Pornography – it’s positive and negative effects when viewed as a counselling issue
The usual discussion centres round the definitions of whether something can be called Art or whether it is more a matter of pornography. That is likely to remain a thought experiment, playing with words or academic exercise. Rather this essay focuses upon the exploration within a counselling room situation. It is trying to understand the experience of viewing or actually taking part in the activity that ranges from mildly sexually provocative to frenzied involvement and its effect upon all participants and participants relationships.
I know it is a false distinction but I tend to split pornography into two broad categories. The positive experience I place under the nomenclature of ‘eroticism’ and the leave the negative effect under the nomenclature of ‘pornography’. But what a minefield the whole subject is!
There is no need to venture into the realms of Art and the discussion as to whether a nude picture is pornographic or Art, for one person may look upon a nude form and be inspired by the beauty that is seen, whilst another person may only focus upon the genitalia and see it as a lewd object. Rather let me write more about the effect of sexual content and consider whether such is positive or negative, and thus erotic or pornographic.
Eroticism is a fact of life and without it the human race would have dwindled into extinction a very, very long time ago. Without an erotic arousal then copulation would never occur and the only way the human race could have continued would have been by Immaculate Conception – and Christianity preaches that this has happened only once! In general terms this stimulation starts with visual content or imagined [inner] visual content. Physiological consequence is arousal and subsequent sexual activity usually leading to copulation, and satisfaction for at least one party. Where both parties feel a measure of satisfaction then there is a giving and taking in the action that is an expression of love and intimacy. Such activity can be very gentle or one of swinging from the chandeliers. There is no need to limit the degree of sexual arousal or activity and classify ‘love’, on the one hand, as being gentle with the other person and, on the other hand, if considerable energy is expended as being ‘animalistic’ or ‘unloving’ or degrading.
Pornography, I think, is where the content of that stimulation involves a degree of abuse or degradation against one gender over the other. The powerful imagery induces feelings of power in the abuser that excites and inflames the person into desiring further sexual activity. In this case the outcome is not so much one of expressing love and intimacy as demonstrating dominance and power over the other.
The grey area of this way of thinking is what constitutes love and intimacy and what is just personal gratification, for the submissive person might find that the debased position is sexually stimulating and so most willingly collude with the dominant’s need to control. In that instance the apparent pornographic activity for both people is still an expression of giving and receiving, and so is an expression of love for the other! I believe you cannot categorize the actual physical activity as being erotic or pornographic if both parties want to participate and the end result is admitting to vulnerability by showing sexual needs to the other and a growing closer together as a consequence. However, if one of the parties finds the sexual content too confining, limiting or bizarre then respect is lacking between them and the activity is going to be damaging in the long run.
A clearer instance of negative effect is where a person always needs the feelings of power and control in order to become sexually stimulated. In this case the content can be considered a drug that inevitably leads to feelings of inadequacy on the part of the participant unless that need is fulfilled, and usually in increasing measure as time goes by. When this happens and the other person feels debased or hurt, then the relationship will gradually suffer as a direct consequence. That activity must be considered pornographic under my definition.
Motivation and gratification is a complex area and I consider that Art, Eroticism and indeed Pornography can inspire or lead to a person’s further thinking that keeps sexual arousal new and exciting. Complications are very evident when a person is disabled or challenged either physically or mentally. When the same old triggers are the only sure way of sexual arousal, then in all probability that is not a wholesome situation, for life is change. It most certainly is not stagnation. A never changing food diet leads to disrespect of food, appetite and eventual health unless there is no other option. Change in diet leads to appreciation of differing tastes and textures. When relating this to sexual activity, dreams, fantasy and pushing the boundaries is a way of growth for the individual together with their partner or partners if relationships are to grow deeper over the years. The basic diet will inevitably remain the same but blandness needs to be avoided if at all possible.
This has to be held against the slowing down both mentally and physically of participants as age takes its toll. The comfortable slippers are still cherished, even though they lack attractive beauty and colour, so tried and tested expressions of love are not to be discarded simply because they have been the basis of love making for many a year.
I believe there is no absolute ABC of sexual rightness or wrongness. Different cultures have expressed sexual needs quite differently and see other cultures as weird! In the end I think that if a certain activity hurts one of the participants in some way or other [not defined] then that is pornographic and unwholesome, and if both parties like what they do and find satisfaction and fulfilment, then surely they should carry on with the same!!