The Internet – at least in its current iteration – may be ruining the world as we know it. Of course I’m being melodramatic, but I’m also being serious. The ills of the web are nothing new. People are more isolated than ever, covet other people’s lives more than ever, and have shorter attention spans than ever. But what I am most distraught about is the way the Internet is destroying intimacy between couples to a terrifying degree. While I have worried about this problem for quite some time, The New York Times – not exactly the most conservative outlet – is finally in agreement.
This week Maureen Dowd penned the article “What’s Lust Got to Do With It?” in which she notes that there seems to be a trend in women having sex with men they’re not interested in. She is not talking about rape. She is speaking of women who sleep around despite the fact that it is not enjoyable to them. She reaches out to Joanna Coles, the chief content officer of Hearst magazines (previously editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire) who has a new book on the topic, “Love Rules,” to discuss the troubling phenomenon.
Coles’s book came about after she spoke to a friend’s daughter who described how she spends her weekends in college. The friend’s daughter explained: “My friends and I all go out on Friday nights, get drunk and hook up. And on Saturday morning, we go down to the health center together to get Plan B.”
Dowd includes several quotes from Coles which are completely on the money, such as:
“If hooking up is so much fun for young women, why do they need to be insensate to do it?”
“We portray it as fun and we pretend it’s fun. But people crave intimacy, which is not easy to create in a hookup.”
I recently wrote about how destructive the hook up culture is for females and followed up with an article on how the Torah (when practiced correctly) is incredibly sensitive to women’s needs. So maybe I don’t have to fear the destruction of the world as we know it. Maybe we at Jew in the City can just put the information out there, and anyone who wants an alternative can go out and get it.
But the problem is – a major cause of the drunken, soulless hook up culture has, unfortunately, come to the observant Jewish community too: porn.
The final and perhaps most important quote from Coles is: “There’s a new sense in which young women feel that they are now in competition with porn, and if they don’t put out, it’s easy for the guy to go home [to the Internet] log in and get what he needs there. They’re sublimating their own needs to try and please the guy. Then they realize their needs weren’t being met at all.”
No one has statistics on what percentage of Orthodox boys and men are watching porn. In the general population, the number of men who watch it is 90%. From the frum therapists I’ve spoken to, despite our values, despite our faith, and despite our filters, the stuff is so easy to access and so addictive, it has infiltrated our community to a worrisome degree.
For the first time in history, observant Jewish women are marrying men who have had the most access to the most explicit, extreme, and violent content that has ever been out there. Experts warn that frequent viewers often escalate to more intense content, and as Coles mentioned, any woman who is with a man who is watching porn may feel that she is in competition with it. Dowd describes elsewhere in her piece that many men expect that what plays out on the screen will play out in their bedroom.
There is no simple answer to this terrifying problem. We must first explicitly raise our sons to value women. To show, as I am trying to do, how objectification of women begins to trickle into media even meant for young people. We need to have frank conversations with our sons and daughters about how damaging this content can be to their marriages. We must put up filters, build up trust, make sure we know the houses are children are spending time in, and do a LOT of praying.
It just occurred to me that TV and radio start off (relatively) clean, and a person has to spend money and put out effort to gain access to more explicit content. With the Internet, it’s the exact opposite. It starts off with access to the most vile stuff imaginable, and then through money and effort we can work to clean it up. What if there were a way for basic internet to start off clean? The CEO of Instagram is trying to find a way to tidy up the cesspool that is the world wide web.
The world is finally waking up to the fact that this is not an issue of “prudish people,” this is an issue for human people. We need to devote serious resources to fixing this problem we made. The future of civilization might depend on it.