Today on  Public Discourse , Mark Regnerus speculates about the connection he found between men who support gay marriage and men who use pornography. Today’s pornography treats viewers to “a veritable fire-hose dousing of sex-act diversity.” Moreover, it doesn’t depict sex as making babies or an exclusive act of total self-gift. Therefore, Regnerus speculates, men who have seen sex frequently depicted that way might be more inclined to define marriage as something other than permanent, exclusive, and conjugal, or to reject marriage altogether. The results were telling:

Data from the  New Family Structures Study  reveal that when young adult Americans (ages 23-39) are asked about their level of agreement with the statement “It should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry in America,” the gender difference emerges, just as expected: 42 percent of men agreed or strongly agreed, compared with 47 percent of women of the same age. More men than women disagreed or strongly disagreed (37 versus 30 percent), while comparable levels (21-23 percent) said they were “unsure.”

But of the men who view pornographic material “every day or almost every day,” 54 percent “strongly agreed” that gay and lesbian marriage should be legal, compared with around 13 percent of those whose porn-use patterns were either monthly or less often than that. Statistical tests confirmed that porn use is a (very) significant predictor of men’s support for same-sex marriage, even after controlling for other obvious factors that might influence one’s perspective, such as political affiliation, religiosity, marital status, age, education, and sexual orientation.

The same pattern emerges for the statement, “Gay and lesbian couples do just as good a job raising children as heterosexual couples.” Only 26 percent of the lightest porn users concurred, compared to 63 percent of the heaviest consumers. It’s a linear association for men: the more porn they consume, the more they affirm this statement. More rigorous statistical tests confirmed that this association too is a very robust one.

Regnerus leaves the matter at the level of exposure: If you see many kinds of graphic sex acts, it’s likely to change your view of what sex and marriage mean. That makes sense, but I would push the argument further. Pornography doesn’t just change what you think is possible. It changes what you want and what you think is morally acceptable. If human beings become habituated to repeatedly performed actions, many repeated users of pornography will be all the more inclined to want and pursue the kind of sex they see. Moreover, they will seek ways to justify their desires to themselves and others. They want what they see, and they want that to be OK.

The conjugal view of marriage stands against such justification. For some men, it may represent a vague opprobrium. For others, it may make the women in their life want to settle down and commit. Either way, it impedes desires pursued. If this is the case, the question of whether gays can truly marry is ancillary. For the vision of sex in modern pornography to become acceptable and more available, marriage must be defanged, reduced to one option among many or discarded altogether.

Articles by Nathaniel Peters

Loading...

Show 0 comments