Jonathon van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars

The abortion of JFK’s children was evil – but it’s also a tragic loss

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Did you know that John F. Kennedy had more than four children? That writers Christopher and Peter Hitchens had two other siblings? That Marilyn Monroe actually had a large number of children?

I’m not particularly fond of the argument that I’ve heard many pro-lifers use: “Abortion is wrong because of all the amazing people we’ve aborted. One of them could have had the cure to cancer!” Abortion is fundamentally wrong because it ends the life of a developing human being, whether that human being would turn out to be a drug addict or the president of the United States. However, it is an interesting thought experiment—not least of all because so many people considered heroes by the Left have aborted their children or had their children aborted.

For example, I think of liberal icon President John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy Family is probably the closest thing America had to a royal family, although revelations over the last several decades have rather firmly repudiated the idea of an impossibly happy Camelot, as historians reveal anecdote after sordid anecdote of relentless philandering. Anecdotes of President Kennedy’s devastation at the 1963 death of his two-day old son, Patrick, are well-documented. The Kennedys also lost a daughter in 1956—Arabella, as her parents intended to name her, was stillborn.

Revolutions famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different.

But stories abound of JFK’s affairs ending in abortions. Mimi Alford, a White House intern that JFK had a relationship with for over a year, reported that when she told the president she believed she was pregnant, he “took the news in his stride.” Shortly afterward, she was contacted by a White House staffer named Dave Powers, often assigned to protect the president’s reputation.

“An hour later,” Alford recalls, “Dave called the dorm and told me to call a woman who could put me in touch with a doctor in New Jersey. The intermediary was a necessary precaution, because abortion was illegal. That was pure Dave Powers: he handled the problem immediately, and with brute practicality. There was no talk about what I wanted, or how I felt, or what the medical risks might be.”

Another of JFK’s famous mistresses, Judith Campbell Exner, reported having an abortion in 1963 after becoming pregnant by the president. Not all Kennedys, it seems, end up in Washington, D.C. Some of them end up in trash cans behind seedy clinics, victims of their parents’ sexual ideology.

Another icon of the Left that comes to mind when I think of the human cost of abortion is the late author and columnist Christopher Hitchens. Fans of the Hitch are fierce in their devotion, with his brother Peter, a well-known conservative author, noting that his brother’s fans often burn with fanatical hatred against him, furious that a conservative Christian (who wrote his brilliant book The Rage Against God partially in response to his brother’s philosophically feeble atheist tome God Is Not Great) could bear the same last name as their hero. Both brothers are extraordinary writers and journalists, having collectively written dozens of books and published essays and columns in the most prestigious publications.

What many people don’t realize is that there were originally four Hitchens siblings, not two. As Christopher relates in his Vanity Fair essay “Fetal Distraction”:

I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh.

Christopher noted further that at least two children of his own had their lives ended by abortion, recalling sombrely that, “at least once I found myself in a clinic while ‘products of conception’ were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.”

Perhaps this was because Christopher Hitchens allowed himself no illusion, writing that, “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows that emotions are not the deciding factor. In order to terminate a pregnancy, you have to still a heartbeat, switch off a developing brain, and, whatever the method, break some bones and rupture some organs.”

Although to my knowledge Peter Hitchens has never addressed the fact of his aborted siblings in print, on abortion he has much to say. “Those who wonder what they would have done had they lived at the time of some terrible injustice now know the answer,” he has said. “We do live in such a time. And we do nothing.”

When considering the lives and careers of the Hitchens brothers we know, we cannot help but wonder what the lives of the two that we do not would have been like.

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The list of politicians, writers, and cultural figures who have discarded their own children are myriad. Comedian Chelsea Handler has talked openly about having an abortion. Sharon Osbourne calls having an abortion at seventeen the mistake of her life. According to author Norman Mailer, the tragic Marilyn Monroe had twelve abortions by her late-twenties. Whoopi Goldberg of The View, Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy, Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz all aborted children. Ava Gardner reportedly aborted two of Frank Sinatra’s children, while the smut-peddling rapper ‘Lil Kim aborted the Notorious B.I.G’s child, which they conceived during an affair. Famed singer Sinead O’Connor had an abortion while on tour in Minneapolis.

It’s especially bizarre, I think, when those on the Left turn out to enthusiastically celebrate any new revelation of a cultural figure having an abortion. The more they admire the person, it seems the happier they are at the “courage” of said person having had an abortion. A bit unintentionally insulting, don’t you think? I admire you so much! I’m so glad you terminated a child that might have had your talent or been a lot like you!

Revolutions, however, famously do not discriminate in their grim reaping of human life. The Sexual Revolution is no different, even though we’ve replaced guillotines with Planned Parenthood clinics. The crowds cheered both, and the similarity between a howling mob and a pro-choice rally is striking to say the least. Perhaps it is Peter Hitchens who has the best explanation: “I think that abortion is much beloved by revolutionaries,” he noted gravely, “because they always like the mob to get their hands in blood and commit some sort of crime of their own.”

Abortion is evil because it violently destroys a human being. But one of the reasons abortion is tragic is that it has robbed us of so many who might have given so much to humanity.

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Russell Brand just destroyed porn in one of the most jaw-droppingly awesome rants ever

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

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It turns out even a broken clock is right twice a day. The notorious pseudo-revolutionary and unfunny British comedian Russell Brand has come out with a new video on his online “news” show The Trews—and it’s dedicated to a succinct, intelligent, and broad-ranging condemnation of pornography.

Admitting the truth about pornography—that it is dangerously unhealthy and promotes rape culture—is becoming increasingly mainstream. But for someone like Russell Brand—star of several pseudo-pornographic films, purveyor of yawningly stereotypical left-wing tropes, and admittedly having led a very promiscuous lifestyle—to detail the dangers of pornography in such an honest and open way is impressive to say the least.

And honest and open he was.

Brand begins the video by bemoaning the popularity of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" film, calling it “soft-core porn.” Soft-core porn, he notes, is changing the way we relate to one another.

“Our attitudes towards sex have become warped and perverted,” Brand ranted, “and have deviated from its true function as an expression of love and a means for procreation. Because our acculturation—the way we’ve designed it and expressed it—has become really, really, confused.”

If you’re wondering if that was, in fact, Russell Brand who said that, I double-checked just to be sure. It was.

“I heard a quote from a priest that said ‘pornography isn’t a problem because it shows too much, it’s a problem because it shows too little,” Brand told his audience. But this “priest” wasn’t intending to say that porn should feature more “filthy shots of things,” Brand noted. He was saying that “porn reduces the spectacle of sex to a kind of extracted physical act.”

With impressive honesty and vulnerability, Brand pulled out a list of statistics detailing the negative aspects of pornography.

Exaggerated perception of sexuality in society?

“I think that a bit!”

Diminished trust between intimate couples?

“I get that sometimes.”

The abandonment of hope for sexual monogamy?

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible!”

The belief that promiscuity is the natural state?

“I don’t want to have that belief! I was obsessed with porn when I was a teenager.”

But talking about porn magazines in 2015 sounds almost nostalgic, Brand admitted. “Now there’s just icebergs of filth floating through every house on Wi-Fi. It’s inconceivable what it must be like to be an adolescent boy now with this kind of access to porn. It must be dizzying and exciting, yet corrupting in a way we can’t even imagine.”

“I think my own past with pornography is the hub of my inner conflict and doubt,” Brand confessed. “I know pornography is wrong, and that I shouldn’t be looking at it, and that lots of people who are working in it are doing so for the wrong reasons—desperation, self-doubts - I’m sure there’s loads of people that work in porn that go, ‘Hey I love it! - but there’s a general feeling, isn’t there, in your core if you look at pornography that this isn’t what’s the best thing for me to do, this isn’t the best use of my time. I don’t put that laptop lid down and think, There! What a productive piece of time spent, connecting with the world!”

We’re lying, Brand stated firmly, if we pretend the “soft cultural smog” of pornography isn’t making it harder to relate to ourselves and to others. Porn—even soft-core porn—often leads directly to objectification.

“Guilty of that all of the time,” Brand admitted. “Because I’ve been acculturated and trained to. This is something I work on—but once that biological drive to procreate is connected to a culture of objectification, it’s a very hard equation to break… Because this powerful primal resource—whenever it’s plugged in—is jarring and distracting. I think what it is, is the circuit in the mind that’s connected to sexuality moves very, very quickly. The circuit that’s connected to love and compassion moves a little bit slower. So if you’re constantly bombarded by great waves of filth, it’s really difficult to remain connected to truth.”

To Brand, the impact of porn is apparent to anyone willing to take an honest look.

“I feel like if I had total dominion over myself I would never look at pornography again. I would kick it out of my life…Me, porn is not something I like, it’s not something I’ve been able to make a long-term commitment to not looking at, and it’s affecting my ability to relate to women, to relate to myself, to my own sexuality, to my own spirituality.”

And what about so-called “feminist” porn? It’s all porn that’s problematic, says Brand, not just male-centric porn. “Feminist pornography” is not the answer to misogyny. Porn is the problem, period. Creating female porn “is like trying to solve the problem of racism by inventing a word for white people by balck people that’s equally bad as the n-word. The direction we should be going in is how can we understand our sexuality, how can we express it lovingly, in harmony with the principles that it’s there to demonstrate—to procreation and sensual love between consenting adults.”

That’s not just Brand’s position. With one addition to that sentence—“between consenting adults within the context of marriage”—that’s the Christian position.

It’s not just Brand’s analysis that is a valuable contribution to the cultural discussion surrounding pornography. It’s also his willingness to be honest about the impact pornography has had on his life and his relationships and the way he sees the world. Brand is not a social conservative by any stretch of the imagination—he’s just someone who sees the way porn has changed him, and hates it. And it is because of people like him, people willing to be honest with themselves and others, that the cultural conversation is changing. Brand’s typical audience, I would venture to say, probably does not hear such a powerful statement on the evils of pornography very often.

As Brand and others who revelled in everything that the Sexual Revolution had to offer come forward to explain how it actually impacted them, our culture is forced to recognize truths they’ve been long ignoring. Treasured dogmas of the Sexual Revolution are crumbling before our eyes. They’ve had dominion over our culture for nearly half a century. But as people start recognizing what pornography does to them and reclaiming their dignity and their relationships, we can start moving in the right direction.

And what is the right direction? Attaining what Russell Brand wishes for himself: Dominion over our vices—so that we can root pornography out of our lives once and for all.

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The concept of 'legal personhood' has literally left a sea of corpses in its wake. So why do we continue to use it?

The shockingly bloody history of ‘legal personhood’

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

I’ve been on campus at the University of Central Florida this week with a team of volunteers, debating university students on the issue of abortion. One mark of our generation seems to come up in many of my conversations: An ignorance of history. “He who does not know the past,” John G. Diefenbaker once noted, “can never understand the present, and he certainly can do nothing for the future.” A prescient statement—in regards to abortion, we are destroying the future, child by butchered child.

Time and time again, students bring up the same tired arguments to support abortion. Once you’ve established the scientific basis for the pro-life position, they respond blithely, “Perhaps the child in the womb is a human being, but it’s not a person.”

“It that’s the case,” I respond, “Let’s take a look at when the concept of ‘legal personhood’ has been used as a device to deprive human beings of their human rights based on arbitrarily selected criteria.” The list is devastating.

They’re often stunned when I respond by telling them that they’re using discriminatory and exclusionary language: “What? Why?” I ask them to respond to one simple question: “Name one time in human history when the phrase 'legal personhood' was used to include or protect a group of people.”

Blank stares. Not a single student can name a single instance of the idea of “legal personhood” being used to protect human beings and ensure that their right to life is respected.

“If that’s the case,” I respond, “Let’s take a look at when the concept of ‘legal personhood’ has been used as a device to deprive human beings of their human rights based on arbitrarily selected criteria.”

The list is devastating. African-Americans were denied “legal personhood,” and were enslaved, murdered, raped, and abused as the result. Native Americans were denied “legal personhood,” and were systematically robbed, forced onto reserves, and in many cases, killed. Jewish people in Germany were excluded from “legal personhood” status, and six million of them were slaughtered. Women were not considered to be “legal persons,” and thus could not vote, get an education, or in some cases even have custody of their own children.

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And today, in 2015, millions of developing human beings in the womb are poisoned, shredded, dismembered, and discarded by nations that often begrudgingly recognize their humanity, but deny their “legal personhood.”

Every single one of these examples differs drastically, but there is one common denominator. In each case, dehumanization led to victimization. In each case, “human rights” became a meaningless term, as the right to life inherent to our humanity was instead deemed a privilege to be given by the strong to the weak, with the hated or the inconvenient often excluded. Those who commit abortions may not be dehumanizing pre-born children in the womb with malice. But the end result—victimization—is still the same nonetheless.

“Your ideas concerning legal personhood have a long history,” I tell the students. “Do you think that history might reflect badly on your position? Do you see parallels?”

In most cases, they do. “So what, in your view, should we do about this difficult abortion situation?” one young man asked me yesterday.

“It’s simple,” I responded. “Human beings have human rights. Human rights must begin when the human being begins, or we are only granting rights based on arbitrary criteria that will lead to the victimization of some. In a society where different religious groups and different cultures believe different things about the pre-born child in the womb, we must ensure that the rights of the youngest human beings are protected based on who they are, not how certain groups of people might feel about them. Perhaps different groups disagree about ‘legal personhood,’ or when the pre-born human gets a soul, or whether consciousness translates into value. But in order to protect all human beings in a multicultural society, we have to fall back on a scientific fact we are all forced to recognize: The human being begins his or her life at fertilization. That is the only rational point at which we must recognize their human rights.”

“And what about personhood?” the young man asked, nodding slowly.

“Let me ask you this,” I said. “Every pro-choice person I’ve talked to today has had a different opinion about when the pre-born child becomes valuable. Some say twelve weeks, some say eighteen weeks, some say twenty-four. They all have different reasons for their opinion, and different reasons for feeling about pre-born humans the way they do. But should pre-born humans be protected based on a scientifically knowable fact—that they are unique, unrepeatable human beings—or based on how different groups of people in our society feel about them? Which is the more rational, humane, and moral way of dealing with this question? In which human rights doctrine—our consistent one or their arbitrary one—is every human being, regardless of age, vulnerability, race, or creed—kept safe?”

“Only in yours,” he admitted. He stood up, still nodding. “Your view is the only one that is consistent and makes sense.”

Our culture may not know their history well. And that’s why it’s the responsibility of those who fight for the human rights of pre-born children to point out that the intellectual history of “legal personhood” is a laundry lists of discrimination, exclusion, and bloodshed. The opinions of pro-“choice” people should not be permitted to infringe on the fundamental right to life of other human beings. Their feelings regarding the value of the youngest members of the human family should not provide a justification for the barbarism of abortion. Their trash philosophy should not be legislated. Rather, when we are asking ourselves who is owed human rights, we can only have one moral answer: Human beings.

Pro-choice people have the right to their opinions and their semantics. They do not have the right to use those opinions and semantics to justify the destruction of other human beings.

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Every day it is becoming more difficult to be both a good Christian and a successful lawyer, doctor, or civil servant. And that's the whole point.

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‘You can be Christian, or you can be successful’: how leftists are (successfully) working to squeeze us out

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

I always find it fascinating to travel in formerly Communist countries—the combination of decaying Soviet architecture and Western modernity, the resilience of the people, and above all, how in so many cases it was Christianity that helped the oppressed peoples hold onto their families, their cultural heritage, and hope. There are so many lessons Westerners should learn from how Communism took hold, and how its leaders tried to oppress, disenfranchise, and homogenize the peoples under their rule.

Indeed, there are striking similarities between how the totalitarian Communists of the Eastern Bloc and the cultural Marxists here in the West attempt to enforce their secular and anti-Christian ideology.

One similarity struck me in Budapest last week, when our tour guide stopped on the steps of the St. Stephan Cathedral to explain how the Hungarian Communists “dealt with” the Christians. It wasn’t that you couldn’t be a Christian, she said. You could pray at home, worship at home with your family, even get baptized and go to church. However, you had a choice. “You could either be a Christian,” she told us, “or you could be successful.” Case in point: Because her family was Christian and she was baptized, her sister was the first member of their family to be able to attend university, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

It’s a clever tactic, and a dangerous one, as it gives Christians less and less control over their own futures. If fewer Christians enter politics, our voice in the House of Commons grows quieter. If fewer Christians enter the field of medicine, the entire field suffers. And if organizations like Legal Leaders for Diversity have their way, there will be far fewer Christian lawyers.

This tactic is very much being utilized by cultural Marxists (or “secularists” to use the more familiar term) here in the West as well. We still have freedom of religion in Canada—we can worship with our families, attend church, and hold whichever views we choose to hold. But what the cultural Marxists are attempting to do is to give people a choice in the West: You can be a Christian, or you can be successful.

One of the easiest ways to push Christians to the margins of society is to slowly but surely implement policies that force them out of traditionally elite professions, such as law and medicine. And that is precisely what the cultural enforcers of secularism have been doing—and they’re picking up speed. It’s not full-out war on Christianity, yet—rather, it is death by a thousand cuts.

For example, Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons recently tabled a proposal that would force doctors to provide abortions and contraceptives in certain circumstances, and coerce them to refer for them in virtually all. According to LifeSiteNews:

The proposed policy would compel a physician who refuses a procedure for reasons of conscience to assist the patient in finding a doctor who would provide the procedure. If a referral is not possible, it says, the doctor “must provide care that is urgent or otherwise necessary to prevent imminent harm, suffering, and/or deterioration, even where that care conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.” Released in December, the College’s governing council will vote on the policy in June.

In other words, if these proposals were passed, Christians would have to consider the fact that the medical establishment would attempt to force them into unethical behaviors, possibly including the destruction of human life. Thanks to this policy many Christians considering medical school could well decide to opt for a field that does not force them into ethical dilemmas. And the ultimate goal of keeping Christians out of the medical establishment is furthered.

In other words: “You can be a Christian, or you can be a successful doctor.”

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The same goes for the legal profession in Canada, with the attack on Christians in the legal community being most publicly manifested in the actions taken against the proposed law school at Trinity Western University. Trinity Western University is, of course, a Christian university, and like many other Christian schools, asks that its students sign a covenant pledging obedience to the biblical view of morality, including on sexuality. Because of this traditional Christian view, the Law Society of British Columbia, the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, and the Law Society of Upper Canada declared that they would bar any graduates of Trinity Western’s proposed law school from practicing law—ironically, because they felt that Trinity Western was not appropriately “inclusive.”

Here, at least, Christians in Canada have scored one major victory, when Justice Campbell of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court unceremoniously overturned the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society’s decision. According to LifeSiteNews, Campbell wrote:

In trying to shun TWU students...the law society exceeded its authority. Its mandate to regulate legal practice in Nova Scotia does not include the power to order universities or law schools to change their policies. There is no indication TWU students would be inadequately trained, yet the law society would ban them anyway,...If TWU did not exist, the same students holding the same beliefs would be free to obtain law degrees elsewhere.

Just so. But other organizations in Canada are working hard and fast to make sure that reasonable judges like Justice Campbell do not prevail. Organizations like one of Trinity Western’s most ardent foes, “Legal Leaders for Diversity” (LLD). Although many Christians have never heard of this organization, the policies that LLD seeks to implement in the legal sphere have dramatic consequences. As Ottawa lawyer Albertos Pozigolopolous recently wrote in Cardus:

The Legal Leaders for Diversity (LLD)… is made up of the heads of the legal departments from more than 70 major corporations. The campaign involves its own form of community covenant by these 70+ corporations (including BMO, Ford, The Globe and Mail and the Edmonton Oilers) to restrict hiring of law firms for their legal work to those who have a commitment to “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” The LLD’s definition of these words requires approval of same-sex marriage and excludes Christians or others who might have a different opinion.

The LLD publicly opposed TWU’s proposed law school on the basis that TWU’s Community Covenant is not “inclusive.”

This direct attack on Christian lawyers is meant to create a chilling effect in the legal profession. Lawyers who work for law firms seeking to do business with these corporations will hesitate, and perhaps even be barred from voicing their religious and moral beliefs, or for acting for religious clients in human rights cases dealing with these issues. It’s a scary time to be a Christian lawyer in Canada.

In other words? If Legal Leaders for Diversity have their way, you can be Christian, or you can be a successful lawyer.

Canada’s politics has also become increasingly hostile towards Christians. In Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrat Party, no one holding the Christian view of human life in regards to abortion can run for office. And most recently, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has also put out the message that Christians Need Not Apply: Only those willing to vote in favor of the legal destruction of human life by abortion can run under the blood-red Liberal flag. For those seeking to represent their fellow citizens, the options for political office have become slim indeed. The message they intend to send? You can be Christian in Canada. But only if you check your Christian values at the door of the House of Commons can you be successful.

It’s a clever tactic, and a dangerous one, as it gives Christians less and less control over their own futures. If fewer Christians enter politics, our voice in the House of Commons grows quieter. If fewer Christians enter the field of medicine, the entire field suffers. And if organizations like Legal Leaders for Diversity have their way, there will be far fewer Christian lawyers - which means that as Christians increasingly need legal assistance to defend their dwindling religious freedoms, they will have fewer lawyers to rely on.

The cultural Marxists of the West do not need to use the jackboot of the Communists of the East. Their totalitarianism and anti-Christian ideology is implemented at a slower pace and in a quieter fashion, but the effect is just as dangerous. If we are not very careful, and listening very closely, the day will soon arrive in Canada, and all across the West, where you can be a Christian, or you can be successful.

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Is that who we want to be? Is that consistent with our own moral principles? And even at a more basic level, does that kind of arrangement really make us happy? Do we feel fulfilled?

Not convinced that porn is wrong? Then quit because it’s making you miserable.

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

I was very pleased to see that GQ Magazine has joined the growing number of secular publications that are beginning the painful process of examining our out-of-control cultural obsession with pornography, recently publishing an article entitled 10 Reasons You Should Quit Watching Porn.

While a number of prominent feminists (including Naomi Wolf) have openly condemned pornography, men have been slow to engage in the discussion, for obvious reasons. Recently, I decided I wanted to get a male perspective on the porn plague for my radio show—so I called up one of the foremost male scholars in the field, Dr. Robert Jensen, author of both “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity” and “Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality,” co-authored with Dr. Gail Dines.

Dr. Jensen, a self-described radical feminist, approaches the pornography discussion with a pragmatism that eschews much of the sound and fury that makes up the debate elsewhere. Men, he believes, often just really haven’t thought through what they’re doing when they consume porn.

“For me,” he told me, “the challenge to men—originally it was just the challenge to myself, and then I became part of the [anti-porn] movement—a broader challenge was, ‘Is that who we want to be? Is that consistent with our own moral principles and political principles?’ And even at a more basic level, does that kind of arrangement really make us happy? Do we feel fulfilled?

And that’s one of the ways we need to speak about this. Not just to talk about the sexual exploitation industries, in the way that they injure women—and they do injure women in all sorts of ways—but also the way they leave us men in very constrained, confined, and in the end incredible roles…The effect of these sexual exploitation industries and then violence more generally on women is pretty clear. But I think men also have to think about what it does to us as human beings.

A lot of this boils down to how pornography inevitably shapes the relationships men have with the women in their lives. Dr. Jensen is not convinced by male bravado in regards to porn use. When they obsess over pornography, men often watch the rest of their lives disintegrate.

I’ve spoken to a lot of men and women over the years, both in formal interview situations and just informally after talks or presentations. And what’s clear is that the repeated habitual use of pornography, especially the most cruel and degrading forms of pornography that present women as these degraded objects, that the habitual use of that kind of pornography by men has a direct effect on relationships.

So, I’ve heard from many men and women about how the male partner’s use of pornography will distort what had perhaps prior to that been a healthy, intimate and sexual relationship. These stories are piling up everywhere. I always say - it’s partly joke but it’s actually very accurate - that if you want to know about the effects of repeated pornography use on heterosexual relationships in this culture, there are two kinds of people you can ask. One is marriage therapists and the other is divorce lawyers, because these things are actually coming up as relationships disintegrate.

Dr. Robert Jensen sees pornography as a great threat to women’s rights, because the systematic dehumanization of women through pornography is leaking into the culture in dangerous ways.

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“Society has become less sexist,” he told me. "Women have more access to higher education, they can make more inroads into politics and government…but we’ve also lost ground. And I think this question of rape, pornography, and the trivializing of sexual violence is one of those reasons where we’ve lost ground, and I think in fact that’s part of the reason people have so much trouble talking about pornography. Now, I’ve always said that, and people say, ‘Well, the reason we don’t talk about porn is we have trouble talking about sex!’ And I always say, ‘Look around at this culture. People are talking about sex all the time!’"

The cultural discussion around pornography, Dr. Jensen points out, is actually a very good opportunity for feminists and religious conservatives to find common ground. Both groups, after all, oppose the dehumanization of women.

I think this is actually one of the issues where conversation between conservatives - you know, often people rooted in a particular religious perspective - there’s a real possibility for dialogue with a least one part of the feminist movement. Now, as you pointed out, other segments of the feminist movement are celebrating pornography and calling it liberation, and the dialogue there is more difficult. But I’m always eager to engage on all of these issues, and as someone who considers himself on the Left, and a radical feminist, but also goes to church, I find church space is very important for this because even when there are significant differences in theology between people within a Christian community in my case, there’s still the common ground for dialogue and that’s more important than ever.

Men, Dr. Jensen says, hate being talked down to—which is one of the reasons that men can speak out about pornography to other men in a powerful way.

When I talk to men about this, I don’t pretend that, you know, I’m somehow on high and mighty throne telling people how to behave. I grew up as a man in, post-WWII America, what I would call the Playboy World, and I struggled with this and to some degree still struggle, which is why I stay away from pornography of all kinds because I feel like it takes me into a place where I don’t like the person I am. Now that’s often a hard conversation for men who are trained to be tough and stoic and not reveal emotion, but those are the kind of conversations I think we have to have and I think we can have them. At least in my own life, I know I’ve been able to have them.

And these conversations, Dr. Jensen believes, are essential to moving the discussion forward. There is no one magic bullet, no one strategy to fighting the influence of pornography in our culture. But opening up dialogue with male consumers is one indispensable part of that strategy.

“One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re man, and you’re trying to disconnect from the pornographic world by yourself, if you want to go it alone, I can guarantee you you’ll fail,” he told me. “Because these are difficult questions and they’re very hard to negotiate on our own.”

So we have to find these kinds of spaces where men can talk to each other and the notion of porn as addiction is, I think, actually very complex. I’m not comfortable calling the use of pornography or the use of any media an addiction in terms that we typically use that for drugs and alcohol. But certainly there are patterns of habitual repeated use that people engaged in the activity can recognize is counterproductive, that it’s hurting themselves - yet they’re compelled to do it. Whether we call that compulsion addiction, or whatever we want to call it, men are more and more aware of this.

When I first started doing work on this, 25 years ago, I could be guaranteed that most men would be hostile. For what I’ve noticed and what Gail [Dines] and I talked about over the years is that because more and more men are troubled by exactly what you’re describing, the sense that what they’re doing is not only wrong in some political or moral sense, but it’s affecting the way they are able to be with their female partner, that these men are compelled now to think about this almost out of self-interest, because they can feel what it’s doing to them. I think that’s part of the solution to this problem, to make spaces more attractive to men to talk about this.

One of my friends in the anti-porn movement often notes that men are generally the problem when it comes to porn—but they also are, and must be, the solution. When men start fully realizing what pornography is doing to them—destroying their healthy relationships with female partners, friends, and family members, rewiring their brains in dangerous ways, twisting their view of sexuality, and physical fallout including erectile dysfunction - they recognize that using pornography just isn’t worth it. Pornography is fantasy, not real life - but it has the power to destroy so much real happiness.

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Jonathon van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a writer and pro-life speaker who has given presentations across North America on abortion and pro-life strategy.

Jonathon first got involved in the pro-life movement after viewing a graphic abortion video in 2007, which convicted him to get active. He ran Simon Fraser University Students for Life as president from 2009-2010, while speaking in both the United States and Canada on pro-life issues.

Jonathon graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. He is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

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