In April, 1912, the largest and most luxurious vessel ever built set forth on its maiden voyage. The British liner Titanic had a double bottomed hull, divided into sixteen watertight compartments. Because as many as four of these could be completely flooded without endangering the ship's buoyancy, the Titanic was considered unsinkable (Winocour 1960: 12). On the fateful night of April 14, shortly before midnight, the great liner was steaming through the foggy North Atlantic when it collided with an enormous iceberg. A 300 foot gash was ripped in the ship's right side, rupturing five of its watertight compartments. The Titanic sank into the icy depths, claiming 1,522 lives (Stephens 1987: 51).
A tragic, though often untold story about that night concerns one man on another ship, less than 20 miles away from the Titanic. The other vessel was the Californian, and it could have come to the rescue of the sinking liner, if someone had been listening. Unfortunately, the radio operator had fallen asleep on duty. When help finally reached the disaster area it was too late to save more than a few lives (Wade 1979: 238). The very greatness of the Titanic had caused her crew and passengers to feel inordinately confident. Unsinkable was such an assuring term, but it proved a fatal misjudgment.
Like the Titanic, our great ship of state, America, has gone adrift and is headed for a potentially fatal collision. Many feel she, too, is unsinkable; but that assessment is rooted in feeling, not fact. The truth of the matter is that America has already run into some icebergs that have damaged her hull and she is in grave danger. Each year the industry that produces adult products of one kind or another chalks up profits in excess of 10 billion dollars. That is as much as the legitimate movie and record industries make combined (Wright 1990: 243). Six of the most profitable newsstand monthlies are now male entertainment magazines.
Over 500,000 children are used as models in the child pornography industry (U.S. Department of Justice 1986: 654). The United States Attorney General's publication (1986: 654) on syndicated child pornography noted that over 2,375 monthly publications are produced in America on that subject alone. Pornography is one of the most un selective evil influences in our society. Gambling and tobacco are restricted to adults. Alcohol is not to be sold to anyone under legal drinking age. However, every time you walk past the average convenience store magazine rack some form of pornography stares out at you.
Though some stores have tried to camouflage the blatant sex magazines by covering the racks, others have it available at the register. The aggressive, open marketing of pornographic sex began in 1955. Hugh Hefner, with little money and a center page fold-out of a nude Marilyn More, developed Playboy magazine into one of the most amazing financial success stories in journalistic history. Playboy's successive manipulations and distortions of the image of women typifies the pornography-conditioning process.
As the most influential and pioneering magazine of its kind, it laid the ground work for the whole media's exploitation movement (cited in Morrow and Company 1980: 121). Hefner's magazine has led the way in communicating pornography through pictures and carefully planned written articles. During the 20 years that followed the birth of Playboy, one hundred competitors followed, crowding other magazines off the newsstands. Who could have imagined that the competition in filth would eventually excrete a magazine like Hustler, sold worldwide and currently boasting a serious challenge to Playboy circulation records. The plague of pornography is not limited to the printed page alone.
Can anyone deny that movies are more sexually explicit than ever The film industry does not call it pornography, they call it realism. The movie industries no longer bar perversion from the screen, opening the door for an even lower level of decency in the industry. That which has not been barred from the screen is now no longer barred from the home. Double and triple X rated films are now available through cable television.
They are being sold in stores on video cassettes and little by little are filtered into prime-time television. Children left unattended for even a short period of time could be exposed to the rawest of pornography, simply by turning the dial in the wrong direction. We are drowning our young people in violence, cynicism, and sadism. It can be observed that the grandchildren of the kids who used to weep because the little match girl froze to death now feel cheated if she is not slugged, raped, and thrown into a furnace. Police vice squads report that 77% of the child molesters of boys and 87% of molesters of girls admitted trying out, or imitating the sexual behavior modeled by pornography. Among rapists, 55% said that scenes depicting heterosexual intercourse were transferred from an outside erotic source (photo, book, film) to their fantasy life.
The same held true for 30% of the male pedophiles (U.S. Department of Justice 1992: 237). With explicit magazines, sensual movies and video tapes readily available, our nation is drowning in a sea of sensuality. One half of all divorce takes place because of adultery, often encouraged by pornography (U.S. Bureau of Census 1991). Charles Keating, in a report on pornography to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, reports that a recent study by the Michigan State Police, using a computer to classify over 35,000 sex crimes committed over a 20 year period, found that 43% were pornography related (U.S. Department of Justice 1986: 655). Pornography gives a distorted view of human sexuality. It stresses the erotic without giving so much as a hint of where its path will lead.
A sense of right and wrong is necessary for the life of a civilization. In its absence society will destroy itself. History shows that the loosening of moral bonds is the first stage of disintegration. Pornography constitutes a direct attack on significant relationships because it helps create a mind-set which encourages the treatment of people as sexual objects. Modern pornography is an education system.
It teaches. Its message is: Human beings are mere animals; the highest value is immediate pleasure; other people may be used, abused, and then discarded. It teaches that sex is divorced from love, commitment, morality, and responsibility. That perversion is to be preferred to normality, that women are fair game for anyone who cares to exploit them. No one can accurately calculate the number of divorces, emotional scars, the bondage and the guilt that pornography has brought to society.
Only a massive effort on the part of thousands can possibly cure the disease of pornography. Fortunately, there are groups such as the National Federation for Decency which help to wage the battle against pornography. There are cities in America where adult bookstores have been closed because of the insistence of citizens that the laws be applied. Millions of citizens could, if they wished, boycott those stores where pornography is sold.
In a perfect world the U.S. Attorney General's Office would receive a blizzard of mail requesting the enforcement of the federal law which prohibits obscene materials from moving in interstate commerce. For many citizens the movie theater used to be taboo. Today's generation, by and large, regard it as neutral. A place that can show good or evil. Gradually it has become more difficult to draw the line. Movies that are more risqu often leave people with the knowledge that they could have been better had some scenes been cut.
Offenses are tolerated, often with the excuse that it is no worse than what you can see on television. Fueled by the explosive power of sexuality, the invisible line has been pushed farther and farther down the path of sensuality. Young people particularly are bound to find ways to view sexually provocative movies. Many parents wonder why their children's moral views and behavior seem looser than previous generations. Now with the video and cable television explosion everything is up for grabs.
The issue of legislation governing pornography remains a major debate on the American scene. Shall legislation be further framed to abolish pornography or does such legislation become censorship and a violation of civil rights Freedom of speech does not give any person the right to walk onto the floor of Congress and speak their mind. Their liberty is limited not only as to where they can say it but what he says. No individual has a right to slander others, nor do our laws allow him or her the liberty to do so at will. This does not mean that he or she lacks freedom to speak, if it be done decently and in order. Freedom of the press means the liberty to publish, but it does not mean liberty to publish libelous or inflammatory statements.
Nor has anyone the right to publish another person's property, to publish stolen or copyrighted materials. No one has the right to publish materials violating the privacy rights of others. Can we give anyone unlimited liberty to do as they please Can people rob each other whenever they see fit Kill at will If permitted, soon no one would have liberty. Even liberty itself is under law.
The basic premise of American law calls for liberty of speech and freedom of press, subject to the necessary restrictions of law and order. The purpose of current legislative proposals concerning pornography is not the destruction of liberty but its furtherance. Pornography demands a world of moral anarchy, a world in which anything and everything goes, especially if it is perverted. It is hostile to law and order itself. Pornography denies the very concept of law. It believes in a world without law and is dedicated to creating it.
It must destroy liberty in order to usher in anarchy and a world without law. Under the cloak and name of liberty, the pornographers are out to destroy liberty. The defense of our historic American system of liberty under law requires that we wage war against pornography.
Morrow, William and Company. 1980.
Interview with Judith Bat-Ada by Laura Lederer. Pp. 121 in Take Back the Night. New York: Free Press. Stephens, Patrick. 1987.
Disasters at Sea. Ed. by Milton Watson. NewYork: Wellingborough Press. U.S. Bureau of Census. 1991.
Statistical Abstract of the U.S... Washington, DC: Author. U.S. Department of Justice. 1986.
Attorney General's Commission on Pornography. 1992.
Crime in the U.S. Uniform Crime Reports. Washington, DC: Author. Wade, Craig. 1979.
The Titanic- End of a Dream. New York: Rawson and Wade Publishers. Winocour, Jack. 1960.
The Story of the Titanic. New York: Dover Publications. Wright, John. 1990.