Morality Religion

Taryn Hodgson’s pornography problem

The Christian Action Network’s (CAN) “international coordinator”, Taryn Hodgson, seems to be on some sort of PR offensive. Last month, she was accusing the Cape Times and Argus of denying the “hidden holocaust” of abortion, and more recently, she took time out from being upset at things to offer an apology for the lies told by CAN around an aborted debate between Peter Hammond, myself and Tauriq Moosa.

This apology has now resulted in the editing of some text on the reports of that debate – it’s still deeply misleading (you can read the document trail here, if you like), but it’s at least something, and even a recognition of some wrongdoing is at least progress towards becoming a decent and honest human being.

But in her most recent foray into the scary territory of making arguments, we can unfortunately detect no improvement in her reasoning abilities since that time she pretended to be a student, back in March 2009. This time the subject of her disapproval is DSTV, who are currently trying to gauge public interest in the addition of a pornography channel to their offerings.

If they went ahead and added such a channel, Hodgson says, they would be fueling the “fires of sexual abuse and exploitation“. The statement released by CAN reminds us of the high incidence of sexual violence against (especially) women and children, and claims that in this context, it is unacceptable for DSTV to introduce a porn channel. So Taryn is suggesting a causal connection here – that pornography is likely to increase sexual violence. She goes on to say that those “who ignorantly believe that there is no evidence that porn is harmful have imbibed the lies of the porn industry”, and that porn “violates women’s constitutional rights to dignity and equality”.

There’s plenty that’s wrong with this response, besides its hysterical tone. The first, and perhaps most obvious response, is to accept Hodgson’s premises for the sake of argument, and then to ask whether DSTV’s introduction of a porn channel would make any difference to the rates of sexual violence. Given that porn is freely available already, and that DSTV’s channel would require an extra subscription amount to be paid (which “perverts” could otherwise spend on a porn DVD or download), it seems unlikely that this channel will result in any significant increase in the amount of available porn. So the attack on DSTV is somewhat opportunistic, in that her focus should be on lobbying government to ban porn entirely, rather than railing against DSTV for trying to maximise its profits by giving viewers content that they may want.

Leaving aside the niceties of accepting her claims for the sake of argument, a related point to highlight in the above is that this channel will be operated on a strictly opt-in basis, meaning that it’s only people who want to watch the porn that will be able to, after having paid the required fees. Again, they can already spend that money to get porn. And if the response is that “innocents”, however defined, may be caught in the porn crossfire, well, that’s already the case as well. Rather rail against parents who leave their porn lying around, or who fail to use the existing parental controls on their DSTV decoders to block content they don’t want their kids to see.

Then, as for the claims regarding “constitutional rights to dignity and equality”, these same women (and men) have constitutional rights to freedoms of various sorts, including the freedom to (mostly) make their own moral judgments. If Hodgson wants to argue that the freedoms should step aside for her version of “dignity and equality”, she’ll first have to convince me that her version has any intellectual merit, rather than simply being derived from a bunch of Bronze-Age mythology.

Lastly, on the causal claims she makes: yes, some people may indeed have swallowed the claims of the industry, and have perhaps ended up believing that there is nothing problematic about the porn industry. And there are problematic things about the porn industry, as there are in any industry. We need evidence that the porn industry is intrinsically or necessarily harmful, rather than harmful in ways that can be limited or eliminated by robust legislation and enforcement of that legislation. And a generous respondent would say that the evidence for this is far from clear. But any sensible respondent would know that there is genuine evidence to be had here, and that we don’t have to rely only on porn industry “lies”. A cursory look at some of this independent research quickly reveals that the data suggest a negative causal relationship, ie. that the availability of porn may even decrease sexual violence.

I don’t think that porn is without its dangers, and agree with quite a bit of what Naomi Wolf says in New York magazine, where she argues that porn may be responsible for “deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ‘porn-worthy'”. But to approach this complicated problem from the point of view that Christian values will save us from various social ills is stupendously naive, in that it ignores other data we have suggesting that the religious are no better off in terms of protecting what Hodgson refers to as the “basic building block of society” – the family. In fact, census data in the US tells us something quite contrary to that, in revealing significantly higher divorce rates among conservative Christians “than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience”.

Any Christians out there who want to try and save their marriages via porn, don’t be alarmed if DSTV don’t go ahead with this channel. There’s more than enough porn for you on the interwebs, along with all sorts of interesting stuff they call “science”.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.

24 replies on “Taryn Hodgson’s pornography problem”

Sexual violence is far more to do with power than it is with sex.
This is just another example of christians attempting to control every aspect of people’s lives.
Quite why Taryn and her friends aren’t up in arms about the readily-available (ie. not pay per view, like the porn would be) violence on TV – something which DOES have a proven link to social problems in children and adults alike, is beyond me.

Only if people subscribe to, and pay for, the porn channel will porn be accessable in their house. A second layer of safety is the Parental Control feature which prevents childen viewing or copying porn.

Parents should also not leave Bibles lying around the house for children to read or they will be exposed to such filth as : Ezekiel 23:20-21 “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.”

Every time I see those Christian channels on DStv, I vomit a little bit in my mouth. I feel so sorry for the uneducated masses who are exploited by these con-artists. DStv should activate parental control on religous channels so that young minds do not get corrupted.

What a wonderful idea, Mary. It is, after all, easier to demonstrate links between religion and social evils (like racism, for example) than it is to demonstrate problems with pornography. Perhaps we should start a petition…

For a guy wanting to come across as clever you are missing a big point – appart from being obvious in wanting to attack religion even though that is not the topic on the table. Many Atheists doesn’t marry in the first place even if they do – it could be after a much longer relationship, staying together etc, , that will schew the numbers a lot.

“Rather rail against parents who leave their porn lying around, or who fail to use the existing parental controls on their DSTV decoders to block content they don’t want their kids to see.” Taryn, sorry for being sarcastic, but that is a very intelligent statement to make!

Furthermore, you seems to be unaware that it is quite easy to copy these movies from TV.

All those who shout “use parental control” is either perversely selfish or plain stupid. Selfish because they don’t care about those children who’s parents are irresponsible and abusive, plain stupid because they think that all parents will use “parental control”, and all these “responsible” parents will keep their children locked up and not allowed them to visit “friends” whose “responsible” parents may not be interested in “parental control”. That is the FREEDOM of a foolish person. Decent responsible parents now have more freedom cause they need to be on the lookout every minute, and children of decent responsible parents need to lock up the kids – now all this amounts to more FREEDOM! Consider a brain scan! Talk about Christians or other groups controlling you – you are the ones who want to control!

“violence on TV – something which DOES have a proven link to social problems in children and adults alike, is beyond me.” – yes, it is problematic for THOSE children already in a bad situation at home, where parents are already irresponsible and probably abusive and not interested in “parental control” – so now you want to make things worse for those kids!

aajj > I’m missing the stats behind your big point.

Amongst the junk about not knowing about copying programmes from TV, Fred almost stumbles upon an interesting (and possibly valid) point. That being that there is no danger of children inadvertently watching porn if there is no porn in the household to begin with.

But in itself, that raises other issues.
Presumably then, Fred is also for the abolition of the internet and will shortly be closing his mweb dial-up account, for I know of no greater source of pornography than the WWW, despite my limited exploration of the genre.

In addition – and perhaps more concerningly – Fred suggests that there are parents out there who do not have the ability to adequately care for their children.
Rather than ranting over pay-per-view TV options, why isn’t Fred doing something about those parents, who he freely admits are already “irresponsible and probably abusive”? And why is god allowing that horrendous situation to continue?

@6000 my point is that most likely atheist get maried less often than christians they’ll divorce less often. I think you can logically say there is a good chance they’ll marry less often since mariage is a religious institution?

aajj – the analysis is proportional. Of those atheists who get married, a lower proportion of them get divorced than Christians who marry. The absolute number of atheists or Christians who marry is besides the point (unless you want to argue that fewer atheists marry because they have better judgement, and would thus be less likely to divorce – but that’s my point).

As for attacking religion, even though it’s apparently “not the topic on the table” – if Hodgson’s arguments are premised on religious ideology, it is on the table.

I take your point Jacques. This is still a bit misleading since you can have broken homes (which I think should be the worry here) without there ever having been a mariage – these situations would be much more likely atheists.

On attacking religion I still think the claims against porn stand up without religion.

Then I’m afraid that you don’t take my point, despite your saying so – broken homes are usually failed marriages, so based on the point you claim to have taken, these situations would not be more likely to be atheists.

As far as the claims against porn standing up without religion, the stats don’t agree with you.

I look at a broken home as a home with children where the parents seperate – this will mostly happen in atheist households. Mariage is a religious institution despite what 6000 has said.
These stats are non religous
look at the last interveiw with Ted Bundy. If 1 child has been forced into such a life, or has been traficked because of porn revenue we should not be pro porn. If we do, we share some responsibility with these animals.

Your statement that “a broken home… will mostly happen in atheist households” is contradictory to the study Jacques has referred to, and you make the claim without any supporting evidence.

The article you mention is an incredible poor source, read on Wikipedia who D. Hughes was, and you should find that she is not a reputable academic source of any kind, and her writing simply reflects her uneducated opinion.

Kent if you follow the argument the fact I’m trying to highlight is that if there is to be a household where parents are not maried and thereafter split chances are it would be an atheist household. It would be a small percentage – so I’m willing to concede te point. No Christian should think they are perfect in any case, apart from that nobody can truly measure whether someone is a true Christian or not.

That might be; the point is there is proof of the evils of porn but people are too worried about themselves to care about checking who might get harmed. I don’t have to do the leg work here if you took 30 seconds on google you can decide for yourself. Answer me this question what do we stand to gain by porn versus what damage it could be doing (please do take a few minutes to contemplate and check on google what damage it could be doing)

These types of claims, and the specific source you have cited, are debunked in detail here, and so I disagree with your claim that “there is proof of the evil of porn”.

If you “haven’t read the paper” how do you believe you debunked it? You seem to be saying I found out this guy is Christian so his opinion doesn’t count, then you put down some arbitary link you know would put his case in the worst light from people who copied his work? I though you guys are all for being ethical?

@6000 Sorry misread – your comments – don’t have stats on my big point – just seems to be logical.

Sorry, but you are basing your “logical” assumption on an incorrect statement.
Marriage does not have to be a religious institution.

Hi 6000,
I am not for the abolition of DSTV, nor for the abolition of the internet, nor for the abolition of guns and knives etc.
I don’t think it was ever the intention of the inventors of tv and the internet for it to be mis-used for the destruction of moral values and be ignorant to the rights of children to grow up in an environment free from this filth.
And we should never allow guns to be mis-used, would you agree?

“Rather than ranting over pay-per-view TV options, why isn’t Fred doing something about those parents, who he freely admits are already “irresponsible and probably abusive”?”

I am, by trying to stop this filth becoming even more generalized. Because if we allow more and more kids to grow up in this eco-system of abuse and porn and neglect, most of them will likely become bad parents themselves and be more desensitized (not talking about the exceptional cases).

“And why is god allowing that horrendous situation to continue?”

I always say, you have 4 kinds of people on earth: Those who blame God, those who blame the devil, those who blame apartheid, and those who take ownership.
Among those that take ownership and say “forgive me Lord”, you will find people who fight for the eradication of porn and child abuse etc. And what you perhaps don’t know, they are also the ones who behind the curtains often pick up the pieces (freely gratis with God’s help) of those whose lives have been “destroyed” by among others, porn, abortion, abuse, alcoholism etc. You won’t read about this in the newspapers.

Comments are closed.