know that it affects their capacity to love and be loved by real women. As Doidge explained, "Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and a release from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn't like it." Hugh Hefner, the godfather of mainstream porn, apparently does not have normal sex with his many girlfriends. Despite the presence of up to seven comely young women in his bed at a time, he uses porn for sexual satisfaction. Think about that.

Internet pornography truly is, as one researcher put it, "a hidden public health hazard." It isn't cute or funny. Relationships are crashing, women are suffering in silence, and men and boys are becoming entrapped by it. The Witherspoon Institute has done a valuable thing by starting a more public conversation about this cultural poison.

http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=363046

5 comments:

pomegranate apple said...

thanks for this post.

Pearl said...

"Thus do we usher in the season supposedly devoted to the Prince of Peace and the Festival of Lights."

I got a fascinating response from Durex Condoms when I emailed them in disgust over their recent "Santa passing out condoms" publicity stunt.

They replied to me, "All of us seemingly get bombarded with suggestive and often irresponsible messages in movies, TV and on-line mediums. The effort in Toronto was intended to be associated with secular aspects of the holiday season only, and there was no intention to involve or offend any religious beliefs."

For the record, I never mentioned religious beliefs, only the affect on children, which they never addressed in their response. Read the whole ridiculous thing here.
So many destructive addictions, too many little victims.

Paula said...

Thanks for helping us be more informed about this issue.

Secular Heretic said...

I have often wondered who the greatest victims are in this epidemic. Is it men or women?

Great article thanks for posting it. Porn should be banned. It is a health hazard.

Laura said...

I agree with you! Porn is harmful and in today's society, way to accepted and accessible! But the worst thing that I see coming from all this pornography is the objectification and disrespect of women. Men who view porn do not look at (or treat) women the same as men who do not. And the saddest part of all this is that women are actually playing into this - I am continually shocked and dismayed to see how ridiculously "sexy" many women dress (and act) on a daily basis. Even worse, how mothers dress their teenage (and sometimes younger) daughters! What do all these semi-naked women expect to get for their flaunting? Attention, yes. But not respect! Not tenderness.
Thanks for posting on this subject - I wish more women would stand up and demanded respect.