Following-up about porn-use among young men

Last Monday, I wrote at length about the TIME magazine cover story concerning porn-use among young men. The response to it over the last week has been overwhelming. I thought there were several items worth mentioning here.

The author of the TIME cover story is Belinda Luscombe, and she took issue with my characterization of her reporting. In the comments section, she writes:

Dear Mr. Burk,
Thanks for bringing my article to the attention of your readers. I was brought here from an article in The Atlantic. As you can see from your comments, and as I say in my story, while virility is not the biggest issue people have with porn, it is a significant and undercovered one. I take issue with your characterization of the story as having no moral framework. To me, truth is a moral framework. Bringing light into a dark subject is all the moral framework needed. Moreover, if the beliefs you subscribe to are true, and humans are not built for this kind of intimacy, then there will be some evidence of malfunctioning in human intimacy mechanisms as a result. These young men’s tales of woe may indeed be that. Lastly, I’m always disappointed when intelligent people who comment on stories don’t link to the actual stories. It feels a little unfair, because readers rely only on what you say about the piece. (You have issued a warning that it’s frank so that people can choose to follow the link or not.) It also feels like as you might say “muzzling the ox while he’s threshing the corn.”

I think she raises some good points, and I am very grateful that she took the time to make them. Here’s my response to her:

Ms. Luscombe,

Thank you for taking time to offer feedback. I appreciate it very much. I agree with you that “truth is a moral framework,” and so your point is well taken. Your article does shed light on a rather pervasive aspect of men’s lives, one that too often goes unspoken about. So thank you for highlighting the issue and for the serious reporting. I am grateful for that. I am sorry for not saying as much in my blog post.

It is very unusual for me not to provide links to stories I discuss. I intentionally did not provide the link this time for a couple of reasons. My main concern had to do with the images in the print edition of the TIME story. Both the cover and the initial image in the story were unnecessarily provocative. I didn’t want to provide a link on my site that might get someone into a rabbit hole of temptation. I may be overly cautious on this, but that was my main concern. My secondary consideration was the fact that the article is behind a paywall, so it seemed to be a moot point anyway. If someone would be willing to pay for the article, I figured they could do the Google search to find it.

When I spoke about the lack of a moral framework, I specifically had in mind what used to be the normative connection between sex and marriage and childrearing. The link between sexuality and the covenant of marriage has been completely severed in our culture. That means that the norms that used to guide male sexuality into constructive pathways are no longer there. These norms that used to be pervasive have all but evaporated. They are certainly out of fashion. So much so, that I doubt a writer could assume such a moral framework and still land a cover story in TIME magazine. In any case, I think the deterioration of sexual/marriage norms have had long term deleterious effects on manhood in particular. And that is my concern and what I see to be a civilizational calamity.

Again, thanks for taking time to give feedback, and thank you for your article. I really appreciate it!

Sincerely,
Denny

Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has written a pointed response to my argument. He contends that porn-use may not be so bad for us after all.

My former student Samuel James has relieved me of the obligation to respond to Friedersdorf. James shows that the social-scientific data marshaled by Friedersdorf is not compelling, and it doesn’t really address the moral and spiritual concerns that I am raising.

Rod Dreher has weighed-in thoughtfully and has a round-up of the conversation here.

I don’t believe in accidents. I have been preaching through 2 Timothy at my church, and it just so happens that the same week all of this unfolded, I was scheduled to preach on 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee youthful lusts…” And so yesterday, my sermon on this text was titled, “Pursuing God, Not Pornography.” You can download it here or listen to it below.

5 Responses to Following-up about porn-use among young men

  1. William Marsh April 11, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    Hey Denny, there’s a second bright side for us in NC these days!
    http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article71217162.html

  2. Randall Seale April 11, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

    Denny,

    All I can say is thanks, fight on, and the Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient!

    Yours in Christ

  3. Curt Day April 12, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    With porn, I think it is important to compile all of the resources available that describe if for what it is. Too often, we Christians tend to use only Christian resources in battling moral and personal issues like pornography and its use. So I would like to recommend 3 people who criticize pornography from the Left. Two of them cover the subject from an investigative journalistic approach.which is very helpful because they can share with us information about more of the stakeholders in porn other than its consumers. The other person, as well as one of the investigative journalist, covers the subject from a feminist perspective. Their criticisms of porn can be very cutting and ones we can share with those who don’t want to hear what the Bible says.

    The people I have in mine are Chris Hedges, Robert Jensen, and Gail Dines. Their material is availbale on YouTube what they say challenges us to look at the horrible effects of porn outside of the negative effects it has on its consumers.

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    […] Following-up about porn-use among young men – Denny Burk provides some helpful information about the recent TIME magazine article about porn use among men. […]

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    […] Following-up about porn-use among young men – Denny Burk provides some helpful information about the recent TIME magazine article about porn use among men. […]

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