Thursday, March 25, 2010

Porn for Tots

Whatever you may think about porn, one thing is undeniable: The genie is out of the bottle. Kids growing up today get their first and most powerful early impressions about sex from internet porn. What will this mean for them in real life? Is this the end of the world as we knew it? Or are people overreacting?

Please click here to read this excellent article by Joe Beam. (Not to be confused with Joe B.)

What are your thoughts?

37 comments:

Joe B said...

I was going to write the article myself. But instead I thought...let the readers write it!

So fire away, write this thig one comment at a time!

Joe Beam said...

I look forward to the discussion posted here. Always ready to learn.

Kaber said...

are you taking about toddlers?

Craig said...

Excellent article.

Here is another one, from Naomi Wolf, which makes roughly the same point from a secular/feminist perspective.

The ways that porn distorts perceptions of reality just boggle the mind. . .

Anonymous said...

re:kaber
No, toddlers usually aren't too good with computers, and they think naked people are just funny. Read the article?

Redacticus said...

Wow, Joe Beam commented here! That's a big deal. Get his book, Your Love Path. Kendra and I locked ourselves in a hotel room with it for a whole weekend and we highly recommend it!

Kaber said...

yes, I read it and the article to which it linked. I was just thrown off by the name of this post- "Porn for Tots" and use of babydolls when it is about teens, pre-teens. why would one make it appear they are talking about toddlers and porn when that is not the case?
*
And I do not blame the internet or the porn on the internet. I blame the parental supervision or lack thereof.

Anony One said...

He used the exaggeration "tots" because it is ironic. Young, naked, vulnerable, and broken. It fits like a glove.

About parental supervision...well, I was a teenager once. There was no supervision I could not defeat. Parents take note! Supervision is a great way to teach kids, but as a means of control it is futile.

If your kids don't have a reason to do right, they'll do wrong. What reasons have you taught them?

I'll be anonymous for this conversation. Its a sensitive subject

Craig said...

Because porn - what Malcolm Muggeridge called "the black atomic rain that falls on the just and the unjust alike" - is available, via the internet, to people WAY too young to deal with what they're seeing. And - the point of the article - it is becoming, or has become the 'default mode' of sex education, and is, by that reason, deforming the sexuality of a generation. Put that down to bad parenting if it makes you feel better, but that doesn't do much for the social pathology of a generation that doesn't know how to relate to each other as human beings.

And, bad parenting or no, as long as our kids have free will, there are no guarantees. . .

Scott said...

I have too many thoughts on this topic to say much sufficiently within a comment box.

First of all, regarding porn creating unrealistic expectations of sex in marriage: Unrealistic expectations of sex in marriage exist within the mind of EVERY 15-year old boy. Trust me, I was 15 once, and even though I had never really seen porn, I still had a film reel going in my mind most of the day.

Is it a problem though? Of course it's a problem. Are people overreacting? Hmm. No, not necessarily, but I do believe church-y people are often reacting in the wrong way. The word is spoken from the pulpit and in Christian circles, but it's rarely anything other than a short sentence about how bad it is, and how prevalent it is. I'm a fan of honest discussion of sex and porn, and that's why I like groups that hit it head-on like XXXchurch and the like. Christians are famous for turning their noses up at the entire subject of sex, and I believe that's one of the reasons this is such a big problem among Christians.

Internet porn wasn't common when I was a teenager, so I have no frame of reference for it being "sex-ed" to kids. I realize it's so very commonplace now, and I try to shield my kids from it. But even the best parents can't -- and shouldn't -- be everywhere. They can't follow their kids through the hallways of school. And many kids go off to college at some point.

The point isn't just "how does this affect my OWN children," it's "how does this affect society as a whole, is it a big problem, and what should we do about it."

I don't have the answer for that one yet.

Craig said...

"How does this affect society as a whole?" is, I thought, a large part of the point of Joe Beam's article. It is certainly the point of Naomi Wolf's. . .

Joe B said...

What IS society if it's not kids, zillions of kids, who grow up? If you have kids, you can't escape the question "what's the effect of society on my kids?" I agree with Scott that the strange sex-negativity of "Church, Inc" creates a dangerous environment for the young.

The young, lest we forget, are never sex-negative. They're too smart for that. So when we play dumb, all we do is establish Jenna J and the prom king as the true experts on sex. Bad plan!

So what's a GOOD plan?

How do parents upstage big sweaty piles of above-average naked people??

My strategy? Well first...what's yours??

Joe B said...

Kaber, I confess I chose the picture and caption just to grab clicks from Facebook. By the way, the title is a play on the old "Toys for Tots" campaign supported by the Marines. Some readers may be too young to remember that.
Joe B

Redacticus said...

The monks of the worldwide unChurch cyber-Abbey are strangely quiet...I hope you're not being squeamish because porn is about s-e-x

Craig said...

Yeah, Joe, that was my next point - 'society' is just millions of individuals and their relationships, taken in aggregate. What might be a 'minor' problem for one person, becomes something bigger, and more pathological, multiplied by 50 million. . .

And good grief - if, on a social scale, men won't mate with their wives because porn is more appealing, that's tantamount to a massive cultural death wish. . .

http://topicdiretory.blogspot.com/ said...

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http://balaoing.blogspot.com said...

nice blog

Craig said...

(*tap-tap-tap*)

Hello? Is this thing on?

Where'd everybody go? This discussion was just starting to percolate. . .

(*chirp. . . chirp*)

Redacticus said...

Methinks the unChurch monks too squeamish when on the public record. I now pronounce this thread CLOSED!

Anonymous said...

Having grown up with the internet basically at my fingertips with having a computer in my house that was online, I understand the struggle kids have with porn being so easily accessible. What's making it even tougher is that students have cell phones that they get on the internet with and, although parents can try to regulate what their students look at on the computer, no one regulates what they look at on there phones. Ultimately, it's going to be up to the kid to make the right choices.

The only way we are going to change students' obsession with porn and the decisions they make when deciding to look at porn is by starting conversations about sex, porn and what God expects from us at a young age. I would put that responsibility mainly with parents, but I would also put some responsibility on the local church.

Parents and churches have to be the starters of the discussions about sex. We can't wait for students to come to us with questions or concerns. We need to explain to them what porn and premarital sexual relationships do to a person's life. We need to explain the reasons God has commanded us to only have sexual intimacy with our spouse.

As kids, we often don't understand that God gave us commandments to better our own lives. We look at commandments only as things we aren't supposed to do because God said so. If we talk to students about how God has given us the command not to commit adultery (referring to sexual intimacy with anyone that is not your husband/wife) because He wants us to have the most fulfilling sex life possible, maybe then students will begin to look at sex and porn in a different way.

Joe B said...

But is a warning against pornography the same thing as a conversation about it?

Is it adequate?

And is an actual conversation ABOUT it, really about real pornography, even appropriate?

Do "we" have the guts for it?

Very interested in what Joe Beam thinks on this score

Texas Pete said...

I read the Beam article with interest. He made a point that porn raise expectations for how good sex will be...that sex is really not as good as in porn. First, I am not sure I agree with that. Sex is pretty darned amazing. Plus, porn is fake, just like Die Hard or Dirty Harry. If one can make the Hollywood distinction, they can also make the porn distinction. Second, what is wrong with people entering into sex with the expectation that it is pleasurable and exciting and, well, sexy? In this respect it is not a negative, it is a positive. Sex, when approached with enthusiasm and eagerness IS that great. Sex w/o is crappy.

My second observation: i agree certainly that a sharp rise of people having anal sex is certain to indicate influence of porn on peoples sex activities. I am against porn and I regret that it is so common now. But again I ask: what is wrong with people doing and enjoying more, um...imaginative sex acts? In this respect, again, this is a positive effect, not negative.

It will take some practice, but IF we are to communicate a meaningful, positive sexuality to the young, we must learn to make distinctions between what is negative and what is not. If we cannot even do that, then why would they listen to us?

Craig said...

A few more thoughts. . .

First, while I understand and appreciate the value of good, open communication between parents and their children, and I do believe that it does help kids form the strength of character to Say No to Porn, one shouldn't overestimate its 'prophylactic' effects. Online porn is just WAY too easy to come by, and, filters etc notwithstanding, parents have very little control over their kids' access to it. And once the genie is out of the bottle, so to speak, it's WAY harder to turn their attention away from it. . .

A large part of the problem we face is the complete collapse of any sort of 'larger cultural consensus'. When I was a kid, porn was hard to get, because there was a kind of 'cultural consensus' that it wasn't a good thing, and the kind of society that the very large bulk of people wanted to have was one in which porn didn't play a prominent part (I don't deny the hypocrisy of those days in keeping it available behind discreet paper wrappers, etc, but that hypocrisy at least served to keep porn more-or-less out of the cultural mainstream). No such cultural consensus exists today; one can argue about whether that lack of consensus might be a good thing, or not, but once upon a time, that consensus was one of the main barriers to the marketplace being flooded with porn as it is now. . . Parents used to be able to count on (at least to some more-or-less effective degree) their neighbors, and the 'culture-at-large' to at least keep porn out of the hands of 10-year-olds.

Texas Pete raises some interesting points, worth some discussion. . .

Over the course of a decades-long marriage, most of the sex shared by a couple is going to be of the Unspectacular variety - good and solid and lifegiving, but it is unrealistic to expect Skyrockets in Flight every time we come together. And in that sense, porn can leave folks feeling 'less-than' about sex that was good and solid and lifegiving, just because the proper moans and groans weren't emitted on cue. . .

And as re 'sexual imaginativeness' - I don't want to bang the drum too vigorously (at least, not just yet) about 'Natural Law' thinking relative to sex, and what it's for, and what implications that might have for things like anal intercourse (though it has always been a little bit beyond me, why a husband would want to treat his wife like a gay man). Suffice it to say (for now) that penises and vaginas are pretty obviously made for each other (or at least, so it seems to me. . .)

And even if we were to say that anal sex is Beyond the Pale (which, for the record, I'm not saying), I think there's still plenty of room for sexual imaginitiveness and creativity. . .

(Just for the sake of saying so, my Word Verification is 'matify'; which seems the tiniest bit. . . whatever. . .)

Joe B said...

If I read Texas Pete correctly he was using anal sex as an example of activities theretofore not engaged (& therefore not enjoyed) pre-porn-tsunami. It could have been some other act.

The point is (or should have been? ;-)) that IF people DO such a thing, or some other "porny", thing it is generally because they enjoy it, wherever they may have gotten the idea.

(my verif word was "derri". Hmmmm.)

Scott said...

The major difference between porn (or "visual depictions of other people having sex") and Die Hard ("visual depictions of people shooting other people or blowing stuff up") is that watching Die Hard doesn't make me want to go out and shoot anyone, nor does it cause me to fantasize about killing people. "Porn is fake" oversimplifies the issue. Are those two people NOT having sex? Is that NOT a penis and boobs and a vagina? I'd say a good deal of what we call "porn" is quite real indeed.

This is oversimplified, sure. But the main issue is not just SEX, but that sex was created to be a "good, solid, and lifegiving" (to steal Craig's words) thing between two people that love each other.

Repeated exposure to porn (and addiction to it) can cause subtle, yet major, changes to our mentality as humans [yeah, I know, citation needed]. It's not a simple matter of it causing us to expect sex to be pleasurable and exciting (which, yes, it should be). The "negative effect" is the creation of a mindset of instant gratification. It's a mindset that is rarely patient or understanding of the other 23 hours in a day -- laundry, kids, dinner, weariness... life. It's NOT going to happen whenever you want it to, and as Craig said, it's probably NOT always going to be "porn-quality" sex.

Porn is there whenever you want it. Your spouse or lover is not.

I will agree with Joe on the last point re: "imaginativeness." If more people are doing something, I would *hope* that it's because they enjoy it. (Although there is also the possibility that some are only doing it because they think it is expected of them, which WOULD be a negative result.)

Craig said...

I probably seemed to be focused on anal sex a bit more narrowly than I really meant; I understand that TP's point was more general. But my point is still that sex is 'for something'; it has a point, God designed us sexually for a purpose. And He made it pleasurable for us (thank Him for that); but it doesn't follow that 'whatever is pleasurable, is good'. I'm just meaning to introduce that distinction into the discussion. . .

Good point, Scott, re the difference between film sex and film violence. Bruce Willis is not actually killing anyone in the making of Die Hard; the same cannot be said (with regard to sex) of the 'actors' in porn films.

(Just as an aside - and I don't mean to hijack the discussion - I would be less sanguine about the 'lack of effect' of violent films on their viewers' psyches. . . Even if nobody goes on a killing spree after walking out of the theater, the images are what they are, and they leave their marks on our souls, even if outward effects are not quite so obvious as the ones from porn. . .)

Texas Pete said...

I do not say porn has no negative consequence. I just say that high expectations and anal sex should not be listed among them. Porn brings many ideas into a bedroom, and many are wrong, harmful, or evil. But others are not, and unless you add on exceptional preconditions, these two things simply are not wrong, harmful, or evil.

If we are just trying to convince ourselve to stand firm in our own conviction, then that kind of arguments are adequate. But if you want to be persuasive outside of the christian echo chamber, then we have to get real. We need to be able to tell the difference.

News flash: Your kids and nieghbors arent afraid of your boogeyman any more.

Craig said...

Depends, I suppose, on what you mean by 'high expectations'. If you just mean an expectation that sex will be good, and joyful, and life-giving, then great. But I'm guessing that the 'high expectations' being addressed here run more along the lines of 'expecting your wife to behave like an imaginary porn queen', or have breasts the size of cantaloupes. Which is both unrealistic and demeaning of her. . .

As to anal, I've already said more than I probably should have, but I'll just say that 'simply not wrong, harmful, or evil' is less obvious to me than it is to you. 'Argument by vehement assertion' isn't terribly helpful. . .

If by 'get real' you mean 'speak in language our neighbors can understand', I'm all for it. If you mean, 'accommodate to the popular sexual mores', not so much. . .

Texas A. Pete said...

Please do not mistake my repetition for vehemence. I restated my point only to correct some inferrences. I cited "anal" as Joe Beam's example of a novel practice that people emulate from porn. The reasonings I am objecting to are these: A. "It was in a porn movie so it is obviously sin." (B.) "Sex isn't really that good." And (C.)the one I had not gotten around to, "They are physically perfect, why aren't you?" I think these are unintelligent reasonings. No more unintelligent that Naomi Wolf's though, so I am not persecuting Christians. Peoples logic just dissolves when sex is involved.

I suggest the central argument against pornography must remain the MORAL argument. Do people emulate promiscuity? Do they emulate lascivious lifestyles? Do they emulate forcible, coercive behavior? These are BAD things.

My theory is this: people are more likely to adopt an exotic sexual practice (e.g., anal) they like, and LESS likely to adopt an exotic sexual ethic they abhor. That would be a normal dynamic, and I would expect it to hold vis a vis pornography, too.

By the way, I really enjoy the toughtful comments here at the unchurch blog, it is a rare treat. As soon as everybody forgets "Texas Anal Pete" I may return, less anonymously. I loved the artiles I read here. They resonate with me.

Craig said...

I didn't know that was your middle name. . . ;)

Thanks for clarifying your argument. And, just for the sake of saying so, I think we largely agree. I agree that the moral arguments against porn are the central, and most important ones. But because the moral consensus has been so thoroughly lost to our culture, they are also very difficult to engage, and 'pragmatic' arguments often have more traction.

The 'unintelligent' points you cite from the Joe Beam and Naomi Wolfe articles are mostly meant (it seems to me) as supporting points for the larger thesis that Something is Wrong When Men Prefer Porn to Actual Sex With an Actual Woman. Which, on the face of it, seems more-or-less self-evident. . .

Craig said...

And, uh. . . so much for Redacticus and his pronouncements, eh?

;)

Joe B said...

I think sometimes we get diverted to trivial arguments because we think they might "speak to the culture." We, the church, have no confidence it our own moral arguments, so we deviate. Hats off to the modern USA Catholics (and some others) who actually do wrestle with the "why's" of morality (like Craig's "life-giving" theme.)

I remember as a youth minster hearing soooooo much focus on admoniting kids about secondary consequences. Dont have sex because its embarassing. Hurts your reputation. Hurts your future marriage. Spreads disease. And I'd think, "Dont we have anything to say on this subject?"

The gospel of "don't" is not the gospel. I believe the true word of Life addresses sexual mores head on. This gospel of the kingdom is about meaning and purpose and truth. It is about denying yourself in preferrence of your neighbor, and not exploiting them.

What could be a more powerful objection to the abuses of pornography?

Craig said...

Credit where it's due - the late pope's Theology of the Body has been revolutionary for Catholic thinking on sexuality (and not just in the USA). I'd highly recommend it to anyone. JP2's language can be a little dense, but worth it for those with the determination to wrestle with it; or you might find Sam Torode's 'Theology of the Body in Simple Language', more accessible (but it's kinda hard to find).

In the Catholic 'Natural Law' tradition of moral reasoning, morality is 'built into' the Universe, just as surely as gravity is, and living at cross-purposes to the Moral Law built into the Universe will have consequences, just like jumping off a cliff will. Conversely, when we live in accordance to the Design of the Universe, we can 'fly' as surely as the Laws of Aerodynamics enable us to fly in a physical sense, if we do it right. . .

So I suppose that sexual morality has two sides to it, akin to dynamite - it's extremely powerful, but extremely dangerous if you mishandle it. . .

Matt said...

I was thinking to myself... unchurch hasn't had many posts in a while... so I take a look... never having really looked at the comments I see what has been taking all the writing energy these past few weeks...

Sex does wonders for dialogue uh? :-)

Joe B said...

Yeah, but it took a while. People have been slow going on the record!

Tex Petey said...

I do not understand much about porn addiction. My biggest concern is that the generation of young get their answer from porn to the question: "What is sex?" and "What is it about?"
The scorching hot sex of true love and lifelong love cannot really be filmed.

Redacticus said...

isnt it funny how the spam comments begin at once, then start to pile up?

Looks like this one uis over guys!