A recent study that finds that states hospitable to disapproving anti-sex scolds are the same states in which more online porn is consumed is the sort of link bait that editors stay up nights dreaming about. People guffawing about conservative hypocrites, people defending conservative hypocrites, and dudes who want to make it clear that every other dude looks at as much porn as they do are all sure to weigh in on something like that. Echidne of the Snakes had my favorite response, wondering why the study didn’t break down by gender when every other variable came into play. The enormous gender gap in who gives money over to the porn industry (which is not the same as who watches porn) is the sort of thing that’s sure to embarrass the men of America, and so I see why it slid off the radar as a relevant data point.
Aside from moralizing about the hypocrisy of all this, the real issue for the nation are the PUBLIC POLICY IMPLICATIONS of this hypocrisy.
Everyone giggles over the “hypocrisy” of conservative porn use, but I fail to see how it’s really that hypocritical. The allergy towards sex that defines cultural conservatism is more about judging women’s morality on what we do with our genitals than any other factor, and a quick perusal of the horrific gender stereotyping in abstinence-only materials will prove that in a minute. Men, in this world view, are the ones who truly want sex, and women are just softies who use sex to get to the romance. Women who aggressively seek out sexual pleasure for its own sake — a behavior designated as male-only — are sluts who deserve to be used and tossed away by men for violating gender codes. In other words, the much-vaunted conservative morality is better known as the “virgin/whore” dichotomy,where good girls you want to marry don’t really like sex and bad girls you want to have sex with get down and dirty and don’t deserve respect.
This world view permeates both purity balls and porn videos, especially the more misogynist ones that I described. If you’re a man who buys into the right wing world view on gender, odds are you married a good girl and you know she’s a good girl because she’s a little hostile towards sex, and really hostile towards sexual experimentation. But you’re a man, and you’re supposed to want those experimental behaviors. You can’t do it with your good girl wife, and you don’t really want to, either, because you know that women who do that don’t deserve respect. So there’s porn, mediating the conflict for you. You get your fun and freaky sex acts, like a man wants, and you have porn actresses to disrespect so that you don’t have to put that on your wife. It’s the classic virgin/whore dichotomy, except done with a credit card on the internet instead of down at the brothel with cash, like in the past.
The author and I part company on the extent to which this constitutes hypocrisy. There is an internal logic to the construct. That much is clear. The issue, however, is larger than whether or not Mr. Limbaugh can explain to his male “aides” or wife or whomever why he likes “Tommy’s Bookmarks” or “Tiny’s Big Adventure.” The larger issue is how he reconciles his unabiding affection for “Sapphic Erotica” with his policy positions.
There is a national split between those who claim it and those who try to shame the claim. In order for our public policies to ameliorate the conditions of working and non-labor force mothers, of pregnant teens, of women earning reduced salaries in the same job, for women subjected to violence based on distorted notions of this virgin-whore dichotomy, the nation needs to begin a conversation about what we love and why.