Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Porn - Why all the hate?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

There seems to be consensus that certain things are definitely porn (e.g. the "hard core", primarily anatomical, photographs published with the sole intent of sexual arousal.

So, at least for such porn, I'd like to go back to the question raised by the original questioner. Is consumption of this type of "hard core" porn immoral?

[basic Questions Forum, moderator note: Edited with permission of poster, to remove note about an earlier post that was in violation of Forum Rules. To all members: Use the !REPORT button, rather than the thread itself, to report violations. Burgess Laughin.]

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 204
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Hey, I don't understand why people are struggling so much with the definition of pornography. It's not that important, nor that complicated, but pornography is definitely not art nor entertainment. Here goes:

"Pornography is the depiction of sexual situations for the purpose of sexual arousal".

First, are you saying that defining a term/idea that is central to the discussion is not important? If so, then when would defining terms/ideas be important?

Second, what is the relationship between erotica and pornography (as you have defined the latter term)? Is erotica a species of pornography, for example? Vice versa? Neither?

I would suggest another classification. Depiction of sexual situations for the purpose of sexual arousal is an idea that has no name (it isn't a concept). That idea has two forms (species): erotica and pornography.

The characteristics that differentiate the two are:

- The manner of depiction. (Fact)

- The implied ethical content of depiction. (Value)

In depiction, erotica insinuates, pornography shows.

In implied ethical content, as a corollary of their manner of depiction, erotica suggests values in the individuals depicted; but pornography is materialistic, that is, devoid of presenting individuals responding to values in their sexual partners.

Particular depictions can be mixed cases. That is what "soft porn" is: a mixture of pornography and erotica.

Hard-core pornography is unspeakably disgusting. Soft-core pornography is speakably disgusting, in part. Erotica is enchanting. All are done for the purpose of arousal. Whether they are arousing depends on the nature of the products (the facts) and the people viewing the products (that is, their values).

The medium of depiction is a non-essential characteristic and therefore doesn't belong in a definition. A sculpture can be pornographic (as with a bronze erect penis I saw produced by one sculptor) or erotic, as with Rodin's "The Kiss." The same applies to film, literature, paintings -- or even (as a stretch) music.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Burgess laughlin wrote:

In depiction, erotica insinuates, pornography shows.

In implied ethical content, as a corollary of their manner of depiction, erotica suggests values in the individuals depicted; but pornography is materialistic, that is, devoid of presenting individuals responding to values in their sexual partners

I'm not satisfied with this explanation. First, there's a fine line in a depiction "sugges[ting] values in the individuals depicted". "Pornography" often makes an awkward attempt at such. And "erotica" often fails in its attempt at such. So, using this distinction, we have two concepts, ambiguity of which depends on whether they depict values implicitly.

Or maybe I misunderstood your intention -- in your definition, is the depiction of values the primary element, regardless of what else is portrayed? In other words, could something be considered pornography, even if it showed no explicit sexual act? And could another thing be erotica, even with explicit depictions of sexual acts?

If it is answered that explicit depiction of sex per se is by implication materialistic, i.e., devoid of values, then I don't understand the conclusion. True, pornography emphasizes the material (i.e., physical); but, there is much poetry, for example, that emphasizes the "spiritual" (i.e., mental). Would you regard such poetry as equally disgusting, as it seems to endorse a mind/body dichotomy?

The mere fact that pornography emphasizes the physicalistic aspect of love, does not to me render it morally condemnable. It does suggest that it is appropriate only within certain narrow contexts. I'd say the same thing about poetry, though -- e.g., if there were 3 minutes left in the big game, and the quarterback got in the huddle and said "how do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." I would find that an unnacceptable emphasis of the mind at the expense of the body.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't really given thought to the moral dilemma of porn since I was a christian (because looking at a woman and becoming aroused according to Jesus was a sin. Apparently he wasn't a very good psychologist), because it was always a mild distraction that never took the least amount of prescedence in my life. I am like Greedycapitalist on this one, when one finds romantic love, Porn becomes useless to a rational person. When I was with my ex-girlfriend, we led a pretty rational relationship (the rationality broke down at the end, in a fit of Kantian rhetoric in which it was my fault she cheated on me) and during that year and 8 months I never had the inclination to look at any porn.

as for how I would define it, I would say that pornography is the creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire. This definition I think makes the distinction between substance-less pornography, erotic art (which may hold artistic value) and medical sexual videos.

Is there benevolent, "pro-sex" biggrin.gif porn out there? Would that change any of the evaluations of it offered here so far?

I have looked, and I would say no. It seems the object of virtually all porn out there is the degredation of the female. The only stuff that I can think of is the stuff one might find on the late night Cinemax, that is more directed to the enjoyment of both sexes, usually married couples (as opposed to hard-core, which is a game of "who can degrade the woman more.")

One interesting item of note is the question of why our country has a particular hatred or fear of anything erotic or sexual. Best example was the "incident" at last year's superbowl, and the ensuring outcry.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A sculpture can be pornographic (as with a bronze erect penis I saw produced by one sculptor)
What about the herms in Ancient Greece, which I'm sure you know about? The Greeks were not shy about it, worshipping an erect penis as a symbol of fertility, making many explicit depictions of it in sculpture, and having annual processions and festivals centered around giant phallus depictions; they did not mean any of this as pornography in the modern sense, but took it very seriously in the spiritual sense. From what I understand, there were big statues with erect penises standing all throughout Athens, depicting the god Hermes (hence their name, "herms"). As the story goes, when a hooligan defaced all these statues, the whole city got so outraged about it that they tried to find the man and execute him, or at the very least impose a severe punishment on him.

So, as I said, there was nothing obscene for the Athenians about a statue with an erect penis. If you're working on a definition for this, it will have to include cultural values and contemporary meanings behind symbols.

But I would like to defend "erandror" when he asks what the big deal is with people trying to figure out a definition for pornography. Definitions are the formulas of philosophy, easy to use once already existing, but immensely hard to arrive at originally. One is not under a Duty to expend his time and effort to work out all definitions for all concepts in existence; on the contrary, one is only suggested to use definitions (since conversation can happen without them), and work out such definitions only for things that he believes to be of enough value to spend time to figure out.

So I think what Eran was asking about was not, "Why bother with definitions", but "Why does everyone care enough about this subject to spend time trying to precisely define it".

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm hesitant to include a "purpose" in my definition of pornography, because I don't see how the purpose is essential to the definition. The fact that pornography causes sexual arousal is an effect--and it is not a universal effect at that. Some people are turned off by it, or not affected by it, because of their value system. I don't think that "the intent to cause sexual arousal" is an essential part of the nature of pornography. Pornography, as such, has no intent or purpose. The makers of pornography may have that intent, but that is another issue.

First, pornography is primarily a representation of the human body. From the Greek it literally means writing about prostitutes, who stand around and sell their bodies. I believe that pornography today has come to mean a representation of part or all of the naked human body and its sexual functions.

"Hard core" pornography, I believe, is pornography that represents the human body engaged in immoral or degrading acts. (And I don't mean "immoral" or "degrading" in the subjective sense, of course.)

"Soft core" pornography, I believe, is pornography that does not include an explicit representation of the sexual act.

I have purposely left the definition of pornography open to include artistic and non-artistic pornography, because I believe pornography can be included in art, and it can be included in non-art. It can also stand on its own as merely a representation of the human body.

I think that pornography has suffered under a generally negative connotation due to the ideas and influence of anti-humans (Christian fundamentalists and similarly minded religious people) who consider this world of flesh to be the enemy. They have tried to demonize pornography in order to scare people away from the pleasures of this world and the human body.

Yes, there is bad, disgusting pornography. But pornography in general is a broad category, including many good, decent depictions of the human body and its sexual functions.

Anyway, that is my initial thinking on the subject.

Edit: Corrected etymological mistakes in the second paragraph.

Edited by MisterSwig
Link to post
Share on other sites

Allow me to suggest another possibility: perhaps pornography is not a valid concept at all. Maybe "erotica" is sufficient to cover all that we are calling pornography, the latter term only being used to imply a negative view of it, and provide a basis for censorship.

This would be, in a sense, like the concept of art. There is good art and bad art, or objective and non-objective art, but it is all art. Perhaps erotica can similarly be described.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Maybe "erotica" is sufficient to cover all that we are calling pornography, the latter term only being used to imply a negative view of it, and provide a basis for censorship.

From my limited knowledge of erotica, I would say that it is art concerned primarily with human sexual arousal. When I think of erotica, I think of scenes where someone is creatively, or stylishly, arousing a partner. There may be sexual intercourse involved, but the emphasis or theme is on the process of arousal--or eroticism. The emphasis is not on intercourse.

This is a case where I'm tempted to include a "purpose" in the definition. But I think the content of erotica speaks for itself.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

In an innovative attempt to circumvent "decency laws", a strip-club owner started holding an "art night". Patrons were handed art-pads, ostensibly so that they could sketch the "models". The city did not let it go, the raided the club. Here is what a police spokesperson said: "If it were an art studio and models were actually posing, that would be one thing. But these women weren't posing, they were dancing."

A funny story that also highlights that -- at least in common usage -- purpose is considered to be an important aspect of the concept of pornography.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a question. Lets say that you study Ayn Rand's philosophy, endeavor to improve your understanding of it, love and admire Ayn Rand and apply Objectivism to every area of your life... But, you are in a stage of your life where you are not interested in a romantic relationship (even though you know that it is the ideal), you love porn (and lets just use the thousand and one videos available at your local video store as a working definition), and love having porn-style sex with incredibly beautiful and promiscuous women. And the pièce de résistance, it would be a dream come true to have sex with four porno stars at the same time in a sexual orgy that lasted a week.

Now the question; would you call such a person an Objectivist? If you say that he is not, then what about all the people that call themselves "Christian" or "Jewish" or "fill-in-the-blank" and don't fully apply their moral codes 100% yet identify themselves with the religion anyway? Is Madonna not Christian because she gyrates on stage and has a ton of sexual imagery in her videos? She calls herself Christian and is always wearing the Cross. So is the Objectivist who vacations all the time in Brazil or Thailand and has sex with as many women as he can (and loves it) not an Objectivist even though he fights for Objectivist ideas in the other areas of his life?

I'm curious at this. Do you have to be perfect in practice to be an Objectivist? Or is there such a thing as "he's an Objectivist, but he betrays it at times and therefore I don't like him"?

Lastly, was Ayn Rand not an Objectivist because she had an affair with Nathaniel Branden? For me, of course she was. For whatever reasons held by her, she chose to have an extra marrital affair with a man 25 years her junior. I don't admire her any less even though I think she made a mistake.

Edited by argive99
Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that Peikoff is disinterested in porn. I don't care, and I think this has been blown out of proportion. I've been rabidly defending porn since I first turned the age of 18 (and could admit to viewing it without having others claim that my precious, young mind was being corrupted and "help" me). It always infuriates me when people refer to hard-working (yes, it is actually hard work, risky, and stressful), paid professionals doing their jobs as "scum" or "sluts." Calling them "whores" is merely a misnomer; prostitution is another industry I have no objection to and would support its legalization.

The choice between what two consenting adults do with each others' bodies (in many cases more than two), to one another, for whatever reason, is not yours to make. A scorn for the supposed "emptiness" of pleasure gained from viewing the act (when the viewed are duly paid for their intellectual property) is a scorn for the act itself. There are plenty of sites now run by couples who know and love one another quite well, who are also selling videos of their lovemaking. Are they also trash?

Link to post
Share on other sites
The choice between what two consenting adults do with each others' bodies (in many cases more than two), to one another, for whatever reason, is not yours to make.

You're confusing ethics with politics - the legality of porn is not being disputed here.

Link to post
Share on other sites
It always infuriates me when people refer to hard-working (yes, it is actually hard work, risky, and stressful), paid professionals doing their jobs as "scum" or "sluts."  Calling them "whores" is merely a misnomer; prostitution is another industry I have no objection to and would support its legalization. 

What is the difference between accepting money from one person to have sex with them or accepting money from a third party to have sex with someone else? Where do you draw the line between porn and prostitution?

A disproportionate number of people in the sex industry (compared to the general population) are victims some sort of sexual abuse and suffer from some sort of addiction (sex/drugs/other). These people are not exactly model members of society. This is not the say that there aren't exceptions, I'm sure some people in the sex industry are well-adjusted, perfectly sane individuals.

There are plenty of sites now run by couples who know and love one another quite well, who are also selling videos of their lovemaking.  Are they also trash?

Trash? Possibly. Disturbed? Probably. A couple that I would want to double date with? Doubtful.

BTW- What's up with your nickname?

(Edited spelling: "excepting" changed to "accepting". SoftwareNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd
Link to post
Share on other sites
Madonna ... calls herself Christian

Perhaps she used to, but in her more recent songs, she has been backpedaling:

"I'm not a Christian and I'm not a Jew"

"I'm not religious

But I feel so moved

Makes me want to pray"

Lastly, was Ayn Rand not an Objectivist because she had an affair with Nathaniel Branden?

Do we have objective evidence that they had that affair? As far as I know, it was the Brandens who claimed that they had, but Miss Rand never corroborated it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I have a question. Lets say that you study Ayn Rand's philosophy, endeavor to improve your understanding of it, love and admire Ayn Rand and apply Objectivism to every area of your life... But...

Does it matter? What is important is whether or not your choices are moral, not whether they allow you to fit into a particular category.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Perhaps she used to, but in her more recent songs, she has been backpedaling:

Do we have objective evidence that they had that affair? As far as I know, it was the Brandens who claimed that they had, but Miss Rand never corroborated it.

Peikoff has said that there was evidence for it a number of times; In his speech "Memories of Ayn Rand", on his radio show and in "Ayn Rand, A Sense Of Life". The Branden's may be bastards, but they didn't make this up. She had an affair. Are you going to conveniently deny it so as not to answer my question? Does the fact that she had an affair make her any less Objectivist? I'm still waiting for an answer.

And Felipe: your comment says nothing. Yes A is A. So tell me something I don't know. A person can believe in and advocate for a set of ideas and yet misapply them or occasionally disregard them. Ayn Rand herself had an extra marital affair. I ask you Mr. Felipe, is she no longer an Objectivist?

And if these kind of questions are going to get me more warnings, than this board isn't worth it. You can keep your warnings.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Does it matter? What is important is whether or not your choices are moral, not whether they allow you to fit into a particular category.

What, is having consensual sex where you are not lying to (or harming) anyone or breaking any marriage or relationship vows (promises) immoral? Why? Is my example of the young guy having sex with four porno stars in the same category of immorality as Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot? Or are there degrees? And if there are degrees, what degree of violation no longer makes you an Objectivist? Does a one night stand with a really hot stripper disqualify you?

Its rationalistic nonsense like this that probabley turns off alot of people from Ayn Rand. My guess is that the most energetic arguments for her come from high school and college kids; ie those that have no life experience and can only offer sylogisms (no matter how true many of them are). In the case of sex, it never fails to amuse me, but most young Objectivists sound like Puritans; and they make Objectivism seem like yet another system of privation.

Peikoff tells a story where someone in Ayn Rand's apartment one night said that they were interested in having sex with another person, but not a relationship. Ayn Rand basically said, "so there's nothing wrong with that." The young Peikoff was shocked but what he learned was that Rand knew that peoples lives existed in a context and romantic love was not possible to all people at all times. In a word, she was mature.

I've got to go with the porn stars on this one no matter how many warnings it brings me.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Its rationalistic nonsense like this that probabley turns off alot of people from Ayn Rand.

Rationalist nonsense like what? I never gave my view on whether it was moral, I said that the question of its morality was infinitely more important than whether you could do it and still call yourself an Objectivist. Objectivism isnt some kind of 'tick-the-boxes' style test, where getting over a certain score allows you to wear a badge.

If you've considered all the consequences of the action rationally and reached the best decision you can, why on earth would you care whether it was an 'Objectivist' choice?

Edited by Hal
Link to post
Share on other sites
Peikoff tells a story where someone in Ayn Rand's apartment one night said that they were interested in having sex with another person, but not a relationship. Ayn Rand basically said, "so there's nothing wrong with that." The young Peikoff was shocked but what he learned was that Rand knew that peoples lives existed in a context and romantic love was not possible to all people at all times. In a word, she was mature.

Where does he tell this "story"? Please provide evidence for this claim.

I have noticed over time that you have a strong tendency to drag the Brandens or David Kelley or Chris Sciabarra or the SOLO scum onto this forum (via a link or a reference) while always extending some weak caveat that you disagree with all these sad types. Perhaps some problems with conscience and hedonism?

Just a thought. :angry:

Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I used to watch porn all the time, until I got my current girlfriend who laid down the law on that one. Man has sexual desires and it is psychologically healthy to satisfy them. If a man has no legitimate outlet for sexual frustration, porn is an acceptable alternative.

Edited by Moose
Link to post
Share on other sites
And Felipe: your comment says nothing. Yes A is A. So tell me something I don't know. A person can believe in and advocate for a set of ideas and yet misapply them or occasionally disregard them. Ayn Rand herself had an extra marital affair. I ask you Mr. Felipe, is she no longer an Objectivist?

What I was trying to get at is for you to define Objectivist so that you yourself can answer the question of whether or not Ayn Rand remains an Objectivist. Personally, as a student of Objectivism, I can only seriously consider true-blue Objectivists those people who constantly strive and succeed at achieving a state of moral perfection. There's no sense in talking about "degrees of perfection" if there are simply minor errors and such.

On the matter of Ayn Rand's affair, again this is why I asked you to answer "what is an Objectivist?" It is living in a way such that your best rational self-interest is fulfilled. It is likely that Ayn Rand, in that moment in time, thought that having an affair with someone she had mistakenly judged as a Hero was in her best interest, even if it meant hurting Frank. Personally, I don't care nor know enough to judge her based on this event, because this is a tiny insignificant spec compared to being the greatest philosopher of all time. But to answer your question, an Objectivist is a person that lives in such a way so as to constantly strive and succeed at being morally perfect. That is my own working definition, at least. And yes, Ayn Rand was an Objectivist, no matter her insignificant errors.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...