Judging Pornography

Posted: Jun 16, 2008 11:55 AM
Judging Pornography

If a respected Reagan appointee on one of the highest courts in is caught posting prurient and even explicit sexual photos on his personal website what does this say about the rest of society?

This week 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski was slated to preside over a major obscenity lawsuit.  LA Times reporters noted that Judge Kazinski had himself posted pornographic material on his personal website.  Apparently, he didn’t know the site was open to the public.

After waffling on the appropriateness of this material (one picture apparently featured naked women painted as cows on all fours) Judge Kozinski passed part of the blame onto his son.  To his credit Judge Kozinski has now declared a mistrial and asked a panel of judges to review his actions.

The New Drug

I’m certain we don’t care to know the state of Judge Kozinski’s odd interests but it speaks volumes about where we are as a culture today.  The spate of free, 24-hour access to the worst kind of pornography has redefined the notion of “an addict”.  In previous decades, you had to be a patron of some unseemly shop, purchasing your fix over some dirty counter.  Today, the kitchen counter is the medium of choice.  Apparently, the legal bar is not exempt from these transactions either.

As Mark Kastleman notes in his book, The Drug of the New Millennium, pornography is just about the perfect drug: piped free of charge into the home, reusable, and with no outward signs of use (unless you publish your porn library online).  The effects are no less dramatic than real drug use, ending in financial burdens, spousal abuse, child exploitation, deceit, divorce and destruction. 

So, how pervasive is pornography?  Earlier this year an article entitled: “Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults” was published in the Journal of Adolescent Research. The researchers found:

… roughly two thirds (67% ) of young men and one half (49%) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable, whereas nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) young men and nearly one third (31%) of young women reported using pornography.

Someone recently emailed us a picture of a ten-year-old boy they knew with an earring, not wholly uncommon these days - unless it happens to be a small gold-plated Playboy bunny earring – which it was.  Branding is everything.

Child Pornography

Last year, a Milwaukee man was convicted of trading explicit photos of his own pre-teen daughter online.  When discovered and arrested, the shocked parents of the local community asked aloud: “Why?”  Pressed to explain, the man’s lawyer replied: "He hasn't been able to really answer that." 

The collective sigh you hear is what many families experience when confronted with the stark and dark realities of child pornography: “we haven’t been able to answer that”.

Psychologists have adopted the word “habituation” to refer to the denigrated state that many porn addicts succumb to: an abyss where the usual pornographic fix doesn’t cut it anymore.  At this stage the porn addict, like his peer the druggie, seeks after more and more and worse and worse kinds of material to satiate the chemical releases which the brain has adapted to.

5-year-old Destiny Norton was playing outside in the hot Utah summer of 2006.  She was lured into the home of a neighbor, suffocated and then, the unspeakable.  The 20-year-old murderer/rapist later told the media: “I have now become a strong advocate against pornography.”

Just last month the Supreme Court upheld existing child pornography laws which help law enforcement agencies crack down on this ugly market.  Last week three ISPs in New York agreed to block and remove any and all child pornography on their servers. 

Let’s be clear: this is a difficult situation any way you cut it.  Earlier this year County Attorney Troy Rawlings of Utah was faced with the prospect of charging 27 people with felonies for producing and sending child pornography via cell phones.  The problem?  They were all 13-year-old middle-schoolers.  The odd nexus of technology, amorality and teenage curiosity may just get the best of us.  But can we be content with cleaning the grime but not curing the water?

Fighting Pornography

Those who defend this societal habit are running short on excuses. Pornography addiction is a brutal vice eating away at our culture.  But here’s the good news for those in the fight: the slow ship of legal recourse is beginning to turn around and science is playing a vital role to bolster our claim that pornography is harmful.

For years citizen efforts to drive SOBs (sexually oriented businesses) and SEM (sexually explicit material) out of our communities have hit a brick wall.  Morality is something that many courts are loathed to acknowledge.  Couple this handicap with the significant resources of the pornography industry and a level playing field nowhere to be found.

Local prosecutors face serious financial burdens as experienced porn industry defense teams swoop in with innumerable legal maneuvers.  Its no wonder that the Bush administration has failed to prosecute anything other than the most beastly pornography related crimes.  The breadth of the addiction, the scant resources at hand, and the serious legal opposition that follows is decidedly tough for any county, district, state or federal entity.

However, recent victories in Florida and elsewhere show promising signs that communities have had enough and are willing to call out obscenity and kill it dead.  It was encouraging that Justice Scalia began his majority opinion reiterating their standing position: “We have long held that obscene speech—sexually explicit material that violates fundamental notions of decency—is not protected by the First Amendment.”  The tables are turning.

Consider the following:

·        A study commissioned by the UK Ministry of Justice last fall found that extreme sexual material definitely leads to violent behavior.

·        Recent studies show that individuals who indulge in online pornography and virtual adultery are 3 times more likely to commit the act in reality.

·        Other scientific studies underway expect to find that the brains of pornography addicts are physically altered and even damaged.

It appears the analogy to drug use is more than just rhetorical.   An adaptation on the old television ad is way overdue: “This is your brain.  This is your brain on porn.”