06/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Conservatives, Relationships and Porn


First it was a bondage club, now we've got NRO publishing a sad story about voyeurism and porn. It should come with a warning label for ignorance and stupidity, especially considering the associated institute that NRO is publicizing. There's a reason religious conservatives are continually the ones in the news where sex is concerned and it's not because of the demon porn.

Beware of "institutes" hawking warnings that have solutions attached that hint at carving away freedoms. There's always something deeper afoot. Take the latest Witherspoon Institute findings on "The Social Costs of Pornography" that is "signed by more than 50 scholars," which National Review Online is pushing. Before slurping up their political propaganda it's important to review other writings the Witherspoon Institute has sponsored, including "Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles." Number 8 reads: "A functioning marriage culture serves to protect political liberty and foster limited government." It goes on (emphasis added):

We call upon our nation's leaders, and our fellow citizens, to support public policies that strengthen marriage as a social institution, including:

1. Protect the public understanding of marriage as the union of one man with one woman as husband and wife. 2. Investigate divorce law reforms. 3. End marriage penalties for low-income Americans. 4. Protect and expand pro-child and pro-family provisions in our tax code. 5. Protect the interests of children from the fertility industry.

Got agenda?

It's always the same thing coming from the same people.

But it's spring, so it's time for conservatives to target our libidinous notions, but also the gazillion dollar entertainment industry now tapped by Fortune 500 companies everywhere. This season it comes through a common tale of woe, though no matter how many letters I have read over the years the learning curve continues to be circa 1900 where marriage and sex, relationships and reality in the modern era are concerned. From "Anonymous" in NRO:

Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man's perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue -- $97 billion worldwide in 2006 -- than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.

According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn't come in pill form. It can't be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. [...]

I can only imagine Kathryn Jean Lopez's NRO email inbox.

As regular readers are aware, back in the 1990s, I became an expert on dating, marriage and relationships after spending a lot of time traversing the world of personal ads, but also the adult entertainment world. That is a long time ago, but some things never change. I'll put my expertise up against any "scholar" on this subject any day, especially when filed under an institute that has a conservative agenda.

It's not that I scoff at the impact of porn, as I know about it intimately, having heard from thousands of people about it. It's that when I hear what "Anonymous" wrote in NRO, all sorts of warning bells go off. For instance this:

Recently he began to reject my sexual advances outright, claiming he just didn't "feel love" for me like he used to, and lamenting that he thought of me "more as the mother of our children" than as a sexual partner.

Alert the marriage counselors! Seriously? This is as timeless a marriage cry as there is in human history. Have these people never heard of Freud? Are they ignorant to the Madonna-Whore complex? Good grief.

"Anonymous" whines on:

Then one morning around 2am he called, intoxicated, from his office to announce that he had "developed feelings" for someone new. The woman he became involved with was an unemployed alcoholic with all the physical qualities of a porn star -- bleached blond hair, heavy makeup, provocative clothing, and large breasts. After the revelation, my husband tried to break off his relationship with this woman. But his remorse was short-lived.

A man seduced by provocative clothing on someone other than his wife, and large breasts? Who knew?! This is groundbreaking stuff NRO is sharing.

After all these years I still get letters from people, many women, on this subject. Recently I got one from a woman I'll call "Julie." She is recently engaged, but also found out that her fiance has a porn fetish. Therapy, etc., but she was asking whether she should postpone the wedding. The answer is far simpler: walk away. This isn't a symptom of coming problems, this is an alarm bell of an impending disaster.

This type of thinking is what prodded me to do a radio show and write on the subject "It's all the woman's fault" (essays here and here).

In her email, "Julie" revealed an obvious worry that had her thinking about postponing the wedding. Her instincts were screaming at her, but her head refused to listen. She knows what to do but isn't doing it. Ego kicked in, the excuse being "love," to cause her to do nothing.

There are all sorts of signs of what could possibly cause a man to devour porn or act out sexually. Take Tiger Woods. A military father he adored, a Buddhist mother, but a life filled with strict discipline, athletic rigors and continual rigidity in all things. Man gets married, because that's what you are supposed to do. Bound up in expectations and strictures since youth, but also obviously not ready to commit to one woman, which is a simple diagnosis not complicated to deduce, it's not shocking that the outcome of acting out would be so extreme, given everyone is invested in Tigermania, a man who also inhabits a white glove sport.

Check out Ted Haggard, Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign, as well as the statistics that continue to show that conservatives and the religious are the biggest consumers of pornography.

Consider the Catholic Church, which forbids marriage of priests, ignoring the physical body that the soul inhabits. The denial of the Vatican to respect the body thus becoming ensnared in the physical reality of humanness is at the hub of the Church's problem.

The body will not be denied.

On the other side, too often women are reluctant to deal with sexuality and the reality that the most sedately "normal" male isn't always what he appears to be. Women becoming girlfriends and wives often ignore the nurturing, love and care required of the animal inside herself, which is particularly true when kids come into the picture. It has become more challenging as we live longer lives.

But pornography isn't the problem. It's the excuse for why things go south.

The 1st amendment protects this speech. Men have a choice. Women do too.

Beware conservatives touting the dangers threatening marriage, or women wailing that porn robbed them of their man. Sometimes you marry the wrong person. Sometimes a cad is just a cad. Set him free. The forbidden once realized often loses its luster, and you'll be done with someone who didn't deserve you in the first place. Just quit kidding yourself.

Women have choices, including staying invested in their own sexual lives, which requires a partner who desires you. If he doesn't it's not the porn

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.

Art by Paul Szep used by permission.