May 1, 2006

A View from Riverside Drive, Commentary by Ed Hynes, May 2006

Doing something about World Cup brothels

European Parliament Member Marianne Eriksson wrote a report in 2004 dealing with “the insidious invasion of the sex industry [into] our daily lives.” She was talking about pornography and its effects, including its connection with prostitution and trafficking in women and children for sex slavery. Her proposal was referred back to committee and died there without debate. It deserved better, and so did Europe and the world.

Ms. Eriksson said at the time, “We are faced with the ‘normalization’ of pornography, which [is] causing huge problems in our society, and the majority in the European Parliament are not even willing to debate this.”

Two years later, with a million soccer fans heading to Germany for the month-long World Cup competition that begins June 9, criminal gangs are bringing thousands of trafficked women and girls to Germany, and will set them up in large, elaborate new brothels and sordid little drive-through “sex huts” in a dozen German cities.

Ms. Eriksson understood that “normalizing” pornography creates the demand for sex that the criminal gangs exploit. And now, having brushed aside her insight, the European Parliament and others on the Continent are scrambling to do something.

It’s been going like this:

In March, Members of the same European Parliament that shelved the Eriksson initiative condemned trafficking in human beings, particularly of women and children for sexual purposes, and proposed strategies “to combat this ghastly problem.” They also held a seminar; adopted a resolution; called for a Europe-wide campaign “to inform the general public and reduce the demand.” They went further, proposing an Anti-Trafficking Day to raise awareness, and thought “media and famous people from the sports world also have to be involved in the awareness raising campaign. . . .”

Not a word about going after the porn.

In Cork, Ireland, The Irish Examiner reported March 24 that the National Women’s Council of Ireland “is joining with women’s organizations across Europe. . . to protest against pimps and owners of small and mega-brothels and ‘performance boxes’ (toilet-like stalls in large drive-in areas), who are about to make maximum profit during the World Cup period.”

Still no word about pornography.

Reuters reported on April 3 that “Sweden’s sexual equality ombudsman demanded on Monday that his country’s soccer team pull out of the World Cup in Germany in protest.” Ms. Eriksson represents Sweden in the European Parliament, but the ombudsman seems to have overlooked pornography.

Fight over pornography is reminiscent of tobacco wars

Scientists have found that pornography triggers an addicting chemical response in the brain similar to the effect caused by tobacco and certain other substances, such as heroin and cocaine.

Spokespersons for the opposing view are tied to the porn industry, in the same way that apologists for tobacco were tied to the tobacco industry during their doomed struggle to deny the evidence against tobacco and to deal with the slow build-up of popular awareness and anti-tobacco attitudes.

Something similar may be underway in the pornography wars.

Speaking for the pornographers in an AP Online story April 2 was Paul Cambria, who has a degree in law but is not known to be qualified in any of the physical sciences. He sloughed off the scientific evidence with this breezy comment:

 

There are individuals who are going to react abnormally to normal material, but it’s not a problem for the average person. Some people lie about it. It’s their way of excusing personally unacceptable conduct – “It wasn’t me, it was porn.”

But how can pornography be addictive? There is no ingested or injected or inhaled substance involved in pornography. The short answer is that an addiction to pornography, like an addiction to, say, gambling, involves the brain’s response to a different kind of pleasurable stimulus.

Experts testified to this point during a hearing on “The Science Behind Pornography Addiction” before the U.S. Senate Committee on Science, Technology, and Space in November 2004. Their fascinating testimony is worth re-visiting.

Judith Reisman, Ph.D., president of the Institute for Media Education, told the Committee, “Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail…

“Pornographic images also cause secretion of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ sex hormones. This triggers excitatory transmitters and produces non-rational, involuntary reactions; intense arousal states that overlap sexual lust – now with fear, shame, and/or hostility and violence. Media erotic fantasies become deeply imbedded, commonly coarsening, confusing, motivating and addicting many of those exposed. . . .

“Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the ‘high’ from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins – mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain.”

Dr. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called pornography “an equal opportunity toxin” and described what pornography addiction does to its victims.

“It damages the viewer, the performer, and the spouses and the children of the viewers and the performers,” she said. “For the viewer, pornography increases the likelihood of sexual addiction and they respond in ways similar to other addicts. Sexual addicts develop tolerance and will need more and harder kinds of pornographic material. They have escalating compulsive sexual behavior becoming more out of control and also experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop the use of the sexual material. . . .

“Research indicates that 70% of the hits on Internet sex sites occur between 9-5 on business computers. Research also indicates and my clinical experience supports that 40% of sex addicts will lose their spouse, 58% will suffer sever financial losses, and 27-40% will lose their job or profession. . . . Research indicates that even non-sex addicts will show brain reactions on PET scans while viewing pornography similar to cocaine addicts looking at images of people taking cocaine. This material is potent, addictive and permanently implanted in the brain.”

There is one notable point of difference between the tobacco wars and the pornography wars. The sale of tobacco is legal for adults. Persons who distribute hardcore pornography, on the other hand – despite what the porn defenders would have you believe – can be prosecuted under federal and state obscenity laws. That is true not just of pornography depicting children but also of pornography showing adults – even “consenting adults” – engaged in hardcore sex acts. To be obscene, sex materials must depict hardcore sexual conduct in a patently offensive manner and, when taken as a whole, must appeal to the prurient interest in sex and lack serious literary, artistic, scientific or political value.

Hard-core pornography is readily available in our culture today. This is so not because obscene “adult pornography” is legal – it is not – but because federal and state obscenity laws have not been enforced as they should be.

Enforcement of federal obscenity laws came to a virtual halt under President Clinton and his Attorney General Janet Reno. Janet Reno had a reputation for being tough on child pornography, but the truth of the matter is that both “adult” obscenity and child porn proliferated during her term in office. Attorney General Gonzalez said recently, “It is not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of an epidemic in the production and trafficking of movies and images depicting the sexual abuse of children.”

That is happening in part because it is no longer just “classic pedophiles” who are preying on children. In their addiction to pornography, “normal” adults are progressing from so-called “mainstream” hardcore pornography to more deviant forms of hardcore pornography, including that which depicts minors. It’s what porn addicts do.

Thankfully, Attorney General Gonzalez is taking steps to crack down not just on adults who prey sexually on children but also adults who commercially distribute patently offensive, morally corrosive and illegal obscene materials.

Pimp gets life sentence in a scene not written by Hollywood

Pimps were in vogue at the Oscars this year, you will recall. The best-song award went to “It’s Hard For a Pimp,” and there was talk of “the hip-hop generation” influencing American culture.

But pimps continue to encounter the hard reality that the public, unlike some in Hollywood, has no tolerance for what they do.

In Washington on March 17, Federal District Judge Gladys Kessler put one of them away for life. Carlos Curtis was convicted of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a key element in the government’s effort to curb child prostitution and child pornography. One of his “stable” was 12 years old.

The Washington Post (March 18, 2006) reported that Judge Kessler said, “What pimps like him do every day devastates the young victims in a way few crimes can. . . They suffer psychologically and emotionally, and they suffer physically. And they often suffer for a lifetime – as Mr. Curtis is going to suffer for a lifetime.”

Mr. Curtis somehow didn’t see it coming. His “face was a portrait of pained disbelief,” the Post reported. What did he expect? How could he not see what the public, and the law, recognize – that what he did was terribly wrong? How could he not see that society cannot abide what he did?

Is it possible Hollywood, too, just doesn’t get it?

Moral, family-friendly movies consistently attract bigger audiences and make more money than those that are morally offensive, yet Hollywood keeps putting big bets on the morally offensive type. Over the first weekend in April, for example, G-rated “Ice Age: The Meltdown” pulled in $70.5 million, compared with $3.9 million for R-rated “Slither” and $3.2 million for “Basic Instinct 2,” also R-rated.

Do they like losing money out there?

Remembering public morals at the Brooklyn Bridge

When graduate students from Brooklyn College put on an art show at a city-owned building under the Brooklyn Bridge in early May, the City of New York objected and closed it down. Among the students and college officials, there was much talk of “censorship” and “students’ rights of free expression.” But City officials looked at the penis sculpture and sexually charged video and remembered something else: respect for public morals. Author: Ed Hynes   05/01/2006

Further Reading