Actress and activist Pamela Anderson..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Recently I published a new book called Lust for Love, co-authored with the actress Pamela Anderson. The media commented on the strange pairing of an international sex symbol with an author and activist, but Pamela is much more than just an author and activist. She is a woman who believes in passionate, monogamous marriages.
Yes, I hope that made you laugh, but the issue of what porn is doing to men and their ability to relate to women is anything but a laughing matter.
First, porn teaches men to see women as a means rather than an end. Men who consume large quantities of pornography are trained to look at a woman and not see their equal but rather the walking fulfillment of male erotic desire. While pornography and the evils of slavery are in no way comparable, there is a similarity in that abomination of slavery lay in the gradual training of white men and women to look at their black counterparts and not see a fellow human but a walking bale of cotton. Whites were conditioned to see blacks not as equals, possessed of personal dreams and ambitions, but rather as a means to their work ends.
The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant called this – treating humans as a means rather than an end – the very definition of immorality. By the same token, while it does not involve an inherent moral abomination like selling God’s children on the block, porn similarly conditions men to see women as a means to an end and to treat them accordingly. No wonder then that we are witnessing a deterioration of male respect for women just as porn has come to saturate our society.
Second, porn is inherently boring and teaches men to slowly be desensitized to the female body. Why else do you think that the way porn operates is to show men one image they click on, only to have tons of other images immediately appear (… er, oh so my friends tell me). The revelatory nature of porn quickly overexposes men to the female body, thereby having the curious effect of demagnetizing the body and leading to decreased attraction. Porn then becomes like the entry drug of, say, marijuana, where the “hit” quickly dissipates and an ever-stronger hit is required. Hence, the quick graduation from so-called “soft porn” to hard-core pornography, and to pornographic addiction where men are prepared to destroy careers, lives, and relationships in pursuit of a fraudulent “fix” which can never be fully satisfied.
I once debated Larry Flynt, the head of Hustler, in front of thousands of people in Los Angeles. My close friend Roseanne Barr was the moderator. Over the past few weeks, Roseanne and I have been in the news for the podcasts we’ve recorded on atonement, forgiveness and the weekly Torah reading. On that evening, I told Larry that he was proof positive of just how boring porn was. Because if a naked woman was actually endlessly exciting to men then a smart businessman like Flynt would pay one woman to be Miss January through December without having to waste money hiring 11 other women. But overexposure breeds boredom bordering on contempt. Porn only works in quantity and never individually.
Which leads us to the boredom that porn brings to a marriage. How is a wife – however attractive – meant to compete? How can marital passion survive when husbands dissipate their erotic interest in their wives by finding so many cheap alternatives?
Which explains why Judaism is so insistent on modesty even within marriage. In Jewish law a husband and wife wear pajamas, lingerie, bathrobes, etc. rather than parading around the bedroom naked. The “erotic obstacle” of clothing actually makes the body more, not less, electrifying.
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In Lust for Love, Pamela and I discuss the three secrets of erotic desire: unavailability, mystery and sinfulness. Lust is increased through frustrated desire, something that pornography entirely lacks. The two weeks of prohibited sexual relations in the Jewish marriage – captured in the beautiful laws of mikveh – actually serve as a catalyst for desire.
Heinz ketchup is essentially tomato sauce, but they make it pasty just to ensure that you wait. Remember the commercials? “Anticipation…” Porn, with its instant gratification, paradoxically makes sex a complete bore.
This leads me to an essential point. Men who are porn addicts are fundamentally bad lovers. For sex to truly be exhilarating it requires novelty. Married couples find novelty in new adventures together, going vertically – deeper into the human personality, the human heart, the human soul – in order to find newness. But porn addicts go horizontally, simply looking at new bodies. They discover the same old boring porn routine – not to mention the same sexual positions – played out by new actors (this, too, my friends have told me). They are not challenged to discover “vertical renewal,” substituting it instead for “horizontal renewal,” the lazy man’s solution to the problem of sexual boredom. As such, they become fundamentally bad lovers.
Which leads to our conclusion. Men are not supposed to be experts in the female body, just as women are not meant to experts in the male body. To love is to be subjective in your evaluation of your spouse’s attractiveness. Love enhances your wife’s beauty and your husband’s desirability. But porn objectifies the human body, making husbands less attracted to their wives. Upon exposure to the body of the opposite sex there is supposed to be an instinctual, electrifying response that is emotional rather than cerebral and that draws us closer to our spouse, allowing us to fulfill the beautiful Biblical mandate of being “bone of one bone and flesh of one flesh.”
But porn addicts, who ingest thousands of images of the female body, become “objective” rather than “subjective” about a woman’s body. They lose the capacity to have their emotions, especially love, impact their attraction, and they gradually lose the ability to be excited by their spouse’s body and marital sex. All of which is, of course, tragic to the marital bond.
That’s why it’s time for men in general and husbands in particular to take the pledge: No more porn. Find the erotic excitement you crave in fulfilling and lasting marital relationships rather than a pursuit that is fundamentally dehumanizing to women and deeply disrespectful to your wife.The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom
the Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 32 books, including
Lust for Love, co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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