HOW DO WE RESIST SEXUAL IMAGERY
WHEN EROTICISM IS EVERYWHERE?
In a novel I wrote some years ago (This Side of Jordan, 2003), my lead character is unnerved by the soundtrack of a dirty movie blaring from an apartment across the alleyway. Describing this scene in the book, I observe that…
“The trouble with pornography is not that it’s tacky and demeaning. The trouble with pornography is that it works.”
Indeed it does. We’re all diverted by compelling sexual imagery. And while different erotic elements may appeal to different people (taste in this area of human concern being as varied as in any other), the power to capture attention and fire some kind of carnal interest is the common denominator in all such material. Pornography may be hard to define. But in the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart…
“I know it when I see it.”
Advances in neuroscience have helped to identify the areas of the brain that respond to erotic stimuli and the mental processes initiated. It’s been pretty well established by now that viewing pornography has effects similar to those of psychotropic drugs. And the more erotic imagery that’s consumed, the more the viewer experiences a narcotic-like “need” for ever-greater stimulus — hence the frequently observed tendency to move from soft-core porn to the hard-core stuff.
There’s nothing new about pornography. Skin flicks are as old as the movies. Erotic art is ancient. I can imagine some Neanderthal Larry Flint painting smutty images of Miss Pleistocene Era on a cave wall.
What’s changed, however, is the availability of porn. Where you once had to ask in whispered tones for those special magazines from behind the counter, or wait for your mail-order treat to arrive in its plain brown wrapper, the Internet has become a veritable cornucopia of naughty delights — delivered instantly to your computer, tablet, or smart phone.