The Three Laws of Pornodynamics

The memetic case for repression


I’ve joined the rest of the world on Substack, and if you’ve signed up for this – my first newsletter – you can feel vaguely proud that you were into the Harrington phenomenon before it was cool (which phase may continue indefinitely, but let’s see). My aim is to write something once a month. I’ll link to whatever I’ve published recently that I’m proud of, and say a bit about whatever is on my mind that’s maybe too weird, arcane or unprintable for respectable editors.

On with the show!

Recent articles: the paywalling of sex rabbits, and the new model TERF army

This week I’ve been at it like rabbits, following the news that the very pneumatic Lola Bunny from the 1996 movie Space Jam has been redesigned with less colossal knockers for an upcoming sequel. Boob bunny discourse took me down a (sorry) rabbit hole of associations between rabbits and shagging. My conclusion: Lola hasn’t been de-sexed so much as paywalled. Read the article (which isn’t paywalled) here.

I also wrote about the way UK resistance to the abolition of biology in law is now seriously organised and engaged in the kind of fine-grained political trench warfare that actually, over time, delivers policy change. It’s a cheering development, though the fight between the pro-biology side and corporate-funded transhumanist behemoths such as Stonewall is very much a David and Goliath scenario. Read the article here.

The Three Laws of Pornodynamics

Though I’m not personally a consumer of porn (and would not be telling you if I was) it’s impossible to avoid the subject altogether when our Very Online discourse has a habit of disintegrating, at the fringes, into a kaleidoscopic array of weird sex things – whether that’s cartoon rabbits with big knockers or whatever. The key factor is that if someone can think of it, there’s almost certainly porn of it.

Some internet wag once joked that 95% of the internet is pictures of cats, and pornography. The numbers themselves might be a bit exaggerated, but two of the top ten most visited websites in the world – and the only two which aren’t big-brand social media sites – are XVideos and Pornhub, clocking up a total 6.7bn monthly visitors between them.

But pornography isn’t a static thing, any more than desire is a static thing. Pornography is more like a force field, that affects the content it represents. While I was thinking about this, it struck me that the three fundamental laws of thermodynamics ofer an almost perfect heuristic for the dynamics of this force field. So the three laws of pornodynamics are as follows:

  1. The First Law of Pornodynamics: the law of conservation of libido

Both liberals and conservatives are fond of wanging on about the sexualisation of culture, and how the pervasiveness of pornography and porn-inspired imagery, whether in marketing or just the culture in general, means we’re all saturated with sex and really just can’t get away from it. But at the same time it’s often noted that young people are having less sex. The connection between these two phenomena is obvious when considered in the light of the First Law of Pornodynamics, which argues that the sum total of human libido is a constant, and the more of it we expend on wanking the less will be available for actual interpersonal encounters.

Discussions on the #nofap Reddit forums, in which (predominantly young and male) people exchange tips on breaking an addition to porn consumption and masturbation, have this as a recurrent theme. That is, there’s an inverse correlation between wanking and the ability to orient one’s libido toward a real-life human other. To put it more bluntly still: the more embroiled in pornographic instant gratification we become, the less possible it will be to engage in mutually satisfying IRL sex.

From this perspective, #nofap isn’t some weird alt-right thing or the last refuge of basement-dwelling losers, as the liberal bards of unchained desire would have us think. On the contrary, it’s an heroic last defence of the possibility of intersubjective desire as such. That defence takes the classically masculine form of self-discipline enforced through group membership, meaning it attracts reflexive condemnation from quarters where any imposition of self-discipline is seen as in some indefinable sense an act of violence.

But from the perspective of the First Law of Pornodynamics, their concerted effort to corral the not inconsiderable portion of human libido that runs through young males is an act of public service. Far from mocking the sincere and often tormented efforts of young men to free themselves from the compulsive urge to beat the meat, in the long-term interests of evading a radical estrangement between the sexes we should lionise these remarkable acts of resistance to an all-pervasive economy of commodified desire.

  1. The Second Law of Pornodynamics: the law of fap entropy

The Second Law describes another dynamic in the pornographic force field, the law of fap entropy. How does entropy coexist with the overall conservation of libido, you might ask? But the central insight of pornodynamics is that porn, like desire, has force and direction; the law of fap entropy is part of this dynamic.

The Second Law describes the way all pornographic stimuli lose their erotic charge over time, meaning users of porn will over time become desensitised to erotic stimuli. One important consequence of this is that even someone who started out feeling excited by lingerie catalogues will, if given unfettered access to porn, find himself pursuing ever more baroque, extreme and degrading content as the law of fap entropy numbs him to previously exciting imagery.

It follows from this that if we tolerate porn full stop we’re embracing a dynamic whose endpoint will always be bestiality, child sex abuse, the torture of women and so on - because over time, the law of fap entropy will lead consumers of porn to such content. So contra the defenders of ‘respectable’ pornography as fundamentally a matter of individual choice, there is no ‘respectable’ pornography. Rather, normalising the pornoplex leads inexorably and inescapably to violence and abuse.

Free-speech defences of porn treat ‘individual choice’ as a static matter than can be controlled by the principle of avoiding harm. The Second Law of Pornodynamics argues that the inexorable consequence of normalising porn will be systemic harm, and as such all porn should be brutally repressed.

  1. The Third Law of Pornodynamics: every taboo inspires an equal and opposite porn category

One of the oft-repeated arguments for normalisation of porn is that it’s always going to exist. This is true, inasmuch as it refers to the Third Law of Pornodynamics: that every taboo inspires an equal and opposite porn category. If something is forbidden, blasphemous or disgusting then someone, somewhere is turned on by it.

The most telling example of this, in my view, is BDSM - the fetishisation of power, domination and submission. BDSM as a dynamic first appears on the cultural terrain at the dawn of the liberal and egalitarian era, in the writings of the Marquis de Sade. It functions as a heavily eroticised safe space for the tacit recognition - within a culture radically committed to egalitarianism - that power, hierarchy and domination will always exist within human societies. That is, people who are consciously committed to eliminating all relations of domination end up being really turned on by relations of domination.

I haven’t got data on this, because I value my nightmare-free sleep too much, but I’d bet anything that the more anxious we get about race politics the more racialised porn will be. I don’t even want to think about what the Third Law implies for what’s going on with furry porn.

Regardless, the sequel to ‘Porn will always exist’ tends to be ‘and so we should normalise, regulate and contain it’, with the unspoken subtext ‘…and make money out of it without being socially ostracised’. But considered in the light of the Third Law, the upshot of that argument will be a society that either has no taboos, or exists in a confusing situation in which both social taboos and their grotesque, hyper-sexualised pornographic mirror-image coexist and often intermingle. This is not a stable proposition.

In summary, then, the three laws of pornodynamics make a compelling case not for trying to abolish porn - the laws themselves suggest that won’t be easily achieved - but for aggressively repressing it. This should be done in the interests of helping humans redirect their libido constructively, either toward actual human relationships or sublimated into civilisation-building projects such as art, infrastructure or community-building. It should also be done because not everyone has the strength of will evinced by the #nofap community in their efforts to defeat this most rapacious of dopamine machines. Without some help from the banhammer, many will remain miserable slaves. This harms us all. And finally, pornography should be brutally repressed because the aggregate function of pornography is as real-time visualisation tool for all the grossest antics of our collective id. A culture that makes space for unfettered expression of its collective id within ordinary public discourse is on track for a messy end.


Next month I’ll probably either write about Mad Max conservatism, or why Clinton feminism ignores women as soon as they stop being hot. Sign up below…