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What I learned from Arguing with Men About Porn

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I have found that when you read an article on the internet, it is best not to read the comments. If you decide to read the comments, you are likely to lose your faith in humanity. While I don’t often read internet comments on random articles, I do read the comments left on my posts. Comments here are generally well thought-out, respectful and kind. While my blog is primarily read by moms, I recently had a post that inspired some men to leave comments, both here and here. I also saw many of the comments left on Facebook shares of this post. I decided not to get involved in arguments about the post anywhere other than on my actual blog and here in my own little corner of the internet I was going to respond as thoroughly as I could because this is an area I think people need to be educated about.

It was kind of a fascinating process. I was a little surprised at how many men want to defend porn. I spent lots of time pulling together responses, collecting resources, and entering into conversations with random guys on the internet. Random guys who are really passionate about porn. Here’s what I learned from those interactions:

Men are so defensive of porn, they can’t distinguish between adult use and a child’s use. I very clearly wrote a letter to my young children about how they can be hurt lifelong by porn use in their early years. Porn use by children creates a lifetime of problems, as has been documented by the American College of Pediatrics. And yet, I had man after man telling me how they use porn and it’s no big deal. While I don’t even agree with them that their adult use of porn is no big deal, I find it so odd they felt compelled to be defensive about something I wasn’t even addressing. Whatever your personal feelings about porn, we should all be able to get behind protecting little children from sexually explicit material.

Some guys have a hard time acknowledging it’s possible that they have been negatively impacted. Men really want to believe they can watch porn without it impacting how they view women. They are positive they can distinguish between reality and fantasy. I’m just not so sure. I have been reading more and more about women reporting that men in real life are initiating unpleasant and degrading sexual acts that are common in porn. I’m becoming convinced that while some men may be able to rationally understand that the scenarios presented in porn are fantasy, they may actually believe some of the more painful or disrespectful acts in porn would be enjoyable to women. Or maybe they’ve reached a point where they just don’t care if something is enjoyable to the woman. If you are regularly consuming a diet of porn, it may be a good time to stop and reevaluate how those lines are getting blurred.

Men want to believe women who are against porn are unattractive, nonsexual prudes. That fits the narrative better, right? I’m not going to get into a personal defense of myself here because quite frankly it isn’t relevant. My personal attractiveness has nothing to do with my ability to look at data and determine if something is harmful for my children. I am not against porn because I feel like I can’t compete with those women. I am against porn because it presents sex as something it isn’t and that hurts all of us. When men feel compelled to portray me as anti sex or unattractive, it confirms to me they have compromised their ability to differentiate between porn and real life. They have bought into the lie of porn that beautiful, sexy, progressive women are totally okay with porn and anyone who says differently isn’t a REAL woman anyway. It’s almost as though they don’t understand that sex– GOOD SEX– did exist before porn. Somehow the human race has been able to procreate, to express meaningful love, to enjoy full sexual expression before porn tried to tell us how we could be doing it “better” and created a culture of unrealistic (and damaging) expectations. This article about Gail Dines and her fight against porn is something everyone should read, but I find this quote particularly meaningful:

“The assumption that if you are a woman who hates pornography you are against sex shows how successful the industry is at collapsing porn into sex.” Would the critics of the employment practices and products at McDonald’s be accused of being anti-eating, she asks pointedly. 

Men don’t want to believe that porn impacts women and women should have an opinion about it. Even men who agree porn is a problem aren’t thrilled about a woman addressing it. I think maybe that’s part of the reason porn has become as rampant as it has– women feel voiceless about it. We aren’t expected to talk about this, have an opinion about it, be educated about it and if we DO the general consensus is that we’re repressed and frigid. I can see why many women don’t want to talk about this, but I don’t think that excuses us from having the conversation. Even if GOOD men are the only ones talking about it, I think it is a lot easier for them to acknowledge watching porn is bad, but never acknowledge what it does to women. The women being brutalized in porn are actual human beings and because men are being brought up in a culture that commodifies them, I think it may be harder to have an appropriate level of empathy. Maybe having your mom or sister or wife talk to you about how porn impacts her, how it grieves her, will make a difference. (It is with a heavy heart I recommend the documentary “Hot Girls Wanted” if you want to see what it’s like to be an actress in porn today. It is absolutely one of the most disturbing things I have watched in my life.)

Men don’t think women understand porn. Some guys didn’t think I should be talking about porn, because how could I possibly understand it? I think these guys are giving porn too much credit. While I can’t understand the pull or addictive nature of porn because I have chosen not to engage in it, I am completely able to understand marketing, which is the foundation of porn. It is the marketing of sex and the commodification of bodies. I am able to do the research and see the capability porn has to harm my children. I know how living in a porn saturated culture has impacted me as a woman. The difference between what I understand about porn and what my husband understands about porn is EXACTLY why BOTH of us need to be involved in the conversation.

This is not your father’s porn. When men defend porn, in order to keep from just despairing about the state of manhood today, I have to convince myself that some guys don’t know what kind of porn our children may be exposed to. If you are an adult man today imagining that your child’s introduction to porn is going to be similar to yours, you’re probably wrong. This isn’t going to be some sneaking a peek at an uncle’s Playboy magazine. Children have access to the most disturbing, graphic, make you want to cry or vomit porn at their fingertips. They do not have the ability to understand what they are seeing and the shame may keep them from talking to someone about it. You may have the decency and perspective to understand there are elements of porn that do not reflect reality, but a child isn’t going to have that same understanding.

Dads don’t think they should talk to their daughters about menstruating. Okay, maybe this seems like a odd tangent, but it was surprising to me how often this came up. Men felt really passionately that only fathers and sons should talk about porn, just like only mothers and daughters should talk about menstruation. I’m not even going to pretend to understand this logic. First of all, women getting their periods is in no way exploitative of men, commodifying men, disrespectful of men, or devaluing men. If that were the case, men would have every right and responsibility to be talking to their daughters about how this impacts the men in their lives. Second of all, if my husband wants to talk to our daughters about getting their period, I welcome his input. I hope when they have cramps and are dealing with PMS issues, he will acknowledge how tough that can be and not just avoid them. His perspective on this topic will be very different from mine, but I am in no way excluding him from the conversation. I want him to model for them how a loving, respectful man deals with these issues. Men, talk to your daughters about puberty, about growing up, about menstruation. It’s not gross, it’s just life and you can help take away some of the stigma and shame by being comfortable about that topic with them.

Some men have been really wounded by porn. There were MANY men I just wanted to hug. They are the reason I talk with my young boys about porn. They have felt its sting. They have been wounded. They have seen the damage in their marriages. They want life to be different for their sons and daughters. I am incredibly proud of this group of men who are fighting back against a culture that implies ALL healthy virile men are able to enjoy porn in moderation with no negative effects. They fight an uphill battle against their own addiction, against a porn saturated culture, against the attitudes of society that this is no big deal. Keep fighting. I have so much hope that your voices will make a difference in how we view this issue. While my rantings about this topic may make people paint me as an overprotective, old-fashioned mom (someone even said “helicopter parent” which is hilarious if you know how I parent in real life), that is a more acceptable role in our society than to be a man who speaks against porn. Men are either supposed to enjoy it or not talk about it. Please don’t let your perspective and voice be silenced. My kids need men like you in this world to speak up for them. And if you’ve been negatively impacted by porn and haven’t gotten help PLEASE know that help is out there! (This book by Patrick Carnes is a good starting point, but any of his works are worth reading as he is an expert in this field.) Do some homework about resources in your area and then go take a risk and pursue them. It’s worth it.

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18 Comments

  1. This is so good! Porn destroys. I worked with a man who wrote a book about getting FREE down to the roots of sexual addictions, including porn. It’s a great book called To Kill a Lion by Bruce Lengeman. Check it out: http://www.tokillalion.com
    Thanks for going “there.” We need more people with a voice.

  2. Your responses are so tight and articulate. Were you captain of your high school’s debate team? I really appreciate your thoughts on all topics, but especially here.
    Sarah M

  3. I nominated you for the Liebster Award! Find out more from the link below.
    https://joshandbrittanydyer.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/liebster-award/

  4. The generalizations in this blog destroy its point:
    “‘Men’ (the entire gender) want to believe ‘women’ (the entire gender) who are against porn are unattractive, nonsexual prudes.” ALL men I know have admitted, if asked, to viewing porn. Exactly zero of them have expressed any opinion on what their wives or any other women think of it.

    “Men don’t want to believe that porn impacts women and women should have an opinion about it.” Again, entire genders. Porn is legal, I’ve met both men and women who have worked in porn, I’ve met both men and women who’ve viewed porn and think it’s just fine. I knew a man who directed porn starring his wife, and she was about as big of a women’s rights activist as you could ask for. I think the author of this blog is the one who doesn’t understand porn.

    “Dads don’t think they should talk to their daughters about menstruating.” Well I already have, so that’s just an ignorant misanthropist rant.

    “They are positive they can distinguish between reality and fantasy. I’m just not so sure.” This idea that no children, let alone adult men, can distinguish between something on a two dimensional screen by what they know are paid actors, and reality, is condescending and ignorant. Yeah, good sex existed before porn. So did rape and other violence against women and broken marriages, yet the blog’s author seems to imply porn contributes to those. Again I think the author of this blog is who has trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy.

    And frankly it’s letting men off the hook to blame porn for their bad behaviors. If they want their wife to do something new that she’s not cool with, they can’t blame it on “well I saw it in a movie once.” Sane, sensible people blame sexual problems on what really cause them: medical issues, time constraints, sex, or pre-existing disposition against enjoyment of sex because of earlier emotional trauma, religious indoctrination, or just misinformation, like that put forth by this blog. After reading all this, I think the author of this blog has a problem with men, not porn, or else there would be at least an acknowledgment that women willingly take part in and view porn, and some criticism for them, but nothing, it’s basically just, “Men don’t get it, we all hate porn and it hurts us.”

    • Thank you so much for saying that. I tried viewing the article with an open mind, get its points, but it’s so clearly biased–and the majority of comments make me cringe. I agree with you on every level.

    • A man defending porn. Shocker.

      Do you throw fits whenever you read any article about any topic that involves well documented trends or just porn?

    • did you read the title of the article

      it’s ‘what i learned from arguing with men about porn’

      these are her observations made from arguing with men about porn. not a qualitative sociological study, not a psychological evaluation, but, her observations from arguing with the men on her articles. she never claimed it was a representative sample or anything else; nor did she say it was applicable to all men. it seems silly to expect her to keep saying ‘the men i spoke with’ when the entire article is her observation of the men she spoke with; it is cleaner to refer to them as men.

      oh, and, calling women ‘out of touch with reality’ is a misogynist tactic from way back, so, good job applying it here.

    • Men make porn that eroticises discrimination and violence against women to prop up male supremacy ideology. If it was sex positive it would not refer to women as cunts and bitches. The hate speech isvrequired to show guys who’s boss in their fantasy/propoganda movie.

  5. I am absolutely the opposite of repressed. I have standards about what is OK and not OK with me in the bedroom, but if things are going the way I like them to go, I enjoy the heck out of myself. And I’ve come around to being against porn. Because I actually viewed it (print and video). I know what’s out there. I know what they say about us, how they think of us. And I know Homo sapiens is a visually-oriented critter (yes, even the females) and learns best by imitating what we see. Monkey see, monkey do (no, evolution doesn’t teach that we came from monkeys–that’s a joke. Ha-ha, funny). We are not exactly peeking into one another’s bedrooms so if all we see is men treating women like garbage in bedroom situations, that’s what we’re going to see as normal.

    I would actually rather see men reading text-based erotica because that at least gets inside the female characters’ minds and shows you their side of things. (It means more, of course, if a woman’s writing from the female point of view. Guys don’t know how it feels to have our bits.) That would actually induce empathy as well as help someone have a self-served good time, so to speak.

    But hey. I can’t control them.

    And I will argue that one *does* find oneself competing with the women in porn. It’s not because we’re not beautiful enough or attractive enough or we don’t have enough chemistry with our guy. The thing is that none of that stops him from looking at porn. He could have all kinds of fun with you in the bedroom and your chemistry could peel the wallpaper off the walls and he’d *still* go look at porn. I think the personal interaction and the porn-viewing serve entirely different needs. None of this is our fault, although the less ethical of porn-viewers (not that any of them are 100 percent ethical, more about that in a minute) will blame us anyway. That’s on them.

    And the problem is that despite all the assurances that “proof of actors’ ages is on file”, you have no idea who these people are, where they’re from, why they’re acting in porn, whether they WANT to act in porn, how they’re treated during filming (we just had a bunch of porn actresses come out and accuse James Deen, a porn actor, of rape!), and so on. Some of these women are trafficked. Some of them are coming from a background of incest or molestation or abuse and they’re trying to come to terms with it in probably the least healthy way possible. Even when they say their childhoods were OK and they’re happy with their careers, if you know what you’re seeing, you sometimes still find pathological behavior–one such former actress I know of has a drinking problem to the point of getting in trouble with authorities. But even when everything’s perfect, they wind up stigmatized and can’t get into straight acting later on, with VERY few exceptions (Traci Lords went straight, but she tends to get horror and B movie roles). And it’s not anti-porn people causing the stigma. It’s the porn fans not letting these women move on, they have to make a big deal out of it and act like she’s branded for life.

    And after all that, none of this helps a man actually be a better lover nor relate better in a non-sexual way to his partner. So no one wins, really. Except the pornographers, of course.

    • Thanks, Dana, for your sincerity and views.
      I have had to resort much to pornography lately because since I returned from the US 12 years ago I haven’t had carnal relationships with women. When I was in the US I had a lot of fun with American women, so evidently porn featuring American women has become my weakness. I just haven’t quite connected with women in Spain where I live (and where I’m from), although this might be changing now.
      So why haven’t I returned to the US these past years just to have some fun? Well, it’s had to do with my fear of being harassed by authorities at the border or elsewhere, since I’ve been a 9/11 truth seeker and have tried to investigate the powers that run our world. I know these powers have used and are using porn as a way to neutralize and ensnare male internet activists like me, so my weakness for porn doubly gets me. I admit that my brain has possibly been damaged by porn, especially due to the lack of real sexual relationships lately.
      However, I am not condemning porn-type sexual activity, provided it is consensual, safe and drug and disease-free.
      Porn director Billy Watson once sent me a brief note. He sure is a lucky guy… although if what you say is true, maybe some of the sex he has participated in shouldn’t be morally endorsed.
      Porn also glorifies and commoditizes youth, which at our current state in human evolution at least, is a most precious and perishable commodity if it is treated as a commodity in the case of women (less so for men). Have you seen the movie “Jupiter Ascending”? I’d like to live like the demigods in that movie… although not by exploiting, stealing and harvesting others’ genetic material.
      Porn makes me want to stay young forever so I keep having fun sexy casual sex forever. Marriage for me is like institutions: old; and I don’t want to be old.
      As far as I know, Mahavatar Babaji might be the only individual born as a human who has managed to stay truly young for hundreds if not thousands of years using only the power of consciousness (he has also performed other miracles). If accounts about him are true, however, he does not watch porn!

  6. I agree with almost everything you have to say on the matter, but I also have some concerns. I know the way the pornography industry treats women (and men) is absolutely appalling, and that needs to change, but I worry about talking to kids about only the harms without couching it in a discussion about healthy reactions. There has been some research on the damaging effects of shame-based sexual education (mainly regarding teaching adolescent women that not being a virgin is shameful), and I worry that if you teach a child to feel shameful about his natural response to pornography that it could create lasting effects in his sexual health that could damage future relationships.

    I think the conversation with children should be more along the lines of “It’s ok if you enjoy porn, just know that it bears no resemblance to reality, and consent is the most important thing in any relationship that’s becoming physical.” Pornography should be topic of any comprehensive sexual education, which should start at a young age.

    • Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for reading and offering your feedback here. I’ve written extensively about having healthy talks with your kids about sex precisely to avoid that shame response you’re talking about. I believe in affirming the beauty and value of sex and sexual attraction and that is how I talk to my kids. With that being said, I am not going to tell my kids that it’s okay if they enjoy porn. I can affirm that porn is tempting and it’s normal to be curious. I can tell them that accidentally running across porn should not be shameful for them and they should talk to someone about it so we can help them create better boundaries. I have referenced in this post and a few others of mine the research that has been done about the negative impact of porn on children and even on society and adults. I’m not going to portray it to my kids as harmless fun when it has the capacity to hurt them. If we can agree that the way the porn industry treats men and women is appalling, then I want to teach my kids to stand up to that and resist it. I think it’s important to acknowledge the difference between appropriate guilt for something you did wrong and shame where you feel like YOU are wrong and beyond help. I don’t want my kids to feel shame, which is why we talk openly about it. I am fine if they feel guilt which could motivate them to change their behavior.

    • Lia
      November 27, 2017 at 2:11 pm
      What??? I sincerely hope you do not have children. It’s ok for your child to enjoy people defecating and urinating on one another? It’s ok to enjoy rape scenarios and other sick, violent behaviors? It’s ok that MINORS who cannot legally consent are frequently used? Well as long as it’s enjoyable…right? Absolutely ridiculous.

  7. I don’t think porn is inherently bad, but I do think the porn industry is bad. If they produced porn depicting healthy sexual relationships, I’d have no issue with it.

    Some of the erotica out there gives a picture of what good porn could be like. Sex as part of a mutual and loving relationship, with both partners treated as people whose opinions and desires matter.

  8. We love, because HE first loved us.

    Please help end child pornography in much less than 6 years!

    Take the 7 year challenge!

    Seven year challenge to end pornography!

    Please commit to not listening to, reading, or viewing any pornography over the next seven years, and commit to telling others about the challenge, and to get rid of any pornography within your homes, cars, businesses, or any other place that you now have pornography! Call on the Lord, for HIS help at this time to devote yourself to HIM and to submit yourself to HIM!!!

    Beware of the wiles of s-tan! Flee sexual immorality. Live by the Spirit and don’t give in to the desires of the flesh . . . . . . . . . . s-tan is the enemy of all mankind! For we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against . . . .

    Also, call on our elected leaders to help end pornography, especially child pornography! Pornography is causing major problems here in the United States and throughout the world today! There is nothing good in pornography – let’s help end pornography now! There is healing in Jesus! There is Peace in Jesus! There is comfort in Jesus! There is forgiveness in Jesus!!!

    Let’s put more resources into ending child pornography today! Shouldn’t we triple, or quadruple, or even increase the resources by 10 to help end child pornography today. It would be resources well spent!!! There is no reason why the government can’t end child pornography in the near future!!! Let’s continue to ask our loving, gracious, merciful Creator Lord for help in ending pornography! Please pray for our leaders and contact our leaders for help!

    I, ____________________________, commit to not listening to, reading or viewing any pornography over the next seven years, and commit to telling others about the challenge and encourage others to take the seven year challenge, and to rid myself of any pornography within my home, car, and/or business.

    _________________________ _________
    Name Date

    We love, because HE first loved us.
    Jesus is Lord!

    Please contact President Barack Obama @ http://www.WhiteHouse.gov

    Please contact Vice President Joseph Biden @ http://www.WhiteHouse.gov

    Please contact U.S. Senator Robert Menendez @http://menendez.senate.gov

    Please contact U.S. Senator Cory Booker @ booker.senate.gov

    Please contact U.S. Congressman Scott Garrett @ http://www.house.gov/garrett

    Please take the 37 year challenge!!!

    Please commit to no masturbation over the next 37 years!!!

    We love, because HE first loved us.

  9. I’m a man and I agree that porn is bad. Not only because the industry evidently exploits women, and objectifies them, but also because of the effects on the brain. It made me so anti social and I had depression and generalized anxiety. I too am frustrated when men refuse to admit it’s bad, even when I spoon feed the facts to them (and I never got that luxury when I was addicted). I don’t understand why they would want to do something that harms them.

  10. I’ve been reading a lot about pornography lately but I think this is the best article I’ve seen. It’s wide ranging, makes a lot of great points, and is very readable. But most of all I love the wise, detached and objective approach you take, which makes it much more persuasive than some of the anti-porn rhetoric one sees.

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