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Worldwide Ace » Drawing the Line

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Drawing the Line

29 July, 2004 (16:05) | Media

I’m seriously upset. Yesterday, I went out to do a think tank (Radio 1190’s brand of man on the street pieces) and now I honestly fear for my First Amendment rights. The question was, “should pornography be protected under freedom of speech?” Admittedly, this is a vague and broad question, but for a reason. It’s meant to make people think about it and then explain what they think should be banned or shouldn’t. What scared me was the number of people who wanted to ban pornography straight up “because it’s just not right.” Wait, I’m sorry, did I hear that right? You want to ban it because it’s just not right? Not because it’s lewd and lasciviousΒ  or demeaning to women? Not because it’s exploitational and harbors an environment that encourages misogyny? You want to ban it because it’s JUST NOT RIGHT? You’ve got to be kidding me.

The First Amendment and Me

I’m a First Amendment absolutist. I believe that freedom of speech should be universal. If some neo-nazi shit head wants to stand there and spew racial slurs at me, that’s just fine with me. That’s his or her right. If some woman wants to make $500 bucks in a half hour by having pictures taken of her naked, I’m ok with that. If a Jehovah’s Witness wants to come knock on my door and try and give me pamphlets, I wish him the best of luck. As far as I’m concerned, there should be a soapbox at every corner for someone to stand on. Even better, I think there should be some dumbass asshole standing on a soapbox on every corner so we can yell at him. The fact is, as a writer and a journalist, there’s nothing more important to me than being able to speak my mind. And those of you who know me, know I do it often I do just that.

When I was in high school, I got the school to give me access to the proxy that blocked many of the sites deemed “unacceptable” because their proxy also blocked pages about South Park, my chosen controversial topic for a persuasive essay. I fought past the librarians, complained to my teachers, bitched directly to the principal and got things fixed. We still had a porn blocker, but within a month, it was common knowledge how to get past it. It’s altogether wrong for any censorship of any kind to take place, especially if material is getting blocked that has a serious message to get out.

It was relatively ironic that when I walked into my media law class this morning, we were discussing obscenity, indecency and the First Amendment. I’ve been extremely impressed at how good the court has been about protecting my freedom of speech. Currently the Supreme Court has set up a three part test requiring all parts to be to true in order to find out whether something is obscene:

  1. It’s obscene if “an average person, using contemporary local community standards, finds the work in question, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests.” In other words, if the normal person in the community in question think the entire magazine or movie, in every sense, is meant to give you a hard on, it’s fulfills part 1.
  2. It’s obscene if “it depicts, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by state law.” In other words, if it graphically shows masturbation, rape or penetration, it fulfills part 2.
  3. It’s obscene if “it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory.

In essence, nudity is not obscene, nor are many of the publications that people so vehemently want blocked. Obviously, there are some things that change the ruling. Child pornography, for instance, is always considered obscene, but only if an actual child was used. If they digitally make someone look younger, it’s still legal, just as it is if they create computer generated kids to make porn with. The way I see it, if they’re going to ban child pornography, which is the worst of the worst, they shouldn’t allow loopholes like that. It’s also obscene if it’s targeted at kids. I think that’s bullshit. I mean, I don’t think you should target kids with porn, but the line the government draws between child and adult is set in stone at 18. Porn should be available at puberty. It’s no wonder no one knows jack shit about sex.

Porn Exploits Women!

“Men are equally degraded in pornographic films.”

“But men are always in a position of power!”

“But men are the ones who want the product so bad. They’re the victims!”

“Well… then, it exploits men… by exploiting women.”

“And?”

“It exploits people.”

– From Orgazmo

The real key when most people discuss the question of whether porn should be protected is exploitation. I think almost everyone agrees that child pornography is right out, myself included, so lets look at other forms of exploitation. Most prominently, there’s exploitation of women. The idea that pornography creates a hostile environment for women is nothing new. Many lawyers, including Catherine Mackinnon, believe a woman has the right to sue the producers of pornography if they’re directly harmed by it. If a woman is raped, does that mean the makers of a film that showed images of rape should be found directly responsable? I don’t think so. I agree that pornography is often demeaning to women βˆ’ I said as much in my discussion of pornography βˆ’ but there’s a big difference between saying it’s degrading and saying it’s the cause of misogyny. It’s like trying to blame video games for violent attacks like Columbine. Even TSR, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons has been sued for “harboring and fostering an environment in which children are encouraged to fight.” I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard of an RPG geek going medieval on someone’s ass.

Snowballing (not a Clerks reference)

The adult film industry is more than a six BILLION dollar industry in America. That’s huge, especially since the market isn’t declining the same way others here are. Personally, I don’t think we can afford to lose the adult industry. Sure, there’s plenty of porn out there I don’t like, but it’s still important to let it exist. I hate to make the slippery slope argument, but with the First Amendment, it really does seem like if we give in on one thing, it’ll steamroll, with the “moral majority” leading the way. I subscribed to Playboy Magazine for two and half years, from the time I was 12 till shortly after I turned 15. Sure, I love the pictures, and abused them (right along with myself) whenever I got the chance, but I also read the articles; the brilliantly written, highly entertaining articles. Not every interview, story, or piece of fiction was good, but a lot of it was. If we stop pornography, we lose that. Playboy will go down with it.

Then what’s next? Publications with erotic stories? News articles about the sex industry elsewhere? News articles about politics here? I for one don’t intend to let my mouth be forcefully closed, and I really hope other people come to the same realization.

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  • AMEN! the child pornography ruling has been especially interesting to me, once i started really digging for information on it. people get so mad that i’m open minded about it (the digital reproductions ONLY, mind), but i really am torn on the issue. on one hand, some feel that having an outlet makes them less likely to molest a child. on the other, some say it’s just a matter of time before porn makes them view this activity as “acceptable,” and therefore harm a child.

    either way, the essence of free speech is something that must be protected. jesus, our country was founded on that right. it’d be awful to take it away now.

    i’ve always said “free speech doesn’t mean just allowing what you want to hear.” i’m glad you feel the same way.

  • AMEN! the child pornography ruling has been especially interesting to me, once i started really digging for information on it. people get so mad that i’m open minded about it (the digital reproductions ONLY, mind), but i really am torn on the issue. on one hand, some feel that having an outlet makes them less likely to molest a child. on the other, some say it’s just a matter of time before porn makes them view this activity as “acceptable,” and therefore harm a child.

    either way, the essence of free speech is something that must be protected. jesus, our country was founded on that right. it’d be awful to take it away now.

    i’ve always said “free speech doesn’t mean just allowing what you want to hear.” i’m glad you feel the same way.

  • Your experience with people saying porn is “just not right” reminds me of this article I read in my school paper. Apparently this professor at some university in California wrote an essay on how his conservative students can’t argue the reasons behind their beliefs because they lack critical thinking skills. Heh.
    I didn’t know a lot of that stuff about child porn. I’m not sure I believe computer generated child porn should be illegal, or digitally altered pictures, but I think they can have the same negative consequences as “regular” child porn. For example, Michael Briere was recently convicted of kidnapping, raping, and strangling a 10-year old girl named Holly Jones. He said that he did this after viewing child porn and becoming aroused. I don’t know if this is a manuever on his part to blame his actions on someone else, but I can’t imagine it would have made much a difference if the girls he was looking at were computer generated or real.

  • Your experience with people saying porn is “just not right” reminds me of this article I read in my school paper. Apparently this professor at some university in California wrote an essay on how his conservative students can’t argue the reasons behind their beliefs because they lack critical thinking skills. Heh.
    I didn’t know a lot of that stuff about child porn. I’m not sure I believe computer generated child porn should be illegal, or digitally altered pictures, but I think they can have the same negative consequences as “regular” child porn. For example, Michael Briere was recently convicted of kidnapping, raping, and strangling a 10-year old girl named Holly Jones. He said that he did this after viewing child porn and becoming aroused. I don’t know if this is a manuever on his part to blame his actions on someone else, but I can’t imagine it would have made much a difference if the girls he was looking at were computer generated or real.

  • I’d love to write a response to this that’s as long and well thought out as your post, but I’m trying not to spend so much time online, so I’m going to skip it this time. But suffice to say, I think you make some really good points. There are a lot of things about the mainstream porn industry that are severely fucked up and explotative – much like there are many things about mainstream industry that are fucked up and exploitative πŸ˜› – but there’s nothing inherently wrong with porn, there’s a lot that’s good about it, and even if there weren’t, ditto on the First Amendment love. When I say, “I’m proud of my country, but not because of anything we’ve done in the past 40 years,” it’s things like the First Amendment I’m talking about.

    I have a button that says, “I’m a Feminist and I LOVE PORN” somewhere. I should go track that down and add it to my bag.

  • I’d love to write a response to this that’s as long and well thought out as your post, but I’m trying not to spend so much time online, so I’m going to skip it this time. But suffice to say, I think you make some really good points. There are a lot of things about the mainstream porn industry that are severely fucked up and explotative – much like there are many things about mainstream industry that are fucked up and exploitative πŸ˜› – but there’s nothing inherently wrong with porn, there’s a lot that’s good about it, and even if there weren’t, ditto on the First Amendment love. When I say, “I’m proud of my country, but not because of anything we’ve done in the past 40 years,” it’s things like the First Amendment I’m talking about.

    I have a button that says, “I’m a Feminist and I LOVE PORN” somewhere. I should go track that down and add it to my bag.

  • that kind of reminds me of the whole “why don’t public universities employ more republicans?” because they’re republicans, you dolt. they’d rather make money in the private sector.

    i’m torn on that one. i mean, in a way, who could freakin’ blame them?

  • that kind of reminds me of the whole “why don’t public universities employ more republicans?” because they’re republicans, you dolt. they’d rather make money in the private sector.

    i’m torn on that one. i mean, in a way, who could freakin’ blame them?

  • “Porn should be available at puberty. It’s no wonder no one knows jack shit about sex.”

    I guess we think differently, but I see very little education in porn. Penetration alone does not make satisfying sex. I don’t really see porn demonstrating safe sex and foreplay that brings women to orgasm. Not to mention the distorted body image that porn presents as an ideal. The reason that many youth don’t know much about sex is that they don’t know how to communicate with their partners. Nevertheless, I don’t interfere with the adult industry, but I choose to not watch it.

    I saw this documentary on feminist porn last year for my club. Their conception of “feminist” was filming women sodomizing their boyfriends with dildos aka “Bend over boyfriend”. Very empowering. So, with that in mind, I would be wary of calling porn an educational device, and more as entertainment that should be viewed by an audience that can handle it.

    Personally, though I understand your reasons for getting mad about this, our country is very lucky to have this as a problem we are concerned about. Forget people who get thrown in prison for speaking out against an oppressive government. Instead we are protesting whether to ban “Debbie Does Dallas.” Your rights are protected, Ben. The fact that you can kvetch about this on your blog, the fact that you have a blog, is incredible in the day and age, where other countries ban or restrict certain forms of media.

  • “Porn should be available at puberty. It’s no wonder no one knows jack shit about sex.”

    I guess we think differently, but I see very little education in porn. Penetration alone does not make satisfying sex. I don’t really see porn demonstrating safe sex and foreplay that brings women to orgasm. Not to mention the distorted body image that porn presents as an ideal. The reason that many youth don’t know much about sex is that they don’t know how to communicate with their partners. Nevertheless, I don’t interfere with the adult industry, but I choose to not watch it.

    I saw this documentary on feminist porn last year for my club. Their conception of “feminist” was filming women sodomizing their boyfriends with dildos aka “Bend over boyfriend”. Very empowering. So, with that in mind, I would be wary of calling porn an educational device, and more as entertainment that should be viewed by an audience that can handle it.

    Personally, though I understand your reasons for getting mad about this, our country is very lucky to have this as a problem we are concerned about. Forget people who get thrown in prison for speaking out against an oppressive government. Instead we are protesting whether to ban “Debbie Does Dallas.” Your rights are protected, Ben. The fact that you can kvetch about this on your blog, the fact that you have a blog, is incredible in the day and age, where other countries ban or restrict certain forms of media.

  • You have a very limited knowledge of porn; most people do. The vast majority of porn doesn’t involve penetration. There’s probably more fetish websites and magazines than there are standard porn in the US, and often, those don’t even have nudity half the time. There are fat fetish websites and flat-chested fetish websites. There are plenty of types of porn which don’t bother with the distorted body image. It’s amazing the different fetishes that are actually getting mainstream attention these days.

    In addition, the number of articles in Playboy I read that were specifically telling guys how to treat women properly certainly had an effect on me. There’s plenty of porn, a la Nina Hartley’s collection of instructional videos, that is specifically out there to educate on proper techniques and practices. And porn doesn’t just stop at images and pictures. There was a movement to ban romance novel queen Danielle Steele as pornography a few years ago. Renowned photographers Helmut Newton and Ann Gedes have both been attacked for not clothing their subjects well enough. Ann Gedes does babies for god sake, nearly fully clothed!

    When you say pornography, you have a specific image associated in your mind. I do as well. But they’re different images. And neither one is all inclusive. It’s no different than the people who claimed that rock music was obscene and should be banned. Everyone has different idea of what is or isn’t acceptable, and no one really knows everything that’s out there or how it’s viewed. I don’t find all porn acceptable or interesting or, god forbid, kind to women, but I also believe that anyone who decries an entire category for the indiscretions of the few is being ignorant and closed minded.

    I’m thankful I can go off on rants and that my speech is protected, but it worries me that it may not always be that way. I wish everyone had the same freedoms as my fellow Americans and I do. But thanks to the moral right, I am scared I won’t always be able to. As far as I’m concerned, my freedom of speech can never be protected enough.

  • You have a very limited knowledge of porn; most people do. The vast majority of porn doesn’t involve penetration. There’s probably more fetish websites and magazines than there are standard porn in the US, and often, those don’t even have nudity half the time. There are fat fetish websites and flat-chested fetish websites. There are plenty of types of porn which don’t bother with the distorted body image. It’s amazing the different fetishes that are actually getting mainstream attention these days.

    In addition, the number of articles in Playboy I read that were specifically telling guys how to treat women properly certainly had an effect on me. There’s plenty of porn, a la Nina Hartley’s collection of instructional videos, that is specifically out there to educate on proper techniques and practices. And porn doesn’t just stop at images and pictures. There was a movement to ban romance novel queen Danielle Steele as pornography a few years ago. Renowned photographers Helmut Newton and Ann Gedes have both been attacked for not clothing their subjects well enough. Ann Gedes does babies for god sake, nearly fully clothed!

    When you say pornography, you have a specific image associated in your mind. I do as well. But they’re different images. And neither one is all inclusive. It’s no different than the people who claimed that rock music was obscene and should be banned. Everyone has different idea of what is or isn’t acceptable, and no one really knows everything that’s out there or how it’s viewed. I don’t find all porn acceptable or interesting or, god forbid, kind to women, but I also believe that anyone who decries an entire category for the indiscretions of the few is being ignorant and closed minded.

    I’m thankful I can go off on rants and that my speech is protected, but it worries me that it may not always be that way. I wish everyone had the same freedoms as my fellow Americans and I do. But thanks to the moral right, I am scared I won’t always be able to. As far as I’m concerned, my freedom of speech can never be protected enough.

  • I’m torn on the child porn issue in the same way. I wish there was a scientific study we could do to find out the connection of pornography to misogyny and violence against women and children. I wish there was a black and white answer, but there isn’t. Is it better to allow pedophiles an safe electronic means to excercise their fantasies without harming others or does it encourage them to commit the same violent acts we’re trying to prevent? I don’t know and I doubt anyone truly will.

  • I’m torn on the child porn issue in the same way. I wish there was a scientific study we could do to find out the connection of pornography to misogyny and violence against women and children. I wish there was a black and white answer, but there isn’t. Is it better to allow pedophiles an safe electronic means to excercise their fantasies without harming others or does it encourage them to commit the same violent acts we’re trying to prevent? I don’t know and I doubt anyone truly will.

  • My parents really encouraged me to think as a kid. When I got in trouble, they always had me explain my side and then picked away at it point by point. They taught me empathy and critical thinking, two things that I see as sorely lacking in the school system. I feel tremendously gifted that I’ve gotten the education that I have, especially seeing how little I actually wanted it at the time. One of my reasons for wanting to be a middle/high school teacher is in order to encourage critical thinking to once again be fostered in the educational system. With the SAT now containing an essay portion, it’s at least indicative of the fact that I’m not the only one who believes this. We still have a long way to go before we start teaching kids to think rather than memorize, but at least we’re making steps.

  • My parents really encouraged me to think as a kid. When I got in trouble, they always had me explain my side and then picked away at it point by point. They taught me empathy and critical thinking, two things that I see as sorely lacking in the school system. I feel tremendously gifted that I’ve gotten the education that I have, especially seeing how little I actually wanted it at the time. One of my reasons for wanting to be a middle/high school teacher is in order to encourage critical thinking to once again be fostered in the educational system. With the SAT now containing an essay portion, it’s at least indicative of the fact that I’m not the only one who believes this. We still have a long way to go before we start teaching kids to think rather than memorize, but at least we’re making steps.

  • We’ve done a lot in the last 40 years to be proud of. A LOT! Especially legally. The test for obscenity was only set down in 1989. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court shot down the Child Online Protection act for the third time, citing it as a violation of first ammendment rights. I’m not a fan of the US government, or any government for that matter, but though we’ve made some major mistakes, I also think we’ve done more good than bad in the world.

    And that pin kicks ass!

  • We’ve done a lot in the last 40 years to be proud of. A LOT! Especially legally. The test for obscenity was only set down in 1989. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court shot down the Child Online Protection act for the third time, citing it as a violation of first ammendment rights. I’m not a fan of the US government, or any government for that matter, but though we’ve made some major mistakes, I also think we’ve done more good than bad in the world.

    And that pin kicks ass!

  • I’m not sure Playboy spawned the sexual revolution, but they certainly played a large part. I’m glad to hear other people get as much out of it as I do. It think people would definitely look at it a lot differently if the pictures were raunchier (a la Penthouse or Hustler).

  • I’m not sure Playboy spawned the sexual revolution, but they certainly played a large part. I’m glad to hear other people get as much out of it as I do. It think people would definitely look at it a lot differently if the pictures were raunchier (a la Penthouse or Hustler).

  • I completely respect your opinion. I was responding though to your quote about porn being instructive to adolescents. “Porn should be available at puberty.”

    I still think that this would skimp on teaching behaviors outside of having sex, like courtship, and foreplay. I am not for banning porn all together at all. Obviously there is a huge demand for it. But I think that it should be for an older audience that is also more emotionally mature. I don’t think that it is useful for a 12 year old person to see this stuff without learning first about other aspects of sexual relationships. But we see things differently, and that is cool too. My point at the end of my last comment was that we are pretty fortunate to be able to debate this point in the first place, given the censorship in other countries.

  • I completely respect your opinion. I was responding though to your quote about porn being instructive to adolescents. “Porn should be available at puberty.”

    I still think that this would skimp on teaching behaviors outside of having sex, like courtship, and foreplay. I am not for banning porn all together at all. Obviously there is a huge demand for it. But I think that it should be for an older audience that is also more emotionally mature. I don’t think that it is useful for a 12 year old person to see this stuff without learning first about other aspects of sexual relationships. But we see things differently, and that is cool too. My point at the end of my last comment was that we are pretty fortunate to be able to debate this point in the first place, given the censorship in other countries.

  • But pornagraphy, by definition, does not exclude courtship, foreplay, or anything else. As I said, much of it does deal with these things. There’s an entire genre of writing and photography, which qualifies as pornography, dealing with modern views of medieval courtship and traditional relationships.

    I have a serious problem with the way sex ed is taught right now. We get the condom on the banana thing; the way reproductive organs work; the diatribe on STDs (or STIs now). Often classes are split by sex, each gender getting a different education. In addition, proper bedroom etiquette is not taught. Instead kids are expected to learn that from mainstream media like music videos, an obvious hotbed of gender equiality, television, and film. This is unacceptable. If you want to talk about derision of women and misogyny, there’s a forum which I think is far more directly responsable.

    I do argee that there needs to be an education along with access to pornorgaphy and that the images alone are not necessarily a good thing. When my dad first bought me a Playboy (March 1994, Shannon Doherty on the cover), he sat me down and literally went through and explained the reasons why he bought it for me, the reasons why Playboy was an acceptbale publication in comparison of others, and what I could and should be learning and not learning from the magazine. I’m sure that this talk (no, this wasn’t his version of the birds and the bees… he assumed I knew that already) made a huge difference in the way I both experienced and applied these lessons. I think that should be a key part of sex ed. Kids should be educated not only on biology, but on the psychology of sex, romance, and even pornography. Without this education, pornography will continue to be misinterpreted and misapplied.

  • But pornagraphy, by definition, does not exclude courtship, foreplay, or anything else. As I said, much of it does deal with these things. There’s an entire genre of writing and photography, which qualifies as pornography, dealing with modern views of medieval courtship and traditional relationships.

    I have a serious problem with the way sex ed is taught right now. We get the condom on the banana thing; the way reproductive organs work; the diatribe on STDs (or STIs now). Often classes are split by sex, each gender getting a different education. In addition, proper bedroom etiquette is not taught. Instead kids are expected to learn that from mainstream media like music videos, an obvious hotbed of gender equiality, television, and film. This is unacceptable. If you want to talk about derision of women and misogyny, there’s a forum which I think is far more directly responsable.

    I do argee that there needs to be an education along with access to pornorgaphy and that the images alone are not necessarily a good thing. When my dad first bought me a Playboy (March 1994, Shannon Doherty on the cover), he sat me down and literally went through and explained the reasons why he bought it for me, the reasons why Playboy was an acceptbale publication in comparison of others, and what I could and should be learning and not learning from the magazine. I’m sure that this talk (no, this wasn’t his version of the birds and the bees… he assumed I knew that already) made a huge difference in the way I both experienced and applied these lessons. I think that should be a key part of sex ed. Kids should be educated not only on biology, but on the psychology of sex, romance, and even pornography. Without this education, pornography will continue to be misinterpreted and misapplied.

  • Agreed.

  • Agreed.

  • You should get your masters in library science. All we talk about all the freakin’ time is the Children’s Internet Protection Act. πŸ˜‰

  • You should get your masters in library science. All we talk about all the freakin’ time is the Children’s Internet Protection Act. πŸ˜‰

  • My roommate’s a librarian, ironically enough. I think that’s enough librariness in this house.

  • My roommate’s a librarian, ironically enough. I think that’s enough librariness in this house.

  • C’mon . . . you KNOW you want to spend all day talking to crazy people while earning a salary that makes teachers look rich. πŸ˜‰

    “How do I type?”

    “Well, ma’am, you just start hitting letters on the keyboard.”

    “But how do I make them stay up there on the screen?”

  • C’mon . . . you KNOW you want to spend all day talking to crazy people while earning a salary that makes teachers look rich. πŸ˜‰

    “How do I type?”

    “Well, ma’am, you just start hitting letters on the keyboard.”

    “But how do I make them stay up there on the screen?”