It goes by many names, from "smut" to "erotic art." It's as old as civilization itself, and is present in all cultures, with or without the approval of those in authority. It takes many forms, finding expression in literature, music, painting, sculpture and theater, as well as in the more modern media of photography and cinema. Its creators range from the anonymous scrawler to the likes of Catullus, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Titian, and Wagner; and their talents run the gamut from childishly crude to supremely eloquent. As with any other creative genre, pornography indulges a wide variety of tastes from the brutish to the exotic, and covers themes from humorous to sublime to tragic.
There are some who hold that any work of man which depicts or describes sexual activity is harmful to those (especially children) who view it, and ought to be banned outright. They cite cases in which individuals have committed heinous acts of molestation or rape, ostensibly as a direct result of their exposure to sexually oriented material.
On the other hand, there are those who say that pornography (or "erotica," if you prefer) is not only stimulating and beautiful, but even beneficial in some situations. They contend, for example, that exposure to erotic material can help rejuvenate flagging sexual desire in marriages that, while otherwise satisfactory, may have gone stale from a romantic standpoint. And it has been convincingly argued by some psychologists that, far from encouraging sex crime, pornography may actually prevent countless rapes, by aiding a person's ability to fantasize and gain release through self-stimulation rather than resorting to a forcible act against another human being.
As to pornography's supposed ill e...
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...ssentially attempts to dictate public taste. And in a free society that is not a legitimate province of government. Nevertheless there are some public figures who eagerly take advantage of citizens' gullibility in this matter to further their own political ends in a shameless grandstand display of demagoguery.
It is inconceivable to me that a free people would willingly surrender to government the right to decide what they should be allowed to read or view. To assert that they could do so and remain truly free is blatantly self-contradictory. But even if it were theoretically possible or desirable for a government agency to determine what material is fit or unfit for consumption by a free people, I cannot think of a single bureaucrat—elected or appointed, in any branch or at any level of government—whom I would trust to make such a decision for me. Can you?
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