The Thinking 


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Things Which Cannot Be Unseen

July 22, 2010


JAMES M. writes:

I’m ashamed of my familiarity with this subject [of pornography], and like so many others am living with damage done; I’ve seen things which can not be unseen. I was going to stay out of this but here’s a short poem I wrote about the feeling of self-loathing and hopelessness experienced by a man in thrall to a pornography addiction:

So disgustingly familiar,
I can feel it closing in.
Through open wounds which go undressed,
Here it comes again.

Welling up and seeping, spreading,
Cascading down and through me.
Cutting in, dissolving, shredding,
Fragile wisps of sanctity.

So familiarly disgusting,
In the grip of spectre hands.
Through open open eyes which drift, obsessed,
Here it comes again.

Transfixed now and transformed, dreading,
Search through blowing grains of sand.
Trudging on, my hunger wetting
Thorny gardens of the damned.

And it hasn’t been so long since last time
This wretched spell was cast without the potion.
And I’ve been weak so many times that now
It’s as if I’m simply going through the motions.


The Invisible Barriers of Porn Users

July 22, 2010


MICHAEL N. writes:

To my great regret, I have vast and intimate knowledge of pornography, and like one of your previous commenters, I wish I had never laid eyes on the stuff.

I was a habitual user of pornography from early adolescence into my 40s. I started with magazines, then videos and from there seamlessly to Internet porn, and I have no doubt that modern therapists would classify me as an addict (though I loathe the notion that addiction renders one helpless). I went cold turkey shortly before I was accepted into the Catholic Church, due mainly to Christ’s wholly unambiguous identification of lustful gazing with adultery in Matthew 5:27, and the prospect of having to confess my sins to a priest. Although I have been strongly tempted several times since, I have so far held firm through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

As an aside, exactly how do Christian men rationalize their way around Matthew 5:27 when it comes to pornography? This has to be one of the least ambiguous or open-to-interpretation passages in the Gospels.

On the matter of pornography and marital satisfaction, I have to say that I was never in any sense driven to porn by my wife–my habit predated our marriage by decades and was more or less unaffected by it (aside from the additional furtiveness required). My wife and I have had some serious ups and downs, but my desire to view porn was not in any way correlated with these; in fact, it may well be that I was less likely to use porn when things were going badly between us. I should also point out that (contrary to many womens’ impressions of why men use porn) my interest in porn had nothing whatsoever to do with any perception of my wife’s inadequacies or a desire to compare her with other women; in fact, I have always been repelled by the lurid and artificial “beauty” of models and mainstream porn actresses. I looked at porn because I craved images of many different women, and that’s it. Youngfogey’s comment captures the impulse perfectly:

Men tend to see women who are even remotely attractive as part of a large pool of beauty, emanations from a common source rather than competitors.

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Do Wives Drive Men to Pornography?

July 21, 2010



I pointed out in a recent conversation with you that men’s pornography use must be understood in the context of the misandrist culture where it takes place. I now think I can articulate more about why I think this is so important.

If we look at God’s curse on the man at the time of the expulsion from Eden we’ll see that from that point on the world would resist his efforts to draw from it sustenance and beauty. His work would be met by thorns and struggle and pain at every turn. This is really how men experience life. Every day is a battle on multiple fronts. Days are spent battling ourselves, others and the stubborn resistance of the world to bend to our wills. Such struggle is exhausting.

The one place we hope the struggle will not be so hard is at home. We hope that our wives, mothers, daughters and other women in our lives would understand this struggle and instead of being yet more thorns for us to cut ourselves upon, would want to be for us a garden of rest and delight. This is rarely the case, especially in a culture that actively teaches women to despise men, our needs and our natures. After a day of body and soul-breaking labor, most men do not come home to appreciation, respect and submission, but to criticism, manipulation and more unceasing demands. Read More »


Pornography and Totalitarianism

July 21, 2010


DARRELL writes:

One problem with pornography, and the reason it is propagated by elites, is that it tends to destroy the capacity of men for self-government.  And if men can’t govern themselves they certainly cannot govern their families, workplaces and political institutions.

The purpose of pornography is to create moral anarchism and produces men who are either governed by their passions or fundamentally controlled by guilt.  Such men must be governed by an outside entity, typically the state.

Here is relevant quote from R.J. Rushdoony’s book Noble Savages, which was originally published under the title The Politics of Pornography:

Moral anarchism is used to destroy every form of social stability and order in order to pave the way for totalitarian order. Christianity gives to man the faith and character for self-government, and morality is the essence of self-discipline and self-government. Dissolve man’s self-government, and you make a totalitarian authority over him a social necessity. It becomes apparent, therefore, that the link between pornography and revolutionary totalitarianism is a necessary one. The rise of totalitarianism has always been preceded by moral anarchism, and those seeking tyrannical powers over man have always worked to reduce man to a dependent position by undercutting his moral self-government and responsibility. The rise and triumph of pornography is a prelude to totalitarianism. Moral anarchy is the seed-bed of tyranny.

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Pornography and ‘Mockery of the Divine’

July 19, 2010


IN THIS entry, Stephen pointed out that pornography hurts a man’s ability to form and sustain relationships with women. Another reader asked for elaboration.  I wrote, 

The more a person habituates himself (or herself) to solo sex or imaginary sex the more he is incapable of dealing with the complexities, unpredictability, disappointments and rewards of reality. 

But here is a far more eloquent response from Stephen, who currently works with sex offenders, many of whom are pornography addicts. He writes:

I should first make clear that I am not an expert, but merely have gained some exposure through my work to an unpleasant aspect of our society, one which needs to be better understood. I should probably also add that the men with whom I deal are extreme examples, and so the harm caused by pornography in their cases are extreme. However, this tendency of pornography to cause harm, I believe, exists in other men; it just would not necessarily result in rape. 

Pornography harms a man’s ability to forge meaningful relationships with women because it replaces the reality of hard work with the easy self-indulgence of fantasy. Any indulgence in a fantasy for an extended period of time will distort the way a man sees reality, and thus how he deals with it. Fantasies about sex, though, are particularly powerful and destructive simply because the sex drive is so powerful and so integral to a man’s personality. (One need not be a Freudian, by the way, to accept this fact.) The reason why sex is so powerful is that sex is a liminal experience, where men (and women) experience transcendence and ecstasy in the original Greek sense of ekstasis, “standing outside oneself.” Indeed, sex, as James Matthew Wilson pointed out a few months ago in a brilliant article at Front Porch Republic, is the last faint glimmer of transcendence, ekstasis, and ultimate meaning for many people today, thus making the allure of pornography all the more powerful. 

Because sex is about transcendence, it is necessarily about openness: to the other person involved, to the potential for a new life, but also to the gift of love that comes from God. And love must be personal and focused on another, or else it is nothing but self-indulgence. Pornography, by separating the pleasure of sex from any relationship with a real person, turns what should be an open act into a self-centered act utterly devoid of openness to transcendence. Pornography perverts what has the potential of being a transcendent experience into a mockery of the divine. Corruptio optimi pessima.

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Is Pornography Good for Men?

July 18, 2010


IN his book on evolutionary psychology and the sexes, Steve Moxon argues that pornography is benign and actually serves a useful social function. He writes in The Woman Racket:

The male desire for a variety of novel sexual partners is insatiable, and for almost all men this cannot be met by actual sex. Masturbation to endlessly varying images of women is the harmless solution (now that we know it doesn’t make us blind). The basic fear about ‘pornography’ is that it ‘depraves and corrupts’ to the point of encouraging sex crime, but in fact it produces the opposite effect. Conversely, dangerous sex criminals are found to have been exposed to little if any erotica, and generally to have had a sheltered existence regarding sex.

Anti-male prejudice, he maintains, underlies many of the laws and social attitudes regarding pornography:

The law against ‘child pornography’ is used against men who have in no way, however indirectly, harmed a child; and this betrays that the law is really about the hatred of male sexuality.

While I agree that anti-male bias is apparent in the feminist critique of pornography, especially in hysterical claims that viewing pornography is tantamount to rape, I disagree with Moxon’s conclusion. Pornography is not harmless even if it doesn’t encourage sexual crime or result in actual adultery or involve any coercion or “objectification” of women who appear in sexual material. Just because a desire is insatiable and natural doesn’t mean it is good. And given that a very small minority of men do prey on children, and even kidnap and kill them, intolerance of sexual interest in children and the trafficking of sexual images of children is healthy and right.

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“I Wish I’d Never Laid Eyes on Pornography”

July 12, 2010


MARK writes:

Laura wrote in the entry about Lady Gaga: 

“Sexual and violent images are arousing. Young adults imitate what they see, and to a certain extent we all do. And, sure while they’re having sadomasochistic sex, they may be thinking, “This is the apotheosis of decay. I am rebelling by indulging in the worst,” but they have destroyed their souls in the process. You may say, “Well, no. They don’t imitate what they see in Gaga precisely because it’s so horrific.” But then I think you deny the subliminal power of the visual, and how exposure to any images of violent sex, whatever the symbolism or intellectual message, makes it hard to perceive and know beauty. Even for married people, it impedes delight in their bodies and intimacy, though it may be temporarily stimulating.” 

This is well said, and I wish every one of your readers would get this into their psyche. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned (Prov. 6:27)? The question answers itself, yet people persist. And there’s no sanctimonious judgment on my part when I say this, because I was among those people. And I’ve been burned by my experiences. 

Some philosophical types shrug off pornography as banal, but then, as you’ve indicated, banal is not benign. Speaking for myself, I wish I’d never laid eyes on pornography. Read More »

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