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Ademia: Pornography is wrong. It's vile and should be abolished from the earth.

Nestor: Why?

Ademia: For one thing, it degrades women. It makes women into sexual objects.

Nestor: Yet surely you must know that many women enjoy pornography. It doesn't appeal only to men; in fact, there are studios that produce pornography which are owned by women, which produce porn written by women for women. Doesn't the idea that it 'degrades women' rest on the foundation that only men enjoy it?

And in fact, is it not more valid to say that pornography degrades men? There are far more famous and well-known female porn stars than male porn stars, and often, a porn shoot shows nothing of the man save the region between his waist and his knees. Is this not more objectifying to the man than to the woman?

Ademia: Men can't be sexually degraded. Men have far more power and far more control over sexuality in modern society than women do.



Nestor: Men have far more financial power and far more control over economic resources than women do; should we say, therefore, that men can't be robbed?

Ademia: Pornography degrades women by depicting them as sexual objects.

Nestor: Pornography shows everyone sexually--men as well as women. What of it? When we watch basketball on television, we care only for the athletic prowess of the players; we do not know, and concern ourselves not with, their full humanity. The purpose of a spectator sport is to put on display only one small facet of the participants, for the entertainment of the onlookers. Is this not objectifying? indeed it is; yet we don't see this as a problem.

Most of the people we see and hear and meet and interact with, we do so in a narrow way. The model in the Colgate ad is relevant to us only for the perfection of her teeth. The man at the FedEx counter is not interesting to us for his taste in music, or his skills as an amateur botanist; we see him only in terms of what he can do to get our package where it absolutely, positively has to be.

Ademia: That's different...

Nestor: In detail, but not in kind. Pornography is different in kind only if you accept as an unspoken premise that sex is different in kind--that is, that sex itself is inherently demeaning and objectifying.

Ademia: Pornography hurts women by creating a false and unrealistic sense of physical beauty, and an unattainable level of performance.

Nestor: Cart, horse. Pornography is made for profit. It does not create the social standard of beauty; it caters to it! There is no profit to be made in trying to promote a standard of beauty which is not already accepted. If you make films using people that your intended audience does not already find beautiful, your films will not sell. People buy what pleases them. If it did not already please them, they would not change their standards; they simply would not buy the film.

Ademia: The women who work in pornography are victims. They have been so consumed by the patriarchial, male-dominated ideas of sex theat they are not able to consent freely to being depicted in pornography.

Nestor: So you hold, theefore, that women can not make decisions, enter legal contracts, choose their own form of employment, or evaluate rationally a course of action? If 'no' means 'no,' does not 'yes' mean 'yes'? If we accept that a woman can not willingly choose to star in a pornographic film, or direct a pornographic movie, or write a pornographic story, then how can we accept that a woman can choose to enter into any business, or be part of any contract? Should we not protect women, then, by keeping them at home, by preventing them from entering the workplace? And if a woman has the right and the ability to choose to do these things, why does she not have the right or the ability to participate in pornography?

Ademia: Pornography is inherently violating. People in the porn industry have committed evil acts against women.

Nestor: Indeed they have! But this is a statement about individuals, not a statement about pornography. People in the power distribution industry have committed evil acts by conspiring to create energy shortages in California, for the sake of their own selfish greed; should we say therefore that electricity is bad, and those who produce it and those who consume it are evil, and should be punished? People in the gasoline industry have committed injustices against woman; do we say as a consequence that the production of gasoline should be halted?

Ademia: But what of Bill, who watches pornography, and ignores the needs of his wife? Or of Sam, who watches pornography and then assaults his neighbor?

Nestor: Spare me! What of Tom, who watches pornography with his wife, and is inspired to become closer to her physically and emotionally? Or of Susan, who watches pornography and realizes that she is not a defective person because her tastes run deeper than missionary position once a week? Surely Bill and Sam, who are inconsiderate and violent men, would still be inconsiderate and violent even if they watched children's television shows instead!

Ademia: But pornography inspires people to deviance and unnatural acts!

Nestor: Unnatural acts? Driving a car is an unnatural act! Engraving four million semiconducing transistors on a fingernail-sized flake of silicon is an unnatural act! Sex in all its myriad forms is as natural as breathing, and has been a part of the human condition since before history began.

Ademia: Deviancy such as homosexuality and group sex--you call this natural? You think that people do this every night?

Nestor: You confuse 'natural' and 'normal.' 'Natural' means 'found in nature'--by which definition, yes, these things are 'natural.' 'Normal' means 'of or characterized by social conventions or average behavior'--by which definition, slavery, subjegation of women, and execution of non-Christians were all once 'normal.' Not all things which are unnatural are bad, and not all things which are normal are good.

Ademia: Pornography causes rape! Studies have shown a statistical connection between rates of sexual violence and quantity of pornography consumed.

Nestor: And other studies have shown no such connection. Even assuming such a statistical correlation exists, though, it is no more valid to say 'pornography causes rape' than it is to see a rabbit pursued by a dog and say 'the rabbit caused the dog.' Correlation does not prove causation. it may be that there is a simpler explanation; for example, pornography is popular in sexually repressed populations, and people who are sexually repressed are more likely to act in sexually inappropriate and destructive ways, such as by committing rape.

Ademia: Pornography harms relationships. Just think of it--two people, in a relationship, and one of them...

Nestor: ...or both of them...

Ademia: ...is getting sexual gratification from someone else.

Nestor: Sexual arousal, you mean. The sexual gratification comes from the person's partner, or perhaps the person's right hand.

Ademia: You know what I mean! He's getting his sexuality from somewhere other than his partner!

Nestor: And now we come to the heart of the matter. Yes, he is--and so is she, and so are we all. For you see, no couple exists in a vacuum. As normal, healthy adults, we are sexual beings, and many things--a stranger passed on the street, a movie star, a model in Cosmo--can cause us to respond sexually. The quaint, naive notion that all of one's sexuality should come from one's partner and nowhere else is a myth; real human beings don't work that way, and never have.

What's far more destructive than pornography is the fairy tale, the illusion that our sexual selves are kept on a shelf somewhere, and opened only behind closed doors in the presence of our mates. Our sexual selves are a vital, indispensible, and integral part of who we are, and denying this truth leads only to sexual repression, with all its attendant evils and vices. The passions become evil and insisious only when they are considered as evil and insidious.

Your partner will find sexual arousal in places other than you--and this is okay. It's not a reflection on you; it's not a measure of your unworthiness; it's not really about you at all. A life lived free of the illusion is a life lived more fully.

Ademia: You suck.

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Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
ktar
Jul. 16th, 2004 06:14 pm (UTC)
You win dude, you win.

That was an excellent piece, and I was going to try to find something that you'd acidentally skipped over to argue back at you but you've left me with nothing.

*applause*
bridgetester
Jul. 16th, 2004 11:34 pm (UTC)
*giggles*

Appropriate reaction at the end too (and nice double-entendre). People always spluttered at Socrates.

You and regyt should compare notes (Exploration of Philosophy through Erotica).
palmir
Jul. 17th, 2004 05:42 am (UTC)
Can you tell I'm a Phil major?
That was *so* not Socratic (aside from the spluttering)! Entirely not enough agreement from Ademia, and too many attempts at argument and questioning. Reminds me a bit of Berkeley's Dialogues, though.
calieber
Jul. 18th, 2004 11:57 am (UTC)
Devil's Advocacy
Nestor: [...] do we say as a consequence that the production of gasoline should be halted?

Ademia's twin sister: The power and petroleum industries don't, inherently, involve women as women -- or, rather, women as pussies, tits, asses, and mouths. People in the porn industry commit evil acts against women because that is required to produce porn.

Ok, she probably wouldn't use that vocabulary, but you get what she's getting at. I just read a piece in Ms. that alarmistly said mainstream porn shows degrading acts against women and cited examples from admittedly hardcore movies.
tacit
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:25 am (UTC)
Re: Devil's Advocacy
"People in the porn industry commit evil acts against women because that is required to produce porn."

Nestor: This is true if and only if you see sex as inherently evil to women. If there's nothing inherently evil about sex, then there's nothing inherently evil about pictures of sex or movies of sex. And why should we say that porn must commit evil acts against women by seeing women as tits, asses, and mouths but not say that porn doesn't commit evil acts against men by seeing them as cocks? For that matter, why don't we say that the advertising industry commits evil acts against people by seeing them as nothing more than hands, teeth, faces, feet, bodies, or legs, as the needs of their clients dictate?
(Anonymous)
Jul. 19th, 2004 09:16 am (UTC)
Research on Porn
I don't have an axe to grind with this issue; it seems to me there are compelling arguments to be made on both sides as far as the question of "is pornography degrading to women?" is concerned. Certainly there are some wonderfully feminist porn-makers and producers (e.g. Carol Queen), and lots of sexist assholes producing sex-negative crap disguised as erotica for people who have very conventional ideas about men, women, and morality.

However, it can't be said that film pornography is universally good for you. Sexually violent imagery (whether it's explicit or not) does lead both men and women to hold more callous and aggressive attitudes toward rape and rape victims, and does lead men to behave more aggressively toward women -- at least temporarily in an experimental/lab setting. That's not a reason to ban sexually violent pornography; the effects are just as apparent with R-rated "slasher" type films that depict sexual violence in a non-explicit context, and are also extant (though somewhat smaller) when people view films with violent non-sexual content.

More disquieting are the effects of nonviolent pornography on sexual and relationship satisfaction. Zillman & Bryant, in an old (1988, Journal of Applied Social Psychology) but now classic study, demonstrated that both men and women shown nonviolent pornography over the long term (1 hour weekly over six weeks) reported less satisfaction with their romantic partners at the study's close, especially in the sexual realm, than participants shown an equal amount of "innocuous content" (sitcoms, in this study). The supposition is that pornography has deleterious effects on relationships because real people (who have jobs, get tired, have off days, don't have a script) are not as consistently hot as people on film; they "raise the bar" for what relationship partners are expected to provide.

In this way, it's probably similar to the way women's magazines increase women's body dissatisfaction and eating disordered behavior (another well-documented effect), or violent television viewing increases children's aggressive behavior (ditto). Media -- especially vivid, pervasive media -- sets normative standards for how people do and ought to behave, and people compare themselves, consciously and unconsciously, to these standards, and adjust their behaviors and attitudes accordingly.

You might be wondering about the political motivations of the researchers. As far as I know, Dolf Zillman (isn't that a great name?) is not some right-wing-funded anti-porn zealot. He's done an entire career's worth of research on the effects of media on people -- media violence, adolescent music choices, etc. Porn is just one of things he's examined. (And like I said, I'm not some anti-porn zealot, either: I'm a bi, poly woman, kink and BDSM friendly, and both feminist and sex-positive. I just get tired of the polemical quality of the debates about porn. Most of the arguments that get bandied around are empirical questions about which nobody wants to be bothered with the facts; facts, Franklin, are something I know you are interested in. Oh, and I'm not any "anonymous," either; I just don't have a live journal account. I'm reachable at relationshipsstudy@yahoo.com, although that's a research account, so any flamebait from passing readers will probably go unacknowledged.)
davidwraith
Jul. 20th, 2004 12:48 am (UTC)
Re: Research on Porn
You really sound like you know your stuff, but there's a couple things I take issue with:

However, it can't be said that film pornography is universally good for you.

I don't think that Franklin, or anyone, would argue that it is.

Sexually violent imagery (whether it's explicit or not) does lead both men and women to hold more callous and aggressive attitudes toward rape and rape victims,

I think it's a big leap from a broad topic like pornography, to the topic of sexually violent images or rape victims, since in, my experience, the vast majority of porn is non violent. There is violent porn out there but I think this statement implies that it's the norm not the exception.

both men and women shown nonviolent pornography over the long term (1 hour weekly over six weeks) reported less satisfaction with their romantic partners at the study's close, especially in the sexual realm, than participants shown an equal amount of "innocuous content" (sitcoms, in this study)

I'm not discounting the results of this study. However, I do wonder how the subjects were chosen and what role pornography played in their lives prior to it. People who would choose to watch an hour of porn a week in their daily lives might have a different attitude about their sex lives than people who only did it as part of a study. I'm a thirty-year-old, kinky, sex-positive, heterosexual male and I haven't watched an hour of porn a week for six straight weeks since I was 19 and worked in a video store.

Added to which, even if the survey is accurate, what does it really prove? I'm sure people who don't watch TV probably think their jobs are more interesting than people who work in the post office and then come home and watch ER, The West Wing and The Practice. If you compare any aspect of real life to the way it's depicted in TV and movies you'll probably have the same reaction.
tacit
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:35 am (UTC)
Re: Research on Porn
"Sexually violent imagery (whether it's explicit or not) does lead both men and women to hold more callous and aggressive attitudes toward rape and rape victims, and does lead men to behave more aggressively toward women -- at least temporarily in an experimental/lab setting."

I know exactly which study you're referring to--it's been widely reported. What hasn't been as widely reported is the followup study at Penn State university that showed two interesting things: first, that workout tapes caused the exact same response in the lab setting as the sexually violent movies did, if the watchers were required to do the exercise; and second, watching sexually violent movies also increased the generosity and giving behaviors of the subjects, at least temproarily in the lab.

The conclusion of the Penn State researchers is this: Violent imagery does not cause an increase in violence. Rather, what happens is that any imagery which arouses or excites a physical response--sexuality, violence, exercise--increases the level of emoptional arousal in the viewer, causing a temporary increase in all forms of emotional expression, including violence, aggression, generosity, compassion, and other emotional responses.

"As far as I know, Dolf Zillman (isn't that a great name?) is not some right-wing-funded anti-porn zealot. He's done an entire career's worth of research on the effects of media on people -- media violence, adolescent music choices, etc. Porn is just one of things he's examined."

I submit that with only a few exceptions, most of the research, however carefully controlled, has been looking for the wrong thing--which is to say, a casual link between the effects of violence in a movie and violent behavior in the viewers. The possibility that there may be no direct link, but rather a more general connection between emotional arousal and emotional behavior, has not been carefully evaluated except in only a couple of studies. If you demonstrate that people who watch a violent movie are statistically more likely to act aggressively, you haven't demonstrated that violent movies cause aggression!
davidwraith
Jul. 20th, 2004 12:19 am (UTC)
Amen.
That's awesome.

It reminds me of a quote I heard on Susie Bright's show. Can't remember the name of the guy who said it...

"The only problem I have with pornography is how stupid most of it is. I'm against anything that makes you more stupid for having consumed it, and that goes for pornography, movies, television sit-coms or the evening news. The biggest problem facing this country is not pornography but stupography."
tacit
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:36 am (UTC)
Re: Amen.
I love that quote...
entilzhavalen
Jul. 20th, 2004 07:33 am (UTC)
Ya know, I don't think Ademia has ever had an enjoyable sexual experience in her life.

As for me, porn has led me to more deviant experiences than Ademia ever dreamed of....and I can't thank porn enough for it :)
entilzhavalen
Jul. 20th, 2004 07:42 am (UTC)
btw....
Came to this post through a friend.
wilson_lizard
Jul. 20th, 2004 10:55 am (UTC)
Thank you!
This was great! I cross posted it to pornpositivefem!
gentlemaitresse
Jul. 26th, 2004 01:50 pm (UTC)
I saw this in wilson_lizard's journal and immediately professed my love. It was then pointed out to me that I'd professed my love to the wrong person, so I've come here to rectify that. :-)

This is most excellent, and I love the mind that could come up with this.

tacit
Jul. 29th, 2004 10:24 am (UTC)
Why, thank you! :)
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )