Feminist Appeal – Comments about "The Porn Myth"

An article has come to my attention that I find very interesting.  It is entitled “The Porn Myth” by Naomi Wolf. Wolf is known for her 1991 book, The Beauty Myth, where she argues that women are hurt by the pressure to conform to Western culture’s concept of female beauty.  The New York Times included The Beauty Myth on a list of the 70 most important books of the 20th century.  Wolf is one of the premier voices of the “third wave” of the feminist movement. (The first wave took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which focused on equal property rights and women’s suffrage.  The second wave began in the 1960s and 70s and focuses on other issues of equality in culture and politics. The third wave began in the mid-80s and continues to the present.)

Let me summarize the article.  Wolf begins by talking about Andrea Dworkin, an anti-porn activist from the late 1980s, who stated that if we did not start limiting pornography, most men would come to objectify women as they objectified porn stars, and treat them accordingly.  Dworkin said this would lead to men turning into raving beasts—producing a culture of rape and sexual mayhem.

Now that the Internet has made pornography so widely available, we can test Dworkin’s theory.  The verdict?  Dworkin had it wrong. Instead the exact opposite is true, Wolf believes.

“People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so. . . . The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy.  The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman. Mostly, when I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike.  They know they are lonely together, even when conjoined, and that this imagery is a big part of that loneliness.”

Essentially our pornographized culture is not making men into raving beasts but deadening male libido in relation to real women,” including a husband’s desire for his wife.  Wolf says, If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on.  The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.”

Much to my surprise, Wolf comments about the wisdom of a culture that maintains the sacredness of sex:

“I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.  In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography.  It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, ‘rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.’  These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.  And feminists have misunderstood many of these prohibitions.”

I just returned from my honeymoon.  The week was an amazing time for relaxation and building a foundation of intimacy with my wife.  We also read through the book Sacred Sex, by Tim Alan Gardner.  It is an excellent treatment of how sex can and should be viewed from a Judeo-Christian perspective.  It sounds a call to married couples that the big ‘O’ in sex is not “Orgasm” but “Oneness.” It speaks of the sacredness of sex, something created by God as a powerful bond between two people, as a ratification and celebration of oneness.

In the Hebrew Bible, the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant were holy objects, set apart by God and treated accordingly by God’s people.  In his book, Gardner argues that the act of sex is like this: a holy act because a holy God has created it and set it apart to be a powerful, unifying bond between two people.  Gardner gives example after example about men and women who have had their marriages and sex-lives healed through this change of perspective.  Sex is holy.  Sex is sacred.

I highly recommend Gardner’s book.

I enjoyed Naomi Wolf’s article very much because it reflects an emerging opinion in the culture, even among feminist authors, that the so-called “prudish” ethics of old-time religion were in place for a good reason.