Imagine The New York Times headline reading "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Banned!!" If the pro-censorship/anti-porn sector of our society has its way, this headline may come true. Some of the pro-censorship supporters believe that women posing provacatively in bathing suits should be considered pornography and that this and all other forms of pornography should be made illegal. There is and has been a moral debate over whether or not pornography should be censored. Many individuals believe that pornography is harmfull to society and therefore morally wrong. However, on the other side there are also people who do not believe that pornography is harmful and some believe that it may even be beneficial to society. The type of pornography on which this memo will focus is that of in which the human subjects have agreed to participate in the production of the material, which is read or veiwed by choice by adults. While some people even find pornography involving consenting adults offensive, there is no morally compelling reason to censor this type of pornography.
The first moral standard that must me considered when determining whether or not to censor pronography is the principle that all human beings have the right to free speech and expression as long as no one else is being harmed. Freedom of expresion is a moral principle which, it this country, is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Freedom of expression is a basic need which people have in order to be satisfied with their lives. Censorship of pornography violates an individual's basic human need as well as his/her right to self-expresion. Only when there is a clear and present danger of genuine harm caused by the form of expression is question should the expression be censored (Christensen 1990:158). Of course, there are certain types of expression that should not be allowed because they do present genuine harm to human beings. For example, yelling "FIRE" in a crowed theater or giving government secerts to the enemy during wartime places people in serious danger. One of the elements of making a moral judgment is that the judgment must be based on the facts that are available when the judgment is being made. However , with respect to pornography, no relevant facts exist which support the theory that it "harms" people. It is only a matter of personal opinion whether or not there is any damage caused to humans by pornographic expression.
Freedom of expression is a moral standard, which can not be changed by authoritative bodies. Therefore, it cannot be censored by the government. However, people who dislike pornography want to compromise this standard by censoring the standard, and making it illegal. Even if individuals hate what pornographers say or express, they should still defend their right to say it. The right to free speech and expression is the cornerstone of the moral values that most people hold dear. The moral standard of free speech is an outright rejection of government censorship. The best way to censor speech of espression which someone finds offensive is for that individual to not listen or veiw the expression of speech (Don't be so quick to censor" 1995:20-21).
Another characteristic of a moral standard such as free speech is that moral standards consider everyone's interests as equally important. By censoring pornography because some people find it offensive, we are not taking into account the interests of the people who find pornography pleasurable.
Also, it is dangerous to censor any form of speech or expression because "it is only by collusion of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has a chance of being supplied (Bender 1991:116). While most people would agree, at this point in time there is probably no great "truth" waiting to be discovered in pornography, if we begin to censor pornography, then where do we draw the line?
Another moral standard which is related to the censorship argument is the freedom we have as individuals to make our own decisions. In order to protect human good, we all must be in control of our lives and free to make our own choices and decisions. We are dehumanized if the government or anti-pornography groups reserve the right to make our decisions for us. Censorship takes away a person's ability to act as an independent, free moral agent. Each person must be free to judge and evaluate information for him/her (Don't be so quick" 1995:23-24). By censoring adult pornography, we as individuals are unable to exercise our right to choose.
If people enjoy watching X-rated movies or looking at pictures of naked women and/or men, it is not the governments position to tell them that this is not right. If we are Christians, must everyone else in society choose to be Christian because this is how we feel? If we do not like pornography and choose not to veiw it, should everyone else do the same because this is how we feel? The answer to both the questions is no. A moral standard exists which states that we as human beings have the right to choose what we read, watch and listen to. Censoring pornography takes away an individual's right to choose what he/she reads, watches or hears. Therefore censoring pornography violates and important moral standard.
The main problem with taking away an individual's right to choose, is once this control is placed in the government's hands where will they draw the line as far as other choices the government may take away from us. Some critics worry that restrictions on pornography will lead to widespread censorship and thus limit one's choices of reading and viewing materials. As moral agents we must allow everyone to make their own decisions regarding pornography. If one finds pornography offensive, the he/she may choose not to read or watch pornographic material. If a person enjoys pornography then, by all means he/she should have the choice to buy, possess and derive pleasure from prongraphic material. Because people's sexual interests are not "politically correct" is not a morally compelling reason to censor pornography.
The main argument used by the pro-anti-pornography censor groups is that people who view pornography are more likely to commit sex crimes than people who are not exposed to pornography. However, there is little empirical evidence to support this idea. In fact there is more evidence to support the opposite: that easy access to pornography is likely to reduce the rates of sexual assualt (Sileo 1995:7). Research has shown that in countries where pornography is banned, rates of sexual assualt against women are high and women's rights are virtually non-existent. Japan though, where all forms of pornography are legal, "even violent" pornography, has low rates of sexual assault (Sileo 1995:7). Based on these facts, pornography does not cause sex crimes. Another fact which must me considered when determining if banning pornography will reduse sex crimes against women it the fact that rape existed before the movie camera and printing press (Lefevere 1995:12). Therefore, no casual relationship between pornography and sex crimes can be claimed. Therefore there is no concrete evidence which supports the argument connecting pornography with sex crimes.
Based on the facts and moral standards included in this memo, pornography should not be censored by the FCC. The fact that pornography is offensive to some people is not a strong enough reason for making it illegal. Also, there is not enough evidence to support the argument that pornography causes sex crimes and to provide a morally compelling reason to deny the freedoms of expression and speech which pornography allows us as human beings.
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