By Fr. Martin Onwudiwe
It has not been an easy task defining pornography because of social, political, moral and other connotations associated with it. Various scholars, critics and commentators use these terms interchangeably: pornographic, obscene, indecent, X-rated, and sexually explicit and so on. One’s own view of sexuality, morality and most especially, one’s intent in defining it are among the factors that draw the boundary of what constitutes pornography. Many social scientists have to avoid using the term pornography and rely instead on the more neutral term sexually explicit materials. The terms would be used interchangeably here.
Most of those opposed to sexually explicit materials tend to be more inclusive in their definition of pornography. Despite the complexity in defining pornography with its legal challenges, we could assert like the former U.S supreme Court Justice Porter Stewart when he said, “I know it when I see it”. We could equally state that any material produced with the intention of eliciting sexual arousal among its consumers could be considered pornographic. Some contemporary television programmes and advertising contents could be labelled as pornographic. Other channels of sexually explicit materials include the traditional media such as magazines and high-tech virtual sex, cybersex etc.
Many are the reasons why religious groups and denominations have opposed pornography. Pornography undermines human dignity. Human beings, especially women are objectified as majority of all sexually explicit content conveys the same theme: women are sexually insatiable creatures longing for male domination. Most of the sexually explicit materials are produced for male consumption depicting women as both highly submissive and willing to entertain every male craving. In the sexual acts depicted, friendship and love are deemphasised. Marriage, commitment and emotional involvement are also played down on. Some pornographic contents are entertainments of violent fantasies such as rape, female victimization, pain and suffering. Those who view or read such material run the risk of carrying such attitudes and behaviour into their own relationships which may result in lack of reverence and respect for others as precious children of God and as brothers and sisters in the same human family
Even the so called non-violent sexually explicit materials are harmful as well. They have a progressively desensitizing effect on the consumers thereby making them become morally numb and personally insensitive to the rights and dignity of others. However, the more time one spends on pornographic materials, the more one longs for uncommon forms of pornography. This consequently harms personal moral growth together with healthy and mature relationship with others. In the worst cases, pornography can act as an inciting or reinforcing agent, a kind of accomplice in the behaviour of dangerous sex offenders- child molesters, rapists and killers. With pornography, tenderness and compassion give way in the hearts of the consumers giving way to insensitivity and brutality.
Prolonged exposure to sexually violent pornography also leads to greater sexual callousness towards women and trivialization of rape thus producing a shift in the consumers’ moral judgment. The fight against pornography is not based only on the fact that it can harm the producers and consumers but also on its colossal effect on the family as a social institution. It is said that destruction of the family is the destruction of the society. The present day rise in promiscuity and non-exclusivity in sexual relationships are indicative of such societal harms.
Regular exposure to sexually explicit materials can destroy intimacy as some consumers have reported less satisfaction with their real-life intimate partners. Their dissatisfaction rests on physical appearance founded on sexual curiosity, and sexual performances. This is as a result of comparisons which pornographic consumers draw between their sexual history and their ‘ideal’ sexual relation and beauty presented in the films.
Over and above the effects of pornography on the individual (its consumers), the disquieting growth of pornography in the last few decades represents a great danger to the well-being of the society. Some of the social ills and behavioural mess afflicting our world today – teenage sexual promiscuity, crisis pregnancy, adultery, abortion, divorce, sexual deviancy, rape, and incest could be traced to the spread of pornography. If sexually explicit materials could be this damaging to the consumer and the society, it will be logical arguing that a noticeable reduction of the above mentioned ills will be felt in today’s world.
Onwudiwe Martin Tochukwu.