February 18th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: AWB biggest scandal to hit the Howard Government

EDITORIAL: Tide turns on global capitalism

SCHOOLS: Why our children don't know history

ECONOMICS: Sky's the limit with CEO pay increases

EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Engineer shortage hurting economy

RURAL CRISIS: Black Friday for Canadian farmers

MEDICAL: Abortion pill a bonanza for lawyers

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The humbug revolution / Iran / Bush, oil addiction and the environment

AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY: Is pornography just harmless fun?

ENTERTAINMENT: American awards honour traditional values

EAST TIMOR: Will Indonesian military be let off the hook?

WAR ON TERROR: Tackling a home-grown security threat

OPINION: 'Human rights' charter a backward step

OBITUARY: Colin Pike, champion of the underdog

Religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War (letter)

B.A. Santamaria on Toynbee's 'creative minorities' (letter)

BOOKS: MANHOOD: An action plan for changing men's lives, by Steve Biddulph

BOOKS: HEAD OF STATE: The Governor-General, the Monarchy, the Republic and the Dismissal, by Sir David Smith

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Is pornography just harmless fun?

by Dr Kerrie Allen

News Weekly, February 18, 2006
Dr Kerrie Allen, research officer for the Australian Family Association, continues her survey of the disaster caused by the triumph of moral relativism and the collapse of sexual morality.

Pornography is by no means a new phenomenon. But today there is a surfeit of it, especially in its more explicit and exploitative forms, thanks to the liberalisation of censorship laws and the easy availability of uncensored material through the Internet and other media.

Pornography is certainly not art. By no stretch of imagination can it be described as "contact with the best which has been thought and said in the world", as Matthew Arnold once defined high culture.

Pornography has nothing romantic, heroic or ennobling about it. It is not about healthy intimacy within a marriage relationship based on mutual love and long-term commitment. It is just an appeal to human lust. In depicting individuals as no more than objects of sexual gratification, it effectively reduces humanity to the level of beasts.

Depraved and demeaning

Pornography has evolved from the cheap "girlie" magazines of yesteryear to something altogether more depraved and demeaning. Today's pornography typically exploits adults, and even children, in degrading acts, including simulated rape (including "gang" rape), violence, use of objects, bestiality and adult-child/schoolgirl sex.

Pornography sees sexual desire in isolation from love and affection. It does not inspire one to respect and love one's spouse, nor does it show any concern or pity for women and children who are brutalised along the way. It has no end beyond self-gratification. In other words, it is a form of sexual self-abuse.

This degeneration and brutalisation of public taste is no coincidence. Milos Forman, director of The People vs. Larry Flint, a movie about the publisher of the pornographic magazine Hustler, declares that, while we may not like pornography, its existence is essential to our freedom.

About Forman's equating freedom of speech with freedom to view pornography, Robert R. Reilly observes: "If we can make it all up as we go along, then there are no moral standards to distinguish between pornography and other forms of speech, only personal taste. The broad embrace of this view has opened up the floodgates to hardcore pornography." ("The Politics of Porn", Crisis, vol. 16, no. 11, December 1998).

Twenty years ago, young supporters of the National Civic Council stood in Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall asking people to sign petitions banning X- and R-rated pornographic films. Many young people responded positively.

Today, however, things are very different. Most people are indifferent to the problem of pornography and are more concerned about the "loss of freedom" that restrictions might entail.

Recently, an NCC officer conducted a focus group in a regional Victorian town. The group was made up of nurses, all of them women aged 20-35. Almost all thought Dolly, Cosmo and Cleo magazines were not reflective of pornographic literature; in fact, they thought they didn't reflect anything out-of-the-ordinary at all, even though these magazines regularly feature sexually-explicit articles on such topics as sexual positions, oral sex and "pick-up" techniques.

The majority of the women in the focus group were also mothers who said they had no problem in buying these magazines for their daughters. These findings indicate poor understanding of what represents pornography and about the insidious way pornography has permeated popular culture.

About society's failure to distinguish between obscenity and free speech, Reilly notes: "Lack of censorship is a sign of a society that no longer cares about these distinctions or has lost the ability to make them."

And because there is no distinction anymore between obscenity and free speech, between vice and virtue, right and wrong, where does one draw the line? Reilly asks: "If sex is only a form of play or recreation, what could be wrong with a little sodomy, pederasty, or even incest?"

While many people in society can see no problem with such activities or worse, there are all too many women, teenage girls and children whose freedom has been violated and abused - a trend, moreover, that is getting worse.

Sexual violence

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has estimated that 1.2 million women in Australia, aged 18 and over, have suffered sexual violence or the threat of it since the age of 15. More specifically, one in six adult women in Australia has experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 years.

A current study of teenage sexual health in Victoria also presents frightening figures. One in five females, compared with one in 20 males, has reported unwanted sexual coercion, half the incidents of which have occurred before the age of 17.

During the decade of 1964-74, when South Australia liberalised its censorship laws, the state experienced a 284 per cent increase in reported rape. During this same 10-year period, Queensland did not allow liberalisation of its censorship laws and showed only a 23 per cent increase in rape reports.

Similar findings have been reported in all other countries that have liberalised pornography laws. The Australia Institute in 2003 said: "A wide range of studies indicates that young men who use violent pornography, or who are frequent users of pornography, are more likely to engage in sexual aggression."

The ease with which people have access to Internet pornography has been blamed for exacerbating this problem. In 2003, Canberra Hospital's Child at Risk Unit reported that exposure to Internet pornography was a significant contributory factor to children younger than 10 sexually abusing other children.

Some researchers suggest that to counter this assault, young people need to be better equipped with the skills and confidence to end relationships in which (i) they are being pressured to have sex, and (ii) unwanted sex is occurring.

This is the big dilemma that moral relativists refuse to face. On the one hand, they say that we must uphold the ready availability of pornography and prostitution, because not to do so would violate people's most sacred freedoms. However, on the other hand, if they are honest, they have to acknowledge that these supposed "freedoms" have resulted in women and young girls being molested and raped at unprecedented rates.

Sexual predation

Society as a whole needs to acknowledge the harm that pornography has caused and take the necessary steps to protect the public from X-rated films, to ban obscenity from the media and to introduce mandatory Internet filtering in all schools and libraries. The right to safety from sexual predation is surely more important than the "right" to be corrupted by depravity.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister John Howard naïvely declared that more sex education might decrease the number of abortions.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Pru Goward, added to Howard's comments, saying: "The teenage abortion rate is starting to fall and I think that is very promising because that means parents are starting to talk to their kids, maybe not about sex, but about contraception."

Is this the best we can do for teenagers - deceiving them that using condoms (which are not 100 per cent effective) guarantees "safe sex"? In fact, it is increasingly evident that the more widely contraception is available, the more promiscuous people become - and this, predictably, leads to more "unsafe" sexual encounters (i.e., sex without condoms).

Much of the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the world can be linked to the false promise of "safe sex". By contrast, Uganda has had great success in combating its high rates of HIV/AIDS infections since Dr Miriam Duggan, with the backing of the Ugandan Government, introduced her community programs teaching sexual abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage (the only guaranteed form of safe sex).

As previously reported in News Weekly (October 8, 2005), Dr Duggan's program has seen HIV/AIDS infection rates in Uganda decline dramatically - from 30 per cent of the population in 1990 to 15 per cent in 1997, 7 per cent in 2000, and 6 per cent in 2005.

Unfortunately, much sex education in Australian schools has not resulted in young people having clearer understanding of the issues at stake or a mature preparation for mature relationships with the opposite sex.

A Melbourne survey last year revealed that 49.1 per cent of young Australian women wanted the excitement of love, but only 7.3 per cent wanted to marry and have children.

Teenage promiscuity owes a lot to society's over-emphasis on merely sexual attraction at the expense of other aspects of relationships, such as friendship and long-term commitment.

The move away from desiring marriage and motherhood also owes much to the feminist agenda, coupled with a moral relativist ideology. This encourages people to seek personal lifestyle fulfilment, but without encumbering oneself with marriage and childrearing.

The notions of self-control, faithfulness in marriage and the keeping of vows go against the grain of much relativist thinking and find little place in modern education. Instead, a deeply flawed type of sex education, utterly divorced from any idea of marital commitment, is aggressively promoted in schools, health clinics and adolescent services.

It is regarded as self-evident that sex educators should pursue a "whole school" approach, acknowledging young people as sexual beings, catering for "diversity" (e.g. "re-defining" sex so that it includes a rich smorgasbord of alternatives to monogamous, heterosexual unions), and introducing sex education early in school (so as to sexualise children at an ever-earlier age).

To counter the spread of pornography and anti-family values, parents and teachers together need to communicate effectively with their children in order to promote civilised values that will protect youngsters from moral relativism and the merchants of sleaze.

Peer pressure

Youngsters must learn to view others as persons deserving of respect rather than as sex objects. Teenagers especially crave for social acceptance and to be part of a group, so it is additionally important that they are taught to feel good and cool about saying "no" to immense peer pressure and coercion.

Maintaining sexual integrity can save one from risk-taking behaviours, sexual exploitation and much unnecessary heartbreak. In fact, an honest and proper sex education - in contrast to the muddled one currently on offer - should warn youngsters about the dangers of promiscuous living.

Youngsters should be encouraged to see marriage in a positive light and to value saving their gift of sexuality for their future spouse. They should be reminded that men and women need more than physical desire to sustain a fulfilling relationship: they need romantic love, companionship and a long-term commitment to each other.

Enjoying mutual trust in this way, a couple can then provide a loving home in which to bring up the next generation.

  • This is the second and final extract from a longer paper by Dr Kerrie Allen. References are available on request.

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