On the Ubiquity of Child Pornography

On the Ubiquity of Child Pornography (a Christmas Day gift for a ‘naughty’ society)

            In the burlesque of passion, ‘naughty’ is nice. In the grotesque of desire, ‘naughty’ is simply nasty. If pornography is more deeply and precisely defined as the narrowing of one’s humanity through objectification, suppression and the sabotage of agency, child pornography appears ubiquitous in our society. Its sexual aspect is but one instance of the confluence of these three forces, and in no way should an ethical understanding of pornography be limited to an examination of what is in fact a mere skewed symptom. For sexuality in itself is an essential part of the human experience, and from a very early age, as Freud and many others have correctly demonstrated. By reducing our inhumanity as directed upon others to what is indeed an authenticity of being only compounds the evil, which is itself in turn sourced in ressentiment. It is inevitable that an adult will feel a compulsion to absorb the wider childhood of which he was himself robbed when a child; whether this theft is repeated against his own children or those utterly unknown to him. This repetition of a criminal act may be witnessed in a myriad of examples hailing from a variety of sectors in today’s society, and specifically in its institutional cultures, wherein objectification, suppression and the denial of human agency and will occurs together and in a calculated manner.

            Private schools emblazon public transit with rows of smiling uniformed girls, well-behaved and no doubt well-disciplined and yet apparently so happy to be forced into the same clothing and the same personality as their desk-bound neighbors who, before being crammed into such places by parents eager to both dispense with their care and ensure that their wealth stay in strictly monitored courtship circles, were complete strangers to them. No matter, as all will shortly become the same thing, and this thinghood is of the utmost: not a person, but a set of objectified roles; dutiful child, chaste daughter, model student, submissive spouse et al. That the ‘schoolgirl’ is an altogether perennially popular staple of the porn industry tells all: it has borrowed from the stilted life of the child the sexualized thinghood already utterly present within its pleats and tights. Just as art mimics the very highest of and in life itself, so does porn mimic the very lowest.

            Such schools spend much space on their respective websites outlining with a salacious delicacy their uniforms, including ‘modesty shorts’ for girls. At once this official apparel, from which there may be no deviation whatsoever pending punishment – much anticipated by the adults involved, and the very reason why uniform codes are so picayune in the first place – suppresses any hint of natural sexuality by objectifying youthful charm in a lockstep repetition, not unlike ballet or team sports, two other parental favorites, in which youth appear as part nymph part storm-trooper. Such schools rely on supportive and presumably equally neo-fascist families for ‘discipline’, also reiterative, and in even more authoritarian circles, often still of the physical variety. And yet the malingering presence of corporal punishment in some political regions is completely consistent with other aspects of the suppression and objectification of the child, for it is nothing other than surrogate sex.

            The child and the youth become the institutional playthings of adults, chaste yet charming chattel, objects and not persons. Their human rights are denied them, their own nascent wills crushed, their narrowed paths set before them and predefined as the same road to ressentiment. In this dynamic, the relations of an alienated subsistence are reproduced. The child will become the avid consumer, the beleaguered producer, entertained by a sullen mean-spiritedness. They will watch television ads wherein even a teenager’s first kiss is denied by mocking parents, and these latter will chuckle to themselves and glance over with menace at their own adolescent children. We’re not selling you a vehicle, but rather a warning. Those who script such ad campaigns are pornographers, the companies which contract them porn merchants. Buy their products and support child pornography, but that is what you desire above all else. For the truncated adulthood of our mass culture only moves us when we can enact violence, either symbolic or physical or both, upon others. Children are the safest mark, for other adults will generally fight back or have friends who will fight for them. But the uniformed disciplined loveless child is the perfect daughter, the perfect son. And to have one or the other makes you the perfect parent.

            We can also rely upon far more than the schools and the laws to support our perfection. All that is sold to children fosters within them an auto-pornography. Shop anywhere, and though you may be of any age group, you are forced to listen to the voices of insipidly ten-year-old sounding pop stars who, in highly sexualized whispers or ululations, sing of youthful desire alone. This the basest most perverse version of any possible Reich, for at least the Nazis had good taste in music. In all else regarding our children, we mirror many of their own desires. The Orwellian character of general child pornography is certainly also indisputable. The children’s athletic apparel designed to provide a source of endless voyeurism for audiences; the television ratings for the competitions that reveal much or most of young women always the most popular attractions. Those few with acrobatic skills and perfect hebephilic figures have graduated from the sexual school uniform to that of theatrical sporting performances, in the process having also been unsurprisingly regressed from a mere pupil to a circus animal.

            Children are mocked in entertainment scripts intended for adults, while youths are often violently suppressed and yet objectified, seen as a threat to society but at the same time as being the original source of desire, resented mightily and yet relentlessly pursued, just as we orient ourselves to our own lost youth. And it matters not whether the scriptwriters are simply good old Nazi or fashionable Feminazi; compare ‘Bosch’ with ‘Scott and Bailey’, for instance. In both, teens are berated, threatened with violence, cast as the source of social problems or the bane of parental existences. And these are but two of the more egregious offerings out of hundreds and in all genres. And by contrast, scripts directed at youth themselves are in their vast majority pure fantasy, stating to young people that in order for them to have an agency at all, they must dwell alone in the worldcraft of our adult imagination, formulaic and utterly reactionary as it is. The creators of such fantasies are child pornographers, the young actors sex industry starlets, and the parents who approve of their viewing do so with the low cunning of a holocaust architect. Objectification, suppression, denial of agency: the trinity for the mass murder of all that children authentically embody.

            Children who play with one another unencumbered by social role device, who create their own worldcraft bereft of the constant and ubiquitous harping of corporate CGI campaigns, and youths who love one another far outside of parental control and oversight, and who explore their shared world wide-eyed with one another far beyond the panting grunt of the molester’s narrow gaze, these are the experiences authentic to the young human being and which we, as those older and supposedly so much wiser, need to nurture in every child. One stares round in vain for such contexts wherein this utmost task is even attempted, let alone accomplished. And if the apparently enchanted premodernity hung its collective hat upon revelation, we today, disenchanted and modern are compelled to consider revolution as the advent of human freedom. But in murdering our young, we avoid the confrontation with our own culture’s self-imposed slavery. We prefer pornography to authenticity, child porn to mature intimacy. In that, we impale ourselves. But to suffer this same fate upon a child is to move from simple ethical error to evil, as patent and as vacant as are our own embittered hearts.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 58 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, as well as fiction. He was professor if the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

An Artless Society

An Artless Society (the neo-Christian Reich)

            The Third Reich took great pride in its artistic vision. Even the death camps were seen to serve an aesthetic function; the ‘beautification of the world through violence’, as a well-known documentary puts it. And while the Reich narrowed the definition of what could constitute art by rejecting modernism in all its forms, it did preserve one of two basic elements of what art, in its essence, accomplishes; it presents for us an ideal. This ideal is at once one of form and one of content. The form is irreal in that not only does it not exist in reality – it is both an amalgam of historical types and cultural desires – it also exists beyond the real in the presence of an archetype. The content precedence given over to the plastic arts in the Reich spoke to its executives’ penchant for realizing the ‘new man’, a eugenics-inspired pastiche of Victorian cultural levels theory and organismic evolution. Between Spencer, the oft-misrecognized ‘social Darwinist’ and Tylor, the major anthropologist of non-relativistic cultural studies, the stage was set for an anthropometry of art.

            And yet while the National Socialists armed their artists with not only state funding but also a retrogressive vision of the essence of humankind – in it, it was the anatomy of sculpture that was most fascinating; during Hitler’s ‘Dyskabolos’ address he intones with all due caution that we today could not think to consider ourselves a successful race unless and until we achieve or even surpass the form represented in Greek classical art – that favored the physical ‘look’ as an expression of an inner health, we today have taken both their conceptions of health and esthetics as at least commercial ideals for all to strive towards. The ‘mongrel man’ remains with us in the guises of obesity, addiction, laziness, to name a few. And though we are certainly correct to disarm the edge of this once visionary sword while preserving the reach of its therapeutic blade, I wonder if the two can be so easily separated in practice.

            The Nazis understood half of the presence of art in society, the half that validated their own sensibilities. But by far the majority of us today share those same ideals, and this is evidenced by our reaction to any type of art that challenges them, not to mention any other challenge emanating from other cultural spheres, including that of science. Durkheim shrugged off this kind of resistance to science, just as every authentic artist does for art. But the rest of us cannot afford such blitheness. Not the least while there is a powerful political movement afoot whose sole goal is to return to Eden, the ultimate result of a logic that seeks to beautify through violence. And through their critique of other cultural forms, including art, they have a most willing audience in those of us who would never turn their way through religious suasion alone.

            Instead of proselytizing superstition, the advance guard of the neo-Christian alliance attacks aspects of culture that on the face of it, many of us would instantly agree need to be curtailed or even vanquished. Criminality, pornography, drugs, come to mind. But, as riders to these widely agreed upon human failings, the Neo-Christian will smuggle in assaults on art via pornography, addiction as an illness via drugs, poverty and class struggle via criminality. Indeed, one may well suspect that the criticism of ‘non-partisan’ social problems is seen only as a vehicle for this critic to undermine essential aspects not only of a democracy, but of the ethical society itself.

            We are receptive to these more calculated attacks because its seems, once again, on the face of it, that the rationality guiding them should be acceptable to any sane human being. We know that obesity, addiction, or the anti-social or misogynistic aspects of the sex industry are not ideals, either cultural or moral. We tolerate them without full acceptance because they express the wider marginalia of a free society. In attacking them directly, we must redefine what we understand by human freedom, trending it away from its shadowy verges which, when enacted, are always tantamount to the nth degree of having the freedom to immolate oneself upon one’s own desires. We children of the Enlightenment, our parents equally Rousseau and De Sade, embrace the joy of ecstasy with the sorrow of nothingness. Ours is a Dionysian existence made into a commodity fetish.

            To all of this the Christian would cringe with a genuine sorrow, and in this we ourselves can agree to a point. But the neo-Christian rejects this fuller human freedom by editing, moralizing, censoring, erasing. His is the faux sadness of pity, for in vice he does not see the underside of virtue but rather the leverage to promote his own wider vice. ‘If this is humanistic freedom’, he exclaims, ‘better then to be a slave!’. In their slavishness, the place of art is reduced to decoration, for while a fascist welcomes the art of the past, and particularly the forms which evolved within his own cultural antecedents, and while he also understands that art presents an ideal form for humanity to strive towards, the neo-fascist does neither. The new fascism of today, neo-Christian and neo-conservative, has no conception of art whatsoever. The nude is pornographic, just as is nakedness immoral. Puritanical in its genesis, not unique to America but having its hearthstone there, neo-fascism deliberately mistakes prudishness for prudence, neurosis for mere caution. Its desired Reich is yet lower than that previous, shockingly, given what we know. It is lower and less noble because it does not even have the half-understanding of art that the Nazis did. What it presents to the rest of us is a vision of an artless society.

            From this observation we are but one step from as well suggesting that such a society would also have no culture. The anthropological definition, in its origins begrudging and still heavily hierarchized, attains through its Boasian relativism only the sense that humanity expresses its shared essence in a multiplicity of manners and mannerisms alike. The liberating quality of cultural relativism was almost immediately used by the Reich to justify its criminal practices – ‘this is our culture after all, and no two may be judged by one another or even directly compared’ – and thus this logical entailment of relativism is now used to justify unfreedom, often chanting the shallow terms ‘morality’, ‘principle’, ‘standard’. Either way, the individual, conscious of her own potential freedom and yet also self-conscious about expressing it, is left unsupported. On the one side, relativism defeats itself by extending its logic to the death camps, and on the other, it opens itself to external defeat by declaring that its enemies also have the absolute right to their own druthers. The throw-away line ‘well, its all relative’, today represents a fatal error, not in morality per se, but rather in existential authenticity.

            The only way to resist and overcome neo-fascism is through a step-by-step advance through the dueling Herculean pillars of ideal form and adorational desire. Though it may be ironic that the purveyors of the Third Reich would view those of the Fourth as themselves a mongrel ‘race’, it is through this very viewpoint, itself fraught with risk, that we can best defeat the artless society. Once again, this is the case precisely due to the fact that the majority of us understand art the way the Nazis themselves did. This is certainly an indictment upon us – our half-hearted conception of art represents in us a genuine decadence rather than a mere desireful lust which is expressed in the pressing presence of pornography, for instance – but it is the half-step away from neo-fascism that is nevertheless necessary to avoid a sterner collective fate. The fullest comprehending of the presence of art in society is too much of a threat to that very fabric to be taken in a single step. For art does not alone represent an ideal, but rather speaks into being the oversoul of our shared humanity and thus puts the lie to any sensibility that we can remain aloof to our equally shared existential condition. The ‘scandal of art’, as Ricoeur states, balances and confronts the ‘scandal of the false consciousness’. In doing so, it oft comes across as itself not mere scandal but rather as a palpable evil. But to recognize the authentic evil in the aesthetic object would be to but give away another weapon to the neo-fascist, and one that the rest of us, in our headlong flight from our own feared freedom, would be only too willing to wield.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of over 55 books in aesthetics, ethics, religion, social theory and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

In Defense of Pornography as a Theater of Human Freedom

Senator aims to curb ‘violent’ porn, pitches mandatory age verification for online sites | CBC News

In Defence of Pornography as a Theatre of Human Freedom

            In the Mad-TV satire ‘What Men Want’, a woman steps into the original Mel Gibson role as the gender-reversed script ambles along its expected course, this time with the woman being able to hear the men’s innermost thoughts in her own head. The answer is simple, and in one scene, where the narrator says farewell to her dying grandfather, she intones: ‘I’ll miss you grandpa’. He replies, ‘I’ll miss you too, sweetie – (then silently) But not as much as I’ll miss porn!’. For men in particular this could be interpreted as a ‘me too’ moment, but however that may be, I will argue in the following why society as a whole might well miss pornography and erotica more than we may at first imagine.

            My experience with pornography-erotica, call it what you will, tells me I am consuming an aspect of base culture. As theatre, mostly plotless and with acting culled from an underground high school yearbook activity, it receives a solid ‘D’ rating. As sex itself, it is dull, stereotyped, unimaginative and attempts to win one over – whatever that may entail – with grandstanding (mostly) youth showing off. It is no surprise that, as with athletics, anything that so intensely involves the body as a physical vehicle should be the basic preserve of youth. And sadly, in our society, this is mostly what youth have to offer; their pristine and charming physiques. Pornography is in all aspects juvenile, from its representations of youth by those far older to its motives. It is at source about money and not about sex, so it is also essentially dishonest. Given this, why defend it at all?

            Though it cannot be defended as an aesthetic object, I suggest that it must be defended as an ethical one. At first, this seems a contradiction. While art is likely the highest expression of human freedom, attaining a status that transcends even history by communicating perennial truths of the human condition to and from diverse periods and variations thereof, the portrayal of sexuality alone speaks at best only of desire and passion. What is missing in pornography is the Gestalt of humanity; its passions, some certainly present, but also its compassions, which are wholly absent; its desires yes, but also alongside, its anxieties. It is therefore also not an ethical ‘object’. But what pornography does contain is a potent ethical objection to the self-imposed limitations we humans have a tendency to exert upon ourselves and others. Working from the simple premise that if thine eye offends thee, pluck it out – turn off the e-device but only for thine own self – any ethical objection to that which serves to place social norms and institutional orders into perspective must be applied first to one’s own self-understanding. As soon as it attempts to dictate what others shalt or shalt not do it strays over the line of ethics and into the space of fascism. And this is precisely the line that any call for the policing of the viewing of pornography based on age-related limits is doing.

            Creeping fascism always plays the same tired game, and it is astonishing that, given recent history, we are still attracted to it. ‘I’m not trying to shut the porn industry down, I’m only trying to protect our children.’ In Canada, anyone twelve years old and above is legally entitled to have actual sex. There are a few reasonable age restrictions between twelve to fifteen, but the principal is clear. Youth (12-17) is its own category under Canadian law, as distinct from children (2-11). The fact that youth are no longer subject to being forced into surrogate sex with adults through corporal punishment underscores this separation. France remains a rare European country that has not banned this practice, so is it surprising that it is one country cited in the above article that seeks to ban viewing of sexual material by minors? For the French, apparently, youth are to remain sexual objects in the service of adults and can have little or no sexual agency of their own. Canadians are better than that, and by ‘better’, I mean, more ethical. The call to criminalize youth sexuality is both a regression and an expression of adult ressentiment specifically against the hard fact of the loss of our own youth and the future of humanity more generally. But by calling attention to the nostalgic and altogether deliberately naïve idea that young people are somehow not sexual beings and need to be ‘protected’ from sexuality until they are eighteen, the fascist attempts to take on the guise of guardian angel. ‘Save the children!’ He cries, from themselves, from evil adults, from evil itself!

            Anyone who agrees with this kind of suggestion is committing the ethical error of projecting one’s own vain desires onto young persons. Pornography too exhibits these desires – ‘discipline’ sites are the most obvious expression thereof; why else would we be attracted to the idea that youthful looking actors should portray the very minors we are supposedly seeking to protect? Why would such roles always be those that require such discipline: physical, sexual, and political? – and in so doing it provides young people with an important insight: we adults want to harm you because you represent all that we have lost, including beauty, guilelessness, openness, and spirit. We might even hate you, but alas, direct hate crime is already illegal in Canada and thus we must express our dark passions in another way: limit your freedom, your sexual liberation, your mischievous fun. Portray you as disobedient pests who, if you can no longer be beaten in reality, at least you can be allegorized as being beaten in virtuality. Just so, to suppress your knowledge of how we actually think of you is one of the core reasons for banning youth access to pornography.

            All fascists fear exposure of their true desires. These include ultimate control and the possession of a singular authority. They too know God is dead, but unlike more modest persons, they’re quite willing to fill in with the hope of making it a permanent situation. Hence the real ‘creeps’ in our society are not so much the relatively rare on-line child ‘groomers’ or molesters but rather the much less rare closet fascist who shows us just enough flesh so that we are distracted from noting the bones in behind him. He always begins with seemingly the most reasonable premise and this ‘foot in the door’ technique is also dishonest: ‘our children are vulnerable’ (And why so? Because we tend to control and baby them beyond their years lived). He uses seemingly reasonable analogies which turn out to be spurious: ‘films have limited access’ (In public only. Anyone can view an R-rated film without the fear of invasive criminalization in private and internet viewing is always already in private). He leaves out his true demands: ‘I’m only talking violent porn, here’ (in age-restricting porn sites you lose access to all porn, not just the minor percentage of it that might qualify as ‘violent’). He represents himself as reasonable: ‘I know this is a delicate topic’ (So was the so-called Jewish Question). The limits which are in place walk the actually delicate line between impinging upon hard-won and truly fragile democratic freedoms and the advice of child development experts and discourses: here’s some warnings and judge accordingly; some children might be disturbed by this or that material, others not, or yet some parents themselves might be warned off. Indeed, if I were to support age-restrictions on sexual material I would place them between the ages of 12 and 40. Anyone under or over those ages would not be permitted to view it. On the one hand because, according to the American Psychiatric Association, childhood ends at age 12 in important and specifically sexual ways – their definition of pedophilia, for instance, runs as ‘having a prurient interest in children under twelve’ – and on the other, mature adults need to focus on saving the planet and its life, including one another. Enough distraction, enough fantasy. Pornography is an education, of sorts, and it is at best trite to state that reality and fantasy are seldom the same thing. The world is in the shape it is in not because youth cannot distinguish between the two of them. Ask yourself why it took a sixteen year old with a disability to call our wider attention to the climate crisis? Ask your very much adult stockbroker, financier, captain of industry, or wonder of wonders, politician, why it wasn’t they who provided such an alert, amongst others. And then we can ask why yet other adults willingly take on the role of domineering Lydias – a role that is, with ironic relish, only barely admissible within the fantasy of discipline-oriented pornography – intent on correcting our bad habits without respect to our freedoms. An educative pornography might well include titles such as the all too obvious ‘Handmaid’s Tail’ by Marguerite Göttwood, in which such self-proclaimed defenders of ‘morality’ can bare yet more of their sorry selves.

            If one wanted to construct a genuine ethical argument against the decoys of contemporary social life, pornography included, I would be the first to entertain it. It would first have to outline the activities sanctioned by society that distract us from both the existential profundity of human life as well as the future of our collective existence. These are: organized sports (ironically a ‘must’ for youth, supposedly), all non-critical entertainment fictions and video games (Atwood not included), erotica/pornography, holidays both consumer and religious – and, speaking of reality and fantasy, is it really the case that we can distinguish such days? – conspiracy ‘theories’ of all kinds, obsessions with speculative, if, in principle interesting, topics such as extraterrestrial intelligence and ‘paranormal’ events, and the like. At the top of such a list of unethical attempts to divert our attention from serious global conditions would be our neurotic compulsion to rationalize our resentment of youth.

            If made, such an argument would be valid across the ethical board. But the message we send to both present-day youth and future society alike is that we, bereft of both conscience and foresight, have instead opted to suppress the curiosity, the spirit, the very existential verve of young people who, robbed of their nascent capacity to think for themselves through schools, media, and portions of the legal apparatus perhaps to be extended, will be unable to avoid the very fate we have already set out for them. This satisfies us as well, for it will not be we ourselves who have to live in the denuded future of a well-raped Earth. Youth will pay simply for being young.

            The call to limit youthful experience of the world in any way, no matter how juvenile the material or knowledge, only adds to the sense that we have given up on an ethical human future. Shutting it down ahead of time, exerting a pre-emptive strike against the coming freedom of world youth, is the evil privilege of adulthood. And adults are, in fact, old enough to know that we either use it or lose it. We betray our truer selves as maliciously resentful oversized children in its use.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over forty books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, and more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for two decades.