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The Politics of Porn

Robert R. Reilly

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The essential act of civilization is the recognition of another person as a human being. Pornography suspends -- if not ends -- that act of recognition because it dehumanizes both its object and its subject. Since the other person is not loved, pornography requires depersonalization and anonymity...pornography removes the fig leaf from the genitals and places it over the human face.

In many major American cities, the tawdry sections of town that once house pornographic cinemas, and strip joints have given way to shiny new office buildings and Starbucks coffee houses. Does this sign of urban renewal also signify moral renewal? Has America finally grown bored with a surfeit of pornography? Unfortunately not. Pornography has simply relocated from inner city slums to a far worse location -- the home, which it now infiltrates via the latest technology.

U.S. News and World Report (Feb. 10, 1997) revealed just how deeply mired this country is in explicit depictions of sexual depravity; it is a sign of the times that the cover article on pornography was carried in the "Business and Technology" section. The story states that hardcore pornography is now an $8 billion industry. A more recent Time magazine article (Sept. 7, 1998), "Porn Goes Mainstream," also in the "Business" section, estimates $10 billion in revenues. In either case, hardcore porn out-grosses all of Hollywood's domestic box office receipts and rakes in more cash than the rock and country music businesses combined. In 1996, 665 million hard core videos were rented -- over two for every man, woman, and child in America. Explicit sex has become part of the bottom line for video stores, long-distance carriers like AT&T, cable companies like Time Warner and Tele-Communications, Inc., and hotel chains like Marriott, Hyatt, and Holiday Inn. In addition, there are an estimated 100,000 pornographic World Wide Web sites on the Internet, offering millions of hardcore pornographic images, some of them "interactive." Pornography is now mainstream. How did this happen?

For the complete article go to the Catholic Educator website.



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