I was fifteen years old when I watched my first pornographic film and mostly recall being nervous. I was underage. Even after getting past that hurdle there was the fear someone might see me, so I wore my sunglasses until the house lights dimmed. The on screen scenario went something like this: a cowboy discovers a farm girl in his barn. She gives him pleasure through a hole in the planks between the stalls. Live horses loafed in the background munching oats and passing gas.
I loved it, but as a Catholic boy turned born-again Christian, the experience was spoiled when I peeped in at the projectionist after the show and came eye to eye with one of my fellow church members. The awkward moment left us both so embarrassed we never made eye contact again.
Around that same time, I took in my first foreign film, “Brother Sun Sister Moon.” Based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, it is about a man who renounces sex and dedicates his life to selfless service. The picture moved me more profoundly than any porn flick ever could.
No matter which side of the spectrum we are drawn to, most of us have a desire to express ourselves freely, sexually or otherwise, and we are drawn to examples of free expression in the movies. It is this same natural curiosity that draws us to pornography.
One can argue that porn promotes sexual slavery. It’s probably true, but marriage has taken at least as many prisoners, and as an adolescent I was touched inappropriately by a priest, so who, exactly, is responsible for more sex crimes? It is tempting to conclude that religion and pornography are two sides of the same coin. One could not exist without the other.
In previous centuries leaders maintained power by binding the populace with feelings of guilt and shame for our carnal urges, but the real goal was to enslave minds. They didn’t really want people to stop fornicating. How could they maintain power without overpopulation? They would not be able to keep raising armies and taxes.
When modern birth control blew away the Victorian fog and opened our senses, a cultural renaissance gave rise to the moon shot, civil rights, feminism, ecological awareness, religious ecumenicism and many other breakthroughs. Many motion pictures of that period foretold of this present quantum leap to global consciousness.
Pornography is bringing sex back out into the open where it was before the New Testament. It is teasing most of us into a collective openness toward sex; one that can be engaged without fear of damnation or disease. So why have porn profits on the web leveled off already? Because porn’s big secret is, there is no big secret. After the novelty wears off, most of it is about exciting to watch as animals in a barn.
The institutionalized repression of the past several hundred years is responsible for the sexual obsessions currently exploited by our modern media. It can’t last forever. Widespread sexual openness will ultimately neutralize our obsessive/repressive deadlock. Once this cultural wave crashes, pornographic movie making will either adapt or something even truer to our nature will take its place.