Compared to pulling out one’s phone and watching titillating videos, taking a person out and having a conversation is difficult and uninteresting. Compared to the easy pleasure of pornography, the lasting pleasure of a happy marriage or even a job well-done is relatively pointless. Compared to the stress-free satisfaction of virtual sex, the hard-won satisfaction of raising children and building a business is unrealistic. As Rousseau points out in the last book of Emile (and as the show Futurama humorously illustrates in one of its episodes), so much personal and civilizational achievement is built on men’s natural drive to impress women.
In those periodic moments where public discourse centers on the topic of pornography, it is always put in terms of the individual. There is abundant science behind pornography consumption, showing its effects on the brain and one’s reproductive health as well as its addictiveness. Many critics will also point out how constant stimulation of pornographic content warps a person’s view of sex and other people. To appeal to the broadest audiences, the language is always kept secular and clinical with little reference to the morality of it.
When morality does enter the conversation, it is usually in reference to the producers of pornography. They are exploiting and objectifying the people involved (mostly women). And, in many cases, they will abuse and coerce minors as well, even drawing criticism from writers for The New York Times.
However, besides acknowledging the harm that pornography inflicts on the individuals involved, few people consider pornography’s effect on the community. Although a few have likened pornography to other vices like alcoholism or drug abuse, this analogy is somewhat misleading for two reasons. First, watching pornography is far more widespread, with nearly 80% of Americans consuming it monthly. If this same percentage held for alcohol or drug addictions, a significant portion of the population would be dead.