Conservatism is progressivism driving the speed limit.
Any sort of movement or ideology needs to have a definition. Within this definition, there need to be commonly held and agreed-upon assumptions that encompass whomever it is that wishes to be a part of it. You can’t have a religion, for example, without a common set of core beliefs. We call this dogma, a word that has been given a negative connotation by those with an axe to grind against God. All “dogma” means is “something held as an established opinion,” especially “a definite authoritative tenet.”
There are many types of dogmas, not all of them religious (and the religious dogmas are not per se evils). Your political beliefs are a dogma. Your beliefs about things like nutrition, child-rearing, and how society should be ordered are dogmas. Everything is a dogma. And everyone has a dogma. Without tenets or beliefs, one’s thinking tends to be incoherent, shifting with the wind to whatever is expedient.
That person with the “MY KARMA RAN OVER YOUR DOGMA” bumper sticker is an idiot.
However, when those ostensibly in the same tent with the same dogma have wildly divergent beliefs and principles, it is time to have a divorce, hopefully an amicable one, since the movement or ideology is no longer serving the needs of all its members.
For those in the United States and elsewhere who consider themselves “conservative” or “right-wing”–that is to say, not “progressive” or “left-wing”–this has been going on for some time. Alexandru Constantin’s recent ruminations on what being “right-wing” even means got me thinking about this. Constantin rightly points out that the political and cultural right tends to lack praxis, or application. He cites to an excellent video by The Distributist about what “right-wing” may mean.
I like this video. It is a very reasoned and articulate look at creating a positive definition of “the right” that is not simply “opposite of whatever the left believes.” And no, “right-wing” does not mean “racistsexisthomophobe” any more than “left-wing” means “commiebabymurderer.” They are both broad philosophies–economic philosophies, sure, in part, but also moral philosophies. They are concerned with what ought to be done and how society ought to be ordered.
The problem is, the right is so incredibly muddled.
I think The Distributist’s definition takes in a lot of those in the United States who are certainly not progressive, but don’t really know if they belong on the mainstream American right as defined by the Republican Party and associated journals, websites, think tanks, and media organizations.
But this video also brought another salient point home to me, and that is much mainstream American conservative or right-wing thought and philosophy is really just left-wing, albeit slower, and with a greater fondness for economics (money), the Second Amendment (guns), and being left alone (legalization of drugs, among other things). That many on the right are Christian, or that Christianity is associated with the right in America, is irrelevant, since there are plenty of Christians who identify as moderate to extreme progressives, as well as the fact that a lot of those who call themselves conservatives hold some pretty counter-Christian viewpoints.
One frustration with “conservatives” is that they haven’t conserved all that much. Conservatism tends to be a pose or an attitude, a temperament, as opposed to a coherent ideology that is for something. It would rather stand athwart history yelling “STOP,” but is very light on alternative proposals that don’t seem to be just light version of what a progressive would propose. Instead, they admit that the progressive is progressing. They accept the progressive’s frame, and their own role as nothing more than a speed bump. They have already lost.
There’s also not that many with the balls to actually get up and yell “STOP” in the first place.
Curiously, this type of conservative also insists on not using governmental power when actually attained to, you know, do all of that history thwarting they talk about. It leads one to believe that they don’t know what they’re doing, or that they were never in it to win it in the first place.
A recent article by The Federalist, a publication of the right that is quasi-traditional, quasi-libertarian (think of it like Reason, only slightly less try-hard) recently published a post by porn star Brandi Love titled “No, Living Under An Islamic Caliphate Wouldn’t Be Better Than Keeping Camgirls Legal.”
For those of you who don’t know what a camgirl is–and I envy your naivete–it is what you probably think it is: a woman who performs sex acts, typically live and on-demand, for money.
The issue Ms. Love takes umbrage with is an article from The American Conservative, another mainstream, more traditional, right-wing journal, called “‘Patreon For Porn’: The Rise Of OnlyFans.” OnlyFans, in case you don’t know (again, I am jealous), is a website where people can subscribe to individual camgirls or whomever who will put on a show for the prurient interests of the viewer.
It’s made a lot of young women rich, but at what cost? This is an issue one strain of American conservatism doesn’t seem to care about. We’re all individuals, and as such, my life is none of your business, and I don’t care about “society” as a whole. I don’t want to be a part of any club that would have me as a member, and all of that.”
Back to Ms. Love. The main thrust (sorry, I can’t help myself) of her piece is that (a) pornography is protected free speech, and (b) freedom means living in a world where people have the freedom to do stuff, whether or not another likes it, and presumably, whether or not said thing is destructive to themselves or others.
A recent article in a popular conservative publication opens with: “Every now and then, the modern world produces a trend so ghastly you can’t help but sit back and think, would a global Islamic Caliphate really be that bad?”
What is this horror that would lead a conservative to ponder the benefits of a global Islamic caliphate? A world of torture, murder, perpetual fear, mass rape, and forced religion? No: the subscription pornography and camgirl site OnlyFans.
In contrast to the absurd idea that living under the draconian restrictions of sharia law would be better than the freedom for people to do things you think are wrong, let’s look at how adult entertainment is not only legally protected but also providing relief during the current pandemic.
First off, the fact that adult entertainment is “legally protected” does not make it “right” or “good.” This is a fundamental disconnect between different strains of the right. Sure, there are “anti-sex” feminists and progressives, but most of them are only against a certain type of sex, or sexual behavior. Otherwise, “free love” is a central progressive tenet. And that includes massive amounts of free porn for all.
That’s point one, if we’re keeping track of the paper-thin difference between those nominally on the right and those on the left.
Second point: The “it’s the law” mentality, and the conflation of “legal” with “good.” This is so stupid as to beggar belief, but I’m the fool for being shocked by stuff like this.
Adult Entertainment Is Protected Free Speech
How does someone call himself a conservative and then dismiss the First Amendment? Regardless of how people feel about adult entertainment, it is clear from U.S. Supreme Court decisions that the modern court believes the Constitution protects expressive conduct, and does not equate nudity and or consensual sex with obscenity.
The First Amendment protects more than political speech. In a powerful 1948 passage supporting freedom of speech, the court wrote in Winters v. New York that it did not accept the argument that “the constitutional protection for a free press applies only to the exposition of ideas.”
In an oft-cited passage, the majority declared: “The line between the informing and the entertaining is too elusive for the protection of that basic right. Everyone is familiar with instances of propaganda through fiction. What is one man’s amusement, teaches another’s doctrine. Though we can see nothing of any possible value to society in these magazines, they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature.”
The First Amendment protects speech on a wide variety of nonpolitical topics. These include but are not limited to the arts, entertainment, and movies (see Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 1952). The First Amendment serves as the blueprint for personal liberty. To restrict freedom of speech only to political matters would severely narrow our freedoms.
The lawyer in me appreciates the citation of legal opinions. However, Ms. Love fails to recognize a few points. First, the First Amendment, and the Constitution generally, only mean what five unelected wizards in black robes say it means at any given point in time. Therefore, to rely on Supreme Court precedent as some sort of immutable writ is itself a flaw unless doing so is accompanied by the qualifier “for now.”
Second, Supreme Court decisions are oftentimes flat-out wrong and have destructive consequences. And third, conservatives don’t act upon this supposed love of free speech when it actually counts. You’ll find that it’s conservatives either defending the deplatforming and legal railroading of others on the right based upon their speech, or at the very least doing nothing. And not always for political speech! Just try offering a different, contrarian opinion on certain historical matters, or, I don’t know, certain words one might wish to use to describe those who have sex on camera for money, and see how vociferously Ms. Love and her ilk will defend you.
Whether it’s “Private business, y’all” indifference or “Well, the Proud Boys shouldn’t have been associated with that ghastly Gavin McInnes fellow (whom I personally find distasteful), even though their only crime was winning a fight that Antifa started,” conservatives have conserved nothing. The days of “I disagree with what you say but defend your right to the death to say it” are long gone, if they ever existed at all, and to the extent that this spirit is still alive, it is heavily conditional.
To restrict freedom of speech only to political matters would only “severely narrow our freedoms” if you believe that personal license is the only definition of freedom. Free speech in America is severely restricted, and has been almost from day one. That’s the dirty little secret about the First Amendment. Why do conservatives not fight against the restrictions on protesters at abortion clinics as vociferously as those who say, “You know, maybe ubiquitous pornography isn’t a good idea?”
She goes on:
The First Amendment Protects Things That Offend
Anyone who has seen the movie “The People vs Larry Flynt” or read about the case understands where the Supreme Court stands on this issue. The First Amendment, as part of the Bill of Rights, protects the viewpoints of those in the minority from being oppressed by what Alexis de Tocqueville termed the “tyranny of the majority.”
The First Amendment particularly safeguards expressions that challenge the existing state of affairs. Although obscenity and child pornography receive no First Amendment protection, modern courts have decided that the First Amendment generally protects pornography that does not fall into these categories.
The fact that pornography is the hill so, so many on the right die on kind of goes to show the smoke-and-mirrors befuddling us. We’re allowed to have our porn, but speech that actually challenges the status quo about anything, political or moral? That has got to be squelched. This shouldn’t be lost on anybody who considers themselves on the broader right.
And anyway, the First Amendment doesn’t protect Christians students from holding Bible studies on prayer groups on school property. The Bible, I guess, offends atheists and the LGBTQ crew (who can all hold gatherings on school property), but I supposed their sense of being offended trumps the rights of others.
Meet the Sex, Drink, and Rock ‘n Roll Conservatives
I am both a conservative and a Christian. I am not, however, a zealot. I have travelled all over the United States meeting fans for more than 15 years. There are millions. My fan base is now, and has always been, what I like to refer to as Sex, Drink, and Rock ‘n Roll conservatives.
My members are a direct reflection of me: Constitutional, red state, Second Amendment-supporting pro-lifers who support our troops and our rights to free speech. We love God and our flag but generally dislike organized religion. We like to hang out on the deck drinking a beer, talking sports, listening to country, rock, and rap while using colorful words to describe Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Anthony Fauci.
So when a conservative publication runs an article wishing for an Islamic caliphate because of OnlyFans and its people, it’s a slap in the face to this significant segment of population that votes Republican. It pushes us further away from Christian political conservatism. It backfires, just as it does every time the left tries to manipulate the facts to sack President Trump.
A few things: First, the piece in The American Conservative does not “wish” for an Islamic Caliphate. Second, reading a person describe themselves as “Christian” but qualifying themselves as not “a zealot” and harboring a “dislike” of “organized religion,” one can’t help but question the strength of the person’s conviction, or their knowledge about Christianity. Contrary to popular American belief, the tenets of the organized religion boogeyman weren’t just created at random. Christian dogma, liturgy, belief, moral precepts, and ritual were created from detailed analysis of ancient Hebrew tradition, the Gospels, the Apostles, and the traditions of apostolic succession.
Second, a Christian would find that being a porn star does not comport with Christianity. This might sound harsh in a live-and-let-live world, but it is the truth.
Lastly, Jesus did associate with and preach to society’s undesirables–the tax collectors and the prostitutes (something Ms. Love is quick to point out in her fawning interview with the Daily Beast)–but she conveniently leaves out the part where Jesus tells them to go and sin no more.
Back to the policy portion of our analysis: I find it hard to believe that any conservative could consider themselves pro-pornography. Pornography has been around forever, but was confined to disreputable, underground, and marginalized places where it belongs. It was forced into the mainstream BY THE LEFT. And to ignore its disastrous effects while being more concerned about the imaginary terrors of forcing pornography back into the seedy bookstores and theaters is especially mind-boggling.
This is yet another point where so-called conservatives and the progressives they claim to oppose have the same essential belief system. It’s completely incoherent. Is a conservative anti-progressive? Or is it only anti-progressive to a point? How does being a “Sex, Drink, and Rock ‘n Roll Conservative” actually jibe with the long history of established conservative political thought?
A “Sex, Drink, and Rock ‘n Roll Conservative” is just a progressive who likes guns and low taxes, and opposes abortion (but not TOO strongly). In other words, a progressive driving the speed limit. There is nothing wrong with sex (within a marriage), alcohol (in moderation) or rock ‘n roll (as long as you don’t actually try to live those hedonistic lifestyles to the detriment of your family and those around you).
Still, this self-appointed label is, in Internet parlance, pure cringe and very try-hard.
Lastly on this score, if opposing OnlyFans pushes this supposedly sympathetic voting constituency away from voting for the non-progressive, then they didn’t have very strong convictions beyond their own penises.
Ms. Love goes on to discuss the important emotional work (seriously) she does as a camgirl:
Financial and Sexual Relief During the Shutdown
Rather than a plague on humanity and a reason to welcome a global Islamic Caliphate, OnlyFans has been a financial and emotional oasis during a shutdown that’s gone on far too long.
For me, OnlyFans has been an answered prayer. At a time our real estate business has been decimated due to the shutdown, we will likely survive the losses because of OnlyFans. We won’t make profits this year, but we will not be forced into foreclosure.
We are still working six days a week, 10-14 hours a day because of OnlyFans. But maybe The American Conservative article was right—we’d be better off with a global Islamic caliphate?
Although frustrated with the shutdown, my husband and I have had the time of our lives together over these six weeks. Although OnlyFans has kept us busy, we have also had the opportunity to share and film creative ideas. We sit and sip coffee in the mornings together and wine at night while just talking and laughing. And yes, we have had more and better sex than we’ve had in the past five to seven years!
Life got simple. Because this simplicity is coupled with an ability to earn from home, we are able to enjoy this time together free from the crushing stress of collapsing finances. But maybe The American Conservative article was right—we’d be better off with a global Islamic caliphate?
There are other ways to make money than selling your body. If one is to be both Christian and on the right, one needs to realize that a fundamental tenet of both is that our institutions should inculcate virtue among the entire population and not just the individual. Christianity isn’t for atomized individuals. The individual is a component. We are called to evangelize, and we are called to tend to the spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters as they do for us. Now, evangelism can take many different forms. But there is a necessary component of calling out bad behavior, of judging, that Ms. Love seems to think is divorced from her self-professed faith.
Further, conservatism traditionally calls upon some sort of public virtue in order for a given society to function. The atomized, ultra-individualism, the “Your rights end where your fist meets my nose” type of thought we see in a lot of American conservatism is an unworkable standard. Here is why: Whether you personally like it or not, you are a part of a collective. This collective exists whether or not you want to be a part of it. This collective is made up of other individuals. As we know, human beings are not angels, are not perfect or perfectible, and absent restraints on their natural inclinations (i.e., the path of least resistance), human beings will devolve into masturbating monkeys stuffing their faces with junk food. And this will make them easy pickings for the group that acts strategically and in unison.
The economic prosperity and relative liberty do not exist despite morality and decency. They exist because of it. They rest upon the shoulders of an entire culture whose citizens strive for the highest and noblest purposes. Right now, we’re coasting on the fumes of our ancestors while pretending we built all of this.
By abdicating any sort of social responsibility that may interfere with one’s personal preferences, one allows the progressive left–you know, that group the right is supposedly opposed to?–to utterly control the institutions as they see fit. Because progressives are on a moral crusade. Conservatives are on a personal one.
So for Ms. Love to defend being a camgirl because it provides her with money, one can’t help but think about the conservatives who decry beggars and those on welfare from getting “real jobs.” One man’s welfare queen is another man’s camgirl.
OnlyFans Is an Emotional Oasis
The American Conservative article author Charlie Peters clearly has zero idea what my fan base and I discuss. He might be shocked—not because of the vulgarity, but because of its vanilla nature.
I chat with my fan base all day long. Eighty percent of the discussions are about their fears, this shutdown, the politics of it all. We discuss recipes and how to preserve food, where to buy bulk toilet paper and soap. We talk about how my husband and I have maintained a happy, joyful marriage throughout 25 years, especially given our chosen profession.
More often than not, it’s not about sex. It’s about life. People want people they can talk to, especially in times like these.
When the talk is about sex, it’s often about their kinks and how they feel judged or nervous to discuss them with those they love. OnlyFans gives them an outlet. It’s a place they can come and discuss and live out their sexual interests without fear.
OnlyFans is a small sample of a world, where the beautiful, natural impulses of affection and a need to connect can continue when physical intimacy isn’t possible. When this shutdown ends, I will return to meeting my fans in person. I will be shaking hands and giving hugs. And for those people and times when physical meetings are impossible, I’m thankful there will always be OnlyFans.
There are other ways for people to interact than the faux intimacy provided by giving a stranger money for the privilege of viewing them have sex with other people. There are therapists, for example, who also take money, but don’t encourage you to stimulate your own organ for pleasure. You can talk to your priest for free!
Or maybe you’re married and can talk to your spouse instead of paying the woman you beat off to to listen to your fears and insecurities.
I understand that a lot of men are lonely. And I also understand that this type of interaction Ms. Love described may be a symptom of our age, but the rise of pornography is surely also one of its causes.
The powers that be want you swimming in smut for a reason.
While we’re at it, let’s take a look at what Charlie Peters actually said in his article!
Every now and then, the modern world produces a trend so ghastly you can’t help but sit back and think, would a global Islamic Caliphate really be that bad?
One such fad is the sudden growth of OnlyFans, a monthly paid subscription content service, which has turned hefty chunks of the young female population into amateur pornographers.
The premise is simple: start an account, set the price, and then drip-feed content to monthly-paying subscribers.
The site doesn’t exclusively host sex workers; home-baking mothers and some fitness and yoga businesses also use the platform to market their services. But its model is similar to that of once-popular social media site Tumblr; once the porn goes, it’s finished.
. . .
The reality is that OnlyFans is at its core a destructive concept. With an economy that rarely rewards virtue and hard work, young women are being lured into a line of work that they will likely regret in years to come.
The expansion of the private into the semi-public nature of paywalls is not as secure as the site would like its users to think. Massive content leaks and heartbreaking stories about relatives of models being shown what they upload are common. Last week, a British girl called Lenn Holmes tweeted that someone had sent her paywalled photos to her brother. It received over 4,000 likes.
Men are being harmed, too. A Dazed headline from 2018 claimed OnlyFans is “where porn is more intimate than ever.” Maybe this is true. But porn is to intimacy as a chick-demolishing meat grinder is to deftness.
The sad truth of the matter is that these women aren’t profiteering off their nudity—internet porn scythed away the dollars-for-pixelated-flesh market years ago—but rather the illusion of attachment and closeness that lonely young men all too easily fall for.
Some of the platform’s most popular users will remember to message their clients on their birthdays, or phone them after they have recovered from surgery. They might even know their kids’ names. Many men have duped themselves into believing this faux-intimacy, but if their monthly $20 payments stopped rolling in, I doubt they would still have amateur sex workers asking after their pets.
One OnlyFans model Danii Harwood told The New York Times that “You can get porn for free,” she said, adding: “Guys don’t want to pay for that. They want the opportunity to get to know somebody they’ve seen in a magazine or on social media. I’m like their online girlfriend.”
Some months she earns over $52,000.
These are replacements for the girlfriends that young men might have had in times gone by where young people were more likely to meet, get married and have sex.
There is a pile of depressing evidence to demonstrate that this just isn’t happening as much anymore. Marriage rates in the UK are at their lowest since the 1970s and barely more than half of American adults report that they live with a spouse, the lowest on record. It was at 70 percent in 1967.
And so, young men have turned to commercialized e-girlfriends. Instead of buying a girl they have been dating some flowers, they tip an online model; instead of dates, they watch cam shows by their favorite models.
This makes our world worse in a number of ways and is especially bad if you’re a conservative. Marriage civilizes men, it reduces their likelihood to take risks — not because women work hard to improve men, but rather men realize that maintaining a partner is something to work towards. There is often a significant ‘marriage gap’ in post-election polling, showing married men and women being more likely to vote for right-leaning candidates. Conservative journalist Ed West has written about how the decline of sex and marriage is making liberal women more progressive and conservative men more radical.
One of the most haunting cultural images of the last decade came from Blade Runner 2049, where Ryan Gosling’s character “K” is partnered with a hologram girlfriend, Joi.
K finds solace in a mirage of a deep, interpersonal relationship that is nothing more than an inauthentic transaction in his unfulfilling life. She expects nothing of him and flicks between being both his housewife and seductress.
OnlyFans is a small sample of that world, where the beautiful, natural impulses of affection and attention are being warped by a digital, commercialized lie. K’s life now feels like a possible future.
Conservatives aren’t known for their optimism, but I desperately hope that after the pandemic’s spread has halted and people return to the streets, pubs and clubs, e-models and men with virtual girlfriends abandon the spurious for the actual.
Contra Ms. Love’s assertions, Mr. Peters is not calling for sharia law in the United States; anyone with a functioning brain should realize that his statement was a rhetorical jab that, apparently, hit too close to home for some. Nor is Mr. Peters some sort of religious zealot (did Brandi Love even read his article beyond the first paragraph?)
What Mr. Peters is, is a man who gets it. Pornography harms women who perform it and the men who view it. It harms society at large. And if our institutions cannot promote that which benefits society, then what good are they?
Generally, analyses like Mr. Peters’ run into a snag when they express concern for young men. Porn, and sex work in general, are seen as “empowering” to women; therefore, to point out that they harm men is actually (drumroll, please) harmful to women. But we all know something that benefited men and harmed women would never be treated with the same deference.
The fact is, pornography makes men listless, depressed, irritable, and unable to interact and connect with women emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. And if men and women aren’t making intimate connections that lead to marriage and then babies, well, let’s list day it’s hard to have a society with no people.
Maybe this is the whole point of pushing pornography. Regardless of the intent, these are the consequences. Self-styled conservatives who promote pornography are a part of the problem.
I can already hear the objections: “You can’t legislate morality!” To which I say, yes you can. All legislation is morality. Every single piece. The question is, whose morality?
Conservatives have done a masterful job of neutering themselves. “Don’t tell me what to do!” and “I hate groups!” just lets the most organized win and set the moral agenda. And economic arguments won’t work either. Economic arguments don’t get people fired up with that crusading spirit the way a moral one does. The various progressive campaigns we scoff at have so much energy because those waging them view their cause as holy. Christianity used to do the same, but too many people got embarrassed about being called bad words to fight back.
I’m going to crib a lot from The Distributist, but any coherent right-wing ideology needs to have a recognition that morality matters, that the moral uplift of the individual and the society as a whole matters, and that personal freedom has to exist in a space where human energy will be directed to productive ends.
Not forced. Directed.
Of course, defining “freedom,” “morality” and “productive” is up for debate. But you have a definition lest you devolve into the self-abusing primates described above. Otherwise, your philosophy becomes “Whatever, man.”
Christians–and conservatives, historically–have believed in objective standards of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, and that these are what a culture should strive for. Absent that, what does conservatism as defined by Ms. Love stand for? The Expedient, the Pleasurable, and the Personally Preferable?
Decisions made by the individual can have negative effects on others who were just minding their own business. If modern American conservatism can’t recognize this, and can only argue in favor of personal license–just like the left!–then who needs it?
Like it or not, rules and constraints lead to freedom. We need boundaries to protect us from others and from ourselves. These boundaries may be legal and physical, but they are also moral and religious. The elimination of boundaries leads to chaos, and chaos is the devil’s domain.
We can’t create heaven on earth, but we can sure create hell. God only knows what we will do if the machine ever stops.
Ms. Love quotes de Tocqueville in her piece. Here’s another great bit of wisdom from everyone’s favorite Frenchman:
The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.
Here’s another one:
Religion is no less the companion of liberty in all its battles and its triumphs; the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims. The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge of freedom.
And one more:
Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief.
But yeah, don’t be a zealot, man. Christ said to be a nice person and stuff.
A total ban on porn is likely unworkable and not going to happen. I get this. But there should be serious stigma attached to both its production and consumption.
So back to the question: Is an Islamic caliphate preferable to a world where OnlyFans exists? No, of course not. But one can’t deny that Islamic hardliners do a better job of protecting their cultures and institutions against destruction than conservatives do.