Saturday, December 5, 2009

Defining Pornography

I like the definition I (loosely) culled from John Paul II's pre-Papacy Love and Responsibility:
1. "Media which portrays the value of the sexuality of the person above the value of the person as such."
 I feel that this definition is a better one than "I can't define it, but I'll know it when I see it." It seems like it runs the risk of being a little bit too broad, so let's narrow it a little bit.
2. "Media which intentionally portrays the value of the sexuality of the person above the value of the person as such."
Still seems a little too broad: Isn't sexuality itself a part of the person? Therefore, it seems like some artworks which aren't actually pornographic might fit this definition just by placing emphasis on sexuality in particular. Let's refine it once more and see if we can't get something better.
"Media which intentionally portrays the value of the person as an object of sexual use above the value of the person as such."
I think this one works. Note that here when I say "sexual use" I include lust. So if something's designed to incite lust (which is disproportionate longing for or indulgence in sexual pleasure) rather than to simply emphasize the beauty of the person via sexuality (e.g. a Greek nude statue), there's a problem. I think that this definition, if anything, is too narrow: Certain borderline works which have a good deal of a chance of inciting lots of lust are still not labeled pornography. So one last definition:
3. "Media which, by design or by careless accident, portrays the value of the person as an object of sexual use above the value of the person as such."
In other words, if a scrupulous person is drawing a nude artwork, and accidentally creates pornography, then it doesn't seem like it's really pornography in the moral sense. But if they are fully knowledgeable that what they create will probably be pornographic or a massive catalyst for lust, and they do it anyway, then we've got a careless accident. The best analogy coming to mind (probably a rather poor one) is a defensive driver getting into an accident despite their best efforts to the contrary, versus a reckless driver getting into an accident despite their best efforts to the contrary.

So, serious question: Can someone name for me something that isn't at all pornographic or disproportionate about sexuality and the human person, that fits definition number three? This isn't obviously a huge pressing issue in Christianity, but it's a matter of definition I've been wondering about for quite some time, because when I've shared similar (but not equivalent) definitions with people, they usually get dismissed as being too broad. So if anyone has thoughts, let me know. I kind of have an urge to make a list, so I'm going to put item #1 of "things that fit definition #3" down; feel free to comment to add an item, you will be credited. Obviously skin-magazines like Playboy are givens; here I'm looking for not-obvious examples.


1. Jessica Simpson video for "These Boots were Made for Walkin'."

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