OnlyFans, a platform that connects content creators with their supporters, announced last week that it would no longer allow sexually explicit content on its site—only to reverse the decision within days after a massive online backlash. Whether this sudden move was done in earnest or for purely marketing purposes, the reaction to the would-be ban from ideologues and media influencers reveals how much American culture has deteriorated and the difficulties we face in building one with responsible sexual ethics. Curbing America’s licentiousness should be a top priority for the conservative movement, as it interferes with healthy relationships and family creation—the foundation of Western Civilization.
Over the last decade, smartphones and increasing internet speeds have facilitated pornography’s evolution from a perversion to complete cultural normalcy. From 2007 to 2019, the pornography website Pornhub increased its traffic from 1 million visits per day to an astounding 115 million visits per day; this is just one of many websites that have benefited from an endless appetite of worldwide pornography consumption.
According to OnlyFans’s CEO Tim Stokely, the company has 120 million registered users, over 1 million content creators, and 5.5 million daily visits. The OnlyFans business model allows influencers, porn actors, and other creators to market themselves and monetize their pictures, videos, and virtual interactions. Early in the pandemic, as in-person activities and jobs were stifled, many young women were seduced by stories of creators who had made millions from the site. OnlyFans grew rapidly during the pandemic, and the site now claims that creators have earned more than $5 billion on the platform.
Today, almost every teenage boy and an increasing number of teenage girls feel a compulsion to routinely watch internet porn. Studies have shown that the average age of a child’s first exposure to porn is around 11 years old, which is destined to get worse as children and toddlers are provided with phones and tablets at younger and younger ages.
The negative effects of pornography usage are well-researched, even if porn apologists try and convince you otherwise. Porn is associated with a litany of problems. Men who watch porn report more difficulty with attention and working memory, have lower sexual satisfaction and attraction to their partners, are more likely to be unfaithful to their spouses, and develop increasingly maladaptive sexual interests and fetishes. In this last respect, porn’s pedagogical value to men lies mainly in sexual degeneracy. Those who claim that porn promotes “sexual literacy” need to explain how hard-core gangbangs and simulated rape help young viewers learn more about sex. Instead, young men discover later in life that real women have more boundaries and are more complex than the grotesque caricatures on their screens.
There are also justified concerns that early pornography usage may hinder young men’s ability to delay gratification as well as cause performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction. It is not unreasonable to think that young men’s real-life sexual responses have been sabotaged from years of having their brains marinate in the extraordinary dopamine hits that modern porn brings. While a man in the 1980s had to look at magazines or go to an adult theatre to watch a single film with a handful of women having sex, today a man will scroll through multiple streaming sites, seeing thumbnails and previews of hundreds of women, and often open multiple tabs of videos with various types of women performing a litany of different sexual acts.
Of course, since porn is usually a private matter, it is difficult to research and thus fully comprehend the effects of porn on young adults.
On a spiritual level, porn can dissolve a person’s inherent relationship to, and perception of, the opposite sex. In a rare reprieve from the typical perverted messages put out by our country’s cultural establishment, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Terry Crews explained in a 2016 interview:
My issue was and is with pornography . . . that it changes the way you think about people. People become objects, people become body parts; they become things to be used rather than people to be loved . . . I had the biggest sense of entitlement, ever. I felt the world owed me something. I felt like my wife owed me sex. When you have a sense of entitlement, it’s extremely dangerous.
However bad “traditional” porn may be for society and young people, OnlyFans has a further insidious component. Whereas porn in the past fostered little to no connection between the viewer and performers, OnlyFans’ success comes from the pseudo-relationships it builds between its subscribers and content creators. The virtual interactions on the site are more than just masturbatory fodder—it capitalizes on men’s inherent need to provide for and protect women.
Today, stories of subscribers providing their virtual idols with thousands of dollars is not uncommon. But what does this say about our society? Young men do not only crave sexually explicit material, which is generally free on the internet; they also crave the intimacy and connection that real, healthy relationships can bring. These men have difficulty finding these relationships in their own lives, so they are turning to OnlyFans to enjoy the closest thing they can get—even though it is only a superficial substitute.
This difficulty is a symptom of the uneven dating market many young men face, where women are pressured to act like men in their sexual desires and provide easy sex, which is then monopolized by a smaller number of high social status men. The exploitation of lonely men on a large scale will have disastrous effects on our society. The closely related incel community, as well as the longer-standing pickup artist community are both symptoms and reactions to this same uneven sexual marketplace.
The need for intimacy that OnlyFans exploits is touched upon by Terry Crews in that same 2016 interview:
Every time you look at pornography, it’s a desire for intimacy. You are trying to fight feelings of being alone by filling it with pornography in an attempt to feel that you are with someone and you know someone. But pornography is an intimacy killer. It kills all intimacy . . . every time I watched it, I was walled off, it was like another brick that came between me and my wife.
It should seem obvious to conservatives that pornography and pornographic sites like OnlyFans promote vice, and should be regulated. As Richard Nixon lamented in 1970:
The pollution of our culture, the pollution of our civilization with smut and filth is as serious a situation for the American people as the pollution of our once pure air and water . . . [smut] should be outlawed in every state in the union.
Until recently in our country’s history, obscenity was not given First Amendment protections. Over the course of the last century, progressive judges pushing a sexual revolutionary agenda have abused their authority to allow increasing amounts of obscenity into the public discourse. Currently, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. California—which created the eponymously named “Miller test”—is the controlling judicial precedent for determining what is and what is not obscenity. This standard judges whether the “average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work appeals to the prurient interest and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
Of course, such a vague guideline makes enforcing obscenity laws very difficult. Compare this to the “Wepplo Test,” elucidated in the 1947 case of People v. Wepplo, which claims that obscenity can be determined “if [the] material has a substantial tendency to deprave or corrupt its readers by inciting lascivious thoughts or arousing lustful desires.” Venturing even further back into American history shows even more strict standards of what is considered obscene, and thus not protected by the First Amendment.
In the 1960s, religious conservatives and progressive feminists became unlikely bedfellows in the fight against pornography and obscene material. Notwithstanding this coalition, the media branded “The Porn War” as a Christian crusade. Backed with substantial research and personal experiences over the past few decades, however, all conservatives, whether secular or religious, now have reason to lead a new crusade against porn. The #MeToo movement shows that portions of the political Left realize our society’s current sexual ethics are not ideal, even if they are willfully naive as to how this happened. It is possible that even the far-Left will realize that if you want better behavior from men, pornography is a major obstacle.
In December 2019, four House Republicans urged Attorney General Bill Barr to begin prosecuting obscenity cases, after former Attorney General Eric Holder halted these prosecutions. Republican legislators need to speak with a louder voice, demanding that obscenity be prosecuted and eventually outlawed. Even if more libertarian legislators believe consumers should watch whatever they please, the pornography industry still suffers from many issues including human trafficking, nonconsensual and coercive sex, and child pornography.
There is hope on the horizon. A growing cohort of Generation Z realize the danger of pornography from their own sexual experiences, and anti-porn communities such as NoFap have been on the rise. By pushing conservative values through an anti-porn agenda, conservatives may be able to protect Americans from the dangers of pornography and conserve the proper role of sex in society, finally tapping into political capital long assumed to be almost nonexistent.