Jim Franklin - Is there anything wrong with pornography? (Debate with Patricia Petersen)
Delivered 02 Jun 2004

I'll get back to pornography later. I need a context first. I want to discuss an extreme sexual practice, one that Patricia hasn't shown. It's rarely pictured at all, or even represented in films and novels - though I'd guess that some of the older people here have indulged in it. It involves getting together with someone who's naked except for a wedding ring. The ring indicates that the couple is committed exclusively and permanently. It's a completely different experience to any form of one-off or provisional sex.

Do you understand why some people find that more exciting than dogs and whips? I hope so.

Some couples who engage in full marital sex go further, and leave themselves open to the possibility of babies, which, as is well-known, hang around indefinitely. That again is a different experience, one more extreme than anything Patricia has shown us. Extreme though it is, it's not as unusual as some pretend. It may be that some people here, even though they don't understand that practice, are actually be the result of it. And figures show that as many as half the couples who commit to the practice of marriage stay in it, in some cases even when they get sick, fat, broke and old. Which not many other sexual practices can survive. I don't think the ashee and the dominatrix will last the distance.

Some say married sex is boring? Perhaps it doesn't need quite the athleticism and variety other forms of sex need, because it has something else. And I wonder if even Madame Ash's customers feel the need for some variety after the first few hundred times - something to spice up their routine. Flavoured ash, perhaps?

As is well-known, married couples are often arguing. Of course they are, because it's not a power relation and it's played for keeps. Keeping your end up in negotiations is crucial, because it's on a basis of equality and it's a whole-of-life thing. And as to that Tolstoy and his "All happy families are alike", he wouldn't have a clue.

I have some images - images that give some idea of what a bizarre practice marriage is. As I said, real married couples don't distribute pictures of themselves having sex, but there are nevertheless some remarkable things out there that you are allowed to see.

Cascade bridal gown

PIC: Petrina wears the Cascade bridal gown from Wendy Sullivan Bridalwear of Brisbane.

... for flashy and upfront about what's going to happen soon, it puts in the shade grainy pix of dominatrixes and ashings?

Original Source: http://www.airsandgraces.com

Jaycie wears a Rocaille bridal gown

Jaycie wears a Rocaille beaded tulle bodice with a full tulle skirt. Available in white and ivory.

Psychological studies have failed to demonstrate any effects of exposing children to bridal images, or any tendency for girls to imitate the behaviour shown in them.

Original Source: http://www.somethingspecialbridal.com/images/sweetie/618.jpg

A Church wedding

PIC: A Church wedding... (A Japanese Christian wedding - these customs have spread shockingly from the decadent First World to other cultures)

Note the cross and other religious appurtenances. Here, the happy couple shove in the public's face their smug opinion that God is interested in their sexual practices ...

Original Source: http://www.keraman.com/bon/wedding/cross.jpg

Disturbing images ...

Denmark was the first country to legalise pornography. The effects are still being felt.

Mary and Frederik wedding carriage

PIC: Mary and Frederik wedding carriage.

Original Source: http://smh.com.au/ftimages/2004/05/15/1084289901751.html

Now, back to pornography. The point of all that talk about marriage is to give you a context to exhibit a couple of scenarios where you can see what's wrong with pornography.

One of a couple, like the one we saw committing themselves irrevocably at the altar, practising full marital sex, finds the other has a hidden cache of hardcore pornography. Has she got anything to complain about? She has, but if you can't understand why, I don't think I can explain it to you. But since this is philosophy, I'll explain it anyway. It's about what's assumed in the initial mutual agreement in marriage - an exclusive mutual understanding of sexual trust. (I don't mean here a case where the couple buys a book to get some ideas - I mean where one partner is living a secret fantasy life with the online teen vixens). So what is it about the porn itself that makes it clash with marital values - that make a cache of porn different from, say, a hoard of cigarettes? For one thing, it's its being designed to be seen and slavered over in just that sort of situation.

Or take this scenario. A baby like the one we saw at the christening has grown up to be my 15-year-old daughter. She's notably attractive, she's got the wide-eyed innocent look that pornographers pay a lot of money for. She comes to me and says, "Dad, I'm going to star in a porn film. My friends have worked for them, it's all safe, their OH&S guidelines are in place. I'm raped in a couple of scenes, but we all know it's fake and I'm really consenting. Is that OK with you? And if not, why not? Is there anything wrong with pornography?" (Let's disregard the fact that a 15-year-old thinking of getting into pornography probably hasn't got a father.)

No, sunshine, it's not OK with me. How can I explain why not? I tell her: it's simple - That's not looking after yourself. Sex is too close a part of the personality to be exposed for money. It's just the nature of sex that it's a way of giving yourself very one-to-one and privately. That's why rape is worse than an assault of similar physical severity and why we're especially concerned about sexual abuse of children: it's because the sexual part of the personality is close and private that a violation of it is serious. For the same reason, doing something else that doesn't suit it, like exposing it to the public for money, is harming yourself even if you consent. It is, in a way, like staying deliberately ignorant - completely refusing to learn anything at school - that harms the intellectual part of the personality, and it's wrong whether you consent or not.

"Degrading": pornography does degrade people, because it intends to. Leashes are a language of degradation - why are they there if it isn't to emphasise that it's degrading? Whether there are harmful effects, in the sense of crimes, or not, mixing sex and degradation is not looking after yourself.

"Objectification", as Patricia puts it, is not much to the point of the kind of objection I'm making.

Banning: I'm not much in favour of it. The state can by and large keep out of the bedroom (the bondage chamber, whatever). If someone wants to be ashed on and be pictured doing it, I'm not telling them to stop it. I just hope it isn't my kids that end up exhibited in Patricia's gallery of freaks.

I am though in favour of regulations so that decent citizens and their children don't have porn in their face when they visit the newsagent.

Finally, a piece of advice and a question.

As you know, married people are inveterate matchmakers. I wish everyone here who would like to be in a permanent relationship the best of luck. Get on with it. If you're thinking "Marriage, it might be all right for some people, but nothing to do with me", then I have some psychiatric advice. Snap out of it.

What about concepts like commitment, love, modesty, restraint ... which are very important to many people's experience of sex. Can we hear from Patricia what she thinks of those concepts?