The question of just what comprises pornography seems simple at first blush, yet so learned an individual as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart has claimed he couldn’t define it intelligibly, but “I know it when I see it”. That, though, was a legal mind attempting to formulate a precise definition that would permit some of the less egregious and more artful forms, while disallowing more gross and visceral depictions. For the purpose of this treatise let’s say pornography is a depiction, in word or visual medium, of persons in a manner suggestive of sexual activity, or displaying the subject or subjects in a way so as to direct the viewer’s or hearer’s attention to their sexual attributes as objects of desire.
It has become common intellectual currency among large segments of our culture that our government must be, because of the doctrine of freedom of Religion, totally neutral on questions of morality. Aside from being factually inaccurate from an historical perspective, this assumption doesn’t hold water logically, as all law is ultimately based in some scheme of morality. Our laws proscribing murder or theft certainly can be argued to accord well with the familiar biblical injunctions “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal”, as well as owe their origin and general acceptance to the same. Pornographic materials owe their own legal and moral status outside legitimate art to the religious roots of our culture as well.
Sex and sexuality are intrinsically tied up with the bearing of children and family life. That this line of reasoning, as clear and intuitive as it is, excites so much wrath among the proponents of so many of the social experiments of our times itself tells us how far we have strayed as a society from this sane and simple truth. Gay Rights advocates, radical feminists, pedophile apologists, (there are some), and producers of pornography, all rail against and ridicule this simple, and understandable, common sense observation in the most vitriolic terms. Why? Because it reveals our appetite for unfettered sexual activity for what it is, a perversion of a good thing by our own selfish desire into something harmful, just as gluttony perverts the normal and good desire for food into something that does us harm. Thus we can conclude that sex, just like food, is of itself a positive good, and in more ways than one.
Pornography is intended to display persons in a manner so as to incite feelings of desire in those that view or listen to it. While such desire clearly is not inherently harmful or illicit, when excited outside the context of a marital relationship it can result in an abuse of the divinely intended purpose of sex, the procreation and rearing of children in a stable and loving home environment.
Another detrimental effect of pornography is the tendency of it’s consumers to view members of the opposite sex as objects, mere vehicles for the satisfaction of sexual desires, and not as full persons that deserve our attention and esteem for their own complete character as human beings made in the divine image. A convincing argument can be made that widespread availability and use of pornography has attributed to the coarsening of sexuality even for law abiding men (Jensen).
Freedom of Speech is the principal adopted by those who defend pornography, but an historical review of the intent of the founding generation that drafted that Constitutional Amendment can make clear that it was never intended to protect smut, but the freedom of the populace to criticize their government without fear of reprisal in the form of imprisonment or death or any other governmental obstruction. Even that freedom has not been held to be absolute in time of war. How much less prurient “entertainments” that make objects of our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers.
The inability, or unwillingness, of government to strictly regulate and ban pornography has permitted an industry that inflames possibly dangerous passions to grow and thrive to a phenomenal extent. The internet has further fueled the use and popularity of pornography by permitting greater secrecy and anonymity for users, pushing the worldwide total revenue for the pornography industry to over $97 billion, and in the U.S. alone the total of all mediums for pornography reached $13.3 billion (Ropelato).
The spread of such an industry unchecked can and will lead to greater and greater coarseness in our culture, cruelty and feral relations between the sexes, and is detrimental to the stability and health of children. I submit it is therefore required of a civilized culture that we hope to achieve and maintain to rigorously ban pornography.