Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


How porn destroys sexuality

posted by Rod Dreher

From an interview with sociologist Gail Dines:

In the preface of your book, you share a personal story about a conversation you had with your son over pornography. You write, “I said [to him] that should he decide to use porn, that he was going to hand over his sexuality–a sexuality that he had yet to grow into, that made sense for who he was and who he was going to be–to someone else.” How and why do boys and young men give their power away to pornography? What kind of power does pornography have in shaping boys’ and men’s perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs toward sex?
Boys and men don’t realize the power they’re giving away to pornography. They don’t understand the power it has to shape who they are, their sexuality, and their sexual identity. In this culture, we think of pornography as a joke or something to laugh about. We don’t take it seriously as a source of information that has the ability and power to impact on the way we think about the world. Most boys and men go to pornography for an ejaculation; they come away with a lot more. I don’t think they’re quite aware of it.
Pornography, like all images, tells stories about the world. It tells stories about women, men, sexuality, and intimacy. In pornography, intimacy is something to be avoided, and–as I say in the book–“In pornography nobody makes love. They all make hate.” The man makes hate to the woman’s body. It’s about the destruction of intimacy.
Is it true that what most boys and men see in current trends of pornography are things that they expect in sex? How did that happen, and how is it impacting on boys’ and men’s perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs toward sex?
Well, a lot of people don’t know what pornography is. The first thing I do in the book is very purposefully describe it in detail. I know that for many people it’s going to be hard to read. I understand that. But if you’re really going to understand what I’m saying and why I’m saying it, then you have to understand the material I’m talking about. A lot of older men and women think I’m talking about Playboy from 15 years ago: a centerfold or a woman with no clothes on smiling in a cornfield. They think, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, that was bad enough in the way it objectified women, but we’re on a whole new level now with this kind of imagery.
How it got to this point is the Internet. It made it more accessible, affordable, and anonymous. You’re seeing a massive rise in use, and the users are getting younger and younger. Children who are 11½ years old are now looking at pornography because it comes straight into the home. There’s no limit on how much you can access. It used to be you had to steal father’s Playboy or Penthouse. Use was limited to how much you could actually pilfer. Today it is unlimited.
So what happens is that desensitization sets in that much quicker and that much earlier. In order to keep the consumer base going, the pornographers have to keep upping the ante. They make it more violent, body-punishing, or abusive as a way to keep men interested. When you think about it, if you’re exposed to it at age 11 or 12, you’re jaded by 20. You’re certainly jaded by 30. Pornography bleeds sex dry of intimacy, emotions, and connection. Once you do that, then there’s not much left. It becomes boring and mechanical. So you have to keep feeding newer and newer ideas just to keep [the audience] interested.

Read the whole thing. I intend to be very strict with my children about their use of the Internet, with particular respect to protecting them from porn. But I’ve got to tell you, I fear for them all, especially my daughter, trying to find a suitable marriage partner in a world in which so many of their peers will have grown up with widely-available pornography.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:02 am


I said [to him] that should he decide to use porn, that he was going to hand over his sexuality
As it were. Under works well, too. It’s all mind over mastur. At least, favoring as I have for so long my dominant left, I don’t need to bring a foam hand to the stadium – thank you, Candy Samples.
Most boys and men go to pornography for an ejaculation; they come away with a lot more.
Tagline for new Virginia Fats condoms, against old compromising tableaux from the Police Gazette “You’ve come a long way, Buddy.”



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Roger

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:27 am


I’d recommend you look at Cindy Gallop and Natasha Walter – two liberal feminists who have come to very similar conclusions.
Gallop has a website called Make Love not Porn and gave a very impressive (if to me overly graphic) little lecture at the TED conference which you can find on youtube.
Walter’s book Living Dolls puts this in a wider context of a New Sexism which is gradually undermining many of the real gains made by women while happily maintaining and extending their new status as ever submissive sex objects who are subjected to ever greater indignities by men and boys whose ‘sex education’ has been almost entirely left to internet porn.
None of this is new – even in the 60s and 70s there were occasional feminists and libertarians who questioned whether the sexual liberation was not just a cunning plan to provide men with unlimited sexual opportunities and capitalists with new markets to exploit
(the much misunderstood A Clockwork Orange is extraordinarily prescient in this regard).
But the sheer omnipresence of internet porn is turning this into a real existential problem that is destroying young lives and rotting the very fibres of our society.



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baconboy

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:28 am


Rod, have you used Open DNS for screening the internet access of your sons? It’s the same software/website that a lot of companies use to keep their employees from using porn at work, but it is free for families. Here’s the link: http://www.opendns.com/solutions/household/



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Jeff

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:37 am


This guy sounds like one of the same people who told us that listening to Ice Cube and watching Natural Born Killers back in the early 90’s was going to turn kids into a generation of violent sadists, which of course never came to pass.



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Francis Beckwith

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:52 am


“This guy sounds like one of the same people who told us that listening to Ice Cube and watching Natural Born Killers back in the early 90’s was going to turn kids into a generation of violent sadists, which of course never came to pass.”
No, he doesn’t sound like that all, if you have ears to hear. He is saying that a steady diet of material that appeals to your desire for intense pleasure while accompanied by narratives that treat other persons as mere meat shape your character. What’s so controversial about that?
Imagine there was an Orgasmatron (like in the Woody Allen movie, “Sleeper”), a machine that provides to its users hour-long orgasms accompanied by three-dimensional films that include virtual persons who resemble your neighbors and their children. I suspect that many people will make use of this machine. If you were living a neighborhood with these people, would you let your 16-year-old daughter date their young men?
We are not merely reasoners made out of meat. We are embodied souls whose lives are shaped by a complex interaction of our beliefs, feelings, and desires. The person seeking virtue understands that we are not merely stomachs, genitals, or brains. Ancient wisdom knew that. Modernist drivel denies it. And this is why pornography has more rights than political or religious speech. We have marginalized the soul from public life and then wonder why we have a soulless culture.
I am all for the total criminalizing of hard core pornography, as it was prior to the 1960s. If our legislatures and courts can distinguish between protected speech and defamation, it can certainly distinguish between Othello and “Sluts with Nuts.”



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:58 am


It’s probably too early to tell, Jeff, and we won’t know whether they are violent sadists because of the music and movies or the porn. But it is interesting to note that gangsta and politicized rap and violent cinema never became normalized and socially acceptable the way porn has become. Who wants to cover topics like poverty, racism and revolution in their music when pornified music sells so much better? And even Eli Roth is still trying to catch up with the stuff the Italians were churning out in the 70s and 80s. If you don’t know that porn seriously damages your soul then you’re either (1) fortunate because you’ve never seen it, or (2) lying to yourself.



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Charles Cosimano

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm


The truth, the real truth, is that all we are are reasoners made out of meat, subject to lots of wishful thinking that we may be something other than that. All porn does is point out that reality. And the mere fact that some folks find that reality uncomfortable is no reason for anyone else to refrain from using it.
Porn shows the true nature of humanity in ways that religion cannot even hope to approach.



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rj

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm


Most middle and upper-class people have had access to nearly unlimited free Internet porn for the last 15 or so years. Rape rates haven’t skyrocked and marriage hasn’t collapsed (at least any more than it did in prior decades). People seem to be able to separate reality from fantasy, just as all those suburban kids have been doing with gangsta rap for two decades.
Basically, arguing that porn destroys sexuality after years of experience proving otherwise reveals an inflexible ideology that repeats the same mantras irregardless of what happens in the world around you.*
Besides, the porn cat is out of the bag and there is no technologically feasible way to put it back, even assuming a political will that doesn’t exist.
* If you asked Grover Norquist what to do about porn, he would probably tell you that tax cuts would take care of it. Same idea here.



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm


he was going to hand over his sexuality to someone else… Boys and men don’t realize the power they’re giving away to pornography…. Pornography, like all images, tells stories about the world. It tells stories about women, men, sexuality, and intimacy.
Logically, then, all images that tell stories must be equally dangerous and should be equally off-limits to everybody. The author would probably be a big fan of sharia.
To the anti-pr0n side, let me assure you, you have no weaker or sillier-sounding argument than “seeing something unrealistic will POISON YOU FOREVER.” Seriously, why WOULDN’T this author burn down a library with all its horrible fiction books, its impossible ideals, its alternate futures and superhumans and magic spells? All of these can give people “the wrong idea,” moreso if the consumers tend to be constitutionally weak-minded already and have no quality parents to speak of.
Pr0n is anti-intimacy…. they never make love, they only make hate.
I stand corrected–this is an even weaker and sillier argument. It is the moral equivalent of crackpot caricature feminists who declare that all sex is rape. It isn’t everybody’s problem. It is only YOUR problem. And just because you are weak doesn’t mean everybody else is. The whole world doesn’t have to join AA just because you do. Treating pr0n like a black magic hoodoo that will ruin the viewers’ future relationships and intimate lives is just stupid. It’s a religion, and one so plainly new and manufactured that I don’t have to pretend to respect it.



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Kiroy

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm


What commenters like the woman Rod quotes neglect is that pornography use takes place in our radically feminized culture. The use of pornography is as much a symptom of the breakdown of peaceful relations between the sexes as a symptom. The cause of much of that breakdown is feminism.
It is little wonder that men told by feminists and their male fellow travelers that their sexuality is dangerous and their male essence disgraceful from childhood (as most men now are) might want to withdraw into the realms of pornographic fantasy. After a lifetime being emotionally dominated and psychologically emasculated by the privileged princesses feminized culture produces, the world portrayed in porn must seem like a welcome respite.



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Kiroy

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Right On, TTT. A very articulate response.



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spike

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm


Actually porn is a great teaching tool showing both men and women interesting and satisfying techniques to use on one another. There will always be the 1%er”s that see the information as something else.



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Cultural conservative?

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:14 pm


I think it is interesting to note the anger, defensiveness and even aggression that quickly emerges in most of the “nothing to see here, porn is fine” crowd.
On a previous occasion, Rod posed the question whether those who defend porn would be happy to see their children carving out a career in that field, and if not, why not?
The results were interesting.



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rj

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm


Loudon is a Fool writes: “It’s probably too early to tell, Jeff, and we won’t know whether they are violent sadists because of the music and movies or the porn. But it is interesting to note that gangsta and politicized rap and violent cinema never became normalized and socially acceptable the way porn has become.”
1) It isn’t too early to tell. Please, please, please show me movement in any stat you can link to porn in the last decade. I bet you can’t.
2) Gangsta rap is totally normalized. Ice Cube makes kids movies, Ice-T is on Law & Order (one of them, at least), 50 Cent sells Vitamin Water and songs with absolutely abhorrent lyrics are blasted from the PA at every sporting event. Where are our super-violent predators?
All I want to see is something empirical, ANYTHING empirical proving this thesis.



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm


CC, that is a complete non-sequitur. As the segregationists used to say, “if they’re so equal why didn’t you marry one?”
If people can’t make a convincing argument that watching pr0n weakens the ability to form real relationships (and they can’t), why, then they’ll happily abandon even the pretense of a fact-based argument and instead will just try to exploit the natural and innate human taboo against incest. By asking parents to envision scenarios in which their children have sex, they will then try to morph the discomfort that follows into some sort of The More You Know PSA. It is an intellectually worthless parlor trick.



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:32 pm


Rod, you know all those posts of yours about your love for exotic designer wines, and what a shame it is to be in towns that don’t have the very best varieties for you to drink?
Alcohol has done immeasurably more human damage than pr0n ever has or ever could. It is addictive. Alcohol is responsible for more failed relationships and marriages, more rapes, more violent behavior, and more physical damage and loss of potential in youth. Alcohol, combined with moving vehicles, can even injure and kill people who never touch the stuff.
Yet to you it is just a fun and mild diversion, a little perk to be enjoyed, but certainly not your entire life. You don’t expect every liquid you ever consume to be wine–you don’t get confused and mad when the sink faucets produce a non-wine substance, and you don’t go around berating people for not constantly drinking wine or not drinking the right varieties or in the right fashion. You are, in other words, a normal person.
Extrapolate.



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jaybird

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm


On a previous occasion, Rod posed the question whether those who defend porn would be happy to see their children carving out a career in that field, and if not, why not?
While the actual “professional” porn industry is probably just as exploitative and emotionally corrosive to the people involved as its detractors claim it is, there’s plenty of amateur, homegrown porn on the internet too, all-too- willingly produced and distributed by everyday, ordinary, middle-class suburbanites. So even if I wouldn’t want my child (or parents for that matter) carving out a porn career in the San Fernando valley, it may be quite likely that he or she is maintaining an amateur porn hobby from the comfort of their own bedroom. If you need confirmation of this, just look at how many youtube-style video-sharing porn sites are out there. It isn’t all just the same couple hundred perverts uploading their vids to these sites.



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Rod Dreher

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm


The problem with that, TTT, is that there is, in my view, no sense in which pornography is anything other than harmful. Booze can be destructive in all the ways that you say, but it is not intrinsically bad. Porn is.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm


rj,
I was being tongue and cheek about an increase in violent sadists. But on Ice Cube I would note that mainstreaming gangsta rap and mainstreaming gangsta rappers are two very, very different things. Violence too, to the extent it has increased in cinema, for the most part has been a result of defanging the violence to make it palatable as spectacle to the viewing public (many more may die when a building blows up, but blowing up a building is cool; shooting someone in the head is icky, so we’d rather not see the later unless CGI can make it look like a comic book because comic books are also cool).
The question is whether porn follows the same path and becomes less explicit and less brutal, or more so. Or not because violent films and gangsta rap are off topic.
As to whether porn breeds serial killers and rapists it would be interesting, but not dispositive, to ask serial killers and rapists whether they use porn. But even if porn doesn’t create a single rapist or serial killer is that the only question to ask? Does it make a person more coarse, more vulgar, less gentlemanly, and less capable of self-denial? Does it alter a person’s intimate relationship with their spouse? I wonder if some of the pro-porn commenters have ever had a thought they are ashamed of and whether that level of shamelessness is normal or positive or healthy? By all means let’s have more research, but it need not regard whether are we breeding serial rapists and killers. It’s sufficient if porn makes good men worse and worse men less likely to be good. If the question of whether or not you are a good person must be preceded by the query “Well will I still be able to masturbate a lot, because I really like to masturbate” then you may have a problem you should probably get checked out.



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm


And if someone told you that in their view, liquor was intrinsically bad, your response would be….?



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm


“What commenters like the woman Rod quotes neglect is that pornography use takes place in our radically feminized culture. The use of pornography is as much a symptom of the breakdown of peaceful relations between the sexes as a symptom. The cause of much of that breakdown is feminism.”
Coincidence (feminism, explosion of availability of pornography) does not prove causality. If anything, contemporary feminism and pornography share common causes.
The trouble with objectification, from the point of view of the objectifier, is that it precludes the possibility of empathy with the objectified. That has two obvious consequences: (i) increase in the possibility of violence, and (ii) decrease in the sexual-psychological pleasure of the objectifier (which leads to a decrease in pleasure all around). I explain it this way because the ills of objectification are usually explained in terms of the objectified.
Feminists have understandably focused on the first consequence (violence), but the second consequence – the decrease in pscyhosexual pleasure experienced by not empathizing with the pleasure of one’s partner – is by no means denied by feminists. And people who are interested in reforming masculinity in response to feminism ought to pay a lot of attention to this issue. I don’t see how this is anything other than a healthy thing, and I don’t think there will be much opposition to doing something about it from mainstream feminists.
There is no doubt in my mind that pornography contributes to objectification. It also contributes to self-loathing, and a lack of confidence. I do not believe that this is essential to pornography – I don’t see why it is impossible that can be porn made so that identification with characters on a stage is possible and encouraged. But there is near-enough none of that, that it makes little difference.
I plan on talking to my kids about this stuff early and often. If my kids are more technologically savvy than me, like how I was in relation to my parents, I won’t be able to control them. Information seems to me the best vaccination. I agree with the general sentiment here – pornography leads to a kind of sexual sickness. I think it’s worthwhile to explain to kids just what kind of sickness it can be. I’ve known several couples whose relationships disintegrated because of someone’s porn habit, how it effected their sexual lives, and their ability to trust each other.
Unlike Kiroy, I believe that there’s an opportunity for cultural conservatives and feminists/new masculinists here. Why revisit grievances from the 70’s, etc., if the goal is shared progress? I mean can’t we agree on this even if we disagree, for example, on the permissibility of homosexual sex?
BTW, my views on sexuality and perversion are based on Thomas Nagel’s acocunt in “Sexual Perversion”
http://www-ersonal.umich.edu/~lormand/phil/teach/lm/readings/Nagel%20-%20Sexual%20Perversion.pdf
What I don’t get is why Mr. Dreher is more concerned about her daughter finding a suitable marriage partner. The sexual sickness pornography causes effects everyone – self-loathing and shame may effect our sons as much as our daughters. The real difference is that women are much more likely to be victims of sexual violence. Thinking that men and men only drive what’s going on is (and therefore all of the responsibility for it), thankfully, an idea that has been throughly dismantled by contemporary feminists.



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Cultural conservative?

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm


TTT:
Your faith in empiricism (if you’ll excuse the pun) is admirable. However, I don’t think the situation is quite as straightforward as you suggest.
The harms that stem from porn are not easily quantifiable. That does not mean that they don’t exist. For details, ask any pastor, or any marriage counsellor (and I do mean *any*. Religious or non-religious, any marriage counsellor will report that porn addiction is a huge problem in many marriages). Ask the women who have been forced to do things in bed that they are not even remotely comfortable with (who are, I would imagine, reluctant to reveal such intimate details to social science researchers). Hell, ask the women who get chewed up and spat out by the industry, or those who contract life-threatening STIs.
My question is this:
If empirical evidence were to emerge that porn was harmful in some cases, how high would the percentage of harmed people have to be before you reconsidered your position? 10%? 20%? 30%? How many people’s emotional lives would have to be sacrificed before other people were willing to forego their pornography?



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm


I guess my point could be put another way:
If the only reason a couple disagree is because A says that X is intrinsically bad, and B says that X is bad in context, can’t they agree on a course of action, and a general point of view?
If everyone needed to agree on exactly what ‘X is bad’ means or why ‘X is bad’ is true to agree that X is bad, nobody would everything done. As it is, convention pretty well firms up what we mean by ‘X’ and by ‘bad’ to be getting on with.
If we don’t insist on doing metaphysics before doing ethics, feminists and cultural conservatives have many useful and constructive things to say to each other.



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Forts

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm


A priest friend of mine told me recently that I would be shocked by how much time he spends in the confessional listening to men talking about their problems with porn. These men want to be free of it, but they can’t break the habit, and it’s playing havoc with their marriages and private lives.



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Your Name

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm


“Children who are 11½ years old are now looking at pornography because it comes straight into the home.”
What simplistic, nonsensical, false drivel. This simply points to parents sh!tting on their parental duties. They need to step up and be more like Rod who “intend[s] to be very strict with [his] children about their use of the Internet”.
Sorry Ms Dines, but you published a bunch of scary claptrap.



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Cultural conservative?

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm


Dan O:
Doing ethics without metaphysics is like building a house without foundations. It’ll look good and serve your immediate purpose, but the slightest strain will bring it crashing down around your ears.
If you mean temporarily not arguing about metaphysics in order to achieve a mutually desirable end, then count me in. But ethics without metaphysics will result in a barren utilitarianism.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm


If empirical evidence were to emerge that porn was harmful in some cases, how high would the percentage of harmed people have to be before you reconsidered your position? 10%? 20%? 30%? How many people’s emotional lives would have to be sacrificed before other people were willing to forego their pornography?
Other people’s emotional lives, “sacrificed” or not, are none of my concern. If and when I cease to enjoy my daily porn, I promise to give it up instanter, with a flashing banner ad with a soundclip at the top of every BeliefNet blog. Until then, the statistics so strawmanned above, kept in a hermetically-sealed mayonnaise jar on Funkin’ Wagnalls porch since noon today as a certification of authenticity, could rise to levels verily matching those of Ivory levels of purity, and my sole concern would remain the maintenance as a consumer of the standards of satisfaction to which I had become accustomed in my weekly stashes of both porn and the allied “vices”, some of them legal*, with which I consume it.
*Captcha: the sweetish. Captcha seems to have installed a BongCam in my bedroom.



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lancelot lamar

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm


TTT,
Your analogy of porn to alcohol is a good one in some ways, but not so in others.
It is good in that it sees that a prohibition mindset, legally forbidding porn, would probably be as successful (meaning unsuccessful) as the legal prohibition of alcohol was.
However, porn can be highly addictive to certain people, and this addiction can destroy a person’s life every bit as much as alcohol can. The main issue is addiction.
Men addicted to porn are gaining the world, but losing their souls. This is a tragedy, as much as alcoholism and the personal destruction it causes is. Certainly the horrible social effets of alcohol and drug addiction are well documented, and far exceed what can be clearly determined about the bad social effects of porn (or violent music.)
There is also the difference that unlimited amounts of free alcohol don’t flow into anyone’s home whenever they have a desire to have a drink. The accessibility and affordability of porn–with high speed internet–has no analogy to alcohol or drugs, and thus it has the potential to do greater damage, at least to souls. If alcohol or drugs were as freely and easily accessible as porn is, surely the social and personal consequences of the increase in addiction that would cause would be profoundly destructive.
One thing that is true, which is vexing for those of us who question widespread access to unlimited amounts of free porn, is that rape rates have gone down dramatically as porn has become more freely and widely available. Some social scientists speculate that adultery, or at least the number of adulterous affairs, has decreased as well.
Correlation is not cause, but it is interesting. Instead of the explosion of rape that was predicted by porn opponents as porn became more freely available, we have actually seen a substantial decrease in violent rape. (This would not capture the more difficult matter of “date-rape” which is harder to quantify.) From this it would be reasonable to infer that some of the aggression and anger that some men feel sexually is being diverted from rape to porn, where these kinds of aggressive, violent fantasies are acted out.
One could also look at other cultures, such many countries in Europe, where any kind of porn–including beastiality, and until recently child pornography–has been widely available for decades. Needless to say, their rates of violent, criminal sexual acts were and have remained low, compared to the US especially.
Among these evils, porn is the lesser evil–socially–than rape or adultery. But it can still devastate the soul for those who become addicted.



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Lassie's Lipstick

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:31 pm


What’s harmful about looking at humanity the way God supposedly designed us, doing what God supposedly programmed us to do? Isn’t the Old Testament full of patriarchs rutting like wild beasts? Not all porn is degrading, some of it is very tasteful and even fun. Applying the whole “marijuana leads to heroin” argument to porn is ridiculous, people like what they like. Like the statistics indicate, rape is down, divorce is down, teen pregnancy is down. Sounds like a success story to me!Some people will always equate sex as something to be ashamed of – why do they always want to drag the rest of us into their hangup?
From a religious standpoint, the far more erotically obsessed Greeks and Romans contributed more to the advancement and happiness of humanity than the grumpy, uptight monotheists. I agree with TTT, booze is light years more harmful to the well being of the American body politic than pornography, with an astronomically higher casualty rate. Addictive people are addictive people, if they aren’t using one thing as a crutch, they’ll find another. Why is that MY problem?
Like I tell my wife (our sex life is pretty good), “just because I like a good steak doesn’t mean a chili cheesedog from AM/PM doesn’t hit the spot every now and then”.



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Your Name

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm


“Booze can be destructive in all the ways that you say, but it is not intrinsically bad. Porn is.”
Sez you. Your opinion is worth the electrons used to publish it and not much more if you can’t back up anything TTT challenged you to.
@ foolish Loudon,
“it would be interesting, but not dispositive, to ask serial killers and rapists whether they use porn.”
It would be just as “interesting” to ask the same of lawyers, judges, police officers, dentists, teachers, the garbageman, etc.
Why must conservatives dwell on other people’s sex lives so much?
“But even if porn doesn’t create a single rapist or serial killer is that the only question to ask? Does it make a person more coarse, more vulgar, less gentlemanly, and less capable of self-denial? Does it alter a person’s intimate relationship with their spouse? I wonder if some of the pro-porn commenters have ever had a thought they are ashamed of and whether that level of shamelessness is normal or positive or healthy?”
One could ask the exact same set of questions to devout Southern Baptists of their Bible usage. Utter nonsense.
“By all means let’s have more research”
This wasn’t “research” Loudon; it was and is nothing more, less or other than opinion. Sorta like the “research” that the Fambly “Research” Council puts out.
Do better!



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm


Any marriage counsellor will report that porn addiction is a huge problem in many marriages
And any diet coach will report that food addiction is a huge problem for fat people. So what? Self-selecting data to only look at people who have problems with something says nothing at all about whether it’s particularly problematic.
How many people’s emotional lives would have to be sacrified before other people were willing to forego their pornography?
I return to my initial point about the insidious danger of libraries. There have always been and will always be people who cannot separate fantasy from reality, and some portion of them will always suffer for it. It has no bearing on anybody else being required to “sacrifice” anything. Harrison Bergeron was a warning, not a wish.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm


Explicit presentations of sex are illicit in the same manner that (recreational) drug use is illicit. Change the view, and the consequences change.
Before someone jumps on me for wanting to legitimize injurious behavior, one point remains to be emphasized: Too often, we start the lesson about a dangerous thing by instilling fear of it in our children. Somewhere along that line is a further failure to equip our soon-to-be-adult children with the discernment to handle danger rather than brand it as evil to be avoided.
To use the alcohol analogy: Branding liquor as evil, absolute and unshakeable, was the primary “cause” of Prohibition. That one consequence injured more people — via organized crime and rebellion against that extreme view — than the licit use of alcohol. That’s a bald assertion, to be sure, but we as a society don’t take a black and white view of alcohol. We state it in terms of responsible use, and the line between healthy use and abuse. The current cultural climate is, I submit, very similar: Sex is not evil, the abuse of sex is. Censorship (prohibition) of pron could do more damage than teaching our children about objectification and empathy. I would speculate that for every man who struggles with pron abuse and its effects on his marriage, there’s a woman who is so well indoctrinated in the evil of sex that she doesn’t see that attitude’s destructive influence on her marriage.



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Jillian

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:42 pm


My question is this: If empirical evidence were to emerge that porn was harmful in some cases, how high would the percentage of harmed people have to be before you reconsidered your position? 10%? 20%? 30%? How many people’s emotional lives would have to be sacrificed before other people were willing to forego their pornography?
My question is: what if the ‘porn addicts’ and those prone to it are not normal people? What if these people are in fact a mildly mentally, er, different 5% subset of the population?



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ratiocination

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm


I’m in total shock at the comments posted thus far. Seems to me that the point made by this article has thereby been well-proven…not only are the attitudes here completely warped, their owners are utterly unaware of just how warped they are. Like the humans farmed as a source of electrical power in the movie “The Matrix”, they are fully convinced of the reality of their claims, despite the fact that their lives are a fiction.
Our culture has become so pornified that even Oprah devotes whole shows to how women should get in touch with their sexuality by watching softcore porn and masturbating…the idea being that this will increase their pleasure with their mates…
There was a time when I fell for that sort of garbage, since after all it is ubiquitous, and it was nothing more than a sinkhole. Only when I made a conscious decision never to lay eyes on that filth again did I begin to see just how deeply it had affected me and my entire matched set of psycho-sexual baggage. (And it was like taking the red pill–I could see everybody else’s piles of baggage too…)
The argument Kiroy made about the feminization of society has a grain of truth to it, but the reality there is twofold:
First, a huge chunk of the feminization of society comes from the fact that our society no longer relies on the clear distinctions provided by manual labor. Once upon a time, the only way to earn your bread (for the majority) was to make it yourself, the hard way. This led to a more or less natural distinction between the relative strengths as well as necessary divisions of labor between the sexes. Some degree of male dominance made sense within such a context.
But we have removed ourselves from that context–whether it’s sitting at a desk, performing mostly cerebral tasks, or working the grill at a fast-food restaurant, a large majority of men today do jobs that could be just as easily done by women. So if you bemoan the loss of your virility, quit blaming feminists, or trying to make up for it in the bedroom–take matters into your own masculine hands: go out and plough a field by hand. Until then, don’t cry on my shoulder.
The other reality facing this myth of feminization (as Kiroy sees it, anyway) is that, by far, the bloodied victims of the pornification of society are women. And I don’t even mean that in the context of being on the receiving end of the warped mindset that porn grants to its acolytes. I mean that it has made women its acolytes as well. It starts out by women unconsciously being led to behave in unnatural ways because of the expectations of society and of the men they love (and don’t want to lose). Now it’s gotten to the point that even women believe the garbage posted in some of the other comments here, because they’ve been playing the ‘pretend-we-really-like-putting-out’ game so long, even they don’t remember what it felt like to behave normally. (And I predict right now that I’ll get grilled by some posters for that, by women who insist that they really do like “putting out”…and that will do nothing but prove me right.)
This is not normal behavior, despite the fact that it has become socially normalized. Porn does **not** show the “true nature of humanity”–it shows the true nature of beasts who lack any psychological component to the act of mating. Men may be bottomless pits of consumption when it comes to sex, but what they usually fail to comprehend is the following:
1) the reason that women don’t derive the same amount of pleasure from it is because sex is more psychological than physical for women;
2) the necessity of man learning how to deal with this psychological need in order to get what he wants benefits not only the woman, but society as a whole–it’s just one of many ways in which the animal component of our nature is brought into balance with the intelligent component, and thus both are made useful within a civilized society. This is what the institution of marriage was created for. Without that strong impetus to behave like a civilized human being, it’s every man for himself.
Societies where that is the prevailing attitude are doomed to fail, because they lack any cohesive social fabric to hold them together. And no, widespread obsession with sex does not constitute a cohesive social fabric…
So good luck with your post-marxist obsession…Marx himself called religion the opiate of the masses, but it was the post-marxists who realized that the best way to destroy religion was to supplant it with the worship of sex–the more deviant, the better–because once the culture is utterly besotted with sex, they are far easier to control than if they cling to such outdated, prudish, inconvenient things called morals…
Prepare to laugh out loud: Captcha says Galahad visiting. ;)



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Pasqua

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm


I agree with the anti-porn commenters, but I hope you all realize that this is a hopeless discussion. There is nothing you can say that will convince the porn users and advocates here that what they love is immoral or harmful in any way. It’s part of the nature of the thing. You’ll get nothing but angry sputtering and name-calling, which tells you something about how pornography affects people. It’s possible to have a calm discussion with a whiskey drinker about the good and the bad effects of alcohol and its social uses. As we see here, try it with porn users, and it’s a different story. They embrace it as part of their personal identity, and fight hard when it is suggested that what they’re doing is wrong.
I like single-malt Scotch, but if I ever responded to a teetotaler’s criticism of whiskey with the kind of combativeness I’m seeing from these porn users on this thread, I would hope somebody would ask me if I had a problem. I see a dark spirit at work here.



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Elizabeth Anne

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm


One of my favorite Pratchett quotes:
“…And that’s what your holy men discuss, is it?” [asked Granny Weatherwax.]
“Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin. for example.” [answered Mightily Oats.]
“And what do they think? Against it, are they?”
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“Nope.”
“Pardon?”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that–”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things…”
–from Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett.



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm


Again and again come the complaints about “aggressive unreasonable name-calling” from those mean pr0n-watching people, when all the other side had done was call them evil degenerates doing unnatural things that have ruined society and permanently erased all love from the planet. Boo hoo hoo, they said I was wrong, how could they be so mean?!
Scratch a bully, find a coward.



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm


“Doing ethics without metaphysics is like building a house without foundations. It’ll look good and serve your immediate purpose, but the slightest strain will bring it crashing down around your ears.
If you mean temporarily not arguing about metaphysics in order to achieve a mutually desirable end, then count me in. But ethics without metaphysics will result in a barren utilitarianism.”
If ‘temporarily’ means long enough to make the world better for our children, then I’m happy we agree.
I don’t agree about the house bit. But, as a philosophy phd program refuge who focused on metaethics, I’d have more to say about it than anyone would care to read. :P



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm


“In pornography nobody makes love. They all make hate.” The man makes hate to the woman’s body. It’s about the destruction of intimacy.
Like all sweeping generalizations, this is not necessarily true. There is a segment of the p0rn industry that markets portrayals of loving couples having intimate sexual relations.
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070502125239AAhJtOd



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:12 pm


EA –
That’s Kant in a nutshell (treat others as ends-in-themselves and never as means only). Interestingly, Kant thought that in the context of sex, partners could not think of each other in terms of ends-in-themselves. According to him, the essential embodiment of sex renders that impossible. He was, in a way, the original radical feminist… According to the quote, then, all sex would be sinful, but necessary evils. Thomas Nagel interprets the imperative to treat others as persons always differently – as long as you identify with your partner’s feelings, you *are* treating them as ends.
It just goes to show what’s wrong with such broad moral generalities – it’s all in the interpretation. I agree with Nagel. But the general moral principle doesn’t imply that I should.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm


Interestingly, Kant thought that in the context of sex, partners could not think of each other in terms of ends-in-themselves.
Then he must not have been doing it correctly.



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm


Imagine this scenario, and tell me if it’s realistic to you:
Young man hits puberty about the same time the internet is just starting to become popular. Young man looks at dirty material sometimes, fantasizes about sex sometimes, “relieves” himself sometimes. Young man doesn’t date much in high school, but has a more successful romantic life in college (has a few different girlfriends over the years, is not abstinent). Young man finishes college. Young man joins military. Young man finishes military commitment, travels for a bit, and gets job. Young man meets wonderful girl and gets married. Young man is TOTALLY honest about EVERYTHING to his wife (even before they are married). Young man loves to make love to his wife, more than anything else in the world, and they have a great love life. Sometimes the (not quite as young anymore) man’s wife is not in the mood, though (maybe a quarter of the time or something), so the man goes and (freely and openly) sits in front of the computer and “relieves” himself on these occasions. Man still MUCH prefers being with his wife to his computer- his computer is only a backup plan (he also uses it when his wife is gone for a few days). Man and his wife live happily and honestly together.
Is this scenario possible?



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rj

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm


If you think pr0n is an evil in and of itself, no amount of empirical research will convince you otherwise. And why should it? Even though we are well into the age of unlimited, free pr0n and no anti-pr0n commenter here can point to any concrete effect beyond amorphous concepts and unprovable anecdotes.
That’s fine. If you think something is evil, it’s evil and that’s the end of it – statistics will never change your mind. But what is your solution? For people who want it, nothing can be done on a technological level. The vast majority of men and a surprisingly large number of women use it and don’t see themselves as borderline sociopaths incapable of intimacy.
Shout out into the void for as long as you want. By all means raise your children as you see fit (and I see nothing wrong with internet filters for the family) and find some anecdotal evidence with which to spin larger narratives.
However, the battle is over, pr0n won and society hasn’t collapsed into a mess of people violently screwing one another in the street.



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:24 pm


It seems to me that the people on the two sides of this issue almost live in two different worlds- and are almost speaking two different languages. Nothing really seems to get across the void.
I know which world I prefer.



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Even more (I can’t seem to keep it shut!)-
One side of this argument (call it Side A), in general, is perfectly happy with the way they live their lives and go about their business. The other side of this argument (again, in general, call it Side B) looks at Side A and says that the way they live their lives and go about their business is DESTRUCTIVE TO SOCIETY, TO THEIR FAMILIES, and TO THEIR VERY SOULS. Side A doesn’t (in general) make any judgements about the way Side B lives their lives and goes about their business.
So you can see why Side A may sometimes respond defensively.



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm


More-
Side B (in general) just CAN’T IMAGINE that anyone can grow up, look at lots of “dirty” stuff, and still be a normal, stable, decent person.



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Jillian

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm


Is this scenario possible?
It’s the perfectly common and normal these days.
It seems to me that the people on the two sides of this issue almost live in two different worlds- and are almost speaking two different languages. Nothing really seems to get across the void.
The best explanation I’ve come up with is that phenomena of bipolar disorder, such as uncontrollable hypersexuality and antisexuality/disgust, are accepted as defining reality and projected onto all people in one of them.



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jaybird

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm


If you think pr0n is an evil in and of itself, no amount of empirical research will convince you otherwise. And why should it? Even though we are well into the age of unlimited, free pr0n and no anti-pr0n commenter here can point to any concrete effect beyond amorphous concepts and unprovable anecdotes.
In a lot of ways, I think this debate parallels the gun-control debate. We’ve had much more relaxed CCW (conceal/carry) laws in Michigan for almost a decade now, and back when it was being debated, the anti-CCW advocates had all sorts of dire scenarios about how more people carrying guns was going to lead to O.K. Corral-style shootouts in mall parking lots and crowded bars and such. Nothing like this has happened yet, but that doesn’t stop the anti-gun people from making their predictions of blood-in-the-streets any day now.



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SpaceCat75

posted June 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm


“The first thing I do in the book is very purposefully describe it IN DETAIL.”
Hahahaha! I bet you do! Perv.



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Erin Manning

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm


Elizabeth Anne, with the Pratchett quote, has got at the heart of this matter.
Let me ask a related question: is torture always wrong, or is it only wrong if it’s not being done for the right reasons or if it’s being taken too far?
I think torture is always wrong, period. I don’t buy the arguments that sometimes we really, really, REALLY need the intel, and there’s a ticking time bomb that will kill us all plus the terror suspect has someone’s infant daughter locked up with no food and water and on and on to the point of the bizarre pro-torture fantasy; I don’t buy that there’s ever a reason to strap down a fellow human being and proceed to treat him like an object worth nothing more than what he can give us to satisfy our own lusts for information, for revenge, or for hatred.
Guess what? P0rn is intrinsically evil for the same reason that torture is–because on the other side of that camera that’s rolling as “Busty McLusty” does her famous routine is a real human being who is not merely a collection of body parts for men to fantasize about and “relieve themselves” whilst contemplating. And the same thing is true if the person on the other end of the camera is male, or if the person in the computer chair busily pleasuring herself is female, or if the act being filmed is being presented as that of a nice married couple (which is as much of a fantasy as anything Ms. McLusty is capable of performing).
Well, say the self-pleasurers, but there’s a big difference between the torture victim and the p0rn star–the torture victim has no choice; he’s being hurt against his will. The p0rn star may be (and likely is) being hurt in ways hard to fathom for those of us who’ve never experienced the total degradation of having to sell what ought never be sold, and having to pervert one’s self for the pleasure of anonymous sweaty masses who haven’t the imagination to see how deeply hurt and wounded most in the p0rn industry actually are–but, say the self-pleasureres, after all, the p0rn star agreed to do these things, and is getting paid for them, so that makes it all just peachy.
Reading what “a man” writes above, I would answer this way: no, there’s no way someone can look at lots of “dirty” stuff and still be a normal, stable, decent human being–because a decent human being does not think of human beings as “dirty stuff” being paraded for their temporary orgasmic pleasure. There is nothing whatsoever decent about porn or about its use, and the people who think there is are the kind of people who think it’s perfectly find to treat other human beings as objects to be used instead of people to be loved–really loved, that is, actually respected and cared for, not merely “relieved” over.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm


jaybird (fully clothed): While the actual “professional” porn industry is probably just as exploitative and emotionally corrosive to the people involved as its detractors claim it is, there’s plenty of amateur, homegrown porn on the internet too, all-too- willingly produced and distributed by everyday, ordinary, middle-class suburbanites
This blog is, like Graham Chapman’s Inspector Dim of the Yard, too clever for us naughty people, as it turns out that a so-titled post from just yesterday headed off at the passion fans of those very same Mom ‘n’ Pop hot-loops:
“Against the cult of the amateur”
Wank: After you buy new porn titles, hold them a while – you’ll make a killing in the collectors’ market.
Hank: Why’s that?
Wank: Because once you’ve looked at ‘em a few weeks, they’re very hard to come by.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:26 pm


Erin, so would you find anything wrong in a couple filming their own sexual activities for their own viewing pleasure?



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Turmarion

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm


Excellent posts, ratiocination and Pasqua. Not much else to be said, nor, as Pasqua points out, would it help much.



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm


if the act being filmed is being presented as that of a nice married couple (which is as much of a fantasy as anything Ms. McLusty is capable of performing)
Nothing is as much of a fantasy as what you just wrote, Erin. You talk about other people not being “normal and stable and decent,” but what does it say about a person who proclaims that a nice married couple who happened to have a camera rolling when they did what all nice married couples do anyway actually ISN’T what they claim to be, based on what they know themselves to be?
It is impossible to engage an argument if it openly rests on a foundational assumption that everything one’s respondents could possibly say is actually a lie, up to and including their own mental states. It is the very definition of a bad-faith position. And I find that approach to be quite dirty and disrespectful to the innate humanity of all the other people you are trying to talk to. They don’t become mere objects for your emotional gratification just because a machine is on. You don’t get to say they don’t “really” have a good, happy marriage just because they’re in pr0n. Just who is doing the dehumanizing objectification here, hm?



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Liam

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm


Something a lot of people are unaware of: in some regions of the Catholic world (more typically Mediterranean), confessors used to ask husbands if they had properly rendered the marital debt to their wives, so that the husbands had made reasonable effort to undertake that their wives had as much pleasure in marital congress as the husbands had. (This was the flip side of the interrogation of the wives about their rendering of the marital debt to their husbands.) The historical fact (as can best be gauged by fairly constant references in literature and other documents) is, of course, that many husbands treated their wives as vessels to relieve themselves. How much have things really changed?
Captcha: knickers not (should be knicker snot, as it the He watching over Israel slumber snot nor sleeps…)



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Hector

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm


It’s interesting- in a rather boringly predictable way- the lengths to which some people, like our Mr. TTT, will go to defend the indefensible. Their argument is pretty much like the argument of a five year old- baby wants what baby wants. Just like a five year old would prefer to eat candy for dinner then broccoli, these people would prefer to watch ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ then cultivate their sexuality and their natures in more healthy and productive ways. Of course, we don’t normally listen to five year olds when deciding what to cook for dinner, and I’m d*mned if we should listen to a bunch of p*rn aficionados about what constitutes healthy sexuality.
A healthy and morally sane society would consider p*rnography contemptible at best and vicious at worse, and that’s really all there is to it.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm


I don’t want to be all judgey with the monkey spank crowd. I think if you honestly contemplate your priapitic perversions at the very least you will feel manly shame for your lack of self-discipline even if you fail to recognize the damage you do to your soul, your relationship to your wife, and your ability to instill character in your children. The very act of masturbation suggests an inability to act in accordance with reason, so I won’t even suggest that these matters can be discussed rationally.
The better question is, if porn is so awesome why did it take broadband internet to make it ubiquitous? I don’t want to tell you how to live your life. I just want you to have the courage to live the life you think is great. Take a trip down to PornMart and pick up your copy Kan Krankers 12 and go back home and live the dream. But no social good can come from the coarsening of the public square with this stuff or from making it easier for you to hide your shame.



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Northerner

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Another good book on the subject is Pr0nified by Pamela Paul. Not for the squeamish she takes a look at the pr0n industry and the ruined lives and destroyed sexualities it has left in its wake. She interviews men who got tangled in the web and follows their ruined marrigages, families, careers, and lives. She details how pr0n has changed sexuality in that people commonly do things that they would have thought unthinkable a mere 25 years ago. Feminists have embraced pr0n as a way of showing girl power but as Paul writes the women in pr0n are typically shown in degrading situations under the domination of an unattractive man (so pr0n losers can easier identify) and these situations even include violence. A good amount of it comes from the third world where woman are involved against their wills.
Gavin McInnes wrote a good article a few months back on the subject. Interesting how a very large percentage of woman involved were sexually abused as children and youths. Only people devoid of any sexuality can do this work.
http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/the_problem_with_hipster_porn/



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm


How can I be expected to take seriously the arguments of a person who, while knowing ALMOST NOTHING about me, is CERTAIN that I am not a “normal, stable, decent human being”? Should I just laugh?



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grendel

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm


OK, I read the article and looked through the comments …
Seems to be an awful lot of moralism but not much empiricism going on.
Just what does Dines mean when she says porn destroys sexuality? What are the objective criteria for “good” sexuality? Does anybody ever lay them out and demonstrate the concrete effects porn has them? How about negative externalia? Does porn increase violence? divorce? gayness? (ok the last one was a bit of a joke) but still … I see the anti-porn crowd doing a lot of hand waving about harm, but very little data on what the empirical harms actually are.
So put me down as unimpressed by the argument so far.



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm


What I see here is a bunch of people who are more interested in being more deeply distrustful of the other than anything else.
Why can’t we all just accept that the free availability of pornography where people objectify each other pretty consistently is probably not the best thing for a young person’s developing sexuality? Basically, the people who have dogs in this fight are parents (like Rod and me). As usual, I agree with Franklin about how to deal with it (supervise your kids, but talk to them too, frankly and often). I think it might become a public health issue. But the strategy to deal with that is going to be an extension of the parental strategy – have an informational campaign about porn addiction.
Then we can leave it for adults to be consume pornography or not. As a matter of legal fact, banning or criminalizing pornography is moot – it’s not going to happen. In any case, that issue is completely irrelevant to the issue brought up by this book and interview.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm


Dear AMan,
If you were under the impression that expressing the opinion that “relieving” one’s self when one’s spouse is not in the mood with pants around ankles hunched forward in the bluish light of a computer screen and enjoying the objectification of another man’s daughter or wife says nothing about a person . . . well . . . you would be wrong. Sorry.



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm


“What are the objective criteria for “good” sexuality?”
I quoted a link to an article by Thomas Nagel, which does (I think) a pretty good job of this. The idea, in short, is that partners in “good sex” identify with the pleasure with the other – and not only the physical pleasure – but psychological pleasure. I think what he says about homosexuality is a bit dated, and I certainly believe that non-heterosexual sex can fit the model for good sex, according to Nagel. I don’t think all sex has to be “good” in this sense. But I do think that the overwhelming majority of pornography depicts sex that is so unrealistic that it impedes identifying with one or all the characters, who are therefore objectified. I think this idea of consuming porn, which necessarily lacks a response from pornography, as an introduction and development of sexuality, can lead to stunted sexual growth that can effect later relationships. I don’t have excellent empirical evidence to show this. I do know that it has effected couples I’ve known, and that these issues come up and relate to behaviors developed in adolescence.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm


I’m really not clear on how porn is intrinsically bad. I mean, it’s just pictures of naked people having sex. Is there something intrinsically wrong with naked people having sex, or taking pictures of them doing that, or looking at those pictures? It doesn’t really compute. I can see how it could be made to be bad, by introducing something bad into the mix, or becoming pathologically addicted to it, and so on. But intrinsically bad? That sounds like an ideological belief system that is probably immune to either evidence or argument.
I suppose the argument is that lust is bad. But lust is just natural desire, and sometimes it can be bad, but a lot of the time it’s either good or just plain harmless. And don’t tell me lust is separate from love, because it isn’t. I lust after what I love, and I love what I lust after. Ask my wife.
Sex, even for the sheer pleasurable lust of it all, isn’t bad. Masturbation isn’t bad. Looking at pictures isn’t bad. So I don’t see where the intrinsic badness comes in. There are combinations of all these possibilities which could be bad for some, even most people, but they could also be good for some, even most people. What exactly is the big deal?



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm


Loudoun is a fool-
Frequently I sit on the toilet and make strange grunting noises while relieving an unrelated physical need. Certainly, it is not a particularly dignified event in appearance. However, I believe that all it says about me as a person is that perhaps I should consider eating more fiber.
I freely admit I masturbate. Most people do, certainly most men, even if many won’t admit it. My grandmother told my father it would make him go blind- luckily, he was intelligent enough to see that was ridiculous. I come from a long line of masturbators. They were soldiers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists… masturbators all. They were all (or most) normal, stable, and decent folks. They worked hard and provided for their families. Some were religious, some were not.
I tend to doubt that condemning masturbation is a winning argument on your side…



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Loudon: If pr0n is so awesome why did it take broadband internet to make it ubiquitous?
It didn’t. Some of the earliest human carvings from European caves dating back tens of thousands of years are clearly sexualized motifs. When was the Kama Sutra written? Or the Arabian Nights? What frontier town did NOT have a brothel? As for your business about “self-control and respecting your wife and instilling responsibility in your children,”…. spare me. Everybody masturbates and everybody knows it. Treating people like they’re freaks for something that is the biological equivalent of burping–now THAT is a recipe for causing serious damage to normal emotional development.
Hector:
these people would prefer to watch ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ then cultivate their sexuality and their natures in more healthy and productive ways.
Do try to follow along, please. The whole point I and numerous others are making is that the choice asserted above is a false one: namely, that anyone who says looking at pr0n must keep people from forming normal stable relationships is really self-defeatingly clueless and can be refuted by just looking at the continuation of normal human relationships at all for the last some-decades.
But clearly we are into Invincible Ignorance territory here, where it doesn’t matter if something is ACTUALLY harmful, because it’s just so clear that it SHOULD be harmful that it can simply be assumed to be the case and any lack of evidence only goes to show how truly insidious the phenomenon is, and all firsthand statements to the contrary mere lies probably spread by witches.



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BobSF

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm


gayness? (ok the last one was a bit of a joke)
Hey, it’s not a joke to certain “pro-family” organizations in the country. They espouse the belief that masturbation itself is homosexual behavior, as no one of the opposite sex is present. Therefore, all porn — except that shared by two (or more) people of the opposite sex — leads to homosexuality.



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jaybird

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm


TTT: As for your business about “self-control and respecting your wife and instilling responsibility in your children,”…. spare me. Everybody masturbates and everybody knows it.
Maybe Loudon just has really short arms.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm


A Man: How can I be expected to take seriously the arguments of a person who, while knowing ALMOST NOTHING about me, is CERTAIN that I am not a “normal, stable, decent human being”? Should I just laugh?
Not “just” – but it’s a good first step, in much the same way that a good comedy makes for a nice change-up between skin-flicks.
C. 1990, after I had just sported with the latest “what’s this world coming to?” plaint from Gramps about “my” generation in all its glorious degeneracy:
Grandfather: You think everything’s a joke, don’t you?
Me: No, Grandpa – just you.
In such threads as these, we see indeed on the side of the lascivious lads and lasses among us the most chilling of sins – i.e., nowhere more so than in their touching attempts to meet their stern and censorious antagonists halfway, hat in hand, in earnest character witness to the just-like-you sobriety, upright rectitude, and stable matrimonial joy prevailing among the pornographic answer to the “social drinker”, some even, g-d help them, adducing statistical arguments and assurances of the anodyne non-collapse sustained by our Leading Social Indicators.
Whatever for? Why do we need to win anyone over, even half-way, in the first place? I have no doubt whatever that in my moral anarchism, my pagan nihilism, my depraved tastes, and my general outlawry, I am on a one-way express train to that hell resembling in all its particulars that prepared for me so lovingly by those self-charged with my salvation. I consider myself utterly beyond redemption, even at the edges, and I love every minute of it. I would no more consider seeking the approval of those with an evident libido for my moral regeneration than I would enter a contest with them to see who has the longer moral weewee.
Let them work up a head of steam, stamp their little Rumpelstiltskin feet into dust, and even pass a few new laws against the liberties of consenting adults viewing whatever the eff we please in the privacy of our own breakfast nooks: as my bumper sticker says, “The last cop to search my trunk is in it.”



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Franklin Evans

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm


Dan, thanks for the mention. I’m left to wonder if anyone else read my post. Not that it should matter, but it would be nice to see a rational commentary on my main point.
This is why I see it as simple: If I effectively teach my children that sex is a combination of personal pleasure and the pleasure of the sexual partner, and that they are mutually inclusive (we objectify each other sexually, no avoiding it, but empathy is the balance to that), then we can effectively discuss with them why pron is a potential abuse. They have a basis for comparison.
If, instead, we make them fear it, or otherwise fill their minds with labels like “evil”, and leave them to fill in the blanks on their own, I would submit that we (parents, society, religious leaders, et al) are the actual cause of their sexual dysfunction and resorting to pron in place of actual sexual relationships with the person they love.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm


Hector, my take (and agreement) via shorter-TTT: Pron is not the cause of sexual dysfunction, it is the recourse of the sexually dysfunctional. Others thinking to jump on that, please see TTT’s and Hector’s posts for the complete context in which I intend this post.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm


AMan,
Given the admission that some acts are of their nature private (and properly so) doesn’t it strike you as odd that some private acts would be filmed for others to enjoy?
Franklin,
While I think that while your formulation is better than the “No my wife really likes porn, seriously” (admitting that with respect to the gay commenters that statement may very well be true), the mutual self pleasuring argument is what has brought us to the current state. The appeal of pornography and masturbation is pleasure. If one pleasure (in the mutual sex act) is good, why isn’t that pleasure also good when I’m flying solo? While sex is not evil and it is seriously problematic to teach that it is, sex disconnected from its procreative function is profoundly disordered. The way to get past mutual objectification is to recognize the proper ordering of the act beyond the pleasure given and received.



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Scott Lahti

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm


This thread brought to you by Ecballium elaterium, aka the “squirting cucumber” (and kudos, by the way, to whatever Linnæan wag coined that one), the Official Flora of the Fleet of Fallic Finger, as saluted last week in the Free Will Astrology forecast for Pisces.



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Liam

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm


Loudon
There are women who enjoy pornography. And they are hardly as rare, let alone unique as unicorns.



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm


Franklin –
“This is why I see it as simple: If I effectively teach my children that sex is a combination of personal pleasure and the pleasure of the sexual partner, and that they are mutually inclusive (we objectify each other sexually, no avoiding it, but empathy is the balance to that), then we can effectively discuss with them why pron is a potential abuse. They have a basis for comparison.”
The trouble is, I think, that we assume that our teens, at some point, will encounter pron – probably some of the most objectifying sort, so we deal with that reality. Others believe that their kids must never encounter pron at all, so figuring out how to deal with it implies an acceptance they’re not willing to make.
It’s similar to the debate about abstinence-only sex education. I assume that many teenagers will have sex, regardless of their parent’s mores and their religious educations. So, my attitude is to deal with that fact, and move on. (I do think that parents have to do the lion’s share of sex education here.) While I strongly prefer my kids don’t have sex till they’re mature enough to deal with the consequences, they’re going to know enough to protect themselves nonetheless. I’m sure lots of people disagree. That’s why this debate is about the ‘intrinsic evil’ of pron.
Moreover, it seems to me that these two issues tie together pretty well. If a kid is supposed to know nothing about sex, they’re gonna seek out pron. And if they don’t know what “good” sex is supposed to be, they’ve got a good chance to uncritically consume pron, and learn things about their sexuality that can lead them astray.
@Loudon
And I’d like to see the argument, Loudon is a Fool, that sex for other than procreative purpose implies objectification. I’ve offered Nagel’s theory of non-objectification (presented in terms of a definition of Sexual Perversion). Give me some notion of non-objectification that doesn’t beg the question about procreation.



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A Man

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm


“sex disconnected from its procreative function is profoundly disordered”
So I guess you never use any form of birth control, and believe that to do so is PROFOUNDLY disordered? You ONLY have sex when you intend to make a baby (meaning you account for the time in the menstrual cycle), and to not do so is PROFOUNDLY disordered? When a teenager, driven crazy with hormones, masturbates in order to be able to focus his mind on something other than his raging libido, the act is PROFOUNDLY disordered?



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm


sex disconnected from its procreative function is profoundly disordered
Why should I accept that formulation?



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TTT

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm


Are infertile people forbidden to have sex? Talk about adding insult to injury. And what about those of post-reproductive age?



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BobSF

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm


I’m perplexed by all these comments about porn being ubiquitous and free. Where? I haven’t seen any hetero porn in years. Of course, online, I’ve seen teasers and have gotten my fair share of Babes of the Czech Republic emails, but free, full-length porn? What’s the business model? I haven’t seen much gay porn either — it’s never been as appealing to me as it is to most gay men — but I’ve seen enough to know it’s not free and that I had to seek it out. The exception is internet auto-porn, if you will, self-filmed, self-produced, self-distributed. That, too, you have to look for. It’s not hard to find, of course, but “ubiquitous” it ain’t. It does meet the “free” assertion, though.
Anyway…
But I do think that the overwhelming majority of pornography depicts sex that is so unrealistic that it impedes identifying with one or all the characters, who are therefore objectified.
Some of you are not going to like this at all, but I think it needs saying. There seems to be a world of difference between gay male porn and straight porn, at least that which I’ve seen. A gay man might identify with one character in the porn, or the other, or both at different points, or both simultaneously. It’s pretty rare to see depictions of violence or nonconsensual behavior that is not understood to be performance of roles, acknowledged either during the actual “action” or afterwards in behind-the-scenes outtakes.
And a word about “rational” behavior. If you’re 25 and celibate, horny to the point of utter mental distraction, and sporting an erection that borders on the painful, which is more rational:
1) taking matters in hand
2) taking a cold shower and — still not rid of the offending organ’s insistence — whacking your member with a mallet or lashing your back with a reed till you bleed or applying a not-so-mild electrical shock (Note, please feel free to substitute any and all of the remedies for avoiding masturbation published in the last 150 years)
If your religious or ethical beliefs see the former as a moral failing, fine, but let’s not claim it isn’t rational.



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elizabeth

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm


I’m with Franklin on this. Sexuality is subject to the same rules of consideration as other human interactions and needs to be taught as such. Education of the heart.
Our boy discovered internet porn when he was in his early teens. We hel discussions with him focused on “This can really mess your life up if you get very far into it” but also on “Why don’t you do pose for pictures like that?” He was shocked – he had too much self respect! “So why do you think some people do it?” He knew instinctively, as do all – “Because they’re messed up.” I suggested that when he looked at this stuff he was aiding and abetting people who profit from other people being a mess instead of helping him. “Is that who you want to be?”



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Dan O.

posted June 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm


“There seems to be a world of difference between gay male porn and straight porn, at least that which I’ve seen.”
BobSF – that may be so. Facials are the norm in straight porn, almost obligatory. I think I’m safe in saying that most straight guys don’t identify with the pleasure of ejaculating on their faces/hair/etc. Maybe some do, but I don’t see any scenario where for most straight people where it doesn’t come off as humiliating, were one to stop and consider it. The symbolism almost seems intended to stop one from identifying with a female character.
Again, the harm I’d see is consuming that uncritically and not realizing the role humiliation plays. If some adult is into humiliation, they can consume what they wish. Again, not all straight porn does this. But it’s near enough obligatory for mainstream stuff.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 6:12 pm


Dan O.,
I think the argument is that mutual pleasuring doesn’t get past the problem of “I’m doing this act for my pleasure.” Not “solely for my pleasure” which seems to be sufficient for Nagel (but I did not read the study you linked to and I only have a passing knowledge of his views), but still for my pleasure. I don’t see how this gets away from objectification, it only contextualizes it in an arguably less destructive setting. But the intention of the act is still to objectify another (i.e., to receive pleasure). And it’s reminiscent of (really the flip side of) Kant’s “it’s ok that I’ve given up possession of my sex organs because I’ve received your sex organs in return.” But if the act is procreative then intention with regard to objectification becomes secondary because pleasure is not the intent of the act, just a bonus.
John E.,
Your ejaculate if deposited in the sex organs of a female within a given period surrounding ovulation will result in the formation of a new human. Hopefully that clears things up for you.
AMan,
Yes (although the more accurate formulation is that the procreative aspect must not be intentionally excluded).
TTT,
No. But gay sex is out. Sorry.



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ratiocination

posted June 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm


Franklin:
What if I teach my children that 1) sex is how babies are made; 2) therefore you would be wisest to engage in it only within a relationship where both partners are at least marginally prepared to raise a child; 3) when considered properly within the context of (1) and (2), a partner that understands these things is much more likely to give a rip about the other’s pleasure…?
Here we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of this issue: we as a society haven’t merely commodified p0rn; we’ve commodified sex–it’s now primarily considered the most pleasurable of contact sports. Given this view of sexuality, is it any wonder that this thread has degenerated into a spitting contest?
After all if
1)Sex=pleasure;
2)pleasure=good;
3)masturbation=easiest access to sex;
then masturbation=an unquestionable good…
so why should visual aids to masturbation be bad?
The exercise of judgment which some of us are attempting to infuse into this argument is not that masturbators=evil (which, anyway, is a non sequitur); it is to question the first premise: sex=pleasure is a gross oversimplification that skews the entire rest of the logic which is built upon it. It is just as ridiculous to consider the implications of sex as if it were nothing more than pleasure as it would be ridiculous to pretend that pleasure has nothing to do with it. There would be no human race at all without sex.
Where sex=creation of new life, we can see that masturbation no longer fits in in quite the same way, does it? And while this definition too is incomplete, it nevertheless demonstrates why the logical construct above is incorrect.
Sex is a million times more than mere pleasure. What, then, are the implications of a culture that not only fails to recognize this fact, but enshrines its opposite?



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BobSF

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm


Again, the harm I’d see is consuming that uncritically and not realizing the role humiliation plays.
Straight porn, and straight sex for that matter, seems way too tied up with humiliation and conquest, if you ask me. I don’t doubt that humiliation plays a big role in the scenarios you mention. In straight porn. Why that’s the case is not going to be answered in a discussion about just porn.



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Ken

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm


I think the argument is that mutual pleasuring doesn’t get past the problem of “I’m doing this act for my pleasure.” [. . .] I don’t see how this gets away from objectification, it only contextualizes it in an arguably less destructive setting. But the intention of the act is still to objectify another (i.e., to receive pleasure). And it’s reminiscent of (really the flip side of) Kant’s “it’s ok that I’ve given up possession of my sex organs because I’ve received your sex organs in return.” But if the act is procreative then intention with regard to objectification becomes secondary because pleasure is not the intent of the act, just a bonus.
But if the sex is consensual within the context of a loving, committed relationship, each member of the couple gives his or her body to the other for that objectification. Each member recognizes and lovingly meets the other’s needs. Doesn’t this treat the body and its drives with more dignity than just to say, “OK, we’ll allow you to feel good because at the same time we’re accomplishing this greater end”?
What’s more, don’t we all on some level have the desire to be “objectified,” to be found physically desirable?



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BobSF

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm


What’s more, don’t we all on some level have the desire to be “objectified,” to be found physically desirable?
I suspect some of the critics of porn and sex outside marriage (heck, within marriage) would see that desire as evidence of the “feminization” of the American male.



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm


I think this is indeed a serious topic, but I also think there is an element of a “trend piece” in this book, at least according to what I can glean from this interview. Pornography is something that I have some interest in. I don’t mean, like, as a consumer of porn (not that it’s your business sir!), but as an intellectual interest. There’s really nothing new hers, and if you are indeed concerned about this, go back and read the debate that feminism has been having about this topic since the 1970’s.
“Trend peice” = serious arguments conflated into bullshit gloom and doom thesis. Calm down. And for god’s sake, don’t make that “I’m afraid for my daughter” move. Every generation has to navigate this stuff. Go read something about how people have become more open about sexual practices, about how women find ways to be empowered by this. The worst thing in that interview is this idea that it’s getting “much worse.” Trends do not last forever. The adult industry, believe it or not, is in a slump right now. (And if you think gonzo porn is problematic, you should read about some of the content in the late seventies. Rough sex is one thing, eroticized depictions of rape is another.)
I would like to read the book, because I agree with much of what she says, frankly, as a feminist, I find most porn to be reeeeaaaal dicey. She’s mostly right about her critiques of porn. But she’s alarmist in a chicken little way that troubles me. I’m probably among the first generation who grew up with the porn culture she talks about. I think we turned out okay.
Maybe its a generation thing, but Matt, were you seriously shocked by a single word of her descriptions of porn? Where you been buddy! This is important stuff that left leaning culture studies people and feminists have been talking about for a while. Maybe I’m just jaded from watching so much porn.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:32 pm


One of the things I enjoy about this blog is that it allows me to listen to people and views I would never otherwise encounter in my life, and that seems on first glance to be something like listening in on aliens conversing on a different planet. It amazes me to find people making rational arguments for the intrinsic evil of pornography and/or masturbation. But I’m glad I get to hear these things spoken with such conviction, rather than on some sitcom.
Let me make a couple of arguments on “their” side of the sexual coin. I’m a pretty liberal guy without a lot of sexual hangups or problems, a long-standing very happy marriage with two grown kids, a beautiful and sexy wife who rather enjoys the sight of beautiful naked women, and a very happy sex life between us, though one not without occasional masturbation on our parts. That said, there’s something rather important I’ve noticed over the years which will might offend my fellow liberals and win some admiration from the conservatives, which is that real sexual satisfaction and fulfillment doesn’t come from the sex act itself, no matter how good it feels, but from producing children from it.
In my long-considered opinion the purpose of sex really is reproduction, and the fulfillment of the sexual urge only comes from producing and raising children. That doesn’t mean every sex act has to be “reproductive” in nature. Only two of mine have been. But that’s not itself important in my view. The overall purpose of my sexual relationship with my wife has been about the kids, and the overall purpose of most of my life has been about raising those kids. Even all the other sex my wife and I have had is really about maintaining a healthy and pleasurable bond between us that allows us to raise children. So while sex itself is very pleasurable regardless of its purpose, the fulfillment of sex only comes with children and the successful raising of them. So in my own way now I feel genuinely sexually fulfilled, and in a certain sense not nearly as driven towards sex. In part that’s age, but a really big part of it is feeling sexually fulfilled altogether, such that I don’t really need sex so much anymore. Sure, I do need it now and then, but not for the sake of self-fulfillment. My kids are the fulfillment of my sexual urge.
I also notice that people who don’t have kids tend to be unfulfilled sexually, and are always trying to find sexual fulfillment through greater and greater sexual pleasure. I feel that such people are missing the boat on sex, regardless of how “good” they’ve become at it. Sexual pleasure is never actually fulfilling, because pleasure isn’t the purpose of sex. Pleasure is just the mechanism nature has provided to get us to have sex. But the fulfillment of sex is in children, and without them, sexual relationships are missing something.
Now, that’s probably an unsupportable generalization in that there’s probably many people who are quite happy not having children. And I don’t doubt that. I just think they are probably not sexually fulfilled, and make their peace with life by accepting that they just aren’t going to become truly fulfilled by sex at all. They just might not connect that to children, which is something of a shame, since I think it’s important for people to know where sexual fulfillment actually comes from, and our culture doesn’t really do a very good job of pointing this out. Even the religious here seem more obsessed with labeling non-reproductive sex as evil or destructive than with pointing out how true sexual fulfillment comes about.
On the other hand, I’m not opposed to porn or masturbation with any enthusiasm, though I’m not in favor of them with any enthusiasm either. People need whatever they can to get through the night, and no one is unscathed in this world. There’s no perfect way to be sexual that will protect one from harm. Even celibacy can be destructive. People need the freedom to figure these things out for themselves. There’s no place for the word “evil” in this conversation. It would be kind of nice if people showed a little more respect for one another.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:35 pm


Loudon:
Your ejaculate if deposited in the sex organs of a female within a given period surrounding ovulation will result in the formation of a new human. Hopefully that clears things up for you.
Actually that hasn’t been true for about thirteen years now.
I have been rendered sterile by surgery.
So now, all of my sexual activity is ordered towards the pleasure of myself and my partner – not towards procreation.
BobSF:
Straight porn, and straight sex for that matter, seems way too tied up with humiliation and conquest, if you ask me.
I dunno, Bob, some of us straights have sex together because we like each other.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:42 pm


Now, that’s probably an unsupportable generalization in that there’s probably many people who are quite happy not having children. And I don’t doubt that. I just think they are probably not sexually fulfilled, and make their peace with life by accepting that they just aren’t going to become truly fulfilled by sex at all.
Yogi, as you said earlier:
One of the things I enjoy about this blog is that it allows me to listen to people and views I would never otherwise encounter in my life, and that seems on first glance to be something like listening in on aliens conversing on a different planet.
Because what you stated above is totally alien to me. I assure you, sir, that my wife and I are quite sexually fulfilled in our non-procreative sexuality.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm


Doesn’t this treat the body and its drives with more dignity than just to say, “OK, we’ll allow you to feel good because at the same time we’re accomplishing this greater end”?
I don’t think ignoring the nature of the act or viewing it in the context of a drive in any way dignifies the act. So, no.
And I’m not attempting to minimize pleasure or suggest that it isn’t good or that it isn’t intrinsically wrapped up in the sex act. Only that any attempt to define the act from the perspective of pleasure necessarily requires objectification. Eating is pleasurable. When we eat we should eat good food that is pleasing to eat. It would be very odd to eat virtual food that is only intended to mimic the pleasure of eating, without really eating. But I suppose when we figure out a way to do that we’ll call the pleasurable part eating and the nourishing part something else. “Dude, I don’t want to nutrify myself. Let’s just eat.”
Also desiring beauty and desiring to be beautiful are not the same as desiring to be objectified.



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BobSF

posted June 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm


Now, that’s probably an unsupportable generalization
Ya think? You notice, I hope, that a large part of the thrust of this article is that porn and masturbation ruin families. I.e. the kids are already in the picture. All these “fulfilled” guys seem pretty unfulfilled, at least if one accepts your take on it.
On the other hand, maybe they just want more kids…
I dunno, Bob, some of us straights have sex together because we like each other.
Oh, I’d go further than that. Heck, I’d even say “most”.
:-)
I’m sure you’d agree, however, it isn’t universal and certainly doesn’t appear to be the case in a lot of porn.



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm


I just want to check back in to vote for the “not procreation” team. It’s a shame that anyone would be callous enough to frame this conversation in such a way to make me feel that way, but there it is.
My sex life has nothing to do with procreation either. There’s sort of balance here between talking about culture in a responsible way (which makes sexuality everybody’s business) and respecting sexual autonomy. When you are absurd enough to reduce sexuality to procreation, and when absurd enough to make that normative, you are being absurd enough for me to be impolite in my response. I’m frankly offended. To some degree, my sexuality is my damn business, and it’s for lots of things. Kids ain’t one of them. Don’t devalue my or anyone else’s sexual choices.
Frankly, that’s part of what bugs me about the interview. I 100% agree with the criticisms of the way porn normalizes certain attitudes (don’t even get me started), but there’s an overreach into speculating about private feelings that makes me feel itchy.
I heard a biologist once (I don’t remember who) who was asked if any other animals had sex for non-procreative reasons, for pleasure.
“Well . . . all of ‘em. we are the only animals that do anything else,” was the answer.
I’m also reminded of the old Monty Python joke.
“We protestants, not like those filthy Catholics, who can only have sex to procreate.”
“But dear, we have two children, and we’ve had sex twice!”
I trust that joke doesn’t actually apply to anyone here, so what in the hell are you talking about? Come on people. It sounds nice, but it ain’t true. At least I hope not. That sounds like an awfully impoverished kind of sexuality.



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Ken

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:02 pm


I don’t think ignoring the nature of the act or viewing it in the context of a drive in any way dignifies the act.
No, but why do you see procreation and not pleasure as the fundamental purpose of the act? Why does one have to be primary?
Also desiring beauty and desiring to be beautiful are not the same as desiring to be objectified.
No they aren’t, and I put “objectified” in quotes in my previous post because I’m not sure that’s exactly what’s going on. If I relish eating a peach, I relish it as a peach, and not as a strawberry. When I feel like a piece of fruit, either might satisfy me, but I still relish each for its own properties.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:07 pm


“I assure you, sir, that my wife and I are quite sexually fulfilled in our non-procreative sexuality.”
Yes, until a few years ago I would have agreed with you. But the more I considered sex and sexual pleasure and children, I’ve come to a different view. I’m not suggesting that people can’t have a very happy, pleasurable sexual life without children, but that this is different from “sexual fulfillment”. It may be that you don’t even know what I’m talking about, precisely because you don’t have children yourself.
I have plenty of childless friends who are quite happy, but I’ve noticed over the years that they are still under the illusion that sexual fulfillment comes from sexual pleasure, even sexual love. That’s certainly an important part of it, but I’ve observed that children are the real source of sexual fulfillment, not the pleasure of sex itself. If you don’t have children, of course you wouldn’t observe this, and it’s certainly true that many people with children are not sexually fulfilled, because merely giving birth is only one aspect of the process.
Now, I’ve also noticed that couples with children, and couples without children, do indeed live on different planets, which would probably account for your seeing my observations as that of an alien being. I’m not sure I can bridge the gap between those two worlds here. Those of us with children are somewhat at an advantage in this, however, in that we have been childless ourselves at one time, and then childful, and we can see the differences more directly and personally. And I’ll just repeat that actual sexual fulfillment isn’t about sexual pleasure or even sexual relations, but about raising the children that are the product of sex. If you do all of that stuff right, there’s a sense of fulfillment that in some respects closes the books on sex.
So while I think it’s fine to do whatever turns you on, there’s still some basic facts about sex and sexual fulfillment that clearly aren’t being properly communicated out there. Of course, maybe I’m just speaking for myself and projecting my results on the rest of humanity. Not meaning to put down the childless, but I think there are some basic biological and psychological and even spiritual truths about sexuality that can’t be given the old end-run around. A good amount of sexual disatisfaction seems to result from not knowing the basic truths about sex, and imagining that sexual pleasure is the point of sex. It’s a great side-benefit, but it isn’t how the sexual urge is fulfilled.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Only that any attempt to define the act from the perspective of pleasure necessarily requires objectification.
Reference back to Yogi’s comment about alien conversations, I guess…
You might consider another possibility besides objectification – the idea expressed by the part of the traditional English marriage vow that goes, “With my body, thee I worship…”
Well, not thee Loudon, but rather my Beloved.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:16 pm


And I’ll just repeat that actual sexual fulfillment isn’t about sexual pleasure or even sexual relations, but about raising the children that are the product of sex.
Perhaps it might be the case that some terms such as ‘actual sexual fulfillment’ are entirely subjective and not conducive to a universally objective definition.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:19 pm


I don’t know what to tell you Ken. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that schlongs and vajayjays go together like rama lama lama
ke ding a de ding a dong. The act is what it is. But I also brought up procreation because I Dan O.’s distinction regarding perversion doesn’t seem to eliminate objectification. And you would seem to agree. Also some people aren’t fruits.



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John(2)

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:20 pm


Rod, I’ve got news for you. America is a matriarchy NOT a patriarchy. In other words the women are in the driving seat. In my experience they are well able to look after themselves in these matters and if they can’t it’s usually their parents fault.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:25 pm


BobSF,
Don’t confuse my discussion of procreative sexual fulfillment with any agreement with the idea that porn or masturbation are intrinsically bad or ruin families. They probably do ruin some families, but they probably help others. I’m very liberal in the sense of not imposing a moral judgment on sexual activity, unless it clearly become destructive or pathological. But that doesn’t mean I don’t observe sex closely and see that sexual fulfillment isn’t found in sex itself, but in what sex brings about biologically – children. On the other hand, merely having children isn’t, in itself, fulfilling. It’s just that this is the area where real fulfillment of the sexual urge is to be found. Actually achieving that fulfillment is no easy or automatic job. It isn’t done by following any particular religious proscription, other than to love and nurture one’s children as fully as one is capable of. When one does that, one can find genuine sexual fulfillment.
I suppose the next best thing is to find fulfillment in the mutual loving relationship with one’s spouse, rather than merely in the sexual pleasure one finds in one another. I gather from your comments that you’re gay, and maybe it’s a bit offensive that I’m suggesting that true sexual fulfillment is not possible for gay people, since they can’t biologically reproduce. I don’t really see a complete way around that, other than adoption or new-fangled technologies. But obviously gay people are not the only people who don’t have children, and some gay people do have them. But I am suggesting that a part of the problem people have, gay or straight, in seeking sexual fulfillment, is that they think the fulfillment is going to come from sex itself, whereas it doesn’t really. Sexual satisfaction is always temporary and doesn’t last, whereas children, or even a love relationship with a spouse, are a till-death-do-we-part kind of thing. And that’s what sex is really geared towards, children and loving relationships with the spouse. It’s just that even the love-relationship with the spouse is biologically geared towards children, and the fulfillment of that relationship is always outside of the relationship itself, in the kids produced. This is how sex becomes more than a narcissistic pattern of self-obsession.
And that’s the main problem with things like porn or masturbation, if pursued beyond a certain point. They become onanistically narcissistic. The cure for narcissism is to live for someone beyond yourself, which is what having children means. The spousal relationship is a step beyond oneself, but one must find a way to go beyond even that spousal relationship, and that’s what children do. And then one sense one’s children out into the world to expand even the family beyond the narcissistic sphere, and that’s where the fulfillment of the sex urge becomes complete – if all of that has been done right, by which I mean lovingly and genuinely going beyond self.
It all boils down to going beyond self, because that’s where fulfillment lies. Loving others, you know?



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm


The spousal relationship is a step beyond oneself, but one must find a way to go beyond even that spousal relationship…
Why?



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm


Why indeed?
Again, my objection is that you are being normative. If that’s your experience, awesome, but it’s not mine, and you sure as heck are suggesting a hierarchy here.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm


“Perhaps it might be the case that some terms such as ‘actual sexual fulfillment’ are entirely subjective and not conducive to a universally objective definition.”
I think you have it backwards. It’s only by looking at sex as a subjective experience that one can imagine fulfillment will come by the subjective sexual pleasure that we experience in the act itself. An objective approach will notice that the obvious, scientifically verifiable purpose of sex is to produce children. There is a great deal of evidence to back this up, so it’s not just some subjective belief on my part.
So my point is that the objective approach to sex shouldn’t be set aside in favor of a purely subjective approach. Genuine fulfillment of a desire is to be found in the objective realm of that desire’s objective purpose and expected results. And the objective purpose of sex is children, not personal pleasure. So it’s not an unreasonable subjective argument at all to suggest that sexual fulfillment comes from raising children, and not from sexual pleasure.
The reason this is confusing is that the subjective purpose of sex is to get laid, or get one’s rocks off. But this isn’t the objective purpose of the act, despite what we might think. And so we tend to become obsessed with pursuing illusions of sexual fulfillment through pleasure, which never produce any objective satisfaction. That is only found in children and families. Sorry, that’s just the way the objective world works.



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm


Actually the “going beyond oneself with sexuality” stuff is pretty much what Freud believed (“Civilization and it’s Discontents”), but he thought it was a source of pathology. I don’t agree with him, but if you read his argument, you see how odd it is to frame social attachment and empathy in terms of sexuality.



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm


The “objective” evolutionary purpose of sex is not the same thing as the meaning that sexuality has in ones life. This is where I agree with religious people. (I’m not one.) Sexuality is more than a way to procreate. It’s an intimate part of oneself that can be shared. In many ways, it’s core to our identities. It’s certainly central to our experiences as physical beings. So it’s important. But it’s complex, and reducing it to is biological function is mechanistic. And if you are talking about objective biological reality, then you shouldn’t introduce “should” or impose any kind of values at all. If you are going to go that route, it just is, and it doesn’t mean anything at all. I don’t believe that, and I don’t think you do either.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:52 pm


“The spousal relationship is a step beyond oneself, but one must find a way to go beyond even that spousal relationship…”
Why?
Because the spousal relationship doesn’t exist for its own sake, but within the larger social sphere. If one doesn’t go beyond it, one becomes trapped within it, and that leads to disatisfaction and disturbance. If you haven’t observed this, I suggest you pay closer attention to these matters. At every level of human life, the fulfillment of that level is found in the next level, the greater extension of self, rather than in the narcissism of being inverted upon the self.



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm


So once again, you ARE saying that without biologically produced children, we cannot attain “fullfillment”? How do you know? Especially since you’ve built this out of your experience as a parent? Can you say anything other than the “Richard Dawkins argument” (selfish genes) or the “well, this is what my experience as a parent is like” argument? If not, I’d suggest you take my offense at your argument seriously.
(I’m not disputing your experience, by the way. I think you talk about being a parent in a perfectly great way. Kudos for that outlook. But don’t be normative about it.)



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm


Genuine fulfillment of a desire is to be found in the objective realm of that desire’s objective purpose and expected results.
Can you point to this objective realm of purposes and results, or is it a metaphorical construct?
Similarly, is it not possible that a single action, such as sexual intercourse, can have multiple purposes and results?
Simply on a numerical basis one could argue that the purpose of sex is to reinforce the pair-bonding between couples and that reproduction is a secondary function since the sexual act results in pair-bonding more frequently than it results in progeny.



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JamieMc

posted June 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm


I agree with what you say about the spousal relationship. One of my favoirte things about being married is that my spouse helps me to connect with other people. I totally get you. Especially in terms of my ability to empathize and think about women. A healthy marriage or father-daughter relationship should make a man more or feminist (says me expressing my own biases).
But that’s not our sex life, dude. If you conflate “sexuality” with the bigger partnership that sexuality enables, but okay. But that’s a little weird for me.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:03 pm


If one doesn’t go beyond it, one becomes trapped within it, and that leads to disatisfaction and disturbance.
It does? Always?
If you haven’t observed this, I suggest you pay closer attention to these matters. At every level of human life, the fulfillment of that level is found in the next level, the greater extension of self, rather than in the narcissism of being inverted upon the self.
Is it? Is that a normative statement in the same way that ‘The attractive force between two masses is directly proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them’ is?
Because I can see where what you are saying could very well be a fulfilling way to live for some people, but I don’t see why it is a normative statement.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:03 pm


Loudon, and ratiocination by extension [hello long-time-no-see to you both], I don’t think we are far apart on principles, but I want to make sure neither of you are following down an unintended trap: I was making a complementary point, not an oppositional one.
I call your attention to my very deliberate word choices and phrasing: that we objectify our partners during sex is a fundamental and natural part of that mutual process — after all, if the sex is not with “other”, then it’s just a complex form of masturbation; and that I place empathy as the balance to that. I hope I’m not being patronizing in pointing out that pron is anti-empathetic. I started out by asserting simplicity, and I constructed a simple approach to stating it. Two components, one missing from pron, its presence being argued to death in the tangents on what sex is for. :-)



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm


Jamie,
Sex really is a biological function. I’m not making this stuff up. I’m just a bit amazed that people tend to forget this. Yes, it has all kinds of psychological meanings and correlates and purposes, but it remains at core a biological function, and it is biology that rules sex. You are living in a fantasy world if you imagine otherwise. Unfortunately, a lot of people are so disassociated from their own body and biology that they actually do imagine otherwise. Some of those people are religious, some are not, it hardly matters. Without biology, there is no sex. And in spirit, there is no sex, no gender, none of this psychological need for sexual fulfillment. All the psychology of sex is rooted in biology, even if it is experienced in the mind. And the primary biological purpose of sex is very clear – reproduction.
That doesn’t meant that the only kind of meaningful sex is reproductive sex. Obviously there are psychological meanings we attach to the pleasures and complexities of sex. But those psychological meanings are biologically determined, and thus their genuine fulfillment is to be found in biology as well – in children. Getting psychological satisfaction from sex without the actual biological fulfillment of sex’s purpose – children – just isn’t going to happen. We can imagine otherwise only because we have the psychological capacity to disassociate from our own body and our own biology. But that is not a healthy path, it’s the path of narcissism. We can certainly get some temporary satisfaction from sexual pleasure, but the real ‘payoff’ comes from the spousal relationship and the children thereby produced. But biologically, even the purpose of the permanent spousal relationship is to provide a framework for the extended childhood of children. So even within that relationship, genuine fulfillment of that relationship is only going to come from producing children who have a life outside that relationship.
Freud had some good insights, and some lousy ones. One thing he continually insisted on was the primacy of biology over the “psychological”.



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Jon

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm


Re: true sexual fulfillment is not possible for gay people, since they can’t biologically reproduce.
Would you also say that for people who are sterile? How about the religously celibate, who not only do not have children, but also do not have physically intimate relationhsips?
Please put down the broad tar brush. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of where you lay your head at night.



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Jon

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:13 pm


Re: we as a society haven’t merely commodified p0rn; we’ve commodified sex–it’s now primarily considered the most pleasurable of contact sports.
Porn aside, this has not been true since some exceedingly remote era, long before there were humans in fact?
Back in 2003 when Miss Jenny our cat got out and had herself a walk on the wild side with at least a couple of randy toms, I can fairly well guarantee she wasn’t thinking “I just can’t wait till the kittens show up.”
You are portraying as a modern defect something that was baked in the cake since the very evolution of sex.



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Jillian

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:19 pm


Yogi dear, you’ve really muddled up things. You’ve taken sexual experience, narcissism, and good human community (which is an end in itself in human life) and conflated/retroactively conformed them into a “purpose”.
Chimpanzees and other primates have essentially non-purposive sex. Humans do too. It’s human nature. We simply enjoy being with each other.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm


John E.
I think it’s a normative hypothesis, like gravity, that has to be observed and tested and evaluated to see whether it stands up. I’ve certainly observed it in my own life and those I know well, and I think it has some validity in the general culture as well. It certainly has correlates in much of traditional social wisdom, but by all means treat it merely as a hypothesis for now.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:30 pm


Jillian,
Begging your pardon, but I think you have it muddled quite enough as it is. You are confusing the internal subjective sense of purpose with the actual biological purpose. Primate sex, even when not in estrus, has an overall purpose that remains reproductive, regardless of what any particular sex act might aim at.
And no, I’ve not retroactively assigned a purpose to sex. Biological evolution assigned that purpose to sex. Psychology has merely masked that purpose and allows us to imagine that we have genitals for some purely self-interest purpose of pleasuring ourselves and one another. We don’t, my dear. There are no species who have evolved sex purely for self-pleasure, and not for reproduction.



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Jillian

posted June 29, 2010 at 9:43 pm


Your belief is a gnosticism, Yogi. The demiurge Reproduction lurks in the skies of your world.
Every feature of a Rolls Royce is apparently designed to get the driver from point A to point B. Yet the purpose of a Rolls Royce is not really to get people from point A to point B.
captcha ‘same voodoos’ :-)



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm


“Re: true sexual fulfillment is not possible for gay people, since they can’t biologically reproduce.
Would you also say that for people who are sterile? How about the religously celibate, who not only do not have children, but also do not have physically intimate relationhsips?
Please put down the broad tar brush. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of where you lay your head at night.”
Yes, I think true sexual fulfillment is limited to those who raise children (which could – and does – include gay people and the sterile). That doesn’t mean people can’t find enjoyment in sex otherwise. But fulfillment is another matter. In general, people are expecting too much from sex, and most have to get used to the fact that sexual fulfillment isn’t in the cards for us unless we are willing to go through the long struggle of raising children. And even then it’s hit or miss.
There’s a huge amount of energy in our culture devoted towards gaining sexual fulfillment, relationship fulfillment, etc., and most of it is futile and creates an expectations that can’t be fulfilled by the general path being prescribed. I’m not saying such sex is itself futile, it’s not, it’s just not fulfilling. It leaves one still feeling sexually emptied and in need of “something else”. I’m just pointing out that this “something else” is not so mysterious at all – it’s children. I think if people understood that they aren’t going to be fulfilled sexually by having sex, they might be able to make a healthy adjustment. They can find fulfillment in other things, I’m sure. The purpose of sex is not psychological fulfillment, that’s all I’m saying. It’s purpose is so much more obvious.



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JohnK

posted June 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm


As usual I agree with Hector and Tumarion. Ratiocination made some compelling points too. The matrix analogy was extremely apt, I did not notice how pornified our society had become until recently. But once you know what to look for, it is so blindingly obvious- ubiquity is the next best thing to invisibility I suppose.
In any case, threads about pornography never cease to amaze me. It is hilarious to see just how incensed people (men) get when you criticize pornography, and it is just downright weird to see cultural conservatives agreeing with feminists- at least as far as the anti-porn movement goes.
Salient captcha: People fullest
if only, captcha-bot, if only



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Broken Yogi

posted June 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm


“Your belief is a gnosticism, Yogi. The demiurge Reproduction lurks in the skies of your world.”
No, it exists in my loins, in my entire reproductive system.
Jillian, I think you in need of a refresher course in evolutionary biology and the distinction between that process and automotive design. The purpose of a car’s design is whatever the designer wanted it to be. The purpose of our biological design is determined by evolutionary adaptation. Sexuality is core to us because it is the very means by which we reproduce and thus exist. A car need not reproduce, but a human must. Sexuality therefore has a built-in purpose – reproduction – that does not exist in a car. You can use sexuality for other purposes, to be sure, but it won’t fulfill the purpose it has been adapted to over billions of years of evolution.
I am not the one inventing a demi-urge. That is what the proponents of sexual satisfaction through better sexual experiences are promoting, as if sex were designed into our apparatus for the purpose of self-satisfaction rather than reproduction. To the degree that our psychology has any real meaning, it is to the degree that it remains rooted in our biological nature. Thus, the true psychological fulfillment of sex comes in children, and not in sexual pleasure itself. Those who have successfully raised children know something about this.
And really, I’m not grasping your point. Are you really of the view that sex has no evolutionary purpose, that we can just use it for whatever we like and not get messed up in the process?



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Scott R.

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:09 pm


I’m curious – my wife’s health prevented her from carrying a child to term. So we adopted.
We do have a child but he isn’t biologically ours. Does this mean we are or aren’t sexually fulfilled? I can reproduce – she can’t. Are we only somewhat fulfilled? Or is it just me since I could spread my DNA?
I think one of the points of being a human is that we can think beyond the animal.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm


Yogi, you express your points very well. In this case, though, you are avoiding the practical point: Humans are not bound to estrus. They have taken, can and will take conscious steps to thwart reproduction. And no, I’m not pushing this into an abortion tangent, though that is a valid aspect.
It is true that pleasure is an integral function in human reproduction. It is also true that sex — in various forms and modes of expression — dominate our social processes. However, while offspring take a top place in the list of motivations, it is not the only thing on that list.



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Jam

posted June 30, 2010 at 1:59 am


Where are some real feminists when we need them?
Feminism, and female empowerment, is about women having the same freedoms as men, being free to do WHAT they want WHEN they want, just like men are. This extends to much more than the sexual arena, of course, but sexuality has been a huge part of it, since women were trapped in certain sexual roles (meek housewife) and had no opportunities to do anything else. Girls who had sex outside of these roles were labeled as sluts and whores and were disrespected in severe ways, whereas men did whatever the hell they wanted and were encouraged in this by their peers.
Things haven’t changed much. Women are still expected to fulfill one sexual role–now that of the porn star–and they are still sluts and whores if they fail to live up to societal norms, while men are free as they’ve ever been, now with a stockpile of envelope-pushing porn to fall back on when real women fail to live up to their fantasies.
Modern-day porn does not liberate women at all… it enslaves them further. Read what goes on in modern-day porn, especially the fetish porn and gonzo stuff. The women rarely achieve orgasm, and are often physically abused in the sexual process. They’re smeared with semen and dominated in every way imaginable. Porn is primarily focused on male pleasure, and male ejaculation. The women act like they enjoy it, but it’s ACTING. Porn does not teach what a majority of women enjoy… just a clear minority. Women (in general!) like gentle touch, lots of foreplay, romance, and require some kind of clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm. How many pornographic sex acts include all these things? How many are concerned with female orgasm and treating female bodies with reverence and respect?
As a feminist, I do not shave my legs, because I think it is a stupid societal double-standard. I don’t like shaving, I don’t like how stubble feels, and I don’t think anyone has the right to tell me what I ought to do with my own body. But the societal pressure is there, and it takes a lot of courage and endurance for me to persist in doing what I want to do with my own body, ignoring the looks of disgust and insensitive comments people make. Now porn is making women feel as though pubic hair is disgusting, and the pressure on them is immense. They’re told that they must give in so that they can “keep their man.” What’s this all about? Just as the sex act is a natural, and not disgusting, thing, so is pubic hair! If we shouldn’t feel shame about our own sexuality and sexual expression, why should we feel shame about our natural bodies? And don’t even get me started on conventional beauty standards, which are composed of images that are primarily of white, photoshopped women.
If a woman really likes being hairless down there, more power to her; but it makes me feel like a six-year-old again. Likewise with leg shaving–if a woman loves that silky-smooth feel, let her do it, but don’t turn around and tell me that I should shave when I’m perfectly happy with my hairy calves. Tons of modern-day porn is sexist, racist, and ridiculous. It treats women like objects of male sexual gratification and not free-thinking PEOPLE with their own preferences and personalities.
I’m not saying that a man can’t be a perfectly nice bloke and still watch porn sometimes… but that’ll be in SPITE of the stuff, not because of it.
We won’t stand for people degrading women and people of color in our sitcoms and movies… why stand for it in pornography?



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JamieMc

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:54 am


Yogi. . .
I’m going to a jerk for just a second. First of all, full disclosure: I’m a graduate student who is planning to to a dissertation that relates to science studies. I’m someone who studies both science and theory/philosophy. That doesn’t make me right about anything, but I’m apparently more familiar with current arguments in biology and in philosophy than you are. I’m being a major league ass here,I know, and all apologies, but I’m going to lecture you for a minute, and I’m explaining why. It’s frustrating to watch you make what would be elementary mistakes in the way you are discussing this.
You can agree with me or disagree with me, and I may or may not make the case well, you have wandered into my field here, and I’m going to explain why someone from the humanities who studies science would find your argument silly. (Apologies again for being a jerk.)
Here is why your argument is absurd:
1. Biological features do not have purposes. The way you talk a bout evolution reflect a deep misunderstanding of evolution. Things just are. We can’t attribute motive to them. We have behaviors and even physical features that don’t serve any discernible purpose. Sometimes these things are clearly related to features and behaviors that do (or once did) have a purpose. So making a normative statement based on biology is weird.
2. The exception to this rule MIGHT be if you a are “strong” believer in Richard Dawkin’s version of memetic theory. But I don’t think so, since those folks don’t really ascribe motive in quite the way you do. But they might be closer.
3. But even they would disagree with the specific claim that the “purpose” of sex is strictly procreative. The fact that sex HAS other functions would suggest that these other functions help a species to survive. But that idea doesn’t quite mean the same thing as what you are saying, that genes have a “meaning” or “purpose.” Ideas like “selfish genes” are generally understood to be metaphors. (What is “behavior” anyway? Scientists do not have a common definition for the word. There’s an article in the New York Times this week about a scientist who’s exploring that problem.) We don’t have language to talk about biology that doesn’t ascribe some sort of categorical error except for highly technical language that doesn’t describe the kinds of complex behaviors that you are talking about. Quantitative research doesn’t lend itself to the kinds of claims you are trying to make.
4. And as I said, people who do believe in biological determinism talk about lots of other behavioral motivations besides having procreative sex. Sex that increased social bonds would serve to help a group of animals to stay together, would help to form kinship bonds, and thus increase the chance for the larger group to survive. Not all sex in nature is procreative. Some is actually just recreational. Ideas like that are the point of biological determinism as a theory. Saying that sex is for reproduction is true, but that theory doesn’t explain all the other sex that we have. Some animals go into heat or migrate and only have sex then. We are MORE likely to do when a woman is ovulating, but we tend to do it a lot more than that. We do it after we stop being fertile. Ain’t that something?
5. And so what? The biological function of sex isn’t the same thing as “sexual fullfillment” which could be psychological or political or religious or something else. That’s a category error of the first degree.
6. YOU have constructed a particular meaning for your own sexuality based on your own experiences. As does everybody. And your meaning seems sane and healthy. But its YOUR definition. It’s a fairly common, although by no means ubiquitous, way of dealing with it. Sex leads to family which is the point for you. Groovy. Your rather broad definition of sexuality Does visiting the grandkids count as a form of sexual fullfillment? You are saying yes. And I understand why. But you are playing with the definition. If everything associated with family life is “sex,” than “sex” is something different for you than for me. “Sexuality” is much deeper and broader than just screwing, but for me it doesn’t mean family. It’s something else.
7. When you impose your definition on other people, it’s offensive. The argument you make is a good argument for denying gay people the right to marry or adopt. It’s a good argument for de-legitimizing marriages that do not result in children. It’s a good argument for not worrying about sexual freedoms. As humans we have a lot of power to make choices about the importance we ascribe to sexuality. These choices have served as a powerful historical force. Your solution to the problem is fine, until you make that leap into declaring it the “only true fullfillment.”
8. Before you try to claim that biology is what it is, “naturally,” we are probably inclined to be polygamous, and for most of human history, an man who could afford to be polygamous was, and women did not have individual rights. Based on historical evidence, that is the more “natural” way to do things. (If you believe such nonsense.) We’ve revised the function of sexuality quite a bit over history. I think that the way you are describing this issue is very, very problematic, and it doesn’t sync up with biology anyway.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:09 am


Franklin,
The reason human females are sexually active at all times, not just during estrus, is the abnormally long period of human childhood, which leaves both mother and child so vulnerable that the woman needs to attract a male not merely for reproduction, but for long-term care and security. So human sex is geared not just towards the one-off act of reproduction itself, but towards a long-term relationship which is necessitated by the peculiar nature the human reproductive cycle. This means women are available for sex at all times in order to keep a permanent mate around, not just for impregnation, but for care of both mother and children. So sex is still for the purpose of reproduction, but it is used to cultivate a relationship between mother and father, an attachment which makes reproduction successful in raising a child to maturity.
This extended, relational mode of sexual attraction does not mean that sex is detached from the reproductive cycle – quite the opposite. It means that even non-reproductive sex is engaged for reproductive purposes. Even casual sex is something of a fishing expedition for a permanent partner who can care for woman and children over the long haul. The woman who engages in such sex is still driven by a reproductive urge, even if she is not consciously aware of it, even if she seems only interested in non-reproductive sex. In fact, the sole purpose of even this kind of sex is still reproductive in nature. It doesn’t require that the woman have any conscious knowledge or intent to have or raise children, the very reason the desire exists in the first place is for reproductive purposes, and without that purpose there would be no such desire (apart from estrus).
Now of course, as conscious motivations go, there are many in the sexual cycle, a lot of which doesn’t seem to have a direct reproductive motive. But that really doesn’t matter. The reproductive cycle is no more dependent on our conscious intent than is our breathing or heartbeat. It’s so important that nature doesn’t leave it to our conscious control, it makes the desire for sex so paramount that it pretty well overrides almost all of our conscious motivations. Imagine if you had to intentionally beat your heart all day, or intentionally breathe every breath to stay alive. Sex comes naturally to us, without any particular need for us to have some thought in mind of “let’s make babies now”. Sure, that can be a part of it too, but it doesn’t have to be. Our minds can be filled with all kinds of motivations that we attach to the sex act, but much of that is just filler, something we come up with after the fact to explain why we had sex, when the deeper biological motive is what really guides us. Even if we consciously decide not to have children, we will still engage in sex in a manner virtually indistinguishable from reproductive sex. It takes a serious amount of conscious effort to counteract those reproductive patterns. In most cases, it requires either sophisticated chemistry (the pill) or physical interventions (IUDs, condoms).
And my point is that these efforts negate the actual purpose of sex, and prevent that purpose from being fulfilled by having children. So while the pleasure of sexual activity is gained, and sometimes even a stable relationship is created with a spouse, the actual fulfillment of all that activity, the having of children, is prevented, and this leads to a lack of sexual fulfillment.
I’m reminded of the flowering cycle of cannabis, the only sexually reproducing annual flower. To make the highest grade of cannabis, male pollen is withheld, and as a result, the female vastly overproduces her flowers, which is the “bud” that has all the psychoactive chemistry in the plant. So the female becomes massively sexualized, the more frustrated she is by this artificial method of preventing seeds from being fertilized in the plant. And something similar happens with human females – if they are not allowed to actually become fertilized by sexual activity, their nature gets distorted and even disturbed, to the point where they become even more sexualized than before. And likewise with men who are unable to impregnate a female. They too become anxious and unfulfilled, and can’t help but want to try to impregnate other females. Thus, the whole cycle of human sexuality becomes disturbed and the result is increased promiscuity on the part of both males and females.
Not that promiscuity itself is unnatural, but there’s a natural level of it that is satisfied by actually having children, and that remains inherently frustrated if children don’t result from sexual activity. We can especially see this in women whose biological clock is running out. And now I think I’ve effectively offended all the feminists as well, so I have to now say goodnight.
captcha: caress on



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:11 am


Franklin,
The reason human females are sexually active at all times, not just during estrus, is the abnormally long period of human childhood, which leaves both mother and child so vulnerable that the woman needs to attract a male not merely for reproduction, but for long-term care and security. So human sex is geared not just towards the one-off act of reproduction itself, but towards a long-term relationship which is necessitated by the peculiar nature the human reproductive cycle. This means women are available for sex at all times in order to keep a permanent mate around, not just for impregnation, but for care of both mother and children. So sex is still for the purpose of reproduction, but it is used to cultivate a relationship between mother and father, an attachment which makes reproduction successful in raising a child to maturity.
This extended, relational mode of sexual attraction does not mean that sex is detached from the reproductive cycle – quite the opposite. It means that even non-reproductive sex is engaged for reproductive purposes. Even casual sex is something of a fishing expedition for a permanent partner who can care for woman and children over the long haul. The woman who engages in such sex is still driven by a reproductive urge, even if she is not consciously aware of it, even if she seems only interested in non-reproductive sex. In fact, the sole purpose of even this kind of sex is still reproductive in nature. It doesn’t require that the woman have any conscious knowledge or intent to have or raise children, the very reason the desire exists in the first place is for reproductive purposes, and without that purpose there would be no such desire (apart from estrus).
Now of course, as conscious motivations go, there are many in the sexual cycle, a lot of which doesn’t seem to have a direct reproductive motive. But that really doesn’t matter. The reproductive cycle is no more dependent on our conscious intent than is our breathing or heartbeat. It’s so important that nature doesn’t leave it to our conscious control, it makes the desire for sex so paramount that it pretty well overrides almost all of our conscious motivations. Imagine if you had to intentionally beat your heart all day, or intentionally breathe every breath to stay alive. Sex comes naturally to us, without any particular need for us to have some thought in mind of “let’s make babies now”. Sure, that can be a part of it too, but it doesn’t have to be. Our minds can be filled with all kinds of motivations that we attach to the sex act, but much of that is just filler, something we come up with after the fact to explain why we had sex, when the deeper biological motive is what really guides us. Even if we consciously decide not to have children, we will still engage in sex in a manner virtually indistinguishable from reproductive sex. It takes a serious amount of conscious effort to counteract those reproductive patterns. In most cases, it requires either sophisticated chemistry (the pill) or physical interventions (IUDs, condoms).
And my point is that these efforts negate the actual purpose of sex, and prevent that purpose from being fulfilled by having children. So while the pleasure of sexual activity is gained, and sometimes even a stable relationship is created with a spouse, the actual fulfillment of all that activity, the having of children, is prevented, and this leads to a lack of sexual fulfillment.
I’m reminded of the flowering cycle of cannabis, the only sexually reproducing annual flower. To make the highest grade of cannabis, male pollen is withheld, and as a result, the female vastly overproduces her flowers, which is the “bud” that has all the psychoactive chemistry in the plant. So the female becomes massively sexualized, the more frustrated she is by this artificial method of preventing seeds from being fertilized in the plant. And something similar happens with human females – if they are not allowed to actually become fertilized by sexual activity, their nature gets distorted and even disturbed, to the point where they become even more sexualized than before. And likewise with men who are unable to impregnate a female. They too become anxious and unfulfilled, and can’t help but want to try to impregnate other females. Thus, the whole cycle of human sexuality becomes disturbed and the result is increased promiscuity on the part of both males and females.
Not that promiscuity itself is unnatural, but there’s a natural level of it that is satisfied by actually having children, and that remains inherently frustrated if children don’t result from sexual activity. We can especially see this in women whose biological clock is running out. And now I think I’ve effectively offended all the feminists as well, so I have to now say goodnight.
captcha: caress on



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:45 am


JamieMc,
I appreciate your efforts to set me straight, but most of what you say is the result of not understanding that I’m using the word “purpose” not in the conscious sense of some mind behind the body having an end in mind, but purely in the mechanistic sense that the body is the result of adaptations that are governed by evolutionary purposes of survival and reproduction. The “purpose” of sex is hard-wired into us, and requires no conscious agent for its fulfillment. I understand and fully agree with you on that point, but since you imagine that I don’t grasp this, most of your criticisms are simply a misunderstanding of my argument.
Now I agree that sex has functions other than mere impregnation, but as I point out, even those other functions are actually in large part, and perhaps entirely, aspects of the overall human reproductive cycle, which is far more complex and extended than in most/all animals, in that we have such an extended childhood in which the male presence as protector and provider is necessary, and the most effective way to keep the men around is for the women to be sexually available to them. There’s no conscious design in that, it’s just how things worked out evolutionarily, but the result is, indeed, a directional purpose to human sexual activity, which is fulfilled only in successful reproduction and raising of children to maturity.
Clearly, you don’t like that conclusion, but do you honestly have an alternative hypothesis that has a remotely comparable degree of evidence to support it? We like to imagine that we as conscious thinkers and actors are in control of our destiny, even in control of our bodies, but the fact is that it’s most often the other way around. The body controls our mind and thinking, not the other way around. So yes, we can indeed consciously thwart the reproductive cycle and have a lot of sex without having children, and we can cultivate loving relationships on that basis, but our sexual desiring won’t be fooled into feeling fulfilled by that, any more than our bodies are fooled by junk food into thinking we have gotten good nutrition. The body wants to make children, and that’s why it wants sex, and if our minds interfere with that process, well, sure, it can do that, but there’s consequences to living unnaturally, and some of them are bad, and one of the bad consequences is that we won’t find sexual fulfillment in the process, since that’s to be had in having children.
Of course, not everyone has children, so it’s not universally successful. Every generation produces evolutionary dead ends. But every one of us is the product of parents and grandparents and so on down the line who succeeded in having children. And every future human being will likewise be the product of humans who succeeded in reproducing. 100%. So in that sense there certainly is a purpose to fulfill in sex, and if it’s not fulfilled, there’s no “sexual fulfillment”. I know that term is generally used to denote “sex that feels really great and satisfying as a pleasurable experience”, but while there’s certainly some truth to that, it’s also a mask for the simple fact that what really is satisfying about sex is the successful having and raising of children. Even our emotional and psychological being is geared towards this end, and it produces a sense of emotional satisfaction in children that really isn’t comparable to much of anything else in this life. Most people who have had children know this. And those that don’t, well, they can have lots of great sex, but it won’t actually be fulfilling unless children result from it.
You clearly don’t relate well to this, and I can understand. When I was your age this would not have been an appealing message either. But the fact that it’s not appealing to you doesn’t have any bearing on whether it is true or not. Whether you have kids or not, I think you will find out over time that this is basically a true message. One can argue over the details of every sexual activity until we are blue in the face, and it’s not really relevant, since I’m simply making a general, normative statement about sex. Undoubtedly there are aspects of sex that serve functions other than the purely reproductive, that perhaps have something to do with other aspects of the survival needs of the individual, family, and group, but that’s not a counterargument, that’s a supplemental argument that sex’s purpose is not about our conscious desires, but about our human nature to reproduce and survive. It’s certainly true that reproduction increases our lifespan, and that sexual activity can create bonds which help ourselves and the community prosper. But again, all of that still boils down to sexual fulfillment not being found in the pleasure of sex, but in some other purpose that may not even have been on our minds. Nobody has sex thinking its for the good of the social bonds in the community, but that’s a part of its purpose nonetheless. And that is also a part of the human reproductive cycle, since we need not just a single male to help raise children, but a stable social culture. So that is also part of the reproductive cycle of human sexuality.
And yes, it’s very complex, but it does boil down to a very simple principle that is basically inescapable, as hard as we might try. Our emotional and psychological lives are also a product of that evolutionary process, and they can’t just spin and turn on a dime. We have so much built into our sexual nature that is dependent on biological fulfillment of the reproductive cycle that we can’t just ignore those needs and expect to feel fulfilled by the mere pleasure of the sex act itself. Most people who have had a lot of that kind of sex know how unfulfilling it actually is. It’s most;y a sales job that’s used to manipulate us into thinking that sexual experience alone is going to fulfill our sexual nature. It really isn’t and it really won’t. I hope you figure this out, whatever you decide is right for you.
As for polygamy, there are certainly conditions under which polygamy is indeed quite natural and useful. But if you’ve studied the phenomena at all, you’d know that as a cultural pattern it’s almost always the result of conditions which make polygamy the better reproductive strategy, and not because of some mental desire for men to have multiple wives (or women multiple husbands).
And no, you’re not being a jerk. It’s perfectly natural to react to this kind of message with a full barrage of skepticism.



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Stephanie Hush

posted June 30, 2010 at 4:30 am


Well… this was very interesting, and I certainly don’t agree with the vast amount of stuff out there. But about 1% of the material you can find online is actually incredibly sexy and amazing. Think Abby Winters… or sometimes Suicide Girls. I myself have sat for ‘pornographic’ images and it’s wonderful. Stop being so patronising.



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Jon

posted June 30, 2010 at 6:55 am


BrokenYogi,
You are ignoring the facts on the ground, wich is that there are people who have no children and yet are 100% fulfilled in their marriages and sex lives. You can’t wish that away in the name of some vast, glittering one-size-fits-all theory.
And no, it’s not just about procreation and child-rearing in human beings.
We humans are social animals. We are also very individualist animals with a degree of free will. How does that work? Since we don’t have overriding herd instincts like cattle or pack instincts like dogs, how does nature get us to stay together rather than fracturing into millions of individuals living with only casual connections to others in the manner of cats? The answer is that human sexuality has evolved to create deep inter-personal bonds between mates, which in turn link different lineages together creating a vast cross-pattern of realtionships across society. This is why humans are sexually capable even when our females are not fertile: sex serves the primary telos in humans of social bonding. Without this we wouldn’t work as a species. You are selling Nature and Nature’s God short by refusing to admit that sex (like much else) can have multiple purposes and the original purpose (from some hundreds of millions of years back) may no longer be its principal one. As a parallel situation consider the tongue: it evolved orginally as a muscle to assist with the ingestion of food. It also became a sense organ, and some animals e.g., snakes and lizards, use it mainly for that purpose. But in humans its primary role now is as a speech organ. Yet in your philosophy nature has commited some manner of sin in letting this happen rather than sticking to the original plan for tongues.



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Ken

posted June 30, 2010 at 9:16 am


I myself have sat for ‘pornographic’ images and it’s wonderful. Stop being so patronising.
So did you send all your male friends the url? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m just curious. Are there any adults you wish not to see those photos?



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Scott Lahti

posted June 30, 2010 at 9:29 am


Right now, as I type this, I am imagining everyone from the thread above fully-frontally nude, polymorphously pretzeled one with the next, coiling and uncoiling in recombinant ways that would have DNA itself spinning on the ice in a Nobel-winning double helix in envy.
Benny Hill at the poke-her, er, poker table, as his wife, in charge of refreshments and cleanup, expresses disgust at the stag photo he and his friends are passing round:
“What’s the matter – haven’t you ever seen ten people in love before?”



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Dan O.

posted June 30, 2010 at 10:32 am


Loudon –
[i]“I think the argument is that mutual pleasuring doesn’t get past the problem of “I’m doing this act for my pleasure.” Not “solely for my pleasure” which seems to be sufficient for Nagel (but I did not read the study you linked to and I only have a passing knowledge of his views), but still for my pleasure. I don’t see how this gets away from objectification, it only contextualizes it in an arguably less destructive setting.[/i]
A couple of points. First, pleasure is a state of mind, not an object. So, desiring one’s own pleasure is not desiring an object. Second, desiring another’s pleasure involves treating that person as a subject of experience, not as an object. Understanding the reciprocity involved indicates the mutual personhood of sexual partners. So, either the sense of ‘objectification’ you have is less straightforward than mine (i.e. treating the other as a mere object, not treating the other with respect), or you did not understand my description of Nagel’s account. So, I’m inclined to believe that the notion of ‘objectification’ that’s somehow different than mine.
I think that I have a far thicker notion of pleasure than you do. I do not see sexual pleasure as necessarily base, or even purely physical. At least, it needn’t be. Also I don’t understand why pleasure must be essentially selfish. This is where I part with Kant – Kant had this rather odd metaphysical view of freedom that makes free action incompatible with action that is physically motivated. I take the position that so long as one’s reasons for action are checked by the categorical imperative, i.e. never to treat others as mere means, they are free and permitted. So physically generated motivations, so long as they are consistent with treating others as persons, are permitted. Otherwise it’d be somehow immoral to go to a restaurant and give the wait-staff my order.
Similarly, I am okay with co-motivation. I may feel some pleasure as a result of helping my friend. But that pleasure as a motive doesn’t make me respond to his phone call, and get out the door to comfort him. If, for whatever reason, I fail to feel pleasure from helping my friend, that makes helping him no less worthwhile. Likewise, I may be in the position that I am, for the time being, psychologically blocked from exulting in the sexual pleasure of my partner. Perhaps, I had a long day at work and have a lot on my mind. Insofar as the pleasure of the other is part of my intention, it is no less worthwhile.
Dragging Kant in another way he wouldn’t have been happy about, I think one’s ability to feel pleasure – good pleasure – the kind where we exult in ourselves and with our partners – is to be cultivated as a matter of self-respect. So if I were chronically psychologically blocked from enjoying my sexuality and/or the sexuality of my partner, I think I ought to seek therapy.
This last thought is motivated by an understanding of depression and its underlying anhedonia – in ability to feel or appreciate pleasure. Anhedonia is paralyzing, morally and otherwise, because it encourages a lack of respect for one’s own needs and feelings. That lack of respect for oneself is then mirrored with the way someone treats others. One of my worries about objectifying porn is that it can generate anhedonia, in particular a sexual listlessness, that is not unlike drug use.
My guess is that you build in our reproductive capabilities into a notion of respect for personhood. For you, that means that no sex without reproductive aims disrespects persons. For me, it means that sex where the reproductive rights and health interests (alongside the stuff above) of persons are not cared for disrespects persons. So, that means that casual sex depicted in pornography without birth control (for straight pornography) or protection from STD’s (for any pornography) disrespects persons.
So, I locate our disagreement in the concept of personhood, hidden in the notion of objectification. All sorts of things follow from this. I bet you’re a gender essentialist (men and women have essential personal and reproductive roles), while I believe that gender is a cultural kind open to all sorts of contingencies and accidents.
In that vein, I find it pretty ironic how you appropriate the concept of objectification in this context. It’s basically an attempt to foist feminists on their own petard. Feminists’ essential point is that gender essentialism + power imbalances, combined forming patriarchy, results in objectification of women. As a new masculinist, I believe patriarchy results in objectification of men as well. I don’t like either. But you turn up down, and right left, essentially arguing that a reassertion of patriarchy is necessary *not* to objectify. BobSF’s point, as I understand it, is when equality is maintained, the danger of objectification is drastically reduced.



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Rhayader

posted June 30, 2010 at 11:25 am


Eh. I just don’t see any evidence that increased access to pornography has triggered some massive shift away from moral sexual behavior. It’s certainly ridiculous to think that restricting access to sexually explicit material somehow serves to protect “natural” sexual intimacy and proper behavior. In fact, if anything, history has shown us that the opposite is true.
If you ask me, the correct stance here is honesty between parents and children, and among people in general from a larger perspective. Men can watch porn without mistaking it for a realistic depiction of sexual behavior — IF they’ve been granted access to honest and detailed information about human sexuality. It’s the combination of prudish over-sensitivity about the topic along with the hyper-unrealistic porn that can distort perceptions of sexual intimacy.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm


Yogi, I’m better read (caveat: not necessarily with better comprehension, eh?) than the vast majority of laypersons when it comes to evolution and the specifics of physical traits and their results within the process of selection. That said (and I’ll refrain from specific arguments to your details) you are missing the forest and the trees.
I accept your clarification of your use of “purpose”. What you are still not addressing is the practicality of it under the unique human trait of rational thought. We, alone of the animal life on this planet, have elevated rational thought beyond the relentless processes of evolution. We have offspring of genetically inferior parents (speaking strictly from survival/selection perspectives), we have negated the geographic elements of selection (sickle-cell anemia is a survival trait for malaria, other examples abound) and we control (imperfectly) the entire mechanism of conception. There is no equivalent in any other species.
Pron is just a symptom of that. That it can be a source of destructive feedback is the point of this debate. With respect, to you and others, the correct answer to the debate is “sometimes yes, sometimes no”.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm


I think I’m going to agree with both Hector and with FRanklin Evans. Marriage, or other forms of personal commitment, offer affection with a person, not an image. It may well distort an individual’s understanding and appreciation of their own sexuality to indulge in pornography.
Igazissax offered a relevant question at Alexandria: if you would be embarrassed to be the performer, yet indulge in enjoying the performance, what is your relation to the performer? I did once work in an office with a man who had a second job performing in porn movies. He was a perfectly affable, well-balanced guy, not the least rude or exploitive of females around the office, but he really liked doing pornography. I wouldn’t lock him up for it, I didn’t ask him to shut up about it, but I think its a good thing to keep his work at arm’s length, out of sight, where people have to go looking for it to find it, and a bit disreputable, for whatever good that may occasionally do.
On this subject, as on the subject of gay marriage, we should recognize that sexual emotions evolved as a mechanism for sexual reproduction. It doesn’t take much to get bacteria, sponges or earthworms to rub up against each other, or release cells into the water, but it takes a lot to induce big, complex mammals to engage in contortions that would be entirely yukky and just not worth the effort if they didn’t feel so good. In most mammals, these emotions and hormonal surges are limited to their season, and don’t bother the animal the rest of the year.
Its a rather crude and unfocused inducement. Humans have these feelings all year round. Humans find some degree of hormonal satisfaction in a variety of imaginative activities which do not result in offspring, and may not even result in close personal affection — merely in stimulation. The latter is a concern because it robs us of our humanity, reducing us to a purely animal performance. (I do NOT refer to homosexuality as “purely animal,” — it obviously can exist in the context of very human affections, whatever else is or is not wrong with it). But pornography is the animal response robbed of humanity.
Pornography is intrinsically evil. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, doesn’t have its attractions, or can be eradicated — or even that it should be eradicated. I’m glad to know there are people pointing out the potential evils, just as I am glad to know that the police are focused on more important matters that are more susceptible to control. (Although difficult to really control, the subject of child pornography is worthy of some attention — children are seldom willing participants, nor of an age to make mature judgements or enter into contracts).



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MikeW

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm


Late jumping in on this. All the pro-porn arguments seem a bit like trying to put perfume on a stinky dog…it still stinks afterwards. I can’t imagine any dad thinking that the porn industry
I’ve mentioned this at other times, but the problem my wife and I have tried to head off with our kids is how to keep them from drowning in a culture that is constantly bombarding them with media, messaging, gadgets, and other similar stimuli. Porn is a click away on the internet, and there’s no filter that’s been made that your average teenager can’t find a way around. So we’ve used a combination of carrot and stick to keep our kids on the straight and narrow, and are keeping our fingers crossed that once on their own, they’ll have the skills, habits and discipline to be able to stay away from online and other kinds of temptations.
We also tried to compensate for the virtual world by providing other options for our kids. We made them turn out for sports (great way to burn energy), provided horses for our daughter (my boys weren’t interested), took them skiing/snowboarding, mountain climbing, and found that shooting “real” firearms was a great alternative to shoot ‘em up video games for the boys (my daughter was interested in this). Sure, we had old horses and used “used” ski/snowboard equipment, but that didn’t take away from the experiences our kid have had. My daughter still talks about the summer evening when she was 13 and her mentor/4h leader called and asked her to help them move cattle into the upper pastures in the Blue Mountains. She said it was magical….
Best,
Mike



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm


Jon,
I already acknowledged numerous times that there are people who have no children who are psychologically happy with their lives because they are able to form loving relationships with their spouses. However – and this is an observed, working hypothesis on my part, and not a belief system – I’d suggest that this is not “100% sexual fulfillment”, but only a partial fulfillment of the sex drive. Remember, we are only talking about the issue of sexual fulfillment, not all the other kinds of fulfillment that are possible in this life. It’s not as if sexual fulfillment is the only or most important form of fulfillment in this life. You can be completely celibate and renounce sex altogether and still be fulfilled, but looking for fulfillment in other areas of life. And this is what people do, of course. But if we are talking about fulfilling the sex drive, and all the psychological systems built around it, this requires, for the most part, an acknowledgment that children are indeed the primary purpose of sex.
I’ve also pointed to the role sexuality plays in bonding, both in couples and in the culture at large. The primary purpose of this sexual function, however, is still reproductive, in that it provides a way for our extended childhood to be cared for and nurtured to the point of maturity. To ignore that this is why sex helps us bond with one another is to ignore our own basic biology, and to try to separate the bonding function of sex from the function of raising children is to fall into a psychological illusion disassociated from the body. That is of course the essence of the narcissistic error, in which we create in our minds a self-image that does not reflect the reality of our body, but one that reflects instead an internal and imaginary wish-fulfillment. While this is a result of our own fertile imaginative powers, I’d suggest that it’s not the healthiest use of them, and that it results in a life disassociated from body and biology, and which thus seeks psychological fulfillment within an imaginary, disassociated sphere of mind, rather than in the reality of the body and its developmental purposes.
We can see that pornography exists within that imaginary sphere of mind, disassociated from the biology of the body. I don’t condemn it as evil, and I acknowledge that this sort of confused pursuit of sexual pleasure through mental imagery is a fairly natural consequence of our potentials and functionality, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fulfilling. I don’t know anyone who actually thinks that pornography alone provides for a fulfilling sexual life. For fulfillment we have to give ourselves over not merely to the achievement of immediate sexual pleasure, or even to the bonding with a spouse, but to the actual function of sex, which is reproduction. We can order our sexual lives around the secondary aspects of sex, but we won’t be fulfilled by those aspects. We will produce a somewhat neurotic life, and a neurotic culture, if children are not allowed to be the natural fulfillment of sexuality. One of the definitions of tragedy that I identify with most is “tragedy occurs when a secondary principle of life is made primary”.And so I would consider a fair amount of modern sexuality, including the proliferation of pornography, to be a form of tragedy. It’s just a sign of how out of touch we have become with out own bodies and our real functional psychology.



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MikeW

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm


oops…cut off a sentence in the first paragraph…I meant so say, I can’t imagine any Dad thinking porn was a great career move for his daughter. In other words, arguments for and against porn tend to change when the idea becomes personal.



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JamieMc

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm


Yogi. . .
So you are saying that should define sex as a very, very broad range of behaviors that ultimately have the purpose of helping humans bond together and reproduce and participation in some part of that process is sexual “fulfillment.” Okay. I’ll go along.
But to get from there to the specific argument that fulfillment for an individual can only be achieved through successfully procreative heterosexual sex and child raising is. . . well a problem.
If you buy the argument that we should extrapolate our philosophical attitudes from biology, then you still have a problem. The EXISTENCE of other kinds of sexuality throws a wrench into that. If we are extrapolating from biology, we are extrapolating from what is. If this guy is gay, and that girl likes to sit and home and masturbate all the time, and that couple like to have procreative sex, then all three are doing something that has some evolutionary reason.
The view of biology (behaviors are a mask for genetic drives- that’s Dawkins and E.O. Wilson) that you are bringing into this was invented to explain behaviors that look “irrational.” Like non-procreative sex.
So have to either:
Admit non-procreative sex into the church of biologically determined, valuable, and potentially “fullfilling” sexual behavior.
Or:
Throw out the whole concept that this is an appropriate frame.
Science asks “what is.” People masturbate and have have non-procreative sex. According to your line of thinking, there must be purposes for that behavior. The fact that MOST sex is non-procreative suggests that procreation isn’t the main purpose of our version of sex. (There’s that language problem again. “Purpose.” I’m playing your game here. . . I think this line of argument is problematic.) There are other versions of sex in the animal kingdom. “How” is important.
Your approach to this argument risks stamping “deviant” on sex that does not lead to procreation. Unless you take a very broad, “weak” version of your argument and stress the social bonding part of sex. And then I would not disagree with you. But that’s not what you said. You said that only by HAVING CHILDREN THROUGH HETEROSEXUAL SEX can someone be personally fulfilled. I call bullshit on that big time.
Unless there’s some language problem, and you don’t mean “fullfillment” in the usual way. But then, what in the holy hell are you talking about? That sex is how we reproduce. Okay. . . . so what? That, in and of itself, is not a basis for a moral judgment or a psychological description. (How do you know what’s “fulfilling” for someone else?)
Unless you don’t mean that, and you are broadly saying that sex is about establishing social bonds that sometimes produce children. Nobody disagrees with that. As a species, that seems to be what sex does for us. As individuals, it does not seems that everybody needs to successfully pass on their genes. (Again, the purpose of memetic theory is to explain behaviors that appear irrational. Altruism might cost someone their life and prevent them from breeding. Why is that coded on our genetics? If behavior is a “mask” for our genes, why do we do stuff that doesn’t help us reproduce? Maybe those behaviors are good for the population as a whole. Maybe they are genetic accidents. Do you know the work of Frans De Wal? Or, for God’s sake, Stephen Gould?)
How old do you think I am anyway? Most of my peers (professional peers and people my age that I grew up with) have kids already. Be careful about attributing motives. There is a saying “People who agree with me have reasons. Other people have rationalizations.” When your beliefs are “facts,” and someone else’s aren’t, you need to take a step back. You’re dangerously close to that. The whole line of argument you are taking here (and I am familiar with the evolutionary psychology. . . and skepticism of it) is close to that. It’s not YOU who has opinions, but NATURE. That’s a problem.
My objections to you are personal (I’m offended), but intellectual as well. They are not particularly original objections either.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm


Franklin,
I think you are hitting on the core of the problem when you talk about the advanced rational (and I would include imaginative) functions of the human mind. We are indeed in uncharted evolutionary territory in the development of the mind, but we have to beware of the problems the mind creates for itself through disassociation from the body and its biology. One of the problems with our minds is that we are capable of creating imaginative, rational ideas about things, and even creating real-world cultures around these ideas, that are in reality very much disassociated from the body and its functional structures and purposes. We can create the Mona Lisa and “Behind the Green Door”. Without judging the relative value of these creations, we have to recognize that neither of them negates our basic biological nature. If we use the imagination and rational thought to negate that nature, we become neurotically and narcissistically disturbed, and don’t even know why. Much of modern life’s neurotic and narcissist disturbance is from just this kind of deviation from the natural life of the body, and the real function of the mind (which is to commune with our bodily nature). In sexuality, we see all kinds of disturbed imagery created to feed the disassociated and neurotic mind. There’s certainly a healthy role for the mind to play in sex, and a healthy form of pornography that I think is congruent with our body’s genuine sexuality, but then there’s all the rest, all the narcissistically inflated sexuality of the disassociated mind that can easily lead us into a disassociated relationship to sexuality itself. And this is why I’m trying to remind us that the primary role for sexuality is the reproductive one, and all our mental interest in sexual and sexual fulfillment is really pointing us towards reproduction, and that if we don’t allow it to go that far, we fall short of fulfillment.
Now, psychologically one can reject that conclusion, but I think one risks falling into this same problem of imaginative narcissistic self-creation disassociated from the bodily self. The fact that psychologically we can create all kinds of ideas and functions around our psychological self doesn’t make it either real or healthy. We can end up pretty fucked up by all that. And there’s aspects of modern culture that are just plain fucked up. Our evolution has not, as yet, actually disassociated from our biology, and pretending that we can do that all within a few generations is to live in a fantasy world that ignores the slowness of the evolutionary process, and the secondary role that even the rational mind plays within it. Again, it’s a tragedy to elevate the mind above the body in a disassociated manner, rather than to recognize the natural fusion of the two.



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Ken

posted June 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm


I just don’t see any evidence that increased access to pornography has triggered some massive shift away from moral sexual behavior.
Then you ignore or are unaware of the women who’ve been asked to perform, and feel pressured to perform, like porn stars, and who experience those requests as degrading.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm


Ken, not meaning to be provocative, but blunt and truthful: What you describe in your most recent post could, at some times and in some places in every major civilization, be a definition of marriage. Just change out “requests” and put in “demands”, often under threat of harm or death. The problem is perennial, only the “stage” has changed.
A woman hired to act in a pron flick knows going in what will be “requested” of her and expects to be well-compensated for it monetarily. A woman hired to act in any mainstream film (pick one* that portrays sexuality) knows going in what the minimum demands of the storytelling will be, and is well within her guild-supported rights to refuse to act in a manner not disclosed prior to being hired. Stipulated that there are plenty of examples where actresses felt compelled to do what was asked despite that lack of disclosure, but there we enter a subsidiary realm of the respect female actresses get or don’t get. There’s some overlap with pron, but not primarily.
* Some I’ve seen myself, as opposed to just read about: “In the Realm of the Senses”, “Short Bus”, “Romance”, “9 Songs”.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Yogi, I enjoyed your latest post very much.
I suggest, with much personal sympathy for your POV, that you clarify or find an alternate phrasing to your mind/body statements. Your conclusions concerning “fulfillment” remain weak IMO, and I wonder if the reason is that lack of clarity.
At the strictly biologic level, all sexual behavior stems for reproduction pressures at the level of instinct. My point, my empasis of the human trait of rational thought (and, indeed, abstract reasoning), is not that it can “negate” instinct, but that it can contradict instinct and act as a control on the resulting impulses. I imply and mean explicitly the notion of impulse control and the issues surrounding it for every parent, especially if the children are over the age of 12. ;-)
At the behavioral level (readers please note, we’re still talking about humans here) the line is not just blurred, but is also a moving target. Variation abounds, and not just over time. That’s why working this topic below a rather high level of detail generates so much controversy. I can survey just my block, and come up with as many distinguishable variations as there are adults in the houses.
Puns always intended, focusing on instinct leaves you stuck in the mud. Mud wrestling may be fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want my daughter doing it. ;-D



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Scott Lahti

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm


Then you ignore or are unaware of the women who’ve been asked to perform, and feel pressured to perform, like porn stars, and who experience those requests as degrading.
The fate of such women could not be of less interest to this 33-year porn fan were they plankton supplying an afternoon snack for a passing sperm whale, and will disturb neither my future sleep nor my plans to rub one out this evening over a few sweetass Candy Samples loops. That I am forced to share the globe with others who think my tastes in erotic amusement are a matter for community debate and approval is precisely why I keep a 9mm Beretta and several rifles and shotguns loaded and one among them never more than two feet from my free hand.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm


JamieMC,
You raise many great issues and question, and I don’t know if I can answer them all in this limited space. I’ll try to scratch the surface.
The problem of the individual in the midst of an evolutionary process is always going to be difficult, in that adaptation to existing conditions is always, well, adaptive. Sexual reproduction by its very nature creates a broad range of genetic attributes and possibilities, none of which are individually pre-planned or prescribed, and every individual has to work things out on their own. This includes all the genetics surrounding sexuality and reproduction itself. Clearly, as you say, sexual reproduction virtually ensures that in every generation there will be those who do not or even cannot reproduce, or who don’t become involved in child-rearing. Your main objection seems to be about these types. What are they to do to find sexual fulfillment? Well, some never will. I know a woman in her seventies who told me in private long ago that she had genetically malformed genitals that didn’t allow her to experience any sexual stimulation whatsoever, nor could she have children. Her “sex life” was simply about rolling around with a guy and “having fun” in a relational way, but there was no actual sexual stimulation. Needless to say, she didn’t have a fulfilling sex life. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have a fulfilling life altogether. She was an artist, a poet, highly educated, deeply involved in various spiritual paths, quite intelligent and perceptive – just not sexually fulfilled. The long and short of it is that we make the best of what we’ve got.
I know we live in a democratic age in which we think everyone is supposed to be equally fulfilled in everything, but this just isn’t how life, or genetics, works. Not everyone is going to be fulfilled sexually, and we need to understand that. As I’ve said before, the modern world is placing too much emphasis on sexual fulfillment, and making false promises about how that is to be achieved. There are certainly levels of sexual satisfaction that can be achieved without having children, but real fulfillment of the sex drive does require having children. There’s a full range of supplemental aspects to sex, but expecting them to fulfill you is a pretty big mistake. It’s also a mistake to think that sexual fulfillment alone is the equivalent to total human fulfillment. It’s not.
One thing to correct is your assumption that I am saying that only heterosexual sex can be fulfilling. Obviously this is not true, as many homosexuals have or raise children, sometimes intentionally. I have a friend who was asked by a lesbian couple who were close to him to father their children, and he obliged, and I don’t see anything unnatural about that. That’s one way for homosexual couples to fulfill their sexual drives. On the other side of the fence, I once had a gay friend who frequented the SF bathhouses every weekend for sex. Not only is he now tragically dead from AIDS, he wasn’t very happy in his pursuit of sexual satisfaction either. Not that he didn’t have lots of really great sexual experiences, I’m sure, but that’s not what’s satisfying about sex when it comes down to it.
As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong in my mind with non-reproductive sex. It’s just that it’s not going to be genuinely fulfilling. It’s like eating really tasty but nutritionally weak food. That doesn’t mean those who don’t have kids are condemned to some kind of miserable life with no hope of fulfillment. It merely means that they aren’t going to find fulfillment in sex itself. They are going to have to produce something else for the sake of fulfillment. There’s the old saw that an artist’s creations are his children – well, that’s not far off from how it really works. If we don’t have children, we have to produce something else that fulfills us. And just producing orgasms doesn’t do the trick.
I certainly do accept that non-reproductive sex is biologically determined, in that the whole sexual process of reproduction is a shotgun method in which only a tiny few of the sexual acts ever produce children (or in other species, only a tiny few of those produced survive to reproduce themselves). So sexual reproduction ensures that most sex will be non-reproductive, and even a lot of the offspring won’t be able to reproduce. All this says is that nature is psychologically indifferent to our fulfillment, and that not everyone is going to be sexually fulfilled. Nature only cares that enough reproduction occurs to keep the species going. The rest is merely the cost of doing business. We have to be aware of these unpleasant facts about our biology, and what that means about our psychology, since you can’t really separate the two.
As for your age, I assumed that because you said you were in graduate school that you were in your mid to late 20’s. If I’m wrong there, forgive me please.



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grendel

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm


Then you ignore or are unaware of the women who’ve been asked to perform, and feel pressured to perform, like porn stars, and who experience those requests as degrading.
But what evidence is that in and of itself of “some massive shift away from moral sexual behavior”? Which is the question you were asked.
How many women does this effect? So far, all I see is argument by anecdote, which is not most reliable way to go. What if the availability of pornography reduces actual prostitution? How about rape? There is some evidence I believe it does both (well at least evidence of an inverse correlation between them.
I guess it’s just me, I’ prefer a few more facts and lot less moralizing in public policy discussions.



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Lord Karth

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm


Broken Yogi @ 10:12 PM writes:
“In general, people are expecting too much from sex, and most have to get used to the fact that sexual fulfillment isn’t in the cards for us unless we are willing to go through the long struggle of raising children. And even then it’s hit or miss.”
The fact that so much time and effort and energy and thought are even being devoted to the topic at hand suggests a somewhat excessive focus on the problem. For pity’s sake, people, sex doesn’t usually take hours and hours. I never thought I’d be quoting MADONNA, of all Humans, but “what happens when you’re not in bed ?”
I take it none of you are working today ?
“There’s a huge amount of energy in our culture devoted towards gaining sexual fulfillment, relationship fulfillment, etc., and most of it is futile and creates an expectations that can’t be fulfilled by the general path being prescribed. I’m not saying such sex is itself futile, it’s not, it’s just not fulfilling.”
Precisely. All that vectored energy cancelling itself out, and no moving forward on substantive or productive issues.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to work.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Ken

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Ken, not meaning to be provocative, but blunt and truthful: What you describe in your most recent post could, at some times and in some places in every major civilization, be a definition of marriage. Just change out “requests” and put in “demands”, often under threat of harm or death. The problem is perennial, only the “stage” has changed.
That’s true, but surely you agree that two wrongs don’t make a right.
Scott, it’s good to have it out on the table that you couldn’t care less about abused women. This has been a thread about morality, so I’m not sure why you’ve been posting.



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Ken

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm


Whoops, my apologies if my previous post makes it look like Scott Lahti wrote the words in italics. They were written by Franklin Evans.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 30, 2010 at 3:52 pm


No argument there, Ken. However, my rewrite of your statement does serve a more important (IMO, of course) point: The sexual exploitation of women, if that’s the issue, must be viewed in its longer and too often more egregious contexts and examples. Taking that view — as I do — then I submit the logical conclusion: Pron, especially its inarguable exploitative aspects, is a symptom of a general degradation of women, not a cause.
And for those who are poised to take advantage of Scott leading with his chin, that he takes advantage of depictions that are degrading of women does not necessarily mean he agrees with the practice. Do carry on, but give me a few minutes to get the popcorn…



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Scott Lahti

posted June 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm


Scott, it’s good to have it out on the table that you couldn’t care less about abused women.
The only abused women about whose fate I care less than I do about that of the common woodtick are those adduced by those used as red herrings in phony arguments attempting to persuade me that my enjoyment of hardcore pornography is an accessory to abuse. Sorry, chum – to borrow from Harry Callahan to his supervisor, your mouthwash ain’t makin’ it.
I also, in these sorts of threads, couldn’t give a fig about “the children”, either – all of whom have my express permission, when used as human shields in such precints, to go all of them and intercourse themselves. Their fate as well is of no consequence to my left hand.
This has been a thread about morality, so I’m not sure why you’ve been posting.
It’s about porn, which I enjoy, never more so than in the wake of this thread, which is, quite frankly, getting me hotter imagined than described.



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BobSF

posted June 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm


I gather from your comments that you’re gay, and maybe it’s a bit offensive that I’m suggesting that true sexual fulfillment is not possible for gay people, since they can’t biologically reproduce.
Yes, I’m gay, but you’re wrong about what chafes me about your theory. I’ve known I’m gay since I was six. I long, long, long ago realized I was not going to reproduce. I did not enter into a relationship with my partner 30 years ago with the expectation what “we” would someday get pregnant. And, believe me, I’ve heard seriously more offensive things than your musings about “fulfillment” pretty much my whole life. Your comments barely register to me personally.
What’s offensive to me is your attitude towards nonreproducing and infertile heterosexuals who remain childless or adopt. As far as I’m concerned, you’re wrong and kind of mean to them.
Oh, on a side issue, what about elephants? They have even longer gestation and, though shorter than ours, a pretty long childhood. Nevertheless, they have “seasons” and the male isn’t part of the herd at all. So much for discerning “purpose”. And while we’re at it, check out bonobos.



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Ken

posted June 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm


Pron, especially its inarguable exploitative aspects, is a symptom of a general degradation of women, not a cause.
It’s circular, isn’t it? That’s how I see it. It’s a symptom that in turn becomes a cause.



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Loudon is a Fool

posted June 30, 2010 at 6:19 pm


Dan O. & Franklin-
I think our understandings of personhood are probably different. I’m basically Aristotelian in outlook so I suppose I am a gender essentialist, but only to the extent those essentials are generally rooted in nature (and while I think those differences are for the most part normative I also recognize that some differences might fail to be the case on an individual basis). I think it is probable that a patriarchal society could maintain that particular aspects of gender are essential that are in fact a product of convention and not nature, so while I think there are gender differences I wouldn’t want to be on the record as believing any patriarchal society is therefore correct. Further, my concern about objectification is not a ruse to confuse feminists. I think Personalism has some important insights (although I think Thomistic ethics gets you to the same place).
Either way, while I don’t think this debate will necessarily convince people to adopt a Thomistic understanding of the sex act if they had not already, I think it is instructive that an Thomistic understanding of the act avoids the objectification present in other characterizations of the act. And I would agree that we also must differ in what constitutes objectification. But I fail to see how pleasure can be sought in the act without the use (and therefore objectification) of the other body. The only way I can see to avoid that problem is to nest pleasure seeking within another intent (procreation within marriage) and rely on double effect to excuse the unintended objectification. I recognize that empathy and pleasure for the other are both attempts to minimize that objectification, but I don’t think it goes away and I think that is problematic because you end up with a sliding scale of objectification which makes establishing norms difficult.



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Franklin Evans

posted June 30, 2010 at 7:41 pm


Ken, I’d rather label it exacerbating. But I don’t think you and I are very far apart here.
Loudon, that was an excellent post… you stinker. You left me no room for rebuttal! ;-)
I’ve read brief descriptions of Aquinas’ principles, but long ago enough to want to avoid commenting on that part of your logic, but I am familiar with Aristotle. To be sure I understand your position, would you accept a perhaps inadequate summation of determinism? If not, don’t worry about it, because my main point here doesn’t depend on that.
Using the label “normative” is valid and useful. With caveats about context, I agree with your appraisal… or, mostly. I don’t see a series of comparison points at all. I see a spectrum, and normative loses some practical utility on a spectrum.
My intellectual bias is also my spiritual POV. I approach life, perception, cognition, intellect and every human pursuit in terms of balance. It permits me to have a (better, IMO) rational foundation on which to base my value judgments. One cannot have good without evil, as some sages say, and each defines the limits of the other. Since we live in a mostly gray world, I find balance an effective counter to letting one overshadow or outshine the other.
So, I point you back to my original statement. Objectification is a part of human perception. It is unavoidable. We lack telepathy, we lack any imagined or metaphorical, direct experience of the thoughts and feelings of another, and we can see here every day the inadequacy of the written word. There has to be something available to remedy that, if imperfectly. That’s empathy. It combines that which we can gather rationally, a healthy infusion of imagination, and the willingness to move ego to a secondary place. Some philosophers might call it unconditional love (I don’t), and I usually let them get away with that (arguing is normally vain). What I call it is the local, temporary and almost successful attempt to be inside the mind and heart of another person. People can find that place together without sex. It can come from a shared emergency or tragedy. It can come from a shared joy. Sex is the most common path, because it just happens more often that other methods, and it assumes intensity and intimacy where other situations might dampen or suppress one or the other.
It seems (over)simplified, but I’ve not found a disproof. The best love, the best bond, transpires from defining the person as an object first (attractive, smart, athletic, nice voice, good dancer) and balancing it with some semblance of being with that person from the inside, over time, over duration in each other’s company, and after as much verbal sharing as it is practically possible to have.



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 7:46 pm


BobSF,
“What’s offensive to me is your attitude towards nonreproducing and infertile heterosexuals who remain childless or adopt. As far as I’m concerned, you’re wrong and kind of mean to them.”
Am I being mean to them, or is nature?
I have no program to stigmatize or persecute the childless. I’m simply observing that our biological sex drive is fulfilled by the having of children, and that since our psychological fulfillment is both formed and ruled by biology, there is always going to be some lack of genuine sexual fulfillment among those who are childless. If that’s not the case, then it’s just not the case, and no one has been harmed by my comments. But if if is the case, the harm is not done by me, but by nature.
What I further observe is that to make up for that lack of sexual fulfillment among the childless, there is often an effort to fill in the gap through overcompensation, which often produces neurosis and narcissism. The healthy response is to be satisfied with what we have, and not expect 100% sexual satisfaction through sex acts themselves, since they are not satisfying except when they actually produce children. This doesn’t mean the childless can’t be fulfilled, it merely means they shouldn’t expect sexual fulfillment. There’s all kinds of paths towards fulfillment other than sex.
Also, being wrong is not mean. That would require an intent to do harm, which I do not have.
“Oh, on a side issue, what about elephants? They have even longer gestation and, though shorter than ours, a pretty long childhood. Nevertheless, they have “seasons” and the male isn’t part of the herd at all. So much for discerning “purpose”. And while we’re at it, check out bonobos.”
Every species evolves differently, including in their sexuality. The human extended childhood has evolved as it has because human beings are very different creatures from elephants. You may have noticed? If we were elephants, we’d be having a different conversation, and bringing up human sexual habits would not change our particular elephantine evolutionary biology. There’s nothing about an extended childhood that necessitate males sticking around, it’s just how we as a species have evolved over the last few million years to solve that problem. It’s not something that can be changed overnight by psychological methods.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/roddreher/2010/06/how-porn-destroys-sexuality_comments.html#ixzz0sNmDJ9VJ



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Broken Yogi

posted June 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm


Frranklin,
I think that human rationality has some powerful abilities to help us adapt more quickly than biology allows, but it can’t leapfrog ahead of biology and leave it in the dust. (Unless you believe in Kurzweilian singularities). There’s a fine line between rational thought and rationalizing our fantasies. It’s not rational to try to subvert our biology with psychological tricks that manipulate our capacity for sexual stimulation without actually changing the underlying basis for our sexuality in our psychology, which is the biological being. This is part of the problem with porn and other aspects of the sexual search for fulfillment through sexual activity itself. We certainly can learn how to stimulate ourselves sexually through all kinds of methods, and get really powerful stimulated experiences as a result, but those are not actually fulfilling. The genuine route of sexual fulfillment is much more boring, mundane, and even difficult – raising children, having a stable family, and cultivating a relationship with a spouse. Very little of that actually has to do with sexual acts themselves or the pleasure they give us. That’s just part of the carrot that leads us towards the real process of fulfillment.
Now, you’re right that I’m using the word “fulfillment” in a way that isn’t currently in vogue, even though it’s actually the more genuine meaning of the word. We have tried to create a sense of inner, psychological sexual fulfillment whose only connection to biology is the pleasurable stimulation of one’s genitals, which is only the most superficial aspect of sexuality. Just past that vagina is a uterus, and the whole point of the sex act is to get the sperm into that place, where it can fertilize an egg and produce a child. Everything that leads up to that is “foreplay”, and I include even masturbation and porn in that category. Our psychological sexual nature is dependent on that whole process being completed, and the child being raised to maturity to repeat the process. The fact that our psychological being can divorce itself from this process and seek sexual fulfillment by other means doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed. It’s hard to see how it possibly can, unless we evolve an entirely different system for producing babies. Which I guess is what some are trying to do with genetic engineering and cloning. If reproduction becomes severed from our biology, and enogh generations pass that we can actually say we have evolved a new biological relationship to sexuality, which is left as a purely pleasurable form of entertainment and relationship-bonding, then I suppose things will be different, and my argument will have been superceded by a new biology. But until then, I don’t think we can expect even our rational minds to be able to so dramatically shift the basis for our psychological well-being.
But you’re perfectly right that we can use our minds to discipline and control ourselves and our sexual drives. It’s only that this won’t work out very well if it creates an unnatural tension between the mind and our sexual biology. And at present there’s a lot in this world that does create all kinds of unnatural tensions in us – sex is just one of those areas. Much of the modern world from food to work to the environments we live in are the products of rational minds which have created a disassociated division with our biologically based bodily life, and it has made us a very neurotic and screwed up society in at least some important respects. I’m not suggesting that the rational mind is evil, only that it has a lot to learn, and one of the things it has to learn is to have a healthy respect for the biological basis for the mind itself, and what it can reasonably expect to achieve in relation to the body. One of the things it has to respect is that sexuality is rooted in reproduction, and that is how the sex drive is fulfilled. There’s plenty of room for innovation and experimentation, but bottom line is we aren’t going to change the fundamentals, not very quickly at least. There’s certainly a lot of myths to be debunked about the process, but the underlying biological basis for sex isn’t a myth, it’s a very solid reality.



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NY Barrister

posted June 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm


The Internet has changed the debate profoundly. Past U.S. case law, including SCOTUS decisions, arose in the day when such material was acquired in a plain brown wrapper purchased in a sleazy shop in either a red light urban district or a cheesy cinder-block shop in a rundown suburban strip mall. Now it flows like a river into every one’s homes where most children, including pre-teens have far more computer skills than their single mother and easily defeat filters. What to do?
It seems unlikely that the Roberts court will overturn precedents upholding the right of adults to possess this stuff for private non-commercial use. But again, that law developed in the day of the “dirty” magazine. I could easily see the recent proposal to create a separate Internet domain (with new “X” address) leading to legislation requiring all producers of this stuff to transfer their sites to a separate area of the net requiring either a credit card or proof of age to enter. To those parents here who are concerned, I suggest you bombard your congressman or US Senator with mail demanding legislation requiring either a valid credit card or proof of age to view this stuff. Those posters suggesting that this garbage is not available for free (at least often lengthy samples of hardcore) are either misinformed or being disingenuous.



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BobSF

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:34 am


Am I being mean to them, or is nature?
Nature has no conscience. Nature doesn’t project. Nature doesn’t dismiss.
But have at it, if you wish. I was just explaining that my objections had nothing to do with my being gay.



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Broken Yogi

posted July 1, 2010 at 1:45 am


BobSF,
It sure sounds like your objections have something to do with your being childless. And gay. And convinced that merely holding opinions like mine is being mean and dismissive.
And nature, being without conscience, is surely capable of being mean in effect, if not by intention.



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Dan O.

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:49 am


Loudon –
What I wonder is why there must be a special understanding of the sex act. After all, there are innumerable interactions with others where we treat others as means (although with either respect or empathy, so not merely as ends). For, example, we go to restaurants and order our food. Must we do so with heavy consciences? If not, what makes going to restaurants any different? We are using others – in their capacities to work as opposed to their capacities for sex, but otherwise no different – for our pleasure.
Franklin –
I agree in part, but I believe that both empathy and respect counter objectification. If it were empathy alone, the moral requirement to treat others as persons would be so psychologically demanding that the ordinary person couldn’t be expected to meet it. I kinda think of empathy and respect as the yin and yang of a healthy moral outlook.



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Franklin Evans

posted July 1, 2010 at 11:36 am


Dan, my apologies. I silently (and still) include respect as a consequence of empathy. That’s a completely personal experience of the process, not one I should project into a discussion of it with others. For me, from my internal life and dialogue, empathy is the first requirement in a moral structure*. I read the Golden Rule and its semantic/linguistic equivalents as a working definition of empathy and why it is so valuable.
Shorter answer: I agree with you. ;-)
* The lack of empathy, even its relegation to secondary status, is the prime cause of the breakdown of moral systems, and the reason why members of a society reject its moral order. I state that as an assertion, while recognizing that it remains arguable.



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rezaul622

posted October 29, 2011 at 2:44 am


don’t get it.
13 years old kids who want to masturbate are going to do what?
Hump the couch and their mother’s leg like dog’s?
For fuck’s sake UK government try to ban child pornography that would make more sense.



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baseball america

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bred 11s

posted October 21, 2014 at 11:34 pm


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electromagnetic waves

posted October 22, 2014 at 10:06 am


Having read this I thought it was rather enlightening.
I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this content together.
I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments.
But so what, it was still worthwhile!



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