The Washington Post recently reported, and then mocked, plans at the FBI to put a few field agents on pornography prosecutions. One unnamed FBI agent who, according to the Post was awarded anonymity since "poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing," derided the idea, saying, "I guess this means we've won the war on terror." The Post reporter also recycled jokes made at FBI headquarters, such as "Things I Don't Want On My Résumé, Volume Four," and "I already gave at home."
It was a cheap and easy dig. No one puts pornographers in a league with Osama bin Laden as a lethal threat to national security. But the FBI is involved in other criminal matters that also look trivial next to terrorism. (A look at the press-release archives will acquaint you with the crackdown on fake asbestos-training certificates.) So why is the FBI doing this? With an eye on public disgust, Congress funded an anti-obscenity initiative in fiscal 2005 and specified that the FBI must devote 10 agents to adult pornography. The FBI put all ten in the Washington field office, presumably where Congress might see them more clearly.
It's clear that pornographers in this new century have a much greater reach with the technological boost of the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of web pages are devoted to pornographic images, and one prosecuting boomlet is catching the porn merchants constantly spamming adults - and children - through their e-mail accounts. Porn peddlers catch many children through simple internet searches for "DragonBall Z" cartoons and Harry Potter books. But pornographers aren't prosecuted as much celebrated by our cultural elites. Congress echoed what seems to be a growing movement to expose and confront this repugnant scab on American society.
This "porn chic" trend is spawning a cottage industry of anti-porn books. The first was called "Smut" by Gil Reavill, a fellow who had been a writer for Screw magazine, but was shocked to learn his twelve-year-old girl daughter was a devotee of rap music and was repeating lyrics about performing fellatio on Eminem. Reavill is unequivocal in his concern: "We are enshrining smut as a central place of our culture. We're working toward giving it pride of place in our public commons."
Ben Shapiro, a 21-year-old law student, was next, lamenting the moral direction of young people in the book "Porn Generation." He's seen the rising social acceptability of the skin trade: "Pornography is no longer relegated to the dark corners of the newsstand or the scuzzy box in the video store; it's now in your inbox. It's on the radio, the television and the billboards. We live in an America that makes [amateur sex-tape star] Paris Hilton a cultural icon and [professional porn star] Jenna Jameson a New York Times best-selling author."
Women who are upset at what pornography does for their gender are also chiming in. Ariel Levy's new tome "Female Chauvinist Pigs" argues that one major reason for the rise of the "raunch culture" is because women are now "participating in their own exploitation."
Levy tags along for a night of filming by "Girls Gone Wild" mogul Joe Francis, as he and his staff pressure inebriated college girls to strip and fool around with each other for the cameras so he can sell DVDs for $19.99 a pop. Levy also laments how so many talented female athletes, actresses, and musicians feel the need to bare themselves provocatively for the near-naked celebrity-skin magazines like Maxim and FHM (For Him Magazine), sold at every 7-Eleven counter. Levy has a label for women who try to gain power and glory in the male world through accepting the male-porn sexual ethic: female chauvinist pigs.
The newest anti-porn book is Pamela Paul's "Pornified," which centers in on the young male consumer of female sexual images, and the harm that it does in relationships between men and the real-life women who don't live between the Playboy pages. Paul documents how porn makes women disposable, revealed in one incredibly selfish porn user's comment: "I don't see how any male who likes porn can think actual sex is better, at least if it involves all the crap that comes with having a real live female in your life."
Whether or not federal prosecutors find successes with juries in enforcing a notion of "community standards" on the porn industry, parents across America ought to be the first line of defense against "porn chic."
No one wants to be the father of the unhappy man who can't build a marriage with a three-dimensional woman, or the mother of the manipulated woman who sells her sexuality (and her soul) to a porn mogul or the fly-by-night Internet webmaster for chump change. And yet, hundreds of thousands of parents face that predicament because they did nothing to prevent the sewage of pornography from seeping into their homes.
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