On Sex, Porn, and Morality

I just read this post by Matt Walsh.  Wow.  Watching porn is adultery?!?  Guess I’m the horrible, letcherous prick my ex wives would like you to think I am.  Never mind the fact that I never engaged in any kind of relations with another woman before the (allegedly) monogamous relationship I was currently in was really over.  I am a serial adulterer, apparently, and the proof is in the Google search pudding.

Of course, in America, a defendant has the right to plead their case.

That said, allow me to plead my own, and that of almost every single human who has ever walked the earth.

Since Matt Walsh started with pornography, I’ll continue on his vein (and please disregard any double entendre which may apply to this; I hate puns with a passion, unless they are particularly awful).  Thing is, I can understand where Walsh might have a problem with various types of pornography found on the internet.  The very nature of the medium, and the worldwide reach of it, is conducive to exploitation of people who don’t want to be involved in the production of such content.  If you will, allow me to take the bold stance that I, too, abhor any kind of forced sexual trafficking, and wish to never support it in any conceivable way.

But beyond that, Let me state clearly that Walsh is wrong about porn as an industry (in most of the U.S. at least).

Look, what people do for a living (within the bounds of the law, of course) is what people do for a living.  Is it less degrading for the contestants on Survivor or Fear Factor to endure their travails than it is for Lisa Sparxxx to win the worldwide gangbang championship?  I submit that it is not.  What’s the difference?  Both are following the directions of a producer/director/whatever to crank up as much viewership as possible.  If one does so through sex, and the other does so through eating scorpions, who are we to determine which is moral and which is not?  What’s the criteria by which we make that judgement?  Is it only ok if the person being (allegedly) degraded doesn’t enjoy it?  Of course not, and deciding that degrading oneself for money is only acceptable in a non-sexual context is hypocritical at best, provably conceited and self serving at worst.

So, porn is as valid a career as anything we see on reality TV, at least.  But what about the viewer?  Isn’t that the one Matt Walsh points his finger toward?

Let me tell you this.  People who watch pornography are people who do what people have done since the dawn of time.  The art of creating images of folks in sexual congress has been around since the first neanderthal picked up some ocher and scribbled some tits on a cave wall.  We, as a species, are hard wired to crave sex, and nothing anyone has ever done or ever will do is going to cure us of that, because the survival of our species has depended on it for as long as there has been human life on the planet.  There is a reason 80% of the traffic on the internet is sex related.  It’s the God damned biological imperative, and you can no more get rid of that than our desire to breathe air.

But there’s more to this than simply watching porn.

See, there is never a shortage of people who feel the need, and the authority, to tell others what they should do with their private lives.  It’s the reason evangelicals scream and cry about marriage equality for gay folks.  It’s the reason everyone threw a fit over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.”  It’s the reason there are people who will tell you, with a straight face, that wanting to watch others enjoy sex is a morally reprehensible act, one that makes you completely deserving of the worst of social consequences.

All this moral speechifying from others, though, compels me to do a little of it myself.  So, without further ado, may I present the only moral rule anyone need ever live by.

First, Do No Harm

Beyond this, no morality is needed.  Here’s an example.

Bob and Joe are a couple of 25 year old tech support workers in Redondo Beach, California.  One night, they go out together to pick up some chicks.  After all, it’s the weekend, and what else are a couple of young, reasonably successful single guys to do?  Unfortunately, though, the club is a chronic sausage fest, and they come away from the evening with nary a phone number, let alone a female participant in the night’s festivities.  But man, they’ve both had a lot to drink, and they’re both on a dry streak.  After a couple more shots at Bob’s house (they did the responsible thing and took a cab, being in no condition to drive), Joe says, “I’d take just about anything naked right now, even you.”

And the next morning, two very hung over men realize that they have relived a scene from Brokeback Mountain.

Was anyone harmed?  Unless you consider the fact that Bob is walking a little funny, no harm has come to anyone, and therefore nothing immoral has taken place.  Neither Bob or Joe might care to remember the events of the previous night, or maybe they decide (in true Brokeback Mountain form) that they just can’t quit one another.  But the important thing to remember is that no one came to any harm, and everyone involved was a consenting adult.

Another example.

Charles and Clara have been seeing one another for a while.  They met shortly after each of them had been divorced from a frigid, boring, unloving spouse.  Turns out Clara is bisexual (Charles is a very happy guy all of a sudden).  So, they create a personal ad for a woman to join them in some non-committal sexual adventures.  Soon, the personal ad comes to fruition, and the three of them have a wonderful evening of delights that leaves all involved exhausted, but truly satisfied.  Did Charles cheat?  Did Clara?  What about their unnamed third party?  Of course not, because they are all consenting adults, and no one was harmed.

Last example, I swear.

Tom is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and profits are down for the quarter.  Tom knows that the reason for lower profits are due to lower employment numbers across the country, which of course lead to a reduction in the public’s ability to buy his company’s products.  Tom also knows (because he is familiar with boom-bust cycles in economics, and he should, in his position, understand basic math and management strategies), if he keeps his employees on hand at their current wages, the company will eventually turn around and those employees will be even more productive for having been treated well in a bad economy.  Moreover, Tom is aware of the effects of branding on profits, and knows that if he keeps his employees taken care of even at the expense of profits (and advertises such), it will improve his company’s public image and, in the long run, boost profits because shoppers feel more inclined to pay for things that benefit their neighbors.  But, Tom also knows that the shareholders of the company might not be patient enough to wait for such a return on their investment, and they would prefer to have a high dividend paid for the next quarter.  They will, in turn, reward Tom with a bonus of $3 million higher than the $1 million guaranteed in his contract.  So, to make an additional $3 million, Tom lays off the bulk of the rank and file employees of the company, and retires with the extra money he made on the deal.

Of the above three examples, who is the immoral one?  After all, two of these scenarios are grounds for a scandal, possibly ruinous litigation, or even criminal prosecution.  And the other is completely legal, and will result in zero negative consequences for the bad actor.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is this.

We in America have a very skewed view of what is and is not moral.  Maybe it’s time to start living by Hippocrates’ oath, and consider that first, we should do no harm.  And that even more importantly, we should not negatively judge others, or treat them as anything less than equals, if their actions (regardless of whether or not we condone them) are not causing any harm.

Maybe we should get our priorities right, in other words.  Just a thought.

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