Brandon doesn’t work in Porn.
It’s important for him that you know that. Brandon works in tech.
He’s a computer guy, and he does computer things, like SEO optimization and discovering the best algorithm for the search engines to bring you to the website that he is employed by.
And sure, that website does happen to be the largest distributer of free porn in the world. But that isn’t important to him, and he certainly doesn’t want you to try and stigmatize him for it.
And because of the shadow cooperation he’s employed by goes by the innocoulous name of Mancef Enterprise, Brandon can pass out his business cards and resumes to almost anyone and they’d never know.
Meanwhile, an actual porn star, a woman who does the actual…ummm…dirty work, walks into a bank (around the same time that Brandon is passing out his new business cards) and she cannot get the bank to give her an account, not a loan, but just allow her to open an account to deposit the money she already has.
Shame and Stigmas
So this is a short series, summarizing and interacting with Jon Ronson’s new podcast The Butterfly Effect about the effects that ubiquitous free porn has had on our world for the past 15 years.
Ronson begins his investigation by interviewing these two different people, and their two vastly different experiences in the world outside of their profession.
When Brandon first was approached about taking the job for Mancef/Porn Mogul, he wasn’t interested. He said,
“I thought only degenerates worked in porn, and I didn’t want to be seen as someone who was peddling smut. I had just gotten my degree from a really good university, and I thought potentially working in this industry might sully my career.”
But it turns out that when Brandon went to interview at Macef, it wasn’t what he thought at all. There weren’t glowing screens of nudity throughout the building, instead, it looked more like walking into the offices of some kind of Silicon Valley startup.
It looked respectable. And so Brandon took the job.
Meanwhile, back to the porn star. She walks into a hotel lobby to do an interview with Ronson, and Ronson says that he began to see looks of contempt from the people there. It turns out, Ronson says, that people like their porn stars on their computers but not in their vicinity.
It’s as if they could somehow get unclean by them.
There’s another story, later on in the podcast that I think is worth noting here. One male actor, tried to get out of the porn industry, he went back to school, got a nursing degree and eventually a job at a hospital making a good living with a new life. Until, someone recognized him. A few days later, he was called into the hospital’s Human Resource division, asked if he really did have a history working in porn, and then was summarily dismissed.
The hospital’s logic is that if he was ever accused of inappropriate behavior/touching/talking….really anything, by a patient, they would be incredibly likely to lose the case if it went before a grand jury. After all, people don’t trust porn stars, they don’t like them, they use them.
Meanwhile, Brandon is doing just fine.
I realize that it is difficult to create sympathy for people who do this work. I hate porn, I’m afraid of what porn is doing to our world and to our souls, but I’m telling you these stories for a couple of reasons.
One because we have an industry that creates a lot of “unclean people” for the rest of society, and Christians are called to not view them or treat them as such.
But secondly because, the people responsible for the greatest amount of moral decay over the past fifteen years, aren’t the people who are bearing the greatest stigmas.
Fabian, the man who first came up with the idea to stream free porn, owns 14 European sports cars, he owns a house with an aquarium so big that it needs it’s own full time diver.
Brandon can walk into almost any room without anyone giving them a second glance, but the people who do the actual work that have made them rich, not so much.
And what about you?
Brandon and Fabian haven’t just built their fortunes off of the backs of people in this industry, chances are they’ve also profoundly changed you, and probably not for the better.
And here’s where the real insidious nature of what Brandon and Fabian have done starts to come into focus.
Making Money Instead of Making Love
It turns out that everytime you visit one of those sites, thanks to Brandon, you tell that site a little something about yourself.
Through your IP address or cookies collected from other websites you’ve been visiting, and over time as Brandon and his team began to collect data about you, they figured out other things that you liked, they learned about some of your deeper desires, and in order to keep you coming back they helped to solidify and sexualize them.
Don’t believe me? You can check out this well-written but disturbing (and NSFW) article by Mark Hay on the left-leaning website Aeon. Hay’s gist is that by Brandon and Fabian’s idea to “data-mine” porn users they discovered ways to use your information to create and solidify fetishes and bizarre sub-genre of sexuality into communities. They also helped normalize and main-stream habits that are dangerously close to paedophilia.
But the most interesting thing that has happened, at least to me listening to all this, is the mixture over the past 15 years of a person’s sexuality with their core identity.
By creating or mainstreaming a variety of fetishes and the creating sub-communities for you to belong to, you are learning something about who you think you are.
You are forming your soul.
So let’s say you’re in a group of people (probably mostly men, but increasingly women as well) and all you have in common with them is some bizarre and potentially perverse fetish.
There’s a chance that you have begun to think that fetish is one of, if not the most important thing, about yourself.
As a thought experiment, imagine being in a chat room for being left-handed, or being bald, or being an accountant from Nebraska. Now imagine being in virtual community just for left-handed, balding accountants from Nebraska.
Imagine drilling down so deeply into different parts of your life and having a community of people around you to talk about it. Sounds great right? They’d get you right?
Beside creating strange echo-chambers, you’ve also made your some small part of who you are central to your existence and identity.
In the same way that someone in AA for decades will see a primary part of who they are as an alcoholic in recovery, these sub-communities around a small aspect of human sexuality can do the same.
I get the pushback to this, I’m a prudish preacher who just wants to repress people’s sexuality and keep people from living their life fully and having vanilla sex if they have it at all.
I realize that much of the world is cynical about the Christian tradition for lots of reasons, including the Christian sexual ethic.
Maybe you have good reasons for that in your own life, but here’s what I’d like you to consider.
When Christianity first entered the world, it was precisely in a world like ours.
Sex was like eating, it was ubiquitous and all about power, and no one in the Roman world really had any problems with who had sex with who and what they liked.
And in that kind of world, after hundreds of years of that kind of sexual licentiousness, the Christian sexual ethic didn’t repel people, it attracted them. It was seen as good news, specifically to the women of that world, and to the poor.
Because it turns out people making money on other people’s bodies is an age old business, and the powerless being stigmatized after being used by the powerful isn’t new either.
As you make daily decisions that form your soul one way or another, who do you want to entrust your life to?
I’d like you to at least consider being just as cynical about the popular versions of sexuality that are currently the air we all breathe as you are with the Christian tradition. Because I have a hunch there are a lot of people who are going to wind up heartbroken, lonely and confused about who they are…really.
And behind it all are a few people getting richer and richer because they knew how to pull the right levers to get you to push the right buttons.
In the words of Mark Hay,
Big data and big dollars are working their way into our popular conception of sexuality – with the public yielding to the desires of business, rather than the other way around. How sophisticated that slow creep becomes and to what extent it manages to penetrate our lived realities remains unclear.
So here’s the question to at least consider. Who do you think has your best interest in mind…really?
Brandon or Jesus?