Pornified: How British culture became so porn-obsessed

110,000 people in the UK have signed a petition to protect children from online pornography which will be handed to Prime Minister David Cameron next week, to put pressure on him to take action. The petition, signed by everyone from MPs to teachers, aims to combat the rocketing tide of online porn which is affecting young children. Last week, ChildLine published statistics showing that the number of children calling the helpline over the past year has soared by one third, due to children encountering hardcore porn. It’s natural for young children to act in disgust when faced with pornographic images – however, as we get older, innate feelings within human beings slowly dissipate.

When hardcore porn was first introduced into society, there was an immense amount of revulsion. It takes a long time for things to become normalised in society but the ubiquity of porn is now very normal. We can see it by the way we’ve become so desensitised to it.

According to Cindy Gallop, an advertising consultant, the average age kids view hardcore porn has dropped from 11 to eight. The reality is shocking, but the prevalence of porn in our culture is now inescapable. Recently, on the social networking site Instagram, thousands of “Instaporn” pictures have been created using a new photo app, flooding the site and causing a huge outcry.

And if the sight of everyone reading Fifty Shades of Grey wasn’t enough (the book is now Britain’s best-seller in history), writer and feminist Naomi Wolf is set to release Vagina: A new biography, within the next week.

Sex is now used everywhere to sell everything. Even the sex toy industry alone is worth £250m annually. But what has caused all this?

Although this may seem like an unpopular answer and one we are reluctant to face head on, the fairly rapid decline in religion may be the reason. Those who decalare themselves as Christians dropped by almost ten per cent between 2005-2010. In 1983, those who did not have a religion was one in three, it is now one in two. What’s more, is that more than half of those who identify themselves as religious, do not attend religious services. Britain is no longer a Christian country, except in the sense of its history and some of its traditions.

I am not advocating that religion is the answer to societies ills or the best driving ethical force. The most powerful ethical force is middle class prosperity along with a society where there isn’t a huge disparity between rich and poor. This is best seen in Northern European countries, whose rates of corruption are incomparably better than, say, Nigeria and Pakistan, whose rates of corruption are the worst in the world.

But I do believe sexual immorality is within the realm of religion. Because religion and philosophy often deal with “why” and not just “how” they should therefore help us get to the root of certain ethical problems. Christianity is probably not the best religion to deal with sexual immorality: the Catholic Church is plagued with Priests committing monstrous acts against children. Interestingly, the ten countries affected worst by HIV/AIDS are Christian countries, while the ten countries affected least by HIV/AIDS are Muslim countries, according to Cambridge academic Tim Winter.

There is a good reason, according to Winter, why Islam doesn’t allow free-mixing between the sexes, why men and women must dress modestly, why sex before marriage and staring at the opposite sex aren’t allowed – it’s not to make one’s life a misery (although many would see this as a miserable life) – it’s there to prevent what’s currently happening in our society.

The 19th century philosopher Kierkegaard saw what was coming. He recognised something serious was happening in Europe. Kierkegaard recognised three modes of existence, one of them is the “aesthetic mode”: a hedonistic life, rooted in pleasure and desire, but the people who live this lifestyle, he argued, get bored easily. Perhaps explaining why people move from soft porn to hard porn and some even to pedophilia, according to Pamela Paul in her book Pornified. This mode of existence, Kierkegaard argued, leads ultimately to despair. Interestingly, watching too much porn is often linked to depression and unhappiness.

In Socratic philosophy, there is a analogy between desire and thirst, highlighting that desire is an attempt to fill a void.

The hedonistic lifestyle is therefore one which attempts to mask a void and fill an emptiness. Modern, western secular society is also a godless one, and has replaced God with many other things; for example, hedonism and in turn endless porn. Modern society is also a less happy one: in 1957, 52% of people said they were very happy, while in 2006, 36% of people said they were very happy, according to the BBC. But the problem of porn is not a western issue: Pakistan, for example, has the highest rate of porn searches in the world.

Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and other celebrities have sex tapes, Christopher Hitchens also apparently said that he can’t think of a woman’s mouth without thinking of fellatio. British historian Arnold Toynbee said that when the elite become vulgarised it is a sign that you are on your way out, and he studied over 22 different civilisations.

We are not the first pornified culture, Pompeii was, too. Pompeii was destroyed and buried under ash following the eruption of a mountain. When Pompeii was excavated, a highly sexualised society was discovered, pornographic murals were discovered among many other crude things in private museums, solely for the preserve of the aristocrats. Pompeii, according to Muslim intellectual, Hamza Yusuf, serves as a beautiful reminder that we may become buried in the ashes of a meaningless society if we continue on our path.

Omar Shahid

@omar_shahid

One Comment

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