The First Amendment is only sort of cool.

1 May

I generally like the First Amendment. The second one kind of blows, but the first one has some fairly good bits:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I don’t want to talk about the religion part here, except to say that religion is a huge drain on the world’s resources, both financial and mental, but I think I’m about to get into some territory that some of those I’ve just offended with that statement might agree with me on; the First Amendment was designed to protect political speech, philosophical and social discourse, and the rights of people like me to voice their opinions on falafel, The Doors, and The Lord of the Rings without fear of recrimination beyond the censure of those who think falafel tastes good, The Doors weren’t the funniest band in history, and that The Lord of the Rings was a good book or movie series. Thank the (most likely non-existent) lord for that. However, as rapacious and lascivious as some of the patriarchs who founded this here nation were, I’m pretty sure none of them intended that the very first amendment they added to the republic’s founding sheet of parchment would be used as a pretext for defending the “right” of motherfuckers with morals lower than whale shit in the Marianas Trench to create videos simulating the gang rape and sexualized murder of women, and the simulated rape of children. Or have I lost touch with what these dudes were all about? I mean, I know some of ’em owned slaves, but…

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I love nothing more than clean logic, so you can see how the contradiction inherent in the intent and use of this amendment might come close to making my brain explode. Well, if you think that shit is mystifying, check out the obscenity guidelines laid down for deciding when something falls outside of the protection of that whole “freedom of speech” thing:

For something to be “obscene” it must be shown that the average person, applying contemporary community standards and viewing the material as a whole, would find (1) that the work appeals predominantly to “prurient” interest; (2) that it depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and (3) that it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Well, fuck. That settles it. Not only should simulated rape and child porn be illegal, but so should Family Guy, the entire American Pie franchise, most bands that have been on MTV from 1993 to the present, strip clubs, every work of “art” in any museum in the American Southwest, professional sports, baldness drugs, Stephen King novels, the Bedazzler…

But seriously, would it be possible for anyone to come up with a more nebulous and subjective standard? It all comes down to the role of judges, and I’m a little worried about how many of them seem to think they’re doing free speech a favor by allowing companies like Extreme Associates (who I will NOT link to) to keep pumping out their how-to videos on rape, and by allowing various companies to keep producing virtual child porn. Several of these cases have come before the high courts in the last decades, and the pornographers win virtually every time. I’m an academic (and a half-assed expert on American legal history), so I know how the US government is designed to work: the high courts are here to protect the minority from the “tyranny of the majority,” and that has worked out pretty well in cases like Loving v. Virgina, Brown v. Board of Education and other such cases in which state laws, although based on consensus, were out of keeping with basic human morality and decency. Legislatures are beholden to the stupid ideas of the populous, so we have judges, who are there to make judgments based on their own understanding of the law and their own consciences as to what is to the betterment or detriment of society. But is the fact that the “average person” is offended — nay — terrified at the idea of simulated rape, child molestation, and snuff porn films really a form of tyranny?

What it comes down to is whether one believes that the consumption of pornography that simulates sexual assault will ultimately fuel the growth of actual sexual assaults. The answer is, unefuckingquivocally, YES! It is a well documented fact, as well as common sense, that sexual obsessions tend to escalate rather than dissipate, and when an individual with a desire to rape, to hurt women, or to molest children comes into contact with pornography that depicts just the kinds of acts he (or, in the rarest of cases, she) fantasizes about, his obsession with that act will increase, in many cases to the point that he will act on it.

There are several reasons for this. First, finding that there is an entire community of other people interested in the same sorts of acts has the effect of normalizing those acts in the mind of the viewer. The sense that the act is illegal and socially abhorrent, which could potentially prevent such a person from acting on their impulses, is weakened by the widespread availability of pornography depicting such acts. Second, and this is something I’ve mentioned before in my posts on mainstream porn, there is no more powerful conditioning mechanism in the world than orgasm. What we pair with orgasm we are almost inexorably drawn to. I am not saying that such a pairing will always lead to action on the part of the viewer of these kinds of pornography, but it sure as fuck increases the likelihood. And, as much as I detest the obscene amounts of violence we are exposed to in our mainstream media on a daily basis, this is where the difference lies: sexual obsession abetted by the conditioning power of orgasm is much more likely to lead to illegal acts, and hence create harm in society, than the viewing of violent media, which carries no equivalent reinforcement mechanism.

You all know I think that mainstream porn has a negative influence on our society and our personal relationships, but I’m not now nor have I ever advocated that it be banned. All that would do would push it underground and make the already abominable conditions for the women involved in the industry even worse. But the difference between mainstream porn, as misogynistic and detrimental to the human spirit as it is, and the kinds of porn I’m discussing here, is that nothing ILLEGAL is being depicted in most mainstream porn (despite the fact that most porn could be called hate speech, there is no hate crime legislation protecting women). Again, although there are innumerable illegal violent acts depicted in mainstream media, these are not connected with orgasm and with sexual paraphilia, and are thus vastly less likely to lead to actual violent crimes. But the simulation of illegal acts, of the rape and mutilation and torture and murder of women and children, the viewing of which is likely to lead to actual sexual assaults on women and children, ought to meet all three of the standards of the definition of obscenity in all but the most depraved of individuals.

But don’t dismiss this as a lunatic fringe issue. As much of a niche (though growing) market as rape, torture, and simulated child porn is, the simulated rape and murder of women in video games (Grand Theft Auto, anyone?) seems to be the number one route to whopping sales these days. Does the simulated rape and murder of a prostitute in a video game appeal to prurient interests? It does if prurient “interest is an appeal to a morbid, degrading and unhealthy interest in sex, as distinguished from a mere candid interest in sex,” as the law defines “prurient interest.” Could we say that it “depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way”? I think so. Could we say that it “lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value”? Damn skippy.

So what’s the fucking problem?

*Thanks to the esquire for the conversation and some of the ideas that gave rise to this blog.


Bookmark and Share

20 Responses to “The First Amendment is only sort of cool.”

  1. Bill May 1, 2008 at 12:55 PM #

    To me, the formula is easy.

    People – WILLING adults – sharing closeness and passion through the act and art of lovemaking = good!

    People forcing themselves on other = bad. People despoiling the innocence of children = bad. People using sex as a weapon of control, domination, and humiliation = bad.

    As a proponant of the K.I.S.S. principal, I try to break thinks down to their foundation. There is WAY to much extraneous crap in the world blocking our view of what is really important.

    And as a proponant of the KISS principal, I think people need to quit watching others “have sex”, and get out there, find someone to respect, love and appreciate, who can and will respect, love and appreciate in return, and KISS them!

    It ain’t easy – but nothing worthwhile is!

  2. syndicalist702 May 1, 2008 at 3:40 PM #

    Good call, Bill. Great call.

  3. A brain washed teen May 1, 2008 at 6:28 PM #

    Kick ass article once again Nine Deuce. Couldn’t agree more.

    I just don’t get why people think it’s ok to be legal. I mean, talk about not being able to see the line.

  4. syndicalist702 May 1, 2008 at 9:35 PM #

    brain washed teen – You mean as in “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical,” right?

  5. chlorophyll May 2, 2008 at 3:06 AM #

    God people need to get over sex. It is so overrated. Why can’t we all be castrated as soon as we produce the equivalent of two children, one of each sex, for the state?

  6. Lara May 2, 2008 at 4:26 AM #

    This whole notion of “consent” in mainstream porn is bullshit:

    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2007/05/12/she-said-i-know-what-its-like-to-be-dead/

    I don’t have any patience or time to explain this, and Twisty says it infinitely better anyway.
    And I disagree that mainstream porn has much less violence or rape in it. A lot of the mainstream stuff includes hitting the woman on the head when giving a blowjob, choking her while “having sex” with her, calling her awful names while doing things to her, etc.
    Porn is hate speech, not free speech. I like that you did a post on this, in relation to the First Amendment. The First Amendment is certainly great, and needs to be respected, but when Fourteenth Amendment rights (the right to be treated equally and with dignity) are trampled on that is where I quickly draw the line. That’s why I hate the ACLU, they are First Amendment absolutists.

    “And, as much as I detest the obscene amounts of violence we are exposed to in our mainstream media on a daily basis, this is where the difference lies: sexual obsessions abetted by the conditioning power of orgasm is much more likely to lead to illegal acts, and hence create harm in society, than the viewing of violent media, which carries no equivalent reinforcement mechanism.”

    Totally, I hate it when people try to argue that porn has no effect on men’s behavior (or on women’s for that matter). It’s generates billions of damned dollars a year, it clearly does affect the consumers in some way.
    When pro-porn “feminists” try to argue that porn has no effect or no negative effect on the viewers, I say, what about advertisements and images of models in women’s magazines? Do those images not condition women into thinking there is one narrow beauty ideal, and that they must imitate it? Thus initiating and perpetuating eating disorders in young women.
    In porn, there is no “art of lovemaking” Bill. It’s a repulsive institution that commodifies sexuality and objectifies women. Porn has to do with perpetuating sexual power hierarchies, not with “lovemaking.”

  7. Lara May 2, 2008 at 4:28 AM #

    Oh, and if you want to read up more on the First Amendment and how it relates to racist hate speech and pornography, read Richard Delgado’s and Jean Stefancic’s “Must We Defend Nazis?: Hate Speech, Pornography, and the New First Amendment”. I really really recommend it.

  8. Nine Deuce May 2, 2008 at 4:37 AM #

    I love that post of Twisty’s. It’s been one of my favorites for a long time.

  9. A brain washed teen May 2, 2008 at 10:33 AM #

    “brain washed teen – You mean as in “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical,” right?”

    Yeah. Excuse my bad wording.

  10. Izzy May 2, 2008 at 2:28 PM #

    I’m also a big fan of that IBTP post.

    Nine Deuce, once again you put into words an argument that I can’t. “People don’t actually believe that stuff” is one of the most frequent pro-porn arguments I hear. (Second only, of course to “Some women enjoy it.” Ugh.)

    This reminds me of a debate I got into a few months ago. The dude I was arguing with said that porn was ok if women were made to appear like little girls (pigtails, small and skinny, no body hair) as long as no actual kids were involved. I still refuse to believe that guys who watch porn excessively can disassociate “actresses” on the screen and actual women and girls. Not to mention that infantilizing the “actresses” is completely demeaning.

  11. Nine Deuce May 2, 2008 at 7:10 PM #

    Oh, also, Lara – I’m with you 100% on the consent issue in mainstream porn. I addressed it in my series on mainstream porn to some extent, but I just didn’t want to get too far into it in this post, which I wanted to use to address a narrow issue (that is nonetheless on the same continuum).

  12. Jennifer-Ruth June 25, 2008 at 8:43 AM #

    “the conditioning power of orgasm is much more likely to lead to illegal acts, and hence create harm in society, than the viewing of violent media, which carries no equivalent reinforcement mechanism.”

    Thank you for this. For a long time I have found it difficult to articulate why the depiction of sexual violence is so much worse than “general” violence. You have hit the nail on the head – there is genuine positive re-enforcement for sexual violence. That is why we have to treat the videos and images of it with different rules.

    This is a great essay and I will definitely be referring back to it. It really cleared up a few of the thoughts I had about the issue of violent porn.

  13. Imaginary September 28, 2009 at 12:44 PM #

    Why don’t people realize that fantasy and reality are influencing each other? There has been countless studies and testimonials that show that looking at child porn encourages pedophiles (I’ve read about many who’ve said that they wouldn’t have thought they could get away with it until they saw the market for child porn), why doesn’t this seem to apply to other rape porn? What about when the “character” (I use the term sooo loosely, but you know what I mean) is a child; 16 or so? I can’t count the number of times I’ve flipped through the Pay Per View films only to come across things like “Underage Whorebags” or “I’m 16 and I like to Dye my hair with cum”.

    Why is it that a fantasy BOOK influences someone to do something, like be nice to a neighbor of give to the poor, or a film like Blood Diamond gets people to stop buying diamonds, but it is somehow inconceivable that watching a womyn degraded and raped is influencing people? Why the fuck won’t these people just wake up?!?!

    We have to do something. Just talking about it doesn’t seem to be working. Men have all the power and asking or demanding them for it isn’t working. I need to break something.

  14. Alina December 1, 2009 at 3:36 AM #

    The porn industry has no moral consciousness–if someone wants to watch it will be made. I don’t mind limitations on certain “freedoms.” Nazi propaganda is banned in certain European countries and yet freedom of speech is still intact. Sometimes I wonder who exactly this limitless freedom of speech protects.

    BTW, I’m super-Catholic and I love your blog! With the exception of your stance on religion (obviously) I agree with you on everything. All this porn and lady-hating needs to stop!! Glad to finally find a feminist of the non-Christina Aguilara variety.

  15. Miss Andrist December 21, 2009 at 7:09 PM #

    The “freedom of speech” does NOT protect all speech, nor is it limitless. The First Amendment does not extend to slander, libel, perjury, defamation, or acts of treason. It does not cover plans to overthrow the government, assassinate a president, or commit an act of terrorism. The first amendment grants The People the right to assemble for redress of grievances, but every city in the country requires demonstrators to obtain a permit to gather and demonstrate or march. The “freedom of speech” has NEVER been exhaustive, and was never intended to be. And in most states, hate speech and propaganda is expressly limited in protection under freedom of speech.

    Only when it’s non-males does the freedom of speech suddenly become exhaustive. Only when women demand to be depicted and described as equal to men is the First Amendment brought to bear. Any excuse to keep from having to acknowledge that their motivations are purely selfish and self-serving, any excuse to maintain the privileges that tell them they are superior by virtue of the peen. Men use women as a mirror that magnifies their reflection to double its actual proportion – porn is the most obvious example of that.

    The women in porn are not made up. They are real living breathing human beings. That people refuse to recognize that demonstrates inarguably porn’s ability to warp perception of what reality is, and to blind to the real humanity of women.

  16. Immir March 6, 2010 at 11:32 AM #

    You know, if men started get butt-raped suddenly overnight, to the same degree as women (what is it, something like 1 in 4 women?), and they found a strong link between man-on-man porn & guys getting raped…. you can fucking BET they would do something about it by dinner time.

    And what is this, “we can’t do anything about it, we can’t censor art” or whatever? Child porn is illegal. Why can’t women be afforded the same protection?

  17. CPB March 2, 2012 at 5:42 PM #

    Totally agree with Immir above. In North America, and the entire Western world, really, women<children and animals.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Feminism at its Finest: May 2008 | Menstrual Poetry - June 1, 2008

    […] Deuce presents The First Amendment is only sort of cool. posted at Rage Against the […]

  2. Carnival of Feminists No 59 - Philobiblon - June 24, 2008

    […] Nine Deuce concludes that The First Amendment is only sort of cool. […]

  3. Fourteenth Carnival of Radical Feminists « Carnival of Radical Feminists - August 24, 2008

    […] Nine Deuce at Rage Against The Man-chine, her essay The First Amendment is only sort of cool explores the contradictory logic of using a free speech defense or “community interest” […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s