Pornography is pervasive in today’s society. This pervasiveness is wholly negative. This year, five young pornographic actresses died, two of which are thought to have taken their own lives. The month of February saw the state of Florida pass a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk. This resolution may have drawn more sympathy if it hadn’t followed a motion on whether to ban assault rifles, which happened to be defeated. However, Florida is not alone with its condemnation of pornography.
Russia has went further in its condemnation with its media watchdog, roskomnadzor, banning numerous pornographic sites. Specifically, popular pornographic site Brazzers has been banned for ‘damaging the human psyche’. The United Kingdom has taken a different path, and is set to mandate age verification for access to pornographic websites. Some may see this as a pretext for limiting peoples’ freedom on the internet. One way in which the UK government could garner support for this mandate is to offer arguments against pornography’s negative influence.
To discuss how one should view pornography’s influence, one has to turn to how society has historically viewed masturbation. The anonymous author of the pamphlet Onania (1716) was very worried about masturbation. The ‘shameful vice’, the ‘solitary act of pleasure’, was something too terrible to even be described. The writer agreed with those ‘who are of the opinion, that… it never ought to be spoken of, or hinted at, because the bare mentioning of it may be dangerous to some’. The view from the anonymous author seems to have fixed itself in our collective mind. Historian Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex (2003), notes that masturbation is ‘part of human sexual life where potentially unlimited pleasure meets social restraint’. It is pornography which effectively removes that restraint. It is the removal of that restraint which is undoubtedly a bad thing.
Alain de Botton’s video, Porn Addiction argues the following sentiments in relation to this problem. He argues, ‘it starts with a simple design flaw in our brains, brains that evolved to respond powerfully to stimuli like, sexual attraction or sugar, in conditions where these were very scarce indeed. These brains just never acquired a capacity for self-control commensurate with the temptations offered by the modern, technologically enhanced world’. Echoing the sentiment of Oscar Wilde, who wrote ‘I can resist anything except temptation’, the problem of pornography can be explained as follows: ‘The problem of porn is identical with that of food: brains that were geared to take quick advantage of the occasional presence of a few berries are now defenceless before the vats of artificial sweeteners turned out by our remorseless technologies’. Continuing his analysis, he argues, ‘what we call addiction, invariably, has the same structure: a difficult life, plus a very intense diversionary pleasure, plus a technologically induced way of increasing that pleasure to a pitch which breaks our minds natural muscles of self-control’. Thus, we have the following problem ‘Online porn has an unparalleled power to get in the way of almost every other rather important and precious thing around, starting with the rest of our lives’. The conclusion he draws in way of a solution is that ‘the real cure to addiction is hence simple in structure: to find something nicer to pursue than the thing we’re addicted to’.
It is the nature of pornography which necessitates a requirement to find something nicer to be addicted to. The nature of pornography has been discussed in a TedTalk entitled by ‘Why I stopped watching porn’ by Ran Gavrieli. He starts his talk by arguing ‘porn really is: filmed prostitution. Porné stands for prostitute, graphia stands for documentation’. Secondly, he points out the following ‘[porn] It’s all about male dominance of women, subordinance of women’. The question is raised, ‘if we were to ask porn, what defines something as sexual? Porn would laugh in our face. What defines sexual? Whatever men find arousing’. Continuing he highlights the following often overlooked part of pornographic viewing:
‘In every mainstream porn gallery on the web, we can find the rape category side by side with the humiliation category, abuse category, crime category and so on’.
This is unquestionably bad for men, and for women. Women are not purely sex objects that ought to be subject to the depraved depictions of ‘sex’ in pornographic videos. Similarly, women ought not to think that men think that way about them, and such depraved depictions of ‘sex’ are what men want in the bedroom. The result will no doubt be a generation of men, and women who are confused as to the sexual boundaries that lie between them. Furthermore, it removes virtues naturally associated with the interplay between the sexes. There is desire, trust, fidelity, respect, honour that should naturally arise between a man, and a woman. For a crude illustration of what the two options are on choice here: compare Dante’s adoration of Beatrice, and the dating app Tinder.
Jack Fischer in his TedTalk ‘Porn the New Tobacco’ reiterates the above arguments against pornography. He points out the following ‘Porn has been shown to abuse the same neural reward pathways as many traditional drug such as cocaine.’ It is no wonder then why worldwide the porn industry makes around $97 billion a year. However, this excessive viewing of pornography ‘leads to a gradual readjustment to the unnatural super stimuli. In effect, the overload of porn becomes normal to the brain. This quickly spirals downwards as viewers pursue more extreme porn to get the same high.’
In summary, the problems are extreme, and endless. Pornography removes the sacred, and authentic aspects to the act of sex, as pornography’s inauthentic depictions is nothing like actual sex. This can be shown with the alarming levels of young men suffering from erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, stupor can invariably result as men can wrongly contemplate that watching porn is easier than actually seek to forge a relationship. Pornography is the sign of an unhealthy society. Now is the time to act.