Sensible conversation about pornography that is not trite is hard to find, and damn near impossible. From the con side, there are the puritanical "moral depravity" arguments, usually religion-based, and the "degrading" and "economic disparity "arguments, grounded in some school of feminism. From the pro side, there are the usual legalistic arguments about the First Amendment, and those are valid and, to this writer, true. But from both sides, the argument is tired and like two impervious objects slamming against each other; neither will make a dent in the other, yet neither looks for another way of conquest.
Well, I'm going to weigh in with my own argument. One that, to my knowledge, has yet to be put forth, yet through some research and more observation has become painfully obvious to me. Pornography is the natural result of basic components of human sexuality combining with our mass-media age. The arguments of gender economic disparity, lack of opportunities, low-self esteem, etc., as explanations for the existence of porn have basically been disproven over the past 30 years, and are toothless in their anachronistic nature.
I got my first look at a blue magazine, a Playboy, at the age of seven, much the same way as boys everywhere did. You know the scenario; snooping around while the adult in the house is asleep, you come across something you're not supposed to, and you get a rush. The majority of movies, around 85 percent, are repetitive, stupid, and just boring. There are some that are interesting, funny, and Ä here comes the cliche Ä "artfully done." But this is not the point. The point is that I have been out with quite a few females, and have no more expected them to drop their drawers 10 minutes after meeting me than I have expected any of my cats to start speaking English like Morris. That is why I don't buy the monkey-see, monkey-do argument.
Which brings us to depictions of sexuality. Societies have always used the technology available to depict all aspects of experience, including sex. One need only look at any art history book to see this. The technology available today is much more conducive to immediate and mass dissemination. Now you take something like sex, which all people are created from and most will do sometime in their lives. Isn't it unrealistic to say that never the 'twain shall meet? Just think of the things Francis Boucher would've done had he owned a camcorder.
But this doesn't answer the root reason of why porn exists, or more directly, why do people partake in depictions of sexuality for others to see and why do they have patrons? The answer to these questions lie in two components of human sexuality, exhibitionism and voyeurism. Everyone who has sex has a bit of each. In order to have sex, you have to show your body to another, and in turn have to be stimulated by watching the body of another. That having been said, is it beyond reason that there are some whose exhibitionism leads them to do sexual acts and poses that have potential audiences in the millions? This is the only rationale I can think of.
The lack of economic opportunity argument just doesn't wash. If you look at the wage gap, it only exists because executive managers make more than secretaries. Looking occupation by occupation, in most, women make the same or close to men. This gap is closing rapidly. So why, as the outlets for women are increasing, is the porn industry also increasing? Logically, it should be decreasing. Along those lines, the fastest growing portion, according to several magazines, is amateur video, where people do it on a lark. It has to be another component of all animals, curiosity. Most of the women in these videos are hardly in it for the long haul. Being in the industry is hardly as secure as it used to be, when it seemed like the same 12 people in every movie. This industry is just like pro sports, where if one person drops out, a replacement lies in wait. Eventually, the market expands to meet the sub-interests of everyone. There is some truth to the organized crime element, but the Diaspora of material suggests anyone with equipment and collateral can bypass the middleman and get product distributed
Neither can I buy the other arguments when I see people like feminist-environmentalist scholar writer Nina Hartley, who does these films. She is a refutation of every argument. Lack of education (she graduated magna cum laude from Berkeley), austerity (upper middle class background), and abuse.
The intent here is not to tout porn or to sway anyone's morals. It is simply to make some connections. Whatever side you're on, I hope you consider this when you address the issue and realize how pointless it is to argue it.
Tyrone Henry is a political science senior.
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