So, the problem with pornography is that we see too little. Holbrook wrote this before the advent of internet pornography. How much more relevant his observations are now.
Holbrook spends a certain amount of time discussing Kenneth Tynan's Oh Calcutta. Tynan represents all the sad contradictions that Holbrook alludes to throughout this book: a man of talent who admired the great C S Lewis and yet who spent much of his short life as a purveyor of filth. He had been psychologically damaged after finding out that the person he regarded as his father had been leading a double life, having a separate family elsewhere.
Perhaps it is understandable that he had recourse to expressions of hate and nihilism, as shown in the extensive and meaningless nudity in Oh Calcutta. Tynan himself indulged in sado-masochistic experimentation outside of his married life.
What is happening today is not so much a sexual revolution but a sadist revolution. Holbrook would hardly have been surprised by the enormous popularity of Fifty Shades Of Grey. Both Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir regarded the insane Marquis de Sade as a moral hero: "For Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Sontag, hate, violence and pornography are signs that man is recreating himself." Holbrook quotes another writer who claims that "Playboy is the latest and slickest episode of man's continued refusal to be human." He notes that the Playboy philosophy is about the objectification of human beings. The "obsession" with sex is a manifestation of our fear of love and commitment: "We need, I believe, to see the symbolism of the prevalent culture of sex as being something apart from the meaning of sexual reality in life." Playboy is, of course, somewhat tame by today's standards. But sexual violence has tame beginnings. Holbrook refers to Ian Brady's obsession with the writings of the Marquis de Sade.
Holbrook writes that it is not possible to tolerate pornography: "It is in this that each man's depravity diminishes me...unless I object to the implications of the pornographer's reduction of the human image, I tacitly condone his gesture."
This book remains one of the classic arguments against pornography and sexual dehumanization.