I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m not a political theorist, psychologist, anthropologist, or any other -ist that makes me an expert on this. Nor am I offering ‘the one and only’ answer for the election. Nor is this a statement about who should or should not have been elected. I’m simply a guy who spent over a decade of his life addicted to porn and have these thoughts to share.
I can’t vote for him [Trump] because of what he has said about and done to women.
Those are the words that a friend of mine said to me over the phone. I think many people were expecting that response to cause Trump to lose the election. Obviously it didn’t.
I have had several conversations with people wrestling with Trump’s victory in the face of claims, accusations, and evidence regarding the degradation and abuse of women.
As I have reflected on those conversations I always walk away thinking, Trump is not the cause but a symptom. I don’t think we can make the claim that sexism was ignored in the recent election and then not talk about porn in our society.
Here is what Robert Jensen from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas wrote in his 2004 publication, The Cruel Edge, after describing some very disturbing scenes from some ‘mainstream’ porn:
This all would be easier if we could pretend that these images [those described earlier in the article involving verbal abuse, arousal to pain, and other similar things] are consumed by some small subset of deviant men — if we could answer the question “what kind of men like those things” by pointing to emotionally disturbed men, or pathological men who have some problem that could explain this. Then we could identify and isolate those bad men, maybe repair them. But the answer to the question is: men like me. Men like all of us. Men who can’t get a date and men who have all the dates they could want. Men who live alone and men who are married. Men who grew up in liberal homes in which pornography was never a big deal and men who grew up in strict religious homes in which no talk of sex was allowed. White and black and brown and any-other-color-you-can-imagine men. Rich men and poor men. And all the king’s men.
I am not suggesting all men use pornography, or that all men who use pornography want material in which women are hurt and humiliated, or that all men who use pornography are bound to want to to hurt and humiliate women. I am simply saying that much of pornography in the United States records scenes of women being hurt and humiliated; that men masturbate to orgasm to those images; and that those men are not deviants but are acting on the cultural norms that are widely taught. And I am suggesting that these facts should matter to us; they should scare us.
There is no way to say this that isn’t harsh
I am sorry for what I am about to write, because it is harsh, and it may not be fair for a man to write this. But this is the truth, and I am more afraid of what will happen if we don’t face the truth than of being harsh or unfair.
Men spend $10 billion on pornography every year. 11,000 new pornographic films are made every year. And in those films women are not people…
(Jensen, Robert. Originally publishing as “Cruel to be hard: Men and pornography,” in Sexual Assault Report, January/February 2004, pp. 33-34, 45-48.)
That was 2004. 12 years later there have been great efforts to work against what Jensen wrote about in his article. Matt Fradd has launched a website called The Porn Effect. There is a mobile app called Victory. There is an excellent non-profit called Fight the New Drug. There is a helpful resource called Covenant Eyes. Even celebrities like Russell Brand, Rashida Jones, Terry Crews, Hugh Grant, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are lending their voices to ours in opposition too it. But there is still a lot to do.
I’m not saying Trump got elected solely because of porn or making assertions about who uses porn based on how they voted. I am saying, we would be remiss if we let our post-election processing period pass and no one said “We need to talk about how porn impacted the election.” People expected the released audio clip to ruin Trump’s campaign when the same content is in 88% of a legal multi-billion dollar industry. A 2010 study of 304 scenes from popular pornographic videos gives us that 88% figure. Of those scenes, 94% of the targets (or victims) were women and in only a mere 3% of the instances did the target show displeasure at the aggression.
I spent over a decade caught in the cruel edge cycle. I know from experience that how I was viewing women on a screen impacted how I saw women in real life. When I heard the Trump recordings that were released, I was once again hearing what I spent 10 years listening to through a pair of headphones. That tape might have failed in its intention to destroy his presidential campaign, but can we please use it to destroy porn’s grip on our country?
I don’t have all the answers for how we do that, but I know that little old me sitting beyond my keyboard isn’t going to get it done. It comes from all of us working together. This was made clear to me by a dear friend who challenged me that my original post put out a plea, but not a challenge. She was right. This post was one of the most emotionally exhausting things I’ve written and I think I just stopped. But I don’t want it to stop there.
I want people:
- to talk about porn and ask about it.
- to bring their struggles and victories against porn into the light.
- to speak honestly and fearless about how porn has hurt them.
- to be able to say to their friends, “I’m struggling with this, can you help”.
- to use the resources above to educate themselves.
- to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
- to include pornography in the conversation when we talk about a ‘rape culture’ especially on college campuses.
- to ask, “Are Porn and sex trafficking linked?”
- to hear Russell Brand quoting Pope John Paul II about porn showing too little and realize that this transcends some kind of religious/secular boundary.
- to get past the ‘boys will be boys’ mindset, and that includes being real about porn.
- to know that they don’t have to ‘just get over it’ if their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife uses pornography.
I wrote about Porn and the Election, not because I have any data to give you a definite answer. I wrote about it because we need to talk about porn.
We need to talk about the fact: that sexism is ingested in staggering numbers through internet porn (4,392,486,580 hours were watched from one site alone, in just 2015). That even as people use the potentially sexist “she’s somebody’s, sister, mother, etc” to try and encourage respect for women, our country’s top porn search in 2015 was ‘Step-mom’ (with ‘Step-sister’ coming in seventh place). That any kid with internet has access to free porn sites that contain categories “such as ‘extreme brutal gang bang,’ ’18 and abused,’ and ‘crying teen.’”
I don’t know what you need to do. Maybe you are hooked and struggling. Maybe you have a story of hurt or betrayal to share. Or maybe you have a story of triumph with which to encourage others.
But I know what we need to do. We need to talk about this. We need to be real about this. Comment, like, share, refute, whatever.
Share your story.
Get involved with Fight the New Drug or get on the Porn Effect’s Forum.
At the very least, please, just start asking questions about whether or not porn is good for our brains, our relationships, our marriages, our families, and even our elections.