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An op-ed was published in the Wall Street Journal this week titled "Take the Pledge: No More Indulging Porn." The byline credits a rabbi and some random woman named Pamela Anderson. At least I assumed at first that it must be some random woman named Pamela Anderson and not that Pamela Anderson, because that Pamela Anderson made an enormously profitable career out of selling sex. She even starred in Playboy's final nude issue just a few months ago. Surely, she can't be the one now asking us to swear off X-rated material.

[mattwalsh-social-instory]

But it was that Pamela Anderson, evidently. The very same. I was surprised, but plenty happy to have her on the anti-porn bandwagon.

Predictably, her message was not greeted with enthusiasm by many in our culture. It's no shock that we're so hostile to anti-porn messaging, considering that last year people spent 4 billion hours watching folks have sex on just one particular porn site. According to my calculations, that's about 450,000 years worth of porn videos. To put that into perspective, we could travel to the nearest star and back 13 times during that span. And I guess we could watch a lot of porn along the way.

Pamela Anderson (AP) Pamela Anderson (AP)

It's no wonder we're so defensive about our porn. And in our defensiveness we sometimes lapse into incoherence, leading one screechy feminist publication to lash out at Anderson for being "puritanical." I don't have my Bible in front of me, but I'm pretty sure Pamela Anderson being accused of puritanism is a harbinger of the End Times. I can't say I'm too upset about that, to be honest. But while we await our Final Judgment, there are a few points I'd like to make about porn that are sometimes neglected in these conversations:

No. 1: Nobody Actually Likes It

When it comes down to it, nobody really likes porn. There is no joy to be found anywhere in the same vicinity as porn. People find pleasure in it, but no happiness. I can state that unequivocally because it's a fact of human nature. Every single person who claims to "enjoy porn" is lying. Lying to themselves mostly, and then to the world as a means of convincing themselves. We can sit here and argue the finer points about why porn is harmful, yet both sides know the truth because it lives in the core of their humanity.

All you have to do is compare porn to any other hobby. Contrast how you feel upon concluding an evening of porn consumption with how you feel after going for a jog or finishing a good book. Compare your mental state after porn with your mental state after, say, a stroll through the park on a warm spring day. The stroll and the book and the jog bring fulfillment, happiness, even joy, but what about porn?

Does anyone ever walk away from porn feeling like they've done something constructive and edifying with their time? Does anyone derive actual joy (not pleasure, I'm talking about joy) from porn? Has anyone ever closed their browser, deleted their internet history and said proudly to themselves, "That was time well spent"? No, of course not.

Porn is an objectively filthy and degrading experience, and I worry that when we argue the topic like the truth is some kind of abstract ideal — like this is high-level philosophy or something — we lose the argument before we've made it. We say "porn is dirty and wrong," and porn defenders say, "prove it," but to set out to prove it is to give safe harbor to the notion that the evil of porn isn't innate. As if anyone really needs to be convinced that it's unhealthy to spend years of their existence watching strangers hump each other.

This is where all the "sex positive" idiocy comes from. People have dedicated their lives (and their college professorships) to combating the shame naturally attached to promiscuity and pornography. They want to disassociate these things from what they actually are — almost like inventing a "trash-positive" movement to battle the revulsion we all experience when in close quarters with a hot pile of moldy garbage.

These aversions — the shame attached to porn, the nausea attached to overflowing dumpsters — are intrinsic. And they're intrinsic for a reason. Our minds and our bodies are telling us, "Hey, this is gross, man." Or words to that effect. So our task is simply to believe and trust what we already know to be true.

No. 2: Porn Is a Lie

It's a lie in many respects, but it's most dangerous in how it allows the viewer to divorce himself from what he's doing.

When we look at porn, we become faceless onlookers peering like stalkers through the window of a motel while someone else has sex with a hooker they just hired on the street corner. But it's worse than that because it's less honest. At least the Peeping Tom is forced to reckon with his behavior. He's out in the cold, ducking behind the bushes, watching these two go at it. And from there he sees the whole act, the whole dismal exchange. He doesn't get to dip in and out of a dozen scenes, consuming portions and glances before breezing along to the next. He doesn't get to close the tab when it's all over and act like nothing happened. He's there as a stranger in the dark, and he has to go home and deal with the reality of what he's become.

The porn viewer, on the other hand, feels insulated. What he's doing is identical, but it doesn't seem that way because it's safer. It's a screen, not a window. She's an "amateur porn star," not a prostitute. His actions are legal, even normal by today's standards. Yes, he's different, he tells himself. He's better. And that's a lie. Everything about porn is a lie.

No. 3: Porn Is Adultery

It's not hard to imagine that porn has a detrimental effect on relationships, but if you need more, here's a study showing how porn consumption leads to infidelity and divorce.

Now, I admit that the study's findings are a bit unfair and misleading. Porn consumption doesn't lead to infidelity. Porn consumption is infidelity. How can it lead to what it already is?

"Hey, they're just images! It's just for fun! It's not cheating!"

I've never quite understood how anyone could make that argument and then deny their spouse the right to that same logic when she insists that her affair with a coworker was "just sex." You see, once you take the reductionist approach to porn — boiling it down to what it materially is, calling it just an image as if watching it is as morally significant as watching two geometric shapes bump together — you end up doing the same thing to sex itself. Sex, looked at literally, is a sensation. It's one body part inside of another. It's a romp between the sheets. It's a feeling. A fun time. A hook up. If porn is no big deal, neither is sex. So why get worked up that your wife experienced a temporary physical sensation with another guy? Why get all upset about it? It's just a sensation! It was just for fun! It's not cheating!

And what about a man who looks at child porn? Sure, it's wrong because children were exploited, that's the easy (and most important) answer. But what if a guy looked at porn where the "actors" were 18 but, for the purposes of the fantasy, they played 12-year-olds?

Technically it would be legal (I think), and technically, by the porn apologist logic, nobody is hurt, but would you be comfortable having this guy come over and babysit?

No?

Why?

They're just images. It's just fantasy.

Right, but it says something that those particular images appeal to that man. Most men who look at child porn do act out the images eventually, but even if they don't, there is still something dark and terrible going on inside their minds and hearts.

Same can be said for men who look at rape fantasy porn, or bestiality porn, or sadomasochistic porn, or actually any kind of porn. Is the guy who looks at rape porn an actual rapist? Not legally, no, but in his heart he is. Just as the married man who looks at whatever sort of porn may not be an adulterer according to the divorce courts, but in his heart and in his mind he has cheated a thousand times.

No. 4: Porn Robs Us of Our Manhood

I know men aren't the only ones who look at porn, but they are more likely to develop the habit. About 500 times more likely, in fact. And, anyway, I don't personally understand the female compulsion to indulge in porn the way I understand the male compulsion. I have to leave that subject to those who can offer a better insight into it.

For men it must be said that porn emasculates us. In the case of married men, it's easy to see how this happens. After all, the one thing we need most from our wives is their respect, and nothing will drain the respect out of a marriage quite like a porn habit. It's the wife's duty to respect her husband, but it's our duty to be respectable. Yet there's no respect in porn or around porn or near porn. Respect cannot be found anywhere in the proximity of porn. It's necessary that the people on camera have no respect for themselves or for each other and that the man watching has, at least in the moment, no respect for the people on camera or for himself or for his wife. Meanwhile, the wife, left alone while her husband releases his sexual energies elsewhere, will struggle to have respect for anyone involved in the transaction, especially her husband.

But married or not, porn will hinder a man's ability to discover and express his masculinity. Porn feeds on all of the worst compulsions in men and requires us to ignore or completely eradicate all of our noblest instincts. Men are supposed to be protective, not exploitative. Active and energetic, not passive. Honest, not deceitful. But porn calls us to be the latter in each case.

I believe that the emasculating effects of porn run far deeper than we can imagine or I can sufficiently describe.  What I can say is that emasculated men are, by definition, focused inward. They pursue that which brings them pleasure, at any expense to everyone around them.  They don't seek to become stronger, wiser, or more virtuous. They seek only to feed their vices, and the more they live that way, the more they shrink and shrivel and lessen themselves. Porn is not the only cause of this emasculation, but it's a significant one. Probably much more significant than you or I can comprehend.

With that said, it must also always be reiterated that men who struggle with porn are not bad people. It's very simple for a person to start down this road as an innocent and curious kid, just doing a little extracurricular anatomy research. But once you open a portal to that world — a world you didn't understand at the time — you will slowly dissolve into it.

It's tragic, really. Kids are exposed to this stuff so early — what chance do they really have? Many of them lack stable parental supervision, but even the ones with attentive parents are still going to be damaged the moment they first stumble into the bowels of the internet. They'll be changed and scarred by it immediately upon being exposed to it. And they'll develop feelings they don't understand and compulsions they hardly have the tools to resist. And then to compound the problem, society tells them it's all OK. It's harmless. It's fun. All the familiar and flimsy rationales. They'll want to believe those rationales, and who can blame them if they do? And eventually they'll become adults not with mere porn habits, but with porn lifestyles.

It's not fair. It's simply not fair.

But it's not hopeless, either. As men, we don't have to be caught forever in the clutches of porn. We can get out of it. But to begin that process, we must be honest with ourselves.

Listen to Matt's latest podcast here.

To request Matt for speaking engagement, contact Clint or Matt at Outreach Speakers. Email: events@outreach.com Phone: 866-400-2036. For all other comments and hate mail, email Contact@TheMattWalshBlog.com.

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