Sunday, October 23, 2016

What if ordinary porn was illegal?

Looking at child porn is illegal and can incur stiff penalties, and I would urge everyone to not look at it, for that reason if nothing else. Setting that aside, I think looking at child porn is morally questionable. It would certainly make me personally uncomfortable. (I have never seen any).

Yet I feel compassion for those who break the law or fall short of their own moral standards. Among the many posts I've written on CP, <Compassion for CP Viewers> is one that keeps coming back to me.

Today I offer an analogy, in the service of suggesting to others why they should also feel compassionate.

Suppose you were a man living in a society where females covered up and you never got to see their bodies. You couldn't see their bodies on TV or the legal web either. When you get married some day -- that's when you get to see your wife naked. However, with a few clicks of your mouse, you could find adult pornography involving naked women having sex -- but in this society it is illegal. Suppose the women are all sullen or have wooden facial expressions, and you know that they are having sex against their will. How many young men would seek out this material anyway? I say: a lot. Now suppose that instead, the women look reasonably happy, aroused, and like they're enjoying the sex. Yet you still know that they are doing this against their will and are just doing a decent job acting. How many would seek it out? I say: even more. Yet there is presumably shame in taking sexual pleasure in someone else's suffering. Why would they do it? Because sexual desire is very strong, and because they know that their looking is not causing the women direct harm. In contrast, raping or even sexually harassing real women in person does cause obvious harm and is something they do successfully resist. I'm sure many people in today's actual society would agree that looking at what we might term "genuine rape porn" is morally wrong, though I think most of them would balk at the idea of making just looking a crime with severe penalties.

Now let's change things a bit. Suppose you are a gay man. In your society gay sex could bring the death penalty. What's more, you never get to see other men naked -- they cover up and you see only hands, feet and faces. There is similarly illegal porn available to look at of men doing it against their will. Once again, I think many gay men would look. Here I suspect a divide in public reaction: those who think gay sexual desire is all right would be compassionate, but those who think that the gay attraction itself is morally wrong might support severe criminal penalties.

I think the analogy to child porn is clear. Sex with real children is illegal (and rightly so), and we assume that the children in child porn are doing it against their will, however they may look in the videos. The justification most commonly offered for stiff penalties is that men are getting arousal out of girls and boys suffering. But for those who don't support stiff penalties in my imaginary worlds of adult hetero or gay videos being illegal, you can see it's not really true. The real force behind it is that the sexual interest in children is itself considered morally wrong. And yet that interest arises in men through no choice of their own, and is likely set in place before birth. The interest is not something they can make disappear. And the sex drive is as strong for pedophiles as for everyone else. They are duty-bound to never express that with a real child, and many succeed. Most do not purchase child pornography or otherwise encourage its production. But many look at the vast amounts of free material that occupy the dark web. Compassion suggests -- nay, demands -- that these men not face long prison sentences for this activity.

And to repeat, I urge people in the strongest terms not to look at child pornography -- if nothing else, the legal consequences can be very severe.

1 comment:

  1. I have an idea. Instead of legalizing the possession of child abuse images, why not decriminalize it?

    I favor a summary citation - similar to a traffic ticket - for the possession of child abuse images. That's how it is in several countries. I would support that in the U.S. as well.

    However, I favor life imprisonment for the production of child abuse images. If you downgrade a child at that level, you don't deserve to be free.

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