No Porn on Shabbat

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I have been having an ongoing debate with one of my guy friends about pornography, and why I think it’s problematic. Let me sum up my arguments:

1) It’s an industry that chews up and spits out its stars in as quickly as two years. Obviously some production houses and producers are better than others, but my understanding is that there’s a high level of exploitation, and drug abuse. I don’t think it’s good to feed more money into such harmful industries (I do think buying responsibly and ethically made porn is a lot less problematic, but I’m not sure how you’d reliably find it).

2) I think porn continually gives people false impressions of what regular sex is like. Then they’re either disappointed, or can’t perform when it comes time to do the deed in real life.

3) I think the popularity of porn makes even people who don’t consume it subject to the norms of the porn world. Brizilian waxing wasn’t really a thing regular women did until it became the standard in the porn industry, and men starting asking their ladies to do it. And I would bet that the increasing popularity of anal sex is due to it’s increasingly common appearances in porn.

I’m not a hard-core anti-porn crusader, it just makes me sad to see how much porn my friends consume. And hey, low and behold, New York Magazine has an article this week about how porn has messed with mens libidos so much they can’t get off on actual sex.

For decades, hand-wringers have warned of a porn epidemic that would tear the nation’s moral fabric asunder. But if online porn has spread a sickness, it’s one that’s less like Ebola and more like a midwinter cold. The initial symptom for a lot of guys who frequently find themselves bookmarking their favorite illicit clips appears to be a waning desire for their partners. Jonas*, a 34-year-old ad exec, told me, “I get on SpankWire or X Videos—you could carve ice sculptures with my dick. I take a girl home from the bar, though, and I’ll be up for a minute while she’s going down on me, but once I put a condom on and we start going at it, it’s like the Challenger exploded—all the flags are at half-mast.”

The best part of the article, though, is at the very end, when writer Davy Rothbart connects his porn habit to, of all things, Shabbat and the National Day of Unplugging:

Like any thorough researcher, I decided to investigate a theory. I had heard about something called the National Day of Unplugging, sponsored by the New York–based Jewish group Reboot, which encourages people to take a one-day vacation from their tech. But I chose to unplug in my own way: by refusing to visit the usual series of tawdry websites I frequent before bedtime. Now, I’m certainly not trying to indict porn, or to conclude that it has no place in men’s lives, whether they are alone or in company. And I’ll concede that some couples still find it to be something of a turn-on. But realigning one’s relationship to it might just improve one’s actual relationships—especially if you’re often finding yourself in the bedroom, staring into the eyes of a very confused partner. So I did some realigning.

I went without porn for a day. Then I tried it for two. Then three. On the fourth day, I had the fortune of having sex with a woman. And nothing was faked, although I can only speak for myself.

I don’t know that we’re going to add Lay off the Porn to the Sabbath Manifesto, but I do think Rothbart is onto something (or someone, hehe).

Posted on February 1, 2011

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