Porn is everywhere today. It’s impossible to pinpoint when it happened, but some time in the last couple of decades, porn went mainstream. Before you had to go to the seedy part of town to pick up a magazine or order a stag film that came in a non-suspicous brown package. Now, you can find porn pretty much anywhere you look. On TV, at your local bookstore, and especially on the internet.
This movement of porn into the mainstream is generally viewed as a healthy liberation from the suffocating sexual mores of older generations. While it’s fantastic that society has gotten past its Puritan prudishness, I do think the pendulum has swung too far when it comes to the ubiquity of pornography in our culture. Unfortunately, the ill effects that porn can have on men and women often go unnoticed by the media. Many men are left with the impression that the proliferation of pornography is an entirely healthy phenomena. But what effect is porn having on men? When I look around at guys today, I would say without equivocation that it’s sapping their manliness.
A Level-headed Approach
Pornography is such a polarizing issue, that it’s easy for people to take extreme sides when approaching it. Oftentimes, religious people, while very sincere in their beliefs, brand porn as vile filth that turns good men into sexual perverts and unclean lepers. I’ve sat through plenty of church sermons where porn is approached this way. However, such a approach hardly helps men rationally think through the issue. Rather it transforms porn into an even more desirable forbidden fruit, pushes porn consumption into a secretive underground fetish, and prevents men from being honest in their need for help.
The other extreme sees porn as just a healthy expression of sexuality. Pornography is heartily encouraged in order to help people discover what pleases them sexually, no matter how graphic or violent the material is. The people in this camp will argue that as long as consenting adults are involved and no one gets hurt, then anything goes. However, this approach fails to recognize the detrimental effects porn can have on an individual, on women, and on society.
Neither extreme is helpful. What I want to have today is a frank, rational, discussion about porn and its effects on men. I’ll lay my cards out on the table from the get-go. I don’t think porn is good in any setting. I’ve just seen too many people hurt from it. But I understand that reasonable people can disagree on this issue.
Porn Can Ruin Your Life
Some people have argued that porn use can be as addictive as drugs. Personally, I don’t like the addiction label. It’s too easy to hide behind it as the reason you can’t help yourself. When I think of addiction, I think of people who suffer physical withdrawal symptoms when they finally quit. I haven’t met anybody who’s gotten the shakes when they go a week or two not looking at porn.
There is, however, no doubt that porn can be a full-blown compulsion. It’s more like food to a compulsive over-eater. Once you make those pleasure connections in your brain they can be very hard to break. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that porn can ruin your life. I know of a couple of marriages that broke up because of the guy’s insatiable addiction to porn. And I know of long-term boyfriends and girlfriends who have split up because of it. The stories out there are real and numerous. The man who gets out of bed at night and sneaks away from his wife to watch porn in his office. The man who keeps a secret stash of magazines in his car. The man who watches porn on the job and gets canned when he’s caught. I could go on.
I won’t deny that some men can consume porn and not suffer these kind of consequences. Just like I know men who have an occasional drink and aren’t alcoholics, I know men who dabble in porn and don’t become compulsive porn users. But even if you’re one of those men who can consume porn without becoming dependent on it, I still think there’s a case to be made that porn should be avoided. It simply won’t make you a better man in the least. And it can diminish your manliness for several reasons.
The Ways in Which Porn Saps Your Manliness
1. It objectifies women.
A real man sees a woman for who she is. He respects her and her individuality. He sees her as his equal and as a person that deserves respect. It takes a lot of work and effort to interact with women, but a real man has the cajones to do it.
Porn, on the other hand, objectifies women. It turns women into “things” that are only there to gratify a man’s sexual urge. Porn eliminates any need to connect with a woman emotionally or intellectually.
If you want an idea of how insiders in the porn industry feel about women, just ask Bill Margold, a long time performer. For Margold, his “whole reason for being this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don’t care much for women and want to see men in [the porn] industry get even with the women they couldn’t have.” One writer for porn movies (they have writers?) said that pornography creates the illusion “that women are really in their rightful place and that there is no serious challenge to authority.”
If you have to view porn so you can feel like a man, you’ve got some problems. Real men don’t have to turn women into things to feel like a man.
2. It supports a filthy industry
Almost no man I know would hire a prostitute for sex. The idea of paying a stranger for sex violates their sense of propriety. But porn is basically prostitution, just a few steps removed. No matter how you slice it or rationalize it, you are paying a stranger to have sex. It’s pretty gross when you take a step back: you’re paying people to have sex so you can watch them do it. No man would ever want his sister to be a porn star, so why is it okay for someone’s else’s sister to do it? The more porn that is consumed, the more porn that is made. Even if you’re sitting in your den in Omaha, you have a hand in making the industry grow.
3. It will mess with your expectations of sex
Porn creates unrealistic expectations in the minds of men about love and sex. In porn, the women are always hot and ready to go and have perfect airbrushed bodies. Best of all, the women don’t talk. Men don’t have to worry about nagging or having to interact with the women they view in magazines and videos. Men can just have their way them, and be done with it.
The reality is that women don’t want to have sex all the time, not all women have cantaloupe-sized tatas, and women like to talk. Sometimes a lot.
Porn-obsessed men thus have a hard time starting any type of meaningful relationship because the girls they meet don’t measure up to the women in their magazines and on their websites. And when a man does establish a loving sexual relationship, many sociologists have noted that men who have used porn view their partner through a “pornographic filter.” They’ll resort to impersonal fantasy of some porn scene when they’re having sex because the love for their partner isn’t enough to satisfy them.
The porn-brained man also pushes his woman into doing things she’s not very comfortable with, seeking to act out the exotic scenes he’s seen on film. And he’ll think women are all about it. On sites like Jezebel (the writers of which are far from prudish women) women complain that men of this generation will sometimes do things like ejaculate on their face the first time they have sex, thinking that every women thinks that’s really hot. What a sad commentary on today’s men.
If you want to have a good love life, avoid the porn.
4. It creates a cycle that diminishes your sexual pleasure
While society says that more is always key to happiness, the truth is that moderation is. The pleasure receptors of our mind are sensitive mechanisms. When you first try something new, be it travel, food, or porn, the stimuli easily activate these receptors. But after repeated exposure to the stimuli, your pleasure plateaus. At this point, people often reach for more-more food, more sex, more porn, etc. in order to recover the initial pleasure they once took in the experience. But this only begins a vicious cycle in which you must seek ever greater and more intense stimulation to return to your initial pleasure level. Eventually you overwhelm and numb your pleasure receptors. Studies have shown that when looking at porn you get used to the level of graphics-ness that is portrayed and then need to ratchet up that level to get the same thrill from it. And where will that cycle end?
While society may sell you on the idea that the more sexual images you cram into your life, the happier you’ll be, the opposite is true. To quote Naomi Wolfe:
The reason to turn off the porn might become, to thoughtful people, not a moral one but, in a way, a physical- and emotional-health one; you might want to rethink your constant access to porn in the same way that, if you want to be an athlete, you rethink your smoking. The evidence is in: Greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity.
After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.
5. It saps your manly confidence
Porn saps a lot of confidence you have in yourself. Men usually turn to porn when they’re depressed and lonely. Instead of making the effort to get out and meet real women, many men take the easy way with porn. More often than not, after getting their fix, men feel even more depressed and lonely because the only intimacy they can get is with a magazine or a web video. It leaves them feeling empty inside. Even worse, pornography can become a crutch for a man, which in turn can sap even more of their confidence.
Porn gives both men and women a skewed view about how our bodies and genitalia are supposed to be like. Just like fashion models, porn models sets the standard for how we should look. Almost all men in porn have 8+ inch perfect shaped penises, that only about 10 percent of the population posses. And the women all slim with huge breasts. Porn tells us we have to be like these models in order to have sex and be attractive to the opposite sex. I think this causes many to suffer in silence and it causes low self-esteem and bodydismorphic disorder.