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Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's All About Morality

The modern problem of porn addiction can be traced to the popular revolt against traditional morality in our society.  In the 1960s, we saw the 'feminists' take up the call of late 19th century Communists to do away with 'bourgeois marriage' and usher is sexual experimentation as part of the 'struggle' to create the New Man.

Less than a generation later, the Soviets realized the folly of this approached, and enforced social morality that looked much more traditional family models than 'free love' and communal cohabitation.  The same could be said for Mao's China.  These states realized that morality is not about random rules, but about social order that is beneficial for all people.

Morality draws the line between destructive and constructive behavior.

So, when you have a denizen of the 1960s say something like this, you wonder what it is she is thinking:

Mine is not a moral position. I think adults should be able see whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes (if the images are not based on a crime or any cruelty being committed).

Then, Ms. Wolf goes on to say precisely why people should not watch porn and documents the moral breakdown as a result.  She even applaud's the UK new law forcing internet service providers to give their clients the ability to opt out of porn.  Of course, I find it hilarious that this is coming from a news site that has plenty of 'soft core porn' on its side bar (this is why I am reproducing the original article here).

Ms. Wolf, and the rest of us who stand against the detrimental effects of porn, are indeed arguing for morality.  We are demanding that people understand that internet porn is immoral because it is ultimately destructive.  While Ms. Wolf contends that she is all for whatever consenting adults want to do in the privacy of their own homes, the fact remains that she is dissatisfied with the results.

What she is demanding is a half-measure, picking and choosing what morals she wants and which ones she does not.  That's the dumb part.

When we look at the moral standards of any given society, we can see that morality is not about bits and pieces.  It is a unified picture.  If you remove some of the tiles from a mosaic, you destroy the entire work.  It no longer is what it once was.

This is what has happened to Western culture after the 1960s, where families and marriages have been destroyed.  Sex is not just a bit, a piece sitting in a mosaic that no longer makes sense.  It looks for meaning, but is sadly reduced to a biological reaction rather than a central role in binding society together.  It becomes an impulse or an urge, rather than a spiritually significant and beneficial act.

Ultimately, porn will destroy the 1960s generation's 'achievements,' and Ms. Wolf will probably go to her grave not understanding exactly how she was an instrument of the very thing she hated.  She fought to separate sex from morality, and ultimately regretting the immorality that poured forth.

It is as if she wants neither morality nor immorality.  She is comforted by the idea that immorality is an option, but one that should never be taken.  But, in 'freeing' people to put the word 'vagina' on the cover of a non-medical text, she also freed them to abandon peoples' responsibilities to one another.  Indeed, we do have responsibilities.  

Some folks want those responsibilities to include paying taxes and providing social programs, while others want those responsibilities to include taking care of the children you procreate and helping them to become good people.  Either way, they are ultimately moral arguments.  You cannot demand things from people without a moral appeal.

After all, who would say that 'racism' or 'sexism' are not moral issues?  Human rights and the respect for others emanate from a moral standard.

Morality is, in the end, the only thing that keeps a Godless nation from sliding into social decay.  Ms. Wolf can thank centuries of Christian morality for the fact that her 'opponents' have not tried to behead her lately.  Though the UK is largely an atheistic culture, there is some residual Christianity left... for the time being.


Couples are having 20% less sex than they did just ten years ago
Wolf connects this to the rise of pornography
Porn poses health problems...
It desensitizes those who watch it and has long-term consequences
As a result, it has a negative effect on sex and relationships


These days, I am rarely surprised when, after a lecture or book signing, someone will try to talk to me about their addiction to porn and ask where he or she can get help.

As an author and feminist social commentator, I often discuss my work at events and meet a wide spectrum of people who talk to me about sex, relationships and, more increasingly, the impact of pornography on their lives.

There is no stereotype of what this person will look like. A man in his 60s has asked me if I think his porn addiction accounts for his current impotence.

A lovely young mother of three boys asked sadly how her husband, in an otherwise happy, sexually fulfilled marriage, became 'lost to porn' to the point that she had to leave him. She now wonders how to  protect her sons.

A bright, male college student confessed that he is worried about what he calls 'the kink spiral' - the term he uses to describe feeling trapped by his need to see more and more extreme porn to get aroused.

The fact he needs more and more extreme, violent or fetishistic porn images in order to get aroused.

Couples in their late teens tell me no one they know can have sex without porn playing on a screen. A guidance counselor at a private school asks where he can find help for his students - many of whom are so addicted to online porn that the obsession is affecting their schoolwork and social development.

Recently, a major British study, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which questioned more than 15,000 people aged  16 to 74, showed couples are having about  20 per cent less sex per month than they did just ten years ago.

As someone who has been researching in this field for over 20 years, I believe we must take seriously the rise of pornography. New research shows it is having a detrimental effect on men's and women's sexual responses  and harming relationships as a consequence.

My latest book, Vagina: A New Biography, about female sexual desire, has a chapter on new discoveries in neuroscience that show how pornography negatively affects both sex and relationships.
Popular culture is reflecting this trend: the new film Don Jon centres on porn addiction. The hero is sleeping with Scarlett Johansson but sneaks off to watch porn, since he says nothing with a real woman (even Johansson!) is as good. Meanwhile, sex scenes in mainstream movies are getting more violent. In The Kids Are All Right, I was startled to see Julianne Moore's character start slapping her partner's face as he neared orgasm.

Young women tell me that hair-pulling, and even pressure around the neck at orgasm, are normal parts of courtship sex these days. These are 'porn cliches', as one young woman put it. I am not surprised by these shifts because we all know about the pornification of society.

I believe more voices would be speaking out if the new research on this issue were better understood. What we're not being told - and this is a view which many scientists now confirm, but too few ordinary people understand - is that porn use poses health problems.

Mine is not a moral position. I think adults should be able see whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes (if the images are not based on a crime or any cruelty being committed).

Yet the neuroscience of porn addiction is clear: watching porn causes sharp spikes in the activation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which makes people feel focused, confident and good.

The trouble is that this short-term neurological arousal has long-term consequences. Firstly, it can cause desensitisation to the same erotic simuli that turned you on recently and, over the longer term, it can cause a greater likelihood of sexual dysfunction.

The user then craves more and more extreme pornography - violence and taboo images activate the autonomic nervous system, which is involved with arousal -  in order to reach that same level  of excitement.

'Young women tell me that hair-pulling, and even pressure around the neck at orgasm, are normal parts of courtship sex these days.'

This acclimatisation and desensitisation explains why images that were seen as fetishistic, taboo or violent ten years ago are now mainstream fare on porn sites.

A second effect, confirmed with men and anecdotal with women, is trouble reaching orgasm. Doctors are now reporting an epidemic of healthy young and middle-aged men, with no disease or psychological issue that would otherwise explain their difficulties, who are having sexual problems such as impotence or delayed ejaculation due to this desensitisation.

A final problem related to desensitisation is that men start to see their own partners as less attractive, and less able to arouse them by ordinary sexual behaviour.

And, of course, one woman can't provide the ever-changing novelty, that constantly renewed boost to the brain that porn artificially delivers by a mouse click of the mouse.

There are other ways porn use can negatively affect female arousal. If a woman feels uneasy about her partner's use of porn the stress of her resentment and anger can affect her own ability to become aroused.

If you understand the neuroscience of female arousal, women need to have their autonomic nervous systems (heart rate, breathing, blood circulation) highly activated to get turned on. Emotions such as stress, anger, a sense of threat and  resentment can function like throwing a bucket of freezing water on the female system.

Detrimental: Porn does not teach men sexual skills that are useful in arousing women

I have also done a lot of research into the fact that sex portrayed in most porn does not teach men, especially young men, sexual skills that are useful in arousing women. As Dr Jim Pfaus, a pioneer in the field of the science of sexual behaviour from Canada's Concordia University, puts it, porn use can take an emotional toll on relationships because men who use it are 'neurologically bonding' not with their partners, but with the porn.

Relationship expert and couples' counselor Michael Kallenbach says: 'Couples are far more aware of porn now than they've ever been. With everyone owning iPhones and tablets and being constantly bombarded with sexy ads and imagery, porn is leaking into our lives and affecting our relationships.

'When one partner watches surreptitiously, it's a very dangerous avenue to go down. Their imagination, and relationship, will be put at the mercy of fantasy. This often results in affairs.'

A recent University of Sydney study, in which two professors surveyed more than 800 men, found that excessive porn consumption was reported by almost half the respondents (85 per cent of whom were married or in a relationship), and was harming their professional success and relationships.

The numbers were dramatic: 47  per cent of the male subjects watched between 30 minutes to three hours of porn per day, one in three said it harmed their work efforts, and one in five would rather watch porn than have sex with their partners.
I can understand why the porn industry is keen to keep the addictive nature of its products quiet and promote the libertarian notion that there are no consequences. It is a global industry that wishes to turn men, and increasingly women, into addicts for financial reasons.

The situation very much resembles the marketing of cigarettes without health warnings in the Sixties.

So why isn't government-mandated disclosure of the risks obligatory, as it is now with cigarettes?

The answer is our politicians don't yet fully understand the damage that is being done.

Recently, the Daily Mail won a victory whereby the Government agreed that all households should opt in if they want to be able to view porn on the internet.

I believe that with good health information, people can make more informed choices about how, when, and if they want to use porn, and even better choices about what kind of imagery they might seek out or avoid.

Those who wish to end their addiction - like ending any addiction - can do so with effort.

Men who have done so - that is for whom we have data - report a great sense of regaining psychological control, and heightened arousal with their wives or girlfriends. Mostly they are relieved not to be at the mercy of something that many of those who write to me feel they need - but don't especially like.
Are we 'sexually liberated' if porn is taking over our thought processes and corroding our ability to sustain meaningful relationships? I think we are less sexually free.

A powerful industry is manipulating us - and ruthlessly exploiting some hard-wiring in the male brain - to turn us more and more into sexual and emotional robots, only capable of achieving sexual fulfillment in a room with a computer, alone.

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