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Pornography and the rape of nature
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
September 11, 2003
"Our lack of intimacy with each other is in direct proportion to our lack of intimacy with the land. We have taken our love inside and abandoned the wild." — Terry Tempest Williams
Every Friday morning I gather with friends at a Leucadia institution to talk politics over breakfast. We've been doing this for years, and there is always plenty to discuss. In a flurry of petitions we discuss globalization, animal exploitation, nuclear proliferation, lost civil liberties, and the juggernaut of corporate imperialism as evidenced by both Bush administrations. As imagined, coffee plays a big part in this ritual.
Recently things took an unexpected turn. Across the street from my buckwheat pancakes, a crowd had gathered to protest the opening of an "Adult" boutique. There was a famous ballplayer answering media questions, an ex-mayor stirring the pot, and enough cherubic children for a Baby Gap ad. With hastily made signs denouncing pornography, these folks wanted the smut shop shut down as it represented a threat to children and common decency.
As we ate breakfast, the general consensus was that the first amendment trumps any call for subjective censorship, regardless of the purity of motive. There was also an agreement around the theory those protesting had issues best addressed by places such as the sex shop in question. As I agree with the sanctity of free speech, I can't find fault with citizens speaking out against something they feel strongly about.
I only wish their criticism of the adult business went deeper than the usual puritanical considerations.
After the demonstration dissipated, and our breakfast group parted, two of us were left trying to make sense of the morning. Helen and I, both acknowledged ecofeminists, couldn't find much reason to support the sex industry, other than the anthropocentric and highly sexist exclusivity enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as the self evident and unalienable right of "…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Like it or not, Thomas Jefferson was vague enough in his wording of this founding document to allow future generations the pleasure of motion lotion, sex toys, and Triple X Monkey Love on DVD.
It was Helen's idea that I dedicate a column to the ecological costs associated with the free market pandering of sexual dysfunction.
Before anyone accuses me of being an uptight prude, nothing could be farther from the truth. Healthy expression of human sexuality is a good thing. Without it, society produces people like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and the whack jobs of Heavens Gate. Sexuality is about procreation, communication, recreation, and socialization. Humans have always been good at doing the biological bump. Had we not been, we would not have evolved to the point of nuclear families and the Playboy Channel. I am merely questioning if a nine-inch latex device is a healthy expression of anything.
Another friend, who has shopped at the "adult" boutique, put it this way. "If those people were really worried about the children, they would be protesting ocean pollution." "Exactly!" was my response. To look at pornography, sex toys, fetish fashions, and leather goods and see only the exploitation of women is to overlook a much bigger injustice. The sex industry is just a symptom of human debasement of nature. If you think about it, Larry Flint is no different than Ronald McDonald.
For every "dirty" magazine or "adult entertainment" there is a corresponding environmental impact. Magazines like Hustler, Playboy, and Blue are nothing more than dead trees full of naked monkeys. The true obscenity is deforestation, and the corresponding extinctions resulting from the perpetual publication of adult literature. Then there is the amount of fossil fuel needed to produce, market, package, and transport this free speech.
Of course many would reply they frequent sex shops as a joke, for party gifts, or to add a little spice into a bland relationship. To which I would counter, the destruction of fragile ecosystems is no laughing matter. Nor is the amount of pollution created with each marital aid or party favor. Plastic, rubber, latex, and other synthetic materials also come from heavily polluting industries. The list of environmental consequences of the adult entertainment industry is a mile long.
And don't even get me started on those who need the skin of dead animals to find the beast within.
I could also rail against the misogynist patriarchy and how man can no longer relate to women. Just as he can no longer relate to the environment and must therefore objectify and exploit them, as a way of controlling them.