Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My 6 and half cents (adjusted for inflation)...

I am surprised and pleased that the topic of pornography has come up so early. As someone who has, and I guess always will, really battled pornography addiction, I must say that that I agree with Kate and Rachelle's points. I also think that the issue of pornography is one that has far too many facets to adequately discuss from just one perspective. Quinn has made some valid points, not in defense of pornography, but in defense of speech and media.

My opinions on these matters come from a place of personal experience and religious belief. I am aware that some of the things I am going to say will not find their affirmation here. Anyways...

Pornography has always existed. As long as art, in it's varied forms, has been around there have been works of a sexually explicit nature. Freud would probably argue that sex, being the necessity for procreation, is somehow connected to our inherent evolutionary will to self-preservation. It has therefor been the cheif interest of mankind throughout history.

Personally, the discovery of pornography around 12 was the beginning of a long addiction that certainly poisoned the way that I view sex and the way I view women. It started as just curiousity. However, watching others have sex became a frank education on sex that I was not getting elsewhere. It was a flawed and degrading eduction, at best.

In college, through some trusted friends, I began to seek some help on dealing with pornography. I believe that there are certain ways that I think that have been forever changed by the years of viewing pornography. In my marriage, I have to fight everyday to view my wife as God would call me to and not as the depraved mindset of pornography would lead me to. It is something that I have seen a lot of progress in, and still there are things that will come up that make me realize how much of my thinking is a result of the years of porn. I believe that the positive change that has happened for me since college has been a result of God's grace.

I tell you all my story in order to say a few things. Pornography is a part of our culture that is damaging in many ways, and most of them towards young adults for whom it becomes sex ed. The first way to fight this trend is much more elaborate, open, and frank sexual education starting at earlier levels. I say that also recognizing that education is not the shot in the arm that will make pornography go away.

Due to the nature of the internet, it is easier for me to go find sexually explicit videos than it is for me to find my cellphone bill. If Freud is right, then pornography will continue to grow in popularity and cultural influence simply because of the fact that, at our most human levels, we will always seek it out.

The other reality that the nature of open media sharing is going to force us into is wether or not we are really serious about freedom of speech. I think we have to be serious about it. I say that as someone who has personally suffered some of the worst things about pornography. We can use the freedom we have to better educate others about the dangers of pornography, but if we become supporters of censorship, then the message is lost to an argument we can not win.

In the pilot episode of my all-time favorite show, there is this conversation.
"If my son can go to any street corner and buy pornography for $5, isn't that too high a price to pay for free speech."

"Not at all, though $5 is too high a price to pay for pornography."

I agree. Pornography is part of human culture and it will always be present. What we choose to do in light of that is what makes us free.

After reading this entry, I wanted to add one more thought. Pornography is typically not degrading towards men. In most cases, it makes sex about power over women more than attraction to them. The reason I mention this is because my views, even those just stated, are not going to reflect a women's viewpoint on the topic. Considering the fact that it is women who are normally the victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a result of pornography's influence and it's business, it would be wrong of me to assume that my viewpoint covers all the issues involved.

I would encourage more dialouge like that of Kate and Rachelle's. Women need to speak out on these issues.


Kate said...

Thanks for your post Rob. I hope we can all find some affirmation here. I agree with much of what you have to say. I do distinguish my critique from a religious perspective because that line of reasoning carries little force in the circles in which I move, and (I think) in the culture at large outside of porn-addicted Christians. Having said that, I affirm your ability to speak out of a religious context on the subject.

In response to the invocation of Freud, I do not ascribe to Freudian psychology (nor do many -- if any -- current psychologists), but I agree that sexuality is central to understanding our humanity and aspiring to be fully human. However, I think it is a far cry to say that because of this, porn will always be sought out and will continue to grow in popularity. Pornography and sexuality need not go hand in hand. People can be obsessed with healthy sex, too.

As for porn's eternal existence, here is one writer's stance that I ascribe to:

"It is true that there have always been different types of sexual representations throughout history but to say that they have all been pornography is simplistic and diversionary. It is true that pornography can be traced back without difficulty as far as Ancient Greece in the west, but the word "pornography" also refers to the writing, etching, or drawing of women who, in fact, were kept in female sexual slavery in Ancient Greece (C. MacKinnon and A. Dworkin, in D. Russell Ed, Making Violence Sexy; 1993). "The influence of pornography on men who rule societies, and thus on the development of misogynist social institutions, can be traced back through feudalism, but it is only through relatively recent technology that the social environment has been glutted with pornography so that it hurts women openly, publicly, and with social legitimacy. This same pervasiveness and open availability have also made it possible to understand and document the effects of pornography, hence its place in the institutionalization of second class citizenship for women, for the first time in history." ("Memo on proposed ordinance on pornography, December 26, 1983"; In Harm's Way; 1997). There have been many sexual representations in art and literature in history but not all of them have been pornography. Besides, the contemporary pornography industry isn't a form of art but of exploitation. In a patriarchal and capitalist society, the pornography industry is only interested in making a profit with images that exploit sexuality rather than explore it." (

I am not so naive to think that porn will magically disappear if a critical mass of people become educated to its danger. And, as always, I do not advocate banning or censorship, but education. When adults learn to freely choose not to exploit themselves and others, in spite of the available outlets to do so, then we will see real change in the gender relations of our culture. I like what you said: "What we choose to do in light of that is what makes us free." In the mean time, I continue to support freedom of speech,thereby affirming and enabling my own speech against those forms that are harmful.

Rob, I especially appreciate your comments at the end, acknowledging the shortcomings of a male perspective on the issue and supporting the female perspective. I would add, though, that as a man who takes the position you seem to take, you have an opportunity to talk to and convince other men in a way Rachelle and I can't always do. As a side effect of this patriarchal culture, our voices can be easily ignored by those who are so immersed in a culture that dehumanizes women and so defensive of their pleasures, they can't even hear logical reasoning that might make them think twice about the decisions they've made. So, keep talking. We need more men on our side.

Rachelle said...

Two things:
A) Thank you for being so frank. It is the secretiveness that encircles pornography that creates so many issues.
B) Amen to everything Kate said. Especially the part about thanks for being a man on "our" side! (-:

Rachelle said...

One more thing - I think it is a common misconception that it is the sex in pornography that people enjoy and become addicted to; I believe it is the degradation. This essay really convinced me:

Luke said...

Thanks for your candid thoughts here. I think there are quite a few cultural myths surrounding pornography: people are buying into those lies more and more today. Like "Pornography is harmless entertainment," or "Pornography is healthy for couples to watch together," or "Pornography has been around since cavemen drew on walls, so there is no sense in turning it into a recent sexual problem." I wrote a blog post about this a while back. I'd love to hear your thoughts:

Another thought: Have you ever heard of accountability software? Accountability software is specifically for adults who want to guard where they go online without any blocking or filtering. Combined with filtering, it's a great Internet safety solution for the whole family. If you want more info about it check out my post "Breaking the Lure of Internet Porn" -

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