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Pornification is a Disease and We Have an Advanced Case:   Obscenity Yields Obscene Profits and Capitalists Can’t Resist

by Jason Miller


8/9/06

Programmed to obediently work, consume, and act on our hedonistic impulses, we immigrant inhabitants of Turtle Island are probably amongst the most gullible people in the history of humanity. In the United States, critical thought and education are considered to be frivolous. Madison Avenue, Hollywood, Wall Street, and our very own Ministry of Truth in DC pound home the message that we exist to make and spend money to keep our mighty Capitalist economy running like a well-oiled machine. Contemplation and deep analysis are for “fuzzy-brained liberals” living in their “ivory towers”. Our role as Americans is to “git ‘er done”, go home, drink a beer, and flip on Fox so O’Reilly can tell us what we think.

America’s corporate media offer a virtually endless supply of sound and imagery to stimulate our endorphins while filling our minds with propaganda powerful enough to make a ruthless empire appear to be a benevolent crusader for humanity. (Believe it or not, some of us have actually been able to over-ride the “Americans good, Muslims bad” loop in our program).

Need proof of how deeply the lies are etched into our mental hard-drives? Recent polls indicate that at least a third of Americans are still wandering about with their power to reason disabled to the extent that they voice their support for the wretched malefactors residing along the Potomac.

America has morphed from the land of opportunity into the land of the opportunists. Did the architects of the United States system of government truly intend for our Constitution to protect the rights of avaricious corporations and wealthy individuals to exploit the masses? I sincerely doubt it. But their “rights” are often more protected than those of We the People.

Consider the example of pornography.

What could be more innocuous than looking at images of naked people, right? Humans (predominately men) have been doing it since time immemorial. At first blush, it seems harmless enough that pornography has permeated nearly every facet of America’s culture of compulsive consumption. Yet a powerful undertow awaits those who venture too deeply into these seemingly placid waters.

My personal experiences coupled with the well-researched conclusions of Pamela Paul (a contributor to Time Magazine) in her recent book entitled Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families have led me to expunge pornography from my life to the extent that it is humanly possible. And given its ubiquity and seduction, it has proven to be a Herculean task.

A woman with whom I had a relationship about twelve years ago was so damaged by pornography that despite her attractive physical appearance, she saw herself as ugly and overweight. Her ex-husband had been addicted to pornography. He was physically abusive, insisted on watching porn movies while they had sex, and forced her to act out the parts of the women in the movies. Based on those experiences, she lived in a nightmare world of virtually endless and hopeless psychological competition with fantasy women. She was comparing herself to air-brushed, surgically-enhanced women whom pornographers portrayed as compliant sex partners with endless cravings for hot jism. Machismo delights such as these do not occur in nature.

What effect did this “mind-fuck” have on my girl-friend? Multiple suicide attempts and severe bulimia were the observable fruits of her bitter harvest. Who could truly comprehend the almost non-stop inner torment she faced? With the help of extensive therapy and medication, she was on her way to recovery by the time she and I parted ways. Wherever she it today, I hope she has conquered her demons.

Despite my strong reservations about pornography and choice to abstain, I am not suggesting that everyone choose the path of abstinence. I was once a consumer of pornography so I am not casting stones at those who buy or view pornography. My intent is to deliver an informative and cautionary message.

I am calling upon pornography users to consider the harm it inflicts on them and others, the adverse impacts of its virus-like infiltration into nearly every vehicle of our media, and the intellectual and spiritual power they surrender to pornographers by mindlessly consuming their eye candy.

Reading Pornified (Pamela Paul's book) would be an excellent starting point. Most of Ms. Paul’s book is devoted to personal interviews with people whose lives have been affected by pornography. She provides examples across the spectrum, ranging from men who are so addicted that they spend hours each day surfing the Internet and have lost the ability to have sex with human beings to men like me who shun pornography because it has damaged them or a loved one. Or from women (like my former companion) whose lives have been devastated by pornography to women who enjoy the fact that their lovers are into porn. And Paul includes interviews with many people who fall somewhere between these extremes.

Paul makes the point that many Americans fall prey to the false dichotomy that everyone is in the camp of either zealous pornography advocates like Larry Flynt or militant feminist oppositionists like Andrea Dworkin. The reality is that most people fall somewhere in between. And despite the potent aversion to censorship in the United States, according to Paul’s research, 42% of Americans desire some form of regulation of Internet pornography to minimize the possibility of children accessing it. (I did say regulation, not elimination).

Perhaps the most disturbing element of pornography Paul exposes is how deeply it has woven itself into the fabric of our society. Movies, advertisers, rock bands, Hip Hop artists, Websites, magazines, and newspapers hammer us with a steady barrage of material that fits the definition of pornography. If something glorifies the objectification of women, lacks artistic value, and is intended to pump up libido, it is a form of pornography.

Images of alluring women looking ready to satisfy nearly any man’s carnal desires are powerful tools to attract customers and create the profits that acquisitive capitalists crave. Common knowledge for years, no? The problem is that now it is common practice to market by objectifying women. Even life insurance companies try to lure customers using women.

And pornographers have utilized the relatively new medium of the Internet to take their trade to a whole new level. Significant sections of Paul’s book explore what is probably the most dangerous aspect of pornography. Users have a strong tendency to become addicted. As with most addictions, porn users need more, bigger, better, and faster to achieve their high. Paul interviews men who relate how they “graduated” from still photos of naked women to videos of women with one partner to videos portraying multiple sex partners and so on. Eventually, some of these men found themselves “getting off” on video scenes involving abuse and rape of women. Obviously the ultimate threat to society is that porn addicts will engage in child pornography. And some of Ms. Paul’s interviewees discussed how their addictions ultimately led them to do just that.

On the supply side, men like Larry Flynt (founder of Hustler Magazine, self-anointed guardian of the First Amendment, and pioneer of “pink shots”) have made vast fortunes and taken porn to the level of “respectability”.

Flynt once said, “I believe in the First Amendment (freedom of speech) very strongly ... and there's no reason to quit now ... All the support has been extremely amazing.”

I don’t blame him for his substantial interest in preserving the First Amendment. Under its application (which has allowed pornographers to produce and sell virtually anything short of child pornography), he has amassed a fortune in excess of $400 million. According to a recent report by CBS News, the pornography industry now generates about $10 billion in annual revenues.

So let’s not kid ourselves into believing that those who have scrambled to the top of the United States’ version of the Capitalist pyramid scheme by degrading those they exploit to make their product, severely damaging women’s psyches, and feeding pathological male addictions are selfless martyrs for the cause of our freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and redress of grievances to our government. The deep resolve of pornographers to protect the First Amendment begins and ends with their cynical devotion to making profits through exploiting human beings.

Pornography is detrimental to the psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the subject, the consumer, and the family of the consumer. While Paul stays fairly objective in her book, she provides plenty of anecdotal evidence supported by data from surveys and polls conducted by entities as diverse as the Kinsey Institute, Elle Magazine, Zogby, Focus on the Family, and Harris, to make the case that pornography is a significant detriment to our society.

I realize this it is anathema to the true believers in the “free market ideals” of the United States’ sacred cow of Capitalism, but injecting some “Socialistic” governmental regulation into our economy in the past has helped protect many workers and consumers from the likes of the meat-packing, alcohol, and the tobacco industries. And once again the need has arisen.

Not unlike tobacco and alcohol, pornography causes grievous harm to human beings. Pornography comes with its own precipitously high social costs, including severe psychological damage to women, addiction, covert perpetuation of the subjugation of women, our children’s premature sexual awareness, and child pornography.

Censorship is not an option I favor to deal with the problem of pornography. While the US Supreme Court has ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment, like beauty, obscenity is often in the eye of the beholder. Besides, if adults want to engage in self-destructive behaviors or exceed the limits of moderation, laws are not going to stop them. Prohibition demonstrated that clearly enough.

However, pornographers are enjoying a virtual free ride. There are almost no limits on the depraved garbage they produce and pipe into homes, schools, businesses and libraries via the Internet. Magazines like Hustler are look like Sesame Street relative to many Websites. For instance, in her book Paul refers to a site called “the Home of the Asshole Milkshake” which “treats” viewers to see how “multiple men can anally penetrate a woman and then force her to drink the ejaculated semen extracted from her own anus.”

This is the point where I can assure you that your moral compass is probably broken beyond repair if you don’t see the need for some measure of legal restriction on pornographic activities. Banning child pornography is a nice start. However, the Internet has made a joke of the Supreme Court’s decision for each community to determine its own tolerance for obscenity.

Human beings pay a price for choosing to engage in immoral and self-destructive behaviors. It is critical that as a society, we protect our children and innocent by-standers from sharing in that cost to the extent that we are able.

If adults want to make and drink semen milkshakes, or watch other people do it, more power to them. But as we do with cigarettes and alcohol, let’s tax the hell out of pornographers’ products to offset the social costs they create and make it more difficult to access reprehensible filth (like the milkshake example) than simply making a few keystrokes on a computer.

I would also encourage each individual to consider joining me in boycotting pornography to help weaken a dangerously powerful industry which engages in a highly profitable form of legal human exploitation.

Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at [email protected] or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian .blogspot.com/.
 

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