As the use of pornography continues to grow I’ve heard more and more women say things like this: It doesn’t bother me if my (man) uses porn, as long as he’s true to me and treats me good – OR – my (man) told me he used to look at a lot of porn, but he doesn’t anymore, so it doesn’t make any difference to me if men use porn.
I put “man” in parenthesis here in place of relationship status, such as son, boyfriend, fiance’, or husband because it is at the point of relationship with a man that women most often begin to consider whether a man’s use of pornography affects them. The truth is that men’s use of pornography is affecting every relationship women have with any man. Even if “your man” never viewed/used pornography, men using pornography affected him, and it affects you.
Women and men live in the sexual marketplace, like it or not, and sexual economics affects all our relationships, intimate or business or family. Sexual economics is not a description of john’s, pimps and prostitutes, but a recognition of a basic truth about how commodities are valued and traded. Sex is a commodity most people want. When there is a steady supply of a relatively high quality commodity the market is flooded and the cost of that commodity goes down. Think about it like this: if you lived in a place where every one had an orange tree in their back yard that produced great oranges, the price of oranges would be very low. In the case of pornography the effect on the marketplace is radical because porn is an instantly available substitute for sex with a incomparably low price as compared to the real thing.
When a majority of men use a cheap substitute for sex, the value of real sex plummets towards the value of pornography. Think about that. When you see things in the media that are increasingly sexually explicit and when you see and hear people expressing increasingly casual attitudes about their sex lives, it is not just the results of the sexual revolution that set us free from our hangups about sex, it is sexual economics playing out in the marketplace. In the early 80’s cocaine was the drug of choice for only the very wealthy due to its high price. Around 1984 a cheap substitute, easily made from over the counter ingredients hit the American market. It was called crack cocaine, and suddenly anyone could get a cocaine high for next to nothing. Now crack is used in epidemic proportions. Pornography is sexual crack cocaine.
The sexual marketplace of today is flooded with virtual women with impossibly perfect bodies performing any fantastic act a man could want, and they do it on demand. When men enter the sexual market their expectations for what kind of sex they can have with what type of woman and at what cost are shaped by their use of porn. When real women don’t look or perform the way these men want them to, and/ when those women ask a higher price for sex than they want to pay (like three dates instead of one), men can choose sexual crack instead.
Women who are on the market for a man find themselves compared to cheap fantasies with which they can’t compete. Those who “hold out for a good man” or who have convictions about participating in sex that present a high cost to a potential partner (like agreeing to a life long commitment in marriage) are not just swimming against the current, they are swimming against a tsunami of women who are underselling them, giving away sex at pornographic prices because they believe they can’t compete in the sexual marketplace if they don’t. Men who “hold out for a good woman” or who have convictions about sex face the same marketplace pressure. Relatively inexpensive sex and very inexpensive porn are available, and the majority of their peers obtain one or the other or both. It is very difficult to keep valuing sex at levels so far above the market.
Before any woman considers how porn use affects her specific relationships, men using porn on the scale they are using it has already made a difference. We’ve already touched on the most talked about affect of porn upon man/woman relationships: comparison of real women to porn-plastic women. Comparison is no doubt a huge issue, but the biggest difference widespread use of porn makes is in the objectification of women and men. Sometimes we joke about men or women being nothing more than “sex objects,” but no one wants to be reduced to a bodily function; only good for having sex with and not much else. Porn is the ultimate tool in reducing women to sexual objects, turned on and off at the whim of their digital master. This would be damaging enough if it stayed in the bedroom, but it cannot. (further reading on this in another article here) We are sexual beings all the time; in the boardroom and the bedroom and the bakery. We are sexual beings whether we have sex or not. Enough men spending enough time using porn creates a critical mass of men habitually objectifying women. These men begin treating all women like objects, no matter where in life they encounter them. Women begin accepting their objectification as normal, and start acting like objects. Men and women who never use porn are drawn into this cycle of playing by porn’s rules because they interact with those who are playing on the pornographically objectified playing field. We are all touched. We are all reduced.
The next time you are tempted to accept the thought that porn only matters if it happens in your relationships, remember this: It is happening in your relationships when it happens in your community, your country, your culture. Don’t accept it as “normal” or “liberated” or “victim-less.” Even if you don’t feel abused by it, you are, and your friends and family are. People are not healthy when we are reduced to mere bodily functions. We were made to love and be loved radically, regardless of our functionality. We are not just useful; we are beautiful. All of us. The gospel released us from the need to perform. It says loudly and clearly that we are not useful to God, we are beautiful to God. That is a high opinion and it is either true or it isn’t. If it is true, Jesus provides us with a powerful tool to fight the tyranny of pornographic reduction; he gives us irrevocable love beyond function or performance.