Tuesday, August 18

The Pornography Industry and the Stripping of Human Dignity


Catholic teaching on social justice is largely concerned with victims of oppression and marginalization. The pornography industry would fall into this category. Pornography is a system of supply and demand, and is largely an industry run by human trafficking. From a more societal level, what has become socially acceptable sexual promiscuity and sexual exploitation has desensitized the public to harmful depictions of sexuality. One need only look at the media - tabloids explore the sexual lives of celebrities, TV and films show sexually active (unmarried) characters who “hook up” or, if married, have affairs. Consider popular music, which glorifies sexual promiscuity yet mocks virginity. Some of the popular songs over the last few years have been “I’m a Slave 4 U” by Brittney Spears, “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, and others. The verb “to pimp” has come to mean “to improve” - i.e., “Pimp my Ride” TV show. Children play video games such as “Grand Theft Auto,”in which you can pay to have sex with a prostitute, then shoot her - criminal activity has become the norm.[1] This comes from a deep rooted problem in society, the increasing sexualization and criminalization of culture at all levels. If you were to do a comparison between a clothed porn star and a teen model in a teen magazine - they are virtually the same. Even the clothing of younger children has become eroticised.[2] We have become so desensitized that society has become pornified, creating structures of sin within the society. 

But what is pornography? Pornography can be defined as “books, photographs, magazines, art, or music designed to excite sexual impulses and considered by public authorities or public opinion as in violation of accepted standards of sexual morality. American courts have not yet settled on a satisfactory definition of what constitutes pornographic material.”[3] Bearing this definition in mind, consider the staggering statistics: pornography is filmed every 30 minutes; every second there are over 30,000 people watching porn; the U.S. produces 89% of pornography, and pornography is a roughly $13,000,000,000 industry.[4] There are 68 million searches a day for pornographic content, and the average age of initial porn exposure is age 11.[5] Half of all hotel guests order pornographic movies.[6] There are 100 thousand websites offering illegal child pornography.[7] 75-77% of males have downloaded porn in their lives.[8] Only 20% of males consciously abstain from viewing pornography - and 58% of women believe that pornography is demeaning to women while only 37% of men agree.[9] Also, the making of pornographic films is considered prostitution in 48 states, and is only allowed in California and New Hampshire - which is why most of the pornography industry is produced in central California.[10]

Now, by looking at the history of pornography, we can come to understand that pornography is not a new issue, and understand how it has come to be what it is today. By looking at the abuses of the industry, we can pull back the wool from our eyes and begin to see what goes on behind the scenes. By looking at the HIV crisis, rape culture and human trafficking, we can begin to see the industry’s heavy involvement in each - and by looking at Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and relevant Catholic Social Justice principles, we can begin to think of these challenges in more constructive ways and begin to come up with ways to help those effected by the industry.  

A Brief History of Pornography
Pornography is not a new development - it has undergone a long process, and stretches across cultures and across different eras of history. For example, the ancient Hindu manual, the Kama Sutra, detailed sexual positions. Erotic Asian paintings also exposed sexual acts. Much earlier, around 5200 BC, we find sculptures made by German hunter-gatherers of a man and woman having sexual intercourse.[11] A few thousand years later, around AD 79, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the Roman city of Pompeii under lava and ash. When the city was excavated in the 18th-19th centuries, the Europeans - who had prided themselves on being the intellectual heirs of ancient Rome, were utterly scandalized by the hundreds of frescoes containing sexually explicit content in the ruins of Pompeii.[12] A few hundred years later, in AD 950, the Hindu temples at at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India were under construction. These temples contain very intricate and sexually explicit sculptures.[13] 

Following the Protestant Reformation, in 1557, Pope Paul IV prepared the Catholic Church’s first index of banned books. While most of the 550 books were banned for theological reasons, some were sexually explicit, such as Boccaccio's Decameron.[14] About two hundred years later, John Cleland published a novel titled Memoirs of a Woman in Pleasure, which was later called The Life and Adventures of Fanny Hill. It was seized by British officials and banned until the 1960s.[15] In 1857, Robley Dunglison published his Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science and used the term "pornography," which he defined as "a description of prostitutes or of prostitution, as a matter of public hygiene."[16] The term then spread as a blanket term for any material that was sexually explicit. Eight years later, Victorine Meurent posed as a nude prostitute in Édouard Manet's Olympia, which scandalized many, not necessarily because of the nudity itself but rather because of the “un-lady-like” manner in which she presented herself.[17] Before the end of the century, in 1899, Eugéne Pirou made the first known softcore film, Coucher de la Mariée. Louise Willy, the actress, performed a striptease and bathed on film.[18]

Moving into the 20th century, in 1908, L'Ecu d'Or ou la Bonne Auberge was distributed - the earliest surviving hardcore pornographic film. It was not, however, the first hardcore film in existence, as censors had destroyed many early examples that had generally been shown in brothels.[19] By 1969, Denmark legalized pornography and became the first country to do so. In 1973, the landmark case Miller v. California transpired. In it, the United States Supreme Court defined obscenity by utilizing a three-part test: “1) the average person must find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 2) the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; 3) the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Later, with the advent of the internet in 1994, anyone could become a producer of porn.[20]

Pornography was once called smut and if it went to far, it was considered obscene. Today, we make the distinction between “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography. Soft-core pornography depicts nudity whereas hard-core pornography engages in graphic sexual depictions of any kind.[21] Early on, much of these films were criminal. In much of the 20th century, in order to view pornography of any sort, you had to go to a peepshow, dirty book stores, and so forth. Early on one could tell it was dirty, especially when cops had to wear plastic bags on their shoes just to walk in.[22] At this point, one could walk into their local 7-11 and find pornography, or open a phone book and see pornography hot-lines listed.[23] In the 1970s and 1980s trials were held and most of the pornography kingpins were arrested and convicted. But this did not eliminate the problem, it merely slowed it. By the early 1990s, federal porn prosecutions essentially stopped. Under President Clinton, the Obscenity Task Force was all but disbanded. This led to a boom in the Pornography industry that - aside from HIV scandals - has not really slowed. Now, since television and films are becoming increasingly sexualized, the pornography industry has to keep amping up the obscenity to try and top it.[24] We may ask, “Has a world that has home-delivered fetishes lost its ability to be offended and its ability to care?”[25]

What's Wrong with Pornography?
Some have seen pornography as an avenue to explore their sexuality - but one would argue that this is not a healthy exploration. In actuality, pornography degrades and dehumanizes women and men alike. What is wrong with pornography? As will soon be clear, pornography degrades sexual intercourse, and all beings - not only women, but men as well. Pornography frequently promotes as well as glorifies “sadism, masochism, rape, incest, pedophilia, misogyny, and violence against women and girls. Pornography can and does harm relationships, marriages, children and families. It also creates demand for prostitution and international sex trafficking. Furthermore, it is a highly unregulated and abusive industry that frequently exploits vulnerable survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Allowing all of these harms to go unchecked by remaining silent is not an acceptable option.”[26] Critics hold that anti-pornographers only single out the worst scenes, but in a study of the top 300 videos or so, and it was found that 89% contained physical violence and 49% contained verbal abuse, and 94% of the aggressive acts were targeted at women.[27] It seems clear that there are a number of harms associated with pornography. In the Catholic tradition, we would say that we are made in the image of God, but the utter degradation and humiliation of human beings is not respecting or upholding human dignity. Pornography is seen as socially acceptable, but by looking “behind the scenes,” we may begin to unsettle some of the structures of sin that have been set in place.

Exposing Pornography: Degradation at all Levels
Catholic Social Teaching upholds the dignity of the human person at its core. But pornography is wholly antithetical to this. Instead, “pornography violates the privacy of the human body and debases human dignity by turning people into objects to be used rather than person to be respected.”[28] As will later be discussed, pornography leads to an increase in rape culture, human trafficking, the desentization of the human person, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, and the amount of drug abuse as well as sexual exploitation and misconduct.[29] One producer that calls itself Dead Parrot Productions, specifically caters to the those who seek sado-masochism and self-destruction.[30] Evidently, pornography is a very self-destructive engagement. The high rate of suicides among pornography actresses is an indicator of this.[31] 

The idea of "stripping," particularly in pornography, goes well beyond the act of disrobing. Rather, this stripping of human dignity also represents the stripping of “inner qualities as well: character, moral values, shame, fundamental decency, restraint. The logical end-point of such pornographic stripping is the complete dissolution of the self.”[32] We may liken this “stripping” to the stripping of the garments and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus - just as he was stripped of his dignity and humanity and crucified, so too, those who are victims of pornography are stripped of their dignity and “crucified.” By looking at the cases of four women - Vanessa, Felicity, Belladonna and Belle, we can begin to see this “crucifixion” and stripping of the human person and begin to expose the industry’s abuses. 

We may begin our exploration of the industry’s abuses with anecdotal considerations from ex-pornography star Vanessa Belmond. Vanessa started stripping at age 18 and began filming pornography at age 19.[33] She expected to start off with softcore pornography, nude modeling and so forth, but the “occupational hazards” began right away. Vanessa contracted chlamydia in her first scene, and later contracted it three-four times or more, she contracted gonorrhea, and often had bacterial infections.[34] Although the industry requires each person to get tested every fourteen days (formerly twenty-eight days, only recently changed), from one day to the next you may receive an STD.[35] Concerning gang-bang scenes she stated, “My throat actually started bleeding during one of them. Mentally it is also very hard, because you’re doing something so unnatural - you’re letting four, five, six, seven, eight men have sex with you. That’s not a natural thing.”[36] After seven years, Vanessa decided to escape the industry, but the experience stays with her. “No one really wants to date an ex-porn star... Who’s going to have kids with an ex-porn star? Even when I’m sixty I’m still going to have this porn on the internet. It’s like having a virus that never goes away.”[37] Vanessa, after leaving in 2013, became a writer, advocate and volunteer for the organization AntiPornography.org, a non-religious and non-partisan website dedicated to helping the victims of pornography.

A second case is worth considering. Filmed in 2001, the documentary “Hardcore” is the story of Felicity, an British girl who came to Los Angeles to become a porn star.[38] She came because - as aforementioned - California is the capital of the adult film industry, where as many as 4,000 porn movies are shot in LA alone, with an average of four sex scenes per movie.[39] Felicity was there for about three weeks, but the reality turned out to be very different than what she had anticipated. At the time of filming, she was a 25-year old single mother of a five-year old daughter. Felicity read about a modeling position in the States while home in Essex - “models required, all ages, shapes and sizes.” Richard, the man who invited her (and became her agent), was in England looking for “models” willing to come to the United States. After Felicity decided to come to the States, Richard told the director, “I wouldn’t have invited her if I didn’t think she was going to be a success... we’re here to make money. That’s what we’re here for, right? If she makes money, I make money. So everybody’s happy.”[40] Following this, she filmed her first scene - worth $600, a film called “Decadent Divas”. If you do pornographic films, you make about $15,000-25,000 a month.[41] 

Now, despite the fact that Felicity refused to do certain kinds of sex, Richard kept forcing her to film. When she finally canceled those scenes, Richard flipped and screamed, “I know it’s not ****ing pleasant! But it is part of the job! And you did tell people you would do it! And I don’t get ****ing paid any money, if you don’t work!” The next day, he took her to film a gang-bang scene. The organizer did not know how many guys there were supposed to be, “10, maybe? 8? I don’t know...” After seeing this done, Felicity stated, “I’m not prepared to be abused like that. Yes, I’m in the business but I won’t be abused like that.” Richard was not happy, but adhered to her wishes - then essentially dragged her to meet a man notorious for his work in the pornography industry known as Max Hardcore. 

As his name suggests, he is known for making hardcore pornography, specializing in all kinds of abuse. He is also an alcoholic, and has been known to beat women. At this point, Felicity did not plan on shooting, but she was mislead - she was not simply meeting Max Hardcore, she was going to be shooting with him. This is force. Upon entering the room, her first and only introduction was Max forcing her to get naked and raping her. Once they started filming, Max tried violently forcing himself on her - and she went and cried. Her director sat by and did nothing. Initially, Max tried talking with her in a “fatherly” way, but he ended with “you sound like a little school girl. I don’t appreciate your ****ing effort. I’ve got important **** to do. You didn’t even try... You’re a ****ing loser. You didn’t put no ****ing effort into this.” Here, there was no love or intimacy of marriage or any kind of relationship involved. This was pure degradation. The next day, Felicity ended up doing the gangbang scene she had refused before, and she signed up with another director. She began doing the kind of scenes she had refused to do previously, and was also willing to degrade herself by calling herself names. 

Felicity gave up her career fifteen months later. She now works in a wine bar and lives alone with her daughter. Following a viewing of this documentary, one comment (from “Anonymous”) said, “Good film. I purposefully went and found this washed up whore's scene in Rough Sex 2. It was awesome. She got destroyed like she... deserves. I love Max Hardcore... I exclusively watch degrading rough porn nowadays. I find it offers a wonderful release from a world infested with feminism... Women are sex objects with three holes ripe for the ****ing... I enjoyed... Felicity's degradation. If you are reading this Felicity I want you to know how ****ing funny I think it is that you can never take what you did on film back. They chewed you up and spat you out...There's always another whore to take your place you filthy ****ing slut. You are worthless.”[42] These extremely disturbing comments are wholly antithetical to Catholic teaching on the human person. Felicity was created with inherent dignity, value and worth, and was created for a purpose. The role of a woman is not serving as a sex object or a sex toy for men. Having been made in the image of God, Felicity bears the image of Christ in the world - and has through her experiences become “crucified” and stripped of her dignity. Comments such as these exemplify the need for a healthier attitude toward human sexuality, a healthier view of females as God’s creation, and the need for our society to have a metanoia - a “shifting of the mind” in which we uphold, not degrade, men and women alike.

Consider now the case of hard-core pornography performer “Belladonna,” who admits that she was coerced and pressured into doing painful and harmful sex acts by pornography directors. Belladonna is the stage name of Michelle, who began when she was 18 years old.[43] This daughter of a Bishop in the Mormon Church became one of the most talked about stars in one of the roughest parts of porn. She had initially declined to do sex on film, but after needing the money, gave in. Michelle’s director sent her to what he said would earn her a lot of money: a real prison, with twelve male actors in prison outfits. She initially resisted with a variety of excuses, but the director was insistent. Now, the price of pornographic scenes has gone up a bit since Felicity’s time in the early 2000s, and now ranges from $350-$1000. But for these prison scenes, Michelle was offered $4000. Afterward she said, “It was really hard. Because I really, really really felt like a piece of meat... I had to do a lot of things that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do.”[44] She could not stop crying afterward. The man in charge of the Erotic Network on TV said, “I don’t think that we can take responsibility for what we’re doing to society. I think society is taking the entertainment community where it wants to go.”[45] During her time in the industry thus far, Michelle has already contracted chlamydia, a disease which can make you sterile, she has attempted suicide, and started using drugs during sex scenes. But Michelle always smiles, because she says she likes to hide, “I hide because I want everyone to see how happy I am. But inside... I’m not really happy. I don’t like myself. At all.”[46]

A few years ago, Belle Knox, real name Miriam Weeks, swept the news. When Miriam was in 8th grade, she started cutting and carved “FAT” on her thigh, and she was raped when she was a child.[47] This created a lot of psychological baggage and self-confidence issues for Miriam. When she turned 18 and entered college, she had a bill of $4,300 to pay every month. She did not know how to pay for it, and did not want to get into drugs, but she did love sex. As a result, Miriam googled “how to be a porn star.” After shooting several scenes in California, she was confident that she would not get caught. One evening, she confided her secret in one of her friends, who got drunk that night and within a few days, all of Duke University learned her secret.[48] Following this, Miriam was bullied and stalked by students at Duke. But she was also bullied on-camera. In one scene with a Russian male, Miriam was gagged, beaten and verbally degraded. As a result of pornography such as this, men come to believe that whatever you do to a woman, she will love it, and that women have no boundaries. It seems that Miriam is experiencing what most women feel as a result of pornography - in the real world, you can be treated with a lot of resentment and hatefulness. 

It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where women are paid more for that than any other job.[49] Over the course of one year, Miriam will pay Duke University $60,000, and in four years - $180,000. She makes about $1,500 per video.[50] In doing so, she has already put a value on what she is worth, and on her sexuality. But after you take out all of the taxes - and pornography agents make 10-15% - Miriam would have do over 270 sex scenes in order to pay for college.[51] She has stated, “I think my experiences have aged me. I have the emotional baggage of somebody much, much older than me... I think that people see Belle but they don’t see Miriam. They don’t see what I’m actually like.” Miriam was interviewed about a scene where she was brutalized and even had a tear coming down her face. Ever the champion of porn, she initially said it was fine - but later said that she absolutely regretted that scene. Miriam said, “No one wants to consider the lives of the women behind the camera. No one wants to her about the exploitation and abuses that take place. No one wants to hear about the violence committed every day against sex workers. No one wants to consider that we have hopes and dreams.”[52] Currently, Miriam is scheduled to graduate Duke University in 2016 with a degree in Sociology, and she continues to pay her tuition with money made from pornography.[53] 

Now, there is one company, Extreme Associates, which films only extreme porn. Commenting on one extreme scene, the producer said “[we know] she’s being degraded... People are bored with the other stuff. People want this.” The actress didn’t know what she was getting herself into, and was told to go with the flow. The response from the director was, “She’s my best friend. She likes it. She’ll understand. And afterward, I’ll give her a hug, take her out to dinner and we’ll go shopping or something.” This producer, who disturbingly calls herself “Lizzy Borden,” said that her father was an alcoholic and claims that she got into porn so she could take our her issues and aggression on other people. She knows it’s hurtful to others but says, “so what? It’s good for me! So I guess that’s all that matters.”[54] It is this kind of pornography produced by Extreme Associates and others that led pornography industry attorney Paul Cambria to craft a list known as the “Cambria List,” which is intended to restrict certain extreme forms of pornography. 

Most pornographers try their best to avoid all of what is on the Cambria List, but the aforementioned producer and star Max Hardcore showcased most of what is on this list, and more. Paul Little - better known as Max Hardcore - the same man from the Hardcore documentary, was charged on 10 counts of obscenity on the internet and his company was fined over $80,000. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison. For Anti-Pornographers, this was a victory and for the industry, it served as a warning. He commented, “Society demanded it. They’re more people buying my videos than there are people protesting my videos.” The courts used the same standards set in Miller vs. California to convict his videos as “obscene.”[55] Patrick Trueman, US Department of Justice and Chief of Child Exploitation & Obscenity section, holds that there is no question that all major porn companies violate this list. It’s simply not that enforced.[56] Further, as we will see, the industry is also involved in the HIV Crisis, human trafficking and rape culture - which should continue to unsettle the acceptableness of pornography and cause us to work toward a healthier view of the human person.

Pornography and the HIV Crisis
One of the reasons that Catholic Social Justice upholds waiting until marriage as the moral choice for sexual intercourse is sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If a partner has not had a sexual history, there is less risk of having an STD, and thus, less chance of exposing your partner. In pornography, however, we find two people who have not made a marital commitment to each other, who also may have had sex with ten other individuals that very week. As a result, in pornography, STDs have become a growing issue - epitomized in the HIV Crisis. In 2012, pornography star Cameron Adams (formerly Cameron Bays) contracted HIV. For a while, most of the industry shut down while people were tested.[57] But this was not the first incident. In 2004, ex-pornography star Darren James contracted HIV.[58] Directly or indirectly, 53 people had been exposed to Darren James and another porn star in just one month - who now were HIV Positive.[59] 

Now, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires employees to be protected “from hazards associated with blood-borne pathogens.” The regulations clearly state that the employers must clearly use condom. But the industry doesn’t want to use condoms because they do not think it will sell as well. Of all the major studies in the California porn industry, only one studio requires condom use: Wicked Pictures. Adams stated, “A girl could shoot 15-20 times a month, sometimes with multiple partners in one scene. If she is escorting, that may be 10-15 added. And whatever her personal life may be.”[60] Thus, there is a large risk for contracting HIV. Adams visited the California Senate on May 21, 2014, in support of AB 1576 - a bill to mandate condom usage in the pornography industry to protect the performers. The industry told her that she had to test for HIV every 28 days, and was told to perform without condoms, otherwise she would be replaced. 

The industry does not pay for the HIV medication, but the taxpayers do. While producers are making a lot of money on the man or woman, the taxpayer is left with a bill that accumulates to over half a million dollars over a lifetime. What about the performers who contracted HIV last year? Adams pointed out, “That’s over 2.4 million dollars coming out of taxpayer’s pockets. Condoms cost... only four cents. HIV meds cost over half a million dollars. It’s time for the adult film industry to consider health and safety over their profits.”[61] By 2013, HIV testing had changed from 28 day testing to 14 day testing - but someone could still catch HIV from one day to the next. The industry does not care about the safety of their performers, because the basic motivation of the industry is “chew them up and spit them out.”[62] 

The Pornography Industry and Human Trafficking
"Pornography is a marketing device for sex trafficking: It normalizes degradation and violence as acceptable and even inevitable parts of sex, and uses the bodies of real women and children as objects. The difference between pornography and erotica is clear in the roots of the words themselves -- porne means females slaves, eros means love -- so pornography, like rape, is about violence and domination, not sex. Millions of lives depend on our ability to separate pornography from erotica, and to disentangle violence from sexuality." - Gloria Steinem, 2006[63]

Of the roughly 20.9 million people who are slaves today, an estimated 4.5 million people are used in sexual exploitation.[64] In fact, one porn producer recently said “I buy and sell human flesh.”[65] Catholic social teaching speaks to this enormous problem. Human trafficking - not only sex slavery but also child laborers and others, denies the dignity of the human person, and creates unfair wages, poor working conditions, and sexual violence that violates their whole being and not only rapes their body but also their mind. Now, between 2005-2006, Shared Hope International investigated the commercial sex trade in four countries to reveal the buyer demand on victims of sex trafficking markets. According to United Nations protocol, anytime a person is recruited, harbored, moved, forced, tricked or coerced into a paid sex act, they have been trafficked.[66] For many, going to see a sex slave is like going to the supermarket in which human beings are the product. A large number of the victims of these pimps and crime bosses are children.The buyer is supporting human suffering, human pain, human slavery, and are not looking for a relationship, but for exploitation. On average, victims of human trafficking have to have sex with 15-25 men a day.[67] 

On the internet, page views essentially turn into money. By going to pornography websites and clicking on videos, more money goes to support the providers, and thus - it supports human trafficking.[68] Trafficked victims are often used for the most violent kinds of pornography, and these are made more and more because the demand continues to increase.[69] As as a result, when men, for example, seek to pay women for sex they already have an idea of what kind of sexual acts they want, as they have watched it in pornography. Consider the case of a young woman named Jessica. Much like Belle Knox, Jessica was struggling to pay for her college tuition, so she signed up to star in a pornography solo scene. When she arrived, she was nervous, so they gave her a stiff drink, which knocked her out. When she awoke a few hours later, her body was brutalized, and she was dressed, in her car, with the money. Shortly afterward, these same people began to control her life, and sold her to someone in Canada. Ten years later, after escaping the industry, someone came up to her following an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and said, “hey! You’re [so and so] from porn videos!” The man referenced what she was wearing in the very video she was raped in, thinking she would be flattered that he remembered her work. As speaker Daniel Gilman pointed out, “having someone watching and enjoying your rape is horrifying. But he had no idea it was rape, or that she was afterward trafficked. People still watch that scene - the rape of a woman. Those who watch videos online have no way of knowing whether the people in the film agreed to have sex, or whether it was rape.”[70] 

Pornography, Hentai and Rape Culture
Pornography makes rape not only acceptable but the norm - it glorifies rape. Although “rape culture” is a hotly debated topic in society, we may define rape culture as something that “develop[s] when prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate and condone rape. Examples of this behavior are victim blaming, sexual objectification and trivializing rape.”[71] Women are seen in pornography as nothing more than an object that can take massive amounts of pain.[72] In fact, some studies suggest a psychological link between pornography and sadistic violence, and that those who view this material “come to lack reverence or respect for others as precious children of God and as brothers and sisters in the same human family.”[73] The aforementioned “soft-core” pornography can also greatly desentitize individuals to the rights and dignity of other human beings, which tends to lead to watching more “hard-core” forms of pornography. In the worst cases, pornography has seemingly influenced the behavior of sexual offenders, including child molesters, rapists and killers.[74] One form of pornography in particular has been prominent in the ongoing discussion about pornography and rape culture: cartoon pornography, hentai and its sub-genre of lolikon (child hentai). Although hentai, a Japanese animation-style form of pornography, does not involve real actors and actresses, the very ideology is centered on rape, which can have very real-world consequences for the human person.

Hentai essentially makes sexual violence into entertainment. More often than not, this kind of pornography is seen in online clickable games, which are focused specifically on the women. These women are are light-skinned, are large-eyed, and have toned, hairless bodies - and on most occasions, these women look like a mixture between child and adult.[75] The sub-genre, lolikon, intentionally portrays women who look like young girls or even toddlers. The point of the games is the rape of the woman, who are seen as enjoying the rape. Sadly, many children’s cartoons have been made into cartoon pornography, so that a child innocently searching online about their favorite television program will oftentimes stumble upon this kind of imagery, exposing a child to hardcore images years before they can contextually understand the images.[76] Through the consumption of these products, the objectification of the female body as well as the enjoyment of rape is propagated. Estela López, in her analysis of cartoon pornography writes that “Even though these are not real women in the flesh experiencing rape, these cartoonists make abuse of women into a joke. Cartoon porn is not a powerless fantasy... they created... pornography that ramps up the violence to degrees impossible in real life and they show women enjoying this pure degradation and abuse. Men are not held accountable in cartoon pornography for the rape they commit, because non-human monsters replace them... Cartoon pornographers are the brains behind these monsters and we must remember how they exercise control over women by designing these pictures and movies.”[77]

Consider now an example of the connection between rape and the pornography industry. In a meta-analysis of 46 studies published from 1962-1995, comprising a total sample of 12,323 people, researchers concluded that pornographic material puts one at an increased risk of committing sexual offenses.[78] Now, given the aforementioned connections between the pornography industry, an increase in rape culture, human trafficking, the desentization of the human person, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, the amount of drug abuse as well as sexual exploitation and misconduct, the Catholic tradition would call for a transformative view of the human person - a theology of the body rooted in Catholic Social Justice.[79]

Developing a Theology of the Body
You have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:20

The “Theology of the Body” began as a series of 129 lectures given by Pope John Paul II between 1979-1984 in an effort to help Catholics develop a healthier view of human sexuality and the dignity of the human person. The Pope argued that sex is a gift from God, and that human beings were created with sexual desires which are themselves healthy and good.[80] However, when someone lives out a misdirected sexuality, this becomes the “god” of their lives, and can lead to a loss of control. Thus, what was intended to something intimate and healthy between a married couple, is now seen in a distorted way that further deteriorates one’s respect for one’s own sexuality and the very personhood of others.[81] Pornography, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials."[82]

As a result, the theology of the body places an emphasis on the beauty of human sexuality, and the Church declares that “sex should always be life giving, not destructive, dominating, violent, or commercialized. This is why the metaphor Jesus frequently uses for heaven is the wedding banquet, friends and family singing, dancing, and eating in the celebration of love. Pornography cannot ultimately compete with this joy for which God made us.”[83] In the Edenic paradise, there was an original solace, an original nakedness and an original unity. The Pope’s theology of the body would teach that our body is a sacrament of the person. If the body is a sacrament of the human person, then misusing it cuts down intimacy and self-gift.[84] Prior to becoming Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla wrote a book titled, Love and Responsibility. Although some say that the opposite of love is hate, Wotyla taught that the opposite of love is use. The idea is that if you do not love someone, you will end up using that person - this is known as the Personalistic Norm. This essentially means that we should never use a person as an object for our own pleasure, but rather, to respond to a person with love. Thus, Love and Responsibility declares that “the structure of love is that of an interpersonal communion,”[85] in which we find a reflection of the Trinity as a communion of love. Further, the virtue of chastity is seen here in its association with the theological virtue of love. Chastity is not seen as a a “no” but as a “yes” - “a yes to another person as a person and not as an object to be used.”[86]

This is why CST upholds the dignity of the human person, personal freedom associated with many rights, and the common good. An important Church document entitled Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response describes pornography this way: “Pornography in the media is understood as a violation, through the use of audio-visual techniques, of the right to privacy of the human body in its male or female nature, a violation which reduces the human person and human body to an anonymous object of misuse for the purpose of gratifying lustful desires.” Those who support pornography stress the freedom provided for by human rights, particularly in the U.S. - freedom of speech, freedom of expression, as well as freedom in “writing, publishing, painting, photography, film-making, on the Internet, and so forth. They fight any limitation on pornography because they fear it will limit artistic expression and access to truth. Further, they see efforts at censorship in this area as leading to the thwarting of unpopular views that need to be heard in a free society.”[87] 

However, these words and images - as seen in the cases cited earlier - are psychologically, physically and spiritually harmful. There are a number of studies which point out that viewing sexual material makes men more willing to be aggressive to women.[88] Further, the term “Common Good” indicates the kind of social conditions in which people can reach their highest potential and society can come to a “good” shared by all.[89] All of the individuals in the pornography industry have dignity, value and worth, and under both CST and the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, we should continue to defend the rights of the human person to promote the dignity and common good of everyone. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The words of Jesus point to the dignity of every human person - also in an effort to promote the common good. The way we look at another person reflects our heart. Proverbs 27:19 echoes this, saying, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” This is why Pope John Paul II refers to the pornography industry is the modern day version of David and Bathsheba: just as David could not protect the child that Bathsheba bore for him, pornography cripples a man’s ability to spiritually protect himself , the woman he loves, and his family.[90] 

Moving Forward
“There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” - Pope John Paul II

The industry and the images it produces reduce the person being lusted over to body parts only. There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. What do we do about this growing problem? The first step in solving any problem is to point it out, to raise awareness - in other words, to name it. During the exorcism of a demon, Jesus asked, “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9). In ancient Jewish thought, knowing “the name” is to have power over a given thing, the modern equivalent of which would be the Twelve Step program in Alcoholics Anonymous. Being able to understand what transpires “behind the scenes” in the pornography industry as well as understanding its relationship to human trafficking, rape culture and the HIV Crisis can give us power over the industry. 

It is for this reason that we may continue to a develop a more refined theology of the body in an age when pornography is no longer a mere sculpture or fresco - but a violent industry run by objectification and the stripping of human dignity. The Church calls on its people to not only raise awareness about the abuses of the industry, but also help to foster healthier attitudes and actions concerning sexuality. It was once bluntly stated on a pornography website that “Porn destroys women. That’s why we love it.”[91] Pornography does indeed destroy women - both those in the industry and those outside of it. It also destroys girls, boys, and all men globally, and thus all humanity. It is an industry which commonly calls women “sluts”, and “whores”, and sells products which promote cruelty and abuse. Thus, we can choose to let pornographers desentitize human compassion and empathy, harm innocent children, destroy relationships, marriages and families, and fuel international sex trafficking & sexual slavery, or we can choose to do something about it.[92] 

There are many helpful ministries and programs that are helpful for those effected by the industry - Dirty Girl Ministries, XXXChurch, Anti-Pornography.org, NoPornPledge.com the Sex Workers Outreach Project, CP80.org, CleanHotels.com, MoralityinMedia.org, and many others. But although various resources exist for victims within and outside of the industry, the Body of Christ must continue to do more. The social teaching calls on the Body of Christ to uphold and defend the dignity of the human person. We must therefore continue to re-read the language of the body in truth and in love, all the while upholding the dignity of the human person, following the injunction of St. Paul: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). The pornography industry constitutes what Vatican II and the encyclical tradition would call “structures of sin,” and is part of a seemingly omnipresent “entertainment.” In order to fight against these structures of sin, uphold the dignity and rights of the human person and work for the common good of all people, Christians and non-Christians must work together to build up the “crucified” victims who have been stripped of their dignity and endeavor to instill a sense of dignity, respect and love in our continually pornified world.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
- Margaret Mead -

[1] Demand. Shared Hope International, 2011. Film.
[2] Sexy Inc.: Our Children Under the Influence. Women Make Movies, 2007. Film.
[3] "pornography." The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Houghton Mifflin Company, 3rd ed. 2005.
[4] "Pornography and Sex Industry Statistics." Anti-Pornography. Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Web.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Madigan, Nick. “Sex-Film Industry Threatened With Condom Requirement”. New York Times, 24 August, 2004. Web.
[7] Finn, Bishop Robert W. "Blessed Are The Pure In Heart: A Pastoral Letter on the Dignity of the Human Person and the Dangers of Pornography." Catholic Culture. Trinity Communications, 21 Feb. 2007. Web. (Quoting a U.S. Customs Service estimate).
[8] King, Jason. "Porn." Catholic Moral Theology RSS. WordPress. Web.
[9] Ibid.
[10] "HIV Scare Hits Porn Industry." ABC News. ABC News Network, 23 Aug. 2013. Web.
[11] Head, Tom. "History of Pornography - A Short Timeline." About News. About.com. Web.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Gilman. Daniel. "How Porn Fuels Human Trafficking - Anti-Porn Event." YouTube, 17 Apr. 2014. Web.
[21] Pennock, Michael. "Catholic Social Justice: An Overview." Catholic Social Teaching: Learning & Living Justice. 1st Ed. ed. Notre Dame: Ave Maria, 2007. 22. Print.
[22] "American Porn." Frontline. PBS, 2002.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Picker, Miguel. The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality & Relationships. 2008. Documentary.
[28] Kaplan, Sarah. "Brooke Axtell, Survivor of Human Trafficking and Domestic Abuse, Storms the Grammys." The Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2015. Web.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid.
[31] DeMarco, Donald. "Pornography: Formula for Despair." Marriage and the Family. Catholic Education Resource Center, 2010. Web. (quoting Jeffrey, Lisa. "Hard-core Capitalists," Canadian Business, 1984. 44. Print.)
[32] Ibid.
[33] Date My Porn Star. 2013. Film.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Ibid.
[37] Ibid.
[38] Walker, Stephen. Hardcore. 2000. Film.
[39] There are about 10,000 pornography films made in California each year ("Young Women, Porn, and Profits: America's Secret Affair." Primetime. ABC News Network, 2008. Web.)
[40] Walker.
[41] "Young Women, Porn and Profits: America’s Secret Affair".
[42] "Hardcore - Stephen Walker Documentary (comments)." Blogger, 15 July 2011. Web. .
[43] Sawyer, Diane. "Porn Star Belladonna Interview." Primetime. ABC News Network, 2007. Web.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Ibid.
[46] Ibid.
[47] "Becoming Belle Knox." The Scene, 1 Sept. 2014. Documentary.
[48] Ibid.
[49] "Duke Freshman Teen ‘Porn Star’ Belle Knox Defends Porn as ‘Empowering.’ AntiPornography.org Responds." Anti-Pornography, 1 Mar. 2014. Video.
[50] "Whoopie Goldberg Defends Duke University "PORN STAR" Belle Knox." The View. ABC News Network, 19 Mar. 2014. Web.
[51] Ibid.
[52] Gilman.
[53] “Becoming Belle Knox”.
[54] “American Porn.”
[55] Lee.
[56] Ibid.
[57] "HIV Scare Hits Porn Industry."
[58] Ibid.
[59] "Young Women, Porn and Profits: America’s Secret Affair"
[60] "HIV Scare Hits Porn Industry."
[61] Adams, Cameron. "HIV Ex Porn Star Cameron Adams (Bay) Exposes Porn Exploitation to Senate & Supports Condom Bill." Anti-Pornography, 1 Sept. 2014. Web.
[62] "Three Newly HIV Infected Adult Film Actors Blast Industry, LA County." AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 18 Sept. 2013. Web.
[63] "Pornography and Sex Trafficking Connection." Anti-Pornography, 2015. Web.
[64] “Slavery.” Love146, 2015. Web.
[65] Gilman.
[66] Demand.
[67] Ibid.
[68] Gilman.
[69] “Pornography and the Sex Trafficking Connection”.
[70] Gilman.
[71] Van Maren.
[72] Ibid.
[73] “Pornography and Violence in Communications Media: A Pastoral Response”. Vatican: Pontifical Council for Social Communications, 7 May 1989. 13-14. Print.
[74] Jeffrey Dahmer has been one example of this (“Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media” 17.)
[75] López, Estela. "A Feminist Analysis of Cartoon Porn and Hentai." The Harms of Hentai, Sexualized Anime, Lolicon, Shotacon, Manga, Ecchi, Virtual Porn, Rapelay, Etc. Anti-Pornography, 10 Aug. 2008. Web.
[76] Ibid.
[77] Ibid.
[78] Van Maren, Jonathon. "How Porn Fuels Rape Culture." Anti-Pornography, 1 Apr. 2014. Web.
[79] Kaplan.
[80] "Bishop's Interview: Pornography Distorts Gift of Human Sexuality." Catholic Spirit. Diocese of Austin, 1 June 2007. Web.
[81] Ibid.
[82] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354.
[83] King.
[84] Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P., S.T.D. Lectures 19-23 from “The Rich Gift of Love: Theology of the Body”. Nashville: Aquinas College. 2013. DVD.
[85] Finn.
[86] Ibid.
[87] Pennock 22.
[88] Ibid.
[89] Second Vatican Council. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et Spes. 1965. 26. Web.
[90] Houck, Mark. "Pope John Paul II on Pornography." Covenant Eyes. 28 Dec. 2009. Web.
[91] "Responses to Frequently Asked Questions and Pro-Pornography Arguments." Anti-Pornography. 2014. Web.
[92] Ibid.

1 comment:

  1. I look the site it was a very good and very informative in many aspects thanks for share such a nice work.