CYBERSPACE—Noted feminist author Naomi Wolf has weighed in on the "problem of porn" on CNN's "Global Public Square" blog, and since she has no background in sociology, psychology or any scientific discipline whatsoever, of course she gets it way wrong.
None too surprisingly, she takes off from that all-important news story of a couple of weeks ago—Rep. Anthony Weiner emailing photos of his cock to some of his Twitter followers—claiming that, "It is hard to ignore how many highly visible men in recent years (indeed, months) have behaved in sexually self-destructive ways. Some powerful men have long been sexually voracious; unlike today, though, they were far more discreet and generally used much better judgment in order to cover their tracks."
While it's hard to suss out how many years are encompassed by "recent," we seem to recall that it was all over the news in 1974 when a drunk Rep. Wilbur Mills got stopped by cops in West Potomac Park with nearly nude stripper Fanne Fox in the passenger's seat. It created quite a press sensation when she bolted from the car and waded into the park's tidal basin—but Mills, then chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee didn't care. Hell, he later held a press conference from Foxe's dressing room at Boston's Pilgrim Theater, where she had a job as a stripper.
Or maybe she means how discreet Rep. Mark Foley was beginning in 2003 when he sent numerous sexually suggestive messages to teenage House pages, fooling around in bed (or wherever) with a couple of them after they left their page jobs. But we guess 2007 probably counts as "recent." That was the year Sen. David Vitter was exposed as a client of both Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the "D.C. Madam" and Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam," with whose hookers he liked to wear a diaper. Of course, Vitter's escapades remind us that when he was in the House in 1999, he replaced Rep. Bob Livingston, a major proponent of Clinton's impeachment, as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee after Larry Flynt exposed Livingston's extra-marital affair.
But, Wolf asks, "What is driving this weirdly disinhibited decision-making? Could the widespread availability and consumption of pornography in recent years actually be rewiring the male brain, affecting men’s judgment about sex and causing them to have more difficulty controlling their impulses?"
The simple answer, of course, is no. Porn doesn't "rewire brains" any more than listening to too much Pat Robertson or reading the Bible makes ordinary people into religious fundamentalists; if their use of porn (or religion) causes complications in their lives, it's likely because they've fallen prey to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which according to Wikipedia is "characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, [and] by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety," and is the fourth most-common mental disorder.
But no, Wolf's decided that there's "an increasing body of scientific evidence to support this idea," even though she has no scientific background with which to judge whether this so-called "evidence" has any real scientific basis. In fact, to show how ignorant she is of the scientific method, she cites the fact that when she wrote about "The Porn Myth" some years ago, she "pointed out that therapists and sexual counselors were anecdotally connecting the rise in pornography consumption among young men with an increase in impotence and premature ejaculation among the same population." [Emphasis added] Guess she's never heard of the well-known scientific axiom that "correlation is not causation"—especially when that correlation is being pushed by "therapists" and "counselors" who make their living "treating porn addiction." (For a non-hysterical picture of what those quacks push, see here.)
"The hypothesis among the experts was that pornography was progressively desensitizing these men sexually," Wolf blunders forward, building conjecture upon anecdote. "Indeed, hardcore pornography’s effectiveness in achieving rapid desensitization in subjects has led to its frequent use in training doctors and military teams to deal with very shocking or sensitive situations." Actually, except for the OCD crowd, most people can take or leave porn, and when they take it, they can get off on it with little problem.
But no; it turns out that according to those same "researchers," "desensitization" from porn use means that the guys "quickly required higher levels of stimulation to achieve the same level of arousal." And while she doesn't bother to name the "researchers," it's obvious that she's consulting the same ones that fuel Dr. Judith Reisman's fantasies about "erototoxins"—"mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain.” Only for Wolf, they're "short-term dopamine boosts."
Trouble is, while there are several chemicals that can be ingested or injected that will affect the brain's production of dopamine, simply looking at a picture or movie has no more effect on dopamine production than eating a good meal or jogging a few miles.
But no; "As with these other reward triggers [cocaine and gambling], after the dopamine burst wears off, the consumer feels a letdown—irritable, anxious, and longing for the next fix." Again, leaving aside the OCD sufferers, most people, after they've gotten off on some porn, usually just want to cuddle with their honey ... or just go to sleep. Apparently, Wolf has taken to heart the old Latin nostrum, "Post coitum, omne animal triste est"—"All animals are sad after fucking."
Anyway, Wolf builds more conjecture on more faulty data, leading to the bogus conclusion, "As with any addiction, it is very difficult, for neurochemical reasons, for an addict to stop doing things—even very self-destructive things—that enable him to get that next hit of dopamine." She then asks rhetorically, "Could this be why men who in the past could take time-delayed steps to conduct affairs behind closed doors now can’t resist the impulse to send a self-incriminating text message? If so, such men might not be demons or moral ciphers, but rather addicts who are no longer entirely in control of themselves."
Yeah; "The Devil made me do it" is so passé; how much easier is it to disregard the inflated egos and grandiose delusions that so often accompany political (or even financial) power and blame the Rich 'n' Famous's stupid sex stunts on that familiar boogey-man, porn?
Ah, well; readers who are so inclined can read (and perhaps comment on) the original article here.