Pornography, revisited

I heard from a couple of readers in response to last week’s “Pornography.” For me, two responses is an outpouring, and I feel obliged to respond to what may be most of my readers. There was one man and one woman, so that’s cool.

Admittedly hung up sexually and further influenced because a local clergyman used porn with children and killed two people, among other accomplishments, the woman’s “… not so sanguine about porn.” I’m not surprised.

I thoroughly understand the flinch response a lot of otherwise sensible people have to hardcore porn. Sex has been repressed around here for so long that repression seems natural, probably the way slavery used to seem natural, the way our police state has come to seem natural. I used to flinch, too, but not one time did anybody force me to watch anything, and for that I’m grateful.

My male reader feels that anyone involved in pornography forfeits human dignity. I can see that, too. There’s a lot of presumed humiliation in porn, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. There’s a lot of humiliation on Earth. There’s also a lot of joy.

Much of pornography is clearly made by neurotics, some of my favorite people, who are working out their issues, which is seldom a pretty sight even if the people are. Some of pornography still makes me flinch and click away. Corporate newscasts, too.

This guy also feels that women in particular are exploited by pornography, because mostly men like pornography. Pornography is a way to exploit women because men are predictable. There are a lot of ways to exploit women. Cash for sex with strangers, recorded or otherwise, is one way. A cubicle in the war industry is another, and I don’t think there’s a good reason to prefer one over the other, except people will treat you differently.

On some level I think it unfortunate that people are exploited at all—sexually, intellectually, physically, spiritually too, if that’s possible. On another level I know that understanding, accommodating, and perhaps making use of the skills and dispositions of others is part of how we make our various ways, how we manage to get along as well as we do.

How can we know when things have gone too far? When we’re directly involved, we know. Not when we see it or hear about it or see the subject line in an e-mail. When we’re in it. If we have to ask if things have gone too far, it’s none of our business.

If the sexual activity under advisement directly involves my person, I have to decide whether to take part or find something else to do, maybe in the next room. Sexual activity on a monitor or four-color polished pages isn’t sexual activity at all, and it means whatever I think. It’s pixels or ink, and it’s none of my business. If it’s not me, I’m good. If it’s not you, you’re good, too. Congratulations.