Friday, January 18, 2013

The 'Evils' of Pornography

It is widely said that the American view of nudity is neurotic - especially among Europeans. This is absolutely true, although that's not to say that Europeans have no hangups about nudity. It is said, also, that the American view of sex is similarly corrupt. With that I would agree. However, I have qualms with some of the popular views on how to fix that problem, especially considering that European views of sexuality are not in all cases a lot better than America's.

For one thing, it may be true that more exposure to nudity yields a healthier approach toward sex. I am in support of that theory. But those theories that glorify the wholesomeness of nudity all too often fall into the trap of shaming sex in the same deft stroke. "Nudity is wholesome because it is devoid of sex - a fact that Americans don't understand," they might say.

Well I ask you, if you are concerned about fixing attitudes toward sex, you think that's going to happen by keeping sex in the dark, and reinforcing the belief that it is unwholesome? What about depictions of sex - all too often depictions of sex are singled out as being uniquely problematic. Something about 'pornography' is evil in a way that sex between two people is not. Is that right?

I see pornography not as the sordid stereotype of an evil industry intent on exploiting and commodifying women for a profit at the hands of the objectifying gaze of horny men. I see pornography as depictions of sexuality, that can be as healthy and wholesome as they can be sordid and dirty. Pornography is not evil, it is neutral. That men may use pornography as a weapon against women doesn't negate its power to uplift sexuality to a higher level.

And pornography is not a synonym for violence. If anything, more pornography and less violent media (not the same thing) would improve our culture's relationship toward sex. But anyway, viewing sex through the eyes of deadbeat jerks who don't treat women well is bound to sour you on relations between the sexes. Whether or not that sort of thing is common, it's not intrinsic to the issue.

And even though men use pornography to glorify the sexual desirability of women, I don't see that as being an evil, either. Only a sex negative view could take the attraction between the sexes and reframe it as a battle for supremacy. If it is an issue of too little diversity in the women whose images are being propped up as desirable, then the solution is to create more images with more diversity, not to apply censorship to images of women any given man (much less the majority) would rate as highly desirable.

Amateur pornography is working toward that end, showing that all sorts of normal people can find sexual satisfaction, without being "perfect". The magazine industry is not evil, or at least if it is, it's evil because it adheres to a capitalist framework, and not because it utilizes sex appeal toward the end of making a profit. If you want to complain about evil, don't talk about pornography, talk about capitalism instead.

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