Monday, 18 March 2013

Pornography and the Brutalisation of Young Men

OK, admit it, who amongst you clicked on this because it had the word "Pornography" in the title?

Come on, hands up, you know who you are.

It will certainly be interesting to compare the stats for this entry to other articles on less salacious subject matters.

Somethings never change: sex sells for one (which is why you are reading this); the moral panic of the older generation about the younger is another. Perhaps this is why lately we have had a slew of articles about the malign effects pornography is having on young people's relationships. The "pornolisation" of culture is blamed on brutalising a generation of young men in their attitudes towards women. This week, Allison Pearson wrote luridly in the Telegraph about a 14 year old girl at private school being pressured into giving multiple boys oral sex. Similarly, there were distasteful reports in the Daily Mail - without which no moral panic would be complete - about students at Cambridge discussing a female student's "rape potential'".

Both stories are guaranteed to turn the hair of parents with teenage daughters white. A cynic would argue that of course this is precisely their intention. They would no doubt add that young men as a breed have always been feral, but that the vast majority contain their impulses to relatively civilised standards and mellow with age.

Maybe, but we shouldn't be blind to the potential for tragedy either. In her article, Pearson also recounts a truly heart-rending story about a teenage girl, Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, who was so mortified by the threat from her boyfriend to publish video footage of her in flagrante that she committed suicide. Moreover, many studies have shown that increased viewing of pornography does brutalise the viewer and their attitudes to sex. Ironically, exposure also lowers sex drive over the long term. Like any addiction, it tends to dull the senses it was meant to arouse, meaning that an ever more extreme "fix" is needed in order to get the required high. It is not hard to see how this could have baleful consequences for the sex lives of those  who consume porn and their partners.

It goes without saying that we must always fight to stop young people who are at an inappropriately young age from viewing sexual material, and some sexual material is rightly viewed as beyond the pale for any age. More generally, if it can be shown that viewing pornography has a detrimental effects on the lives of those viewing or the lives of others, then there is a strong case for banning or controlling it, inasmuch as anyone can do so in the Internet era.

However, we must be very careful here to distinguish porn from erotica. Serious studies have shown that the graphic nature of sexual content viewed is in itself not the issue - it is the way sex itself is portrayed that is decisive. If it is seen to be  undertaken as an act of tenderness and love between consenting adults then no harm is done at all. It is when it is portrayed as an act of pure animal lust or, even worse, outright exploitation that significant negative consequences can occur. Given the insatiable appetite of young men for sexual material and the fact that policing content on the internet is likely to prove impossible, perhaps promoting interest in emotionally sensitive erotica over brutalising porn is the best we can do. Approaches that promote the good - or at least more neutral - rather than admonish the bad are also more likely to be effective with the naturally rebellious young.

But all that said, in one crucial respect the current argument over the damage done by pornography fundamentally misses the point. Whether or not exposure to pornography is brutalising young men, it is not as important as the fact that the routes to maturity once available to young males are now largely closed to them: namely, the dignity of work; the ability to protect and provide for the female, strong role models and so on. This is partly due to economic circumstances, the feminisation of society in general and the stupidities and bigotry of the feminist movement in rejecting classical masculinity in particular. Thus, even without the effects of porn, many young men, particularly those from working class backgrounds,  are trapped in a state of permanent "adultlescence", doomed to stay as the slaves to a pathetic "lad" culture well into middle-age. Combine that with porn's brutalising effects and it is not hard to see how an extremely nasty misogynistic culture could take root in our society, perhaps not unlike that which already exists in large parts of black urban America.

In short, it is plainly to the advantages of both men and women that the widespread alienation of young men in our culture should be looked at seriously. The LibLabCon parties, ruled as they are by Liberal Metropolitan pieties, will never do so. As with so many other issues, it is left to UKIP to summon the courage to confront the situation.

Because as the American sociologist Charles Murray previously argued in "The Coming White Underclass", sometimes the sky really is falling.