Thursday, June 19, 2008

Penn & Teller's Bullshit

If you have Showtime, I urge you to watch this week's episode of Bullshit with Penn & Teller. This has been a consistently good series, adding a much needed voice of reason and a cold splash of reality on many subjects. This week, they take on the war on porn.

While their show centered on visual porn, much of the arguments have been used for and against written erotic works. The US Government has long tried to censor or ban works that offended the sensibilities of a few. They continue to this day by prosecuting text only websites that contain stories local and Federal government officials have deemed to be pornography. While I found the stories on that site offensive - and I'm not easily offended - the fact that the government silences the
discussion of ideas by using the threat of legal action to bludgeon citizens into submission angers me.

Unfortunately, the show wasn't long enough for Penn & Teller to explore all the
ramification of what the anti-porn people said, but one of the most offensive ideas I took away from their arguments was that men are incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality. One woman claimed watching it led to rape and child pornography. She couldn't prove it, of course, but we were supposed to just take her word for it, because she believed it. My bullshit detector went of big time on that. I'm sure most of the men I know use porn. I'm equally sure none of them are rapist. Why?
Because they are decent human beings. They use their brains. They candistinguished
between right and wrong. They aren't violent. They may have sexual urges, but that doesn't mean that they act on them. Watching sexual acts doesn't suddenly rip away those fundamentalcharacter traits and make men into sociopaths. Come on. Men don't need to have their libidos repressed any more than women do. And this is what it comes down to. Repression of libido as the ultimate government/church method of
controlling people. It's more subtle on men than it is on women, but it exists. And frankly, I'm sick of men being treated like knuckle-draggers who are only kept in line by laws. They deserve more credit than that.


Amanda said...

this also wreaks havoc with the ages old understanding that rape is violence. wanting sex is not wanting violence. acting on urges in a non consensual manner in real life is criminal. to say that watching porn leads to criminal and violent acts is a huge leap and highly objectionable not just to men but to women too. to all humans. ugh.

Helen said...

I spent six years studying communications, and there are no definitive studies that prove TV, movies, music or print media can actually directly influence how people act. Hell, no one can even prove advertising works, beyond creating name recognition (yes, I've heard of McDonald's; hell no, I won't eat there). There are always other factors at work, including peer pressure, culture, economics, family, etc. Media and books are only a small part of the equation. We may live in society that promotes violence and sexual denigration, but you can't just point a finger at porn and say, "That's the cause!" Most often, the media is a mirror that reflects what's going in the world.

And yes, it took six years of post-high school education to make me smart enough to say that!