I heard from a couple of readers in response to Pornography. For me, two responses is an outpouring, and I feel obliged to respond to what may be most of my readers. There was one man and one woman, so that’s cool.

Admitedly hung up sexually and further influenced because a local clergyman used porn with children and killed two people, among other accomplishments, my female reader is “. . . not so sanguine about porn,” and no wonder.

I thoroughly understand the flinch response a lot of otherwise sensible people have to hardcore porn. Sex has been repressed around here for so long that repression seems natural, probably the way slavery used to seem natural, the way our police state has come to seem natural. I used to flinch, too, but not one time did anybody force me to watch anything, and for that I’m grateful.

My male reader feels that anyone involved in pornography forfeits human dignity. I can see that, too. There’s a lot of presumed humiliation in porn, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. There’s a lot of humiliation on Earth. There’s also a lot of joy.

Much of pornography is clearly made by neurotics, some of my favorite people, who are working out their issues, which is seldom a pretty sight even if the people are. Some of pornography still makes me flinch and click away. Corporate newscasts, too.

My male reader also feels that women in particular are exploited by pornography, because mostly men admit to liking pornography. Pornography is a way to exploit women because men are a reliable audience. There are also a lot of other ways to exploit women and the rest of us. Cash for sex with strangers, recorded or otherwise, is one way. A cubicle in the war industry is another, and I don’t think there’s a good reason to prefer one over the other, except people will treat you differently. Cash for sex is a bad thing only if you think there’s something inherently wrong about payment or sex. We’ve all got to exploit our environment and personal gifts, and some porn actors love their work, just like the rest of us.

Sometimes I think it unfortunate that people are exploited at all—sexually, intellectually, physically, spiritually too, if that’s possible, although I know that your using me is as much a part of my journey as of yours. Understanding, accomodating, and perhaps making use of the skills and dispositions of others is part of how we make our various ways, how we manage to get along as well as we do.

How can we know when things have gone too far? When we’re directly involved, we know. Not when we see it or hear about it or see the subject line in an email. When we’re in it. If we have to ask if things have gone too far, it’s none of our business; if it were our business, we’d know.

If the sexual activity under advisement directly involves my person, I have to decide whether to take part or find something else to do, maybe in the next room. Sexual activity on a monitor or four-color polished pages isn’t sexual activity at all. It’s a picture, and it means whatever I think. It’s pixels or paper and ink, and neither good nor bad.
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Posted Thursday, August 27th, 2009 under pornography, sex, sexual freedom, Uncategorized.


  1. Oliver Steinberg says:

    In India, there are temples covered with erotic statuary which would fit most USA definitions of pornography. Or, conversely, as Tom Lehrer sang, “When correctly viewed, everything is lewd.” The long shadow of the Puritans (who had enough sex to leave me as a descendant) keeps haunting our neurotic collective psyche.

  2. There’s no denying that there may be much joy and abundance in porn. OR perhaps there is. I am not ready to say that.

    There are so many aspects that one might want to consider—porn as industry—the effects on those involved in the making. Are they joyful? Are they free? Or is this another form of forced human trafficking? Are they treated as things?

    Then for the people who enjoy porn—does it add to more joy in their lives? Or to seeing bodies as just things, rather than people….

    And the obsession factor, the “Doing Without” that you wrote about so beautifully….are we teaching people to be unable to do without with our “too much”?

    Is everyone who has concerns sexually hung up? Are there not many angles here—is not everything done too much an enemy of the very joy it offers?

    And of course, there is the question of what is too much? But when porn is created at cost to those involved, for me, that is too much. When porn becomes a crutch and addiction instead of a joy, that is too much. But that is a question of individual freedom. It is the business aspect that is not—that is a societal question. And each parent has to decide the “too much” in helping their children live in a way to treat others as people and to learn how to have relationships.

    • Good questions, of course.

      None of us is a thing, but I think that thinking is ungovernable, and laws against thinking—even abhorrent thoughts—seem inhumane to me. People think, especially people like you and me, and although some people’s thoughts I’m sure would give me goose bumps, I see no reason for the government to be involved.

      Forgive me, but I edited your questions for use pretty much anywhere, especially in business: Are people joyful? Are people free? Is this a form of forced human trafficking? Are people treated as things?

      Some people are valued for what they know and not for who they are, don’t you think? I don’t think that’s any worse than being valued for physical attributes or willingness to do anything in a porn movie. I’m starting to think that judgment gets in the way of my seeing life as art and possibly more individuated than I thought. What looks like a sure thing may be something altogether different. Feed me if I’m hungry, otherwise just be a beacon of love and goodness for all of us and let it go at that.

      Everybody with a job is exploited. That’s how it all works, I think. Aristotle said, “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.” Some of us have big brains. Some of us have talents that we may be able to exploit or that get us ostracized and perhaps killed or in a feature film. Anything goes, no matter what government pays goons to do. We can lock up some of the outliers and contribute to the economy, or we could leave all of them alone.

      You could be here to do something that’s never occurred to me, and once I start thinking I know what’s best for you, it’s time for me to stop thinking at all. That’s what I think.

      And no, we are not teaching people to be unable to do without with our “too much.” At least I’m not, and frankly I can’t imagine that you are either, but I guess I can’t know that that’s true. Do you know Byron Katie?

      Hey, the kids are growing up!

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