A View from Riverside Drive, Commentary by Ed Hynes, February 2007
Root out the porn to stop sex trafficking
Twenty-first Century slave trading – what we now call trafficking – supplies women and children to meet the demand for prostitutes. Hundreds of thousands fall victim to this evil business each year. The supply side of it gets most of the media attention, for these are stories of tragedy and drama. They tell of kidnappings, abductions, deceit, rescue missions, disease and death. The bad guys who run the trafficking rings, and the corrupt officials who help them, are easy to hate. We bleed for their victims, the women and girls whose bodies are rented out routinely and repeatedly day after day and year after year until they can’t do it anymore.
We don’t read much about the demand side of the equation, other than stories about the obvious and immediate, the johns, the men who use prostitutes, especially the men who travel to southeast Asia where the prostitutes are children. It’s easy to hate them, too.
But the worst of the culprits on the demand side are the pornography merchants of California’s San Fernando Valley and elsewhere, whose cynical business model requires a large and loyal customer base. Like the tobacco companies, the porn merchants have an edge: their products are addictive. Their customers are not just loyal; they’re hooked, and clinical experience shows that many of them will escalate to harder and harder material to achieve the same orgasmic pleasure they once got from “girlie” magazines. They go from the magazines to soft core videos to videos of explicit anal, vaginal and oral intercourse, sadomasochism, gang rape, child porn, bestiality, snuff films and more until there’s nothing left but to act out what they had been masturbating to. That’s where prostitutes and other victims come in.
The other day we learned that the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) are engaged in a joint project “to Promote Preventative Measures in Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual Exploitation.” EWL and CATW are Non-Governmental Organizations. The project is funded by the United States and Swedish governments.
A description of the project shows that the focus is on “gender equality. . . the under-representation of women in decision-making positions. . . the imbalance of the power relationships between women and men. . . promotion of women’s dignity. . . women’s human rights. . . State-legitimated prostitution. . . Civil and military conflicts. . .”
These are all real and important issues, all crying out for solutions. But we saw nothing in this project about putting porn merchants out of business as a first and necessary “preventative measure.”
That’s a shame. These organizations have the energy, determination and talent to make a difference, if only they would broaden their focus to deal with the global glut of hardcore pornography on the Internet that is driving demand. Male dominance of subservient women is a standard theme of hardcore pornography. Many men who feed on this junk go to prostitutes to act out what the videos have told them is appropriate male behavior.
Root out the porn, and begin to put an end to trafficking in women and children.
The New York Times calls it all ‘naughty’
While criminal gangs run a brisk global trade in sex slaves to feed the porn-driven demand for prostitutes, the New York Times ran a story December 31 in which hardcore, obscene and illegal pornography was described as “naughty.”
The story was about a 50-year-old woman who decided to “chase her dream” and “become a porn star.”
The reporter, Sharon Waxman in Los Angeles, gave the story a sprightly, this-is-so-much-fun kind of touch. She tells us the woman likes Burger King, did her first “scene” in a rented house in the San Fernando Valley (where else?), and “was wearing a bright pink satin and black chiffon nightie with a matching thong and heavy makeup.”
It was all just a lark, the Times would have you believe.
What seems to be the point of the story was not in the lead paragraph but six paragraphs later:
The pornography industry, that multibillion-dollar-a-year symbol of airbrushed American carnality, is aging. The advent of Viagra, the maturing of sexually aware baby boomers and overall improved health and beauty are all contributing to the graying of naughty.
There was a time when newspapers crusaded against anti-social businesses. And now they wonder why they’re struggling to hold on to readers.
First i-pod and i-phone, now porn on a pod
Unlike the tobacco companies, the porn merchants produce and market a product that is illegal. They do it brazenly because they don’t believe the U.S. Justice Department will ever get back to obscenity law enforcement with the vigor and effectiveness of the pre-Clinton years.
Case in point: A news release distributed by PR Newswire January 3 announced a smut merchant’s ability and intention to bring pornography to public view through Internet-ready cell phones and other hand-held media devices. This was the headline:
Consumers Can Now Watch Pornography on Airplanes, Trains and in Other Public Places
Anyone nearby in those public places will also be able to watch, and hear, the pornography, whether they want to or not.
If you’ve been bothered by the raunch and eroticism that have become so much a part of our culture, think what it would be like when the guy you pass in a park, or an airport, or wherever, is watching sex scenes on his cell phone, while you and everyone nearby can see and hear it.
This news broke about the same time that Apple, coincidentally, introduced its amazing new i-phone, which can not only handle a call anywhere in the world but can also download anything from the world wide web.
The pornography company calls itself Red Light District Video, and says it specializes in hardcore, “gonzo” films. “Gonzo” consists of “no frills” depictions of hardcore sexual acts (often extreme acts) rather than on plot, dialogue, camera work or the set.
The president of Red Light District calls it “entertainment” and makes it out that his company is performing a public service. In New York we’d say the man has chutzpa. Here’s his statement:
Like other forms of entertainment, consumers want to watch programming that interests them at their convenience, so we expect that people will watch porn films in places other than the privacy of their bedroom. . . .
The pornographer’s news release indicates that it is not in the least concerned about the Internet obscenity law. Does the Justice Department get PR Newswire?
Bishop Loverde joins pornography fight
The National Catholic Register (http://ncregister.com/site/article/1610/) reported just before Christmas that Arlington (VA) Bishop Paul Loverde “has issued a stern warning about pornography.”
In the introduction to his 20-page teaching, Bishop Lovedre wrote:
In my forty years as a priest, I have seen the evil of pornography spread like a plague throughout our culture. What was once the shameful and occasional vice of the few has become the mainstream entertainment for the many – through the Internet, cable, satellite and broadcast television, cell phones and even portable gaming and entertainment devices designed for children and teenagers.
. . . . This plague stalks the souls of men, women and children, ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us. It obscures and destroys people’s ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God’s creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated. It has been excused as an outlet for free expression, supported as a business venture, and condoned as just another form of entertainment. It is not widely recognized as a threat to life and happiness. It is not often treated as a destructive addiction. It changes the way men and women treat one another in sometimes dramatic but often subtle ways. And it is not going away.
Elsewhere he wrote of the responsibility of civil authority to take action against the pornography plague:
Public officials have a responsibility to uphold and ennoble the standards of the communities which they serve. Protecting a billion dollar criminal enterprise which destroys the lives of both those depicted in pornography and those intended as audience through the excuse of protecting free speech is not service, but complicity. Public officials must work tirelessly to pass and enforce laws that contribute to a culture that respects the lives of all citizens.
The Bishop’s 20-page teaching can be found at (www.arlingtondiocese.org/offices/communications/boughtprice.html).
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney took a strong public stand against pornography last year, as did Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando.
Will we have a XXX domain on the Web?
The Associated Press reported January 6 that the idea of creating a XXX Internet domain for porn sites has been revived at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The agency backed away from the proposal last May but has brought it back now with “stronger provisions to prohibit child pornography and require labeling of Web sites with sexually explicit materials.”
No amount of “labeling” will turn hardcore obscenity into protected free speech.
Patrick Trueman, who was chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section at the Justice Department under President Reagan, offered this comment:
Giving pornographers their own domain will not clean up the .com domain because hardcore porn companies are making millions on that domain and this won’t cause them to leave. Rather, they will expand their porn empires to the .XXX. Internet pornography is a plague on our society and .XXX is a false solution to the problem. Please contact ICANN and tell them to say ‘no’ to the porn domain. Here is the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The ICANN Web site may be accessed at www.icann.org. You can also write, call, or fax: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Marina del Rey, CA, USA 4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330 Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6601 USA Phone: +1.310.823.9358 FAX: +1.310.823.8649