Good news out of New York City earlier this week! One of the New York Times‘s columnists has solved Japan’s tremendously complicated generational replacement problem with two simple words. Our hero is Ross Douthat, a socially conservative columnist. He is a person who genuinely believes that every imaginable social ill can be easily solved through cultural repression. If only other people enjoyed their lives less, he frequently argues, things would be better. As such – when confronted with what appears to be Japan’s under-sexed younger population – Douthat’s solution is to ban pornography. Err, porn. The man is so efficient that he doesn’t have time for those last seven letters.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 10, 2017
That, in case you were wondering, is the entirety of his proposal. In this, the year of our Lord 2017, a country should simply ban pornography. Douthat’s assumption here is that men disconnected from pornography will once again begin pursuing actual women, and from there, Japanese culture will simply re-align itself along his preferred orientation because reasons, but also definitely magic.
Should we waste time noting that the article itself – which Douthat definitely read quickly – offers all of the following as evidence that pornography is the problem?
Artist Megumi Igarashi, 45, who once made a 3D image of her own vagina, said “building a relationship is not easy”.
“A boy has to start from asking a girl on a date,” she told the BBC.
“I think a lot of men just cannot be bothered.
“They can watch porn on the internet and get sexual satisfaction that way.“
Douthat’s expert, Megumi Igarashi, is also known as Rokudenashiko, and she, incidentally, was found guilty of obscenity in Japan for publishing data which allowed those with 3D printers to create a replica of her vagina. She may have also made a copy herself. Hey, we all need hobbies and this isn’t about judging that, although one wonders how homemade vaginas fit within Douthat’s broader opposition to pornography; it’s easier to imagine him cheering her conviction than it is to imagine him siding with her autonomy to publish anatomical data. But whatever. Douthat curiously leaves his expert’s professional pursuits out of his own analysis, because meh, but also because focusing on Igarashi’s claim is a hell of a lot easier than focusing on this throwaway line at the end of the article.
The growing trend was attributed to less social pressure to marry as well as financial worries.
Oh! It would seem as though what was once an easily solved problem might, in fact, be far more tangled than the widespread availability of (internet) pornography. That is definitely an odd and very unexpected thing to be true of a truly complicated social problem. Predictably, social conservatives like Douthat have no interest in tackling deeply-rooted issues crammed full of nuance when they can instead implement impossible-to-achieve bans on things they do not personally approve of. Douthat is a hammer and all the world is a nail, so no matter the topic, the solution is always easy: other people need to stop being allowed to make decisions that Douthat finds appalling.
One of the many good things about Douthat’s thinking is there exists absolutely no evidence anywhere in the entirety of human history that would undermine the idea that ending access to a thing ends desire for a thing. Why, one of America’s greatest achievements was Prohibition, which ended the nation’s consumption of alcohol once and for all, and if that isn’t convincing enough, one only need look at our more modern War On Drugs, which has definitely worked perfectly, especially when you consider how nobody takes drugs anymore.
Douthat has changed on this subject incidentally. In the link to pornography above, he wrote this:
The extremes of anti-porn hysteria are unhelpful in this debate. If the turn toward an “everybody does it” approach to pornography and marriage is wrong, it’s because that approach is wrong in and of itself, not because porn is going to wreck society, destroy the institution of marriage, and turn thousands of rapists loose to prey on unsuspecting women. Smut isn’t going to bring down Western Civilization any more than Nero’s orgies actually led to the fall of Rome, and a society that expects near-universal online infidelity may run just as smoothly as a society that doesn’t.
Which is precisely why it’s so easy to say that the spread of pornography means that we’re just taking a turn, where sex and fidelity are concerned, toward realism, toward adulthood, toward sophistication. All we have to give up to get there is our sense of decency.
Douthat has even gone so far as to imagine his own occasional consumption of the stuff, but now is now and then was then, so here we are, with Douthat proposing, “Ban Porn” as a workable, realistic, reasonable fix.
Speaking of decency, one would expect though that Douthat would at least have enough of it to not engage in the sort of behavior that he excoriates other for. It surely isn’t too much to ask the man judging the sexual behavior of others to adhere to those standards himself. And yet, there is ample evidence that Douthat loves to consume media featuring loads of what would certainly appear to be the sexiest of sexy sex.
Why, just this week, he held court on Game Of Thrones, judging the show’s liberal fans:
The porn-y side of Game of Thrones helps keeps liberals deluded about why they like the show:https://t.co/NP7aooJVev
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 12, 2017
One wonders how it is exactly that he knows about the show’s “porn-y” side exactly, but if we are meant to believe that he has simply heard this from friends, he immediately wanted to make it very clear that he actually knew considerably much about the show’s complicated storytelling:
You don't want the egalitarian sex-positive Westerosi Republic. You want to be a bannerman to the Starks, a counselor to Daenerys.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 12, 2017
Ah, yes, the “sex-positive Westerosi Republic,” that common fact that we all know to be true of the show. For those wondering his level of regard for GoT, let it be loudly known: Douthat apparently loves the show and watches it maniacally. Which would, in theory, be fine if not for his other career as an aggressive tut-tutter. But we all have little whoopsies, those occasional things which otherwise stand at odds with rest of our described existences. We are human beings after all. Maybe it is the case that GoT is Douthat dipping his toes into darker waters, but he goes no further, and from that he feels he maintains the moral authority to condemn that which is indecent?
Inexplicable given his allegedly deep convictions against pornography, Douthat sure comes across like a frequent viewer of Lena Dunham’s Girls, if perhaps not its biggest fan. He definitely saw enough of the show to compare it other shows that were themselves absolutely full of sex, including The Sopranos (which featured this). Douthat would have us believe that he watched Girls because of its inherent critique of the world mid-feminism. “Do you see how awful all of this is?” and thus presumably only endured the show’s frequent sex. Douthat implores us to understand this and perhaps we are meant to believe that he averted his eyes during these, or, if cycling through all of those is too much, how about just this?
Well, okay. Douthat is a media critic (at times) after all. He has to consume this stuff after all. His family has to eat. He would certainly abstain from watching any of this if he was not being forced at gunpoint to watch. So, GoT, Girls, and The Sopranos, but that’s surely it. Surely he didn’t watch anything else that was also filled to the brim with depictions of raw sexuality? Except that he has also watched Mad Men (which featured this), True Detective (which featured this), and also Sex And The City (which featured this, plus a whole bunch of other stuff too).
And that’s before we get to his favorite movies which include, inexplicably, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Well…maybe not that inexplicable. (Is it worth delving into the man’s predilections for incredible violence, including the aforementioned GoT and The Sopranos, but also The Passion Of The Christ, Apocalypto, No Country For Old Men, Inglorious Basterds, Eastern Promises, and 28 Days Later? Nah, but boy oh boy is the thirst for one and the thirst for the other on full display.)
The defense here will be, yes, of course, these shows and movies do include vivid displays of raw sexuality, but they are not pornography, in the way that pornography is pornography, because these shows are artistic in a way that pornography isn’t. Douthat is not titillated, we absolutely must understand, because art and pornography are wholly different things. There is a line.
Douthat’s call to ban porn is almost certainly all about forbidding the sort of things he has admitted to…well, seeing…but only on occasion…when he was younger..but is almost certainly not a call to ban any of the things that he appears to passionately love, even though these things are stuffed full of sex. This is the moralizer’s game, in which the things the moralizer does are different than the things everybody else is doing. Think, for example, of Bill Bennett having the stones to moralize at all while pumping millions of dollars into slot machines.
Or, yknow, don’t. Bennett’s hypocrisy was stunning on its face. Douthat’s is a slightly more refined thing. Yes, he has proudly and voluntarily surrounded himself with mountains of Playboys and Hustlers you see, but unlike you people, he only reads them the articles. Why, he hadn’t even noticed the pictures at all, but even if he had, his loins never twitched, not even once. Such a thing would be indecent after all.