No less a person than Pamela Anderson, the former Baywatch star, writing with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in the Wall Street Journal, warns us that pornography is dangerous. What has occasioned this is the latest scandal to engulf Mr Weiner in New York, the former congressman who has the recurring habit of ‘sexting’. But sexting – the practice of sending obscene pictures of oneself over social media – is not just a problem for former congressmen. The Telegraph reports recently that the practice is endemic among children, many of whom may fall foul of the child protection laws as a result.
The Telegraph report about Ms Anderson and Rabbi Boteach’s article (which is behind a paywall) says that the authors “claim” that pornography is corrosive. It quotes them as saying: “This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays.”
The idea that the dangerousness of porn is a claim – that is, something that has no real hard evidence to back it up – seems misleading to me. In other words, to say that they claim porn is dangerous is itself to make a claim. The truth, surely, is that the corrosive effects of porn are self-evident, and it is for those who claim that porn is harmless to justify their position through the production of evidence.
The rabbi and Anderson are also right to point to the way porn is freely available over the internet. In America and Britain, as elsewhere, we have a free market in porn of the adult variety (child porn is different.) But we do not, please note, have free markets in cigarettes, or drugs, or alcohol, or food: all of these are to a greater or lesser degree regulated by consumer legislation. But not porn. That, it seems, you can consume as freely as you wish. Is this right?
Moreover, it is possible, at the very least, for governments to disrupt the porn supply. Sites and providers can be closed down and blocked. That they do not seem to do this indicates a lack of political will to do so. Don’t they care about the corruption of children, the objectification of women, and the marketing of sex? It seems not.
The rabbi and the actress conclude:
We are a guinea-pig generation for an experiment in mass debasement that few of us would have ever consented to, and whose full nefarious impact may not be known for years. How many families will suffer? How many marriages will implode? How many talented men will scrap their most important relationships and careers for a brief onanistic thrill? How many children will propel, warp-speed, into the dark side of adult sexuality by forced exposure to their fathers’ profanations?
My conclusion is to advise all people to read the excellent document on the dangers of porn published by the American bishops, the best Catholic teaching on the matter to emerge so far, which can be accessed here. Meanwhile, well done to Ms Anderson and Rabbi Boteach. We need to hear more on this subject from religious leaders and from the stars of the entertainment world.
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