When it comes to pornography, there are no true believers. That's because — outside of grotesque self-deception — it's not possible for a man who has made vows of fidelity to a woman and vows of protection for his children to consume pornography and say it was a right and good thing to do. No one would dare mouth such words. It would be a lie and it would make him a coward. Those who produce, distribute and consume pornography cannot stand up straight, look you in the eye and tell you they feel good about their self-medicating contribution to society.
And yet we protect the devil's own cesspool on grounds of free speech and tolerance. With dripping intellectual pretension, we teach the next generation that erotica is a legitimate literary genre. We are, as the founding president of Stanford University David Starr Jordan once said, "shirking the bonds of love for the irresponsible joys of lust."
The other day, I opened a magazine to an advertisement by the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. The tagline read, "Just the right amount of wrong." The ad agency that came up with that will probably win some kind of industry award for cleverness and people will clap and tell them how brilliant they are.
Why do we keep ambushing ourselves as a race? Where's our sense of duty to each other? As we sexualize the media and eroticize the culture, it's not a matter of opinion that we have a problem. It's an earned truth born of broken marriages, damaged children and cratered confidence.
Michael Sandel, a philosopher at Harvard, said, "Slavery was appalling because it treated human beings as a commodity, to be bought and sold at auction. Such treatment fails to value human beings as persons, worthy of dignity and respect; it sees them as instruments of gain and objects of use."
And what shall we say about pornography? As New York Times writer David Brooks observed, "If your kid spent a lot of time reading Maxim and watching rap videos, you'd know in your gut that it was damaging to his soul." As a society, we live in a state of profound denial. We don't want to talk about the casualties. We'd rather attack those who do for their bigotry and moral high-mindedness. We'd rather excoriate advocates of self-restraint, virtue and abstinence. We'd rather make virginity taboo. We'd rather crush an already broken male culture. And we'd rather tell ourselves that we are liberated and simply exercising our God-given right to free expression. Tell that to the victims.
If St. Thomas Aquinas were alive today, he would give our society highest honors for moral repugnance. In his Summa Theologica he writes, "Some things act without judgment, as a stone moves downwards." Then he points out that sheep run from the wolf out of natural instinct. Finally, there are humans who have judgment, but fight an inner battle with appetite and sometimes do things that judgment forbids.
As a species, we have the capacity to learn but not always the willingness. When we choose appetite over judgment, we act no better than Aquinas's stone. And yet we are less innocent than the stone. We are no better than brute animals that prey on their young. We have unleashed a most devastating blunt and frontal attack on marriage, family and children. While it rages, we want to talk about social justice.
Our craven, postmodern society is blatantly sexist and degrading. We worship at the altar of tolerance — including tolerance for things that should be intolerable. We've even silenced feminists who no longer decry their own objectification.
May we have the courage to bravely refuse pornography and not add to the body count.
Timothy R. Clark is CEO of TRClark LLC, a leadership development organization. His newest book, "The Employee Engagement Mindset," was recently released from McGraw-Hill. He earned a doctorate from Oxford University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org