Frequently Asked Questions on Pornography
When raising the issue of pornography and challenging Christians to positive moral action, one often encounters the following objections or excuses:
- “Pornography is protected by freedom of speech.”
Pornography is not speech. In the United States, pornography, called obscenity, is not protected under the first amendment of their Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, “In our view, to equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material, demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom.” Miller v. California (1973)
All rights are limited. As Dr Angelo Grazioli says, “The freedom of speech and press is designed to protect a free and safe society, but is never an absolute freedom. No-one has the right to falsely shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. No one has the right to print lies about others… To argue that ‘if we allow them to censor ‘Teen Slut’ today they’ll be burning the Mona Lisa tomorrow’, is as illogical as arguing that ‘if we allow them to prosecute traffic offenders today, they’ll be taking away cars tomorrow.’ Speech is limited in many ways. Copyright violations, false advertising and libel are just some of the limitations placed on the freedom of speech.” The liberals hysterically scream ‘freedom of speech’ when it comes to porn, but forget all about that freedom when it comes to censorship of racial slurs and so-called hate speech.
Furthermore, there is no right to engage in something that is harmful to others. There is no freedom for rape and child abuse, neither should there be freedom for an industry that fuels and encourages such anti-social behaviour. Drug dealers, for example, cannot claim freedom of movement or workers’ rights. Pornography is as addictive and destructive as drugs.
- “No-one can define pornography therefore you can’t legislate against it.”
Is pornography beyond legal definition? That’s not true. Many countries of the world have a legal definition for pornography. South Africa’s definition can be read on the first page of the next chapter (chapter 8).
- “Legislation against pornography would cover too much ground and limit the freedom of the press.”
Man, being a sinner and possessing knowledge often faulty, will pass laws that are quite likely to be faulty also. This has always been the case and will continue to be the case. Should we abolish all laws as a result? Parliamentary review and court action are processes whereby errors in laws can be rectified. There is no reason to fear that a law, in and of itself, can remove our liberties. Unless a people have first lost interest in freedom, no state can limit its liberties without thereby endangering itself.
- “Such laws would readily be used by a tyrant to stifle dissent.”
Tyrants do not need that excuse. They find it very easy to manufacture any number of grounds for whatever they do – if indeed they need any ground at all.
- “You can’t legislate morality.”
This smug cliché has been repeated so often that it has taken on an aura of natural law. But what about laws against theft, fraud, libel, rape, incest or murder? Are these laws not legislating morality? Similarly, governments can legislate immoral laws, such as the laws entrenching apartheid.
All laws simply codify moral values. The only issue is: whose system of morality will be the source and foundation of our laws? If we do not enforce Biblical Law against pornography, abortion, rape and murder, then in all likelihood we will experience the results of enforcing humanist law: legalised child killing and pornography, forbidding of prayer in school, special rights for criminals, especially murderers, and the resultant massive increase in crime, rape and murder. As Martin Luther King said, “The law may not change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.”
- “The ubiquity of the Internet and cell phones makes pornography impossible to control”
The claim that the Internet cannot be policed is false. Internet banking fraud and child abuse images are policed internationally and locally and it makes a real difference. Child abuse images are primarily distributed on the Internet and because it is illegal, its circulation is substantially depressed. Internet porn can be successfully blocked on a national level by requiring all Tier 1 Service Providers to filter websites being accessed by Internet users in the country and on a Tier 2 level by cloud-based ISP filtering systems. Yemen and United Arab Emirates block all porn at a Tier 1 Level and Australia has put measures in place to block Refused Classification material at a Tier 2 level. Several countries such as Mauritius have put technology in place to block child porn on a nation-wide scale.
Even when porn was illegal in South Africa, some people managed to access it. While we cannot banish porn in any form completely, by making it illegal we can substantially limit its circulation and harm. Magazines still have a huge market for impulse buyers, especially at airport shops. As one big player in the porn shop industry claims, the Internet has not affected them at all. “We do not feel any difference in terms of demand. People will always want hard copy in their hands. We do not have people coming in saying, “We are seeing images on computer so we don’t want to buy DVDs and magazines.” Hustler’s editor insists that magazines will always have a major market share.
Banning porn magazines and DVDs would have a small impact on reducing the amount of porn in society, but blocking pornography on the Internet at a national level would have a substantial impact.
At the very least making porn illegal stigmatises it, and it is seen by much of society as something wrong and dirty, rather than a ‘right’.
- “Banning porn will only increase its circulation and appeal.”
The belief that if you make pornography freely available, people will lose interest in it, is naive and ignorant. In countries where pornography has been legalised for years, it has developed into a multi-billion industry. Not only has the porn industry increased in South Africa since its legalisation, one only needs look at the Holland and the Scandinavian countries to realise that porn has not decreased but increased! These countries were historically the most permissive in the legalisation of porn and later became the “pioneers” in the child porn industry. “Between 1969 and 1979 Denmark led the way and legalised all forms of pornography including child pornography. The Danish Theander brothers became the biggest producers of both adult and child porn probably in the world at that time.” Porn made during that period is still available on the net today. The children involved were pre-pubescent, generally between five and 10 years old. The titles of the magazines and films they made are revealing: “Sucking daddy”, “Incest Family”, “F**ing Children”, “Schoolboys Orgy” and “Jo and his Uncle”. Incest and child abuse were made to appear normal. Some of the most shocking child porn, which includes babies being raped and horribly abused, is produced and disseminated from Holland. An adult porn producer, formerly based in South Africa, Rudy van Dijk said, “They have a different set of morals, as well as a lower age of consent, which means they can lure young people into porn movies.” Even pornography producers say they have low morals! So the interest in porn, has not waned there, but has become even more depraved. Increased exposure does not lead to indifference but to desensitisation, which in turn demands greater stimulation in order to derive the same excitement or pleasure.
Many of us think these ‘liberal’ countries are fine despite the massive amount of porn they have historically produced and circulated in their own country, but we need to think again. The Netherlands and Scandinavia have very high rape rates. Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe — twice as many as ‘runner up’ the UK, a new study shows. Researchers behind the EU study, conclude that rape appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in continental European countries. Over 5 000 rapes are reported in Sweden per annum while reports in other countries of a comparable size amounted to only a few hundred. Amnesty International’s most damning criticism of Sweden relates to the considerable disparity between the number of rapes reported and the conviction rate. Case Closed highlights the damning evidence that, despite the number of rapes reported to the police quadrupling over the past 20 years, the percentage of reported rapes ending in conviction is markedly lower today than it was in 1965.
- “More porn will result in a decrease in sex crimes.”
Studies in the early 1970’s by Bert Kutchinsky of the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), advocated porn as a “safety valve” for potential sex offenders claiming that when the Danish government lifted restrictions on porn in 1969, the number of sex crimes decreased. This has long since been disproved. In fact, the more serious types of sex crimes such as rape actually increased in number and rate following the legalization of pornography in Denmark.
The notion that sex crimes dropped, was illusory and due to the fact that a number of sex crimes, including homosexual prostitution, extra-marital incest between close relatives, voyeurism (peeping), and “indecency toward women” or frottage, were decriminalized at the time pornography was legalized, giving the appearance of a decrease in the overall rate of sex crimes. Because they were no longer counting any of those sex offences (which, of course, were still continuing to occur) in their new summaries of sex crime statistics, it appeared that the incidence of sex crimes was dropping.
Kutchinsky also grouped rape along with other lesser categories of sex crime. The study thus obscured the fact that the more serious types of sex crimes such as rape actually increased in number and rate following the legalisation of pornography in Denmark.
- “There’s no proof that porn causes harm.”
This is a claim founded either in ignorance or wilful deception. Lindie Wadhams, formerly of Safeline says, “It would be unethical to expose human beings to large doses of pornography… monitor them and their behaviour to the point where the sexual crime is committed and then analyse this process. This cannot be done on ethical grounds. Pro-pornographers capitalise on this.” Similarly, a researcher cannot give someone 30 cigarettes per day for 20 years and then monitor the process of them getting lung cancer, but there are many other ways of linking the causes and effects. Edward Donnerstein, a leading experimental researcher in the field of pornography, points out, “the relationship between sexually violent images in the media and subsequent aggression is much stronger statistically than the relationship between smoking and cancer.” Just one article by Catherine Itzin, reviews over 150 studies that prove the links between harm and pornography.
Many who ignorantly believe that there is no evidence that porn is harmful, have imbibed the lies of the porn industry, which with its massive financial resources, funds public relations firms to establish ‘anti-censorship lobby groups’ with a ‘freedom of speech’ argument. For example the Free Speech Coalition in the U.S. has hired a former ‘porn star’ to lobby politicians and convince law-makers that porn is not just a matter of free speech, but an economic powerhouse. Backed by $300 000 a year, the Coalition persuaded the California state legislature to halt a proposed 5% ‘sin tax’ on porn. This same coalition recently won in the U.S. Supreme Court the right for pornographers to produce and sell pseudo-child porn.
It is customary for pornography advocates to counter the findings on the harm of porn by overstating them. For example: “It is ridiculous to suggest that one look at Hustler magazine turns a man into a rapist.” Of course that would be ridiculous; it’s not what the research is suggesting. Or “pornography can’t compel anyone to act in a particular way.” True, and neither did cigarette advertisements compel anyone to buy their products. Or: “Pornography doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.” True, and neither did cigarette adverts – but their influence is undeniable.
There is a difference between causality and correlation. Dr Catherine Itzin explains:
When evaluating scientific evidence, it is necessary to distinguish between causality and correlation. Although there is evidence of causal links between porn and rape (in the case of copycat crimes, for example) there is an even greater body of research which consistently establishes correlation between porn and sexual violence. Correlation does not prove causality. It never can. Causality is a standard of proof that rarely, if ever, can be achieved, and is rarely, if ever required. However, correlation is itself evidence.
“There is a difference between porn and ‘erotic’ material”.
Some argue that not all pornography is harmful, but as South African sexologist Dr Angelo Grazioli says, “To offer allegedly socially redeeming SEM as a reason for unlimited access and distribution of SEM is similarly illogical. That is analogous to restaurant owners threatened with closure by a health inspector, attempting to justify their right to serve food by pointing to an edible carrot amongst the spoiled, disease-ridden offerings of their salad bar.
The question is often posed, “Are you against erotica?” The difficulty in responding is to know what the questioner means. The word is used very loosely, some people might be thinking of a ‘soft’ pornographic magazine, others of a sex manual. Any material which encourages sex outside of marriage cannot be condoned. The term ‘soft-core’ pornography is also misleading. The pornographers want us to believe that the material is innocent and harmless but the research as cited in Chapter 3 shows very differently.
What about works of art such as nudity on the roof of the Sistine Chapel? We must first recognise the importance of differences between various media. Photography is realistic. A real living woman leaps out of the page. Paintings or statues by comparison convey something deeper than ‘surface realism’. Moreover, the physical beauty of a woman shown naked in a statue does not convey the same domination by men as is often shown by the facial expressions on faces of women in pornographic magazines or on film, nor does it have the same titillating or provoking quality. Of course, there are exceptions which would fail the test because of their realism, explicitness and intention.
- “Pornography can improve your marriage”.
Dr Grazioli is often consulted by people who, because of sexual problems, sought help from SEM. He says, “The misguided and ineffective conclusions and approaches this gained frequently lead to an aggravation of the original dysfunction.” In a seminar on sexuality he said, "Anyone whose sex life is improved by watching strangers copulating had a very poor sex life to start with...”
- “This is too dirty and negative an issue for Christians to get involved in.”
Of course pornography is dirty. That's why Christians must get rid of it. What parent would use the excuse that because the baby's nappy is dirty they must leave it alone? By this view, apathy is ‘clean’, while involvement is ‘dirty’. Rather than dirty our hands in responsible action, we choose to allow pornography to dirty our communities and eventually our families. A Christian must be active – with his or her sleeves rolled up, being willing to get his hands dirty doing what is right.
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.” James 4:17
- “All we can do is pray.”
While this answer seems quite spiritual, it's not Biblical. In Joshua 7, we read of the shocking defeat suffered by the people of Israel at Ai. Joshua tore his clothes, fell face down before the ark of the Lord and remained in prayer until evening. The Bible then records God's response: “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated My Covenant which I commanded them to keep... that is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies!’” Joshua 7:10–12
In effect, God rebuked Joshua – why are you praying? There's sin in the camp! Get up and consecrate the people. Root out the evil from your midst. Prayer is meant to be a foundation for obedient action, not an excuse for inactivity and disobedience.
- “These are the End Times! This is another sign of the end, so it would be pointless to fight pornography when it's inevitable.”
In this negative age of defeatism, Christians so often consider defeat inevitable. But Scripture teaches us that what is inevitable is the ultimate victory of the Kingdom of God (Daniel 2:34–35, 44). Christians are not doomed to defeat but called to victory (Psalm 2:8, 9). It is an abuse of the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ to use it to excuse our apathy and inactivity.
God requires us to work regardless of external circumstances (Luke 12:37–48; 19:13–26). He defined the faithful servant as the one who was not influenced by the delay of his master but continued to faithfully carry out his master's business. By way of contrast, the unfaithful servant is the one who allowed his perception of when his master would return to excuse his inactivity (Matthew 24:45–51).
“We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies... As for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:11–13