Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Why should pornography be censored?

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One might ask, “Just what exactly is pornography, and what is so harmful about it”? The answer to this question is both simple and diverse. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines pornography as “writings, pictures, etc. intended primarily to arouse sexual desire” and “the production of such writings, pictures, etc.” (“Pornography”). Therefore, anything to do with the fabrication or use of sexually explicit material, such as displays of nudity, fornication, and other sex-related actions, as a stimulus is regarded as pornography, or erotica. Pornography’s definition is straightforward enough to understand. However, for many Americans, agreeing upon whether it is too appealing for its own good is not.

This is because censorship, especially that of erotic material, is among some of the most controversial issues in the United States today (Roleff 61). Therefore, making a mutual agreement regarding the proper censorship of pornography, in any form, can be almost as difficult as successfully sending a man to the moon. One reason for this is that different individuals disagree about the legal issues involved with the censorship of pornography, especially the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. In his essay from the book, Censorship, Peter McWilliams uses the First Amendment to form a strong foundation for his argument, and, with it, he disputes how censoring pornography is unconstitutional

All censorship is a violation of the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (71)

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Individuals who are generally against the censorship and of erotica, such as McWilliams, provide a solid defense to support their position, but so do those who are for it (Cothran).

Many assert that while the First Amendment may prohibit nearly all forms of censorship, it does not do so for actions intent on causing harm or chaos to people or their property (McWilliams 7). Following this exception, Robert H. Bork, a lawyer, law professor, and former judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals, gives honorable justification, by characterizing some uncouth paradigms, as to why pornography should be censored (Bork 6). He tells of how the newfound technologies of the Internet have given their users the ability to post erotic images, stories, and various kinds of suggestive media on the World Wide Web, and of how some of them depict obscene or even violent sex scenes (Bork 6-65). Bork describes in broad detail how, in one of these specific scenes, a six-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl are raped by multiple men and then murdered (the story Bork read (not wrote) gave detailed instructions on how to trick children into doing this) (Bork 6).

Even after considering both sides of the story, pornography is better off censored, in order to prevent any person, especially a child, from being exposed to more brutal, sadistic acts of falsely portrayed sex. The decision of whether actually to implement pornographic censorship, however, is often greeted by superficial attitudes, lack of interest, and lack of knowledge of the nature of pornography. Parents and government officials do not necessarily mean to make morally wrong decisions, but America seems to be increasingly accepting the fluctuation of pornographic media. Bork himself agrees with this point of view, stating

Our popular culture has gone far beyond propagandizing for fornication. That seems almost innocent nowadays. What America increasingly produces and distributes is now propaganda for every perversion and obscenity imaginable. If many of us accept the assumptions, and apparently many do, then we are well on our way to an obscene society.

Certain individuals may disagree with pornography being perverted, maintaining that it does not drive its viewers to perform violent acts involving sexual abuse, such as rape. Some, like Mathew Gever, even say that pornography actually helps reduce sexual violence. For example, he says that people, who pleasure themselves to pornography, in order to relieve frustration, are far less likely to feel the urge to commit acts of sexual violence (Gever 54).

It is true that some individuals may use pornographic material to relieve inner tension. However, pornography itself actually induces a feeling of lust so powerful that its viewers can sometimes be tempted to take their fantasies a step further. In fact, once addicted, viewers’ desires begin to fester, causing them to crave stronger material. This can steer them (mostly males) to act out what they see, often leading to the abuse of their partner (Russell 50-51).

There are other reasons besides addiction for one to consider supporting the censorship of pornography. One reason is the unsafe risks and influences involved with dabbling in it. For those who take part in sexual activities unwisely, sexually transmitted diseases (especially some serious life-threatening ones like hepatitis or HIV) can sometimes materialize, often without them realizing it (Monet 65-66).

In addition, many individuals, the vast majority being women, who are involved in the production of pornographic materials (i.e. posing nude for photographs or acting out an erotic encounter in front of a video camera) feel distressed and empty inside when performing. Some female participants of erotic displays are even threatened and emotionally, physically, and mentally abused, and are degraded and forced against their will to participate in them. Many times an actress’s lack of self-esteem or abusive background is used to twist them into doing whatever the producers want. One chilling account comes from Linda Marchiano, a former adult performer with a history of abuse and its effects on her (57-6). In her testimony, she tells of how a so-called gentleman became her jailer through deceit. He imprisoned, regularly beat, and manipulated her into doing his bidding--to perform as an actress in pornographic films and photo shoots (Marchiano 57-6).

Some individuals who have worked in the adult industry like Melissa Monet say that the majority of performers in the adult (pornographic) industry do not come from abusive backgrounds, and that those who do do not “last long” (Monet 67). However, whether this claim is true or not, one person who is brutally abused in the adult industry is one too many.

This holds true because the low self-esteem some experience working as an erotica performer negatively influences them to abuse drugs and alcoholic beverages. Monet herself more or less states that these individuals wind up using drugs and alcohol as emotional painkillers (which isn’t really any better for them than working in a superficial industry like the adult industry in the first place) (Monet 67).

There is much more to the controversy behind the censorship of pornography, but these are some of the main themes of what pornography is and how it can be harmful to its consumers. Credit and special thanks goes out to everyone who made this essay possible, especially the individuals who served as references. It is hoped that this information will aid the reader with making effective decisions about how he or she choose to approach pornography and its censorship.

Bork, Robert H. “Pornography Should Be Censored.” 16. Censorship. Ed. Tamara L. Roleff. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 6-6.

Cothran, Helen, ed. Pornography. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00.

Gever, Mathew. “Pornography Does Not Cause Violence.” 18. Pornography. Ed. Helen Cothran. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 5-56.

Marchiano, Linda. “Pornography Harms Those Involved in Its Production.” 186. Pornography. Ed. Helen Cothran. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 57-6.

McWilliams, Peter. “Pornography Should Not Be Censored.” 1. Censorship. Ed. Tamara L. Roleff. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 70-10.

Monet, Melissa. “Pornography Does Not Harm Those Involved in Its Production.” 17. Pornography. Ed. Helen Cothran. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 6-6.

“Pornography.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Ed. Michael Agnes. 4th ed. New York Macmillan USA, 1.

Roleff, Tamara L., ed. Preface. Censorship. By Roleff. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 61.

Russell, Diana E. H. “Pornography Causes Violence.” 1. Pornography. Ed. Helen Cothran. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego Greenhaven, 00. 48-51.

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