Who are you calling distorted?
It’s always funny seeing right wingers struggle to explain why they’re against pornography, even though they tend to agree with the basic premise of the most mean-spirited, sexist porn—that women are easily reduced to their sexual/reproductive functions, that sexual women are sluts that get what’s coming to them, and that male sexuality is inherently disrespectful, aggressive, and even violent. Roy Edroso found a particularly comical example this week with Rod Dreher’s pearl-clutching over a genre he openly admits having no direct experience with. As Roy notes, Rod starts off with a deceptively sensible-sounding assertion:
He said he worked in a counselor’s role there as well, and routinely dealt with students who were seriously messed up by their porn habits. For example, he said, he believed that many of the guys he worked with had no idea how to relate to women in a healthy way; the power of pornography, working consciously and subconsciously, caused the men to have badly distorted views of women, views that stunted and even paralyzed the men emotionally.
But it’s also purposefully vague about how porn distorts young men’s views of women. I doubt Rod actually has a single reality-based or non-sexist reason to be worried. For instance, the utter lack of decent sex education means young men turn to porn to learn about sex and get a screwed up idea of female sexual response, but I doubt Rod would support the cure for this, which is better sex ed that graphically explains the realities of female sexual response to young men, and/or premarital sexual experimentation where both genders and all sexual orientations can learn what works for them. Porn, at least a solid majority of it, also teaches a message that Rod is in adamant agreement with—that women who eagerly agree to have sex are sluts who deserve to be humiliated, called names, and who you can and should aggressively fuck no matter how much they look like they’re in pain. A great deal of porn I’ve seen also firmly agrees with Rod that women are here to serve and submit to men, and that a woman really doesn’t or shouldn’t have desires outside of what a man wants her to do for him. Of course, all these assertions don’t cover all porn, but it’s safe to say that the kind that kids are sneaking online will be heavy in these themes.
Obviously, the concern Rod has with porn is it will teach young men that sex is something you do for fun, because you want to, and once people start acting on their own desires instead of blindly following authority, then all hell will break loose. I will say that Rod’s grim patriarchal philosophy really does show what other Sexism Is Fun types try to hide, which is patriarchy sucks for men and women both. In this case, he doesn’t even try to hide how his misogyny, as most does, stems straight from a larger misanthropy. Which is to say that he thinks women who like sex are sluts, but men who like it are absolute monsters, because male sexuality is inseparable from violence in his view.
My wife brought up the story of a handsome, popular Southern Baptist pastor in Dallas who, back in the 1980s, confessed to being the serial rapist who terrorized an apartment complex here. Porn helped make him who he was.
Oh, I don’t know. I’m more inclined to blame the fact that he was a pastor. Given the choice between being locked in a house with an ordinary guy who looks at porn on occasion and a Southern Baptist pastor whose porn habits are undisclosed to me, I’d take the former every time to avoid sexual assault. Rod reaches back into the 80s for evidence that even a man! of god! could be a rapist, which is a disingenuous move, because all he had to do was look up one of the websites that keeps track of the endless stream of pastors and priests who use and probably obtained their position so they could use people’s trust to rape in peace. Most men who look at porn are only telling you that they’re interested in sex, and you don’t know how much they’re turned on by sexism. But pastors, particularly in the churches that Rod would consider the better sort, are telling you that they’re interested in patriarchal sex roles, where women are subservient objects to be used by men instead of full human beings. That’s a lot scarier.
Rod’s other example of a man who lost control because he allowed himself to have sexual fantasies is Ted Bundy. Needless to say, I’m not going to resist the temptation to point out that Bundy, like your average Southern Baptist preacher, was a Republican and had a shockingly low opinion of women’s basic humanity.
I don’t doubt that a lot of men who watch a lot of porn have distorted views of women, but then again, Rod Dreher—who claims to never watch the stuff—has distorted views of women. Sexism seems to be the common thread that distorts men’s views of women. I wouldn’t even say that a rapist necessarily has distorted views of women—he may accurately gauge that a woman doesn’t enjoy being raped and gets off on the fact that he’s hurting her. He probably also has an accurate belief that if his victim even reports the crime, she won’t likely be believed. (Of course, repeated research shows no link between porn and rape, probably because the vast majority of men look at porn.) “Distorted” means that your views don’t match up to reality. As Roy demonstrates, that describes Rod’s views of women very well, since he’s devoted to the belief that women who enjoy sex are perverse and unnatural.