Combatting harmful effects of pornography

Part 1

                No one questions the many beneficial effects of what is known as Industrial Revolution 4.0 which makes possible  the rapid adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Internet of Things and Big Data, among others.  Thanks to the technology made available by IR 4.0, there have been quantum leaps in the productivity of the supply side, whether agriculture, industry or services, and in the greater enjoyment by consumers of goods and services on the demand side.  There is, however, the dark side of digital technology, especially as applied to social media.  There is the serious  harm that the greater availability of pornography can inflict, especially on the young.  One cannot even enjoy an exciting game of football on one of the popular sports channel, without the image of a naked woman popping up from time to time.  Children and adolescents ae especially vulnerable to this evil of social media.

                It is important for parents and teachers to be fully aware of the harmful effects of pornography.  Fortunately, the same social media has abundant supply of articles spelling out in very concrete details the harm that can be done by pornography.  Let us begin with an article written by Paul J. McGeady of the General Counsel of Morality in Media, Inc. of the U.S.  For clarity’s sake, the article begins with a very clear definition of pornography.  The word comes for the Greek words, “porne,” which means a harlot, prostitute, or whore, and “graphos,” meaning a writing or depiction.  Putting the two words together, we get “a depiction or description of the activities of whores.”   By calling a spade a spade in such a manner, it is difficult for any decent person to justify exposing especially young people even to what they call “soft porn.”  This becomes clearer when Webster dictionary, in  very secular and non-religious terms, elaborates on this etymology of pornography by defining pornography as “a depiction of licentiousness or lewdness,” or a “portrayal of erotic behavior designed to cause sexual excitement.”  In U.S. jurisprudence, the Supreme Courts has equated hard core pornography with obscenity.  Anything else may loosely be called “indecent” material, or soft-core porn.    

                For those of us who subscribe to Christian morals, the consumption of pornography or the participation in its production and distribution has always been regarded as sinful and thus harmful to the soul and our eternal salvation.  Pope Francis has recently reaffirmed the Christian doctrine that “any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin.”  Obtaining  sexual satisfaction out of viewing a pornographic material (like looking at a woman with lust that Christ himself equated with adultery) is a sexual act outside of marriage and is therefore sinful.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2354) couldn’t be more explicit:  “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display this deliberately to third parties.  It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.  It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others.  It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world.  It is a grave offense.”

                Those who do not profess the Catholic faith can refer to the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:28) in which Christ explicitly declared:  “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.”  In fact, the Muslim religion can be even stricter (just note how in Indonesia, laws have been recently passed declaring sexual acts outside of marriage as punishable by law).  The following is a quotation from the Qu’ran:  “God desires to turn toward you, but those who follow their lusts desire you to serve away mightily.” (Sura IV (On Women), v. 32).  Say to the Believers that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts; that it is purer for them; God is aware of the things they work….And say to the believing women, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts, and reveal not their adornment save such as is outward; and let them cast their veils over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment save to their husbands…”

                Judaism is no different.  Anyone steeped in the Jewish tradition will remember that a core belief of Judaism is that man and woman are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  Judaism sanctions, indeed considers sacred, the positive enjoyment of sexuality within the context of an overall relationship between husband and wife.  To a believing Jew, pornography represents the very antithesis of that tradition.  It makes people into objects by reducing sexuality to an impersonal, mechanical activity.  It denies the very image of God within us.

                Even outside the three major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, ancient civilizations (like those of Confucian societies in the Indo-Pacific region), there is a general adherence to what can be called “morality.”  There is a widespread belief in some kind of “natural law”: “Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.  It is sometimes called “natural law” and allows him or her to recognize the moral quality of any act whether it is good or bad.   Conscience and the ability to seek good and avoid evil is inscribed in his heart by God.”  Under this natural law, our conscience calls us to be chaste, a personal moral virtue.  Indulgence or participation in the pornography explosion can be labeled unchaste, licentious, and morally evil.  Pornography is seen to be destructive of personal morality. 

                For those of us who have been captivated by K-Pop and the Korean Telenovelas, it is striking how morally clean Korean productions usually are, in comparison with what Hollywood or even Netflix dish out to the public.  For example, I just followed faithfully a Korean TV series entitled Reply1988 about young love.  It was remarkable that not a single scene in this series contained any sexually explicit encounters among the young people in love with one another.  The kissing scenes were always subdued.  This reminded me of another series called “The Good Doctor” produced by the Koreans.  When U.S. producers made an adaptation of the series, in almost every other scene there are doctors and nurses being shown in  bed having sexual intercourse.  I hope we continue to protect the adherence of Asian cultures to the natural law, whatever their religions or no religions.

                Even in more liberal societies like the United States, however, pornography  is considered to violate public morality.  The obscenity law of the State of New York, for example, is contained in Title M of the Penal Law and is labeled “Offenses Against Public Health and Morals.”  The U.S. Federal Government and the States in the Union have extensive laws against obscenity.  In the U.S., it is recognized that the police power gives the Government the right to legislate against the evil of pornography.  The United States Federal Government and the States in the Union have extensive laws against obscenity.  There is a right in the Government, declares the U.S. Supreme Court, to “maintain a decent society.”  The obscenity and indecency violations of the film and TV industry as well as social media tend to destroy the protection of public morality desired by the people.  (To be continued.)