From the Underworld To the Everyman

Email Print

had a disturbing experience recently. I walked into the local convenience
mart near my house and looked up only to be confronted with fully
exposed pornography sitting on the shelf. Now pornography being
sold at a quick mart is not remarkable, although usually the managers
have the decency to cover up all but the title so that only those
who want to see it do. But this was different. All was exposed.
As I went about my shopping digesting this phenomenon it dawned
on me that just before I had walked in a mother had come in with
her young son. I felt appalled. As I counselor I have heard many
a complaint from individuals being exposed to pornography as children
and of the devastating effects this has had on their sexuality.

I have often heard my grandparents, and others from that generation,
when discussing situations like the above, remark about the good
ole days, when things were different. They say, “Things were different
then, people had morals…girls were modest, and men knew how to
be gentlemen!” And as I listen to the nostalgia in their words and
voices, I too start to long for a time more innocent, without guesswork,
free from the moral relativism that has permeated our culture.

But what of these freer days? Did our current moral situation simply
come out of the void? Of course not. “There is nothing new under
the sun…” as King Solomon once said. This is certainly true of
pornography. What used to only be seen in the back alley or behind
doors flagged with a red light can now be purchased at your corner
convenience store.

From about the 1830’s to the early 1900’s America was dominated
by Victorian values. Victorians believed in sexual restraint and
modesty. Pornography certainly did exist at this time, but it was
marginalized as a part of the demimonde, or underworld, and kept
out of mainstream culture.

So when exactly did the mainstreaming start? Ironically it was in
the “good ole days, back then when things were different.” America
has been on a steady moral decline since the first sexual revolution,
the Affinity movement, which began in the 1840’s, and has only slowed
down a bit during the two world wars and the Depression. The Affinity
movement took place mainly in the Northeast and was characterized
by “free love.” Middle class men and women who took to this movement
denounced marriage, advocated abortion, and generally hated Victorian
traditions. They considered themselves morally righteous. Most of
the country was still dominated by Victorianism, but this movement
was a planted seed that continued to grow. The 60’s was just another
level in a long trend towards sexual chaos as they borrowed from
their predecessors.

But the real leap for pornography took place in 1953 with Hugh Hefner’s
first issue of Playboy. This issue featured Marilyn Monroe. Kevin
White in his book Sexual
Liberation or Sexual License?
makes a keen observation:
“Although highly sexual and sexually attractive, Monroe combined
some of the chief characteristics of Victorianism: she was submissive
and passive. She embodied the extent to which 1950’s Americans,
even in their advocacy of family values, embraced openly a highly
sexually charged society.” And it was sexually charged. Sexual attraction
had gained increasing importance in the selection of a marital partner.
White declares, “Sexual attraction became the main rationale for
marriage.” It seems the society was ready for what Hefner was dishing
up. And for whom were these dishes prepared? Not for the wretched
demimonde, but for all men. White quotes Hefner, “What is
a Playboy? Is he simply a wastrel, a ne’er do well, a fashionable
bum? No, far from it: he can be a sharp-minded business executive,
a worker in the arts, a university professor, an architect or engineer…. A
Playboy must, most importantly, be a man who without acquiring the
stigma of the voluptuary or dilettante – can live life to the
hilt.” White concludes, “In other words, every American man could
be a Playboy.”

Perhaps the
most ridiculous aspect of this is Hefner’s recommendation for the
woman whose man was partaking of these cheap thrills. White quotes
Playboy magazines first editorial, “…we aren’t a family magazine.
If you’re somebody’s sister, wife or mother-in-law and picked us
up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and
get back to your Ladies’ Home Companion.” So much for the
good ole days.

What I find
particularly frightening about our country’s movement toward loose
sexual attitudes are the consequences. E. Michael Jones in his book
observes, “Those who are in the thrall of their
passions see only what they desire and not the bondage those desires
inflict on them.” If men are, as Edmund Burke stated, “qualified
for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put
moral chains upon their own appetites” what happens when the there
are no more chains? Or if the only chains are those put in place
by our government? Since the first sexual revolution, the Affinity
movement, to the most recent in the 60’s, individuals with a moral
inclination have sought to control the passions by means of the
government. A very good history of this was provided by Bill
in a recent article. Each new level of sexual permissiveness
our culture has attained has made the personal ever more political.
And as a result our government has gained more and more access to
our personal lives. Jones continues, “Once gratification of passion
becomes the definition of ‘liberty’, then ‘liberty’ becomes synonymous
with bondage because he who controls the passions controls the man.”

It is time
to stop appealing to our government for moral restraint. It is time
to stop appealing to our government for anything. It is time to
start taking responsibility for our own attitudes and behaviors.
It is time to get ahold of our appetites for sexual gratification
and focus on something less temporal like securing true liberty
for ourselves and our children.

18, 2003

M. Carson [send
her mail
] has a Master’s degree
in Counseling is in private practice as a Professional Christian
Counselor in St. Louis, MO.


Email Print