Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Not sure I should even go here...

Fair warning, this post deals with some prurient stuff.

As I was perusing ABC's tabloidesque "Primetime" earlier this evening (okay, fine, I Tivo'd it after seeing a promo last night), I couldn't help but wonder if the show was being a bit unfair. See, they interviewed a woman by the name of Sunny Lane, who I will pretend to have never heard of before today, and discussed how her parents work as her business managers...for her career in adult entertainment. If you watch the whole episode (not available on ABC's website, near as I can tell), the interviewer almost seems frustrated that he can't get her to seem more tortured or ambivalent about the whole thing, thereby defying the axiom that adult entertainment deadens the soul. Maybe she just hasn't been doing it long enough, but she comes across as too cute and bubbly to be all that depressing:

I'm somewhat fascinated by the psychology of the whole business--i.e. what gets people to do this sort of thing, are said people really as screwed up as their stereotypes, and so forth. The whole thing with the parents on the ABC show is a bit strange (or a whole hell of a lot strange, who knows). I do think porn should stay out of the spotlight, if for no other reason than because it might otherwise lose its cachet--I think the market will keep it around for a long time, even if no one can agree on how much money the industry makes. Anyway, it's very late at night.


tODD said...

Well, I guess ABC's marketing tactics worked, then. "Tabloidesque"? Please. There's not an iota of news here. If she weren't a porn star, this would be a very pedestrian human-interest story. But instead it's about sex: "Do you like sex? Then you'll watch this show!"

Also, how does Sunny's failing to appear "tortured or ambivalent" defy "the axiom that [porn] deadens the soul"? It would seem to me that her indifference supports that axiom. She would only appear bothered by it all if her conscience was working, but as it isn't, she's happy as a clam. A highly sexualized clam.

Since you don't seem all too bothered by porn, instead imagine that this was an interview with a mercenary. He's talking about the hundreds of people he's killed, often in gruesome ways, in a very matter-of-fact tone. He seems bright, happy, and nice. But he does love to kill people, he says. Would you think that he was even-keeled, or highly disturbed? Would his story be heartwarming or depressing?

Finally, as to "what gets people to do this sort of thing," that would be money. Money and maybe a serving of self-loathing. But mainly money. I mean, do you really think these people would do this for minimum wage?

cryptic_philosopher said...

In response to Todd:

"It would seem to me that her indifference supports that axiom. She would only appear bothered by it all if her conscience was working, but as it isn't, she's happy as a clam. A highly sexualized clam."

Leaving aside the fact that you missed a great pun opportunity with "clam," your comment still presupposes the same axiom. Perhaps she doesn't feel bad because she doesn't think she has anything to feel bad about. Maybe she's right, maybe she's wrong, but neither you nor I know that for sure. That's what I'm trying to get at with the remarks I made. If you watch the report (not remotely news, I know), all of the issues they note people in this business having--weight concerns, shallowness, constant spotlight and media attention--don't seem different from the problems other famous people have. The only difference is the sex thing. It's a big thing, don't get me wrong (see my remarks on "cachet"), but is it worth the massive hew and cry (sp?) that it always gets? Is she hurting anyone but herself? Is she actually hurting herself? She's making tons of money off horny guys, and now even more money on moralistic "journalists" broadcasting her on primetime TV, thereby introducing her to even more horny people...dang, that's some good marketing. She provides an opportunity for some people to watch a beautiful naked woman do stuff, and for other people to cluck disapprovingly and feel morally superior. Everyone gets what they were after, and she makes money. It's the same as with many other entertainers, except with the sex part added in. The only surefire sign that this could have a detrimental effect on her "soul" is that everyone keeps saying it will.

As for the mercenary comparison, yes, that interview would trouble me. Now please explain how a mercenary's chosen profession has anything whatsoever to do with a pornstar's. The only way your analogy makes sense is first to assume that all pornstars love having sex, which undercuts the it's-all-for-money argument. If you are saying that having sex on video is morally equivalent to murdering a stranger for money, well, I could go on and on about my thoughts on that, so I'll just say that your argument is a red herring meant to shock and or shame me into giving up rhetorical ground. Nice try. I can't say adult entertainment, in all of its forms, doesn't bother me. Quite a bit of it is downright disturbing, to the point of being scary. By and large, the whole business stays at least partly in the shadows, out of sight of "polite" society, which is a large part of the point. Of course, then ABC goes and puts it on prime time TV. That's Disney for you.

cryptic_philosopher said...

My mistake. It's actually hue and cry, although the "hew" spelling is occasionally used.

tODD said...

This seems to largely be about relativism. As a Christian, I believe in moral absolutes. From what you've said here -- notably, "Maybe she's right, maybe she's wrong, but neither you nor I know that for sure." -- you do not. Or, perhaps, you believe in one moral absolute: don't hurt others. (What "hurt" means then becomes an interesting question, including how it relates to other topics you have touched on in your blog.) Is that a fair characterization of our positions? Because I feel that, without understanding that, we're just talking past each other.

For instance, consider your statement that "Perhaps she doesn't feel bad because she doesn't think she has anything to feel bad about." That's pretty tautological for both of us. The question is if her apparent self-assessment is correct. You claim not to know. I say it's wrong, but perhaps not wanting to feel bad about her job, she has suppressed her conscience.

As to "Everyone gets what they were after", yes, and how happy Republicans must make you, since they give you the opportunity to "feel morally superior" on your blog. Or is that a silly argument? If there's one thing I get from my faith, it's not moral superiority, since Christianity teaches that all people are sinful and equally morally inferior. Labeling wrong behavior doesn't mean one doesn't also struggle with it.

As to my analogy, I screwed it up a bit. Instead of saying "he does love to kill people", I should have said "he does love his job". Not that I imagine that'll improve things for you. But it comes down to worldview, again. You seem offended at my implying moral equivalence between porn and murder, which fits with the relativist notion in which "moral" is judged by how much it hurts someone else. I, on the other hand, consider "moral" a binary comparison to an absolute standard, and thus, both are wrong. I'm not arguing that porn has the same effect as murder.

Anyhow, lots of underlying matter, not a whole lot about the actual topic at hand. So back to that: what do you find disturbing about porn?

cryptic_philosopher said...

I think, to a very large extent, we are talking past one another on many of these issues. I took some time (obviously) to ponder the underlying issues here, then I got busy with work and forgot all about it, but now I'm back. I sort of wish I could just be a full-time sardonic blogger, but I really don't have the readership for that, alas.

Now then, as to your mention of "relativism," I must admit I do not know what you mean or where you are going with this. To me, lamenting relativism is much like lamenting gravity or electromagnetism--it's troublesome at times but generally unescapable. I am quite proud to call myself a relativist (I am also proud to call myself a mammal, which is about as obvious.) It is possible to determine unassailable rules of "morality," but it requires a maddening degree of specificity, as well as a rational basis for every such rule. "Thou shalt not kill," for example. What about self-defense, when all other options have been exhausted? "Thou shalt not kill for monetary compensation." What about a paid soldier serving in a national army repelling an invading army? "Thou shalt not kill for monetary compensation whilst in the employ of a non-governmental actor otherwise engaged in additional malum in se activities, with said killing being solely for the purpose of further enabling said activities..." I could go on, but won't. Then we get to "Thou shalt not have sex on film in exchange for money." Why not? Is the individual(s) having sex on film being forced to do so against his/her will? That's wrong. Are people who do not wish to do so being compelled to watch said film against their will? Also wrong. Does the existence of a generally hidden market for and supply of said films offend the sensibilities of people who do not have to have any contact with said films at all, provided such films do not violate the free will/consent of the participants? Well, what would be the basis for calling that wrong? If the only harm is causing offense solely by existing, then what is the basis for calling such harm "wrong"? If it is in the Bible that having sex on video is wrong, I am not familiar with the passage. I do not generally care for using the term "morality" or its derivatives because it generally does imply some supernatural foundation--I prefer the term "ethics" as that tends to be based on a rational assessment of rights and duties (e.g. my rights stop where your rights begin.) One could try to definitively say that having sex on video is "immoral"--providing a rational basis for saying so is more problematic. I would have to say that "Do no harm" is a pretty good guideline for life, and that harm is not that difficult to define.

None of this is to say that I do not believe in "morality" or "right and wrong." I do believe in a rational basis for defining what is right and wrong. Murder for hire, for example again, is generally "wrong" because of the effect it has on the murderee.

Going back to the mercenary hypothetical you brought up, I see no particularly meaningful distinction between enjoying killing and enjoying one's job, when that job is mostly composed of killing.

I would not say that I am offended by your moral equivalence between murder for hire and porn. I find it perplexing and functionally meaningless outside of your own persona, as it is your personal belief and does not affect anyone else (e.g. if you don't like it, don't watch it). I am offended by the belief many seem to have (which you have not directly stated), that religious belief is a prerequisite to an ability to distinguish right from wrong. I could write a whole book on this issue (and I might), but much as religious belief is no obstacle to heinous atrocity, neither is a lack thereof an obstacle to leading a just and "righteous" life.

But back to the issue at hand...I learned a new word this weekend that I would have used in the original post had I know it. I think the "problem" of porn in our society is largely iatrogenic, meaning that the "disease" is caused by those who are trying to heal or fix it. None of this stuff would see much of the light of day (outside of its usual stomping grounds) if these tabloids didn't splash it all over prime time TV. The argument that it is ubiquitous in our society is largely because of those who are most bothered by it.

It (porn) tends to bother me for reasons not dissimilar to why "24" bothers me: the subject matter being presented as entertainment. Some people's fantasies are a bit twisted, is all. I'd rather have it being depicted fictionally for people's private entertainment instead of having to read about crap like this. The situation described in that article is "wrong," I submit, for reasons of consent (and lack thereof) on the part of the participants. The "harm" is that they were forced to do something against their will (although the article is vague on that point).