Pornography — The Real Perversion Dinesh D’Souza January 14, 2007

On a recent trip to Istanbul I encountered a group of Muslim students who insisted that American culture was morally perverse. They called it “pornographic.” And they charged that this culture is now being imposed on the rest of the world. I protested that pornography is a universal vice. “Yes,” one of the students replied, “but nowhere else is pornography in the mainstream of the culture. Nowhere else is porn considered so cool and fashionable. Pornography in America represents an inversion of values.”

As I returned home to the United States, I wondered: are these students right? I don’t think American culture as a whole is guilty of the charge of moral depravity. But there is a segment of our culture that is perverse and pornographic, and perhaps this part of American culture is the one that foreigners see. Wrongly, they identify one face of America with the whole of America. When they protest what they see as the glamorization of pornography and vice, however, it’s hard to deny that they have a point.

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13 thoughts on “Pornography — The Real Perversion”

  1. I’m not sure why any American cultural critique offered up by someone from Istanbul is a “valid point”, while taking heed of any similar negative comments about our foreign policy is seen as “appeasement”. Personally, I’d prefer the modest negative by-products of freedom of speech and dress over living in a culture that fears its women to the degree that it endorses genital mutilation.

    Besides, I’m not sure we should be lectured on cultural morality by people who believe they’re going to be greeted in Heaven by a harem of virgins (I never understood the moral consistency of this).

    Pornography is not without its victims, of course, but it is not the mainstream of American culture – and those that are part of the industry most often are willing participants.

  2. James, so what small town with a population of less than 500 do you live in?

    If you don’t think that pornography is becoming more and more mainstream in the West you need a new seeing eye dog.

  3. JamesK: Pornography is the act or the image of sex solely for self-gratification. It does not matter whether it is in or out of marriage, who or what the sexual object used for that gratification. In is incomprehensible to me that anyone would not recognize the centrality that such self-gratification in sex, food, and money plays in our culture.

    The big mistake that Muslims make is to assume that they are any different. Their attitudes toward women are merely an exported desire. The genesis of the desire is seen as being in the desired object rather than in the one with the desire. In a sense, it is simply the other side of the western coin—equally pornographic.

    Just because someone decides to prostitute him or herself either for money or simple sensual gratification does not make it right. Equally as troublesome, to me, is the proliferation of “competitive eating”. It is quite close in nature to the desire for sex simply for self-gratification. Of course, one should not forget “recreational” drug use: tobacco, alcohol, and meth to name a few. Nor should be ignore the “gaming” industry.

    The list of major companies who promote and profit from all of these pornographies is long and growing. It is difficult to find a major American consumer corporation that is NOT deeply involved in one or more of these pornographies and the act of exporting them around the world. After all what else is consumption, the passion that drives our economy, but unbalanced desire for things—all of which are advertised with sex.

  4. Michael wrote:

    The list of major companies who promote and profit from all of these pornographies is long and growing.

    The dirty little secret is that the number one economy on the internet is pornography. Internet pornography has made billionaires to use the cliche “literally overnight”.

  5. Note 1.

    I’m not sure why any American cultural critique offered up by someone from Istanbul is a “valid point”, while taking heed of any similar negative comments about our foreign policy is seen as “appeasement”.

    Because you judge a critique on its merits, not solely by who delivers it.

    Frankly, I think the exporting of pornography (as well as the pornification of the culture at home) is a national disgrace. Islamic or not, the criticism is fair.

  6. Equally as troublesome, to me, is the proliferation of “competitive eating”.

    I hadn’t previously thought of it in those terms, but now that you mention it, there is something pornographic about the intentional decadence of forcing yourself to eat quantities of food far beyond what you require nutritionally, especially in a world where millions starve.

    I heard the term “money porn” a few years ago, applied to the new wave of TV shows that depicted average people receiving fantastic sums of money (like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” etc.) The thinking was that, at a certain prize level, a game is more than a game, but is broadcast to fulfill our cultural fantasies about personal wealth.

  7. D’Souza’s premise is that the “cultural left is directly … responsible for causing 9/11”, a premise rejected by Townhall’s own review of this book as well as by members of the conservative Clairmont Institute.

    “To give us insight into the Jihadist loathing for American culture, D’Souza relies on the writings of the father of modern Radical Islam, Sayyid Qutb. Qutb spent two years in America and then returned to the Middle East thoroughly disgusted by American culture. He spent the rest of his life chronicling his hatred for America’s decadent society.

    Here’s where D’Souza is dishonest or careless: He informs the reader that Qutb died in 1966. He fails to inform the reader that the time Qutb spent in America was between 1948 and 1950.

    Since D’Souza blames our culture for much of the Islamic world’s animus towards America, this is no small matter. The culture of the 1940’s wasn’t what it is today. Perhaps Qutb was scandalized by pop culture products of the time like the overt raciness of ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ or the raw sexuality contained on the typical Bing Crosby record; the man was after all a lunatic. But the culture of the late 1940’s contained none of the things that D’Souza so obviously deplores and that he postulates are inflaming the Muslim world. The 1940’s had no filthy hippies, no gangsta rap, no gay weddings.”

    As the author accurately points out, we are hated by radical Islamists not merely because our women are granted permission to walk around unaccompanied by a male “guardian” and without 70 yards of fabric, but because we are not them.

    Critique Playboy and Penthouse if one must, but I don’t see that any opinions shared by Islamic fundamentalists has any relevance here.

  8. Ok, here’s something I don’t understand. D’Souza says that Muslims believe that we are imposing our culture on them. How exactly does that happen? Is Michael Moore flying over Muslim countries and dropping DVDs of Girls Gone Wild on them? Is George Clooney sending copies of Playboy magazine to Saudi Arabia? Are we beaming reruns of All in the Family to Iran? Other than invading Iraq and having a large number of military bases throughout the Middle East, how do we impose our culture? Or is it simply the fact that the person in the street likes American culture, and that poses a threat to the Islamic religious hierarchy?

  9. It’s a little bit of both probably. Cultural products are not neutral. Look at the studies between teenage sexuality or violence and the media products they consume. Porn in the local Squat and Gobble is certainly freely purchased, and if there was no demand there would be no product. At the same time, the fact that they are sold there contributes to a mainstreaming of porn that was unthinkable thirty years ago. Kid growing up today think it is normal. They’ve seen it sold all their lives.

    At the same time, the Moslem religious leaders probably recognize the corrosive effects of these products on society. Last month Christian, Jewish, and Moslem leaders came to uncommon agreement against a gay pride march scheduled in Jerusalem. Bombing America is certainly not the way to deal with these things, but that a river of decadence flows through American culture can’t be disputed. Just look at the sexualization of children for example.

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