The Case Against the Sexual Revolution: Part 15, A World that Has Forgotten How to Love

After describing the harms and oppressions women face in the porn industry, in Chapter 5 of The Case Against the Sexual Revolution Louise Perry turns to talk about the effects pornography has upon its consumers.

Perry starts by introducing us to the idea of "limbic capitalism," how online media appeals to and hijacks our brains. The business model of online and social media is to become more "addictive."

For example, advertisers know that our brains are wired to trigger off of sexual cues and stimuli. I can't tell you how many times a day I have to face a seductive image in an ad while I'm doing something totally innocuous on the internet. The online algorithms know I'm a man, and advertisers will use thumbnail pictures of women hoping that I'll chase those images with a click. Sex sells. And porn, obviously, takes this visual hijacking and manipulation to a whole other level. A Perry writes:

Porn is to sex as McDonald's is to food. These two capitalist enterprises take our natural appetites, pluck out the most compulsive and addictive elements, strip away anything truly nutritious, and then encourage us to consume more and more. Both products are examples of superstimuli: exaggerated versions of naturally occurring stimuli that tap into an evolved longing for nourishment, excitement and pleasure but do so in a maladaptive way, fooling the consumer into gorging on a product that initially feels good but in the long term does them harm.

One of the things that is harmed is our investment in and competencies for intimacy in real life, both emotional and erotic. One of the great ironies of the sexual revolution is how it was supposed to liberate us for more and better sex. However, the younger generations are having less sex and less satisfying sex when they do. Much of this is due to online porn, where sexual appetites can be sated without having to mess around with the complexities and demands of sex with a real person. It's just a lot easier to masturbate alone to porn. You don't have to learn how to cook, you can just drive through for fast food. We're quickly moving into a dystopian sexual future where sex is going to be wholly transferred from the human to the online, virtual and robotic. Robert Putnam wrote a famous book called Bowling Alone, documenting modern disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. The sexual revolution is writing its own version of that book: Having Sex Alone.  

The problem with the sexual revolution is that its message of "liberation" obscures a vital truth. Human sex is complicated. Sex is hard. Sex entangles us. Sex demands things of us. Things we owe each other as human beings. And when faced with this work--counting the costs, weighing the entanglements, surveying the relational complexities, shouldering the obligations--many just opt out for porn. It's a simple cost/benefit analysis. It's just a whole lot easier. 

And with each click our collective willingness and capacities for love slowly evaporate. That will be the ultimate legacy of the sexual revolution: a world that knows how to masturbate and has forgotten how to love.

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