David Herbert Richards Lawrence, the English essayist with a knack for confronting issues relating to emotional health and vitality, makes a valid observation about the subject matter: “The whole question of pornography seems to me a question of secrecy. Without secrecy there would be no pornography. But secrecy and modesty are two utterly different things. Secrecy has always an element of fear in it, amounting very often to hate. Modesty is gentle and reserved. Today, modesty is thrown to the winds, even in the presence of the grey guardians. But secrecy is hugged, being a vice in itself.”
There are subjects that some would advocate are better left undiscussed. I bet whether such subjects would ever go away. It appears to be following us everywhere we find ourselves. It seems there is an inverse relationship between our advancement as a society and the moral decadence that pervades every fibre of our setup. We appear to be using our developments to ebb away the lines of morality and pushing the boundaries to accept what would have been flagrant a few decades ago. Our quest for modernity has given rise to a group of people who having no moral conscience themselves have now assumed the reins to dictate and define what morality embraces.
Today, the issue of pornography receives my attention and rightly so. In writing this article, I am neither assuming a moral high ground nor adopting a sententious stance but rightly bringing a valid discussion up. I am in indubitable acquiescence with the position that because of the secrecy that is attached to this canker, pornography has and continues to be a silent killer. People would rather shy away from discussing it and seeking genuine help even when it is obvious they are in bondage without a clue of how to break away from its grip. Such people prefer to die in secret from the sting of what they initially perceived as supposedly being innocuous.
My readings suggest that it is a problem that both the old and young are all struggling with. It appears not to be a respecter of titles or classes either. Its secret nature makes it very difficult to discern who has the problem. The desire for indecent images is very strong in some as evidenced by a chartered accountant in a bank who was caught live on air looking at a topless model during working hours. One wonders what such a person would look at in the comfort of his home away from any prying eyes.
It used to be that indecent images which could best be described as a form of pornography were only confined to certain places. This is no longer the case with such indecent images becoming a perpetual feature everywhere one finds him or herself; even in our churches. Some young women dress up in such a way that one wonders whether they are in church to find men or are there to worship God. The house of God used to be a sanctuary to find some 'peace'. In the days that we live in, there are cleavages and more on show like no man's business. One sees clothes that carry enough potency to metamorphose the love of God into the lust for the flesh. Such indecency is only a prognosis for prurience. Is that the price we are paying for embracing the good, the bad and the ugly?
For the purpose of this piece, pornography is described as writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement. It also includes the production of such material. Another dictionary defines pornography as obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit. It is interesting how the dictionary attempts to distinguish pornography from art. It comes therefore as no surprise that currently, some people are enjoying pornography under the guise of art appreciation. Mason Cooley rightly observed that: “The nudes of art are not so distant from pornography as prudish pedants pretend”.
Justice Potter Stewart in concurring opinion, on the case Jacobellis v. Ohio,1964, made an interesting remark: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [hard-core pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." [U.S. Supreme Court]. The interesting thing about pornography is that you know it when you see it no matter how well disguised it appears to be. Irrespective of the tag placed on it, people whose conscience have not yet been seared, can still decipher pornography in whatever form, kind or shape it may be packaged; overtly or covertly.
Pornography has and continues to incessantly gnaw away the fibres of morality in our society. It has evolved over and over again that now we have two major classes of pornography; soft and hard. I doubt whether we can ever mention all the sub-classes that exists. My conscience would not permit me to present graphic and vivid examples of the classes to satisfy the lust of some.
J.G. Ballard quips that: “A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.” I am not sure that there is really a threat to extinction, but surely there is a prevalent taste for pornography today; the type that is disguised and packaged in a way and manner to get the attention of even the most sacrosanct of men.
In times like these, it is not difficult to find respected and adored men and women who fan a secret lust for indecent images. What they forget is that every dog has its day and the sooner they confront this habit, the better. An inquisition would not struggle to unearth pornographic materials on millions of computers and mobile phones not to talk about stashes in unexpected places. The prevalence of this canker may be explained by Michael Chabon's quote that: “It's very difficult to fail at pornography”.
The proliferation of pornographic materials is on the ascendancy and does not look like abating any time soon if ever. The ease of its acquisition, whether solicited or unsolicited not to mention how cheap it is, has served to further augment this problem making it commonplace.
The lure of pornography is that it generates ephemeral pleasure and buzz. It is the one thing that fans voyeurism in its purest form and transmutates ordinary feelings by enabling individuals to transport themselves into a delusional nirvana with either a click of the mouse or the turn of a page. What most patrons say in justification for this act is that 'no one gets hurt'. Camille Paglia amongst others, only seek to provide reasons to support such vice, with arguments that: “Pornography is human imagination in tense theatrical action; its violations are a protest against the violations of our freedom by nature.” This has only given a license to some to further delve deeper in such acts. This is an illusion that has only hastened the destruction of many. Such people forget that although it may feel good now, its 'benefit' if any, pale in comparison to the lasting and damaging effects it leaves in its wake.
Psychologist Gary R. Brooks writing in his book The Centerfold Syndrome, identifies five principal symptoms of what he describes as a “pervasive disorder” linked to consumption of soft-core pornography. He mentions these symptoms as: Voyeurism; Objectification; Validation; Trophyism; and Fear of true intimacy.
Professors Dolf Zillman of Indiana University and Jennings Bryant of the University of Houston found that repeated exposure to pornography results in a decreased satisfaction with one's sexual partner, with the partner's sexuality, with the partner's sexual curiosity, a decrease in the valuation of faithfulness and a major increase in the importance of sex without attachment.
A study conducted by Dr. Reo Christensen of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, found that pornography leaves the impression with its viewers that sex has no relationship to privacy; that it is unrelated to love, commitment or marriage; that bizarre forms of sex are the most gratifying; that sex with animals has an especially desirable flavour; and that irresponsible sex has no adverse consequences.
According to the book Media, Children, and the Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, and Clinical Perspectives, research has shown that sexual arousal and accompanying excitement diminish with repeated exposure to sexual scenes. As exposure to commonly shown sexual activities leaves consumers relatively unexcited, they are likely to seek out pornography that features novel and potentially less common sexual acts.
Pornography leads to addiction, misogyny, paedophilia, boob jobs and erectile dysfunction. Homosexuality, rape and abuse are just a few of the many possible activities that pornography promotes. Pornography trains us to practice lust and live in a fantasy world. As a result, we burn with a lust that drives us to seek gratification. The memories resulting from our pornographic activities can last a lifetime and damage our ability to enjoy sex in our marriage. Pornography can also lead us down the destructive path of perversion. Its addicts have a more difficult time recovering as pornographic images stay in the brain forever.
Pornography has and continues to wreck marriages. Spouses are today viewing materials that are 'unwholesome' and expecting their partners to measure up both in appearance and performance. They are gradually getting a warped and distorted view from the influence of such materials. Pornography finally succeeds in giving them a view of human beings as sex objects. Objects meant to be 'used' and dumped. D.H. Lawrence rightly notes that: “Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it.”
The pain and feeling of loss when spouses find out that their partners are addicted to pornography, thrusts them into a state of visible shock. It has led some spouses to even consider divorce. Rita Mae Brown contends that: “Pornography exists for the lonesome, the ugly, the fearful - It's made for the losers”. For addicts, sooner rather than later your cup would be full and your addiction would come to light. When that happens, the resentment, bitterness, rejection and anger your spouse would feel towards you would be unappeasable and will inflict a perpetual damage on trust in your relationship. It could take years for you to re-learn how to love your spouse in a loving way as you try to eliminate the stranglehold lust has had on you through becoming tuned for such lust through pornography.
Young people (both men and women) have and continue to feast their eyes on material that do not edify in anyway form or shape. Such material provides them with an environment to have their own form of enjoyment. What begins for most young people as curiosity ends up being an addiction that becomes hard to break. Proverbs 6:27 asks an important question that is worth considering: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?”
Pornography is a canker that we all need to take a stand against. I agree with Susan Sontag that: “What pornography is really about, ultimately, isn't sex but death.” My position is that whatever environment you find yourself in, the buck stops with you. You are responsible for yourself. No multitudinous excuses for why you are falling prey to this vice would suffice. I shall return in Part 2 with some suggestions (for both captives and victims) on how to deal with pornography. I shall also address institutions and purveyors that are exploiting the vice for what it is at the peril of their consumers. In a nutshell, pornography is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. I hope this piece proves a respite for anyone suffering in secret. As always, I would like to hear from you whether you agree or disagree with my views. Just send me a mail and I would reply accordingly.
Dr. Frank Robert Silverson is the author of articles like Gambling - Addiction or Choice (Parts 1-4), Contemplations of an extra-marital affair: a didactic (Parts 1-3), The Ultimate Leak, and Free Press or Foolishness. He is currently working on Pornography – The Silent Killer (Part 2), Churches – Commerce or Compassion (Parts 1&2), The Verdant Chalice (Parts 1&2), and Politicians - Machiavellians or Messiahs (Parts 1&2) soon to be published.
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