Healthy attitudes about sex start at home, agreed a porn star, a former sex addict and a local DJ at the Salt Lake Community College's "The Porn Debate" on Friday night in the Grand Theater.
The debate featured pornography star and industry advocate Ron Jeremy, countered by former addict, author and industry critic Michael Leahy. X96 radio morning show host Bill Allred acted as moderator in the event presented by the lecture series company Wolfman Productions and sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Leadership.
"We wanted to have an educational discussion and forum about a topic that is very controversial in this area," said Kelly Manuel, coordinator of student life. "We hope that they walk away with more information than they came with."
Despite wide-ranging opinions, all three men on stage emphasized the need for parents to take responsibility for how children develop ideas about sex, relationships and self-image. The most common profile of a sexual crime perpetrator is someone who is uneducated and from an abusive, single-parent home, Jeremy said. Both Jeremy and Leahy also agreed that censorship is not the answer since, as Leahy put it, "pornography is as old as cave drawings."
The source of most of their disagreement centered around definitions: What constitutes pornography? What is an addiction? What is healthy sex?
Leahy said his addiction to pornography made it difficult for him to have a satisfying intimate relationship with his spouse. His increasingly unsatisfied yearnings eventually resulted in his being unfaithful and losing his marriage of 14 years and life with his two sons. He believes the real cost of pornography is the resulting inability to form meaningful relationships.
"We've taken sex out of the relationships and put it on television. Once we mature, we desire to be deeply known by someone. The real iceberg under the water is dealing with relationships," he said.
Jeremy said he believes there is a difference between romantic sex and recreational sex. He said he doesn't believe having one type hampers one's ability to enjoy the other.
Leahy defined pornography as any message intended to be sexually stimulating. He cited a statistic saying Americans are barraged with 14,000 sexual images a year by the mainstream media. He said today's college-age youths have been exposed to more such imagery than any generation of humans in history. Jeremy emphasized that his industry is only responsible for images portraying sexual relations in a highly regulated and controlled way to keep it away from minors.
Leahy said the danger of pornography is something each individual must decide. He said he wanted to warn the audience of the unforeseen effects resulting from the distortion of masculinity and femininity and the objectification of people.
Jeremy said that like other products designed for adult purchase, there was no danger with pornography if used responsibly.
"It's not how often you do something, it's whether that thing is botching up your life," he said.Several students said they attended out of curiosity to see if the debate was going to be handled civilly. Rachel Davis and Ryan Timmims both said they were pleasantly surprised by how intelligent and reasonable both men were.