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May 05, 2004
I respectfully disagree.*

It's beginning to look as though Dr. Schwyzer is going to turn out to be one of those people I enjoy reading, but frequently disagree with.

I haven't commented on the linked post at his site because sometimes I get tired of being the only commenter not walking the PC line in such discussions.

First, it's just wrong to say, "If porn didn't exist, this woman wouldn't have gotten sick." Upon what does one base such a sweeping assumption?

She could have had unprotected sex with a man she met in a bar and contracted HIV. She might have become a secretary and gotten run over by a bus on her lunch hour. She could have been working nights at a fast food restaurant and been killed in a hold-up. She could have developed some fast-moving cancer and been dead in three months.

Or she could have lived to a ripe, healthy old age, surrounded by children, grandchildren, friends, and a loving spouse.

Let's not make assumptions about unknowable, alternate timelines. This isn't science fiction, it's porn. (Not that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive.)

If she hadn't been filming that porn movie, she wouldn't have contracted that disease in that fashion on that day. That's as much as you can legitimately argue.

Moving on, the unspoken assumption (in the linked post) that it was natural for this young woman to choose making porn as what seemed to be the fastest or easiest route to wealth. This assumption is also a problem for me.

A lot of people on this planet are faced with life choices around work. Most of us would like to maximize our income as quickly as possible. Almost none of us choose to make porn.

If this young woman believed she had no other option, then maybe she was unprepared for life as an adult, but it's absurd to blame the porn industry for her choice. I've skimmed a handful of the articles and if it says anywhere that she was shanghaied or pressured or kidnapped and forced to make porn, I didn't see it.

It always comes back to personal responsibility.

You want to fix a problem, by all means deal with this society's unhealthy attitude toward sex.

Maybe the porn industry is growing so fast because we spend too much time being 'publicly' repressed about sex? How sick is it that by age 18 a child can easily have seen a thousand or more on-screen murders, but at the suggestion they might glimpse two people and some naked flesh, many of us go ballistic?

Why is gruesome death considered okay for teenage viewers but what's under everyone's underwear is considered too disgusting or too emotionally disturbing to be acknowledged publicly?

Someone's technicolor intestines spilling out onto a sidewalk or autopsy table? No problem.

A woman's nipple? Cover the children's eyes! File a lawsuit! Go into therapy! Pass a law! Fine someone!

(I'm not saying porn, or even naked adult bodies, are the best possible viewing for young children. I'm saying that treating the sight of bare flesh like an emotionally traumatic disaster has to do more damage than the inevitable discovery that we're all naked underneath our clothes.)

Or, if you want a problem to fix, why not deal with the increasingly stratified society that makes a joke of the old dream of "upward mobility" and is well on its way to creating a permanent underclass of labor to be manipulated as needed in order to sustain corporate profits?

If we could fix that, anyone choosing to make porn would, you could be certain, be doing it as a matter of free choice.

Sheesh. One of the things that drives me battiest about us is the way we're always fixing the symptoms instead of the problems.

(* Which isn't to say I'm not wrong. I could be wrong. I've been wrong frequently in the last week.

This time, based on the initial, enthusiastic applause in the comments section for the linked post, it's quite possible that I just haven't spent enough time contemplating how destructive the existence of male desire is to the young, female ego.)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:19 PM


Or she could have lived to a ripe, healthy old age, surrounded by children, grandchildren, friends, and a loving spouse.

She might yet. She was recently exposed and quickly diagnosed, so the odds are that current treatments could keep her from developing full-blown AIDS for years, and the continuing work on HIV/AIDS suggests that even longer-term cures, or other solutions, might be developed. I'm not saying that it's a no-harm event, but she's not dead yet, either.

And I wholeheartedly agree that the disjunction between sexual shame and popular violent entertainment is quite striking and troubling. What would a society be like that appreciated healthy sexuality and sensuality but was revolted by violence? Sounds pretty good to me, actually. Probably resolve a lot of our other contradictions in the process.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at May 6, 2004 03:25 AM

Doesn't sound bad to me, either -- save for the fact that we might all quibble about what constituted "healthy" sexuality.

And I relish your disagreements, please do, however, feel free to call me Hugo. Not even my students call me Dr. Schwyzer...

Posted by: Hugo at May 6, 2004 09:26 AM

I thought, since I was dissing your premise, I should be polite about it, Hugo. :)

And I think we might have fewer disagreements about "healthy sexuality" than you expect. Just because we're starting at different places doesn't mean our goals might not be similar.

And I'd much rather be "quibbling" over the nuances of balance in establishing "healthy sexuality" in our society than dealing with the aftermath of our fascination with violence.

Jonathan, I know the "violence in entertainment" topic is one that's under debate. And it's not up to Hollywood or the television industry to define our morality for us, so I don't actually blame them for providing what the public wants to see. They're in the business to make money, after all.

It's what the fascination with extreme violence says about our culture that worries me.

Posted by: Anne at May 6, 2004 10:31 AM

Couple of thoughts on this... I heard a radio interview with a medical professional who cares for those in the Adult Film industry, who commented that part of the problem with the spread of disease is that the producers of these films seem to think that their audiences don't like to see condoms used, so they don't. Pretty stupid, considering what is known about passing STDs.

Second thought, I find it distressing that this is only news when it's the "straight" Adult Film industry involved. Unhappily, HIV has been around the gay film industry for a long time, but no one seems to see that as news. OTOH, at least in the gay films they use condoms...

Posted by: Dail at May 6, 2004 12:23 PM

The gay porn community has a keener sense of responsibility to their viewers than the straight porn community. They were hit harder by Aids when it appeared and they acted as a group to respond.

That's because the gay community isn't hung up on pretending no one is actually having sex. Since they're not pretending they aren't doing it, they have less trouble discussing safety. (And now we're back to the part of my rant that deals with this country's unhealthy attitude toward sex, aren't we?)

I'm on the verge of going off on a tangent about "populations" and group identity and how it functions (or doesn't) in this country today, but maybe not just at this moment.

Posted by: Anne at May 6, 2004 12:37 PM

Jonathan - I've been musing over your comment and on the off chance you revisit this thread, let me ask you for an opinion.

What do you suppose the odds are that our increasing fixation on violence has at its roots, at least in part, the attempted repression of our sex drives?

It's something that occurred to me a couple of years ago, but it's all tangled up with a lot of other aspects of contemporary society and I never quite got around to the research.

Posted by: Anne at May 6, 2004 12:40 PM

I think it would be more likely that both have their root in patriarchy: the need for control.... but I'll think about it and get back to you.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at May 6, 2004 12:44 PM