Essay:Pornography Is Good
- Introduction and opposing viewpoints
Pornography is broadly defined as “any form of explicit representation of the human body or sexual activity with the goal of sexual arousal and/or sexual relief.” It takes form in all sorts of media, including movies, magazines, literature, and artistic representations by which it has made its way into the homes of over 221 million Americans today. It can be professional, amateur, or voyeuristic in nature. The issue of pornography acceptance in society is somewhat based on personal opinion. A large number of Americans enjoy porn and form part of the $100 billion market, whereas others find pornography distasteful and avoid it. Amongst those who enjoy pornography lie many genre preferences of pornography, from anal creampies and bukkakes to illegal forms of pornography such as child and zoophilia-oriented porn. Amongst those with a personal distaste for pornography is the heavy outcry from obscene feminist movements and other critics who favor censorship and claim that pornography is the epitome of society’s moral deterioration by ruining relationships, lives ("pornography addiction"), exploiting women, and worsening perversions.
This is not an essay about the benefits of pornography for the individual per se. This is not an essay attempting to persuade you, the reader, to watch or enjoy pornography. The aim of this essay is to call for tolerance of pornography in society because, I believe, it has enormous benefits for society as a whole -- particularly in a society which values the freedom of expression. I will attempt to debunk the most common, unevidenced myths against pornography, and will discuss how the tolerance of pornography by those who do not watch pornography, and how the availability of pornography for those who do watch pornography, benefits us all.
- Claim: Porn leads to an increase in sex crimes.
Evidence suggests that the increased availability of porn (i.e. the growth of the internet of which there are currently 4.2 million pornographic websites ) has a link to decreased sex crimes in the United States. Indeed, statistics are in favor of pornography and seems to make the argument made for the moral corruption of society unfounded. Rape, pedophilia, divorce, and sex crimes in general have decreased drastically since pornography's wide availability over the internet. Sex crimes against children have decreased by 39% overall in the last decade, and crimes against 12-17 year olds are down 79% over the same period. Effects on abortion are also noticeable but debatable, with the number of abortions per live births trending downward since 1987. With teen pregnancy, the number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 has dropped from 60 in 1990 to 40 in 2003. Crimes against women have decreased as well. Violent crimes against women have dropped from 41 victims per 1,000 women in 1994 to just 17 in 2004. Incidence of rape has dropped dramatically, despite decreasing social stigma against rape victims, which would make rape more likely to be reported. There were 2.5 rapes per 1,000 women in 1984. By 1993, the number had dropped to 1.6. By 2004, it was down to just 0.4. As previously mentioned, many have argued that pornography destroys relationships. Their basis for this argument fails to have any supporting evidence as well, as divorce rates dropped from 47% in 1990 to 38% in 2002 (again, this 12-year gap represents the increase of internet pornography availability).
We may also point to places such as Scandinavia and Japan, where liberal attitudes to pornography go hand in hand with low rates of sexual crime against women. The "Danish experience" is often held up as good example. In 1969 Denmark lifted all restrictions on pornography, and sex crimes declined. For example, between 1965 and 1982 sex crimes against children went from 30 per 100,000 to about 5 per 100,000. Similar evidence was found for rape rates.
The reason for this correlation, many believe, is because pornography serves as a method to release sexual urges by giving the sexually frustrated a harmless outlet to relieve sexual tension.
To hopefully refute any initial objections, it is recognized that other factors may have contributed to the decreased sex crimes in the United States, such as extended measures to combat sexual abuse. Nonetheless, if pornography were as influential and decisive in sex crimes, it would be expected, particularly since its wide availability over the internet, to lead to less promising figures. That there is a link between viewing pornography and becoming a sexual offender is not yet proven.
- Claim: Porn exploits and degrades women.
This is one of the most common arguments from the feminist movements. For this claim to have any weight, those who make it must ignore the fact that the porn industry is one of the few industries in which women make drastically more money than men. On average, male performers in porn are paid less than their female counterparts. Porn star Ron Jeremy has commented several times on the pay scale against women and men of the sex film industry: "The average guy gets $300 to $400 a scene, or $100 to $200 if he's new. A woman makes $100,000 to $250,000 at the end of the year", and, "Girls can easily make 100K-250K per year, plus stuff on the side like strip shows and appearances. The average guy makes $40,000 a year." Additionally, many porn actresses have spoken out against the idea that pornography is exploitative, including Michelle Anne Sinclair (better known by her stage name of Belladonna), Jenna Jemeson, and Nina Hartley. I think it would also be appropriate to mention that common sense calls for the blunt realization that pornographic performers are not forced into their profession, and can quit at any time.
Because pornography is recognized as an entertainment industry, it often times serves as an opportunistic and rewarding career. Notable porn stars, such as Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy, have had success outside of porn due to their success in porn.
- Claim: Pornography objectifies women.
Why, it must be considered, are most claims against pornography oriented towards women? I am yet to have been presented a single shred of evidence to support this claim, yet the the argument that pornography objectifies women is one that has persisted for some time and is usually the final argument to emerge after all other ones have been exhausted.
I propit: are not male pornographic actors capable of being objectified as well? Yes, and even more so, I believe. For anyone who has watched pornography, the female receives arguably more recognition from the camera (facial expression, dirty talk/exaggerated moaning, etc.) while the male is more-often represented as simply a penis. It might even be argued that male porn stars are hired more on the basis of the attractiveness of their penis than any other quality (a quick glance at Ron Jeremy is a demonstrative example of this) making them more than a dildo than a person, dildos being objects. As in modeling, female porn stars are hired for their overall physical attraction, yet I do not hear similar claims that modeling objectifies women (and I would have more reason to suspect that it does more-so than porn as it puts women on the same level as coat racks or mannequins rather than ).
That pornography "objectifies" women (or any of the actors of various gender) is usually "proven" with instances of violence against women among men who watch pornography. One common reference is an interview with notorious serial murderer Ted Bundy who, apparently, watched a lot of porn. That there is a correlation between violence against women and supposed objectifying of women from pornography is assumed. As it was so aptly put in criticism, "This interview is also hugely disingenuous. I don't know who the interviewer is, but it strikes me that he wants to neatly correlate pornography with awakening murderous instincts. It underscores a general, willful ignorance of what drives people like Bundy. It's clear ... Bundy takes no responsibility for his actions. Throughout he cites pornography as the cause. He goes so far as to imply that had he not been exposed to it, he would never have killed. I wonder whether pornography and becoming a serial killer is really a relationship of cause and effect. In most minds there is an untraversable gulf between a fantasy/visual simulation of sexual violence and actually going out and perpetrating that violence." A realistic approach and use of Occam's razor necessitates the question: is pornography a cause, or even a contributing factor to violent crime, particularly against women?
Of controversial statistics, which indicate that a large percentage of men who are spousal abusers watch porn regularly, it is interesting to note that only this information is presented for argumentation, with the fact that the percentage of total men who are estimated to watch porn are no more likely to commit acts of spousal violence than men who do not. It is fallacious to present one, or a handful of serial killers or wifebeaters who watch pornography and yet intentionally not present the majority of male pornography viewers who are not serial killers or wifebeaters. Furthermore, anyone who is even mildly inquisitive might ask themselves questions such as whether or not other factors may have played a role in the formation of serial killer tendencies or spousal abuse (childhood trauma, unhappy relationships, drug abuse, etc.).
I should probably note that I do recognize that the objectification of individuals does exist, and that there are probably no general professions that without exception objectify all. Objectification is more likely to be something predisposed or taught in childhood. Let us not forget that Joseph Carey Merrick, or more commonly known as The Elephant Man, was objectified and animalized throughout his entire life (though to date, there exist no pornographies starring The Elephant Man). A more literal interpretation of this claim leads us to a common sense objection: it is doubtful that few people actually wish to see objects performing in "sexual" acts. A rubber dildo and rubber vagina are, to most, probably not very arousing -- a doughnut and a hotdog, less-so. Perhaps one of the most important factors of pornography is the assumption that it involves people, not objects, especially since objects do not possess sexual desire. Only people do.
For those who are sincerely disgusted by, and would like to take a stance against, the objectification of people, I must applaud them. For those with this intention who direct their venom at pornography are mistaken. The harsh reality is that this is a small minority of those who oppose pornography. The true intentions of most who use this argument is one of personal distaste and disgust, most of which I can say is religious in nature.
- Pornography benefits society.
Pornography plays a strong role in cultural exchange. For example, Japanese pornographic themes such as hentai, bukkake, gokkun, and omorashi have gained popularity in Western pornography. French pornography is notorious in the US for its hairy women, German pornography is notoriously aggressive, and Brazilian porn is notorious for its abundance of transvestites and transsexuals.
Aside from cultural exchange of sexual norms, probably the best and most important part of pornography is its role as a form of expression. Pornography expresses human sexuality and represents a side of the human mind that Freud believed influences our daily lives and that society otherwise ignores and declares obscene in normal settings. That, of course, is sexual desire. But the expression from of pornography, some argue, is undesirable due to its absence of portraying sexual relationships (in that, it displays sex for the sole purpose of pleasure rather than sex for emotional connection with another person). Others argue that pornography’s expression of sex represents the more basic half of sexual desire in the human mind (pleasure) whereas other forms of expression may represent the other half (emotional connection). And so, because all individuals have the immediate and natural capacity for sex for the purpose of physical pleasure, pornography reaches so many people. Societal norms and morals are what serve as obstacles to the expression of pornography, as going against these norms constitutes a sexual taboo, which is in itself a fetish.
Anti-pornography proponents have been attempting to censor pornography for decades, which has brought forth the question: to what extent is pornography protected by the freedom of expression? As Susan Sontag commented on pornography in her 1967 essay, The Pornographic Imagination:
“”If so many are teetering on the verge of murder, dehumanization, sexual deformity and despair, and we were to act on that thought, then censorship much more radical than the indignant foes of pornography ever envisage seems in order. For if that's the case, not only pornography but all forms of serious art and knowledge — in other words, all forms of truth — are suspect and dangerous.
Because pornography takes shape in almost every form of media, it would prove difficult to censor especially with the free exchange of information and data over the internet. Censorship on pornographic films differs from censorship on literotica. Some have argued that pornography is already absent of moderate censorship and is in itself separated from other “expressions” in the media. Others point to the distinction between “erotica” and “pornography”. As the moral compass of a society shifts over time, so does what is considered inappropriate, and alternatively, appropriate. For example, use of the word “bitch” was once forbid on television , yet it is now acceptable. Fetishism and certain themes of porn, such as BDSM or voyeurism, have grown considerably and become more accepted. In its earliest years, pornography was exclusive to a softcore status and “normal” sex (vaginal penetration) with few deviants. This is not to say that human sexual behavior has changed; only that acceptance of human sexual behavior has. Still, some find pornographic fetishes involving certain people, such as “midgets” and transsexuals, as well as pornography involving certain acts, such as omorashi and diaper wearing, as odd or distasteful; though they recognize such genres of pornography and fetishism as being of personal taste and simply choose not to view it. In other words, what is considered normal for one person may be considered disgusting to another.
But whether individuals consider it moral deterioration, entertaining, disgusting, appropriate or inappropriate, pornography has grown into an outsized industry by taking shape in almost every form of media with unlimited availability and a plethora of observers. It has, and continues, to survive pressure from society and censorship. Historically, it has evolved from softcore flashing to hardcore double penetration, and it continues to evolve. It does so while consistently going against the grain of a perpetually changing society by presenting itself as an expression of the raw, natural fervor of human sexuality. Who knows? In 20 years, robot porn may be all the rage.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pornography&oldid=170263424 | Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “Pornography”
- http://www.spectacle.org/1195/mcelroy.html | The Ethical Spectacle, “Wendy McElroy: Pornography is Good”.
- http://men.webmd.com/guide/is-pornography-addictive | By Martin F. Downs, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, “Is Pornography Addictive?”. WebMD
- http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html | Internet Filter Review, “Internet Pornography Statistics”
- http://www.theagitator.com/archives/025614.php | By Ridley Balko, “Why Porn Is Good for America (Or, at Least, No So Bad)”
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1986869.stm | BBC News: "Is porn good for society?" by Mathew O'Marah, Slough, UK
- http://media.www.universitychronicle.com/media/storage/paper231/news/2005/10/17/Opinions/Pornography.Is.Good.For.Society-1024747.shtml | University Chronicle: "Pornography is good for society" by Becky Glander
- http://ca.askmen.com/toys/interview/34b_ron_jeremy_interview.html | AskMen.com editors, “Interview with Ron Jeremy”
- http://retrocrush.buzznet.com/archive2/ronj/ | Robert Barry, “Jeremy Spoke In Class Today”
- A brief list of Brazilian porn stars who are either transsexual, transwoman, or have been in films with transsexual themes (most can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Brazilian_porn_stars):
1. Aline 2. Ana Paula Botelho 3. Patricia Araujo 4. Bianca Biaggi 5. Vladimir Correa 6. Danielle Foxxx 7. Kananda Hickman 8. Lisa Lawer 9. Julio Vidal 10. Rafaelly Carneiro
- Taboo fetishism is the fetish in which an individual is aroused by sexual acts that go against societal norms.
- As per the indecency regulation in the case Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation
- It could be argued that, in the case of language censorship on television, that the use of the word didn’t change, but acceptance of it has though it is not entirely accepted.
- The root of sexual normality to a person forms an important part of Freudian theory. It is also essential to again note the role of society in shaping sexual normality (i.e. pedophilia being considered intolerable by society as a whole). The root of societal sexual normality in the United States and many other countries finds its roots in religious morality for sex.
- The benefits of orgasms: http://www.ezilon.com/articles/articles/4699/1/The-Benefits-of-Orgasm:-Getting-Hot-and-Healthy! | By Candis Hale, "The Benefits of Orgasm: Getting Hot and Healthy!" (04/12/2007)