Show a number of different people a simple piece of paper consisting of nothing more than a red blotch of paint and ask them what they see. The responses will vary from objects such as a cherry, to more simply, just plain red paint. This is an indication of the individuality, or sum of qualities that characterize and distinguish an individual from all others, instilled in every human being. Just as facial features and hair color differ among individuals, similar distinctiveness is found among personalities and opinions. Because of prominent variance in belief among many individuals, a number of topics and issues have become controversial in society today.
Similar to the varied responses to the red splotch of paint, photographs, video tapes and paintings portraying nudity and sexual content receive a number of clashing opinions. There are artists who paint and photograph nudity and pornography who find the human body and sex portrayed in many forms to be beautiful. However, there are also many extremely conservative individuals who take offense to such “artwork” and find its contents appalling. And those who enjoy the nudity and sexual content exhibited in pornographic materials should marvel and delight in its details. Those who do not should simply look away. In the words of Justice William O. Douglas, “no one is compelled to look” (Brownmiller 663).
There is no concrete manner to define materials that are “obscene” or “offensive” because various images come to mind among individuals when words similar to these are used to describe pornography. To classify a distasteful picture from a beautiful one comes down to a matter of opinion and taste. In previous instances, such as the Miller
Case of 1973, the Court attempted to define which materials could be judged as lewd or indecent:
The materials are obscene if they depict patently offensive, hard-core sexual conduct; lack serious scientific, literary, artistic, or political value; and appeal to the prurient interests of an average personas measured by contemporary community standards (Brownmiller 662).
In accordance with the opinions of Susan Brownmiller in her essay, “Lets Put Pornography Back in the Closet,” most would agree that description such as “patently offensive,” “prurient interest,” and “hard-core” are “indeed words to conjure with” (662).
Elimination of pornography is not the key to social equality, partly since no one can define what porn is and because censorship is never a simple matter. First, the offense must be described. “And how does one define something so infinitely variable, so deeply personal, so uniquely individualized as the image, the word, and the fantasy that cause sexual arousal” (Strossen 4)? Pornography cannot be recognized as easily as the Court involved with the Miller Case implied. “Contemporary community standards” do not exist in that individuals and families alike have strongly different ideals and ethics on issues such as sexual content, nudity and pornography. While some parents allow their children to view rated R movies containing sexual content and nudity, others restrict their children from attending sexual education classes in high school. Finding a median between two strongly differing standards similar to these would be rare. Thus, to accept or reject, like or dislike pornography is a personal opinion that is often too divided to differentiate.
Besides the difficulties of definition, there are varying degrees of intensity in the porn images themselves. One of the more prominent arguments against pornography is that “it represents the hatred of women, that pornographys intent is to humiliate, degrade and dehumanize the female body for the purpose of erotic stimulation and pleasure” (Brownmiller 663). Although in some instances women are portrayed as being stripped,
bound, raped and tortured in pornographic scenes, not all pornography is this explicit and violent. In any case, the intent of such scenes is not to “degrade and dehumanize” the entire female gender but to simply satisfy those individuals who enjoy poses and pictures containing such violent erotic content. Brownmiller argues that these images of violent pornography “have everything to do with the creation of a cultural climate in which a rapist feels he is merely giving in to normal urge and a woman is encouraged to believe that sexual masochism is healthy, liberated fun” (663).
Women such as Brownmiller who