In January and February 1983, there was a media furor about pornography on pay television. Literally hundreds of articles, reports and editorials appeared in newspapers across the country over a six-week period until Pay-TV went on the air on March 1.
At that time, many editorial writers and columnists opposed suggestions of censoring these programs, often in belittling or mocking tones. On the other hand, groups of feminists took to the street in cities throughout Canada to let the country know, in no uncertain terms, what they thought of pornography.
Demonstrations took place in front of those enterprises, such as Eaton’s, whose proposed involvement in the production of pornographic movies, either directly or through subsidiary corporations, had become known. The feminists expressed in a more vigorous way views held also, but publicized more timidly, by the Churches.
One year later, in January and February 1984, pornography, as well as prostitution, once again made it to the front pages, at least in places such as Vancouver and Toronto.
This time it was principally because of submissions being made to the government’s Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution, set up by the Department of Justice to hold hearings across Canada. Because a number of briefs and papers were critical of the existing situation of tolerating just about everything, the tone of the newspaper reports, though not yet of the editorials, was quite different from that of last year.
In Toronto, moreover, the hearings were complemented by two well-attended, media covered, conferences on pornography and violence. On February 4, Canadians for Decency held a one-day seminar, its second annual event, on “Obscenity, Violence and the Future of Society.” It was attended by 500 people who listened to two main discussions: “Aggressive Pornography – Definition and Impact,” and “What to do about it.”
The second seminar, the next day, February 5, was co-sponsored by the Action Group on Media Pornography (Toronto); the Canadian Coalition against Violent Entertainment (Hamilton); and the National Coalition against Television Violence (Chicago). It covered such topics as “The Social Impact of Television Violence;”
“Pornography: its Contents, its Effects and its Harm;” “Pornography – the Victims and Perpetrators;” and “Agenda for Legislative and Social Action” and “Citizen Response.”
This seminar had a very large number of experts as resource people, many from the U.S., from fields of academia, police, medicine and social work. It was attended by 700 people and carried essentially the same message as the smaller conference the previous day, not least because some of the key experts spoke at both places.
A powerful message
The message was this: pornography affects people; violent pornography affects people violently; and the transition from one to the other appears natural and will be inevitable, unless citizens step in.
The highlights of the Canadians for Decency seminar, all well-documented and researched, were these:
● There is a direct relation between pornography on the one hand, and sexual assaults and violent sex crimes on the other.
● Hard-core pornography arouses men, desensitizes their feelings towards women and even makes raping women quite acceptable.
● The viewing of pornography encourages men and women to oppose controls or censorship of any kind.
● The increase of violent pornography has been especially rapid over the last few years.
● To oppose child pornography alone is no solution
Because of the feminist aspect, the over-whelming majority of those attending the conference were women. Women were encouraged to take a much more personal and vigorous interest in fighting pornography. What was not discussed, though clearly implied, was the fact that while women are the victims of violence, men, too, should take a much more explicit stand against it because they are the ones being corrupted.
Porn merchants worried
As noted, both conferences had an effect on the local media whose reporters could not help but bring the evidence of the adverse effects of pornography to the attention of their readers. Naturally, opponents of controls, whether in movies, television or videos, fumed. As June Rowlands, Toronto alderman, had pointed out already, distributors of pornographic magazines had been furious at the by-law recently passed in Toronto (and that only after three attempts), requiring store owners to remove the offending periodicals from the bottom shelves in their stores and place them behind opaque barriers. After all, many pornographic purchases are impulse buying.
The evidence presented concerned “ordinary,” that is, over-the-counter, pornographic periodicals and “ordinary” pornographic films, the “X” or “R” rated films which are shown in regular movie houses open to the public.
Some other points brought forward were these:
● Images of violence against women within these media have increased perhaps tenfold over the last ten years – in movies, going from 3% of content to 15-20% today.
● These image-makers present rape as something pleasurable to women which, while resisted at first, will nevertheless turn them on in the end. This, of course, desensitizes men to the nature of their crime.
● Other acts of violence against women are also “mythologized” as pleasurable.
● Experiments have confirmed that the effect of even relative short exposures of young man to such films affects their attitude toward women adversely.
● The process of pornography is a unity: it begins on a low scale but expands along natural lines into ever-more violent forms. Witness men’s magazines which today are far worse than they were a decade ago.
Anti-family, anti-child, anti-social
The final message of these conferences and of various submissions to the government hearings is clear. Pornography must be stopped, certainly limited. To do so requires that Canadians re-think the idea which has dominated our society during the last two decades, namely that just because we live in a pluralist society, opponents of obscenity and pornography are prohibited from having their views enshrined in the country’s legal system.
Our society may be pluralist, but there is no reason to accept that it also must be secular and contemptuous of traditional moral standards. Pornography, like abortion and the contraceptive mentality is anti-family, anti-child and anti-social.
In addition, to Christians, pornography is also a sin. That is to say, not merely an injury to the common good, or injury to neighbor or to self, but also an offence against God.