Thursday, November 06, 2003

Naomi Wolf apparently believes that the easy availability of Internet pornography has soured America's male youth on the idea of real, live sex with real, live women. "The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women," she writes. Matthew Yglesias, an instance of the demographic in question, ridicules the idea. Daniel Drezner, a former instance of same, concedes that Wolf's hypothesis may apply to some men, although not most. In fact, the statistics completely vindicate Yglesias' skepticism: sexual activity among young men has been fairly steady over the last decade--declining very slightly, but still quite high, by the standards of previous decades. If the Internet has been suppressing male libidos, the effect has yet to turn up in the data.

And that's hardly surprising. To put it bluntly, men were deriving titillation from the available imagery--or from their own imaginations--long before Naomi Wolf arrived on the scene, and without ever losing their taste for actual sexual experience. The pornography available today may be more vivid and explicit than in the past, but that doesn't mean that a modern-day Jud Fry is any more likely to be satisfied with it than with the naughty postcards of years past.

But what Wolf really objects to, it turns out, is not that boys aren't interested in sex--indeed, all the signs suggest that they still are--but rather that they don't value it as much as they used to:
When I came of age in the seventies, it was still pretty cool to be able to offer a young man the actual presence of a naked, willing young woman. There were more young men who wanted to be with naked women than there were naked women on the market. If there was nothing actively alarming about you, you could get a pretty enthusiastic response by just showing up. Now....[b]eing naked is not enough; you have to be buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax—just like porn stars.
Wolf should trust her own economic reasoning a little more: if "being naked is not enough" these days, perhaps it's simply because there are no longer "more young men who wanted to be with naked women than....naked women on the market."

Of course, Wolf has always been a strident third-wave feminist advocate of female sexual "empowerment"--i.e., women enjoying casual, recreational sex every bit as enthusiastically and uninhibitedly as men traditionally have. What she apparently never realized, until now, was that much of the fun of it for her--that is, the wonderful feeling of being valued, and appreciated, that she apparently used to be able to win with her sexual favors--depended on her being relatively unusual, among women, in her approach to sex.

But now that women like her are, in effect, a dime a dozen--and are unfortunately often treated that way, as well--she's suddenly forced to consider, to her horror, the possibility that her sisterhood's successful campaign to turn women on to "hooking up" may have destroyed the very source of the pleasure they sought to promote. No wonder she prefers instead simply to blame it all on Internet pornography....

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