On Wednesday, the National Review published a startlingly personal account from a psychologist in Virginia, who believes porn addiction may have broken up her family. Writing anonymously, she chronicles the events leading up to her husband's abandonment of her and their five children, drawing statistics from studies on porn use along the way. 

The pornography debate is not new, but it's surprisingly far from resolved. Some defend pornography, saying that critics overreact and that porn may act as an outlet for aggression. Others, however, say pornography can ruin relationships, is immoral, and perpetuates sexism, on top of any religious objections. Here are some of the highlights of the debate from the past few years:

Against Porn
  • Ruins Relationships  The National Review's anonymous writer blames porn for the "impression that aberrant sexual practices are more common than they really are, and that promiscuous behavior is normal." She says her husband "became involved with... an unemployed alcoholic with all the physical qualities of a porn star--bleached blond hair, heavy makeup, provocative clothing, and large breasts ... In retrospect, I believe he succumbed to the allure of the secret fantasy life he had been indulging since his adolescence." She cites several studies showing porn altering behavior.
  • 'Deadens Our Erotic Senses'  That's the way Will at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen puts it, linking to a Naomi Wolf article on the topic. Wolff argues at New York Magazine that "today, real naked women are just bad porn." In a sexual arms race, "simple lovemaking" and nakedness are no longer sufficient (Marnia Robinson at The Huffington Post seems to agree, looking at the possibility that porn's deadening effect actually causes erectile dysfunction.) Wolf shakes her head at today's young women--tanning and waxing and struggling to offer increasingly kinky experiences to their partners.
Does all this sexual imagery in the air mean that sex has been liberated--or is it the case that the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity? If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up.
  • Akin to Adultery  That was Ross Douthat's controversial argument in The Atlantic back in 2008. He says society needs to stop looking at pornography as a harmless substitute for actual infidelity; infidelity should be approached as a "continuum of betrayal," with porn use somewhere on it--it's still a private sexual experience (an increasingly custom-tailored and "realistic" one, Douthat argues) with someone other than one's partner. It's prostitution through a screen, he contends. 
  • Sexist, Exploitative  At Taki's Magazine, Gavin McInnes says those performing for the camera do so at a cost. He also thinks the "odds of [a porn star] having been sexually abused as a child are about 99.99 percent." At The Huffington Post, Vivian Norris de Montaigu tells of watching teen mothers turning to stripping and prostitution through desperation.

Against Those Against Porn
  • Akin to Adultery? Give Me a Break  There's a big difference between a man watching porn and actually cheating on his partner, argues Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. The former is masturbation with a visual aid, and the second is cheating. "If you think of women as human beings whose level of participation in an event matters, this is pretty obvious." The New Republic's Jonathan Chait responds to Ross Douthat's "continuum of betrayal" notion: "pocketing a quarter that Ross inadvertently left in the soda machine would be on a moral continuum with stealing his car"--that doesn't make the two remotely equivalent. Julian Sanchez is likewise unconvinced by Douthat:
There’s no good reason, once we're in crimes-of-the-mind territory, to stop with hardcore porn. Ogling a scantily-clad Angelina Jolie in a mainstream film, after all, is a way of getting a certain species of sexual "gratification" from someone other than your partner, whether or not there’s an orgasm involved.
  • Porn Might Actually Make Society Better  Reason's Peter Suderman points to studies suggesting "pornography and violent entertainment might serve as exhaust valves for our aggressive impulses"--sexual violence appears to go down as access to porn goes up.