fighting for free hearts

Big Porn: Is It The New Big Tobacco?

Breaking Free, the blog of Covenant Eyes, has this post today discussing cultural attitudes towards pornography.  By way of comparison, the writer discusses ways attitudes toward cigarettes and tobacco have changed since the 1950s.

The full article, Is Porn The New Tobacco? is written by Mary Eberstadt, and it is very worthwhile.

Among Eberstadt’s salient points is this:

Today’s prevailing social consensus about pornography is practically identical to the social consensus about tobacco in 1963: i.e., it is characterized by widespread tolerance, tinged with resignation about the notion that things could ever be otherwise. After all, many people reason, pornography’s not going to go away any time soon. Serious people, including experts, either endorse its use or deny its harms or both.

Also, it is widely seen as cool, especially among younger people, and this coveted social status further reduces the already low incentive for making a public issue of it. In addition, many people also say that consumers have a “right” to pornography — possibly even a constitutional right. No wonder so many are laissez-faire about this substance. Given the social and political circumstances arrayed in its favor, what would be the point of objecting?

Also mirroring the PR push of cigarette companies, Big Porn thinks of public perception, philanthropy and, of course, The Children.

The Playboy Foundation seeks similarly to influence the climate of ideas via philanthropy. One of its avenues is grants to non-profits involved in “fighting censorship” and “researching sexuality.” It also bestows $10,000 “Hefner First Amendment Awards” under a distinguished panel of judges drawn from the highest reaches of academia and public organizations.7 In 2008 the foundation also announced the creation of an annual $25,000 “Freedom of Expression Award.” Since 1965, according to the foundation’s director, it has disbursed $20 million in grants and in-kind contributions “to organizations concerned with First Amendment freedoms, civil liberties and social justice.”

In all these ways, pornography purveyors seem to follow the philanthropic trail of yesterday’s tobacco industry. As Richard Kluger noted in another recent history called Ashes to Ashes: America’s Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris, the tobacco industry:

counterattacked [its critics] broadly by declaring smoking to be a civil and human right that the cigarette-haters were out to crush. . . . the industry called out for tolerance of their customers’ lifestyle preferences and “individual choice” — a thinly coded pitch to ally smokers with other abused minorities and casting smoking control advocates as bullies, not just busybodies and killjoys.8

Also like tobacco before it, the pornography industry makes inroads into one specific and perhaps problematic demographic: kids. mtv, for example, recently announced the launch of a Stan Lee-Hugh Hefner collaboration called Hef’s Superbunnies, a cartoon featuring Playboy bunnies. Numerous games available on xbox and PlayStation feature pornographic themes, including those that lack an “Adult” rating.

There is now in our culture an increasingly seamless integration of pornography with mainstream entertainment and pop culture.

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