PVV – Porn & Prop 8

*Warning – soapboxy diatribe coming!!*

On Wednesday August 4, 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, which was passed by California voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of queer persons to marry the partners of their choice.

We’ve all heard about this, right? I’m assuming so…

Now I’m going to go ahead and confess something right off – I have a problem with marriage. Not with gay marriage or with “opposite marriage” (I still find you loathsome, Carrie Prejean), but with all marriage in general.

Although I fully admit to having had myriad romanticized fantasies about marriage at various points throughout my life, the institution seems to have evolved from a poorly written social contract wherein one partner gets (literally and figuratively) screwed to a failed cultural experiment with roots in far too many social constructions and institutions (love, government, civil rights, and religion being only some of them) such that both partners get fully fucked… but now only figuratively.

But guess what?! I also completely understand and support the desire to have a significant dimension of one’s self – one’s romantic partnership – recognized as real and legitimate by one’s own culture and nation state (my feelings on the predominant mode by with that happens in contemporary US culture notwithstanding).

So what does Prop 8 and all this have to do with porn?

Well, here’s the thing… Lots of people really care about marriage being conceptualized in one specific way, just like lots of people really care about sex practice and expression being presented (or not) in one specific way. But – and this is what I don’t get – why do people care so much? Who cares if people want to get married or divorced? Who cares if people want to watch, produce, and/or be in porn? As long as no one is being forced to do things against their will, what’s the harm?

I know, I know… you might be thinking: “It harms me! It harms me when people ‘trivialize’ or engage in marriage differently than how I understand it! It harms me when people have different sorts of sex than I do and get paid for it!”

But guess what? You are not everyone. Not everyone prays on the same day or fucks in the same way (or prays or fucks at all for that matter), and just because your way is working for you doesn’t mean it’s universally correct.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there dedicated to identifying a “correct” version of all sorts of things, including marriage and sex practice and expression (porn functions as a proxy for sex practice and expression here).  For example, the fun fantabulous group Morality in Media (MIM) is “a national, not-for-profit organization established in 1962 to combat obscenity and uphold decency standards in the media” that seeks to “[promote] a decent society through law.”

To these ends, the organization supports commentary by Ed Hynes (not quite sure who he is in relation to MIM, but whatevs) via his blog-ish “A View from Riverside Drive.” One of Hynes’ entries from July, 2010 discusses “Has the Justice Department swallowed Big Porn’s lies?”

In this post, Hynes states: “At last count, the Justice Department and the 93 United States Attorneys around the country had received more than 75,000 reports about online pornography from concerned citizens through Morality in Media’s ObscenityCrimes.Org tip line. To our knowledge, not one of those complaints has led to a prosecution.”

He goes on to say: “Big Porn and its apologists, such as the ‘Free Speech Coalition,’ want us to forget that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that obscenity is not protected ‘free speech’ under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

I find this so interesting! Given that MIM’s mission directly states that the organization is working to “[promote] a decent society through law,” I imagine Hynes knows about the Miller test and jurisprudential obscenity standards in the US (read about that stuff here if you don’t). And given that Hynes presumably knows about these standards, he should also know that 75,000 people finding 75,000 things (or even just one thing) obscene doesn’t mean they are.

What Morality in Media is looking for, really, are instances that violate their standards of decency, not standards of decency in general… because, if you think about it, there are very few things out there that most people (whoever they are) would find indecent.

But you know what? It’s fine with me if MIM wants to find all sorts of things obscene. That’s there prerogative, and I support them in their right to their own standards of morality within the context of the law. What I don’t get is the mega campaign to get everyone around to their side. And this is what I also don’t get about Prop 8 stuff.

So you have a certain set of ideas about marriage and sex practice and sex expression. Fine, but why does everyone else have to have the exact same idea? Whatsmore, how likely is it that “marriage,” in any iteration that it can be conceptualized today, resembles “marriage” as it was conceptualized at the institution’s inception? Around the world? Sorry if I’m the first person to tell you this, but just like everything else has changed over time and by culture, so has the manifestation of “marriage.”

In the end, I guess my point is here this: if you don’t like it, don’t buy, turn it off, or don’t do it.  And, after you do all that, do you really still care? Really?  Why?  And why do these guys care (hilarity below)?  Honestly, did you ever actually care at all?

Questions? Comments? Email me!

You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.pornvalleyvantage.com).”

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