Skip to comments.Pornography: Formula for Despair
Posted on 06/17/2002 8:25:38 PM PDT by JMJ333
There is a body of water in Eastern Canada that has the improbable name of "Lake Despair". This sinister appellation is an accident of language. The French originally called it Lac d'espoir (Lake of Hope). English-speaking settlers in the region, accustomed to hearing only their own language, misperceived its name. And so it became known, culturally and cartographically, as Lake Despair. This type of metamorphosis occurs just as easily on a moral plane.
Pornography takes human sexuality, with its hope of love, fidelity, family, and fulfillment, and turns it into an empty and lifeless husk. It does this as a predator destroys its prey, by eviscerating sexuality of all its inherent grace. This transmogrification, which some mistake as emancipation, takes place through processes that are neither liberating or enriching, but Depersonalizing, Enslaving, Self-destructive, Preposterous, Alienating, Isolating, Reductionistic. The process can be subtle enough that, for some, it goes unnoticed. But ultimately, the difference between the reality of human sexuality and its residue in pornography is all the difference in the world. It is the difference between what "gift" means in English and what "Gift" (poison) means in German. Indeed, it is the difference between hope and despair, heaven and hell.
Pornography displaces love with lust. The fundamental reason that lust is listed as one of the Seven Deadly Sins is precisely that it gives pleasure primacy over the person. Lust prefers the experience of pleasure to the good of the person. Rather than loving the other, lust prefers to appropriate the other for the self. Such an inversion of proper values is at once unjust to the other who is regarded primarily as an instrument of pleasure, and destructive of the self inasmuch as it undermines his own nature as a loving being.
In his "Theology of the Body," John Paul II states that lust "'depersonalizes' man making him an object 'for the other'. Instead of being 'together with the other' - a subject in unity, in fact, in the sacramental unity 'of the body' - man becomes an object for man: the female for the male and vice versa." With lust, the subjectivity of the person gives way to the objectivity of the body.
In his book, The Case Against Pornography, David Holbrook argues that pornography is connected with the same processes of objectivization that is essential to the Galilean-Newtonian-Cartesian tradition that lowers nature and man "to the status of dead objects". Psychiatrist Leslie Farber and others have described the depersonalizing effects of pornography most vividly by stating that it transfers the fig leaf to the face. Pornography is not interested in the face, through which personality shines, but the objectivized and devitalized body. Pornography represses personality and exalts the depersonalized, despiritualized body.
The process by which one objectivizes the other, results in an objectivization of the self. This is the basis of slavery. "The enslaving of the other," writes Christian existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev, "is also the enslaving of the self." Viewing the other as a depersonalized, despiritualized object is incompatible with communion.
But only through inter-personal communion is one liberated form the world that is enclosed in the material. "By objectivization," Berdyaev goes on to say, "the subject enslaves itself and creates the realm of determinism."
Pornography enslaves by imprisoning people in the material. It also enslaves because it erodes personal freedom. "There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us," wrote C. S. Lewis. "Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance."
A third way in which pornography enslaves is through chemical addiction. When the pornography addict indulges in his habit, the adrenal gland secretes the chemical epinephrine into the blood stream. According to David Caton, author of Pornogrpahy: The Addiction, epinephrine goes to the brain and assists in locking in the pornographic images. These locked-in images can result in severely changed behavior, including an obsession with pornography that has much in common with chemical addiction.
The depersonalizing and enslaving effects of pornography are inevitably self-destructive. The high rate of suicides among pornography actresses is a graphic indication of this.
The notion of "stripping," especially when applied to the pornographic film, goes far beyond the act of disrobing. It represents the stripping away of inner qualities as well: character, moral values, shame, fundamental decency, restraint. The logical end-point of such pornographic stripping is the complete dissolution of the self. In this regard, pornography leads to sado-masochism and death, as illustrated in the infamous "snuff" films.
Canadian Business magazine reports that "Hard-core Capitalists" stand to make so much money in peddling illegal porn that they are undeterred by the criminal sanctions against it. One producer, that fittingly calls itself Dead Parrot Productions, caters to the appetite for sado-masochism and self-destruction.
Preposterous, as its etymology indicates (prae + posterius) means putting before, that which should come after. Trying to remove your socks before you have taken your shoes off, rather than after, is clearly preposterous. Pornography is preposterous because it puts sex before personhood, lust before love, pleasure before conscience.
When Adam awakened from a deep sleep and looked upon a woman for the first time, he joyously exclaimed: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gn. 2:23). "He rightly understood that his partner was first and foremost a human being, like himself, and secondarily sexual. He did not exclaim: "This at last is the opposite sex, a convenient instrument for my sexual gratification." The human relationship comes first; the sexual relationship must be grounded in personal love.
As a result of the Fall, Adam and Eve began to get things backwards. They experienced shame because they suddenly regarded each other first as sex objects and secondarily as persons. They then made aprons of fig leaves to cover themselves. Pornography and pornovision, by placing the part before the whole, sexuality before personality, is preposterous and therefore, in a sense, ludicrous.
The porn world is not without rules. One cardinal rule is that its performers remain safely alienated from their clients. Because pornography is primarily centered on the despiritualized, depersonalized body, alienation is essential to it.
In the telephone sex industry, operators are instructed to advise customers who want to arrange a tryst that "company policy" forbids it. Also, because pornography in its various forms, relies heavily on illusion, it cannot abide the light of realism. The voyeur is obliged to remain an alienated spectator. The tenuous relationship between the voyeur and the exhibitionist evaporates once personality enters the picture. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in his Allegory of Love, lust seeks "for some purely sexual, hence purely imaginary conjunction of an impossible maleness with an impossible femaleness."
Alienation between people leads to the isolation of the self. This isolation of the self from a significant other and from community must not be confused with the right to privacy. Privacy means two things. In the first sense, it is contrasted with what is public. Sexual intimacy between husband and wife is private in this sense. John Paul II has rightly criticized pornography and pornovision for violating this legitimate right to privacy of the body.
On the other hand, privacy can refer to self-isolation, of withdrawing from social encounters. Pornography violates legitimateprivacy and encourages the illegitimate privacy of isolation. It exposes a personal privacy that should be protected, while it promotes an isolated privacy that should be avoided. Consequently, it is highly injurious to marriage and the family, often leaving spouses, particularly husbands, isolated from the rest of their kin.
Pornography reduces the person to a thing. Perhaps a more revealing way of putting it is to say that pornography exchanges a name for a number. Hence its preoccupation with numbers: the size of the organs, the duration of intercourse, the number of partners, the frequency and intensity of orgasm. The so-called "vital statistics" do not denote life as such as much as a person reduced to a thing.
Mechanization, which invariably stamps things with sameness, has a strong affinity with pornography. They are both highly impersonal processes whose language is not of names, but of numbers. Pornography forces the impression upon the imagination that a human being is not an individualized person, but an amalgam of parts. One of the more pernicious consequences of the Freudean reduction of the person to conflicting parts is the willingness to ascribe rights to its most basic part, namely, the id. O. Hobart Mowrer has inveighed against Freudeanism for "championing the rights of the body in opposition to a society and moral order which were presumed to be unduly harsh and arbitrary."
Nonetheless, a human being is not a conflict of parts but a dynamic whole that has a communal nature and a personal destiny.
The porn industry, with its words, images, voices, and videos, is, indeed, a formula for despair. From its very essence springs the need to create the illusion that the body is in fundamental conflict with the unified person. Its unremitting aim is to bring about a condition of utter shamelessness through the gradual annihilation of authentic personality.
It's not that I like porn (most nowadays is very boring). It's just that I don't really get all worked up into a frenzy over it. On a scale of "evils" it ranks mighty low. Definitely much lower than drunk driving which I mentioned.
Ain't that the truth. Either they are shallow-minded perverts or have never witnessed first hand a family torn apart by pornography.
Oh, really? So then, you fault all the boys who complained about the priest's molestations?
A little twisted are you?
I don't really care one way or the other if porn is good or bad. Maybe it's net effect on society is bad. If so, what should be done? If the answer is, 'educate people that it's bad but don't get the government involved', well, fine. Beyond that--well, what would you suggest?
Yet others are filled with marriages wrecked on the rocks of golf, the reefs of debt, the minefields of substance abuse. Addictions, from porn to bingo... the common threads are compulsiveness, immaturity and lack of character. One person's recreational diversion may be the next person's eternal damnation.
"The nature of the liberal and libertarian errors is easily seen in discussions of pornography. The leader of the explosion of pornographic videos, described admiringly by a competitor as the Ted Turner of the business, offers the usual defenses of decadence: 'Adults have the right to see [pornography] if they want to. If it offends you, don't buy it.' Those statements neatly sum up both the errors and the (unintended) perniciousness of the alliance between libertarians and modern liberals with respect to popular culture.
"Modern liberals employ the rhetoric of 'rights' incessantly, not only to delegitimate the idea of restraints on individuals by communities but to prevent discussion of the topic. Once something is announced, usually flatly or stridently, to be a right --whether pornography or abortion or what have you-- discussion becomes difficult to impossible. Rights inhere in the person, are claimed to be absolute, and cannot be deminished or taken away by reason; in fact, reason that suggests the non-existence of an asserted right is viewed as a moral evil by the claimant. If there is to be anything that can be called a community, rather than an agglomeration of hedonists, the case for previously unrecognized individual freedoms (as well as some that have been previously recognized) must be thought through and argued, and "rights" cannot win every time. Why there is a right for adults to enjoy pornography remains unexplained and unexplainable.
"The second bit of advice --'If it offends you, don't buy it' -- is both lulling and destructive. Whether you buy it or not, you will be greatly affected by those who do. The aesthetic and moral environment in which you and your family live will be coarsened and degraded. Economists call the effects an activity has on others 'externalities'; why so many of them do not understand the externalities here is a mystery. They understand quite well that a person who decides not to run a smelter will nevertheless be seriously affected if someone else runs one nearby.
"Free market economists are particularly vulnerable to the libertarian virus. They know that free economic exchanges usually benefit both parties to them. But they mistake that general rule for a universal rule. Benefits do not invariably result from free market exchanges. When it comes to pornography or addictive drugs, libertarians all too often confuse the idea that markets should be free with the idea that everything should be available on the market. The first of those ideas rests on the efficacy of the free market in satisfying wants. The second ignores the question of which wants it is moral to satisfy. That is a question of an entirely different nature. I have heard economists say that, as economists, they do no deal with questions of morality. Quite right. But nobody is just an economist. Economists are also fathers and mothers, husbands or wives, voters citizens, members of communities. In these latter roles, they cannot avoid questions of morality.
"The externalities of depictions of violence and pornography are clear. To complaints about those products being on the market, libertarians respond with something like 'Just hit the remote control and change channels on your TV set.' But, like the person who chooses not to run a smelter while others do, you, your family, and your neighbors will be affected by the people who do not change the channel, who do rent the pornographic videos, who do read alt.sex.stories. As film critic Michael Medved put it: ' To say that if you don't like the popular culture, then turn it off, is like saying if you don't like the smog, stop breathing. . . .There are Amish kids in Pennsylvania who know about Madonna.' And their parents can do nothing about it.
"Can there be any doubt that as pornography and depictions of violence become increasingly popular and increasingly accessible, attitudes about marriage, fidelity, divorce, obligations to children, the use of force, and permissible public behavior and language will change? Or that with the changes in attitudes will come changes in conduct, both public and private? We have seen those changes already and they are continuing. Advocates of liberal arts education assure us that those studies improve character. Can it be that only uplifting reading affects character and the most degrading reading has no effects whatever? 'Don't buy it' and 'change the channel,' however intended, are effectively advice to accept a degenerating culture and its consequences.
"The obstacles to censorship of pornographic and viloence-filled materials are, of course, enormous. Radical individualism in such matters is now pervasive even among sedate, upper middle-class people. At a dinner I sat next to a retired Army general who was no a senior corporate executive. The subject of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs came up. This most conventional of dinner companions said casually that people ought to be allowed to see whatever they wanted to see. It would seem to follow that others ought to be allowed to do whatever some want to see.... Any serious attempt to root out the worst in our popular culture may be doomed unless the judiciary comes to understand that the First Amendment was adopted for good reasons, and those reasons did not include the furtherance of radical personal autonomy."
Robert Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, pp. 150-152.
That was back when they could be pretty sure they weren't going to be sued for child support.
To attempt to censor [pornography], regulate it, or otherwise altar a freedom to choose what one reads or watches for entertainment, gives a few individuals the power to regulate the arts for the rest of society. What's destroyed in this process may be worse than what's there in the beginning.
Because, that is where they're at emotionally and intellectually.
Pornography is an extremely low form of... what? entertainment? not art, or course.
But...so what. I've learned some interesting things watching pornography. Not that I've watched much of it; it tends to gets boring fast.
Actually, I have never been one to force anything on anyone. I attempt to persuade people to my point of view on logic and truth. Thanks for your reply.
And guess who gets to define radical?
Social conservatives are what made
me a libertarian.
Um...There is a HUGE difference between a Priest (male) molesting a boy and a hot teacher (female) getting it on with a willing high school kid. There is a BIG difference between these two situations.
Unfortunately, this study is not online to look into more thoroughly. Obviously one causative indication is that offenders, at some point, are induced by porn to offend, since offenders 'often have porn', and by implication very few offenders are induced by some other non-porn factor (e.g. anger).
Further, It would be interesting to see how long they tracked offenders and non-offenders. The assumption is the non-offenders won't ever offend, whereas in fact the only conclusion that can be drawn, is they have porn, but haven't offended yet.
And then there is the obvious unknown, they're only measuring the offenders who have been caught.
Pornography can ...[snip...] boost a waning sexual relationship.
But like any stimulant, it wears off and requires either a greater dosage, or the user crashes, usually with worse effects. How often does porn save a marriage, indefinitely?
Another technique, called fading, used also as a reconditioning exercise for treating pedophiles
I thought the reports out of the Catholic clergy pedophiles indicated a high rate of recidivism?
The article, my dear, is full of metaphysical malarkey.
I would as soon debate a Shinto priest on the likelihood
of reincarnating as a chocolate rabbit.
I refuse to endorse letting you or anyone
else choose what an adult reads or watches for
Apparently lost on yours is the irony that this is the same type of projection of motive you are accusing the author of having.
And besides, how are we going to solve the problem of young sexy attractive women from going around naked under their clothes?
Actually, Bundy himself was the one who detailed his own experience with pornography and its role in turning him into a serial killer. He provided an interview to James Dobson while on death row, hours from his execution. It is a very interesting and revealing dialog. You often get the straightest, most unvarnished talk from someone facing their own eminent demise. No more spinning, justifying, or self-deception. Just straight talk.
The point is that it is the addiction that caused the problem in the marriage, not the subject of the addiction. It could have been an addiction to reading Time Magazine and it still likely would have caused the problems. Trying to blame something you don't like (pornography) for the weaknesses of others is what this is about.
I have friends that are addicted to golf to the point of I believe it is more important to them than their families. It appears so when they are not willing to give up a game in order to attend family events, parties, or such things.
It's the addictive behavior, not the game of golf that needs addressing. Same goes for porn.
If one is inclined to promote porn then I suggest that the dumpster would make a nice home.
Of course even as I watch this I look up and see Melonie Griffith doing Kiefer Sutherland in the back of a Chevy.
Kiefer, ya done Oddball proud - she's one nice ho'!!!
Did you read the article? If you really don't see a difference between the effects of porn and people who play bingo...well...I am at a loss as to what to say...
Actually Bundy was doing quite a bit of spinning and justifying (although he was trying to decieve others, not himself). He was trying to shuffle off his murderous misdeeds on porno rather than taking the blame for his own actions. I remember his lame excuse and thought him a slimey little weasel even at the very end.
Metaphysical malarkey indeed, as illustrated by this--
Depersonalizing, Enslaving, Self-destructive, Preposterous,
Alienating, Isolating, Reductionistic. The process can be subtle
enough that, for some, it goes unnoticed.
Yup, really awful stuff. Actually, incarnating as
a chocolate rabbit is a lot more interesting.
I have know many who became addicted to it, to the detriment of their marriages and relationships.
Excellent reply. Interesting how many of these so-called Conservatives are porndogs, isn't it?
It ruins a lot of lives. More than most people realize.
Yes. Its disregard of bingo addiction (or, more seriously, the addictive personality in general) totally killed any credibility it might have otherwise had.
I doubt very seriously that social conservatives drove you to libertarianism. It is far more likely that your personal philosophy is steeped in relativism, and pure conservatism of the American stripe (with its emphases on truth as revealed through tradition and a body of law that buttresses social stability) is, in a very literal sense, anathema to your being.
Lust is a natural and immensely strong animal desire. However, those that can rise above it lead freer and very frequently more happy lives. Many cannot see the wisdom of that. However, many can.
Drunk driving ruins (and ends) a lot more lives.
Extremely well stated.
Or Freeping. I'm told there are FReepers who have been fired from their jobs for FReeping too much during working hours. Or maybe its because they were FReeping naked... nevermind.