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Brinkley’s husband may have followed a similar trajectory, along with many of the other porn-happy celebrity spouses who’ve featured in the gossip pages and divorce courts lately. Over the past three decades, the VCR, on-demand cable service, and the Internet have completely overhauled the ways in which people interact with porn.
Innovation has piled on innovation, making modern pornography a more immediate, visceral, and personalized experience.
Yet amid all the chatter about whether the FBI should have cared about Spitzer’s habit of paying for extramarital sex, next to nobody suggested, publicly at least, that his wife ought not to care—that Silda Spitzer ought to have been grateful he was seeking only sexual gratification elsewhere, and that so long as he was loyal to her in his mind and heart, it shouldn’t matter what he did with his penis.
Start with the near-universal assumption that what Spitzer did in his hotel room constituted adultery, and then ponder whether Silda Spitzer would have had cause to feel betrayed if the FBI probe had revealed that her husband had paid merely to watch a prostitute perform sexual acts while he folded himself into a hotel armchair to masturbate.
And it’s made smut a staple of gross-out comedy: rising-star funnyman Seth Rogen has gone from headlining Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, in which his character’s aspiration to run a pornographic Web site was somewhat incidental to the plot, to starring in Kevin Smith’s forthcoming Zack and Miri Make a Porno, in which the porn business promises to be rather more central.
A second perspective treats porn as a kind of gateway drug—a vice that paves the way for more-serious betrayals.
Was it the way his habit had segued into other online activities?
Or was it about Cook’s fitness as a parent, and the possibility that their son had stumbled upon his porn cache?
Two years later, Anne Heche, Ellen De Generes’s ex, accused her non-celeb husband of surfing porn sites when he was supposed to be taking care of their 5-year-old son.
Polls show that Americans are almost evenly divided on questions like whether porn is bad for relationships, whether it’s an inevitable feature of male existence, and whether it’s demeaning to women.
This divide tends to cut along gender lines, inevitably: women are more likely to look at pornography than in the past, but they remain considerably more hostile to porn than men are, and considerably less likely to make use of it.
My suspicion is that an awful lot of people would say yes—not because there isn’t some distinction between the two acts, but because the distinction isn’t morally significant enough to prevent both from belonging to the zone, broadly defined, of cheating on your wife. If it’s cheating on your wife to watch while another woman performs sexually in front of you, then why isn’t it cheating to watch while the same sort of spectacle unfolds on your laptop or TV?
Isn’t the man who uses hard-core pornography already betraying his wife, whether or not the habit leads to anything worse?