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Argument: Watching pornography can amount to adultery

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Ross Douthat. "Is Pornography Adultery?" The Atlantic. October 2008: "there’s an obvious line between leafing through a Playboy and pulling a Spitzer on your wife. But the line between Spitzer and the suburban husband who pays $29.95 a month to stream hard-core sex onto his laptop is considerably blurrier. The suburbanite with the hard-core porn hookup is masturbating to real sex, albeit at a DSL-enabled remove. He’s experiencing it in an intimate setting, rather than in a grind house alongside other huddled masturbators in raincoats, and in a form that’s customized to his tastes in a way that mass-market porn like Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas never was. There’s no emotional connection, true—but there presumably wasn’t one on Spitzer’s part, either.

This isn’t to say the distinction between hiring a prostitute and shelling out for online porn doesn’t matter; in moral issues, every distinction matters. But if you approach infidelity as a continuum of betrayal rather than an either/or proposition, then the Internet era has ratcheted the experience of pornography much closer to adultery than I suspect most porn users would like to admit.

[...] In the name of providing a low-risk alternative for males who would otherwise be tempted by “real” prostitutes and “real” affairs, we’re ultimately universalizing, in a milder but not all that much milder form, the sort of degradation and betrayal that only a minority of men have traditionally been involved in.

Go back to Philip Weiss’s pal and listen to him talk: Porn captures these women before they get smart … It’s painful to say, but that’s your boys’ night out. This is the language of a man who has accepted, not as a temporary lapse but as a permanent and necessary aspect of his married life, a paid sexual relationship with women other than his wife. And it’s the language of a man who has internalized a view of marriage as a sexual prison, rendered bearable only by frequent online furloughs with women more easily exploited than his spouse.

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