The old adage goes: There are two types of people in the world: People who enjoy pornography, and people who lie about it. For most of my life post-puberty, I have found this to be true. For a short time, I helped out a friend who owned an independent video store. I would work there as a cashier on the weekends. He carried a lot of foreign, independent and cult movies—lots of really good stuff—but of course, the engine that drove the store’s economy was the adult section.
All kinds of people would come by to rent DVDs. I knew some of them, but most of them were strangers. They came from all walks of life. A lot of them did, in fact, have great taste in movies and were excited to find a place that actually had a copy of the new Chan-wook Park film. The majority, though, would retire behind the curtain and leave, discreetly, with more erotic fare, as did a lot of the hardcore cinephiles from time to time.
I wasn’t a stranger to adult films before pitching in at the video store, but what I was shocked to discover was the sheer volume and variety of pornography that existed. It’s as if you could close your eyes and think of the most bonkers thing you could dream up, and there was a video for that. Pterodactyl porn is a thing—at least enough of a thing for there to be a video of it. I don’t think it contained actual pterodactyls, but holy shit, how awesome would it be if it did? Paleontologists would be jizzing themselves on so many levels.
There was a time when I too enjoyed porn, though I never did get to see the pterodactyl kind. Maybe I would still be all about it if I had. It’s kind of like marshmallow Peeps. When I was younger, I was super into them. Like, I couldn’t wait until Easter and get a buttload of Peeps. I even had methods on how I’d eat them, like devouring some while they were fresh and gooey, but also slashing the plastic on a few packages and letting them age and get kind of crusty. That’s when they were the best. Now they’re just too sweet. I can’t stomach them. I’ll still have one every now and again. My mom always gets me some for Easter, I guess partly for the nostalgia and partly because I’ll always be her little boy. But instead of stockpiling stale ones, I’ll just have one or two and toss the rest.
Porn, similarly, doesn’t hold the same sway over me as it did when I was in my twenties and basically just a giant hormone. Now when I watch it, there’s the initial ooo la la reaction, but then I just end up feeling bad, for myself and the people involved. I’m like, these women are, what, 22? Maybe? I’m old enough to be their creepy uncle, and here I am passive-aggressively participating in their exploitation. Then I turn it off and try to cleanse myself by listening to NPR or something.
But maybe I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. Maybe I’m the one who’s the victim here. Not the young men and women who perform sexual acts on camera, but me who sits here in my flannel pajama pants and tries to find it online for free, doing the double duty of exploiting and taking money out of their wallets. A couple of Republican lawmakers (one in Virginia and one in—big surprise—Utah) are striving to make pornographers liable for the psychological and emotional damages their products cause. Todd Weiler, state senator from Utah, and Robert Marshall, of the Virginia legislature, are mounting a proposal that wouldn’t outright outlaw pornography in their respective states, but would allow those adversely affected to sue pornographers for damages.
“Right now porn is available without any warnings and labeling, without any protections online,” Weiler said in an article published on the Salt Lake Tribune’s website. “This would just open the valve for a cause of action.”
Marshall likened the porn industry to the tobacco industry, telling the Washington Post, “Before smoking was identified as a problem, at least the recognition that it led to certain pathologies was a starting point to put restrictions on it.”
Marshall’s measure states that pornography promotes the treatment of women as objects and “teaches boys to be users.” It also states that it “normalizes violence and abuse of women and children,” which are all things we should find abhorrent. In so doing, Marshall seems to be making a pretty compelling and universal argument. So much so that even a senator from across the aisle, Barbara Favola, may be on board, according to Newsobserver.com.
This is great news! At least lawmakers in one state are coming together to take bipartisan action on something. And if it goes through, maybe one day I can realize my dream of getting rich off of some lawsuit. Hope springs eternal.