Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Point, Point, Point...Porn

We, Morgan the Token Hippie, Billy D, and myself, have gotten together to form a round table of sorts to discuss the latest burning questions confronting America. So, we've all agreed to give each other equal time on our respective blogs and bandy about the topic du jour. Our first edition concerns a topic near & dear to yours truly, pornography. Morg's spiel is up first as her sultry revelation deserves first crack. Enjoy y'all and chime in on the debate on the respective blogs.

Morg's spiel...

Some people download porn. Others view it surreptitiously before clearing their history, lest their spouse find out what they're doing. Still others crusade against it as part of what is Wrong With Society.

I produce it.

I write erotica, which some people consider pornography. The difference is that I don't deal in dirty pictures; I just help people create them in their heads.

It started during a work lull several years ago when - after reading the Sleeping Beauty series I cast it aside in disgust. How many times can you read about some breathless masochist getting spanked and then sexually subjugated before the tiillating kinkiness of it becomes downright ridiculous?

"I can do better than this," I thought. And so I did.

My little sideline occupation may take some by surprise, but it wouldn't if you knew how well it pays. With kids in college and other equally pressing expenses, I can't be too picky, and writing dirty stories has become a growing part of my income. Respected co-workers who know I pen tawdry fare under a variety of pseudonyms are sympathetic when I'm forced to turn down assignments because of my "other work." I've been frank enough to tell them that I'll write more when they can afford to pay enough to make an honest woman of me.

So that's my dirty little secret.

You may wonder if after a few hours of churing out stories of strapping dominant men and wantonly submissive women whether I run to the showers in an attempt to wash away the taint of my profession. Perhaps I would, if I considered what I'm doing to be wrong. I personally do not. You know the old saying, "If it turns you on, it's pornography; if it turns me on, it's erotic."

And therein lies the dilemma. Pornography can be hard to define. To a religous zealot looking to save people from themselves, that art book of tasteful nudes at the local can be objectionable. To the deviant sex addict, the same art book is tame stuff unless it includes shots of a transsexual doing it with two midgets and a Great Dane.

Before you can restrict pornography, you must first define what it is. Who's going to do that? Jerry Falwell? Larry Flynt? To be fair, you'd have to have both opinions represented. If you got such polar opposites together, do you think they could ever agree? Of course not. Hell would freeze over, thaw out and freeze over again before that would happen.

Then there's the issue of the Internet. Even if laws were passed in the U.S., it would be impossible to regulate sites from other countries. Already, many skittish U.S. pornographers - worried about the influence of the religious right here - are moving their base of operations to other countries for that very reason.

Dirty pictures and stories depicting nudity and sex acts between consenting adults should be left alone. Pornographic pictures and stories involving children should - of course - be illegal and anyone trafficking or viewing them should be prosecuted. Same goes for pornographic images depicting people who've been coerced or otherwise forced into compromising positions against their will.

Pornography is a voluntary pursuit. Do people get addicted? Yes. Can people with pornographic obsessions be dangerous? Yes. But so can people addicted to alcohol. And just as we don't restrict alcohol because there are alcoholics, we shouldn't restrict access to pornography because there are dangerous sex addicts. Like social drinkers, purveyors of porn aren't generally dangerous. They're just horny.

If you're against pornography, don't view it. If you're worried about the influence of pornography on your children, install filtering software. Better yet, keep the computer in the family room and watch what your kids are viewing. They're likely to see as much skin on their friends My Space page as they are on any porn site.

But don't try to regulate it. If the wrong - or extreme right - people start calling the shots, you might end up getting excited by the shot of a bare ankle. And that's no fun for anyone, except maybe those guys with a foot fetish.

Now, Billy D...

So what’s wrong with a little porn? Well, quite a bit, in my opinion. Maybe it’s because I have two daughters who I would rather didn’t grace the pages of Playboy, or some seedy internet site.

Optical prostitution is the reality of it. Paying a woman (or a man) to take their clothes off is akin to any other sexual favor for money. This is just without physical contact between the two entities. You’re just using the other person involved for a different means of sexual gratification for money.

Now, before we get too far into this, let me say up front, I’m not a prude in any sort of way. And as far as this conversation goes, let me say this now: I fully support the right of two consenting adults to make their own decisions as to their level, if any, of involvement in pornography. It’s not going away, is a multi-billion dollar business, and I’d much rather have the vast majority be willing participants in it than non. Having said that, that also doesn’t make it right.

It is legal, provided everyone involved is over eighteen, and prohibition hasn’t worked for any other vice it’s ever been tried on, this would be no different. Any attempt to de-legitimize the profession now would only force it underground, where what little control we have left (not much!) over content would be lost.

Now, when I say the word pornography, what comes to mind? A naked woman? Maybe a couple in a film? How about two women totally out of their heads on drugs having anal intercourse with a pair of horses? It’s all porn, it’s all the same, and it’s all available at the tip of your fingers.

How about the negative consequences pornography? What about the effects of it on society as a whole? Many of you reading this right now have children. Do you want your daughters seen as just something to insert a penis into, or an entity only present to satisfy unquestioningly a man’s physical desire no questions asked, regardless of what that may be?

What about those of you with sons? Is this how you want them to view women? Cause, don’t forget, that’ll include their sisters and their mother. (All of these women are someone’s sister or daughter or mother, etc.) Do you want your children growing up with the notion that the things they see in porn films are normal everyday occurrences? I doubt it. Homosexuality, bestiality, multiple partners of both sexes… I won’t even get into the fecapheliacs and the “pee people”.

With but a passing mention of it destroying marriages, or even pre-marriage relationships, think about what it does to a person’s brain. Eventually, they become so desensitized to it, it becomes the norm to them. People become adjusted to the perversion, and eventually their reality becomes that perversion. The “everybody does it” sense kicks in.

Now, all of these reasons listed should be enough to persuade the average person of the “perils of porn” but as a Christian, let me just ask this:

Do you really think this kind of stuff is “OK” with the Lord? I mean really? Committing adultery in your heart on a daily basis is not a good way to show God just how committed you are to your marriage, is it? Is this how you plan to show him how you loved your sisters here in this life? Instead of doing what you could to save one of His daughters from throwing her self-esteem and dignity down a toilet, you paid her to do it? Good luck with that.

Now, my two cents...

As a died-in-the-wool purveyor of porn I get rather incensed at the anti-smut crowd and their clarion call for tighter restrictions on so-called obscenity.

The root of my problem with these fanatics is their definition of pornography and obscenity. New York City Police Detective Raymond Pierce (Ret.) penned a controversial book examining the link between porn and violent crime. In an interview he proffered the following definition for pornography, “For me it's anything written, spoken, printed, photographed or videotaped to elicit a sexual response from an individual.” This definition is at best nebulous; at worst it is vague and indecipherable.

In fact, Pierce states there is no need to differentiate between soft-core and hard-core porn. He sees no difference between Phoebe Cates dropping her top in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Jenna Jameson showing her private parts in a manner that would make a gynecological exam superfluous.

The Supreme Court has defined obscenity as: 1) That the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; AND 2) That the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable law; AND 3) That a reasonable person would find that the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value.

Therein lies the problem. In order to effectuate a coherent debate one must settle on a tangible set of parameters as a framework. Pierce, et al. aren’t concerned with such niceties, they just want action. Other anti-porn zealots; Steven Baldwin, President Bush, John Ashcroft, Dr. James Dobson, Andrea Dworkin, and Jerry Falwell have led an assault on pornography since the 70’s. Many of these activists display little knowledge of the First Amendment and its protections and fail to forward a coherent standard by which to judge so-called obscene material.

Now, there’s no disputing the fact that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment’s free speech provisions. Certain types of pornography are, by definition, illegal. Child porn and snuff porn are illegal per se as the act depicted is otherwise illegal. Other forms of porn are highly restricted in a number of states. Beastiality, sexual torture, and depictions of rape are restricted and form the grey area of illegal pornography. Quite literally all other types of smut are OK. The anti-porn cabal would expand the definition of obscenity to include nearly all types of porn. Pierce would advocate for a nearly limitless prohibition on ANY depiction of a sexual act, be it written, photography, or otherwise.

The porn industry in the U.S. generates more revenue than the four major professional sports leagues COMBINED and more than ABC, CBS, and NBC put together, an annual profit of $12 billion, $54 billion world wide. There are currently 4.2 million pornographic web sites, 68 million porn searches, and over 2.5 billion pornographic emails sent every day, 8% of all email traffic. Twenty percent of all males admit to looking at internet porn whilst at work. Fully 40 million adults admit to looking at smut on a regular basis in America. See http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/xml/uncomp/articleshow?msid=203421.

Given the pervasive nature of pornography and the fact that tens of millions access porn each day, saying that porn definitively causes violent behavior is akin to claiming ingestion of Ramen inexorably leads to the same behavior. Pierce and his anti-porn brethren, however, would have you believe that systematic perusal of smut will lead one to commit heinous crimes. This connection is tenuous at best.

Which brings me to my point…if you don’t like porn avert your eyes. Don’t use your bully pulpit to squelch free expression, especially when if one asked 100 different people for a definition of what porn and obscenity is one would get 100 different answers. Barring a definitive proof that smut causes violent and lawless behavior, which as yet is impossible to prove, pornography is and should be protected speech. If you want to see porn related violence, try taking porn away, now were talking violent uprisings. As Charlton Hesston put it, “From my cold dead hands”, just substitute me for Moses and Playboy for the rifle and you’ve got our poster.

So, in this humble blogger’s opinion, to quote a rather famous scene from a famous movie starring Michael Douglass, “Porn is good, porn works.”