Last weekend, my husband and I were driving through Las Vegas on our way to Saint George, Utah for a family reunion of sorts. I strongly dislike Vegas and have ever since my mom and I got lost driving through previously. It’s like the whole layout of the city is designed to suck you in. We didn’t get lost this time, but I was nonetheless uncomfortable for myself and especially my husband. I’m sure you can imagine why.
About 25% of the billboards we passed were advertising lawyers who claimed to be able to get you out of any sticky situation you put yourself in. The other 75% were advertising sex. Or at least, that’s all they seemed to be advertising. Personally, I don’t see the relationship between Top Golf and a bikini model getting out of a pool.
My mind started wondering about the prevelence of pornography and somehow slid into the ideology of gender equality. I don’t personally claim to be a feminist because all too often the concept seems to belittle men in similar ways that women feel patronized. Men and women are equally capable in general, but there are some things women are better at than men and some other things that men are better at than women – and that’s ok! It was designed to be that way. But anyway, my particular train of thought was this: how is it that fighting pornography is not the number one aim of feminists and gender equalists?
Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her bed at the age of 14 and held captive nine months before being found, has recently turned her activism towards the Fight the New Drug organization which targets pornography. She was interviewed about the role of pornography in the horror of those nine months. You can view the interview here but the short end is that pornography took an already horrid situation and made it worse. More and more people are beginning to see how it tends to do that in a variety of situations.
Pornography studies have shown that to men in particular it is more addictive than hard core drugs because it targets the brain more comprehensively. Even at LDS church schools, studies have shown that the vast majority of male students – we are talking 90+% – have sought out pornography at some time in their young lives. Women too are becoming increasingly more addicted to pornography, although typically through less visual forms. But the real concern isn’t just about how addictive it can be, although that is certainly worrisome. The fact is that pornography alters the viewer’s brain in substantial ways – ways that women and men alike cannot afford to ignore.
I’m not going to go into all the science (you can look it up and prove me wrong if you feel so inclined) but the basic idea is this – pornography conditions the viewer to objectify whatever is being watched. The harder usage, the more that typifying extends to the point where not even nakedness is needed before the brain begins to see that person as an object. As a society clamoring for gender equality, all efforts are undermined by the prevalence of pornography and none of the changes we make will have a lasting difference. Why? Because while our message may ring true in a person’s ears, pornography has reshaped their minds.
The media has seemed especially concerned with ideas of how we view people – especially including blacks and LGBTQs. But our first concern has to be that we are viewing people as people. Pornography takes a human being and lessens them to the point where they are no longer human – only an object to be used and disposed of on demand. How can we anticipate shaping society to treat humans equally if the majority of the population views the opposite gender as not even human? Eliminating pornography would be a large step towards not only gender equality, but equality among different kinds of people as well.
All of this is to say one thing: pornography, in all of its pervasiveness and invasive-ness, needs to become top concern for all people. While it may seem harmless on a surface level, it ultimately is undermining efforts of equality. We cannot allow the trend to continue, whether for men or women, because any level of acceptance significanly reduces any future steps towards equality. The issue is huge – seemingly insurmountable. But you can control what you do and whether or not you are feeding the monster. If our children can live in a world where they don’t have to practically cover their eyes to get through traffic, we will have served the common good in an inexpressably wonderful way. What can we do today? Check out Fight the New Drug’s various campaigns. Let your own voice be heard through blogs, YouTube, a social media post. Maybe show your awareness through dressing differently or expressing an opinion even when those around you don’t want to hear it. Practice what you preach – be aware of the ways you view the opposite gender differently, especially the ways that are unneccessary and archaic. The world mentioned above is a world worth working towards.