Why Most Men Aren’t Man Enough to Handle Web Porn (Opinion)

Posted on January 16, 2013, in Brain Science, Men, Pornography Laws

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Alain De Botton

December 26, 2012

Find original article here: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/12/26/why-we-should-limit-internet-pornography/

All parties, on left and right, believe in freedom. The question is whether there are ways of having too muchfreedom, or of using it in the very wrong way, so that it starts to hurt other things we care about, like prosperity, safety and happiness.

The issue comes to a head with internet pornography. The standard view is that people should be left to look at porn as much as they like, just as they should be left to buy guns, eat unhealthy foods, divorce and remarry eight times and make nothing of their talents: it’s a free country, after all.

But what is freedom? If you listen to the theologian and philosopher St Augustine, real freedom doesn’t mean the right to do anything whatsoever. It means being given access to everything that is necessary for a flourishing life – and, it follows, being protected from many of the things that ruin life.

Consider pornography. Part of the problem is that it’s extremely tempting to some people, as alcohol and crack cocaine are. Commentators who don’t investigate the issue much, who might once have had a peek inside Playboy or caught a preview of a naughty film on the television channel of a hotel rest too easy that there’s no problem. But there is. A largely unwitting alliance made up of Cisco, Dell, OracleMicrosoft and thousands of pornographic providers have now found a way of exploiting a design flaw in the male gender. A brain originally designed to cope with nothing more tempting than an occasional glimpse of a tribesperson across the savannah is lost with what’s now on offer on the net at the click of a button: when confronted with offers to participate continuously in scenarios outstripping any that could be dreamt up by the diseased mind of the Marquis de Sade. There is nothing robust enough in our psychological make-up to compensate for developments in our technological capacities.

We are vulnerable to what we read and see. Things don’t just wash over us. We are passionate and for the most part unreasonable creatures buffeted by destructive hormones and desires, which means that we are never far from losing sight of our real long-term ambitions. Though this vulnerability may insult our self-image, the wrong pictures may indeed send us down a bad track. Contact with a particular kind of unhelpful video clip can play havoc with our ethical compasses. This doesn’t of course mean that we should cede all our freedoms to an arbitrary and tyrannical authority, but it does suggest that we could sometimes accept a theoretical limit to our freedom in certain contexts, for the sake of our own well-being and our capacity to flourish. In moments of lucidity, we should be able to appreciate for ourselves that untrammelled liberty can trap us, and that – when it comes to internet pornography – we could be doing ourselves an enormous favor if we took steps to limit what we consume.

It is perhaps only people who haven’t felt the full power of sex over their logical selves who can remain uncensorious and liberally “modern” on the subject. Philosophies of sexual liberation appeal mostly to people who don’t have anything too destructive or weird that that they wish to do once they have been liberated.

Find original article here: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/12/26/why-we-should-limit-internet-pornography/

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