If you look at sex and its place in western culture, we are likely to come to the conclusion that it is not a topic like any other. It has for several reasons come to take the shape of a shared "taboo". One does not walk around naked, exposing one's private parts; or discuss the details of one's sexual practices, as if one was discussing the weather.
The reasons behind this "taboo", albeit interesting, does not change the fact that sex is very regulated in our culture. However - arguably, all social practices are regulated by social 'rules of conduct' but I think it fairly evident that sex is a very special case. Take for instance the fact that a parent will tell its child to not hit others or use violence and might even discuss with an adolescent the results and consequences of violent behaviour. Or, dicuss smoking and drinking and even smoke and drink themselves fairly regularly, even in front of the child/adolescent. But I think it is fairly uncommon that parents show their child their private parts, explain their function, the nature of arousal, or invite the child to study how the parents copulate, etc.
In fact parents do not do this. To make a bold generalization I would go so far as claiming that most parents become embarrased when anyone, especially their children, brings up the topic of sex, blushing or showing obvious signs of discomfort or even shame. It is deeply ingrained in them that sex is very private and not something to discuss in public.
I would even contend that the forbidden nature of sex even works very closely with arousal, i.e. arousal is to a great extent predicated on it being slightly forbidden, and thus exciting, (by breaking a boundary you experience a certain thrill).
There are many more examples that show the special relationship people in our culture have to sex.
But how does sex's special nature fit with the issue of pornography? Well, the taboo on sex and man's natural predilection for it spawns an interest in it, of course. It is indeed exciting to see sexual intercourse, or see sexually desirable people in a state of undress. This is all 'natural' and to my mind fine, even a good thing.
But, if we look at the modern porn industry we notice that it is very much an _industry_, that is, of a considerable size, producing massive amounts of products, etc. I believe the sheer scale of this industry makes for certain very important drawbacks: People are paid money to take part in these films. If they weren't they wouldn't have been made in such numbers. (If there weren't a billion dollar industry to back the production of porn, I guess only a few hundred of spontaneous films would be made, probably with 'consenting adults' doing only what they feel is ok.) I believe this use of money is a clear-cut case of exploiting people's misery. (A great many films are indeed shot in poorer countries. In a recent porn documenatry, the producer was asked why the went to Hungary. He replied that if he asked ten girls in a rich country (Sweden) perhaps one would be interested , if he asked ten girls in Hungary nine would be interested).
Furthermore, the kind of porn that is produced is disturbing. The porn industry produces pornography that depicts and reifies certain, specific forms of sexual behaviour, e.g. gang bang (30 men having sex with a teenager), anal intercourse, the eating of semen, urinating on people, etc. Many of these practices have _meaning_ in our culture, that is, they convey a certain message of disregard, contempt, ridicule, callousnes, domination, or even torture... A message that boils down to the fact that you don't have to pay any attention to other people's (justified) need for respect, integrity and personal value. When this meassage is spread to people, it actually influences them and their behaviour, (the extent of which I am not certain). It does, however, seem reasonable to me to 'indict' pornography for spreading a shallow and cold notion of human interaction to the community at large.
Yes, people have always raped and abused one another sexually, but do we have to allow it to continue?
Remedy? I don't believe in censorship or sanction. I believe in discussion, debate and the open sharing of ideas. I believe that greater attention should be put to the issue of pornography in our culture: its role, the reasons and forces behind it; and perhaps more importantly we should discuss the value of empathy and caring, even caring about people we've never met. For instance, a seventeen year old Hungarian girl who is being gang banged by a football team of ex-convicts.
"Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell", Hellraiser
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