No Holds Barred: Kamala Harris’s crusade against ‘revenge pornography’

Harris is right to focus on the catastrophic effects of revenge pornography on women. But even the everyday, garden-variety of porn consumed is incredibly destructive.

PHOEBE DYNEVOR stars as Daphne Bridgerton in ‘Bridgerton,’ a TV show primarily dedicated to the premise that the British aristocracy schemed and lied in order to marry for money.  (photo credit: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX)
PHOEBE DYNEVOR stars as Daphne Bridgerton in ‘Bridgerton,’ a TV show primarily dedicated to the premise that the British aristocracy schemed and lied in order to marry for money.
(photo credit: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX)
Just before the coronavirus began to ravage the world, Politico magazine, in a February 19 cover story, published a major feature on then-senator, now Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’s crusade against “revenge porn.” In February of 2015, she summoned the leaders of Silicon Valley in California, where she served as attorney-general, to a meeting do discuss with them the devastating effects of this niche category of pornography.
As Politico reported, “Harris made the point that this had nothing to do with love affairs gone wrong, and it wasn’t online mischief. It wasn’t even about sex, really. It was a crime, the way domestic abuse was a crime. Said Harris, as Citron remembers it, ‘People do it to torment people. They do it to make money. And to call it pornography is to misunderstand the problem, because there’s no consent. It’s cyber exploitation, and let me tell you how it ruins lives.’”
According to Politico, the meeting was incredibly effective and netted immediate results.
“Harris didn’t threaten to prosecute the companies, or even flex the considerable muscles she had as AG, but there’s no question the message got through. The next month, Twitter banned non-consensual intimate photos and videos from its service. That summer, Google began stripping explicit photos from its search results at victims’ request. Next, Microsoft said it would block links to intimate content on its Xbox Live gaming service.
Later, in October of that year, Harris spoke of her satisfaction with the results.
“I cannot emphasize enough how leaders in technology have stepped up... I’m not suggesting any of them were happy to get a call from the AG saying, ‘Come in, we want to talk with yo’ But they all did. They did.”
Harris is right to focus on the catastrophic effects of revenge pornography on women. But even the everyday, garden-variety of porn consumed in millions of terabytes by, mostly, men around the world, is incredibly destructive.
Men who constantly feed their minds with porn will find themselves hard-pressed not to lose respect for women. Pornography falsely depicts women not only as sleazy and vulgar but as greedy and parasitical. The man watching porn never forgets that the women who are stripping for him are doing so for financial reward. The subtle message then is that there is little women aren’t prepared to do for money. Pornography whispers in a man’s ear that women are motivated by greed.
It is a message that television and social media need to be mindful of as well. The woman as gold-digger has deep roots in modern American media. Indeed, the show that launched the reality TV genre, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? took as its premise that most women would trade their hearts for a man’s wallet.
THIS WAS quickly followed by Joe Millionaire, For Love or Money, and other reality TV shows dedicated to the premise that most women will marry for money and not for love.
Fast forward 20 years and you have one of the hit TV shows on Netflix, Bridgerton, primarily dedicated to the premise that while some British aristocracy married for love, they were the exception to those who schemed and lied in order to marry for money. The show is filled with depictions of the women who want to marry dukes, princes and lords. The man with the biggest estate wins the greatest beauty. I enjoyed the show but wondered why women who watched it didn’t complain about it being offensive.
With such ideas becoming so widespread in America, and with so little outrage expressed by women even as these ideas become entrenched, it should not be surprising that at the turn of the millennium, The New York Times reported a 1,500% increase over the previous decade in husbands insisting their wives sign prenuptial agreements, because men were becoming so suspicious of female avarice.
By some estimates, as much as 80% of Internet traffic is tied to pornography, a point made very powerfully in Nicholas Kristof’s recent takedown of one of the Internet’s leading porn sites in his column “The Children of Pornhub.” Our culture needs to wake up to how this consumption is affecting men’s assessment of women. As pornography portrays women as existing to serve the lascivious needs of men, it causes men to have contempt for women. It invites them not merely to sexualize women but to view them as a means rather than an end.
For married men, excessive exposure to a variety of naked female bodies contributes to the penchant of men to feel permanently dissatisfied with wives. When husbands are constantly barraged with airbrushed and photo-shopped images of the “perfect” female body, their own wives become ordinary by comparison. When a man sees his wife’s naked body, the trained eye that he has cultivated will be immediately drawn to her flaws rather than to her beauty. Not only does this lead to the degradation of his wife, it also hinders their ability to find sexual satisfaction.
Indeed, with a single standard of beauty that is cultivated by porn, it is nearly impossible to be satisfied with the variety of body types that exist in the real world. Unable to find true contentment with their wives, many men look elsewhere, becoming more and more addicted to porn. Moreover, men who are used to looking at pornography are rarely contented with a single image of perfection.
Notice how a playmate is never repeated in multiple issues of a glossy porn magazine.
EVEN “MISS June’s” seemingly flawless form is not good enough to win her the “Miss July” or “Miss August” centerfold. Once she has been seen and digested, she is no longer captivating enough to be seen again. Variety for men becomes necessary and essential.
This is because pornography deadens and desensitizes men to the erotic allure of the female form. Instead of being automatically drawn to woman as he should be, today’s man is too much of a connoisseur to ever lose himself completely. The nature of erotic attraction has been utterly compromised so that men and women are evaluating each other according to the most stringent criteria.
More than simply providing the measure by which all real women are judged, pornography hinders a man’s attachment to a single woman because it impairs his ability to build deep relationships. Sexual intimacy is meant to bring a couple together on emotional and mental planes. Once a man feels removed enough to judge his wife by external comparisons, he loses some of his excitement for her and mistakenly believes that a more perfectly formed woman would provide him with the physical titillation he craves.
After a while, pornography becomes an addiction in which the viewer needs more and more stimulation to achieve the same level of arousal that was once experienced. This effect is perfectly illustrated by studies showing the range of pornographic viewing on the Internet. While most men will start looking at adult websites for an average of 15 minutes, within months they are online for hours. At the beginning, it only takes a short “hit” to achieve the desired effect, but with time, these quick glances are no longer enough.
While love can only be shared between two equals, once pornography enters into a relationship, women become subordinate because they have been objectified and commoditized. In the world of pornography, women are portrayed in only three ways: as the mindless playmate, the insatiable nymphomaniac, or as someone who craves pain.
A wife’s approval and respect used to imbue a husband with a sense of worthiness. But once women are degraded and lose their equal footing, men find themselves looking for validation by boasting about their conquests of multiple women. This is something I am hearing much more often in counseling sessions.
King Solomon declared in Proverbs, “He who has found a woman has found goodness.” But in the age of the vulgar women of the pornographic universe, we might modify the aphorism to read, “He who has found only fantasy women has compromised his ability to appreciate goodness.”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author of the international best-seller Kosher Sex, recently published Lust for Love, a critique of pornography co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.