Get over it

Posted: Feb 27, 2006 12:05 AM

As the author of a book called Smart Sex, I have become an expert on many forms of Dumb Sex. One of the weirdest to come to my attention is pornography addiction. I know, I know, we all have a First Amendment right to view just about anything we want, as much as we want, any time we want. But that doesn’t mean that every legal activity we choose is intelligent. If you’d rather view pornography than have a relationship with a real person, you’ve got a personal problem. And if you’ve got a nation full of young men mesmerized by porn videos, sex will become a spectator sport. That’s gotta hurt the birth rate. And it’s hard to believe its ultimately as much fun or as satisfying as the Real Thing.

You think I exaggerate? A recent book, Pornified by Pamela Paul, shows how pornography addiction affects men, women and their relationships. The in-depth interviews she conducted give us a glimpse of men who are more comfortable with airbrushed internet porn stars than with real women right in their own bedrooms.

While these guys may appear normal, some of what she reports is just plain weird. Most of them didn’t come out and say, "I’m addicted to porn." Quite the contrary. They said things like, "I can stop when I want." "I’m entitled to use it. If my girlfriend doesn’t like it, it’s her problem." "It doesn’t hurt anybody else, so it’s ok." These are the very kinds of things that addicts in denial routinely say.

But when she asks them to describe what they do, you begin to see the problem. Some young men literally spend hours surfing the internet for pornography. They confess that they are no longer stimulated by the soft-core images that initially drew them into porn-use. Many have progressed from the relatively tame images to more graphic, violent images, of the sort that initially repulsed them.

This affects relationships. After long exposure to pornography, men find that their women are no longer quite good enough. One CEO in the book destroyed two marriages through his pornography addiction. While he was addicted, he bought breast implants for both his wives, and for four of the girlfriends he had during and between marriages. 
Although people hide behind the upbeat image of pornography as sexual aid, a lot of the guys Pamela Paul interviewed are for all practical purposes, sexually non-functional. They literally can not get aroused without pornography. They don’t say that about themselves, of course. Their wives and girlfriends don’t exactly say it either. They just report that the guys can’t get an erection or ejaculate without having a video playing in the background. One woman said of her boyfriend’s video-during-sex habit, "I’ve had one-night stands that were more intimate." Sex is a spectator sport, literally.

Obviously, not every guy who looks at a girlie magazine once is a while is a porn addict. But addicts are usually unrealistic about their own behavior and the impact it has on others. Neither Pamela Paul, nor Ben Shapiro, author of Porn Generation, gives any indication how widespread pornography addiction is. But since I’m not calling for any public policy to Solve This Problem, I don’t care how many people are indulging in this particular form of Dumb Sex. This article isn’t for Policy Wonks. It’s for free adult men and women, who can make judgements about what to do and not do.

I accuse no one. But if the shoe fits, wear it. So here is the message from Dr J, Ph.D. economist, life-long libertarian, author, public speaker, and former university professor:

Guys, if you can’t perform sexually unless there is a porn video playing in the background, you’ve got a problem. You’re using too much pornography. The problem isn’t your wife or girlfriend. "If only she were more responsive. If only she were more sexually aggressive. If only she were more compliant. If only she were thinner. If only she had bigger breasts."

Nope. I’m not buying it. If you can’t get aroused by a real woman, you are using too much pornography.

Some men allow their women to believe its their fault. Women feel they aren’t sexy enough, or that they simply can’t compete with the artificial porno babes. Women become insecure over their body image, even against their better judgement. So let me say to women: your man’s porno consumption isn’t fundamentally about you. It’s about him.

Guys, don’t tell me "it’s natural."  Yes, I know, men are more visual than women. Sure, it’s all because of evolutionary biology. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Dude, masturbating in front of a computer screen is not a natural behavior. The nature argument is that men get more aroused by visual stimuli, not that they prefer the virtual to the actual. If you spend all night surfing the net when there is a live woman in your life,  you don’t get to play the "nature card."

Honestly, can you imagine our primeval ancestors, staring at pornographic cave paintings rather than chasing live women?

"Me Tarzan. You Jane.
You not Jenna Jameson.
Jane, go away."

I don’t think so.

Besides, just because a behavior makes evolutionary sense, doesn’t mean that every instance of the behavior has survival value. The existence of the "fight or flight" syndrome doesn’t mean every bar room brawl has survival value for the individual who does it.

The key moral insight in my book, Smart Sex, is that it is always wrong to use another person. If pornography use is causing you to use other people, you need to make amends to those you have hurt.

If someone you love confronts you about your pornography use, take them seriously. Dr J. says so.