Tuesday, September 28, 2004

i know it when i see it

We were having an online conversation in which I failed to fall in line with the idea that "pornography is good and happy and healthy." Someone gave me the "how do you identify it?" thing (below). Naturally I have an opinion about it, which I felt the need to discuss at length...

The basic question is: define pornography? Is Bot's painting of "Venus" porn, is M.A.'s "David" porn, is a mother breastfeeding a child, porn? Standards of morality are as individual as fingerprints.

Oh, c'mon, people, it's not that hard. The comment above sounds like “Since some types of human expression are on the boundaries, and since those boundaries can be different for different individuals, it is impossible to create a standard that clearly and unambiguously accounts for every possible case. Therefore, we can’t have a standard about pornography, because not everyone agrees about what it is.”

First of all, regarding fingerprints:
Standards of morality are not unique to every individual – every society has many many agreed-upon norms of behavior that the vast majority support. There are amazing consistencies between and among societies and individuals regarding moral issues and questions (sexual or otherwise).
Nor are moral standards arbitrarily assigned like fingerprints are. We choose what standard(s) to adopt or create.

Second, the fact that there may be many opinions about pornography (or morality) does not mean that all those opinions are equally valid, logical, well-thought-out, or worthy of expression. The idea that everyone’s ideas deserve equal consideration is stupid – one must make some basic assumptions about right and wrong, good and bad.
Example: If your idea of the right way to mow the lawn is to use a power mower, and mine is to use a push-mower, we might have a debate. But if my idea is to tie neighborhood children to stakes in the yard in the hope that they’ll eat the grass, you may rightly consider me a loon and dismiss my lawn-mowing ideas outright.
Similarly, if there are people who want to suggest that the works of Boticelli or Michelangelo or even Rubens are in some way the moral equivalent of Debbie Does Dallas or http://www.naked-women-everywhere-even-on-the-roof.com/, they are morons.

Finally: pornographers’ protestations notwithstanding, coming up with a workable standard is not actually that tough. A simple dictionary definition probably accounts for 98% of known cases:
“Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.”
Add the U.S. supreme court’s stuff about “…without redeeming social importance” plus some of the other caveats and embellishments various courts have come up with, and you’ve got something to work with.
Sure, there will be questionable stuff. (Pics of people flashing at Mardi Gras? bikini posters? etc.) But everything in life requires some discretion, some discernment, some intelligence on our part.
What is “mentally retarded” vs “normal”? What is disabled? What’s insane? Should we not have programs for people we classify that way?
How about music vs noise? Not everyone has a device for measuring decibels – does this mean we shouldn’t have city noise ordinances?
What is acceptable business dress? How many face tattoos are too many to work at McDonalds? How many piercings or scarifications move me beyond body enhancement to being a serious nut-job?
How many cats will your grandma get before you stage an intervention? 8? 15? 60?
When is a person *really* an alcoholic? Since it’s sometimes hard to tell, we probably don’t need AA.Okay, I guess I’ve beat that to death – I’m sure you get my point...


At Wed Sep 29, 01:15:00 PM PDT, Blogger anya ransuns aka Roxy said...

There you go with the cats again. Anyway, neither of my grandmothers had/have a cat. Therefore, your entire post is irrelevant to me. Is that what you were trying to say?

At Wed Sep 29, 01:55:00 PM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

that's it exactly.

At Wed Sep 29, 06:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger Erik said...

Oh, that's good stuff. I think 15 cats.


cool post.


At Sat Nov 09, 02:27:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - you tackled a really complex topic so succinctly! I know this post is almost ten years old - but dude, it truly is meaty, rich, and just well written! Great perspective….


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