At my parent’s house, however, television has a significant entertainment role. Recently I was watching with my mother a discussion on whether porn is unhealthy. My response to that question was “Duh, of course it’s unhealthy.” However I could see why some people on the telly disagreed.
Our difference lies in how you define unhealthy. For some people “Unhealthy” behaviour is symptomatic of an unhealthy person. When those people say porn is healthy they mean that you don’t have to be “some sicko” to watch porn; virtually everybody watches porn so it is part of a healthy life.
I define healthy differently. For me it’s not about categories to which we can belong. We are all healthier than a dead person. We are all at the same time able to think of people much healthier than us. I couldn’t run a block at the moment so in fitness terms you may be much healthier than me. But it doesn’t follow I belong to a category of sick people. It’s a bell curve or a spectrum of some sort but it’s not two different tick boxes on a form.
To use a different example - is a cream bun healthy? Of course not. It has near to no nutrients and a massive refined carbohydrate content. There may be a rare person who is actually healthier after eating a cream bun (a diabetic entering a hypoglycaemic state) but we can safely call it an unhealthy snack. Obviously.
However a cream bun eater is not necessarily a person on an insane death wish. In fact there is no one cream bun eater at all. One may be a fourteen year old footy player whose activity levels laugh off all those calories. One may be an occasional snacker. One may be staving off depression with sugar. And another may have a terminal illness and couldn’t give a shit about acquiring diabetes.
Basically if we intend the question “is eating a cream bun healthy?” to mean “is the eater of a cream bun healthy?” we can never answer it. They are always healthier than a dead person. They may or may not be healthier than the average.
But who cares if a cream bun eater is healthier than the average person? Why would anyone spend so much attention on the person with the cream bun rather than the variable in question, the cream bun itself? The reason is because they are actually asking should we worry about person X for eating a cream bun. Or sometimes should I worry about myself because there’s a cream bun in my hand.
To return to porn then, those people on telly who thought porn was healthy were actually saying “Don’t worry about me because I watch porn.” Or perhaps they were saying “Don’t bother me, don’t feel entitled to censor what I watch because you’ve declared me sick.” That’s what happens whenever you have these debates while people feel threatened.
I worked for many years in drug and alcohol services and regularly I would find people denying that cannabis or alcohol or heroin was unhealthy. I would often think to myself “Of course it’s unhealthy. It’s not fruit.”
At the time I was smoking about twenty cigarettes a day. I knew and admitted they were unhealthy. The real difference between me and the cannabis, alcohol and heroin addicted people I worked with was that no-one was capitalising on my admission that smoking was unhealthy. No-one was going to take away my kids or institutionalise me or even expect me to listen to a lecture just because I admitted what I was doing was unhealthy. I could say my smoking wasn’t healthy but that I was, thank you. The people I worked with thought that if they said what they were doing was unhealthy it would be read that they weren’t healthy people. And if they weren’t healthy then us workers could bother them legitimately because that’s what unhealthy people get.
To put it another way when we ask whether some thing- a drug, a cream bun or porn - is unhealthy it’s both science and politics. On the one hand it’s information without effect so that people can make informed choices. On the other hand it’s the basis for policy decisions which impact on peoples lives effectively without their consent. When we ask whether some one is healthy it’s even more clearly political. It has direct consequences for that person’s power. When we ask whether something is unhealthy but we really mean or are heard to mean, whether someone who does that thing is healthy we get all sorts of politics firing off and objective science is way too frightened to pop up its head.
Thinking back to those drug work days helps me to see that it is only from a privileged position that I can admit porn is unhealthy. I can hear someone tell me I shouldn’t be consuming that porn, because it doesn’t even cross my mind that they will control me if I agree with them and then consume porn anyway. I am always a healthy person (that is someone who doesn’t have to accept bothering) who may or may not be doing unhealthy things.
That’s why for me the question as to whether porn is healthy is whether it adds to my health or detracts from it, not what type of person it indicates I am. The issue is not whether anyone can bother me but whether or not I, in my sovereignty over my life, will count porn as healthy for me or not. And like the cream bun or cannabis the answer is pretty obvious. I mean seriously “it’s not fruit.”
Now I’m aware that cream buns or cannabis are more easily contrasted with fruit than porn is. Evaluating substance use is not a simple affair while engaging with porn is an even more complex human activity. If people want I’ll happily post my arguments in a future blog as to why I consider porn generally unhealthy (and there will be exceptions). I would only be making those arguments however in the context that people are entitled to make unhealthy choices. That goes for cream buns and cannabis too.
Just for this blog though here are ten things porn isn’t.
1. Physical exercise (alright not much physical exercise).
2. Watching a film for the quality of its writing or acting (with rare exceptions)
3. Reading a book for the quality of its writing. (with rare exceptions)
4. Actually doing the rompy rompy with someone you fancy.
5. Increasing your repertoire of experiences to chat about on a first date.
6. Writing, like a blog.
7. Masturbating to your own unique fantasies.
8. Learning to knit, fire twirl, bake bread... (also helps with 5)
9. Cleaning (never gonna happen but we can dream)
10. Giving yourself a moment to live without media mediation.