Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On morality and censorship ...

I'm competing in a law school competition in Minneapolis in February. The topic? Whether or not limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is constitutional. I feel like I'm on Prop 8/Gay Marriage overload. Multiple speakers, panels, and education conferences about this issue have been hosted by the law school over the last few months. It is, after all, the great constitutional and legal question of the decade. So I should be thrilled I get to be part of the discussion. And that I'm required to analyze and argue both sides. But for now, I'm weary of it. There's only so much inner conflict this student can handle. So I was a bit disappointed when I was assigned that particular competition, and not the one discussing immigration reform or student speech rights. I mean, really, who wouldn't want to argue on behalf of a hypothetical 14-year-old blogger who made critical comments about her principal?

Anyway, researching different viewpoints about sexual morality led to finding one blog post that led me to THIS blog post and then finally to THIS web site.

I like this idea. I've always felt a sort of tension between my own standards of what I choose to view in my own home and my support of the First Amendment. I've also defended the rights of people to look at whatever they want as long as it doesn't involve crimes against children. And I don't just mean in theory. In college I got called just about everything you can think of (I think liberal slut was my favorite -- especially because I was working on my mission papers when I got that e-mail) for allowing a lingerie ad to continue to run in the college paper I was editor of. By opposing censorship and protecting the rights of people to look at what I might consider smut, I believe I am protecting my own right to view things that other people may disagree with -- like minority religious or political viewpoints. I also concede that while some of what I consider porn is absolutely trashy, some of it is in a context others may consider art. And I'm not about the government getting involved in telling me or anyone else what is, and isn't, art.

So this approach ... reducing the demand for porn by talking about the effects it has instead of calling for reduction of supply through censorship ... appeals to me. It's felt like I've either had to accept pornography as "healthy and positive" or join ultra-right-wing groups calling for the prosecution of Playboy. I wasn't comfortable with either option. Providing an additional voice into the "marketplace of ideas" discussion (rather than trying to drown out someone else's) while simultaneously providing support for those that are seeing pornography use damaging their real life and human relationships. Sounds like a win-win to me.

I'm not totally sold on this organization. They look pretty new and upstart. And I'm just enough of a skeptic to withhold endorsement until I know who exactly is backing and funding them. Where exactly does the money from their "Donate Now" button go?

I did like these talking points from their site: "We are fighting against the demand for pornography. Through education, we believe people will no longer want to use porn and those with addictive behavior will seek help from professionals. AND "[W]e want to infuse more sexiness into the world. Two committed people together, that is sexy. A lonely, addicted person sitting in front of a computer is not sexy."

I am not on board with government censorship. I am, however, totally on board with creating a culture that doesn't demean women into sex objects and celebrates fidelity in both thought and action.



Miranda said...

I'm kind of curious on what those speakers at the law school would say on Prop 8/gay rights.

Brooke said...

Both of the lead attorneys from either side of the case were gracious enough to fly in and give us a run down of their strategy, allow us to ask questions about some of the constitutional issues and talk about how they got involved with the case. The attorney representing the religious coalition focused on dispelling some of the rumors about the money involved in the case, the importance for children having a mother and a father, and his take on the constitutional issues. The attorney representing the other side spoke mostly about the witnesses they put on the stand, the historical discrimination of homosexuals, and answered questions about the relevance of the Equal Protection clause to homosexuals when they haven't been classified as a "suspect class." They came at separate times so each person could have a full hour (and because different student groups sponsored each side) but they came pretty close together so it was a pretty cool two weeks. The conference focused on what effect legalizing gay marriage will have on the legal obligation of educators in K-12 systems. Most of the speakers were education law scholars, not really from LGBT or conservative groups. My favorite speaker was a school official from South Africa (where gay marriage, as well as polygamy, are legally recognized) who spoke about what the curriculum and the legal structure in their schools looks like. This was a really long response -- I wish there were recordings of the two Prop 8 case lectures you could see!

K. Ray Johnson said...

Check out Alexander v. US, 509 US 544 (you have to read FN 1). Often cited as a incident of tyrannical gov. censorship. However, the "obscene" material was no doubt child porn, so there's your "crimes against children," 17 crimes in fact. Glad it was upheld. Now imagine that the Gov. moves to censor the alleged bigoted views of Mormons. While pornographers the world-over unite to defend free speech for Mormons, Mr. Alexander will remain bitterly silent. And that's fine by me.

Brooke said...

Ray -- That is the BEST footnote I have ever read! Thanks for the interesting case. I can't find the citation for the case I'm thinking of, but there was a case where the LDS church and strip clubs were actually co-plaintiffs in Las Vegas because the same law was preventing LDS missionaries from distributing literature that was preventing strip clubs from advertising their services. Interesting stuff.

Lindsay Kite said...

Brooke, I love your take on this! I'm all for doing whatever it takes to decrease demand for pornography. I respect the people trying to prosecute the biggest offenders, but I see this strategy as more promising. Changing perceptions of pornography, including the legitimate damage it does to individuals and relationships, is beyond important. This topic never gets old. I love when smart, well-informed, open-minded people get in on the discussion! And especially when liberal sluts blog about it. Hah!

Lindsay Kite said...

P.S. I love love the "infuse more sexiness" idea you quoted! That has to be a huge part of changing the perception of porn from something that's sexy and salacious to something that -- in all reality -- is disgusting and secretive and dehumanizing. Viewing porn even for short amounts of time decreases mens' ability to be attracted to real life women's bodies and also decreases relationship satisfaction. On top of that, porn use is consitently linked to erectile dysfunction. Those things are the opposite of sexy. Ok, I'm done!