Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm My Own Lab Rat

I've just spent a few minutes skimming a rather long-ish article entitled Is Pornography the New Tobacco? I may or may not decide to pick it apart in detail at some later date. Some general observations on the topic:

The title of the article should be giveaway enough that it's not much more than moralizing dressed up as "social science" (which, to my mind, is merely moralizing of a different sort). As a smoker I don't believe there's anything inherently "evil" about my habit. At the same time, as a reasonably intelligent person (depending on whom you ask), I'm not so foolish as to deny that smoking is bad for my health. I don't want my daughter to smoke because I want her to live a long and healthy life. I try to make sure that she never sees me doing it, but I somehow doubt I'll derive much comfort from this if she someday decides to start smoking anyway. I should also say that, as far as I'm concerned, tobacco companies are lying scumbags who would say or do anything to get me or you to buy their products. Really though, in this, they are no different than any other "business," so singling them out seems a bit ridiculous to me. I would never blame Big Tobacco for my addiction. Some may revel in admitting their helplessness and stupidity to the world (usually in the form of lawsuits, etc.); I rather enjoy being the master of my own fortune (good or bad).

Is it reasonable to compare tobacco and pornography? The harmful effects of smoking have been scientifically proven, as have the addictive qualities of tobacco. I can personally attest that tobacco is addictive, and my own experience has shown me that there's a good chance that a lingering cold and/or cough, shortness of breath, etc. is probably directly connected to my smoking. But, unless I'm blowing my smoke in your face, that's my business. There is no conclusive evidence one way or the other about the effects of pornography, however one might personally feel about it. I myself have, at different moments in my life, viewed pornography countless times, and I can say at least this much: when my plane lands after a 12-hour flight, it's not an internet connection I'm looking for--I want a bloody smoke, and no (hypothetical) number of beckoning, naked women (on video!) is going to come between me and "my precious." It's ridiculous even to attempt comparing tobacco and pornography in physical terms. I would add that, as far as I'm concerned, indulging in either one is nobody else's business. (I shouldn't need to, but I will, offer the following caveat regarding porn: legally consenting adults only--anything else is criminal).

The main point of the above-linked article seems, though, to be that viewing pornography, like smoking tobacco in bygone years, is these days socially acceptable to a general public who are as yet unaware of its possible dangers. But really, what kind of argument is this? It's not like sex (or "pornography") suddenly appeared on the scene like crack cocaine or something. Should we deny the existence of Greek urns, the Kama Sutra, etc.?

Honestly, I only skimmed the article, but it seems to be saying "tobacco is bad, so pornography might be bad." This seems to me a highly flawed form of argument.


  1. Seems like the title is just a hook basically - any activity obsessively and repeatedly indulged in has the possibility of separating the participant from life on the ground. Also, biochemically the argument would seem to lack substance.

  2. Hi Susan,
    I agree with both of your points, especially the second. Regarding the first, I don't feel that "the possibility" that someone might lose his mind (when so many others haven't) over some activity is justification for government regulation/intervention.

    I might be wrong about this, but I suspect if we were to meet face to face we might disagree about a few points re: pornography, politics, etc. It's OK, you know?

  3. Rick - I disagree with on Afghanistan in a predictably mushily liberal Northern California way, however I would come down on the side of freedom of speech with porn, it seems just one of many avenues-the most dangerous being many forms of religion-with which people can distract themselves from things they should probably be paying more attention too. I wish I could shake some sense into my brother the Evangelical Christian, but I recognize his right to hold his beliefs and spend his spare time knocking on the doors of strangers.

    I also believe that porn, and the diet industry, and a multitude of other social mechanisms, are quasi-religions in having devotees. This can lead to the desire to force one's belief's on others. Again, I don't think any of it should be illegal, I am simply not comfortable in the company of fanatics.

    I am glad you think it's okay if we disagree on some stuff.

  4. Susan,
    Just as a general observation, I think it's entirely possible for people to disagree about a few things and still get along. And I certainly don't mind if anyone disagrees with anything I say here (unless they make rude comments about the Stones--them would be fighting words!!).