“Pornography” is a much more complicated issue than the usual framing that “pro-sex” hedonists and “anti-sex” prudes like to give it. I think by now most Americans have adopted some shade of middle ground position — explicit sexual images and videos are neither harmless nor are they an inevitable personal apocalypse. The diversity of porn needs to be acknowledged. The scenes filmed for married couples — erotic and pleasurable sex where everyone has a good time — are very different than much of the stomach-churning stuff of today — where it’s not uncommon for women to be led around on dog leashes into a room of a dozen men and for the scene to end with tears running down her face.
It’s like comparing a glass of wine to a shot of Everclear. Or a $1 McDonald’s cheeseburger to a “monster thickburger” from Hardee’s.
We’ve come to know this because three generations of American men have managed to survive the widespread availability of porn without all devolving back into ancient Canaanite barbarians worshiping Baal and Astarte. Sure, there have been some “casualties” with men who grow obsessed — just as some become alcoholics or obese fast food addicts. But most people get moderation and understand that life is lived in between the extremes of a Madonna-Whore complex.
In spite of the technological advancements over the last 50 years, the experience of porn hasn’t changed significantly. Whether it was boomers finding Dad’s Playboy stash in the ’60s, Gen Xers meeting Ron Jeremy via VHS tapes in the ’80s or now Millennials growing up in the age of the internet — there’s only so deep of an imprint seeing and fantasizing can have on one’s brain.
I think I could probably raise a son to navigate through this and end up a decent man who wants a marriage and who doesn’t think that real women want to be treated like porn stars in the bedroom. Enough fathers around today have managed it.
But the development of sexual robots throws a big unknown into a father’s role of teaching his son self-restraint. I saw my first pornography at a friend’s house in the fifth grade. But what would have happened if instead of a magazine, my friend had a machine that could simulate sex acts? What happens when 10 year old boys start learning about sex with machines like China’s “sperm extractor”? What transformations will happen to human sexuality when the sex provided from machines can be more exciting than with real people? What does a father say to his 10-year-old son when he comes home with stories about how all of his friends are wanting him to “try out” their robot girlfriends?
Updated: Many thanks to the first commenter, Chambers, for the reminder of one of the funniest gags in Woody Allen’s Sleeper. I’m annoyed at myself for not thinking of it first:
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