I Got Caught Watching Porn But I Did Not Have an Affair

Trump and Stormy

 Some MAGAt Trumpster at the Federalist delivered a broadside last week claiming that “You’re Not Allowed to Knock Trump for Stormy Daniels If You Watch Porn.”  Yes, that was the actual headline.  The full article is here.  So many ways to go with this one, but let’s just hit the high points and then take a deep dive into the logic at play which, although erroneous, is kind of interesting.  And, that headline will be a little confusing at first, especially for Republicans, but I promise I to tie this all up like a Christmas bow by the end.  So hang in there.

First off, this is Republican false equivalence at its finest.  They pull this shit all the time to defend their hero, although usually not this brazen.  Usually when Trump’s many vulgarities are recited they bring up Bill Clinton, typically conflating Bill and Hillary in the indictment, never mind that Bill’s antics were twenty years ago and he got impeached for it, and Democrats probably lost two presidential elections as a direct consequence.  Whatever.  In their view, we can’t criticize Trump for groping women and banging porn starts because “Clinton.”  And not only are we not allowed to criticize Trump, Democrats are HYPOCRITES for doing so.  That’s just how the Republican brain works.

The article is also a great example of what John Oliver called “whataboutism” in his list of the three tactics Trump and the Right use to manipulate the media and the public, along with delegitimizing media and trolling.  “Whataboutism” attempts to change the topic, so instead of talking about your president’s sordid and illegal actions, we talk about something else, anything else.  “It implies that all actions regardless of context share a moral equivalency.  And since nobody is perfect, all criticism is hypocritical and everyone should do whatever they want,” Oliver said. 

Trump was banging a porn star?  Yea, well you are watching porn you fucking perverted hypocrite.

To make his case for why Trump banging a porn star is the same as watching porn, the author strips away the part of the story that is actually illegal, namely, that Trump had his lawyer pay off Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet before the election.  So what he is really arguing is that watching porn is the same as having an affair, and you can’t criticize someone for having an affair if you watch porn. 

This is a great example of how the Republican brain works.  For most, the details of Trump’s affairs and pussy grabbing just don’t register in their reptile brains.  They ignore the salacious details, and just boil it all down to Trump having one or more affairs, which isn’t our business because he will let them cling to their guns and religion.  For the country club Republicans, they may find Trump distasteful, but they only care about their tax breaks.  With respect to Trump’s vulgarities, daily stupidities and treason, they are like George Thorogood’s landlady, who said “That don’t confront me, as long as I get my money next Friday.”

Well, whatever, let’s go with it, and consider whether watching porn is the same as having an affair.  And full disclosure, I find this issue particularly compelling because I was once accused of having an affair under this same logic, and defended myself admirably.  I’ll come back to that.

To reach the conclusion that watching porn is the same as having an affair, the Republican author needs to jump over two major hurdles, the first spatial and the second temporal, as well as the lack of mutual intent to have an affair, given that the porn star doesn’t know she (or he, I guess) is interacting with a married man.  On the intent element, the author dismisses that issue with the following:

If a married man cheats on his wife with another woman, it does not matter if the woman knows that he has previously bound himself in a marital promise. This seems painfully obvious, and it is, but it also reveals something important. It is only the knowledge and intent of the married man that is relevant.

Fair enough.  I can agree with that point.

To get past the fact that the person watching the porn is not in the same place and not in physical contact with the porn star, the author argues:  “Direct physical contact is sufficient but not necessary to commit adultery.”  On this point, he argues that a guy can cheat on his wife by interacting with a “professional live-cam performer” (is that a thing?).  The guy is on much shakier ground with this point.  I would say that actual physical contact is the sin qua non* of an affair, but even physical contact is not necessarily an affair.  I just got a massage from a nice Costa Rican lady and rather enjoyed it.  Would that qualify as an affair for a married man, of which I am not?  But whatever, let’s concede the point for the sake of argument. 

Finally, on the temporal issue (the porn might have been recorded years ago), the guy says that interacting in real time is not a requirement for an affair.  In support, he argues that a couple can be having an affair by exchanging sexually explicit videos.  Again, I would disagree, but whatever.

The logical fallacies here are many, and IJ may need to help me with this, but I think the main logical problem is either a Hasty Generalization** or an Inductive Fallacy,*** which is employed to support a False Equivalence.  In other words, the point that a “professional live-cam performer” is an affair (it isn’t) is used to reach the conclusion that any interaction with a person for prurient purposes is an affair, even without physical contact.  That, of course, is ridiculous.

Under this standard, without the requirement of contact or even interacting with someone at the same time, any impure thought becomes an affair.  A guy walking with his wife at the corner of North and Wells in Chicago, the yoga pants capital of the world, can commit an affair just by looking.  Given the high mortality rate of porn stars, a guy could be having an affair with a dead woman, just from watching her last movie before she OD’d.  How about a couple that watches porn together?  Are they both having an affair?  Ridiculous.

At any rate, as previously mentioned, when Trish would learn that I had been to a strip joint with the guys on a bachelor party trip (or maybe after a Purdue–Michigan State game that one time), she would accuse me of having an affair.  And then there was that time she called me one morning at work in the late 90’s.

“What were you doing on February 23?” Trish asked, calmly, but obviously implying I had committed some offense on February 23.

I quickly checked my calendar from the previous month, where I kept track of everything.  I had not traveled anywhere on February 23, and it was a weeknight, so I must have been home.

“I don’t know.  I was at home.”  I answered, waiting to find out what she was going to accuse me of doing on February 23.

“Well,” Trish answered, pausing for effect, “someone ordered the Playboy Channel on February 23!”

She had me stone cold busted.  In those days, before the internet made porn easy to access, you had to call in to the cable company if you wanted to order up a movie on cable.  Given that the kids were too young to use the phone, or even reach where it hung on the wall in the kitchen, I could not plausibly blame them.  Having no defense, I took the offense.

“What are you doing opening the cable bill?” I came back at Trish, as if the cable bill were a top secret personal document.

“You like those women on the Playboy Channel?” Trish continued, trying to humiliate me.  “You like those girls who haven’t had three kids in the last 5 years?”

“Seriously.  What are you doing opening the cable bill?  You paying the bills now?”  I tried again, a futile effort to change the subject.

Undeterred, Trish’s interrogation continued in even more humiliating detail, of which it is not necessary to repeat here.  Eventually, after I was sufficiently humiliated by her probing questions of my activities on February 23, Trish accused me of having an affair. 

“It is the same as having an affair.  You are thinking of those women on the Playboy Channel, and not me.  That’s an affair.”

I was on the ropes at this point, but Trish had gone too far, and she was out on a limb.  It was time to saw off that limb, and shut down the investigation.

“How about if I think of you doing sexual things that you won’t do?  How about that?  Is that an affair?”  I didn’t need to be any more graphic, because she knew what I was talking about.  I will leave it at that. 

I had done it once again.  Clearly, having impure thoughts about your own wife cannot be an affair.  Right?!?!  On this reasonable minds cannot differ.

Although I was NOT on the moral high ground in this debate, I was certainly on the logical high ground.  I was ready to die on that hill.  I still am.

Merry Christmas, you guys.

 

* Sin qua non – “That without which a thing cannot be.”  Learned that in law school.  NBD.

* Hasty Generalization – broad conclusion on a small sample

*  Inductive Fallacy – broad conclusion from premise that only barely supports it

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