Pixel Tracker

Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 11:08 pm | Fog/Mist 53º


Mona Charen: Was the Secret Service Pornified?

As pornography goes mainstream, is it surprising that its corrupting influence is felt everywhere?

What do you suppose are the chances that the Secret Service agents who embarrassed themselves, possibly endangered the life of the president of the United States, and very likely damaged their marriages and the lives of their children by engaging prostitutes in Cartagena, were consumers of pornography?

I’d guess 100 percent. Not that watching porn completely accounts for the behavior, but pornography undermines sexual restraint. It offers a distorted image of what “everybody” is doing, and it grants permission for indulging every conceivable urge. Porn is mainstream now, offered in nearly every hotel room and ubiquitous on the Internet. The stigma that once attached to porn is gone. You can take college courses in it. Is it surprising that its corrupting influence is felt everywhere?

As Pamela Paul documented in Pornified, “Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66 percent of 18- to 34-year-old men visit a pornographic site every month.”

Mary Eberstadt, who has a flair for juxtaposition, offers a brilliant comparison of American attitudes toward tobacco and pornography in her new book, Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution.

She asks us to imagine two women, one a 30-year-old 1958 housewife named Betty and the other her 30-year-old granddaughter Jennifer today. “Betty would never dream of putting even a few minutes of Internet pornography as we now know it before her eyes. She would feel degraded, polluted, even sick. ... She thinks that pornography is morally wrong and that the people who create it are borderline evil.”

Jennifer, by contrast, “may not greet pornography with quite the gusto that her boyfriend does. But she has no such passionate feelings about it as Betty would, let alone any ... impulse to make a sweeping moral claim about it. On the other hand, Jennifer would never dream of putting a cigarette into her mouth. She would feel degraded, polluted, even sick. She thinks that tobacco is morally wrong and that the people who create it are borderline evil.”

With hindsight, we know that smoking causes a variety of ills. But with regard to porn, Eberstadt proposes, we are in the 1950s or early 1960s moment — the industry denies that its product causes harm or is addictive, and for a variety of reasons, we accept that evasion.

One fascinating parallel in the two cases is the pursuit of women customers. Until the 1950s, cigarette consumption was much higher among men than among women. The industry attempted to lasso women by creating brands such as Virginia Slims and marketing cigarettes as emblems of “glamour, beauty, autonomy and equality.” Similarly, pornographers recognize that their clientele is heavily male and are keen to draw in the other 50 percent of consumers.

Playgirl magazine, when it debuted in 1973, pitched itself to “today’s liberated, independent, self-aware, sensual woman.” College women report that they feel pressured to watch porn to prove their “enlightenment” on sexual matters. With the exception of some feminists and some religious groups, they get very little support for resisting its march to mainstream status.

It is possible, Eberstadt argues, that pornography can reacquire the stigma it has lost. Attitudes toward smoking underwent that kind of reversal. At first, smoking was disapproved, then went mainstream and when the evidence could no longer be denied, finally slipped back into social opprobrium.

Like smoking, porn is not an innocent pleasure. At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 62 percent of attendees said that Internet porn had contributed to divorces in the previous year. Mary Anne Layden of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology program at the University of Pennsylvania, reports that young people who view porn are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, more likely to engage in risky forms of sex and more likely to be sexual offenders. Other studies have shown that teenagers who view pornography are more likely to engage in early and more frequent sexual activity.

Paul wrote of “countless men” who described “how while using pornography, they lost the ability to relate to or be close to women.”

That last insight, hard to prove with statistics, is the heart of the matter. Porn degrades relations between the sexes by encouraging a gross and impersonal approach to a subject that should be most elevated by tenderness, fidelity and respect. Eberstadt quotes philosopher Roger Scruton, who said it very well: “Those who become addicted to this ‘risk-free’ form of sex run a risk of another and greater kind. They risk the loss of love, in a world where only love brings happiness.”

Mona Charen of National Review magazine writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information or to contact her. Follow Mona Charen on Twitter: @mcharen.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.