Politics

Porn Free

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[Warning, some explicit language herein]

Here is someone who rejects the notion that the explosion of digital pornography is a thing to be celebrated, a “glorious Dionysian orgy after two millennia of unnatural Christian repression.”

For every positive effect porn has, there is a Larry Flynt and a slew of victims. I have one friend who describes himself as a “chronic porn addict” and sadly laments that his (very beautiful) girlfriend can never match the 10 million infinitely pliable, infinitely-surgeried fantasy women forever splayed in his laptop. I know teenage lads with wildly unrealistic expectations that women are constantly “up for it” – and up for anything.

And, worst of all, I know girls trying to meet those swollen expectations – girls who have internalised the norms of pornography and who try to convince themselves that they enjoy their boyfriends’ endless requests for anal sex, sex toys and being “shared” with the mates.

But neither is he advocating for a return to “unnatural Christian repression.”

Of course, there are some women who genuinely do enjoy all this, and they need to be protected from clucking puritans. But as I look around, I see far more women trying to contort themselves painfully into an internet-shaped dream-girl.

… While the old Christian puritans who hated the “filth” of porn were clearly wrong, the old Feminist puritans who hated its misogyny had a point. The fact that 30 per cent of women now regularly view internet porn – according to the new survey – seems to undermine this, until you study the figures and see that women are typing dirty in chatrooms rather than watching men being splayed and debased.

Johann is a savvy and liberal-minded writer; like a lot of British commentators, he sometimes gets his facts screwed up, but when he doesn’t, he can make you think. Even when you disagree with him. And especially when you’re not sure whether you agree or not.

In fact, he’s siding here with the “old Feminist puritans.” But his proposal is rather radical:

But what can we do? Even if we concluded that the negative effects of our new pornutopia outweigh the positive – and I’m genuinely not sure about that – we can’t stop it. The web is uncensorable. The police can’t even remove images of children being raped from search engines, when we all agree they should. We are, to borrow a phrase from Jean-Paul Sartre, “condemned to be free”.

That doesn’t mean we should go back into denial. It means we need to start to prepare children to cope with porn from an early age. Young people need to be taught as they approach adolescence to be porn-savvy. Everybody knows from the time they’re a child to be wary of advertising, but young people don’t know to be sceptical about the claims implicit in porn. As one 17-year-old told me, “My first experience of women in a sexual context was seeing them on websites as ‘cum-hungry bitches’. I guess I started looking at it when I was 11 or 12, and it led me to make some terrible mistakes, approaching girls and expecting them to be into the stuff I’d seen.”