Here in England we treat porn in a light-hearted manner, but is that a good thing?
Here are two examples of what I mean by ‘light-hearted’: our biggest chain of pubs offers a cocktail made up of mango, passion fruit, orange, lime and Absolut Vanilia. They call it ‘Porn Star Martini’, it’s listed next to ‘Sex on the Beach’.
My second example is drawn from my own experience as a teacher of 17 year old boys. Every year we left Euston station on the 5 am train to the western isles of Scotland to run our marine biology course. Once, I made the mistake of falling asleep and my young travelling companions placed a photo of a nude model, which they had brought along, on my lap and photographed me, later pinning the snap up on the notice board. Apparently they were torn between 2 captions “Mr Turner has sweet dreams” and “Mr Turner caught studying biology again”. Ah, well, boys will be boys.
In days gone by, “dirty old men” got their kicks by peeping through keyholes or looking through their neighbours’ bedroom windows with telescopes. (What do you mean “How do I know?”)Then scientists spent millions of dollars developing the internet so that they didn’t have to do that anymore. Technology like the internet is morally neutral, it all hinges on what it is used for. In the grand scheme of things I think internet gambling, with its associated addiction bankruptcy and suicide is a worse problem, and cyber bullying has traumatised innocent people at school and at work. Surely a bit of bonking before a camera is a victimless crime. The participants enjoy doing it, the public enjoy watching – it’s a win-win situation. But is anything ever that simple, that slick?
Some of internet pornography’s negative features:
Photographing people, (e.g. on naturist beaches) without their knowledge or consent is exploitation. It’s degrading when their captioned bodies are posted online so that Peeping Toms can get their rocks off. It doesn’t matter if it’s an individual sunbathing au naturel , or a gay orgy. The default position has to be that they wouldn’t agree to being viewed round the world. Consent is essential. What if their friends/families/work colleagues stumble on the images. How would you like it?
2/ Revenge porn
When the nudies were taken on the cell phone it was just a bit of fun between friends, perhaps teasing, perhaps a gesture of trust and affection. A time could soon come when you wish you hadn’t done it or that you could delete the files on your ex’s mobile phone to which you no longer have access. Sex is about power, about male domination over women’s bodies both from the point of view of procreation and recreation.
3/ Non usage of condoms
When they don’t put on condoms the actors put themselves at risk from S.T.D.s (especially with antibiotic-resistant bacteria about) and they are also setting a bad example to those viewers who might want to emulate them. People sometimes forget that contraception helps prevent unwanted pregnancies too!
4/ The role of organized crime
Who owns and controls the content of that website. How much money are they making? What do they do with it? Do they launder it? In the days of printed ‘girly’ mags, porn magnate Paul Raymond bought up half the property in Soho. Does the owner exert political influence? Do they treat their sex workers fairly and pay them a decent wage? Is there any transparency in their affairs at all? Do they also run brothels or escort agencies? Does it matter?
If a non-criminal company is producing porn, how do they think porn is serving the needs of the market, of capitalism?
5/ People trafficking
This is when girls from poor families in poor countries are promised jobs in the west as maids or waitresses and end up virtually imprisoned without their documents in a whore house. They are beaten if they don’t submit to the demands made upon them. One trafficked East European woman who ended up in a Catholic Worker refuge, had her teeth forcibly removed for the purposes of fellatio. That took a lot of money to put right.
6/ Moving the boundaries
Ten out of ten British adolescent boys when asked what word came to mind first when thinking about internet porn said ”anal.” Some male users now only like the extreme and cruel fringes of the world of porn. They can no longer climax unless they are watching an act of violence against a woman. It’s a power thing; some men have to feel they are more powerful than the ‘bitches’ they see around them in their daily lives. They weren’t always like this. Are they feeling threatened? If so, is it because of women’s greater access to power? If so, that’s tough; women everywhere are on the march to reclaim what’s theirs. Men had better get used to it!
Well, the church knows all about them. They have no place on the web, and governments and Internet Service Providers must continue their efforts to track them down and destroy their nests.
8/ Trivializing the severity of violence
Sadistic abusive films make men progressively trivialize the severity of the violence they see against women. What was once extreme becomes seen as the norm. In court cases female victims of abuse may be not taken seriously, their bruises seen as all part of good clean fun or at least well within the parameters of acceptable bedroom play.
So what does the church have to say?
Not a lot as far as I can make out. Here are two contrasting views:
“The sickening spate of sexual offences. Fed by pornographic literature and films; exploited by advertisers and pop culture, society has become sex mad, its attitudes corrupted, and its healthy inhibitions undermined. Marriage is no longer ‘holy’, chastity no more a virtue, and homosexuality – the sin for which god has cursed nations – is common.”
(‘What’s wrong with this country?’, Victory tracts)
“We should endorse responsible, protected recreational sex between consenting adults.”
(Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar in ‘Honest to Jesus’ .)
Well, that doesn’t get us very far.
Christians should exert self control. For instance, if a person has a (genetic) predisposition to addiction, e.g. if they are already hooked on alcohol or drugs or gambling then they would be well advised to avoid porn.
Counselling services could be available to people who want help on any aspect of this business.
Christians could set up fund-raising porn enterprises like the one run by some young anarchists on the continent. They want to help preserve forests at home and abroad, and to this end they perform every act imaginable in front of their own cameras and charge viewers a fee, all proceeds going to save the trees. I won’t give their full name in case anybody gets upset, but if I write it with an asterisk you will guess: F*ck for Forest. I think a style like theirs (rather reminiscent of the 1960’s I suppose) – cheerful, playful, without violence or shame, without a dread of consequences: could be quite wholesome.
This is just an idea. Whether to use amateurs or paid sex workers, and where the money goes is not up to me.