The Sad, Strong Undercurrent

I think about natural checks and balances a lot, and systems that have escaped them, and the runaway problems that occur then.  The word “natural” is pretty loaded, of course, and has been used as a smiling club for ages — it’s this scrap of semantics that doesn’t have to prove itself, like “microaggression” — but I’m gonna use it anyway.  I’m specifically thinking about porn — digital online pornography — as a system that has escaped its own natural checks and balances.  I mentioned it a couple blogs ago, in passing, because girls and women will go missing and then footage of their rapes will show up on Porn Hub, which is supposed to be porn by, for, and about consenting adults.  Anyway, just thinking about market forces this morning, and the interesting problem that digital porn presents.  

So first of all, I see digital porn and everything it invokes/represents as being, itself, the area of least overlap between men and women, psychologically and emotionally.  I said “the” area, not “an” area, because I’m pretty serious about this.  I think men and women, collectively, have far more in common than not, and even where the bell of our temperamental bell curves stagger, the overlap is simply enormous.  Same goes for our bodies, matter of fact, with both genders sharing (paging Dr. Google) almost all 20,000 genes, although a third of these behave differently in men vs women.  

The whole question of our differences is relative, with my first response always being “relative to what?”  Relative to pull-ups?  Very different.  Relative to intellectually functioning in the world in all our myriad ways?  Hardly different at all, in the scheme of things, and what differences we do see are largely of the “nurture” variety.  I mean, gender is a fractal we can telescope into, infinitely, but the fact is, we’re about as different from one another as the two sexes of any species are different, lizards or larks or what have you, which is not very.  The area of our greatest physical differentiation has to do with our sex organs and musculature, obviously, but what’s the area representative of our greatest psychological/emotional differences?  Well, I don’t know what it was before the internet, but now it’s online porn, and everything that invokes/involves/implies.

I want to mention that the cultural/generational coincidences of my own coming-of-age encouraged me to think of porn as the “liberation” of sex and sexuality from our own repressive, regressive, religious roots, which are heavy indeed.  Cool girls embraced their own sexuality, and explored what that meant, even where it led them into domains typically reserved for males — promiscuity, hook ups, kink, and yes, porn.  “Denial of women’s sexual desire”, very real indeed and also very heavy, was firmly scrutinized.  We don’t want to be good girls, playing by old rules.  We want orgasms too.  All that.  Which is fine, and obviously inevitable under the circumstances.  

This is important to mention because it’s the easiest thing in the world to throw porn under the bus, as a spiritually-minded straight woman writing an obscure blog, and not to acknowledge that porn as an industry has singlehandedly driven the growth of the internet as a platform for consumption, transaction, interaction, video-streaming, and DIY livelihood-making, second to none, dragging along on its coattails the explosion of resultant goods and services we all enjoy.  I mean, if not for porn — and cats — we’d still be playing Pong on our flickering TV sets with rabbit ears.  Whatever technology the porn industry touches is turned to high-def, high-tech, broadband gold — the only possible reason we don’t have flying cars, the overnight medical regrowth of limbs, and the routine use of 3D chess sets yet is because they don’t overlap enough with porn.  For better or worse, shit gets done when you harness the oldest, strongest, and most typically frustrated impulse on earth to tech and the digital marketplace. 

So, it’s just a fact of life, now.  It’s a Pandora’s box that we can’t close again.  It brings all sorts of problems, of course — we’re only now seeing its effect on males who literally grew up with access to it, beginning in young childhood.  Where digital porn initially acted as a sort of adjunct to the lives of men who’d already had their coming of age, and interacted with IRL females to some extent at least, now boys grow up having had their first and most formative sexual experiences absent a real female, in the presence of digital porn, and bringing that set of mis/understandings to the IRL dating realm.  There’s no shortage of info on the internet (brought to you by: porn) about how harmful and alarming these mis/understandings are, collectively.  They’ve ushered in an era of self-objectification, hostile sexism, sexual aggression as an accepted norm, transactionalism, decreased satisfaction in IRL relationships, etcetera and so forth — you can read up on it.  Basically we take two steps back for every one step forward, with modern gender relations, thanks to rampant porn.  Women and girls of dating age are experiencing the aftereffects of this sea-change, and responding to them in ways they’re probably not entirely conscious of, but young men are the drivers of the change.

Why aren’t young women dis/affected by porn, equally?  Are we oppressed, as a gender, by slower broadband connections?  Women’s consumption of porn is quantifiable, and not insignificant, and still being heralded as a form of liberation — which is fine, and maybe it is — but it doesn’t seem to be fucking up our brains and our relational expectations to the extent males are experiencing.  Like I said, this is our area of least psychological overlap.  Anecdotally, I haven’t met many men I wouldn’t suspect of nipping off for some online porn now and then, and I’ve met very few women I’d suspect the same of.  It’s just not where our heads are at, almost uniformly, in my experience.  We’re very male-partner oriented, whether that partner is real or hypothetical, and we experience and navigate the terrain of our relationships emotionally — especially the sexual parts.  I don’t think this is only a matter of “nurture” — I think that it makes perfect sense.  Females have too much at stake, biologically and culturally, to have brains that treat sex like a hit and run.  But there are so many exceptions — it’s hardly worthwhile to even claim such a thing.  But then again, we do live in backwards land — what’s heralded as empowerment often looks to me like hella off in the weeds.  

Better thinkers and writers than me have thought, and written, about the effects of rampant digital porn on both men and women, so I don’t need to reinvent that wheel, but back to my original musing: the hack of natural checks and balances that digital porn represents is staggering.  In short, it’s my opinion that men’s and women’s differences, such as they are, exist to pull us into greater alignment, via the mechanism of our attraction to one another and the challenge that represents.  Men are at their best when they harness their inner resources towards a goal.  The male libido makes that goal fairly predictable, but there’s nothing “base” about it.  Getting a good woman — getting into her good graces, and I mean all of them — is no small feat, and well worth the effort, which should be an effort.  Not only for her sake, but for his — men tend not to value a woman otherwise, which is what gives rise to the games of manipulation women use, as a shortcut to simply being excellent, naturally picky women.  

Accordingly, women are at their best when they conserve their inner resources, delaying gratification for the right situation at the right time.  I mean, it’s no coincidence that the entire trajectory of our contrasting but complementary dating psychologies is perfectly represented by the enormous, choosy egg, bombarded by literally millions of tiny, striving sperm.  There’s a built-in inequality there which is not intended to be addressed or rendered equal.  Or as Jordan Peterson puts it, “nature is that which selects”, and it is women who select.  Men don’t select, despite the entire momentum of religious and industry and patriarchy and lineage; men don’t select.  

The women of my generation are pretty annoyed to be conflated with “nature” all the time — except when they want to, strategically.  (Like Murray put it, tongue in cheek: Women and men are exactly the same, except women are, on occasion, magically better.  Why?)  I mean, to me, women are just obviously nature’s human ambassadors in the world — we’re the roots — with men being the outward-oriented, much-more-likely-to-kill-themselves tendrils of expansion.  I’ve never met a woman who’s as likely to get herself killed as any given man.  All this women = nature stuff would be a lot more fun if we hadn’t decided, as a race, that nature is simply something to have dominion over.  That annoys me, and every time I hear of nature just casually killing someone, I’m like: well — it might be a little silly to declare dominion over this thing that is so powerful and so ancient, it doesn’t even notice you exist, half the time.  That’s nature, and women are ambassadors of that, for better or worse.    

So anyway, we’re not supposed to live in a world where men’s sexual access to women is as easy as women’s sexual access to men, because sex and sexual access is simply not the important part of the thing occurring, despite its distraction value.  The transaction that’s occurring is spiritual-sexual, with energies coming one way aligning with energies coming the other way, co-mingling, and being both the better for it — you can’t weld metal with the same type of metal, it takes two different kinds to form a bond.  I don’t even know if that’s true, but whatever, that’s my analogy.  

So yeah, we’ve got this perfect meta-spiritual gender thing going on where men are enormously benefitted by adapting themselves to the refining challenge of resource-harnessing that partnering with a good woman demands, and women are enormously benefitted by adapting themselves to the refining challenge of careful exclusion that partnering with a good man demands, and the whole thing is SUPPOSED to be a trial by fire, in some sense.  It’s not supposed to be convenient; men *and* women are supposed to have to change, evolve, adapt, and for the better, towards meaningful sexual partnership.  

Except: porn, and the hack, the shortcut, the bypass it represents.  I read an opinion that the nexus of patriarchy and capitalism has caused, ironically, a sexual drought for males.  Don’t get too excited — the one-child-per-family rule in China caused the same thing, so it’s only proof that lots of people can be disenfranchised by a variety of economic systems, which should be news to no one.  It seems to me that any policy or trend intended or discovered to benefit primarily one gender or group will turn out to catastrophically backfire on exactly that gender or group, as a general observation.  Back to the opinion (I would cite and quote but heck if I can remember where I ran across this), it essentially argued that, whereas capitalist patriarchy does reduce women to sex objects, it simultaneously reduces men to success objects, and that this latter reduction impairs men’s value on the dating market more dramatically than the former impairs women’s.  I’d have to agree, frankly.  This reduction indeed reduces many men all the way down to resenting women while masturbating to choke porn in their mom’s basement, in between low-level, part time work shifts.

So it’s pretty crazy but inevitable that, via online, mostly user-generated porn, we’ve figured out how to monetize the area of greatest tension, and least overlap, between men and women.  And it’s sad, but also inevitable, that online porn is additionally serving to monetize real rape — not just simulated kink rape, which is also problematic — and trafficking, and exploitation, and the very real, systematic, monetized abuse of human rights, and for that matter animal rights (not even gonna think too hard about that).  There’s plenty of people on plenty of platforms calling for an end, or at least a slow down, of this runaway industry, but most interesting in my opinion are the growing ranks of men voluntarily going sober from online porn.  They’re recognizing it as a destructive force in their own lives, and a legitimate thief of their joy.  (Again, despite women’s use of porn being lauded as “liberating”, scads of women aren’t feeling the need to declare porn sobriety, which is telling.)

Back to “natural” checks and balances, in the neighborhood of my original musing — I adore Jordan Peterson’s emphasis on responsibilities, as a much-needed antidote to our over-examination of rights and rights alone.  However good or bad we have it now, in terms of sexual rights, we really miss the boat when we forget about the responsibilities those rights entail.  And it’s not even like “oh bummer, dad’s making me mow the lawn again” — we like having responsibilities.  We like being accountable.  We’re destructive and unhinged when we’re given a clear sense of our rights but not our responsibilities.  Online porn is a perfect example of a right, detached from a responsibility – it feels like shit.  Or I assume it does, based on the millions of men abandoning their own porn habits in favor of the real sexual pursuit of real women with real bodies.  It makes sense that we’d cultivate a generation of people, mostly dudes, who experience much of their own lives online, via games, social media, and career moves — why not their sex lives, too?  And certainly a bulk of dating activity, of the real variety, occurs now online.  How could it not.  We just don’t meet that many eligible IRL candidates, in our increasingly lonely and compartmentalized society.  There are some really fine lines that young people and even older, suddenly-singles are having to negotiate, these days, relative to sex and dating moving largely to the internet.  Porn seems like a natural extension of that trend, its furthest logical or illogical extreme.  We can’t reject its entire premise without understanding the void that we can’t deny must have existed, for it to fill.  

I find rampant digital porn really saddening, personally.  And I don’t even mean the egregious aspects of trafficking and abuse; I mean the relational shortcut of it.  The bypass of what I consider to be natural checks and balances, as loaded of a phrase as that might be.  Speaking for women to the extent I can, we don’t want a partner who engages in porn consumption, or a dating terrain in which infinite porn is our competition for a prospective partner’s attention.  Even social media apps have ruined important things, sacred things, to some extent.  People used to have to find the courage to ask one another out, and now you can be rounding third base with a guy you’re really into, another girl can hit him up on Snapchat the minute you leave, and no one has to find the courage to actually risk anything, anymore, or even go one iota out of their way, to cheat or dabble or play the odds.  I find myself grateful to be ensconced in a relationship, not navigating that terrain, fatigued at the thought of navigating that terrain should my relationship end, and certainly aware that I have no way to control or even know if my partner is digitally involving others in what I consider to be a sexually monogamous relationship.  I mean, that’s always been the risk of sexual commitment, but it’s never been this close to home — a digital device away.  

There is a sharp uptick in men’s movements now, which I applaud.  Some of them are saying crazy stuff, like MGTOW — basically like “accept that all women are vipers who are out to get you” which is just…not helpful.  Understandable, but not helpful.  The better men’s movements, in my opinion, are those rejecting the victim narrative and encouraging men to consider not being a piece of shit, relative to porn, women, and the world at large, despite whatever they may have experienced in the past.  I mean, men in patriarchy have legitimate grievances that for some reason feminists don’t like to acknowledge, but acknowledging them would represent an improved state of affairs.  Men’s reduction to expendable success objects is good for no one.  

Religion continues to function as a bulwark between men and the temptation to simply online-porn masturbate themselves to death, which is…great…but I find organized religion to be extremely problematic as a moral compass relative to people’s sex, love, and relational lives.  Actually, it’s problematic as a moral compass relative, also, to people’s diets, their relationship to their own bodies, their regard or disregard for animals, their ethical negotiation of matters small to large, from hometown civics to global violence…yeah, I guess just about everything.  But for some reason it’s all we got.  Well, there’s the new religion of science, where we science about everything, where we all get to feel equally insignificant and meaningless.

Speaking of science, the problem with porn, scientifically speaking, is that neurochemically, it functions like a drug; it takes more and more of it to produce the same effect.  I learned this watching several TED talks on the subject, and reading related articles online, last year when I took a deep dive into learning about porn; I realized it’s too big of a phenomenon to ignore.  So, that “more” could translate into the same user spending more time interfacing with the same kind of porn, OR, and since everything’s available this is ultimately more likely, it could translate into the same user searching out increasingly hardcore forms of porn.  Not every porn user is grabbed in this fashion, just as with drugs — some people can, actually, keep it recreational, and some can’t.  Has a lot to do with what the rest of that person’s life looks like.

Now, “increasingly hardcore forms of porn” means what?  Well, I’ll leave that mostly to your imagination, but I will say that the epidemic of child porn is real bad and getting worse.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (the kids on the milk cartons) received 213,000 leads in 2010 and over 10 million in 2017, spiking to almost 17 million in 2019, and who knows what in 2020.  There’s no way, algorithmically, the problem of digital child porn couldn’t get worse: digital streaming, memory and storage keeps getting better, devices keep getting smaller, more and more jobs are worked from home, the population of the earth continues to explode, more and more kids go missing, more and more of our daily lives have elements of porn which has been normalized for us — more on this in a second — and most importantly, porn drives addicted users to its own fringe as a function of the addiction.  A porn user abandoning the sunny meadows of mutually consenting adults and venturing into the rape of minors has already crossed an important rubicon; at that point, why wouldn’t he pursue porn involving younger and younger children.  As is proving to be the case.  

In May, a 40 year old Utah man was arrested with 13,000 files of infant, child, and animal rape — read that again, the rape of infants, children under eight, and animals — as well as several videos of him having sex with a variety of unconscious women.  He’ll serve 210 days in jail and then walk.  I checked the FBI’s violent crime against children tracker from the same month, and in May of this year, the FBI made 53 separate arrests for child porn, abuse, or exploitation.  Some of those arrests were for groups, rings, clubs.  53 — that’s almost double the days there were in May.  I mean, just as an example. 

Whatever represents the individual tributaries, the end outcome is a tidal wave, a tsunami, of child porn.  Several blogs ago I did speculate about Qanon, Luciferians, #pizzagate, adrenochrome, etcetera and so forth, and I just want to be clear — nothing I’ve said in this blog, relative to child porn, is speculative.  The arrests cannot keep up with the trend — it’s spreading like wildfire.  The news is rife with it.  And just think how many users, producers, distributors of child porn walk free, for every one that gets busted.  I mean, just think about that.    

Nick and I were walking along the canal in Albuquerque one time, last year, before we even knew how bad this was — but still, and utterly without intending to, we’d heard of a series of arrests relative to pedophilia and child porn — and we were asking ourselves, each other, how the fuck is there a market for this?  It’s a basic question: how is there a market for this?  How are there this many people — almost a predominate number of people, it sometimes seems — who don’t give a shit about kids?  Lots of people have kids, and more importantly, we all WERE kids, if we survived into adulthood.  Even back then, not understanding even a fraction of the scope of this disaster, I felt like I just couldn’t reconcile it.  I would think that, even if you somehow did find yourself addicted in the direction of child porn, you would just cut off your own hands or something.  How the fuck do this many people just accept “okay, guess I’m into toddlers being raped now!,” and keep on rolling?  I mean, get yourself dropped off in the middle of nowhere and have a DIY vision quest.  Figure that shit out.   

As usual, Teal Swan goes where angels fear to tread.  Sexual kinks, she explains, arise from an impulse to correct an energetic imbalance in childhood.  Someone who was always overpowered, shouted down, and bulldozed as a child may indulge in bondage and dominance play, sexually, as an adult.  Passivity and being dominated may appeal to someone who was saddled with an overage of responsibility, at too young an age.  Someone who feels profoundly wounded by rejection may (may) become a necrophiliac — someone who has sex with corpses.  A corpse is utterly unable to reject them, as they are utterly incapable of handling rejection.  A pedophile is a person who was robbed of their own childhood and innocence, and this has twisted them, and yet still they seek to recapture it, ironically by robbing someone else of theirs.  Makes sense — it is the abused who abuse, the hurt who hurt.

Nick and I, walking along the canal, were like: ok that makes sense, but can *this* many people have had their childhood innocence taken away?  It’s kind of a moot point, I suppose, because, chicken or the egg, we’ll have no shortage of fucked up adults whose innocence was wrecked from here on out.

Teal is one of the few people with a platform also saying, very clearly and repeatedly, this is a mental health crisis that we, as a society, are absolutely blowing.  From the standpoint of someone feeling pulled in that direction — so let’s say John Doe addicted porn user going further and further down the rabbit hole — where’s he gonna go, with this compulsion that now has a lot of momentum and no safe place to turn for its therapeutic redress?  Church?  For fuck’s sake, religion simply cannot, cannot, cannot seem to regulate even itself in this regard.  Religion has been the “safe space” for pedophiles for centuries, now, and has less than nothing to offer, in the face of this rise of the secular pedophile.       

Final thought, and this is a qualification Nick offered, when I read him the blog draft thus far: the pesky thing about porn is that it’s exploded into being everywhere.  Things we regard as normal marketing, or comic books, or music videos, now, would have been considered actual soft porn several decades ago.  Instagram even features a “fans only” option, built in, where followers of a feed can opt into private, tiered marketing relative to what’s on offer.  Looks to me like this is used more commonly for DIY porn than for, you know, camper conversions or fancy water bottles.  For me personally, every single thing under the sun that involves consenting legal adults is like, whatever.  If men wanna psychologically castrate themselves and become slavering betas, or if women want to infinitely sexualize themselves because it’s all set up to be the path of least narcissistic resistance in a world of slavering betas, fine, knock yourself out.  Porn isn’t really something we choose to interact with or choose not to interact with, anymore; it’s really a matter of degree.  I don’t, personally, yearn for a time when it was all patriarchy and casseroles, but I do hope we find our way out of the weeds relative to our collective sexual “liberation”.  

That path can only be spiritual, not to beat a dead horse.  There isn’t a secular or religious organization on earth with the skill set or the track record to meaningfully address what’s going on here, which is maybe the point of this particular collective thought experiment.  I remember when my parents left Abe and I home alone for a couple days — the first thing we did was make cookie batter and eat it all, because my mom would never let us eat more than just a little of the cookie batter.  She said it was raw, and would make us sick.  Well, it did make us sick.  Up until that point, it took an external authority to prevent me from eating too much cookie batter; after that point, I prevented myself from eating too much cookie batter.  Relative to sexual liberation, the parents are clearly out of town, we’re clearly home alone, and we’re clearly eating too much cookie batter, so I hope the next move is that we figure out how to self-regulate.  

It’s interesting that sex-ed, in schools, has been as controversial as it is — literally just being taught how your own reproductive system works — and even that fails utterly to address the ramifications, or as Jordan Peterson puts it, the “rights and responsibilities”, of having a reproductive system.  Ethically, emotionally, we inherit a loaded gun, just as likely to hurt ourselves as someone else, right around adolescence, and no one teaches us how to use it, when to use it, why to use it.  Am I interested in entrusting that responsibility to schools, with their likelihood of implicit societal agenda?  Not really.  Would it be better for that to come from parents?  Yes.  Why doesn’t it?  Probably because both parents are working all the goddamn time, if two parents are even present.  

Apropos of nothing, I read “Conversations With God” years ago, and according to God in that book, we got it all wrong, with parenting.  Grandparents are supposed to raise young children, because humans have this issue of trajectory — when we’re young and dumb enough to reproduce, we’re too young and dumb to have any wisdom to impart.  By the time we have some wisdom to impart, we’re too old to reproduce.  None of this would be a problem, according to God in this book, if we’d managed to grasp the obvious, which is that grandparents raise children, and by the time those children have children, the new set of grandparents should hopefully have something to offer, and some free time in which to offer it.  I always think about this and laugh, because it makes so much sense, right?  

It’s odd that we’ve come as far as we have, as a society, and still have not acknowledged that basic physiological events, in our lifespan timeline, cohere with basic rights and responsibilities, and that we can’t keep ignoring the ethical half of the equation.  We’re really good at celebrating birth, birthdays, marriage, and death, but everything else is swept under the rug.  Everything around menstruation, erections, masturbation, choosing a lover, disengaging from a lover, the ethics of being a sexual agent, pregnancy, post-pregnancy, menopause, and mature-person love and sex is treated with kid gloves if at all.  Weird, right?  I mean, we can’t even bring ourselves to civilize up and use bidets, like the rest of the world, so if we can’t even agree that a clean butt is a good idea, or that our butts exist at all outside of a sexualized context, why would we manage anything beyond that.

Again (and sorry to be a one note song, but) religion simply cannot accommodate us, here.  Religion can’t even figure out that we don’t need to be multiplying like rabbits as fast as we can, and that preventing unwanted pregnancy should be a normal, natural part of a modern adult’s playbook.  

So perhaps it’s not just that online, digital porn represents the area of least overlap between men and women; perhaps it’s additionally that, as humans, we’re destined to suffer in and as a result of those areas of least clarity, and everything around sex and our bodies represents, societally, an area of least clarity, least agreement, the fewest established mores.  So, suffer we do, and where there is suffering, there is imbalance, and where there is imbalance, there is predation.  

I hope we can figure it out.  I woke up in a semi-conscious nightmare state, thinking about the young, abducted kids and babies and what’s happening to them — again, zero speculation, this is factually occurring — and I don’t want to live in a world where we can’t talk honestly about how to protect them, and preserve their innocence long enough that they can grow up and figure out how to fuck it up for themselves.                                                                                                              

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