The latest issue of The Humanist magazine examines the issue of pornography. One of the articles mentions a 1985 humanist panel discussion where, despite deep divisions, “all were in agreement . . . that porn both perpetuated and reflected a culture of filth and malaise, that it was ultimately a symptom of a sick society.”
Such laments that society has gone to the dogs have been with us since, well, society began. But it’s a gross error to romanticize prior epochs as a halcyon time of higher morality. Human suffering and injustice were far more widespread, and more tolerated. As to sexuality specifically, past humans had the same biological impulses and pecadillos as we do; what they lacked was our outlets for them. That didn’t make them more moral; merely less happy. What some decry as a modern sinkhole of depravity is just the fact that we have less suppression of our natural sexual feelings, and greater freedom and openness to express and gratify them.
Just look at the situation of homosexuals, for example. Where they suffered virtual torture in the past, today’s culture allows them to be open, honest, and fulfilled. We have finally gained the maturity to understand that how gays get their sexual satisfaction is nobody’s concern but their own. And the same applies to people getting sexual satisfaction via pornography.
All this freedom does not reflect “malaise” or a “sick society.” It’s societal health.
The same issue of the magazine also discusses the family “honor” code in many Muslim societies, decreeing that a father must kill his daughter if there is any suspicion about her “purity”, or for refusing to submit to his tyranny. A case was mentioned wherein the “honor” code even required letting a four year old rape victim bleed to death.
Now that’s what I call a sick society.