Aug 8 • 4M

Porn and men's problems

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Cathy Reisenwitz
A podcast which is me reading you my newsletter about power.
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Welcome to Sex and the State, a newsletter about power. I’m a writer working on decriminalizing and destigmatizing all things sex. I use evidence and stories to interrogate existing power structures to propose better ways of relating. To support my work, buy a guidebuy a subscriptionfollow me on OnlyFans, or just share this post!

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I’ve written a few posts now about the problems facing, and caused by, US native-born men. I was thinking recently about how my writing about porn relates to the question.

I make and consume porn, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of it, necessarily. To me, it’s kind of analogous to fast food. I enjoy it and appreciate that it’s available to me. And I also don’t want me or anyone else to use it to excess.

It’s an imperfect analogy, to be sure. There’s pretty good evidence that even in small quantities fast food is really not great for anyone. There’s decent evidence that preservatives and processed food of any kind disrupts your gut microbiome. And the sugar and simple carbs in fast food spike your insulin, which isn’t healthy.

There’s really no compelling evidence that watching a small amount of porn causes any harm to the average consumer.

Another issue with the analogy is that there’s good evidence that even watching large amounts of pornography is harmless for the average consumer. A 2020 study showed that ~70% of people watch low amounts of porn with no discernible negative ramifications. Around a quarter of people watch a lot of porn with no measurable downside. And around ~5% of people watch a lot of porn, and it seems to cause or exacerbate problems for them. Problematic porn consumers are more likely than average to show symptoms of hypersexuality, depression, boredom, and low self-esteem. They’re likely not getting their basic psychological needs met. And this study builds on other research showing that feeling guilty about watching porn is a high predictor of having a “porn addiction.”

In fact, another study showed that men who look at porn more often who are in relationships have more sex with their partners. Women who look at porn more often have more partnered sex whether or not they’re in relationship, have better sex, and have more sexual flexibility.

Porn use is associated with decreases in violence against women. Men who look at more porn are actually less sexist than men who look at less of it.

Every study I’m aware of that purports to show that porn is harmful either:

1. Fails to correct for the fact that people who feel ashamed of themselves for watching porn are far more likely to report “problematic” porn use, regardless of how much they watch or how it’s otherwise impacting their lives

2. Misrepresents MRI results to show spurious findings

3. Fails to establish causation. People already at risk of becoming sexual abusers are more likely to watch a lot of violent porn. But there’s no evidence that watching a lot of violent porn causes the average person to be more likely to perpetrate sexual violence. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence in the opposite direction.

4. Mislabels porn

5. Is otherwise shown to be faulty.

Why do I care? Well, I’ll tell you this. I cared in 2013, way before I’d sold any porn. I care from a libertarian perspective. I support free speech and think adults should be free to make and consume porn. I care from a sex-positive perspective. People who want to claim porn is morally wrong should just make and defend that claim.

I’m sick of moralizers falsely claiming that porn is on-net harmful to most consumers, contra all available credible evidence. If you think God doesn’t like it when people look at porn, just say that. Don’t lie about it being a “public health emergency.” McDonalds is way worse for public health than Pornhub, according to every single available measure. If public health is your concern, go after them. (Please don’t, I love their fries.)

If you claim you don’t want women to be sexually assaulted or objectified, stop covering up for sexual abusers in your churches. Stop telling girls to cover up their bodies and start telling men to keep their fucking eyes and hands off them. Stop telling girls to just say no and start teaching every pre-teen about consent.

And if you’re upset that a generation of men is failing to launch, stop blaming porn and start looking at the systemic issues.