Some of you may remember that in our predictions for 2018, I said that the “sexual counter-revolution”–that is, the reaction against the sexual mistreatment of women ignited by the #MeToo movement–would continue and that it would manifest itself in an “anti-pornography backlash.” This is starting to happen.
I blogged about Great Britain forcing free porn sites to require users to register and give their contact information so that their age could be checked and how this loss of anonymity would likely have an inhibiting effect.
Now columnist Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, no less, has written a column entitled Let’s Ban Porn.
He says that women who are rebelling against sexual predators are realizing that many of them are acting out the fantasies that they learned from pornography. In fact, pornography has become the major source of sex education, so that young men are using pornography as the model for their own sexuality, to the repulsion of their partners. This is having serious repercussions on the family, on dating, on the treatment of women, and our moral climate as a whole, even considered in its most secular forms.
Douthat says that, contrary to the common assumptions, it is certainly possible to ban pornography. There is plenty of legal precedent for that, even considering free speech issues. And it is certainly possible to restrict it.
He doesn’t mention the British experiment, which doesn’t actually ban anything, just sets up a process to keep children away from it, and, in so doing, brings to bear the salutary feeling of shame–as in, “I would be ashamed to admit that I use this site by giving my name.” It isn’t clear to me whether the British regulation, to which the multi-national pornographers have agreed to follow, will affect just Great Britain or other parts of the world too, such as the United States. (If anyone knows, please say so in the comments.) But there is no reason that the United States and other countries couldn’t impose a similar requirement.
You see a kind of female revulsion, not against Harvey Weinstein-style apex predators, but against the very different sort of male personality that a pornographic education seems to produce: a breed at once entitled and resentful, angry and undermotivated, “woke” and caddish, shaped by unprecedented possibilities for sexual gratification and frustrated that real women are less available and more complicated than the version on their screen.
Such men would exist without industrial-scale porn, but porn selects for them, as it selects for a romantic landscape like our own: ever-more-liberated and ever-less-erotic, trending Japan-ward in its gulf between the sexes, with marriage and children and sex itself in shared decline.
So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle — and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse.
But unlike many structural forces with which moralists of the left and right contend, porn is also just a product — something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire.
The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere.