Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Better than chocolate?

Here in the UK there has been a lot in the news about expenses and allowances being claimed by MPs (Members of Parliament as opposed to Military Policemen).

An especially prominent story has been that of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary who accidentally included a bill for pay-per-view movies in an expense claim. Some of the details are at

The story seems to be especially newsworthy because the movies were of the “adult” variety. It’s almost as if some people think that it wouldn’t have been so bad if the movies in question had been “family entertainment”.

I’ve commented on pornography in a few other posts already, I know, but the article at the Time Online web site prompted me to some more thinking.

The expense / allowance claim thing isn’t the issue that I’m especially thinking about. The rights and wrongs of claiming the cost of a pay per view movie as an expense are all tied up with the rules and regulations about what is an allowable expense for a parliamentarian.

I do feel a lot of sympathy for both Jacqui Smith and her husband over the meal that the media have made over the porn aspect of the whole thing, though.

I’m not aware of anyone suggesting that what was being viewed was illegal to watch in the UK. So why all the fuss about it being pornography?

Well – just because it is pornography, I guess.

How many people … guys in particular … use pornography?

There was a time when I thought that I was alone in this … at least when I was still attending  Church.

But the statistics seem to say I’m not … and I never have been.

Of course, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. But these statistics seem to be genuine.

I had spent many years feeling guilty and shameful about this.

I’ve read the arguments against it.

Like many arguments, I feel ther are elements of truth – but it’s not all true.

There is an article at that includes these snippets:

the musician Moby, [who] once said in an interview, "I like pornography - who doesn't?

But is it as simple as this? One of my best friends is a man for whom pornography has apparently never held even the slimmest interest. Moby may choose to distrust him, but his sex life otherwise has always seemed to me perfectly robust. He is, however, so much in the minority as to seem almost an oddity.

A little later, it continues:

Bill Margold, one of the [porn] industry's longest-serving film performers, was interviewed in 1991 by psychoanalyst Robert Stoller for his book Porn: Myths For The Twentieth Century. Margold made no attempt to gloss over the realities. "My whole reason for being in this industry is to satisfy the desire of the men in the world who basically don't care much for women and want to see the men in my industry getting even with the women they couldn't have when they were growing up. So we come on a woman's face or brutalise her sexually: we're getting even for lost dreams."

But it really isn’t as simple as that. Whatever Bill Margold’s reasons were for being a part of the porn industry, he wasn’t satisfying those kinds of desires for me. I know that it is not true that all users of pornography “don’t think much of women”. It isn‘t true that they all are trying to get even with women that they couldn’t have. It would be a lie to suggest that we are all making an attempt to get even for lost dreams.

There are women, I guess, that I am envious of … they have much better figures than I do … though I have been told that my legs are quite nice.

Of course, Edward Marriott, the author of the article doesn’t actually say that these things are true of all men that use pornography. But neither does he suggest that it might not be the case.

The article in Times Online includes this:

“I know of at least one case where a husband went to a wife and said: ‘We are no longer having sex. I love you very dearly. I want to honour your choice not to have sex. Rather than have an affair I want to tell you that I am going to use internet porn.” She cried a lot and she said to me ‘I'm glad he was honest with me and in the end I had to say thank you, this is a real sign of love'.”

I understand this. Empathise with it. Understand that it’s not easy.

I have read of the evils that pornography leads to. And yet, as I have written before, I know these are not inevitable outcomes. I have no more desire to brutalise women than I have to stab people with kitchen knives.

My own feelings are that it’s a great shame that the media felt a need to emphasise the fact that Jacqui Smith’s husband is a user of pornography. I mean … I get the feeling that it would be more newsworthy if he didn’t use it.

Fair enough … if people in public office are cheating on expenses then I can see how an argument can be made about public interest.

But really, I’m tempted to think the pornography angle is really about a totally different kind of public interest.

Like many things in life, I think that a person’s views on pornography are shaped, to some extent at least, by more than just pornography. Some people are influenced by the Bible or the Koran. Others by bad experiences that they have had. Others by good experiences. It’s not simple. Life isn’t simple.

A few words from Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls):

We're sculpted from youth
The chipping away makes me weary
And as for the truth
It seems like we just pick a theory
And it's the one that justifies
Our daily lives
And backs us with quiver and arrows
To protect openings
Cause when the warring begins
How quickly the wide open narrows
Into the smallness of
Our deconstruction of love
We thought it was changing
But it never was
It's just the same as it ever was

In the end, different people are … well … different. Not everyone enjoys playing golf. Not everyone likes to go overboard with the makeup. And things aren’t always how people might predict that they would be. At home it tends to be me that goes overboard with the makeup whilst my wife goes way, way, way overboard with the golf.

It isn’t a foregone conclusion that chocolate is better than pornography. It depends on who you ask.


Pretty Sissy Dani said...

For me, this whole thing--on the political end--is a question of hypocrisy. If Jacqui Smith is one of those politicians who makes a great show of her "normal family life" and frequently speaks out against what she sees as perversion, etc. (and I don't know that she is...I don't follow Brit politics that closely), then the fact that her husband views porn suggests that her public image and private life are somewhat different.

It's like the anti-gay raver who gets caught in the men's room with his pants down...if you know what I mean.

Andrea said...

I agree entirely Dani.

I'm not aware of Jacqui Smith making much in the way noises about "normal family life" ... so far the only thing the media are pointing out are expenses and porn.