The Frontal Cortex

Is Porn Adultery?

In the new Atlantic, Ross Douthat argues that porn is a moral slippery slope, and is part of the adultery continuum:

Yes, adultery is inevitable, but it’s never been universal in the way that pornography has the potential to become–at least if we approach the use of hard-core porn as a normal outlet from the rigors of monogamy, and invest ourselves in a cultural paradigm that understands this as something all men do and all women need to live with. In the name of providing a low-risk alternative for males who would otherwise be tempted by “real” prostitutes and “real” affairs, we’re ultimately universalizing, in a milder but not all that much milder form, the sort of degradation and betrayal that only a minority of men have traditionally been involved in.

Furthermore, Douthat argues that the dangers of porn are increasing as porn becomes a creation of amateurs:

After years of booming profits, the “mainstream” porn studios are increasingly losing ground to start-ups and freelancers–people making sex videos on their beds and sofas and shag carpeting and uploading them on the cheap. It turns out that, increasingly, Americans don’t want porn as a “kind of science fiction,” as Kipnis put it–they want realistic porn, porn that resembles the sex they might be having, and porn that at every moment holds out the promise that they can join in.

You might expect me to be a little sympathetic to this idea. After all, I’ve hypothesized that porn might rely on mirror neurons (a hypothesis that now has a smidgen of proof):

How does porn work? Why do humans (especially men) get so excited by seeing someone else have sex? At first glance, the answer seems obvious: watching porn triggers an idea (we start thinking about sex), which then triggers a change in our behavior (we become sexually aroused). This is how most of us think about thinking: sensations cause thoughts which cause physical responses. Porn is a quintessential example of how such a thought process might work.

But this straightforward answer is entirely wrong. Porn does not cause us to think about sex. Rather, porn causes to think we are having sex. From the perspective of the brain, the act of arousal is not preceded by a separate idea, which we absorb via the television screen. The act itself is the idea. Thanks to our mirror neurons, which imitate the actions of others and help us simulate their feelings, when we are watching porn we are convinced that we are not just watching porn. We think we are inside the screen, doing the deed.

In other words, porn might (emphasis on the “might,” since there really isn’t any hard proof) take advantage of our penchant for combining observation with mimesis, so that we can’t help but imitate, at least internally, the movements of others. You smile, and I smile on the inside. You have sex and, thanks to my high-speed internet connection, I get to pretend that I’m having sex too. In this sense, watching porn really is part of the adulterous continuum. The thrill of porn, after all, is that it tricks a circuit of cells into thinking that we’re not just in front of a computer or TV screen. In this sense, Jesus was right: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

But here’s the fatal flaw in this argument: it can be applied to everything. When you play a violent video game, and get bonus points for killing and pillaging, guess what some deluded neurons think you’re really doing? That’s right: they think you’re actually the character on screen, committing all those felonies. And when you watch a violent movie, and your mirror neurons secretly imitate the actions on screen, is that part of a “violence continuum”? You can see where I’m going here. Once we start confusing the virtual with the actual, we find ourselves in Plato’s Republic, where everything that brings “disharmony to the soul” is banned. Watching The Terminator is kinda like committing murder.

In other words, all this talk of continuums is bunk. After all, somewhere between 10 and 40 percent of male dreams feature some sort of sexual activity. Does that mean I’m committing adultery in my sleep? In the end, morality is about the decisions we make that affect other people. The thoughts I think to myself are not relevant.

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    September 18, 2008
  2. #2 Joe
    September 18, 2008

    For what itís worth, I agree with your assessment that Ross Douthatís article misses the point. From this manís point of view, the purpose of porn is to relief hydraulic pressure, nothing more. We need to deal openly with the biological fact that most men would have much more sex with many more partners than would be healthy for anyone, if given the chance. Porn, if used correctly, can alleviate this situation.

  3. #3 Drasko
    September 18, 2008

    It’s kind of funny that the brain might actually think we are having sex when watching porn because if you were to compare that to a book like Sperm Wars (which aims to explain human sexulaity strictly in terms of the evolutionary benefits/costs) which explains the arousal from porn as ACTUALLY getting ready for sex. The reason is that if there are 2 males involved in sex with one female then for the male going second it is most advanatgous to have intercourse with the woman as quickly as possible after the first male and to ejaculate as soon as possible. The reason for that is this way his sperm have a better chance of warding off the first male’s sperm in order to get to the egg. The more time that passes inbetween ejaculations the lower that male’s chance of passing on his genes.

    So it would make sense why you get aroused when watching porn because your body thinks you’re getting ready for your chance to have sex. It would make sense then that the brain responds by actually imagining you having sex. What better way to be prepared than that?

  4. #4 Eric
    September 18, 2008

    I tend to agree with most of what you say in this post, but when you write, :The thrill of porn, after all, is that it tricks a circuit of cells into thinking that we’re not just in front of a computer or TV screen,” you lose me. A circuit of cells does not think, they fire. Thinking is a a different level of brain activity, and to confuse mirror neurons firing with thinking seems to b e a crucial mistake.

  5. #5 Eve
    September 18, 2008

    This pretention that it’s “something all men do and all women need to live with” is yet another way of saying that women are cold fish, isn’t it? Haven’t we agreed already that women get aroused by porn, just as men do? We need pornographic equality, golldarnit! :D

  6. #6 Doug
    September 18, 2008

    Women watch soap operas habitually. Soap operas are filled with sex. Why are men singled out for thinking about sex? Men may take a more direct approach whereas the approach of women is more concerned with the story that leads to the actions but, the results are the same. If men are having affairs, so are women, either virtually or in reality.

  7. #7 Becca
    September 18, 2008

    For the benefit of Joe and Doug:
    from this womanís point of view, the purpose of porn is to relief hydraulic pressure, nothing more. We need to deal openly with the biological fact that most women would have much more sex with many more partners than would be healthy for anyone, if given the chance. Porn, if used correctly, can alleviate this situation.

    For all, my internal feminist compells me to point out: We need to face the societal fact that most people in our culture have percularities in their views of Women and Men, Power and Sex. Porn, if used incorrectly, can aggrevate this situation.

  8. #8 6EQUJ5
    September 18, 2008

    I think you’re on the right track.

    Take a nonsexual arena for comparison — sports.

    If you’re rooting for the quarterback as he drops back for a pass, and then he gets sacked — ouch!

    If you’re an Angels fan, and Chone Figgins steals second standing up, yee-hah!

    If it’s Game 7 in the NBA playoffs and the game is going into its third overtime period — you are just a jittery mess of twitchy nerves worn to a frazzle.

  9. #9 Nicol
    September 18, 2008

    I’m with all the ladies who point out the gender inequality in this article; I can state from personal experience, that as a woman I do watch porn — admittedly, not as often as my male counter-parts, though I think this has more to do with lack of free time than lack of intention or drive — and for essentially the same “hydraulics” reason. Watching porn is not at all the same as having sex in real life, but it does relieve tension. If we’re going to make any philosophical comparisons, it’s a bit like the Allegory of the Cave; porn is the shadows on the wall, and real life sex is the ideal world once you escape from your shackles.

    Besides, to have an affair in real life, you have to get to know the person for at least a few hours before you have sex with them, regardless of gender. With porn, you don’t know those people, and you probably don’t want to. That’s what ultimately makes real affairs more devastating than watching porn — the emotional connection that needs to be developed, not the act of sex itself.

  10. #10 Ben_Wraith
    September 18, 2008

    Does anyone have more information on the statement “the vast majority of male REM dreams are about sex”? I’m really curious about this.

  11. #11 Ren Galskap
    September 18, 2008

    Two comments:
    1) Thoughts are actions, and they have real consequences. Saying that the thoughts we think to ourselves are irrelevant to morality is naive. Furthermore, thoughts affect our behavior in ways that we’re not directly aware of, for example in body language. Other people respond to our body language and know what we’re thinking. So private thoughts are neither irrelevant to morality, nor as private as we think.

    2) The definitions of pornography and adultery are both arbitrary and socially determined. In the 1830s, the ladies of Cleveland had an advertising poster removed because it showed a young lady’s ankles, which was pornographic. Elizabeth Taylor had a scene in the movie Cleopatra that was considered pornographic in its time. In some societies, a wife who shows her hair to a man not her husband is committing adultery. In some societies, kissing someone not your spouse is adultery, and in other societies social kissing is allowed. Since the Korean War, swinging has gradually spread from the Air Force couples it started with to the general population, and more couples are doing it. For them, copulation with someone not their spouse is not adultery.

    Douthat is trying to argue that the meaning of both “pornography” and “adultery” are independent of his own value judgements, and at the same time he’s trying to define them in ways determined by his own value judgements. Value judgements are important and should be taken seriously, but not by asserting that any value judgement different from one’s own is immoral.

  12. #12 Jonah
    September 18, 2008

    Thanks for all your comments. Re: dream content, men and sex. I’m sorry for the mistake, but “vast majority” is incorrect. (I confused Freud with reality.) According to the Hall-Van de Castle analysis of dream content, about 15 percent of male dreams feature sexual activity. Other studies put the figure closer to 40 percent. But it’s nowhere near “vast majority.” Again my apologies. The post will be corrected.

  13. #13 Mojave66
    September 18, 2008

    It seems to me (and I have no empirical evidence) that there’s been a lot of “OMG TEH ADULTERY!!!!!1!!” panic out there, and The Atlantic article just cashes in on it. Porn is adultery? Really? Is masturbation adultery? If I have a fantasy about someone who isn’t my spouse is that adultery? If something that isn’t my spouse stimulates those mirror neurons into arousal, is that adultery? Frankly, it’s making me scared to be married if I’m going to be committing all this adultery so much.

    For that matter, why is “adultery” about the sexual component? Sure there are some complaints about “emotional adultery”, but isn’t the central problem lying and betrayal? Polyamory is an example of both sexual and emotional liasons outside of marriage that is based on honesty, integrity and informed consent. Nobody who considers themselves an honest polyamorist would consider it adultery by any stretch. Therefore, if your spouse has no problems with your interest in pornography (or even encourages it or shares your tastes), is it really adultery?

    Another thought: I’m a lesbian. I know plenty of lesbians, including myself, who prefer gay male porn over any other kind of porn, lesbian included. Just what are our mirror neurons mirroring?

    A third thought: What do these kind of assumptions (eg, Adultery = any kind of sex outside marriage = BAD) mean for neurological research? If these are used only as reference points rather than as a basis for bias, then why not also acknowledge the use of other reference points– eg, polyamory or the shared enjoyment of pornography by a married couple?

    I’m not even going to comment on the “all men” and “all women” thing. That’s plain silly.

  14. #14 db
    September 18, 2008

    Researching a completely different topic, I just came across this post on AlphaPsy arguing that, in contrast to watching porn videos, looking at pornographic photos (or in this specific case, images of genitalia) probably activates canonical neurons rather than mirror neurons because there’s no action involved. I don’t know enough to evaluate it, but it might be interesting reading for some of you.

    People of Douthat’s political persuasion tend to turn every slippery slope into a 90 degree angle.

  15. #15 confluence
    September 19, 2008

    1. The whole article is about men watching porn, and their female partners having to put up with it. What about women who like porn? I’m very suspicious of any analysis which treats pornography exclusively as a gender-specific phenomenon; it suggests that the writer has a very naive mainstream view of it.

    2. I find the argument that amateur porn is popular because people prefer porn which is more realistic in subject matter somewhat tenuous. A lot of “professional” porn is badly acted and over-the-top, and certainly the mainstream stuff tends towards particular stereotypes in the actors’ appearance and characterisation. People might prefer amateur porn because it doesn’t have those problems — but it could be that what they’d really, really like to watch is excellently plotted and acted fantasy porn about space aliens and short brunettes. We don’t know.

    3. What several other people upthread have said. I think it’s ridiculous to equate porn-watching with adultery. However, much like (porn-free) masturbation, or reading romance novels, or writing slash fiction on the internet, it is participation in something some people consider to be an intensely private and exclusive couple activity outside the relationship[1]. There are some people who do consider some or all of these things to be a kind of betrayal, and some people who don’t. This is why it’s important for people to talk about what they expect from each other, and not just assume that they’re on the same page.

    Polyamorous people consider some kinds of external relationships to be acceptable, and others not. Polyamory may be relatively rare in our society, but the principle of a mutual agreement about the rules of the relationship is the same.

    [1] Unless of course it’s a shared activity within the relationship.

  16. #16 tracysnow
    September 19, 2008

    >>In the end, morality is about the decisions we make that affect other people. The thoughts I think to myself are not relevant.<<

    I am not anti porn nor do I think porn is adultery but I do think this analysis is naively male.

    Why do the mirror neurons of a woman who walks in on her mate masturbating to porn make her think and feel she is being betrayed but not think or feel she is witnessing him commit murder if she walks in on him playing a violent video game?

    I guess if morality is about the decisions we make that affect other people, a womans reaction to her mate and porn ought be relevant.

  17. #17 Chris
    September 19, 2008

    That solves it. My wife cheats on me when she’s buying her cosmo or romance novels. We have such a double standard in this country regarding porn. Men’s porn is wrapped in black plastic bags marked over 21 only and it’s a sin. Woman’s porn is readily available to any kid at your local grocery store.

    Listen, Porn is only a big deal when we are not comfortable with ourselves or feel safe in our relationships. I love my wife to pieces, and it turns me on to catch her watching porn. Does that mean I think she’s going to run off and be with another guy? no. The fact that we can share that actually makes us feel more secure in our relationship. Because we don’t have things we have to keep from each other or feel like we should be ashamed. I think being able to share that actually increases our level of intimacy.

    Bottom line: Porn is not a sin and sex is not dirty. Historically speaking, these ideas that sex is dirty and porn is a sin are rooted in Victorian idealism, not religion. These same Victorian ideals is what kept Woman’s health in the dark ages while men’s health skyrocketed.

  18. #18 babar
    September 19, 2008

    “1) Thoughts are actions, and they have real consequences. Saying that the thoughts we think to ourselves are irrelevant to morality is naive. Furthermore, thoughts affect our behavior in ways that we’re not directly aware of, for example in body language. Other people respond to our body language and know what we’re thinking. So private thoughts are neither irrelevant to morality, nor as private as we think.”

    This is a very dark path to lead down. This leads us to thought crimes. That’s BS. I demand my freedom to think as I feel and act on the thoughts I deem appropriate, and I’m not going to let one person take that from me. Psychological problems arise if you try and suppress your thoughts and not explore them. People need the freedom to do so, denying them that is bad for everyone.

  19. #19 Sighter
    September 19, 2008

    The argument of Plato’s Republic — metaphorically depicting the soul as the ideal city — didn’t have a thing to do with an actual city. It had to do with the individual choosing by their own volition what sort of activity to let into their soul and what sort of activity to keep out — and Book X of the Republic offers its counterweight to the Socratic attempt to ban music.

    You excoriate the idea of a violence continuum, but I see no reason not to expect that it exists as well.

    All this is just to say that while I don’t see any need for banning or restricting any of this on the societal level, it never hurts for individuals to reflect on the trash with which they infect their minds.

  20. #20 Kurt
    September 19, 2008

    “All this is just to say that while I don’t see any need for banning or restricting any of this on the societal level, it never hurts for individuals to reflect on the trash with which they infect their minds.”

    I have to agree with this, particularly if we take plasticity into account. In fact, I suppose one could play devil’s advocate and argue that brain plasticity actually provides the slippery slope that Douthat is talking about. We strengthen the neuronal circuits that we activate regularly and thus increase the likelihood that those pathways will be activated again when we find ourselves in a relevant situation. We thus “normalize” ourselves to the content of whatever it is that we are watching, whether it’s sex, violence, or happy purple dinosaurs. As Jonah alludes to, the key is whether we imagine that it is ourselves in those situations, activating the mirror neuron system. So watching amateur porn, something that is much more “realistic” to the average porn-watcher than the cable guy coming over to two hot and horny blondes, is *probably* (someone could test this) more likely to trigger mirror neurons. The problem then from Douthat’s point of view is that in our everyday lives we could easily find ourselves in a situation like the amatuer porn video, and because of the strengthening of the mirror neuron circuits in response to that context, we could find ourselves acting on a sexual impulse that may not have occurred had we not watched all that porn. For me, this is a stretch but not unimaginable. And the same could certainly go for violence. So while censorship is not the answer, it can’t hurt for all of us to be aware of the fact that what we watch affects our brains and act accordingly.

  21. #21 a cup of coffee
    September 19, 2008

    I think the only thing sick or sad about pornography is the fact that so many people use their ostensible disgust for it as a tool of guilt and manipulation. Maybe I just can’t understand what goes on in the minds of people who believe that porn is anything but watching some people have sex. But I doubt that the motivation of men and women who try to control their partners’ fantasies is anything but selfish and petty bitterness. If you’re pissed at your partner and can’t think of a reason why, you can pull out the moral superiority card and flip out about their porn “addiction.”

    Also, if I make pornography with my husband, and he looks at it alone, is he cheating on me with my two-dimensional self? Is this what keeps Douthat up all night?

  22. #22 JM
    September 19, 2008

    Drasko’s comment at the top of this thread is an exemplar of the poor thinking in the article and I think exposes part of the problem. After developing an evo-psych argument we get this:

    “it would make sense why you get aroused when watching porn because your body thinks you’re getting ready for your chance to have sex.”

    Ahhhh, but the argument is based on what is essentially a gang-bang or perhaps even a gang-rape which is a very rare situation and even one which prostitutes won’t agree to because it is so dangerous for the woman.

    In other words, the article is based on a premise that is fantasy – like porn.

  23. #23 montresor
    September 19, 2008

    “Ahhhh, but the argument is based on what is essentially a gang-bang or perhaps even a gang-rape which is a very rare situation and even one which prostitutes won’t agree to because it is so dangerous for the woman.

    “In other words, the article is based on a premise that is fantasy – like porn.”

    Ummm… my GF and I have had many a consensual MMF triad, and it wasn’t a fantasy. It really happened. Nothing wrong with Drasko’s point.

  24. #24 Felicia Gilljam
    September 19, 2008

    I’m a woman. I like porn. The author of that article seriously needs to get his head out of wherever he stuffed it and stop perpetrating the stereotype. On that note, I think people would be a whole lot happier if they were left to themselves to decide what constitutes adultery and what doesn’t. It’s something each couple (or polyamorous group) needs to decide between themselves, not something society should dictate. As it is, people are being made to feel guilty for all kinds of victimless crimes, from masturbation to porn to swinging.

  25. #25 Jessica
    September 19, 2008

    1) Like most things, porn can be addictive and abused. It can consume one’s private life and/or become a substitute for sex with one’s partner. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s adultery, just that it’s potentially harmful to a relationship, much like drinking or gambling or any other addiction.

    2) I’m surprised to see no mention of the grossly unrealistic body types that permeate porn. As a woman, this is one of my main concerns. Do any men here have input on how porn women (for lack of a better term), have or have not affected their expectations of “real” women’s bodies?

  26. #26 Drasko
    September 19, 2008

    @JM and and montresor

    I agree that 3somes are more than fantasy for a good number of people but think of even a simpler example such as public displays of affection. It’s perfectly normal to get excited when you see it. Obviously you don’t neccasrily need to get fully aroused but when you see it something inside you triggers.

    That reaction could just as easily be the same one that’s triggered when watching porn. The point is I just wanted to make a comparison to an evolutinary perspective of sex to the one made in the post. Im not saying the connection is clear cut but there are defiently some overlaps. And on top of that it’s perfectly logical to consdier that your brain reactions mimic that of the body and vice versa.

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    September 19, 2008

    If watching pornography is part of the adultery continuum, then watching Oedipus Rex is part of the incest/mutilation continuum.

  28. #28 Apashiol
    September 20, 2008

    Is there any evidence to support the idea of watching dramas as being cathartic? Or were the Greeks totally wrong about this?

  29. #29 complex_field
    September 20, 2008

    One commenter above suggested that porn causes us to get ready to ejaculate. Isn’t that the point of foreplay?

  30. #30 JM
    September 20, 2008

    Drasko, re PDA’s. Yeah ok that’s a more reasonable point, certainly more than MMF threesomes (despite montresor’s experience).

    I don’t think you can make an evolutionary point out of threesomes – which are rare and frowned on socially – but I concede that you can do it with PDA’s.

    However, even that falls apart on close examination. PDA’s are common in the modern west but were not prior to the 1960′s, and are absent from many of the traditional societies of the world. So much so that it is a common observation that men from traditional societies treat women in general markedly less well, to the point of regarding any woman involved in a PDA or dressed in a less than demure fashion as a slut.

    Given that the western attitude to sex is unusual both in history and across the gamut of human societies, I just don’t agree that an evo pespective has any merit.

    What does IMHO have a lot of merit is the perfectly commonplace observation that men are visual. If you expand that and say something along the lines of human-females-have-disguised-ovulation-and-conceal-their-genitals-by-walking-upright-therefore-they-have-developed-permanent-breasts-to-signal-their-availability => porn-sexually-excites-men-because-it-hits-all-the-triggers-that-cleavage-does, then you’ll have my agreement to an evo argument for porn.

    Oh BTW I strongly agree with Nicol earlier that adultery has more to do with the betrayal of trust between two people in a relationship than simple lust in another direction. While many women have problems with their partners interest in porn I think this is more because of the doubt (“aren’t I enough for him”) than the effect (“you b***** you slept with that slut”)

    I also concur with her point that an intimate relationship with someone – particularly the third party – is very confronting and can never be totally innocuous – unlike porn.

    Adultery breaks relationships, porn causes insecurity in some people, but there is a difference between betrayal and insecurity.

  31. #31 jb
    September 21, 2008

    A really interesting post and comments!

    To respond to Blake above. To the extent you are participating in Oedipus’s crimes you are also participating the consequences and have thus ‘learned your lesson’(Wikipedia has a pretty good synopsis); the same could be said of watching Shakespeare’s tragedies. Great art tells the complete truth…. as opposed to the partial truth of say, a shoot’em up movie. Yes it is possible to overcome your enemy by force, kill off all of those bad guys, and be the hero/heroine, but those kind of movies rarely go on to show that some day the bad guys will return, the same ones or different ones, and be strong enough to do the same to you.

  32. #32 Lizzie
    September 21, 2008

    I’m a woman who can sometimes rationally convince herself that porn should be pretty much fine- not “offensive” or whatever, but who instinctually really doesn’t like it. Deep down it feels unfair that my husband or any man I ever dated gets to see undress and visually caress and have sex with an endless stream of enticing nymphets. I don’t think there’s not really an equivalent out there for me (as a woman.)

    The closest that has approached it was when an uber charming hot adorable clever guy from work developed a huge crush on me (I’m married) and pretty clearly wanted to have an affair and I let him flirt into what could be considered pretty dangerous territory. My husband even understood/ agreed how my enjoying and even encouraging such attention could in a way be a modest counterbalance to his getting off on an endless array of sensuous beautiful naked women who are spreading their legs (seemingly) for him. (Sorry if I am too explicit but I’m trying to spell out why I, as his wife would feel this is “not nothing”.)

    I think my discomfort with porn makes some sense in an evolutionary perspective. Since there are many indications that humans are at least partially monogomous and can form long -lasting pair bonds, and since photography only arose recently, I think it makes sense that a pair bonded female would feel threatened or otherwise uncomfortable with her partner being so (virtually) intimate with an ongoing parade of females flaunting their available fertility.

    I think those who are saying women’s appreciation of porn is equivalent to men’s (or that women read romance novels in an equivalent degree that men see porn) are trying way too hard to equalize what is actually a very unbalanced equation. If you look at data on gender of porn users and frequency of porn use compared to romance novel use, you’ll see there’s no contest. The notion these are all sexual acts that equal out is wishful thinking. Again, there are evolutionary reasons for the imbalance. Just because men’s and women’s sexual desires are not identical doesn’t mean I respect women or men any less, I’m just saying that’s the way it is, and that we should respect women and men enough to realize it.

    My husband has said porn is like methadone, a less than ideal substitute that works pretty well. I have resigned myself to this reality, but my discomfort is another reminder that nature is not a fair system and far from being well designed.

  33. #33 abstruse
    September 22, 2008

    My porn habits are identical my sexual habits in that it’s not the Author’s buissness what I watch or with whom I sleep.

    What a prude.

  34. #34 ian
    September 23, 2008

    i think the strongest anti-porn argument i’ve heard so far is that it conditions men to expect unrealistic levels of physical attractiveness in women. men in straight porn don’t seem to need to be the least bit attractive no matter what the women look like. also that the lack of development and emotional connection between the “characters” reinforces the idea of women as mere sexual objects.

    i do question whether romance novels/movies give women unrealistic fantasies of romantic unselfish men, but that’s something i know less about and would like feedback on, especially from women.

    that said, the objectification of women and unrealistic body images in pornography is a problem in all forms of media, tv, film, disney movies, toys, pop music, commercials, magazines, etc. by the time boys or girls are old enough to have any real interest in porn, the damage has been done already. porn isn’t helping the problem, but it’s only a small piece of a much larger issue.

    i think part of the problem with porn is the stigma against it, and the unnatural separation of sex from all other parts of life in american cinema. movies in europe are allowed more nudity and sex, but because there are stories the sex takes place within a more meaningful context. it’s people having sex, not objects that look like people. similarly, even american porn in the 70′s had plots, themes, characters. so much of what’s out there today is just disposable jerk-off fodder, maybe porn is a victim of our cheap consumer culture just like all the over-produced forgettable top 40 music, movies whose biggest selling point is explosions and one-liners, etc. it’s just designed to grab attention, get an immediate response and make a quick buck.

    and if watching a porn is cheating because i may imagine myself involved in the onscreen sex, then would it also be cheating if i read a long novel where 2 characters fall in love or have a lifelong relationship? would i be guilty of an emotional affair(possibly including sex)?

  35. #35 Mary
    September 26, 2008

    Those of us who like to watch porn may want to consider how women became involved in this industry in the first place. Because I have worked in social services for many years,I would like to share a typical history of the women I have encountered. Most tell me that their bodies developed early and were subjected to molestation and or rape by a family member or trusted family friend. To relieve the pain and guilt of these horrific experiences, these young girls turn to hardcore drug use and eventually begin to provide sexual favors to support their addiction. Moving on to porn is simply a response to what they have already endured. Do they enjoy this type of work? The answer is no.

    Whether we consider porn to be adultary is an interesting question, but I’m surprised that there seems to be little or no concern for the abuse and violence these women face. There seems to be an “it’s all about me” type of attitude. Take, for example, the backlash against sweatshops that produce consumer goods that are in high demand. We may want those shoes, but how can we justify buying them when we know how these children and adults are suffering?

    The next time you watch porn, remember that these women are not consumer goods and they are not in it for fun. They have been expoited by men as young girls and continue to be exploited and objectified by consumers. To support this violence is socially irresponsible and sub-human whether you are watching at as a couple or on your own.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  36. #36 AN
    May 6, 2010

    I came across this page because I was doing research for my thesis for my women’s studies course but anyways…my thoughts are as follows:
    I think it’s society that makes us feel guilty for thinking about sex with more than one person at a given time. It’s a fact of life that as human beings, we are attracted to more than one man or women whether or not we are married or in a committed relationship. It is true that some people can just gear towards one person but lots of time, that is not the case. Society says the ideal is to love and have sex and think of sex with that and only that person. Most or many of us aren’t like that and we are just in denial if we are saying that “We don’t think of another person sexually if we are in a relationship or are married.” Because lots of times, it happens and that is the case.
    Well, back to the original topic. Is porn adultery? That is really had to say for sure because it really depends on the individual or how the couple views it.
    I feel if and when the person is watching porn, he is turned on by it and he desires or finds the girl in the film a “turn on” and he dreams of her and he wants to sleep with her, that can be considered emotional cheating. However, that’s nothing that can be done about that unless the partner feels the same way.
    Difficult topic so stay single.

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