THE TEMPESTS WE LIVE IN: Pornography and pornographic news, and the habit-forming world we live in

It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.
—Jerry Seinfeld

A few thoughts. And as I’ve often said, it’s not easy being human. Yet it can be remarkably beautiful and wonderful.

I was thinking about some truly dangerous and brutal events taking place in the world these days, and I guess forever—endless war, economic distress, mass inequality etc.—and all the strange and “pornographic” or at least trashy news that comes out simultaneously, and is ubiquitous. I’m talking, for example, about the countless affairs, involving all of these famous married people, burning up the airwaves and our mind space, triggering our own “lower chakras.” And, ironically, do either really “inform” us—or put another way, improve or empower us? Both are largely non-contextual, yet relentless.

I have a liberal definition of news because I think news can be what excites people. I’m not very sanctimonious about what news is and isn’t.
—Diane Sawyer

Indeed.

I was thinking this: don’t you think that it is actually unsurprising that all of this happens—so many sort of out of control affairs—given we are in a world so blatantly, endlessly, repeatedly pornographic? That’s not even a judgement, my friends, just a statement. It’s everywhere, by all accounts, and the addictions or at least behaviours that are unfolding, I think in greater numbers, are somewhat predictable, no? But no one ever seems to talk about their “mistakes” in a way that could be constructive for the whole conversation about sex. Imagine the following instead of the usual shame-filled propaganda spun confessions:

“Yeah, here’s a big part of the problem: I like a lot of sex, I have a naturally robust sex-drive, and I am compelled by certain types of interactions (ie images—two dimensional or three dimensional) to get a sufficient or really big pleasurable response. I am driven by these images, and by the build up and the response. This drive, this connection, has developed and increased and focused over time. Being a temporary yet powerful pull and pleasure—which subsides for a time when relieved or experienced, and then overtakes me like a wave—I am ashamed when caught by my wife [or, less so, husband], and even at other times, and perhaps even wish I wasn’t compelled, but the reality remains powerful and relentless, and the momentary effect is hauntingly pleasurable and one of the biggest, most focused experiences in my life. And we all believe in freedom, right? So, any thoughts? Anybody else want to come clean?”

Imagine that statement coming out.

ALAS, NO…

And why not? Perhaps on some level because we just don’t really want to know about ourselves. Knowing about our deeper selves, not just our addicted impulses, works against current consumer ideology.

Every habit, good or bad, is acquired and learned in the same way—by finding that it is a means of satisfaction.
—Juliene Berk

All these folks come out once caught—from presidents to athletes—say how ashamed they are, and never make any real mention of how their bodies appear to function, or explore why their bodies work as they do. Why don’t we tell deeper truths? I don’t know, but I think it has often something to do with our collective cultural ignorance, and also because the confessors are branded commodities whose “value” cannot be risked by truth-telling, consciously or unconsciously. Also, because the parameters in the conversation are so narrow, this is also the speech/strategy used to save the primary relationship.

The women (generally) the men are involved with are rarely mentioned—have you noticed that? All are dehumanized further by this (and no one cares because we too dehumanize them). These woman have been bought and used—not to say they don’t have their own responsibility, of course. They too were simply objects, commodified. The confessors, so-called, virtually never talk about the truly addicted nature evident and resulting from and in repeated behaviour.

Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.
—Spanish proverb

Who can’t relate in some aspect of their life, to addiction? Food. Sex. Drugs. Money etc. These confessors, god love them, act like their shame cures the issue at hand.

But the truth is we are led by these big emotions (whatever they are), these compulsions, that trigger the brain (or vice versa). They can get out of hand, and do. Freedom. Possibility. Access. Entitlement. Relentless longing. Who knows what combination?

Before the relationship in reality happens, a relationship between the brain and the cues all around us has to take place. Shame, it seems, cannot remove such intense imprinting to the brain—no matter how earnest and ragged the apology. And whatever else happens, as the public we never learn anything about the truth: pornography (and so many addictions) is a massive problem. At the same time, people have wildly varying natures and desires. And are we free, as partners, to talk about them? Do we understand that so much is simply nature, energetics? These natures are acted upon by outside stimuli. This is, for example, the objective of advertising—and the reason advertising works.

We cannot, in a moment, get rid of habits of a lifetime.
—Gandhi

It seems obvious to any thinking person that repeated behaviours resulting in big, physically pleasurable emotions, imprint to the brain, intensely. The brains of some sex-addicted folks, when shown pornography, supposedly light up like a cocaine addict’s brain.

One of the wonderful things about free markets is that the path to greater wealth comes not from looting, plundering and enslaving one’s fellow man, as it has throughout most of human history, but by serving and pleasing him [and his addictions].
—Walter E. Williams

I would disagree with the “not from looting, plundering” etc line. Nonetheless, with a little extra cash, creating addiction in a consumer is Power.

It is said in the Bhagavad Gita that unfulfilled desires lead first to frustration, then anger, then memory loss (we forget who we are). Fulfilled desires, alternatively, lead to greed.

NO REAL CALORIES IN SOUND-BYTES

But just as we won’t, politically or media-wise, in significant amounts, talk about “pornographic” (degraded) food as the biggest problem with our health care systems, it’s at least instructive that we won’t, as a culture, talk about sex selling everything—and pornography being everywhere in various degrees—as likely having a real physiological effect on the human brain. We are what we eat: what we see, hear and all else. The images, evidently, cue the brain. Trigger a response. The mass marketing cues of greasy, fat, sweet and salty foods work in a similar way. The cues trigger emotions.

Habit [addiction] is a fixed tendency to react or respond in a certain way to a given stimulus; and the formation of habit always involves the two elements, the stimulus and the response or reaction.
—Edward O. Sisson

Isn’t our relentless, mass consumerism a sort of “pornography”? Is that just a cliche comment? What does it mean that everything is commodified, or a system believes that all things should be commodified? That this is freedom. Is that a sort of a “pornography”? I’m off topic, but you get my question. And isn’t it profoundly weird that we hear about these affairs at all? Front page.

But imagine if we could speak candidly about the context, the true nature, of these cheap and ugly (yet compelling) headlines.

MASS DEBATE

Pornography’s real arrival, according to scholar Robert Jensen, began in earnest—to use the wrong term—after World War II. As so-called “indecency laws” relaxed in the 70s, pornography became more pervasive, degradation and racism became more extreme. With the internet, the amount of available porn (by all accounts) has mushroomed like a nuclear explosion. It is said that internet porn is the crack cocaine of sex addiction.

“Why is our free-enterprise system so strong? Not because it stands still, frozen in the past, but because it has always adapted to changing realities.”
—Lee Iacocca

It also shapes and changes, or works on, current realities.

Addiction, where the insatiable senses of the body are now running the show, brings to mind this prose from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Not that I knew this quote. I read it and it brought the thought of such “pornographic” news that we’re fed, to mind.

“These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and
 are melted into air, into thin air. And, like the baseless fabric of vision, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve. 
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
 as dreams are made on, and our little life
 is rounded with sleep.”

Ah, Shakespeare! All these intensities, these compulsions, these beautiful and not so beautiful desires, and yet we’re all eventually to be “melted into air, into thin air,” our “little life…rounded with sleep.” Ah, the insanity and mystery of it all. Is addiction natural?

All I can say (with no real proof as to why) is love more, then more again, expand more, and really contemplate the meaning of freedom. What is freedom to you? What do we really choose, free of our compulsions, our addictions?

By the way, I’m addicted—at the top of my list—to a compulsive search to fully understand what can never be understood. It sounds like a noble addiction, but it has its problems, its contractions, its own side-effects. A pursuit of something untenable seems to me to undoubtedly be a denial of something tenable, something beautiful. Who am I trying to reach? What am I trying to solve? What is the motivation of the compulsion? Deeper breathing and consciously trying to love more, help a lot.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

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2 Responses to “THE TEMPESTS WE LIVE IN: Pornography and pornographic news, and the habit-forming world we live in”

  1. Karen says:

    You covered a lot of territory here, but two things keeps coming to my mind concerning “the countless affairs, involving all of these famous married people.”

    First, I suspect folks follow these things because it takes their minds off their own troubles. I think there must be something better out there to keep one’s mind occupied.

    Second, yes, we are surrounded by pornographic images and lyrics arousing our physical bodies. Our physical nature drives us to procreate (or at least try) and spread our genes around. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is what we were meant to do—reproduce via sex. I think part of the reason folks don’t like to discuss our sexual proclivities is because these urges come from a part of us that scares us a bit; our more “animal” side, so to speak.

    But we are different. We can make choices. In my opinion, fidelity is a choice we make. Nothing more. No magic happens when we fall in love that stops the eye from wandering.

    If you purchase a Monet for your living room wall, do you stop admiring all other great works of art? Absolutely not; however, you’ve invested in the Monet because that is what you choose to see first each morning and last each night. Once it’s part of your home you can study it intimately, seeing new detail and learning more about it, falling more in love with it each day. Or you can glance at it each day until it eventually becomes no more than part of the scenery around you, and you grow disinterested and look for a new piece of art. Fidelity is a choice; a decision.

    And to varying degrees, I think all addictions are a choice. The choice unfortunately often comes right at the beginning of a developing addiction, so some folks miss the opportunity to stop, but to enter into an addiction is none-the-less a choice.

    And you are so correct; an addition to understanding and truth can be just as debilitating and difficult as any other. We are such complex creatures.

    Love to you and those you love,
    Karen

  2. Great comments, as always. We are so complex, my god. But the point you’re adding is vital, of course, about personal choices. Whatever is incompletely developed in our brain—dopamine receptors etc according to Gabor Mate—is another issue. I was just talking about the external stimuli, which is extraordinary. What we choose, how we’re raised, the association we keep. and finally personal choice, are absolutely vital, and the latter bottom line no matter what all the other facts are (and, as you say, of course, in [greatly] varying degrees). My old line comes to mind again: it’s not easy being human. Then again, I wouldn’t want to be anything else!

    Lots of love to you and all your kin!

    Pete xo

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