Charles Rehn - Democrat for President 2004

A Conversation With America
Questions That Must Be Answered
Web Edition (c) 2002, 2003 Charles Rehn All Rights Reserved




Vices: Pornography


The current issues concerning pornography are much more complex than fundamental issues of morality, ethics, stereotypical views and censorship.

It's going to become a greater and greater issue in the area of the right to privacy, public and private records of activity and electronic monitoring.  It will seem to be a debate about morality, but it will actually become an arguement regarding the politics of morality, and the politics of personal destruction.

I grew up with the idea that sex was one of those things you didn't talk about, and that it was completely between the adults engaging in sexual activity.  Put more simply, it wasn't any of my business, it wasn't anyone else's, and frankly, I didn't want to be involved in anyone else's sex life anyway.

The taboos and guilt we place on the habits and expressions of sexuality are incredible.  I actually know a priest who confessed that the real reason he became a priest was because he felt guilty about something he had done, and because of that, he had to make up for it.

What had he done? His father had caught him looking at the bra and lingerie sections of the Sears catalog. His father told him that if he continued to look at that sort of thing, that he would go to hell. He kept looking.

From that point on, he became more involved in the church in order to make up for his sin. That's a true story.  But even he realized that one small event in his life caused him to respond and compensate for his humanity in a way that altered his life.   Good or bad.  He says, had he not become a priest, he would likely have become a teacher or a lawyer or a politician.

He used to laugh at how, in the end, the Sears catalog was the source of his inspiration to become a priest. "Whatever it takes" he'd joke. "It's providence".

Back in 1995 when I really became fascinated with the internet, and how it really put you in communication with the whole world with such ease, the way you got around the minutia of the net was following recommended links from one site to the other, and sharing your personal favorites and bookmarks with other people.

Every once in a while you'd come across a link to an adult site. For a while, I'd look at  the front of the sites, and sit there in absolute amazement at what they were showing, but even more, that they could get away with showing it. I didn't even think of it as something that was a business: it just looked to me like it was some exhibitionists who liked to shock people.

After a while, I didn't pay a whole lot more attention to it. But, I kept hearing how the porn industry online occupied some 60% or more of the internet traffic at night.

Time went on, and, through circumstances I won't explain, I was given a subscription to an adult site. I was really surprised, but decided what the heck. Ultimately, I was drawn to the Webmaster section, because I was very curious about the methods they were using to attract business. I knew it wasn't just sex.

I'd always had the common stereotypes of what it meant to be involved in pornography... that it was filled with immoral people and criminal types and things like that.  So, I was very surprised by what I actually found.

It was very well organized network marketing. People would join groups - like organizations - of people who were given everything they needed to create an adult website. They were given pictures, web site space, examples of code, free feeds in return for promotion... whatever you wanted on the site was available so long as you promoted them in an ethical way.

There were basically 2 types of these organizations: one would be the "anything goes" type that actually would teach you how to cheat sponsors and open 10 million pop-up windows.  Most, though, were sites where they taught you how to run a good site, attract customers, use search engines and such. And they would run chat rooms so that  webmasters could talk to each other about everything from web techniques to working after people's kids went to bed so they wouldn't be exposed to it, and alerting each other about sites and vendors displaying or selling child porn, at which time they would all make individual reports to authorities in order to get the sites, and the people, off the web.

Here's what else I found:

The people involved weren't personally inhibited sexually, but rarely involved themselves in the kinds of things they displayed, and were not eager to make public disclosures about operating the sites

These were people who believed they had identified a legal means to make money that no one would ever know about, or have reason to know about, or care about

That the legitimate adult site operators respected the sitgmas and morals of other people, and were generally willing to go out of their way to co-operate  and take reasonable steps to make their sites filterable and legal

Finally, legitimate promoters prohibited its "linkers" from using email to promote the sites, because they agreed they did not want children to view inappropriate material, and, frankly, they didn't want to give people a good reason to claim they were doing things that exposed people to things they didn't want to see.. like in the spam you get in your email. They understood that their right to freedom of expression did not override their responsible to respect the rights of others.

What I ended up being concerned about most, after all of those considerations, was the fact that so many young people - mostly women - of legal age, but of the age when people don't give a great deal of consideration to long term implications of their actions - pose nude or in porn scenes on a whim without much thought, only to have it haunt them later.

It's already happening more and more often.

In essence, they do something which is legal but is held against them based on due or undue social response or righteousness.  There is a double-standard that is very definitely going to catch up to a lot of people. A lot of good people.

It's like having a stereotypical view of people like presidents only to find out that many of them had affairs or mistresses. We are all disappointed at one level or another because the image is broken or tarnished, but ultimately, as people, we understand that people are people and sex is sex and running a government is not about the personal life of a leader.. although, it's reasonable to have higher expectations and ideals, if only to remind us of a goal to be better people.

Once again, however, it brings me back to that same tv show I mentioned in the part about marijuana, with William F. Buckley.

Given the level of electronic surveillance now occurring on the web, as well as a variety of activities now allowed under the Patriot Act, anyone who has involvement with adult site operation, posing for pictures, or even viewing an adult site, will be in danger of public exposition of their habits and adult entertainment.

That means, there are a great number of people who will be suppressed from participating in American Democracy and civic life in order to protect themselves from embarrassment and persecution. A great number of people. It has the potential to become an environment of legal and political entrapment. A useful political tool.

Do I think adult entertainment on the web is okay? I think it has its place, for healthy adults. I do not believe it promotes actual perversity or sexual crime, although it always has the potential to attract people involved in those kinds of  activities, just as the stock market sometimes attracts "cheaters".

I believe most people who view adult entertainment may do it frequently at first, but the shock and entertainment value wears off, and then it's not much of a consideration. And, I think it actually improves the sex life and sexual expression of some people.

There are a great number of things, though, that would do a better job of separating adult entertainment from mainstream access, without impinging on rights or forcing limitations of opportunity.

I don't claim to be an expert on this subject, but the legitimate operators I've questioned say they have always been in favor of cooperating in order to restrict access to adults, because they understood that it meant they could operate without concern of legal recourse, as well as acting as responsible citizens.

And, that child porn is simply unacceptable morally and ethically, without exception.

(BTW: I want to thank John Ashcroft and the DOJ for doing such a great job of investigating child pornography on the web, as well as the financial reliability of promoters and sponsors).

It is important that we take an objective look at the subject, particularly given the the "public facades" that would "make you a bad person" if you view pornogaphy, and, at the same time, the corporate institutionalism of pornography, having grown to a $300+ million dollar industry not only in strip clubs and on the internet, but on broadcast and cable tv.


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(C) 2002,2003-2009 Charles Rehn Jr IV  All rights reserved