To those who read my column, it will come as no surprise that my favorite chapter in Porn Generation is the third chapter, entitled ?Campus Carnality.? As I read this chapter, I was reminded of an exercise I once used in my ?Introduction to Criminal Justice? class. The exercise involved having students give a brief description of the most serious crime or deviant act they had ever committed. I would then read some of the accounts (which were all typed and turned in anonymously) and give the students some break downs afterwards-such as the percentage of felons in the class, and so on.
I noticed that in between the time I began using this exercise (in 1993) and the time I stopped (in 2003) there was a marked increase in reports of bizarre sexual conduct. For example, students began to write occasionally about group sex. Others wrote about posing nude for internet sites. One of my students even dropped out of school to become a Playboy Centerfold in 1996. Another wrote about how she ran out of money on Spring Break and slept with another college student for $40 just so she could have money to stay and get drunk on the last night of her vacation.
Ben correctly puts a fair share of the blame for college students? increasing sexual deviance upon college professors and administrators. He talks about college classes where students take pictures of their own genitals and others that challenge the notion that ?voyeurism, bestiality, sadism, and masochism? are perverse. Were this book to end after the third chapter, it would already be a wise investment for the parents of college-bound high school students.
Porn Generation also deserves credit for criticizing some of the ?cultural icons? who have profited immensely from the corruption of our children and our culture. For example, Shapiro describes Madonna as ?a fabulously successful musician, a failed actress, and a cultural icon.? He goes on to say that ?She is also a whore, selling her promiscuity for power and financial gain.? And that ?She isn?t just any whore either. She?s a whore with a microphone.? Good job, Ben! I agree.
Shapiro takes a break from blasting Madonna in order to thank John Kerry for pointing out the social utility and value of rap music during his failed bid for the presidency in 2004. He sounds a lot like Ann Coulter as he mocks Kerry by sarcastically suggesting that, ?Petey Pablo is the black Byron. Terror Squad is the urban Tennyson. Cassidy and R. Kelly are the Walt Whitmans of da ?hood. The importance of these lyrics is surpassed only by Winston Churchill?s ?Iron Curtain? speech in the pantheon of important social statements of the last century. Censorship of this sparkling artistry would be the equivalent of banning Renoir.?
Sarcasm aside, Shapiro is careful to link the content of rap lyrics to the current condition of the porn generation. He observes:
?Walk into any high school in the United States, and you can see teenagers-black, white, Hispanic, whatever-in baggy pants, doing the ?pimp roll.? They imitate the dress style and the bad grammar, using phrases like ?fo shizzle my nizzle.? The common high school greeting is ?Sup, biotch.??
Shapiro is also dead-on when he states that: ?Rappers need to get over their obsession with their own genitals, and start working on changing their perverse views of women, or there?s no end to the damage this destructive culture can create.? It is a shame that other, more experienced writers are afraid to boldly state such obvious truths.
Sticking with the most important theme of the book-the sexualization of children-Shapiro correctly observes that TV portrayals of casual sex itself are not the problem. It is the fact that TV depicts these characters as having casual sex without experiencing negative consequences that causes harm. Social learning theory has consistently shown this to be true. Unfortunately, on our college campuses, there are too few programs and studies emphasizing this point. By giving out free condoms and promoting Planned Parenthood, our colleges more often promulgate the myth of sex without consequences as realistic and attainable.
The book?s longest chapter ?Porn and Popcorn,? provides an interesting historical overview of the Hays Code, which was a content standard the motion picture industry imposed upon itself in the 1930s. The discussion of how economic forces made that choice possible may provide some insight into how a similar standard can be invoked in the future. Shapiro?s observation that ?When, as a society, we decided that standards in movies no longer mattered, we sacrificed something great-the popular requirement that filmmakers strive to enrich society and uphold traditions of American morality? sums up the problem nicely.
With all the book?s great quotes, it is probably fitting to conclude this review with my favorite: ?Paris Hilton is famous for one reason, and one reason only: She?s a fabulously rich slut.? By contrast, Ben Shapiro is becoming famous for one reason, and one reason only: He?s a fabulously talented writer.