Pastor Urges Men to Boycott Porn (Shhh... We're Safe, Ladies)

Baptist pastor Jay Dennis of Lakeland Florida is on a crusade to encourage one million men to remove porn from their lives. “You may even need to destroy your computer… if you are serious about living porn-free,” says Dennis. Such drastic action would make it challenging to log onto the campaign’s 1 Million Men website for support. But don’t worry, there’s an app for that (stocked with scripture, tips, and tools).

Dennis tells the Daily Beast he began sitting in on sex addiction classes after a number of women in his congregation approached him with concerns about their husbands' or sons’ porn use. His website is filled with confessionals that begin with guilty porn consumption and end with prostitutes, bankruptcy, and shattered lives. The Florida preacher is aware that many pastors think porn is an inappropriate topic for the church. Probably because a lot of them “struggle with it personally,” he jabs. (That’s called throwing shade, Baptist style).

Yet Dennis might be onto something. After all, according to the Beast, there seems to be anti-smut overlap between religion and everyone’s other two favorite killjoys: therapists and feminists. The former have counseled patients through porn addiction and the havoc it wreaks on real-life relationships. The later decry the porn industry’s objectification of women.

Leaving feminism and porn aside for a moment, allowing sex addiction to completely inform one’s view of pornography paints an unrealistic picture of every porn user as a click away from ruin. There are a lot of substances and pastimes that are potentially addictive—alcohol, slot machines, junk food, Game of Thrones. But people don’t condemn these things in their entirety just because a percentage of individuals misuse them. Why are pundits inclined to do so with porn? If a man or woman is letting porn replace all real intimacy in his or her life, that’s a symptom, not a cause.

I know it’s hard to believe, but humans have been enjoying porn since before the creation of the Internet. Affinity for porn is natural, and not a problem—we’re visual beings, we’re sexual beings. It all makes sense. The real problem stems from our inability to view porn critically, to see it as performance and not reality, to understand that our choices as consumers make a difference. People buy free-range meat, eggs, etc. to avoid buying into a system that’s abusive to animals. Why do we settle for the lowest common denominator when it comes to porn? Questions of safety, working conditions, consent, and extreme violence in porn persist because we accept what we’re fed (and what’s free) instead of demanding better. In a sense pastor Dennis is right to be critical. But casting porn as a strictly delineated good-versus-evil issue does nothing to encourage productive dialogue.

OK, now back to porn and feminism. I’m a bit disappointed the Beast’s coverage of 1 Million Men makes it seem like feminists can’t be critical of objectification in porn without wanting to shut the whole thing down (do they remember the days when Jezebel linked to Fleshbot?). Just because a Swiffer commercial thinks I’m too busy cleaning house to be able to read does not mean I’m going to smash my DVR. Similarly, I have no problem with porn as a thing people do, despite the fact that some of it is problematic. Daily Beast, you’re starting to sound like Pastor Dennis, who casts women as the sexual police of the home, and has a page on his site where “One Million Women Warriors Pray for One Million Men to be Porn Free.” Oh pastor Dennis, that would require saving myself first.