Jonathon van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars

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“Pornography is the humiliation and degradation of women. It’s a disgraceful activity. I don’t want to be associated with it," said Noam Chomsky.

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Fancy that. Noam Chomsky was right about porn.

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Anti-porn activists often face this accusation: You’re right-wing prudes. You just hate sex. But what many fail to realize is that there have been many left-wing thinkers—even far left-wing thinkers—who saw porn for precisely what it is: Exploitation, dehumanization, and victimization. They are intellectuals who, regardless of how much and how often I disagree with them on other issues, are at least consistent when they say that they oppose the exploitation of women and girls.

Let me give you a few prominent examples.

Of the feminists who did speak out against pornography, writer and intellectual Andrea Dworkin was by far the most vehement. Having read some of the same research that she did, and spoken to many people whose lives have been torn apart, like she did, I can understand some of the full-throated fury that comes through in her lectures, her writings, and her books. In Pornography: Men Possessing Women, she eviscerated her comrades on the Left for their acceptance of pornography:

“Poverty is not wicked or cruel when it is the poverty of dispossessed women who have only themselves to sell; violence by the powerful against the powerless is not wicked or cruel when it is called sex; slavery is not wicked or cruel when it is sexual slavery; torture is not wicked or cruel when the tormented are women, whores…The new pornography is left-wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.”

Her work is chilling to read, because she uses crude and graphic language to create a horror in her audience as she describes pornography for what it really is. Knowing the state of our porn-soaked university campuses, I wonder what the audience at a lecture she gave at the University of Chicago Law School felt:

“Dehumanization is real. It happens in real life; it happens to stigmatized people. It has happened to us, to women. We say that women are objectified. We hope that people will think that we are very smart when we use a long word. But being turned into an object is a real event; and the pornographic object is a particular kind of object. It is a target. You are turned into a target. And red or purple marks the spot where he's supposed to get you.”

And I wonder what all of the pseudo-Marxist fanboys I went to university with would think if they knew what Noam Chomsky had to say about pornography. When asked about it in an interview, he was abruptly dismissive:

“Pornography is the humiliation and degradation of women. It’s a disgraceful activity. I don’t want to be associated with it. Just take a look at the pictures. Women are degraded as vulgar sex objects. That’s not what human beings are. I don’t see anything to discuss.”

He went further when asked the most common question porn defenders like to bandy about: Didn’t these women choose to be in the porn industry?

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“The fact that people agree to it and are paid,” Chomsky replied, “is about as convincing as the fact that we should be in favor of sweat-shops in China where women are locked into a factory and work fifteen hours a day and the factory burns down and they all die. Yeah, they were paid and they consented, but that doesn’t make me in favor of it. So that argument we can’t even talk about. As to the fact that it’s some people’s erotica, well, that’s their problem. Doesn’t mean I have to contribute to it. If they get enjoyment out of humiliation of women then they have a problem.”

Radical feminist Naomi Wolf takes it a step further—she says that pornography not only degrades and humiliates women, but seeks to replace them entirely. Men don’t need real women anymore, since they can type the specific woman, specific sex act, specific anything into a Google search bar and the depraved depths of the Internet will vomit up their preferred perversity.

In Wolf’s words:

“The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ‘porn-worthy’…Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?... Today, real naked women are just bad porn…

The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy. The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman. Mostly, when I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike. They know they are lonely together, even when conjoined, and that this imagery is a big part of that loneliness. What they don’t know is how to get out, how to find each other again…”

RELATED: This former porn star is exposing porn’s secrets: and it should make you very, very uncomfortable

One of the most devastating takedowns of porn in the world of left-wing literature has to be Chris Hedges’ 2009 masterpiece Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. I disagree with him on why things are the way they are, but his diagnoses of cultural decadence are masterful, and his descriptions feel like punches. In Chapter II: The Illusion of Love, Hedges spends nearly 33 pages dismantling the porn industry and exposing the sexual violence with the precision of a surgeon:

“The porn films are not about sex. Sex is airbrushed and digitally washed out of the films. There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality. The only emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men, especially if that desire involves the women’s physical and emotional degradation. The lighting in the films is harsh and clinical…Porn, which advertises itself as sex, is a bizarre, bleached pantomime of sex. The acts onscreen are beyond human endurance. The scenarios are absurd…Those in the films are puppets, packaged female commodities. They have no honest emotions, are devoid of authentic human beauty, and resemble plastic. Pornography does not promote sex, if one defines sex as a shared act between two partners. It promotes masturbation. It promotes auto-arousal that precludes intimacy and love. Pornography is about getting yourself off at someone else’s expense.”

The reason that much of our society refuses to recognize pornography as glamorized, recreational cyber-rape is simply because too many people are consuming it. Pornography is normalized and joked about on nearly every comedy sitcom on TV. Many porn stars make cross-over appearances in music videos and Hollywood films. Porn conventions are packed with sad, pathetic men trailing about to get fan-selfies with porn girls half their age. It’s no wonder that some of the more intelligent culture warriors of the Left look at their revolutions of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s with a dispirited and downcast gaze—they didn’t manage to liberate sex, after all. All they did was hand it to the corporations and capitalist carpetbaggers that always follow revolutions to mangle and mass-market.

And then, if many intellectuals of the Left and Right are to be believed, they all but destroyed it. As Christopher Buckley, the left-leaning son of the great right-wing icon William F. Buckley noted: “As anyone who’s had even a fleeting experience of porn knows: porn is to Eros what crack is to joy: an industrial-quality stimulant, an attaching of jumper cables to the libido.”

On porn, Noam Chomsky has it right. We should want no part in it.

RELATED: Neuroscience has proved that porn is literally making men’s brains more childish. Seriously.

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Jonathon van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.

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