Standards Do Change

Damon Linker thinks it’s basically self-evident that every parent would be horrified to learn that one of their children works in the pornography industry, and that seems intuitively true. It’s true in my case. It’s probably true for almost every parent I know. But Linker should try a slightly different thought experiment. How would you feel to learn that your child is gay or lesbian? Would you be angry? Disappointed? Fearful for their safety and happiness? Some combination of these and other emotions?

I think the truth is that most people don’t want the burden of homosexuality for their children, but an increasing number of people primarily want their children to be themselves and to be accepted for being themselves. For them, learning that their child is gay is perhaps like learning that they want to be a painter. It isn’t what they envisioned and it’s not going to be an easy or necessarily lucrative career. Why not do something safer and surer, like go to law school? Yet, ultimately, most of us want our children to be happy and if they have to follow their muse, we’ll be accepting of that.

Pornography still has a huge stigma attached to it and even accepting parents would probably be unhappy to tell their friends that their son or daughter is in porn. Moreover, unlike homosexuality, doing porn is still a choice. But there are an increasing number of people who don’t have a problem with their children doing pornography, perhaps because they did it themselves. In their world, the power of this stigma has been largely overcome. We don’t have to agree with them, but we shouldn’t deny that they exist.

Finally, from my own perspective, while it’s true that I don’t want my son to do pornography, I’d be equally devastated if he decided to have a career issuing pay day loans or swindling the elderly out of their money. There are countless disreputable ways to make money legally in this country and many more ways to criminally rip people off. What I care about most is that my son not pursue any of those careers.

I think it’s true that people still have an idea of what’s noble and what is base, but I don’t think this involves the same amount of self-denial as Linker asserts. People are growing more tolerant of other people’s behavior even to the point of not disagreeing with it as much as they used to. In a real sense, the way people perceive right and wrong is shifting, especially on the sexual plane.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com