The "other side" of the Pornography Debate
Is opposition to pornography itself harmful and immoral? There is an
alternative angle to this question; a different approach from the usual
debate between "it's evil and so should be censored" vs. "it's evil,
but censorship is worse".
In Pornography: the Other Side (Praeger Publishers, One Madison Ave,
___________________________ New York, 10010)
the author, F.M. Christensen, aims to prove that standard objections to
sexually explicit materials are seriously mistaken; indeed tragically
so. Such materials are not morally evil in themselves, nor are they
genuinely responsible for producing societal harms.
Instead, all the common arguments that sexual materials are degrading,
are demonstrably fallacious, and the real reasons why people find them
degrading can be explained. Similarly, a careful survey of the scien-
tific evidence that "supports" claims that sexual materials are harm-
ful, reveals the charge to be wholly unfounded.
'In fact, it will be argued that the current anti-pornography
campaign is in many ways itself morally evil.'
More fundamentally, Christensen maintains that the perennial debate
over pornography is only a symbol of underlying conflicts over sexuali-
ty itself. The real problem is attitudes toward sexuality which are
unhealthy and even immoral, yet which are deeply ingrained in our
(North American) culture - attitudes that produce needless conflicts
between the sexes, violence, and most of the other evils for which
pornography is often blamed. The author thus turns the traditional
objections to pornography on their head, putting the opponents of por-
nography on the defensive.
The book begins with a survey of relevant facts about human sexuality,
notably on the (average) differences between males and females regar-
ding sexual "drive" and arousability by visual stimuli. It then goes
on to discuss moral values in general and moral values in the special
case of sex, along with the nature and origins of false sexual morali-
ty. Christensen also takes on the standard arguments that "sexual
frankness is degrading" - notably the charges of dehumaniztion, objec-
tification and exploitation - and reveals that they are logically
fallacious. One chapter analyzes the special reasons why so many femi-
nists and so many women in general object to sexual portrayals, and it
concludes that the only genuine sexism involved in the pornography
issue, is the anti-male bias of pornography opponents. Other chapters
deal with the issues of violence and special types of alleged degrading
scenes in pornography.
'..., certain branches of feminism have come to see fighting it
(pornography) as one of their major concerns. It has been argued
that there is nothing in the least degrading about any degree of
sexual explicitness, to women or to anyone else. But the ongoing
campaign to associate it with the genuine evils women have tradi-
tionally suffered is an ideological distortion of the first magni-
tude. The battle for equal rights and equal dignity for the sexes,
which all moral individuals must support, does not in any way jus-
tify this degradation-of-women claim against pornography.
'It seems quite clear that the most fundamental source of feminist
views about pornography and women is the sex-negative conditioning
we all have received, but which females receive in greater degrees.
'Not only is it false that pornography per se is sexist; but as has
begun to be revealed, the shoe is on the other foot. The anti-porno-
graphy campaign itself represents a pernicious sort of intolerance
against persons with certain types of sexual needs and desires -
the great majority of whom are males. Though the movement's focus
is on media expressions of those feelings, the broader message is
inevitable: "Your needs and emotions are evil, and so must be re-
The second half of 'Pornography: the Other Side' focuses on the various
charges that the use of pornography causes harmful mental states and
behavior; its alleged effects on marriage and intimate relationships;
on emotional stability, and on attitudes towards women. Two full chap-
ters are devoted to the sensationalistic issue of whether pornography
in any way promotes rape. Contrary to the affirmative assumptions made
by the opponents of pornography, Christensen argues that antisexual
attitudes are actually behind much of the sexual violence and other
'Many today, following the feminists, are loath to admit that sexual
desire could be involved in rape, even in an exploitative way. In-
stead they insist it always has hatred or the desire to subjugate
as its sole motive. Extremist feminists carry the view a step fur-
ther, claiming that the latter emotions are just part of a wider
pattern, a contempt and hatred of women that have long been taught
in this culture.
'Once again, it is absurd to say that materials which portray men
and women as being sexually alike degrade only one sex. Hence there
is something very odd about the idea that they would lead to hosti-
lity only toward one. Any such differential effect would have to be
blamed on the double standard the viewers went in with. What an
egalitarian portrayal - of any sort - might do is to diminish the
perceived differences between the sexes. In particular, it might
conceivably reduce the feeling that harm to a woman is more serious
than equal harm to a man.
'A study of the numbers of "adult" bookstores and theaters across
the country showed no correlation with the reported rates of violent
sex crimes. But a correlation has been found between those rates and
sales of the feminist magazine "Ms". And there is an even stronger
association between progress in women's rights and sales of sex
magazines. The latter fact runs directly counter to feminist claims
about how pornography leads to rape; indeed, the other correlation
argues that sexual materials incite rape no more than this one
argues that they promote respect for women's rights.
The book winds up with discussions of various arguments for and against
censorship of sexual (and other) materials; concluding that it is very
important for freedom, emotional health and sane sexual attitudes (even
for those not themselves interested in sexual entertainment) to oppose
This book provides an excellent tool with which to do it. Put in on your
"Must Read" list for this summer - or later.
'...those who are opposed to sexual superstition and concerned
about real justice must make a stand if this society is to escape
the forces pushing it back toward the even greater cruelty and
irrationality of the past.