Ademia: Pornography is wrong. It’s vile and should be abolished from the earth.
Ademia: For one thing, it degrades women. It makes women into sexual objects.
Nestor: Yet surely you must know that many women enjoy pornography. It doesn’t appeal only to men; in fact, there are studios that produce pornography which are owned by women, which produce porn written by women for women. Doesn’t the idea that it ‘degrades women’ rest on the foundation that only men enjoy it?
And in fact, is it not more valid to say that pornography degrades men? There are far more famous and well-known female porn stars than male porn stars, and often, a porn shoot shows nothing of the man save the region between his waist and his knees. Is this not more objectifying to the man than to the woman?
Ademia: Men can’t be sexually degraded. Men have far more power and far more control over sexuality in modern society than women do.
Nestor: Men have far more financial power and far more control over economic resources than women do; should we say, therefore, that men can’t be robbed?
Ademia: Pornography degrades women by depicting them as sexual objects.
Nestor: Pornography shows everyone sexually–men as well as women. What of it? When we watch basketball on television, we care only for the athletic prowess of the players; we do not know, and concern ourselves not with, their full humanity. The purpose of a spectator sport is to put on display only one small facet of the participants, for the entertainment of the onlookers. Is this not objectifying? indeed it is; yet we don’t see this as a problem.
Most of the people we see and hear and meet and interact with, we do so in a narrow way. The model in the Colgate ad is relevant to us only for the perfection of her teeth. The man at the FedEx counter is not interesting to us for his taste in music, or his skills as an amateur botanist; we see him only in terms of what he can do to get our package where it absolutely, positively has to be.
Ademia: That’s different…
Nestor: In detail, but not in kind. Pornography is different in kind only if you accept as an unspoken premise that sex is different in kind–that is, that sex itself is inherently demeaning and objectifying.
Ademia: Pornography hurts women by creating a false and unrealistic sense of physical beauty, and an unattainable level of performance.
Nestor: Cart, horse. Pornography is made for profit. It does not create the social standard of beauty; it caters to it! There is no profit to be made in trying to promote a standard of beauty which is not already accepted. If you make films using people that your intended audience does not already find beautiful, your films will not sell. People buy what pleases them. If it did not already please them, they would not change their standards; they simply would not buy the film.
Ademia: The women who work in pornography are victims. They have been so consumed by the patriarchial, male-dominated ideas of sex theat they are not able to consent freely to being depicted in pornography.
Nestor: So you hold, theefore, that women can not make decisions, enter legal contracts, choose their own form of employment, or evaluate rationally a course of action? If ‘no’ means ‘no,’ does not ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’? If we accept that a woman can not willingly choose to star in a pornographic film, or direct a pornographic movie, or write a pornographic story, then how can we accept that a woman can choose to enter into any business, or be part of any contract? Should we not protect women, then, by keeping them at home, by preventing them from entering the workplace? And if a woman has the right and the ability to choose to do these things, why does she not have the right or the ability to participate in pornography?
Ademia: Pornography is inherently violating. People in the porn industry have committed evil acts against women.
Nestor: Indeed they have! But this is a statement about individuals, not a statement about pornography. People in the power distribution industry have committed evil acts by conspiring to create energy shortages in California, for the sake of their own selfish greed; should we say therefore that electricity is bad, and those who produce it and those who consume it are evil, and should be punished? People in the gasoline industry have committed injustices against woman; do we say as a consequence that the production of gasoline should be halted?
Ademia: But what of Bill, who watches pornography, and ignores the needs of his wife? Or of Sam, who watches pornography and then assaults his neighbor?
Nestor: Spare me! What of Tom, who watches pornography with his wife, and is inspired to become closer to her physically and emotionally? Or of Susan, who watches pornography and realizes that she is not a defective person because her tastes run deeper than missionary position once a week? Surely Bill and Sam, who are inconsiderate and violent men, would still be inconsiderate and violent even if they watched children’s television shows instead!
Ademia: But pornography inspires people to deviance and unnatural acts!
Nestor: Unnatural acts? Driving a car is an unnatural act! Engraving four million semiconducing transistors on a fingernail-sized flake of silicon is an unnatural act! Sex in all its myriad forms is as natural as breathing, and has been a part of the human condition since before history began.
Ademia: Deviancy such as homosexuality and group sex–you call this natural? You think that people do this every night?
Nestor: You confuse ‘natural’ and ‘normal.’ ‘Natural’ means ‘found in nature’–by which definition, yes, these things are ‘natural.’ ‘Normal’ means ‘of or characterized by social conventions or average behavior’–by which definition, slavery, subjegation of women, and execution of non-Christians were all once ‘normal.’ Not all things which are unnatural are bad, and not all things which are normal are good.
Ademia: Pornography causes rape! Studies have shown a statistical connection between rates of sexual violence and quantity of pornography consumed.
Nestor: And other studies have shown no such connection. Even assuming such a statistical correlation exists, though, it is no more valid to say ‘pornography causes rape’ than it is to see a rabbit pursued by a dog and say ‘the rabbit caused the dog.’ Correlation does not prove causation. it may be that there is a simpler explanation; for example, pornography is popular in sexually repressed populations, and people who are sexually repressed are more likely to act in sexually inappropriate and destructive ways, such as by committing rape.
Ademia: Pornography harms relationships. Just think of it–two people, in a relationship, and one of them…
Nestor: …or both of them…
Ademia: …is getting sexual gratification from someone else.
Nestor: Sexual arousal, you mean. The sexual gratification comes from the person’s partner, or perhaps the person’s right hand.
Ademia: You know what I mean! He’s getting his sexuality from somewhere other than his partner!
Nestor: And now we come to the heart of the matter. Yes, he is–and so is she, and so are we all. For you see, no couple exists in a vacuum. As normal, healthy adults, we are sexual beings, and many things–a stranger passed on the street, a movie star, a model in Cosmo–can cause us to respond sexually. The quaint, naive notion that all of one’s sexuality should come from one’s partner and nowhere else is a myth; real human beings don’t work that way, and never have.
What’s far more destructive than pornography is the fairy tale, the illusion that our sexual selves are kept on a shelf somewhere, and opened only behind closed doors in the presence of our mates. Our sexual selves are a vital, indispensible, and integral part of who we are, and denying this truth leads only to sexual repression, with all its attendant evils and vices. The passions become evil and insisious only when they are considered as evil and insidious.
Your partner will find sexual arousal in places other than you–and this is okay. It’s not a reflection on you; it’s not a measure of your unworthiness; it’s not really about you at all. A life lived free of the illusion is a life lived more fully.
Ademia: You suck.