A good read from Alain de Botton at the Wall Street Journal website on pornography–a topic that has been covered much in the pages of Salvo. Maybe people will be more ready to hear this message if it’s not told by “religious fundamentalist” types. Of course, the reasons given here are almost identical.
All parties, on left and right, believe in freedom. The question is whether there are ways of having too much freedom, or of using it in the very wrong way, so that it starts to hurt other things we care about, like prosperity, safety and happiness.
The issue comes to a head with internet pornography. The standard view is that people should be left to look at porn as much as they like, just as they should be left to buy guns, eat unhealthy foods, divorce and remarry eight times and make nothing of their talents: it’s a free country, after all.
But what is freedom? If you listen to the theologian and philosopher St Augustine, real freedom doesn’t mean the right to do anything whatsoever. It means being given access to everything that is necessary for a flourishing life – and, it follows, being protected from many of the things that ruin life.
Consider pornography. Part of the problem is that it’s extremely tempting to some people, as alcohol and crack cocaine are. Commentators who don’t investigate the issue much, who might once have had a peek inside Playboy or caught a preview of a naughty film on the television channel of a hotel rest too easy that there’s no problem. But there is. A largely unwitting alliance made up of Cisco, Dell Oracle ORCL Microsoft MSFT and thousands of pornographic providers have now found a way of exploiting a design flaw in the male gender. A brain originally designed to cope with nothing more tempting than an occasional glimpse of a tribesperson across the savannah is lost with what’s now on offer on the net at the click of a button: when confronted with offers to participate continuously in scenarios outstripping any that could be dreamt up by the diseased mind of the Marquis de Sade. There is nothing robust enough in our psychological make-up to compensate for developments in our technological capacities.
Here are the Salvo articles on pornography.
Slave Master: How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain by Donald L. Hilton, Jr.
Porn in the USA: Examining Our National Addiction by John Coleman
The Story of Shelley Lubben, Former Porn Star by Judith Reisman
“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself…After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.” -C.S. Lewis