Thursday, May 31, 2007


An old article written by Naomi Wolf received a new burst of attention from the big-name bloggers lately. The idea written about by Naomi Wolf is that pornography is yet another social menace of the post-modern age:
She [Andrea Dworkin] was right about the warning, wrong about the outcome. As she foretold, pornography did breach the dike that separated a marginal, adult, private pursuit from the mainstream public arena. The whole world, post-Internet, did become pornographized. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training—and this is having a huge effect on how they interact.

But the effect is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.
Believe it or not, I actually believe that this analysis is correct as far as it goes. The point where Wolf stumbles is her belief that this phenomenon is somehow new:
For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.
That is not just wrong but totally wrong. In reality, men have been using social pressures of one form or another to engineer stereotypically female behavior since at least as early as the late 17th century or so. The real problem for our current era is that when the American patriarchal culture hits upon a particularly toxic new set of female sexual stereotypes -- the "totally open", sex-obsessed bimbo as the defining image of female identity -- a big chunk of the feminist establishment goes along instead of objecting.

Jane Galt seems to miss this aspect of the debate somewhat in her recent post regarding Wolfe's article:
Most of the guys I know a) consume pornography and b) seem to date women fairly regularly. This indicates that actual women have benefits that pornography can't offer, just as actual men are in most ways preferable to Rhett Butler. Online pornography has been pretty freely available for ten years now, and yet marriage and dating still seem to be pretty much de rigeur for most of the country.
Well, yes, that's true. All efforts over the course of Western civilization to completely stop the practice of heterosexual sex have totally failed. The real cultural challenge here is not finding a form of porn that makes biological women obsolete but finding a way of coping with existing and emerging sexually pathological practices. As Jane Galt discusses, many people are naturally resistant to adopting sexual behaviors that they believe are harmful, disrespectful, or undiginified for their partners. That is a good point.

Professor Bainbridge, on the other hand, considers the science-fictional extreme of holodeck pornography:
Megan is undoubtedly correct that "actual women have benefits that pornography can't offer, just as actual men are in most ways preferable to Rhett Butler," but is that merely conditional on our current state of technology?
Obviously the challenge of finding a form of porn that makes biological women obsolete has obtained more than it's fair share of blogospheric interest. Not surprisingly, an entire episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was devoted to this very subject (moral of the story: "There's nothing wrong with a healthy fantasy life, as long as you don't let it take over." Wow, didn't see that coming.)


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