Very few of us are strangers to pornography. Definitions and opinions aside, in each of our lives there was a moment when we first encountered that particular book or image or movie which forever skewed our conventional view of sex. After our introduction to pornography, sex just didn't seem as clean, serious or sacred. It became clumsy, juvenile, or simply laughable. I first became an acquaintance of pornography at the age of thirteen during a summer visit to my uncle's bachelor bungalow. In the bottom drawer of an old chest I found some moldy old copies of Hustler Magazine. Realizing that my uncle had long ago forgotten about the impressionable contents of this chest, I sneaked the unfamiliar material back home and marched straight to the bathroom for the rest of the evening where I passed the hours skewing my conventional view of sex.
I don't attach any moral significance to this awkward stage of boyhood. I'm not particularly proud of it, but I'm not carrying around a lot of guilt either. Of all the things I did in childhood, collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures seems to me just as embarrassing if not more so, but this may be because my mother never found out about my extra-bathroom activities. At least I don't think that she did. If she did she was too kind to embarrass me by direct confrontation. I tend to think, however, that she was (though not even remotely conservative) a mother of conventional virtue, who would have done anything to instill in her son the proper regard for sex, even if it meant keeping him from visiting his uncle or the bathroom.
I imagine that this nightmare of lost innocence must loom heavily in the thoughts of all parents, and I try to sympathize with conservatively minded parents for whom the nightmare looms tenfold. To them, merely living in the modern world creates an ongoing battle to instill in their children what they consider to be a sense of moral decency. I must concede that there is probably no cause more noble, and I sincerely respect the concerns and actions of such parents, just as I would have respected any action that my mother would have taken had she become aware of my prurient awakening.
But it is often these parents, lost amid the fervor of their convictions and their imposing sense of family duty, who exceed the proper boundaries of actions. The extreme admiration that I have for individuals who remain true to their parental duties turns to admonition when those same individuals forget their proper civic duties by seeking hasty solutions for personal problems through the establishment of strict laws concerning indecency and the censoring thereof. The well-known feminist, Susan Brownmiller, writes in support of government involvement on the issue, rationalizing that "to buy a paper at the comer newsstand is to subject oneself to a forcible immersion in pornography" (37). Her sentiment is understandable, and considering the blatant and open use of sex today in a host of...