crouse 300x204 Janice Shaw Crouse, Torrid Marriages and the Right Wing Problem Of Porn AddictionToday, we return to the work of Janice Shaw Crouse in her book Marriage Matters: Perspectives On The Private And Public Importance Of Marriage. Last time, we examined her rules for dating, learning that, though she has snippets of solid advice for young couples, her Judeo-Christian Supremacist worldview both blinds her to the realities experienced by every single person who doesn’t fit into her exact cultural conservative mold. She can’t see that her good advice can be heeded quite wisely by gay and lesbian couples, and that her bad advice hurts anyone who takes it. The next chapter on our list is about the centrality of having really good, passionate, frequent sex within a marriage, and we’re not going to dwell too hard on it.

Why?

Because I have few quibbles with it. I will point out that her advice applies equally to straight or gay couples, religious or non-religious couples, etc. Amidst the myriad stresses of navigating the modern world with a spouse, sex often goes by the wayside, and that’s a bad thing. Couples should make an effort not to let the sex die. Dr. Phil and Oprah agree. We all agree. Sex is great, and marrieds should have some right now.

She does get onto a tangent about the prevalence of porn and how it affects relationships, and I will agree that there’s an issue to be discussed there, but it’s not quite the one she frames. Janice talks about the growing exploitative nature of porn (she’s talking about straight porn here) that’s far removed from the early days of Playboy, and if she was willing, I’m sure she could find certain common ground with feminists on such issues. But what always strikes me when conservatives talk about porn is that they immediately start to discuss porn addiction:

Pamela Paul, author of Pornified:  How Pornography is Damaging our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families, explained the effect on men who consume pornography:  “Pornography touches all aspects of their existence. Their work days become interrupted, their hobbies were tossed aside, and their family lives were disrupted. Some men even lost their jobs, their wives, and their children.” … Pornography is “contaminating all our relationships between men and women,” said Dr. [Mary Ann] Layden.

There is quite a bit of BS here. Janice also quotes another conservative professor who calls porn the “crack cocaine of sexual addiction.” Have y’all ever noticed that the ones who talk about sexual addiction and porn are primarily prudish, anti-gay conservatives? For one thing, as Amanda Marcotte points out, the idea of “sex addiction” is kind of open-ended:

I’m going to side with skeptics like Susie Bright and Dan Savage and say that I highly doubt that people are “addicted” to sex. The entire enterprise has more than a whiff of woo to it, starting with the fact that the definition of “addiction” is entirely subjective.

Proponents define sex addiction as any kind of sexual behavior that causes stress to you, your family, or your work life. In theory, this sounds like a fair way to define it, but in practice, this means that if your coworkers or family members are serious prudes, homophobes, or have massive hang-ups, then you are fair game for being called a sex addict. People who masturbate with any regularity often find themselves being eyeballed as sex addicts, particularly if they’re married to someone who has decided that masturbation is somehow a betrayal of their monogamous arrangement. As Dan Savage says… it doesn’t take much time paying attention to proponents of the sex addiction model-people like Dr. Drew-to pick up on the strong puritanical streak underlying their diagnoses.

Moreover, Janice Shaw Crouse’s worldview is part of the problem. In a worldview that considers all sexual desire aside from that one has for their heterosexual spouse to be shameful and forbidden, where it’s something to hide, yes, I can see how sexually repressed conservative men could make quite a habit of locking themselves in their offices and retreating from their reality of their mundane lives by watching porn incessantly. I don’t hear about this among liberals, though, and I really don’t hear about it from gay men. Why? Because rather than being shameful, porn is more something that simply exists. I look at porn. It’s never affected my life in any remote way. I guess if I experienced some kind of guilty shame-spiral every time I did it, imagining that some sort of spiritual battle was happening over my sexual desires, it might be different.

Amanda Marcotte explains another reason this whole “sex/porn addiction” thing is really a conservative evangelical issue, a specifically hetero reason:

We want to call these men “addicts,” because to admit what’s really going on would be to open a can of worms about marriage, sex, and gender roles that we’d prefer to leave sealed. It’s really hard to play the mothering, doting, responsible, take-care-of-everything wife and also be an object of erotic fascination to a man, particularly if he’s got a touch of the sexism and separates women into Madonnas and whores. It’s not even remotely surprising to me that men who expect their wives to play the role of good wife find that they can’t get sexually excited by it and end up looking elsewhere. And it’s not just men like Tiger Woods, who have the wife at home taking care of business and sexual excitement on the road. The world of evangelical Christianity has a big time sex “addiction” problem of men who sexually neglect their wives and express themselves mainly through pornography. Of course they do! All the qualities of a good Christian wife-namely, subsuming your identity into husband and children-are the antithesis of the erotic for most people. When a woman slips out of the role of individual and into the role of extension of her man, then having sex with her probably does feel like masturbation, but more work. So of course men get desperate to have real sexual excitement. But that’s not the sort of thing that a puritanical addiction model could ever address.

The conservative worldview that branded certain women as “loose” is still with us, and enlightened women have been working to address this issue for years, the idea of letting women be whole beings. The Christian Right doesn’t do this. Moreover, even the happiest of married couples will find themselves sexually attracted to other people. Not because they’re being unfaithful, but because they are human. Couples who are honest and forthright about this do a lot better than those who aren’t.

That being said, again, Janice is arguing for marriages where sex is hot and frequent — she uses the word “torrid” and I like it — so, admit it though she won’t, she’s actually arguing for a feminist perspective on this in a way.

Is it healthy to pretend that a desire for a torrid love life is not part of who we are?

Frankly, life-long marriage without “torrid” is not an appealing picture.

Nope, it’s not. For straight and gay couples, keeping the bedroom torrid should be a pretty central goal, I think. One way Janice could help to fix that whole “sex addiction” thing that conservatives seem to have such a problem with would be to study what feminists really say and teach it to her fellow conservatives, rather than standing on stage at the World Congress Of Families defending the patriarchy, condemning gays and lesbians, claiming that feminists are trying to destroy masculinity, and generally just being a grump.

I mean, it’s clear:  Janice likes sex, a whole lot. It’s a shame she works for policies which would regulate how autonomous, willing adult people have it. She clearly believes that all sex which is not had by married, heterosexual people is bad. She’s unable to conceive of the idea that her way isn’t the best way for every person out there. For some, surely, it is! But this is the problem with the “my way or the highway” tenets of the Judeo-Christian Supremacist worldview. When you believe that your co-religionists (in some cases, only the co-religionists who interpet things the way you do) are the only ones getting into Heaven, it’s not a stretch to extend that to other areas. You’re either going to Heaven or Hell and likewise, your sex life is either good and pure if it fits their mold, or it’s shameful and destructive.

And if your experiences are different, they don’t care, because if it doesn’t fit into their worldview, it doesn’t exist.

If you are in a happy same-sex marriage and sex is beautiful and fulfilling, you must be missing something, because in actuality, they believe, you are broken and in a self-destructive pattern.

If you are a person who’s uncommitted and enjoys fleeting, casual encounters where there is mutual respect and willingness between the two partners, if you find that to be a lot of fun, you must be lying to yourself and trying to patch lifelong scars with sex.

If you’re a woman who does that? You must not exist, because, according to Janice, the only way women can ever truly enjoy sex is if they’re with their loving, trusted husband.

And I swear, if this was just what Janice believed, I wouldn’t be spending time examining this book, but American religious extremists, including Janice Shaw Crouse, who sits on the board of the World Congress Of Families, are spreading these ideas around the world and influencing governments! Homosexuality is being criminalized, family planning for economically disadvantaged women is being curtailed, human rights are being trampled upon, all in the name of spreading the Judeo-Christian Supremacist worldview to unsuspecting populations. They’ve basically lost in the United States, which is why they’ve taken their toys to Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Show me a population that’s suffering under the weight of poverty, disease, lack of economic opportunity and oppression and I’ll guarantee you the World Congress Of Families has already smelled the blood in the water, whether they’ve gone to that specific nation or not.

For a good, brief round-up of what the WCF has done internationally so far, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s great, brief overview of the group’s history and doings.

And, if you’ve missed earlier installments of this series, here you go:

1. Janice Shaw Crouse:  The World Congress Of Families’ Favorite Anti-Feminist Woman

2. Janice Shaw Crouse: ‘Marriage Matters,’ But Only On Our Terms, As Long As You’re Not Gay

3. Janice Shaw Crouse: Love And Marriage Are Amazing! (Many Conditions Apply, Of Course)

4. Janice Shaw Crouse’s Rules For Dating