Thursday, November 12, 2009
I'm getting into a strange habit of waking up dreaming topics of my next blog. Here's the latest...
Pornography is big business in the world and continues to be another area of "human behavior" that various governments and religions want to control or legislate. While anyone that is a parent or wants to protect children from adult themes is understandably supportive of controlling public content...it still is an area of behavior whose control needs to be in the hands of the local community more than a "nationalist" cause.
The first problem with pornography is how do you define it as a culture? The core dictionary definition is "material that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement". Of course the battle over that basic definition is who determines "intent" and what is "erotic" or not. Some would argue that the Bible has quite a bit of "erotic" content, especially in the writings of "Solomon" where there is much description of a man's attraction to a female's body and bold descriptions thereof. Is this "erotic" or pornographic? It could be to some...
Most government positions on pornography is "Pornographic material is protected expression unless it is determined to be obscene. However, child pornography is illegal under federal and state laws prohibiting the depiction of minors in sexual acts." Of course here the definition of "obscene" and age of majority are quite varied from country to country or culture to culture. Who is to finally determine the age of majority or what is obscene or not? The opinions can be as varied as the number of humans on a committee or government body. When pressed on this theme, I have heard or read many leaders say "I can't define obscenity in words...I just know it when I see it". Again, not very concrete terms under which to judge the legality of sexual content in media or the arts.
Some people think that any showing of genitalia, whether it is in a sex film or on an artistic statue or painting is "pornographic". Some view any nudity in films as "pornographic" while others think "anything goes" if a person chooses it, including bestiality, masochism/sadomasochism, gay sex or pedophilia. Some countries/cultures are very liberal and permissive of human sexuality and behavior choices while others continue with "Victorian" principles. Some countries like Denmark and The Netherlands have high degrees of tolerance while most Arab/Islam countries have heavy penalties even to capital punishment for involvement in pornography or forbidden sex. When you get down to a mixing bowl like the USA population, it seems a pretty tall order to make determinations for everyone on what the limits and definitions are.
We seem to be living in a world of EXTREMES when it comes to this subject. You have religions and cultures that demand the complete covering of every body part, especially for women. Then you also still have a few aboriginal tribes that live in tropical areas with total nudity. National Geographic used to focus a lot on these people when I was growing up and I think was used as initial sex education material by many more "prudish" sectors of society. Playboy was out, National Geographic "in".
I find it quite impacting how "liberal" western civilization's media has become on sexual themes. Whether things are "pornographic" or not seems to be a very subjective thing depending on who you talk to. Things that used to be very private and hardly ever talked about are now on all the major networks...and the "MTV generation" has long been exposed to sexually explicit content with even a large amount of gay depictions on programs geared to minors. While on one hand I think it healthy for teens to get education on human sexuality and feel good about their sexuality in a responsible manner...I think many media shows have gone way too far too soon in presenting some of these themes to minors who spend most of their free time watching these shows instead of reading or other more productive activities. The biggest problem with this is that parents or other significant adults are usually totally out of the loop in presenting or discussing these sexual themes with their dependents. One might ask if hetero sexual photos in Playboy or Penthouse or in the case of women, "Playgirl", are any more pornographic than an MTV show that depicts teens of the same sex kissing and fondling on International TV?
Cause and effect of this topic is interesting. Are young people more promiscuous than they were 30-40 years ago? Some of the studies I have seen would suggest that they are less active than those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s. Personally I am not sure that more exposure to "porn" leads to more promiscuity as I think more liberal, educated young people are less "titillated" by pornographic content than those who were protected from it and then exposed at a later point in life. We see some of the most extreme sexual predators coming out of religions and cultures that were very legalistic or Victorian in nature. It is as if by forbidding the fruit of this material, we make it that much more appealing...much like the forbidden apple in the story of Adam and Eve. If you tell someone they CAN'T have or see something...human nature seems to crave it that much more.
This topic presents a "Catch 22" to me. I believe the human mind can be exposed to a lot of things of this nature without necessarily being affected permanently or negatively by it. Yet, obviously kids at an early age are susceptible to coercion and manipulation by adults and by adult media when it comes to their sexuality. It's one thing if a person finds themselves prone to homosexuality or other "non-traditional" forms of sexual behaviors...it is another thing to try and convince a young life to question their natural tendencies. On this theme I have grown to be sensitive to those who grow up with gay tendencies and having everyone try to guilt trip them about their nature. On the other hand, I find it unconscionable to allow adults to prey sexually on minors, whether it be hetero or homo. I've seen this way too close in my life and will swiftly come to the support of anyone who is experiencing this kind of pressure, especially a minor.
So, back to the core issue of pornography...what is and what isn't? I think it is a very personal thing. For people to deny their sexuality or curiosity about it is not natural or healthy in my opinion. The sooner we realize that humans developed with very strong sexual drives and curiosities...the better, more adjusted humans we will be. I have seen very rigid, conservatively raised people grow up to be sexually addicted in various ways...and I have seen completely liberal, unrestricted people grow up to be very responsible and monogamous partners in a relationship. There is no guarantee from either background of being "sexually adjusted".
The only restrictions I feel should be strongly imparted by a culture is the protection of their children from adult predators. To that end I support limiting exposure to minors of certain materials that would commonly and obviously be labeled "adult" or pornographic. As a parent, Uncle, or responsible adult...I think it important to protect our children as long as we can, yet there comes a time where we should be prepared to discuss with them anything they want to discuss related to sexuality or pornography...however it is defined. If we are too prudish or protective ourselves, it might be a bit difficult to have a knowledgeable and fair conversation with those under our charge or help them grow into adjusted and prepared adults for the big bad world out there.