My good friend Brian Maiers sent me the link to “The Pornography Culture” over at a blog dedicated to the theology of David B. Hart. The essay is almost four years old, written on the occasion of another legal blow against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). It appeared at The New Atlantis in 2004 and it is written by Hart. The wisdom, however, is as fresh and urgent for today as yesterday. The author (listed as “Pliny”) is clearly brilliant, with astute observations about civil liberties and the erosion of Western society. Since I write occasionally on pornography, I am listing some quotes directing pertaining to that issue below…
…it is difficult for me to grasp why the Court works upon the premise that whatever means are employed to protect children from Internet pornography should involve the barest minimum imposition possible upon the free expression of pornographers.
The damage that pornography can do—to minds or cultures—is not by any means negligible. Especially in our modern age of passive entertainment, saturated as we are by an unending storm of noises and images and barren prattle, portrayals of violence or of sexual degradation possess a remarkable power to permeate, shape, and deprave the imagination; and the imagination is, after all, the wellspring of desire, of personality, of character. Anyone who would claim that constant or even regular exposure to pornography does not affect a person at the profoundest level of consciousness is either singularly stupid or singularly degenerate. Nor has the availability and profusion of pornography in modern Western culture any historical precedent. And the Internet has provided a means of distribution whose potentials we have scarcely begun to grasp.
The spectrum of wit explored by television comedy runs largely between the pre- and the post-coital.
[What the Internet offers]:
…an “interactive” medium for pornography, a parallel world at once fluid and labyrinthine, where the most extreme forms of depravity can be cheaply produced and then propagated on a global scale, where consumers (of almost any age) can be cultivated and groomed, and where a restless mind sheltered by an idle body can explore whole empires of vice in untroubled quiet for hours on end.
…as imaginations continue to be shaped by our pornographic society, what sorts of husbands or fathers are being bred? And how will women continue to conform themselves—as surely they must—to our cultural expectations of them? To judge from popular entertainment, our favored images of women fall into two complementary, if rather antithetical, classes: on the one hand, sullen, coarse, quasi-masculine belligerence, on the other, pliant and wanton availability to the most primordial of male appetites—in short, viragoes or odalisks. I am fairly sure that, if I had a daughter, I should want her society to provide her with a sentimental education of richer possibilities than that.
I do have daughters. I say Amen.