The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
Authors Filter?
Agnostic Razib Khan
Nothing found
 TeasersGene Expression Blog
/
Porn

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

raperate1

The Washington Post posted an op-ed about a week ago with the title Is porn immoral? That doesn’t matter: It’s a public health crisis. The author is listed as follows: Gail Dines is a professor of sociology at Wheelock College in Boston and author of “Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality.” To not put too fine a point on it sociologists are generally full of shit. Sometimes they are correct. Oftentimes they are wrong. But they are always full of shit. The “reproducibility crisis” means we need to look at a lot of science with a skeptical eye, from the sexy findings of social psychology, to the medical studies which clinicians rely upon. Out of all these scholarly endeavors sociology may be the most insulated from concerns of reproducibility since it is such a brazen prostitute of a discipline, beholden to political considerations Über Alles.

41WL2k2+47L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Dines uses the words “association” and “correlation” several times. Here is the only reference to cause in the piece: “Pornography can cause lifelong problems if young people are not taught to distinguish between exploitative porn sex and healthy, safe sex.” They rest on associations and correlations.

If you’ve read Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled you know that you need to be very wary of modest correlations in social science. I would not be surprised if Brazilian fart porn was associated with sexually deviant behavior. But my own supposition is that it is more likely that Brazilian fart porn is an indicator of serious underlying problems, rather than the cause of those problems.

But, we do have a massive social experiment going on today in relation to the impact of porn on society. Starting around 1995, and at various points of initialization over the next ten years in various locales, the internet became ubiquitous enough in the developed world that the tight constraint on “supply” of porn was removed, so that it met “demand.” This is pushing porn in more perverse and kinky directions. It also means youth over the past generation have had incredibly easy access to very hardcore pornography.

As you can see above in the early 1990s the FBI began receiving fewer reports of rape, concomitant with the decline in violent crime generally. The decline in rape has continued through the age of porn. I doubt there is a causal relationship. But it goes to show that there is no macrosocial evidence that porn results in increased rapes in the aggregate.

 
• Category: Humor, Ideology • Tags: Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

4146cuHZENL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Strange as it may be to say this, but the film San Andreas made me reflect on the nature of particular service sector professions, and their future, recently. It was typical for its genre. Very little plot or characterization (less than a week out I’m still vague on these aspects), and a lot of CGI. A lot. Dwayne Johnson plays the father of Alexandra Daddario, with Carla Gugino plausibly cast as the mother. In fact, Daddario resembles Gugino enough that you might wonder about the possibility of genomic imprinting. But the real star was the CGI.

Alexandra_Daddario_April_2015 And the effects overwhelmed the acting so much that it made wonder again when actors will become totally dispensable. The “comic book movie” genre is already known for being driven more by special effects and the characters than the actors who play them (with the notable exception of Robert Downey Jr.). Which brings me to porn. Recently a controversial documentary came out, Hot Girls Wanted, about a group of young women living a house and trying to break into the industry (the controversy is not the porn, but rather how the women and the industry were depicted). One event in the film is that one of the actresses quits because of family pressure. It has to be admitted that In relation to porn many men are quite happy for it to be around, but would be aghast if any women in their personal social network participated in the industry. So perhaps CGI the answer to this tension? Once you have CGI good enough to simulate real actors, it would be pretty easy to apply to pornography. And porn has some major downsides which would be obviated by CGI “performers.”

But it wouldn’t be so easy, and that is because demand for flesh & blood performers will always be there. In How Pleasure Works Paul Bloom teases out the implications of the latest cognitive psychology in this domain, making extensive recourse to concepts such as “aliefs.” The easiest way for me to illustrate what an alief is is to give an example. Imagine that you see someone use the raw ingredients of fudge brownies to construct the simulacrum of feces. You know for a fact that the faux-feces are not feces, and in fact are delicious fudge brownies…which happen to look like feces. Your beliefs about this are informed by copious facts at hand. But many individuals would nevertheless exhibit difficulty and aversion in consuming these faux-feces. Deep in your bones are concepts and ideas about entities which inform how you react to them. In simple “objective” hedonic units of sensory qualia a $200 dollar wine may not be superior to a $10 wine, but the knowledge that the $200 wine is expensive, rare, and from France (as opposed to California or Australia for the $10 wine), can actually impact how you experience the taste.

414IU4oOQnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Paul Bloom asserts that we are all born essentialists (see Descartes’ Baby). And this fact about human nature is probably why we pay so much for “artisanal.” Artisanal isn’t necessarily better in a reductionist sense that Jeremy Bentham would recognize. But people appreciate the products better because of their history of production, and who made them. In short, a service isn’t just about what, it’s about who. Which brings me back to porn. At some point in the very near future software will get good enough to mass produce pornography where the performers are virtual. Likely these performers will be produced “on the fly” by consumer preferences (e.g., there almost certainly is someone out there who prefers blonde Asian females with small breasts and large buttocks). In terms of raw dimensions, and flawlessness of skin, they will blow real actresses out of the water. But one of the appeals of “amateur porn” for many consumers is who the performers are. That means there will be a demand for “real” porn by “real” women. Artisanally produced porn, not the faceless (in a metaphorical sense) output from a well tuned algorithm. Of course the CGI can simulate the more rough and natural “artisinal” look, so there will be authenticating agencies or firms so that consumers know that these girls are actually “real amateurs.”

This line of argument could apply to many service sector activities. In the near to medium term future it seems plausible that the bottom 90% of the population will be employed in occupations which serve the demand of the top 10% for “authentic” human servility and handcrafts.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

Recently I was curious about what people were saying about the internet in 1994. I stumbled upon this article in The New York Times, Smut Ban Backed for Computer Net. Even the title strikes me as quaint. This seems to be describing an early version of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. Signed by Bill Clinton and unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court. From the article:

The measure, attached without any debate to a sweeping proposal to overhaul the nation’s communication laws, would levy fines as high as $100,000 and prison terms up to two years on anyone who transmits material that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent.”

No one disputes that sex is abundant on the Internet, where magazines like Playboy offer nude pictures at no cost and electronic bulletin boards share information on a wide variety of practices, from masochism to French kissing.

For instance, by clicking an electronic mouse on the Playboy menu, a person can summon up color pictures of the latest Playboy model. Playboy, in a provocative move to enter the age of high technology, is asking for women to apply for a future portfolio called “Women of the Internet.”

Much more explicit fare, in text and pictures, can be found in other locations. One site on the World Wide Web, called “For Your Eyes Only,” offers the likes of the Leather and Fetish Community Outreach and quick access to on-line forums devoted to bondage, domination, submission and masochism.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

The above figure displays results from males in the General Social Survey who answer yes to the proposition that they’ve watched a pornographic film over the past year. This fact was cited in my post Porn, rape, and a ‘natural experiment’, to disabuse people of the notion that porn consumption has increased radically the past generation. I was aware of this finding, and so generally am careful to focus on the quantity of porn consumed, rather than the social penetration of porn consumption. No matter what the “survey says,” the IT sector is quite aware of the fact that pornographic material is a very high fraction of internet traffic (e.g., more people check Pornhub than BBC).

But I am not sure sure we should trust the GSS results any more at this point. I did some cursory poking around and last month there was a large sample size survey of Dutch youth to investigate the effects of porn consumption, Does Viewing Explain Doing? Assessing the Association Between Sexually Explicit Materials Use and Sexual Behaviors in a Large Sample of Dutch Adolescents and Young Adults:

The study found that 88% of men and 45% of women had consumed SEM ["sexually explicit material"] in the past 12 months. Using hierarchical multiple regression analyses to control for other factors, the association between SEM consumption and a variety of sexual behaviors was found to be significant, accounting for between 0.3% and 4% of the total explained variance in investigated sexual behaviors.

How the sample was collected is important for generalization, so I want to reproduce that part of the method in case you don’t have access:

Data were collected as part of the “Speak up now!” survey, a comprehensive online sexuality study among a large and diverse, self-referred sample of adolescents and young adults in The Netherlands…To be eligible for participation, individuals had to be between 15 and 25 years of age and have had any sexual experience as self-defined, with sex indicated to encompass a broad range of behaviors other than sexual intercourse, including having kissed someone or having engaged in any other type of sexual behavior. Participants were recruited between November 2008 and June 2009 through advertisements in various online and offline youth media and on electronic blackboards at schools. Ads were strategically published to promote the inclusion of lower educated, ethnic minority, and same-sex-attracted young people. The ads invited young people to express their views about sexuality and share their sexual experiences by completing a series of online questionnaires and routed them to the study website that also provided further participant information research details, and referral information for participants wanting to seek counseling.

I’ll put the study’s demographics below. The key for me is that 30% of young male Dutch nationals looked at porn less than once a month, or never. Feel free to find other citations and drop them in the comments. If you don’t have access I’ll check out the descriptive results.

SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL CONSUMPTION OF DUTCH YOUTH

Men % Women %
Gender 30.5 (1,402) 69.5 (3,198)
Age (years)
15–17 29.9 (419) 46.9 (1,501)
18–20 390 (547) 36.0 (1,152)
21–23 22.2 (311) 12.6 (404)
24–25 8.9 (125) 4.4 (141)
Lower education level 65.7 (921) 60.1 (1,922)
Higher educational level 33.6 (467) 38.9 (1,226)
Ethnicity
Western ethnicity 77.2 (1,082) 80.7 (2,581)
Non-Western ethnicity 22.8 (320) 19.3 (617)
Religion
Religion not important in life 85.5 (1,199) 85.8 (2,743)
Religion important in life 14.5 (203) 14.2 (455)
Current relationship status
Not in a relationship 50.4 (706) 38.6 (1,233)
In a relationship 49.6 (696) 61.4 (1,965)
Used SEM in the past 12 months
No 11.8 (166) 55.2 (1,766)
Yes 88.2 (1,236) 44.8 (1,432)
Frequency of SEM use in the past 12 months
Never 11.8 (166) 55.2 (1,766)
Less than once a month 19.1 (268) 27.3 (872)
Few times a month 30.4 (426) 12.7 (406)
Few times a week 25.6 (359) 3.3 (107)
Daily 13.1 (183) 1.5 (47)
Applies only to those who used SEM

Types of SEM used in the past 12 months
Soft 34.5 (426) 44.4 (636)
Hardcore 84.3 (1,042) 69.6 (997)
Violent/forced 8.1 (100) 8.1 (116)
SM/bondage/fetish 9.3 (115) 10.4 (149)
Other 6.6 (81) 5.9 (85)
Types of outlets in past 12 months
Online 89.1 (1,101) 69.6 (997)
Magazine/book 12.7 (157) 9.1 (131)
DVD/video 24.3 (300) 19.8 (283)
TV 31.1 (387) 42.4 (607)
Other 2.7 (33) 2.2 (31)
(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Porn, Pornography 
🔊 Listen RSS

I’ve been commenting on internet porn for nearly 10 years. One reason is that as someone who graduated high school in the spring of 1995 I’m probably in the very last cohort of American males for whom pornography was an item subject to scarcity. Those who are 2-3 years younger already experienced a totally different world. The furtive quest to find a friend of a friend whose dad was less than vigilant in guarding his porn stash was a rite of adolescent male passage in my cohort, but would seem totally laughable by 1997. There’s a lot of commentary on the effect of porn on society and sexual relations, but from what I can tell nothing much has really changed between then and now, except that hardcore porn has become harder. Before I see hard data I’m skeptical that American males accept more perversion because of watching porn. Read the Kinsey Reports; farm boys long knew some farm boys lost their virginity to animals.

All this must be kept in mind when reading pieces tinged with moral panic, such as this one in The New York Times, So How Do We Talk About This?, which details the reaction of parents to their children discovering porn. There are few specific elements which strike me as manifestly stupid. For example:

Bonnie, a university administrator in North Carolina with a teenage son and two stepdaughters, realized only after discussing the matter that she and her husband had been sending unintended messages by emphasizing safety and self-protection with the girls and limits with her son.

“Later, we realized how terribly, albeit unconsciously, sexist that was,” she said.


I recently argued to Chris Mooney that the cultural Left in the United States has still not reconciled itself to sex differences,* and that is one of the clear areas where liberal ideology trumps the science. Now, I can understand the reasons why some might object to the idea that males and females have different cognitive profiles, which might result in differential representation in different fields (e.g., more men in engineering, more women in medicine). But at some point if you are going to hold the position that the Left has made its peace with human nature you have to be open to sex differences, there are compelling biological reasons why a species which exhibits physical sexual dimorphism would also exhibit behavioral sexual dimorphism. Do people truly entertain the idea that adolescent boys and girls react to visual pornography in the same way, if not for social or cultural pressures? If so, that’s really stupid, and reiterates why I refuse to identify myself as a liberal.

But more generally, I wonder if our perception of the development and maturation of children and their encounters with sexuality is ahistorical. From what I have read before the modern era private rooms were not common. Peasants lived in an open house, with children sleeping in a corner, and parents in the other corner. During winter the family might sleep together in one bed. Obviously sexual relations did occur, and there were a set of norms which governed this so that everyone could continue on their way.

My point is that for most of human history children have had some exposure to sex, whether because of lack of privacy in the home, or through observation of farm animals. I personally do not think this is optimal. For most of human history infant mortality was rather high too. But, it does remind us that the rapid rise of awareness of sexually explicit material by children younger than puberty, or just on the cusp, is not a totally novel phenomenon.

* Actually, Althouse’s Rule, you can discuss sex differences if it is unflattering to males.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Porn, Sex 
🔊 Listen RSS

Porn Stars, Clad? They Seem to Appeal to Indonesian Filmgoers:

Ms. Aoi, and others like her, are the secret of a winning formula stumbled upon by Maxima Pictures, the production house where Mr. Hidayat is an executive producer. For two years, Maxima has made some of Indonesia’s most popular domestic films based on a simple premise: that many in Muslim-majority Indonesia will pay to see foreign porn stars perform — clothed — in local films. Just don’t expect Indonesians to own up to it.

“We’re hypocrites,” said Mr. Hidayat, who is a Muslim. “People know who they are, but they won’t admit it. It’s a love-hate thing.”

This sort of “counter-intuitive” behavior makes total sense in light of the work reported in Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like. People consume in a particular context. The hedonic experience can’t be isolated from its history and the prior facts (and expectations) you bring into it. This sort of insight is essential when we start talking about utilitarianism as if it’s a simple calculus.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Pleasure, Porn, Psychology 
🔊 Listen RSS

Social conservative blogger Rod Dreher points me to this interview of a Left-wing sociologist on the malevolent influence of pornography on modern relationships. She has a book out, Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality. Her conclusion:

To turn this around there needs to be a massive public health awareness campaign. Unless people begin to understand the role pornography is playing in our culture, I can’t see any reason that this won’t get worse, because all of these men who started watching pornography young are going to want more and more. Pornographers themselves say they’re having trouble keeping up with what fans want because they want it so hardcore.

Where is this going to end? I don’t know. What will an 11-year-old boy want 10, 20, or 30 years from now? Nobody knows. The truth is we’ve never brought up a generation of males with hardcore pornography. No one can really say what’s going to happen. What we do know, from how images and media affect people, is that it’s going to increasingly shape the way men think about sex, sexuality, and relationships.


A lot of the rest of the interview is going to, or not going to, make sense depending on your priors. Just as Christian evangelical psychotherapy, or a rabbi making a ruling based on the halakhah, uses terms and logics which may seem totally meaningless to outsiders, so people trained in sociology operate in their own lexical universe which operates in a parallel empirical world (when I actually spent some time around young evangelical Christians I recalled that they often interspersed their banal conversations with phrases such as “glorifying God,” or “glorifying my Lord and Savior,” which seemed to have a lot of meaning for them, even if it was about their workout regime*). As an intellectual exercise I often take an interest in what sociologists say, but it’s equivalent to theology as far as I’m concerned insofar as it makes any pretense to mapping onto reality. In contrast, I think economists are guilty of hubris and error, but they at least aim for some clarity so you know when they’re wrong. I am here thinking of Noam Chomsky’s attitude toward Post Modernism.

On a personal note I come from a generation which spanned the period when pornography was scarce, and when it was ubiquitous. It’s an empirically correct observation that it takes two seconds to find extremely disgusting fetish material, whereas before the internet you may not even have been aware of the existence of whole genres of pornography! A case in point, I did not know of the existence of bestiality until I was sixteen years old (a friend took me to a Christian youth group meeting, and the pastor started talking about all the disgusting perverted things you weren’t supposed to do, but he had to define a lot of it in the process). A few years after I happened to walk by a computer in a family room, and I saw that an eight year old boy was deleting disgusting fetish porn spam from his Hotmail account! What had been beyond the ken of my comprehension even into adolescence was a nuisance for this individual in their elementary school years.

Over the past 15 years we’ve run a massive sociological experiment in the United States of America. A whole generation has grown up with easy access to hardcore pornography. Many of the boys exposed in the 1990s are now 30 and older, and starting families. And yet violent crime is still declining in the United States, including rape. There is also no robust evidence that the youth of today are more sexual than those of the past.

That’s why I say that the sorts of sociologists profiled above live in a parallel world, where porn is a primary determinant of the decline in morals in manners. They wouldn’t say morals and manners, but I think that’s what really going on, and explains the attraction of social conservatives like Rod Dreher to the Left-wing critiques. The terminology may differ, but it isn’t too hard to do a search & replace across the arguments and see that they have a similar structure. There was in the past, in some idealized nation, a world of companionate partnership from which we’re declining. In the details the ideal partnership of a Left-wing feminist sociologist and a socially conservative Christian obviously differs a great deal, but both feel besieged by the destabilizing and amoral impact of technology and capitalism, which is saturating us with choice, information and plenitude of perversion.

The repulsiveness of modern pornography is not a trivial matter. I do believe that societies need values, that we’re not simple pure hedonic machines (this is a matter of aesthetics and taste, some may differ as to the necessity of this binding of values). But we need to keep some perspective. Foot binding, corsets and shotgun marriages were parts of the cultural landscape in the past, without the influence of porn. More fundamentally I think Left-wing and conservative critiques of the modern culture of pleasure are overly alarmed because they neglect the biologically rooted essentialist aspect of the experience. Porn arouses despite the fact they’re pixels on the screen. But it is no substitute for a real flesh & blood person, because the essence of the source of the pleasure matters. Some social conservatives worry that the youth will be “converted” to homosexuality. The mainstream generally rejects this perspective as ludicrous on the face of it. Graphically, consider the prospect of a straight male receiving oral sex from a male as opposed to a female. On low-level hedonic grounds one would assume that there is no distinction, but many would demur and say that it was “different.” Similarly, pornography can never replace a real relationship.

Technology and the market, the radical and rapid turnover over lifestyles and choices, make people rightly fearful. But as I suggest above despite our biologically rooted fear of change things are getting better. Of course not all change is always for the good, but to actually differentiate the good from the bad, we need to remain rooted in the real world.

Note: Most of the studies I’ve seen which show that perverts have viewed the grossest of porn don’t establish the arrow of causality. That is, if you’re a pervert obviously you are going to seek perversion by definition. Though arguably exposure to perversion can render you a pervert, I see no reason why this has to be the null.

* The sacralization of all aspects of life is not exceptional or atypical, I simply observe that a lot of the references to it operate in its own universe of meaning which is pretty opaque to outsiders.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Porn, Psychology 
🔊 Listen RSS

This is making the rounds of the internet:

Schwartz told the crowd about Jim Johnson, a friend of his who turned an old hotel into a hospice for gay men dying of AIDS. “One of the things he said to me,” said Schwartz, “that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark…he said ‘All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.”

There were murmurs and gasps from the crowd. “Now, think about that,” said Schwartz. “And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants! You know, that’s a good comment, it’s a good point, and it’s a good thing to teach young people.”

This conversation is a window into the widely divergent worldviews of many conservative Christians in the United States from the rest of society. How many 11-year old boys are going to look for Playboy if they want porn today? Playboy isn’t even considered porn by many today, I recall in the mid-1990s when the military removed pornographic magazines from stores on their bases they left Playboy. Next he’ll be talking about the dangers of rock & roll! More seriously, I suspect many people would react to this sort of assertion as ludicrous on the face of it, but it seems possible that to this audience this is an insightful and plausible thesis (or, they feel that they have to pretend that it’s insightful and plausible, as they may have personal experiential knowledge which falsifies it which they can not divulge because they aren’t supposed to be having those experiences). Secondarily, I remember the serious reception of Naomi Wolf’s thesis from several years ago that porn was turning men off from having sex with real women in some quarters. Since the 1970s the Religious Right and Feminist Left have oddly paralleled each other, asserting strange ideas about the nature of heterosexual males and their susceptibility to sexual visual stimulus, without bothering much to consult a wide range of men who engage in the behavior in consideration.

I won’t deny that there might be some effect of porn on the margin. But really. Perhaps men turned gay by straight porn will show up in the comment threads and tell their story, or those who only have sex with their girlfriends when their internet connection is down (the latter may occur, but probably has more to do with World of Warcraft than porn, so porn related behavior changes only).

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

Rod Dreher has a post about the The problem of pornography. My question: how is porn fundamentally different from fantasizing? Is it because of the shift toward bizarre fetish porn which rescales your perceptions of normal? I’m generally skeptical of anecdotal arguments about how porn is “changing everything.” Because of my interest in Transhumanism and the Singularity I have run into people whose sexual outlets are skewed toward the virtual as opposed to the physical, and all seem to prefer the latter over the former. I won’t even get into the issues of causality when it comes to all the bizarre things which known serial killers engage in.

Also, Rod makes a reference to “Late-Roman” culture. The allusion is common among many Christian conservatives, and I think I know what he’s suggesting, that our society is becoming decadent, amoral, lacking spiritual values (he’s made the allusion multiple times). Here’s my problem: this doesn’t comport at all with even a cursory reading of Roman history that you could gain from Wikipedia. The Late Roman period was one of the Chrisitanization of the Empire, and a resurgence of moralism among both pagans and Christians. Much of the Western Empire shifted more toward primary production and the modest economies of scale, and the specialization which allowed for the long distance trade of basic consumer and luxury goods diminished. In the East the Empire did not fall, but became progressively more Christian in its identity, as evidenced by the Christian moral ethical influence on the codification of Roman law during the reign of Justinian. The secular intellectual pursuits of the elite gave way to an emphasis on religious piety, study and endowment of monasteries and churches (see the life of Cassiodorus).

In fact the revisionists who followed in the wake of Peter Brown and have reinterpreted the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a Transformation of the Roman World point to the importance of Late Antiquity in setting the groundwork for the Christian civilization of Medieval Europe. “Late-Rome” was the time of the flourishing of Augustine and Ambrose in the West, the Cappadocian Fathers in the East who are so important in the Greek Christian tradition. In general the revisionists might not deny the decline in material standards, in median affluence, but they emphasize the richness of cultural production, particularly religious cultural production.

Were public morals at the peak of the Empire such a high watermark? Augustus’ own family was wracked with debauchery to the point where he banished his own daughter. Though there were rumors about Tiberius, the perversions of Caligula and Nero are famous, and even the relatively innocuous Claudius married his niece. For those of you not up on your emperors, this is within the first century of the Empire. The Antonine Emperors were known to be moderate and virtuous in comparison to the prurience of the Julio-Claudians or the tyranny of Domitian, but Hadrian was certainly a pederast, and there are rumors about Trajan as well. Commodus of course made Andrew Johnson seem a model of sobriety and gravitas (this is the second century of the Empire).

At its peak the the Roman Empire was pagan, pluralist in religion and philosophy, and many of the autocrats flaunted personal morals which were in sharp contradiction to Christian virtue. It was relatively affluent (though we’re talking percentages on the margin of median wealth I suspect, not multiplicative) and militarily robust. In the later phase the Empire imposed religious homogeneity on the elites in the form of Christianity, and the sort of public virtue which Augustus or Marcus Aurelius might have smiled upon became baked-into-the-cake of the ideology of the proto-monarchs which the emperors had become (although women such as Pulcharia and Theodora were generally the enforcers). Bread & circuses might have persisted in Rome up until the Gothic Wars, across much of the Empire there was a shift toward self-suffuciency and primary production. Dare I say, the Empire was becoming more “crunchy”?

As I said, the analogy to the Late Roman Empire has rhetorical force. Everyone knows what the allusion is meant to indicate. The problem emerges when people think that they can then start looking to Late Antiquity as an analogical model to make predictions about the future because of tight correspondences of conditions. Since those correspondences actually don’t exist, rather, if there were material and moral variations across the span of the time of the Roman Empire they go in an inverse direction from the rhetoric, all you do is mess up your model of how the world works. Since Rod Dreher converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church he has no excuse of being ahistorical and fixated on abstract concepts of primitive salvation. The Late Roman Empire was the midwife for the greatest revolution in the history of the world from the perspective of a Catholic or Orthodox Christian,* so perhaps he should reconsider his sloppy use of the analogy. In the short term these rhetorical tactics are useful, but in the long term truth matters and errors which propagate through the chain of reasoning can be hard to filter out.

Note: If you want some evidence of the decline in material affluence as a function of time, see The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization and Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800. A narrative of the cultural genius of the Late Roman period can be found in The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000.

* Some Protestant radicals are skeptical of the influence of Late Antiquity because they believe that the Church took a wrong turn in its institutionalization and association with temporal powers.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History, Science • Tags: History, Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

Full-Figured Statuette, 35,000 Years Old, Provides New Clues to How Art Evolved. It’s a story based on the new finding of a 35,000 year old “Venus”. The sexually explicit aspects are kind of funny, but we’ve seen technologies such as VHS, DVD and web video streaming being driven by porn in the modern era. Perhaps porn is responsible for a lot more than we think? Something for Geoffrey Miller’s next book….

Update: Slate says in relation to the body form the “Venus”:

Some women in hunter-gathering societies do have abnormally large buttocks, a condition called steatopygia. It’s especially common among the Khoisan in southern Africa and tribes in the Andaman Islands. It is sometimes considered a sign of beauty, and may have inspired some of the more voluptuous ancient figurines. The most famous example of steatopygia was the Hottentot Venus, a Khoikhoi woman whose physical characteristics made her a sideshow sensation in 19th-century Europe.

Look, this is just an excuse to write an article about ancient obesity and bring up steatopygia. The Egyptians likely never knew anyone who looked like Horus.

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

Tyler Cowen points me to an interesting paper, Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?. Here’s an interesting map which shows states with high and low porn subscription rates (dark = high, light = low).

Here’s a table with the data, controlled for some variables.

This part is amusing:

The fourth column reports that in regions where more people report regularly attending religious services (per National Election Studies 2004), overall subscription rates are not statistically significantly different from subscriptions elsewhere…However, in such regions, a statistically significantly smaller proportion of subscriptions begin on Sundays, compared with other regions. In particular, a 1 percent increase in the proportion of people who report regularly attending religious services is associated with a 0.10 percent reduction in the proportion of purchases that occur on Sunday. This analysis suggests that, on the whole, those who attend religious services shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week, despite on average consuming the same amount of adult entertainment as others.

Remember Pete Du Pont’s op-ed, Gore Carries the Porn Belt?

(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Porn 
🔊 Listen RSS

Just curious. I have a rough intuition. So I went to Porn stars by nationality on Wikipedia. I clicked the entries and tallied up the number of porn stars. I excluded English speaking countries since I figure that the listing would be biased that way because this is an English language encyclopedia. I created a “porn star index” by dividing the number of porn stars by population and then renormalized using the entry with the smallest value.

Country # of porn star entries Normalized porn star index
Austrian 4 188
Belgian 3 111
Brazilian 20 42
Czech 43 1627
Danish 4 283
Dutch 4 95
Finnish 4 294
French 28 170
German 23 109
Hungarian 41 1598
Indian 3 1
Iranian 1 5
Irish 0 -
Italian 10 66
Japanese 66 201
Mexican 6 22
Norwegian 5 415
Polish 3 31
Romanian 4 73
Russian 2 5
Slovak 10 722
Spanish 14 121
Swedish 7 296
Turkish 2 10
Ukrainian 1 8
Venezuelan 1 14
(Republished from GNXP.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Porn 
No Items Found
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"