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Scholar Says Europe’s Fight Against Pornography Shows Depth of Problem

Iceland’s legislative and executive branches are considering bans on Internet pornography in the country out of concerns about the effects on children of having been exposed to violent sexual content.


| Posted 4/11/13 at 10:43 AM

Mark Turner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

DENVER — Recent public efforts to oppose pornography in two European countries reveal that porn is a problem not only for religious reasons, but for universal human reasons as well, according to a professor.

“The hyper-sexualization of children, the constant exposure of children to these very sexual images ... is very damaging to their image of themselves and of what their potential future relationships are supposed to be like,” said Susan Selner-Wright, a philosophy professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

Her remarks come as Iceland’s legislative and executive branches are considering bans on Internet pornography in the country out of concern about the effects on children of having been exposed to violent pornography.

In the U.K., the teachers’ union Association of Teachers and Lecturers recently advised that students be warned of pornography’s risks and its abnormal depictions of sexuality — a move Selner-Wright called “spot on.”

At its annual conference in March, the union said educators need more guidance about how to deal with today’s sexualized youth culture.

“We are noticing a much more explicit vocabulary emerging and types of games amongst the very young that are quite sexually explicit,” Alison Sherratt told her fellow teachers at the conference, according to the BBC.

Speaker Helen Porter added, “It is crucial that youngsters develop an understanding of sex in the media and pornography, so that they can recognize the abnormal nature of these sexual expectations and appreciate the dangers of accepting the values portrayed by the sexualized media.”

Iceland has banned strip clubs and forbids the printing and distribution of pornography in the nation, but it has not yet dealt with pornography on the Internet.

Efforts to ban access to it stem from concerns for the civil rights of women and children, particularly focusing on children’s exposure to violence in pornography.

Selner-Wright explained to Catholic News Agency that, while humans “have a natural tendency toward relationship with each other,” a problem now is that “people have become so reductive that they see all relationships in terms of sexual relationships.”

In the media, intense relationships are presented as sexual, and intimacy has been replaced by sexuality, the professor observed.

“In film and TV, we’ve really lost the category of a non-sexual but really important human relationship,” she reflected. But “the fact is that most of our relationships are not meant to be sexual. It really is a huge force for loneliness.”

“If you think the only category for me to have an intense relationship is a sexual one, then that means that almost all the relationships I could have now have to be superficial.”

Selner-Wright agrees with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers that access to pornography is damaging youths’ capacity for healthful relationship.

“If we buy into this idea, that all intense relationships are sexual, then we’ll start having sex early, often and with a bunch of different people, and we’ll ultimately lose our capacity to have a really meaningful and peculiarly sexual relationship.”

Icelandic officials are acknowledging that the protection of children from easily accessible Internet pornography is not a task for parents alone. An adviser to the interior minister has said it is “a task for the whole society,” the Daily Mail reported.

Pornography, Selner-Wright said, “really is the objectification of whoever the images are of. ... It’s the reduction of those women to their sexuality; it’s one-dimensional: The only important thing about the woman in the image is in what way is she sexually arousing.”

Speakers at the U.K.’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference agreed that children are being desensitized to the objectification of women and of themselves. “They are routinely taking sexual photographs of themselves and sending them to others,” said teacher James Schlackman.

“It’s radically disrespectful of the wholeness of whoever’s image it is,” Selner-Wright added, “and even if the person whose image it is agrees to have themselves displayed this way ... they are objectifying themselves; they’re disrespecting themselves.”

Addressing pornography in terms of human rights, she said that human persons “have a right not to be reduced to their sexuality, and that’s a right you hold even in relation to yourself. It’s an inalienable right.”

Iceland is concerned about pornography and strip clubs out of a concern for the rights of women and children and is unique among European countries in pursuing a ban of pornography. Selner-Wright expressed hope that Icelandic legislators don’t “lose their nerve” in their fight.

“There’s a lot more to any human being than their sexual arousingness, and when they are reduced to that, that’s a fundamental violation of their nature, which then is inevitably going to have a lot of repercussions.”

“We’re reaping them: in broken relationships, in the explosion of single-parent households, in this real disconnect between marriage and children,” she explained. “All of that is fruit of that misunderstanding of [human] nature.”