Emotional Pornography

Sex sells.  Marketing in our culture is almost exclusively based on sex.  We have known this for years, and although we think we are stronger than corporate marketing strategies, we (men) still fall easy prey to GoDaddy super bowl ads and Victoria’s Secret ceiling-high mall pinups.  When I say “easy prey,” I don’t mean we all necessarily go home lusting after these pictures and falling into sin, but somehow there is a movement of something in us.  That movement of something within us is because we were made by God to be moved!  Although the marketing media has no regard for our souls, we have to give them credit at some level for figuring out better than many Christians how to move people.  As men though, we have a serious responsibility to learn how to control our desires and direct them in a way that is consistent with what is true, good, and beautiful.  This is how we let our God-given desires propel us towards God himself through a life lived virtuously.

Using sex to sell is a form of pornography.  Pornography comes from the same word as prostitution, which is the Latin for “price.”  Porn uses a person as a marketable good in a transaction. Pornography is evil primarily because it goes against the very nature with which we were created.  As John Paul II said, “the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end.”  There are actually two major problems with pornography.  First, as JPII points out, it turns the people involved into objects of use. Second though, pornography presents fantasy as reality.  Porn trains its viewers to believe in a version of reality that does not actually exist.  Marketers and producers of porn have figured out how to provide instant and exaggerated gratification to the desires of men and women.  In reality, true gratification does not come in the same form.  This is why pornography is fantasy.  In the examples listed above, women are the marketed objects, but men are not the only ones moved by pornography in the media. There are two kinds of pornography rampant in our culture – physical pornography and emotional pornography.

Emotional pornography markets primarily to women and their emotional desires.  Music and movies – especially movies – present an idea to a woman that somehow moves something in her.  Movies like the Notebook or Twilight resonate with a woman’s desire.  The problem with movies like these though is that they present fantasy to woman as reality, very similar to the way physical pornography presents fantasy to a man as reality.  You may think you are stronger than corporate marketing strategies, but you still fall easy prey.  Somehow there is a movement of something in you.  That movement of something within you is because you were made by God to be moved!  As women though, you have a serious responsibility to learn how to control your desires and direct them in a way that is consistent with what is true, good, and beautiful.

Women across the board (and yes I am making a huge generalization here) typically feel pretty rotten about physical pornography.  Even women who pretend to be ok with it in public because they think that’s what men want still feel deep down that pornography is somehow way off.  It presents an unreal version of women, and a type of relationship they would never want to be a part of, because it supports the idea that women exist for men’s physical pleasure.

Men are very often uncomfortable with chick flicks.  While it is true that many men are just uncomfortable with emotions in general and could learn a lot about them from women, I am going to step out from behind the macho veil and let you women in on a secret. Just as you know that you will never be able to live up to (or down to) the level of those women in porn, we feel deep down that we will never be able to live up to (or down to) the level of those men in the movies you love.  These movies present an unreal version of men, and a type of relationship we would never want to be a part of, because they support the idea that men exist for women’s emotional pleasure.

I am not saying Twilight or The Notebook are evil movies in the same way physical pornography is evil.  I am simply saying that if you walk away from these movies feeling like your life isn’t that great, your relationship isn’t measuring up, or somehow you won’t be happy until you find a Ryan Gosling character to sweep you off your feet, you might want to consider how chaste you are being.  I am also not saying that women are the only ones to fall prey to emotional unchastity (or men to physical unchastity). The physical/emotional distinctions are only concerning the primary ways that sin affects us in our gender differences.

JPII said, “It is the duty of every man to protect the dignity of every woman, and the duty of every woman to protect the dignity of every man.”  If a person were being used to create or sustain some emotional pleasure, his or her dignity is not being protected.


Image credit: shutterstock.com

Dr. Greg Bottaro


Dr. Greg Bottaro is a clinical psychologist practicing in Manhattan serving the greater New York Metropolitan area and many others through web conferencing. He received his Psy.D. (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology) from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, a graduate school in Arlington, VA that integrates Catholic philosophy and theology with sound, empirically validated psychology. Before finishing his degree, Dr. Bottaro discerned a religious vocation with the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs). He lived almost four years in the Bronx, serving the poor in the tradition of St. Francis. These years were formative for him emotionally, spiritually, and professionally as he tested his vocation and ultimately felt the prompting of God’s will to pursue family life. Six years after leaving NYC as a friar Dr. Bottaro returned as a psychologist. His aim is fundamentally the same – to serve. Instead of serving those suffering material poverty, He now serves those with psychological needs. He blogs regularly at CatholicPsych.com.

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  • chris

    this is a brilliant point. i’ve never heard anybody make an argument like this. bravo

  • That Was Then

    Have you seen The Notebook at all? It is about a man who continues to be faithful to his long married Alzheimer’s afflicted wife rather than abandoning her. It is about married love and the sacrifice that are made to keep a marriage together.

    There are other sacharin-coated movies you could choose over this one, such as Pretty Woman.

  • lightedlamp97

    Maybe so many women are are addicted to emotional pornography because an enormous amount of men are addicted to physical pornography. One of the first manifestations is social isolation. We were made to be one. The fact that there has been a rise in these types of movies is a product of a disordered society where couples are disconnected from each other. This again, a product of contraception. We need to be preaching more about the source and not focusing on the symptoms. Couples who practice NFP don’t typically have these issues. We need to get Catholics to stop the madness. Catholics let God come into your bedrooms and watch your marriages flourish!

  • Pamela

    Great insights. I’d never considered the possibility–or impact–of emotional pornography. It’s true, after watching a so-called “chick flick” the tendency is to compare that unreality to one’s own life and feel a twinge of emptiness. Thanks for the eye-opener.

  • Evelyn

    I also think that the plethora of “reality” and “see how the rich folks live” shows breed an unhealthy disappointment with our own lives and/or jealousy of those who have what we don’t. Watching these shows is like eating emotional junk food that makes us lose our apetite for the foods hat do us good.

  • Barrysullivan1

    Although James Garner is very dedicated to his wife at the end of the movie as you state, his younger character and his wife fornicate and it is presented as something good because they love each other, everyone is against their relationship, etc. This subtly undermines the major tenet of the Catholic Faith that marriage is the only legitimate place for sex and fornication is a serious sin with very dire consequences for individuals and society.

  • LeticiaVelasquez

    While I was emotionally enthralled with “Gone with the Wind” in eighth grade, I saw my neighbors’ marriage dissolve because the husband did not compare to the unrealistic heroes in the wife’s novels. I decided that living in a fantasy world was too lonely and put the book down.

  • Joseph Gordon Lovett directed this movie with these very same sentiments. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2229499/

  • Blobee

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. The whole romance novel and movie genres, even without the soft porn scenes (like ones written by Jane Austen) feed into a woman’s notion of romantic love and happily ever after. The problem is when women come to expect these patterns of behavior and outcomes in their own lives, (and many, if not most, do). It’s interesting to note the correspondence between the increase in the popularity of these genres and the the divorce rate. Perhaps the older generations had more realistic expectations of marriage and relationships that were not skewed by bad literature and movies.

  • Izzat Izzat web

    You not covet your neighbor’s spouse, sums it up as the emotional complement of the physical commandment : you shall not commit adultery .

  • drea916

    I think this is related to emotional modesty in dating. A lot of wome get emotional attached too soon. We need to guard our hearts a bit more, just as we are supposed to dress modesty to guard both ourselves and the man we are dating (chastity).

  • Sid

    Porn comes from the Greek “porneia” which means “fornication”. This makes more sense, and is accurate. The latin word for price is “pretium”.

  • JM

    I applaud your decision (and hope your neighbors are ok) I just hope it didn’t cause you to not pick up other books. I think that a lot of books in the fantasy/sci-fi genre have this in common with romance novels – that people use them as an emotional escape from the difficulties of their lives. However, there are different types or levels to this escapism – if one is escaping only for the emotional “high” one can find in the book/movie/tv show it can become destructive and harmful – even addictive. However, if the book/movie/tv show gives you a break from the real world and allows you through the story to be able to reflect on deeper truths and appreciate beauty or see the goodness in something that then allows you to return to the “real” world better equiped to deal with its problems, that is a good and noble thing. (IIRC J.R.R. Tolkien talked about this idea). Saldy most (if not all) romance novels and many fantasy/sci-fi novels do not have the quality/depth to be able to be used for the good kind of escape and are ready fodder for harmful emotional escapism.

  • Richard III

    What is there in Jane Austen’s novels that could possibly be considered “soft porn”?

  • pnyikos

    I was shocked when I saw “Gone With the Wind” again a few years ago. What had stuck in my mind when I saw it fifty years ago, in my teen years, was the noble behavior of Melanie; seldom had I seen such a good woman portrayed in film.

    Now I saw how much less important her role was than that of Scarlett O’Hara, who was far worse than I’d remembered her. Somehow I’d totally forgotten how she dishonestly stole her sister’s fiancee away from her, in between her first husband and her third, Rhett Butler.

    Strong character she undoubtedly is — in fact, it is the contrast between the naive, trusting, easygoing Melanie that makes her appeal to so many — but that strength is channeled in destructive directions, ultimately destructive to herself despite the (naively?) hopeful final monologue ending in “tomorrow is another day.”

  • sarah

    I don’t understand this article. Someone shed some light for me. Emotions in women are not porn.

  • Suzanne

    I am sorry. I have to object to this article. I understand that comparisons are odious. Real women should not compare real-life relationships to fictional relations. Neither should they compare themselves to other real-life couples. (My own parents were both saintly souls and *never* argued. They may occasionally have disagreed, but they never argued. The respect between them was profound.) I am not so saintly and neither is my husband. For me to compare the two relationships, however, is hardly a sin comparable to pornography. One is a comparison with an ideal, the other is a comparison with a gross and violent distortion of sexuality. Wishing your significant other to possess more virtue/greater perfection, or for your relationship to be more peaceful and loving and romantic, is not even in the same category as porn. Both sexes are guilty of odious comparisons. To call Jane Austen’s novels a kind of porn is beyond ridiculous; it is deeply offensive. They are not romances based upon mere sentimentality and titillating love scenes, they offer women a look at virtuous men and men whose charming advances must be avoided and how the failure to do so leads to sadness and ruination. Far too many women settle for less-than-virtuous men. They read too little great literature and not too much. Their ideals are too low, not too high. Therein lies the cause for much discontent in marriage.

  • Barrysullivan1

    I wouldn’t consider Jane Austin novels pornographic or problematic for Christians because sinful behavior is always presented as sinful and noble behavior is always presented as noble. The Notebook, and most other present day novels and movies, justify sinful behavior due to some other characteristic of the people involved. i.e. if I am a good person and “love” you then shacking up really isn’t wrong. I always felt the older genres helped me strive to be better than I was whereas today’s tend to entice you to lower your moral standards to feel better about yourself.

  • Kimberly Gill

    Well said.♥

  • LH

    If I recall correctly, doesn’t the male character bed a woman that physically resembles his ideal women he couldn’t be with? Remember when she rolls over in bed and asks him “What is she like”? or something to that extent? Not much of a sacrifice if you ask me.

  • Janet Baker

    Emotions are not porn, but neither is the sex drive in and of itself. The objection is to the titillation of either of these two human characteristics.

  • Blobee

    That’s what I was saying. Even in romance novels where there are NO sexual scenes, (such as those by Jane Austen), the emphasis on romantic love and happily ever after promotes unrealistic notions of marriage and relationships.

  • Blobee

    I think what he was saying is the emotional appeal of romantic movies and literature promotes an unreal and unachievable version of relationships.

  • Blobee

    The author never used Jane Austen as an example. I cited that as an example of romantic literature that although it contains no sexual scenes it does fit the explanation of the author that, ” Just as you know that you will never be able to live up to (or down to) the level of those women in porn, we feel deep down that we will never be able to live up to (or down to) the level of those men in the movies you love. These movies present an unreal version of men, and a type of relationship we would never want to be a part of, because they support the idea that men exist for women’s emotional pleasure.” I thought of Jane Austen because her novels were wildly popular in her day, and appeal to that same fantasy life of woman of the dashing man sweeping her off her feet to live happily ever after.

  • Blobee

    Sorry if my citing Jane Austen seemed not to fit this article, but I think what the author was saying is that there is a kind of “emotional pornography” something that “moves women” and “[t]he problem with movies like these though is that they present fantasy to
    woman as reality, very similar to the way physical pornography presents
    fantasy to a man as reality.” Jane Austen’s novels certainly do that. He is saying fiction is used to get into our spirits to take us away from the truth about relationships between men and women.

  • Leila Miller

    This is a good reminder for me (and all my sisters in Christ).

  • Bobby Rodriguez

    Sounds like the author likes porn. Reaction formation?

  • Organic Decline

    What is happening is males are living longer and as a group, they have not faced the reality that nature starts the decline of male hormones in the early thirties. It is for good reason, as it keeps nature in balance, and if a male expresses the sexual urge in marriage, at thirty he is at the point in his life where his love of God is maturing, and that should more than offset any personal sense of loss he may feel. Obviously, the way of the world is to maximize profits off of this normal decline, and if you can make the males have low self esteem for not feeling or looking like they are twenty years old, like they have done to us women since day 1, you have found your way into their pockets. A huge industry has been born of this normal and natural decline, anyone harboring mental conflict regarding basic morality will find themselves a client of an enormous and growing clientele.

  • Monique Maryssa…

    Well, as a woman I have to agree with this article. I have known many, many, many women who divorced their husbands, because of romantic notions that their husbands weren’t fulfilling. Women in today’s society (In general) have a tendency to expect wholly unrealistic patterns of behavior from men. Expectation is different from exhortation. It’s one thing to encourage and exhort the men in our lives in behavior that is respectful and loving; and quite another to expect a man to act like fictional characters in a book, no matter how virtuous that character may be. I know a whole group of Catholic well meaning single women who are Jane Austen nuts, and sitting and having a conversation with them feels like we’re constructing these “ideal” men who can’t exist. I always felt that when you do that, you’re turning guys into ideal, romantic objects who aren’t allowed to make a mistake every now and then (like forgetting something important to you because they’re stressed over something else; or they can’t read your mind and your needs so therefore they must not be the “one”).

  • Monique Maryssa…

    Along the same lines, how many women do you know who walked away from a marriage, because the men weren’t living up to their expectation? I’m including in this number, “devout” Catholics and non-catholic Christians. When I talk to these women one on one about what happened, a lot of it has to do with a false idea of who they thought their mates are/were. Fantasy is a Dangerous mindset.

  • pantherskill

    I dont think any adult women are interested in this trash maybe teenage girls think its great but adult women (like me) No way that is absurd . Women are very savy these days they are more independent and educated so who are these women who are so in love with these garbage films that you speak of? Give us a little more credit than that ok

  • Withit

    It’s not movies, it’s shopping that is emotional porn for women. We fill ourselves up with material things to fill the void of knwing that as hard as we try we will never look like a Victoria’s secret model, oe even the perfect looking friend of ours. For a while buying something gives us a high and then we’re left with guilt, a credit card bill and the reality that we don’t ultimately habe what we really wanted anyway. Chick flicks only give us the fleeting vicarious experience of the idea that one man tried to love one woman with all he’s got. Sorry Dr. Bottaro but please don’t act like a nasty copulating interlude is the same as a girl watching Sleepless In Seatte.

  • Candlelight

    “Somehow there is a movement of something in you. That movement of
    something within you is because you were made by God to be moved! As
    women though, you have a serious responsibility to learn how to control
    your desires and direct them in a way that is consistent with what is
    true, good, and beautiful.”

    I don’t think Dr. Bottaro is drawing a valid parallel in his argument. The viewer of porn is not left wishing that some day he will be sexually
    aroused, or contemplating how wonderful sexual desire is in those
    blessed to experience it –physical porn is intended to , and does, cause actual sexual arousal in the viewer. It’s a participatory experience in that regard. It co-opts the arousal that ought to be reserved for one’s spouse.

    Chick flicks may make a woman wish she could be in love one day. They may make her wistful for an intimate emotional connection with a man. They may make her fondly remember when she fell in love. They do not make her fall in love. They do not make her feel that some fantasy man is now engaged in a heart-to-heart relationship with her. She doesn’t walk out of the theater basking in the leading actor’s love for her.

    The appeal of these chick flicks is our longing for a man who really loves us. We are designed to be relationship-oriented beings. It’s as unrealistic to expect us to make no emotional demands on a spouse as it is to expect a man to happily agree to a marriage without sex.

    If a man is inwardly squeamish at the thought that his wife will expect him to meet some of her emotional needs, perhaps he is not called to marriage, just as a woman who is horrified at the thought that her husband will expect her to meet some of his sexual needs, is probably not called to marriage.

  • JM

    I am glad that you and the adult women you know aren’t into this kind of thing, but I know several adult women of a very wide age range that are really into these movies and/or are avid romance novel readers.

    A couple years ago I worked in an office that had an employee run used book group (donate some used books and you could borrow a book from the collection, return it when done and you could borrow another) and a significant amount of the books in the collection were romance novels and books that may not have been labeled as romance but they were close enough. All the employees were at least old enough to have graduated from college with the average age in the office being much higher.
    I was a little disappointed because this was an office full of sophistacted, intellegent, well educated women, but I guess some of them felt like they still needed this kind of escape.

  • JM

    “Expectation is different from exhortation. It’s one thing to encourage and exhort the men in our lives in behavior that is respectful and loving; and quite another to expect a man to act like fictional characters in a book, no matter how virtuous that character may be.”
    Wow! I can’t agree more. I wish this was stated in the original article beause, as you pointed out, many well intentioned Christians make the mistake of not understanding the distinction.

  • M

    You are a real clinical psychologist ?

    I find that hard to believe after reading this.

    Dropping your ‘macho’ ‘veil’ only suggests some kind of emotional retardation on your part.

    Little to do with a woman or a man’s capacity for feeling anything, or not.

    Too long in a seminary or monastery perhaps. Not suggesting that all men or women in such places are dysfunctional – but if you are a real clinical psychologist – I think you know what I am talking about.

    I would agree with the final point though JPII was not original there either.

    “Oh Ruuuuubyyy, don’t take your love to town….. ”

    And all this talk of ‘moving something in….. ‘ I mean really Greg, you little closet filth monger. How could you. 😉


  • Mary

    Oh Fiddle de deee Leticia Valasquez.

    I may not know what a woman wants bein’ a scarlet one n’ all that. But I know what a man wants n’ you’s just jealous.

    Efta oll, tumarra eez anutha dey !

    Doesn’t everyone like emotional security and seriously good hot sex some times too ?

    I mean come off it people – at least be honest. Though for some it’s only during those moments of good hot pleasure you ever hear the words, “Oh I love you…. I love you….. I love UUUUUUUUUUUU….. ! “

  • Not that it matters.

    Emotionally DIS HONEST. As is this site apparently.

    God forbid you give another perspective that is not traditionally Catholic. Hypocrisy.

  • Richard III

    Oh, OK. Now I get you, and you do indeed have a point. My aunt is an English professor and an Austenite, and one of her students got an F on her paper because she was so charmed by Mr. Willoughby in the Sense and Sensibility movie that she argued that he was Prince Charming, totally forgetting or ignoring that he was really a weasel. She was more devastated than Marianne Dashwood when she got her paper back.

  • Richard III

    They have therapy treatments just for women who have read too many romance novels and been disappointed by real life.

  • Katherine

    Very thought-provoking article! I am going to be more conscious of “emotional pornography”. Thanks for the insight.

  • lightedlamp97

    I personally think that LIfetime Movie Network would qualify for a real life example of emotional pornography. Only the movies are made for women and always have sex and seduction and portray men as the evil one. I find these movies to leave you with a sense that men will always do what’s wrong no matter how good a woman is. This is a dangerous message. I think that network should be shut down! Years ago in my twenties, I struggled with music and movies…leading me to have thoughts of wanting someone to love me like that. I took it to the confessional, and the Priest encouraged me to listen to the music as if I was wanting that from Jesus. Jesus wants us to fall madly in love with him! Even before our spouse!! Today’s music and movies make it so challenging to imagine that Jesus is the one the movie is portraying or that the music is leading us to. Our imaginations were given to us by God, for good. The problem is we junk it up with filth. In everything, ask,” could I invite Jesus to watch this movie with me or listen to this music, or participate in this conversation etc?”

  • Ree

    Bravo Greg, to take it further, I got a creepy sad feeling inside of me after watching the Titanic and the Notebook because they glorify fornication which is a mortal sin. I worried about the main characters dying in a state of sin and going to hell for a few fleeting moments of lust. Purity will bring the renewal in society and return to faith we so sorely need. God bless you.

  • Suzanne

    As I said, you cannot compare women who are looking to a *true ideal* in literature or elsewhere in the arts — ideals in *virtue* and gentlemanliness with men who compare their wives to the *degraded* women and extreme distortions of sexuality in porn. It is offensive in the extreme to do so. And to simply write off a woman’s desire to feel cherished by her husband as “emotional porn” is also offensive.

    If a man does not want to acknowledge gentlemanly virtues he lacks, that will make him uncomfortable. I feel *uncomfortable* reading the lives of the saints, because I’m so far from that kind of virtue and wonder if I can attain it. But I have to remember the love of Christ is transformative and it changes a soul, quietly day by day.

  • Ruby Caneey

    My question is – do women actually realise that fact that pornography seems to reduce their personalities as gratification tools? It seems to me that they see it as normal as being a woman.

  • Lee

    Too much of anything is usually not a good thing. Pornography is loveless. Love is the most important thing in our life. GOD is LOVE. When we do our will without love we are more apt to become sinners. Pornography is very sinful. Ladies get off the couch, put down the book and get out there and do some loving in Christ name.

  • Susie

    I think the author is on to something but needs to talk to women to understand how far these things compare. If women looked at all hunky movie kissers who have miraculously giving natures as the emotional ideal – he’d be right. But those movies are a dime a dozen. And a lot of them are flops. What we are really responding to (and Austen’s stuff is a perfect example) is a manly man. A man with a noble nature who is not perfect but acts against his evil inclinations because of his noble nature. Yes, that is what we want from our husbands and I don’t see how that’s bad. Another difference is that we don’t view these things in isolation – as porn is viewed. This is art. It provokes discussion and insight. We, in fact, watch and then talk about what is likely to happen after the fade out. What the couple will be likely to clash about, etc. As for the romance element giving unreal expectations – okay. Then again, if wives are supposed to try to look nice for their husbands, it follows that husbands are supposed to do little things to court their wives.

  • adrian

    The men in Jane Austen novels, though, are criticized for things unholy, but they are praised for things holy. There is a distinction between evil and good that is Biblical. I am sorry you fail to see that. It is OKAY for women to look for a man with virtue and vice versa. There is nothing wrong with fictional characters and stories as long as they do not praise what is evil and denigrate what is good. That is what Twilight, etc… does, and therefore, it is evil.

  • Brian F Hudon

    So fiction is now porn? Movies sway the heart in moments of diversion. It’s a practice as old as story telling. Sometimes, movies tell stories of things which are or might be. Not all story telling is an act of advocating for particular moral or immoral choices. Not all story can or should be an act of expounding upon Catholic teaching. A story is exactly what it is, a story. Now, some story telling might portray lifestyles or choices as good or even moral, which clearly are not according to the Church. That does not mean that all things which are poorly told in stories make those stories pornography. Such an assertion in my opinion, frankly speaking, is hyperbole.

  • That Was Then

    He stayed married to her for over 50 years after meeting when they were young. He hasn’t abandoned her to the home but visits daily. If that doesn’t demonstrate love and commitment, then what does?

    What youth doesn’t make mistakes? Heck, a good third of my many aunts and uncles had to get married because of pregnancy. They are still married over 50 years later. That happened a LOT in the old days; just because no one spoke about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  • Blobee

    I recall reading St. Theresa of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul” and in it she describes how, because of a cousin she liked very much, she fell into reading novels that were not good for her soul. I don’t recall the details, but I was led to believe she was referring to romantic novels of chivalry and so on. It seemed to me she was pointing out this very problem of forming your expectations based on novels, not on what God wants. But she never gets specific, so it’s hard to say what she was referring to. In any case, if women do adopt the values out of novels rather than the values taught by the Church and Christ, then there is a problem.

  • Blobee

    How funny (in a way)! Willoughby! The student didn’t see he was a weasel? I would say that was a red flag for her/him!

  • Blobee

    Oh, I could tell you stories!!! I recall knowing a middle aged, very accomplished, female lawyer who was in a Catholic discussion group I attended, who thought “The Bridges of Madison County” was the most wonderful book she had read in a long time. She gushed about it so much that I actually picked it up and read it, and was so disgusted by it I lost all respect for her. I’ve known many woman reading the same kinds of things.

  • Hounded

    I wish the “natural decline in their thirties” were true. My husband is nearly 50, and he still won’t leave me alone. lol He wants sex more often than food. I agree with “like they have done to us women since day one,” though.

  • Beth

    Regarding men and women’s capacity for emotional life. You know the classic “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles ? And it is classic. Check it out on youtube and read the comments from women AND men.

    This BS that men are all emotionally retarded neanderthals. “Macho” “VEIL”. Veils are used to hide, disguise something. So get with the programme ‘dr’. Be honest.

    I can’t believe a real clinical psychologist wrote this utter tripe. And if you are a real one I’d not recommend you to anyone. Not till you have really lived some more and ideally some more real and intense emotional life of which we are all capably by the mere fact of being human beings. I know a man lying near death at present cause of crap like this. He is ‘macho’ – very much so, man’s man – but his emotional life suffered serious neglect and took him to this place where he now is. A place from which I hope he can and will rise again through good and honest emotional (and other) supports.

  • Micha_Elyi

    I am not saying Twilight or The Notebook are evil movies in the same way physical pornography is evil.
    –Dr. Greg Bottaro

    But you should, Dr. Bottaro.

  • Micha_Elyi

    “Maybe…” not.
    Nice try at letting the females escape responsibility, though.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Many things females indulge themselves in is porn. Full-strength porn, it is too.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Females often degrade men by turning them into Romance Objects.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Bobby’s projecting?

  • Monique Maryssa…

    I’d Have to disagree with a few points here. As a married woman who loves and is loved by her husband, I have found that learning how to control your “desires” is a pivotal function of protecting our sacrament of marriage. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve known who have followed the logic you outline and then allow to grow to such an extent that it overshadows a real relationship to the point that a guy no longer believes he can live up to the woman’s expectations, and the woman is convinced that he’s horrible, insensitive and not worthy of her love. It’s a two way street. The chances of a man fulfilling your emotional needs is more likely to occur if you don’t have false constructs of what that is supposed to look like. It’s not about not have emotional needs, as that’s an impossibility as a female. It’s about being able to discern what’s an emotional need and what’s an emotional want.

    It’s also about communicating clearly what you need. Most men WILL NOT be able to tell what those are unless a woman is direct and clear in what she wants and when she wants it. That being said, it’s also important for a woman to communicate her needs in a loving and trusting way, and not delivering it in a tone of “Why aren’t you giving me what I need? I’m upset and frustrated because you didn’t do this… and this…. and this”. When I read the same paragraph you quoted from the above author, my mind automatically jumped to how does a woman do this? She does it be 1) being clear on what she wants and needs 2) discerning clearly on what’s really a want and what’s really a need 3) communicating actual needs in a way that doesn’t put a guy on the defensive and causing a fight.

    Again, for anyone who didn’t read my above comment, there is statistical research that shows that the bulk of divorces in today’s society are petitioned for by the wife, not the husband. There’s additional research that I’ll have to reference in a separate post, that is built on polls of why women ask for divorce. The #1 issue is lack of adherence to a particular expectation that the wife had on the husband… not the other way around. I also have a lot of personal experience with knowing many women who divorced their husbands for the same underlying reasons- false expectations (created by tons of chick flicks, chick lit and lots of chatting with female friends and perpetuating the fantasy mindset), then not communicating true wants and needs in a loving way, thus causing fights, thus causing animosity, thus causing divorce. So in that respect, YES, it is possible for there to be emotional pornography, because it has the SAME destructive effects even if it comes in a different form.

  • Monique Maryssa…


  • Phil Steinacker

    From studying (soon to be) Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body I encountered a distinction regarding lust which made eminently good sense in that very instant; that male lust and female lust are most often (but not always) quite different.

    Male lust is highly visually-attuned and focused on physical acts of sexuality to attain the gratification of intense sexual pleasure; female lust is emotionally oriented, the sought-after gratification of feeling loved and cherished. This reality has given rise to the very accurate generalization (useful in communicating concepts) that men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love. You get the idea even though it is not true for every individual of either sex.

    There is nothing wrong with either sexual pleasure or the pleasure of strong feelings from being loved, but when we objectify the Other (who should be our Beloved but too often is not yet – if ever) as a tool to obtain what we seek then we are engaged in lust. This is true even in marriage, where – contrary to a popular view held even by some Catholics – it is NOT OK to lust after your spouse.

    I understand what the author is saying in that context, although I can see here in the combox some of the difficulties in referring to an unhealthy attachment to emotional pleasure by women as emotional pornography. I think the problem maybe in an elemental difference between “normative” pornography and emotional pornography; that is, normative pornography always objectifies and debases the Other, but emotional pornography only becomes such when a woman uses that movie or book in a fallen manner to vicariously satiate her desire to be immersed in those feelings she craves.

    Physical porn is always porn but chick flicks or Jane Austen novels stand on their own as entertainment and even representations of legitimate emotional aspirations for women and even some men. The problem begins when women use such vehicles to serve their own lustful desires in ways which parallel how men use physical pornography to do the same. In so doing such women transform for themselves those valid representations of what women rightly seek in men into emotional pornography, while those representations remain unsullied for those women who do not.

    We must know this dynamic is occurring, because in a feminist culture which glorifies women “taking responsibility for their own orgasm” by encouraging the mimicking of male sexual attitudes and behavior there has been a resulting rocketing of female addiction to physical porn. The numbers are objectively still smaller than that of men but it’s hardly standing still – the rate of growth among females is

    Perhaps the crafters of feminist theory never contemplated what could possibly go wrong when women are encouraged to ape men, and not our best features at that, but that’s another discussion.

  • Won’t Be Visiting Again

    Really?! People are actually agreeing that there is such a thing as emotional porn and that is equatable to internet porn…and that it is best exemplified by chick flicks?! Wow. Clearly the men on here (as usual) want to point their guilty fingers at women. Also, the women on here who have agreed with author clearly have had no direct experience with a man or men who’ve been addicted to porn or they would be furious at this ridiculous association This article is insulting.

  • Withit

    That is a bunch of crap and you know it. Go get yourself some cigars and have a pow wow with a bunch of good old boys and pat yourself on the back for being so omniscient.

  • Withit

    PS, did you really infer that straying eyes isn’t a straying heart? I’l give you one thing, both porn and chick flicks involve kleenex involve kleenex. I bet you just blushed in a way that no women would, becuae what you men folk do while watching porn is NASTY!!

  • Micha_Elyi

    Physical porn is always porn…
    Phil Steinacker

    …and a so-called romance novel is physical. And it’s often porn, too, even if it’s not listed in the Pink Kink Catalog.

  • drgreg

    I agree Evelyn. Have you heard the comedian Jim Gaffigan? He does a bit on eating McDonalds, but then says, “don’t think just because you avoid McDonalds you are avoiding fast food… the tabloids and reality shows and celebrity obsessions are all McDonalds.”

  • drgreg

    I know my article was clarified below but I just want to add in that I totally affirm what you are saying about Austen’s novels. There is a beauty to the ideal, and we should certainly all be striving for the ideal. Unfortunately, many of the movies out there do not present an ideal, but only a distortion of it in a way that producers know will play on our desires. There is always something good in what is evil, because the devil can not create something out of nothing – only God can do that. The devil is forced to take what God created and then twist it, change it a little in order to distract and mislead us from God’s plan. Comparing Austen’s characters and Spark’s characters is a great way to show this twisting and distortion.

  • drgreg

    Phil, you are right to attribute this article to Theology of the Body, JPII’s work is where I get most of my influence. However, I think a further clarification in your distinction might come from his discussion on nudity in art vs. porn. There is a place for nudity in art. The human body is beautiful and really artists are the most equipped to somehow present the human body in its greatest glory. This why the clothes that were prudishly painted over Michaelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel were removed by JPII during its restoration.

    Calling something porn is already admitting its distortion. I think calling something a “chick flick” in our culture does the same thing. I don’t think anyone would call Jane Austen’s work “chick flicks.” I could be wrong on this and I’m happy to hear responses…

    As an appropriate comparison, I would say that Jane Austen is to Nicholas Sparks as Michaelangelo’s nudity is to pornography.

  • Norman

    I have six sisters, and they’d all say the exact same thing in terms of “I object to empathetic emotions being harmful, ever”– but I disagree because oh yes, you can have pity on a demon (as a matter of fact St. Aquinas said that’s one of the ways they get in to people’s hearts- by appealing for help as a victim)- it’s why homosexual marriage is now becoming law, have compassion for homosexuals yes, but not wanting to disturb their emotions by telling them the truth is wrong. When you don’t say the truth, it’s a moral cop out. True, it can be a moral cop out that makes one feel self righteous and all warm and squishy inside for all of the “love” they’ll receive from people who disagree with the rest of their beliefs, but compartmentalizing your beliefs to honor the will of others is a sad, sad thing to do.
    Sometimes I get women thrown at me, but most are 10X more interested in the idea of getting married than living out a marriage. I come across more and more women who are married to the idea of getting married, while the guy they marry is unimportant minus a few checks (job, smart/educated). It’s dangerous giving your spouse that little thought to highlight the emotional positives of marriage that aren’t going to come because you didn’t give enough thought to who your spouse is. I do think that’s a factor in the rising divorce rates, but only one of many. Still, it proves that emotions can be misleading even if they’re desiring something “good”, because it doesn’t mean that the person desiring wants that good for a good reason.

  • Feminista

    Gloria Steinem wrote the same thing decades ago – “Harlequin romances are female porn”.

  • drgreg

    For anyone that wants to hear more of my distinctions and observations about the Church and the brain differences between men and women – including certain strengths of men – see my article here, http://www.catholicpsych.com/2012/09/28/should-women-man-up-in-response-to-holding-back-tears/

  • Micha_Elyi

    Yeah, and would the quibblers really learn anything from a story in which the characters started out perfect and just became more perfecter until the story ended? And would they pay money to see that story made into a motion picture?

    The questions answer themselves.

  • stevegbrown

    Very good article. Congrats. Just a minor correction though. The term “pornography” come from the koine greek word “porne” , which means “prostitute”. The latin word for price is “pretium” and “pendo”. Cheers.