Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Much of what Thomas Moore had to say about sexuality nurturing the soul was beautiful [“The Role of the Erotic Imagination,” June 2001]. When my beloved gazes at me in love, or holds me with respect and tenderness, I am uplifted and revered. But I cannot accept that pornography, however “soft,” reflects this deep experience of sexuality.
Moore hopes for “constant creative dialogue so that the pornographic doesn’t become debilitating or neurotic.” I say: Too late. Playboy, considered one of the most “innocent” skin magazines on the rack, does not promote love and respect for human beings, but their objectification and subordination. It wears a mask of sophistication but sells the belittling of wives, the sexualization of children, and the ownership and control of women. It fosters self-hate in women who feel unworthy of a man’s “passionate gaze” and dissatisfaction in men whose wives and lovers do not measure up to the centerfold standard. And this is the most “innocent” type of pornography. At the other end of the spectrum is total debasement, sadism, and even murder.
Even if I imagine that men at the magazine rack are “wrapped in contemplation,” as Moore says, the message they are internalizing from pornography is not about the mystery of sexuality. There is no expression of female sexuality in those pages that does not bend to male will and desire. Porn presents its message in such a way that no man need feel he is “succumbing to the Goddess.” He is conquering her.
Maybe if our culture weren’t so antierotic, if we lived in a climate of respect and caring between the sexes, and if the statistics on rape, sadism, sexual battery, and pedophilia weren’t what they are, I could buy Moore’s conditional defense of pornography. But porn has diminished our experience of human sexuality while aggrandizing the potential for power and dominance in male sexuality. To assert — even conditionally — that it contributes to a divine contemplation of sexual numinosity is doublespeak on a par with George Orwell’s “War is peace; peace is war.”