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Why Porn Makes You Pathetic

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Imagine a world where people live so devoid of happiness that it becomes a popular pastime to compensate by simply watching recordings of people smiling. The need is so severe that when making these recordings, no one even bothers to build in a plot—they just get right to the action of depicting images of people smiling, utterly devoid of any further context or deeper meaning. The purpose of consuming this media isn’t to appreciate the reasons why these are individuals smiling and then smile for the same reasons they do—but simply to allow yourself to be influenced at a physiological level by the fact that they are physically smiling.

Keep in mind that one could defend this, after all, on the grounds that smiling isn’t just a byproduct or consequence of happiness; it actually does lead directly to the release of stress-combating neuropeptides, dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Still, would it not strike you as rather inhuman to treat context-free smiling as an end within itself in this way? Would you not suspect that people tricking their brains into acting as if they had reason to be happy by observing other people exhibiting the physical behaviors that come along with happiness in a vacuum instead of by actually finding reasons to be happy would be less likely to turn that inspiration into action?

One of the most bleak components of the technoprogressive ideology known as transhumanism is its occasional endorsement of something called “wireheading.” Transhumanism is fantasical, wishful ideology in most of its natural forms to begin with. Followers of leading theorist Ray Kurzweil are convinced that technological innovation is going to reach a singularity point at which future innovation proceeds at an exponentially increasing rate within the next 50 years—and that these developments will literally allow us to defeat aging and acquire immortality for human beings, likely within our very lifetimes. Kurzweil therefore ingests 250 different supplements, 10 glasses of alkaline water, and 10 cups of green tea every single day in hopes of living long enough to see the day his predictions come true so he can go on living forever.

Others believe these developments will result in the eradication of all sex differentiation between human beings. In The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone argued that “[the] end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings [themselves] . . . The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by . . . artificial reproduction . . .”

But where there is—even if the idea is unrealistic—at least some implicitly Aryan sense of glory to the notion of achieving immortality, the wireheaders don’t envision a future where human beings become invincible or installed with built-in jet-packs and the ability to breathe in space and our ability to effect the world around us expands. They envision a world where we enhance our ability to stimulate the reward centers of the brain in order to cause people to experience pleasure directly through electrical currents. Quite literally, these peoples’ image of the future of human evolution involves a civilization of wireheads “blissing out” in heroin-like comas all day, every day, while being fed and maintained by robots. Such a civilization would have no art, love, scientific discovery, or anything else we currently claim to find valuable. And why would we?! We wouldn’t need them! In principle, direct stimulation of the reward centers of the brain with powerful currents would be able to create greater and more intense experiences of pleasure than any of us are even capable of experiencing by natural means.

Figure 1 The pinnacle of the achievements of the human race?

A world where we handled depression by simply giving people recordings to watch of people performing the act of smiling in hopes of tricking the depressed person’s brain to make them smile through contagion by simply hacking their mirror neurons instead of addressing the reality of the underlying causes of, and reasons for their depression and giving them new reasons would be a disturbing step towards creating a world based on the ethic of wireheading. In fact, this would exactly be a form of wireheading under the limitations of the current state of technology.

Alternatively, imagine a world where people are so devoid of touch and physical affection that instead of finding reasons to give and receive these things to each other—close relationships, families, children, and actually meaningful bonds situated in human contexts in reality—and accepting the need to engage in the neverending, difficult work of improving themselves to become and remain worthy of these things so that they can continue—they simply watch video recordings of people hugging each other, once again devoid of any meaningfully situated context, in order to just try to stimulate the neurochemistry produced by hugging by hacking their mirror neurons again.

When we learn that the “professional cuddling” industry is booming because of the election of Donald Trump, we quite rightly have the feeling that something seriously pathetic is happening here. (((Adam Lippin))),[1] the CEO of Cuddlist, told interviewers that “The holiday season [of 2016] was the first time that since Trump won the election that a lot of people were seeing their family . . . People with different political views were going to be in the same place with relatives. That was the first hit of people having to confront it in a significant way. We saw an uptick [in consultation of professional cuddling services] around that.”

Rather than get in-depth psychological therapy to help them work through why they are incapable of gathering with members of their own family for polite conversation, or have any understanding of the causes that led to the election of Trump that involves more maturity than comparing it to the story of Harry Potter—a work of young adult fiction, these people are paying absolute strangers $80 an hour to compensate for their inability to make real friends in the real world by cuddling with them for money.

Everyone here understands that in a world that was even basically sane and decent, there would never be any such thing as a “professional cuddler,” right? Everyone here also understands that if a basically sane and decent person ever even thinks they need to solicit the services of a “professional cuddler,” they actually do need entirely other forms of psychological therapy and self-improvement far more desperately? We’re absolutely correct to have the gut feeling that this is simply pathetic.

And the reason it registers to our minds as pathetic is because we know that there is a reality here that it takes work to acquire. It takes work to learn to get along with people who are different from you. It takes work to build and maintain relationships that are capable of developing into any level of physical intimacy. It takes work to navigate political differences and understand people who approach political issues from a different angle than you. It takes work to have a stressful encounter that exposes you to the realization that the premises you carry on these points so far are inadequate, and recover from that enough to still figure out what it is you’re missing. It takes work to build and remain in a mindset that treats encounters with difficulty like these as an occasion to grow as a human being instead of retreating into a safe, narcissistic hole.

And soliciting a “professional cuddler” gives one a counterfeit form of the values that that real-world work is supposed to eventually be able to lead to. By artificially placating that underlying human need in a meaningless and transactional context, the drive to grow to become worthy of the real thing weakens. It is essentially a form of rewarding oneself for failure rather than victory.

Finally, consider a world where people are starving for food. Rather than learning to tend to gardens to grow their own food, these people take up the habit of salivating over pictures of plates of food on Instagram. Men whose talent for farming and gardening is perishing bond over their favorite Instagram chefs. Eventually, there inevitably are massive food shortages and famines as men forget how to till soil, and women become too resentful to ever cook a man dinner. People instead turn to close-up videos of people performing the act of chewing—sometimes politely with manners, sometimes with their mouths hung open and broccoli stuck in their teeth—to try to compensate. On a very basic gut level, all of us would immediately recognize that something about this was just . . . pathetic.

Well, this is why you sound pathetic when you claim from the end of a keyboard that the existence of porn is so important to you that you’d consider engaging in an actual civil war to stop it from being prohibited. Porn is the transhumanist advocating wireheading in place of immortality and space exploration. Porn is paying for “professional cuddling” instead of pursuing self-improvement and therapy. Porn is videos of people chewing on food in a world heading rapidly towards mass famine because we’ve lost our talent for actually growing and cooking our own food.

Note

1.  Lippin makes his agency’s “professional cuddlers” pay for their own job training.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted November 2, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Great article, as usual by Aedon.

    Reminds me of the Anerindian story of a tribal elder speaking to a young brave.

    The elder tells the man there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.

    One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

    The brave stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his elder and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

    The elder quietly replies, “the one you feed.”

    Porn enervates and softens us up. It makes us lax and hesitant. It saps our vitality.

  2. Rue
    Posted November 2, 2017 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    There is an old Amerindian story where a tribal elder tells a young brave that there are two wolves inside every man which are always at war with each other.

    One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

    The brave stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his elder and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

    The man quietly replies, “the one you feed.”

    Porn feeds the side of us that enervates, that is status, that wants us to lay down and surrender.

    Great article, as usual from Aedon.

  3. Matthias
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Excellent!

  4. Michael Woodbridge
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    It used to be said that masturbation makes one go blind but thanks to Aedon Cassiel we now have a much more convincing explanation as to why we should shun pornography, something most of us instinctively felt was wrong in the first place but didn’t necessarily understand the full reasons why.

  5. Apeneck Sweeney
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    “In principle, direct stimulation of the reward centers of the brain with powerful currents would be able to create greater and more intense experiences of pleasure than any of us are even capable of experiencing by natural means.”

    That’s already been experimentally demonstrated in rats. From wiki:

    Rats will perform lever-pressing at rates of several thousand responses per hour for days in order to obtain direct electrical stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus.[10] Multiple studies have demonstrated that rats will perform reinforced behaviors at the exclusion of all other behaviors. Experiments have shown rats to forgo food to the point of starvation in order to work for brain stimulation or intravenous cocaine when both food and stimulation are offered concurrently for a limited time each day.[9] Rats will even cross electrified grids to press a lever, and they are willing to withstand higher levels of shock to obtain electrical stimulation than to obtain food .[10]

  6. KPD
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Excellent article as always. Porn warps your reality, much further than just in relation to sex.

  7. Joe
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Yes… porn is nothing more than libido voyeurism. It warps the natural development of courting, dating and eventual marital union between men and women. This, along with the misnamed “social media”, are wreaking havoc with young people seeking a mate. I’ve seen them on dates where they spend more time checking their iPhones than speaking with each other. And for those who indulge in porn, their sexual arousal level eventually becomes too high, too twisted to make a long-term relationship manageable. Where sexual intimacy is rarer, the anticipation and pleasure of it are heightened. This is the more natural state of affairs and one for which we should strive.

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