A volatile mixture of arousal and shame, attraction and disgust may partially explain why the Duke University undergraduate who was recently outed as a porn actress has become the target of vicious verbal abuse online. With 70 percent of men aged 18 to 24 admitting to watching porn, I find it hard to believe that all of those threatening her with violence unambiguously disapprove of her choice of career. More likely, they find it simultaneously alluring and repulsive to think of one of their peers acting in a porn movie — and react by turning their self-loathing outward toward the external source of their discomfort.
American cultural norms steer us toward monogamy — a faithful, one-on-one, forsaking-all-others, ‘til-death-do-us-part definition of love and intimacy that usually involves marriage. For a lot of us, this works. For others, it doesn’t. There’s not a community in the country that hasn’t experienced the scandal of extracurricular romance.
All this begs the question: Is there a functional alternative for those who are not by nature monogamous? One that doesn’t involve secrets, dissemblance, and emotional betrayal?