Blaming the Smut Peddlers | Letters | Chicago Reader

Blaming the Smut Peddlers 

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Dear Reader:

Thank God John McDermott [Letters, November 10], as an aside really, set us all straight as to the intolerable state of affairs that rampant pornography has elicited in our society, including growing rape, STDs, and harassment. I hadn't realized that most of what ails us sexually can be fairly well pinpointed to my local smut peddler, shrewdly posing as a 24-hour newsstand. Get behind me, Satan-publishers! John, guns don't kill people, hard metal pointy things do. How many more steps removed from the real actor shall we get . . . someone's pulling both triggers. When will it be admitted that we have met the enemy and he is we? William Faulkner, when questioned about a personality in his novel, once responded: "I didn't say it. The character did." Are we, too, but players of ourselves, always pointing to plot devices and character flaws beyond our control to explain our downfalls? Are we ever allowed to look toward the individual for responsibility? Wackos, such as Catharine MacKinnon, it seems to me, have found pornography the perfect scapegoat for practically everything up to and including: crime, all rape, bestiality, necrophilia, the national debt, lotto fever, and possibly watery Slurpees (the ill-frozen treat is no doubt due to careless employees whose attentions are diverted exclusively toward the goal of figuring out how to get the plastic back onto the magazines). And how shall we presume to mandate where your prurience ends and mine begins? If only Big Brother would further legislate our lives, we could feel really good about ourselves--like in the old days when a literary reference to one's genitalia, even if peculiarly rhythmic, was absolutely scandalous ("I celebrate myself, and sing myself"--Read between the lines, friends!). If government were to continually target the lowest common denominator of citizen for which to measure, then promulgate, our laws--particularly our censorship laws--the limitations would be untenable in any free society. I wonder what the state of affairs is in China where pornography, among other things, is effectively outlawed. No harassment of women there, I suspect; and, unsurprisingly, none of those nasty sexual diseases. Now if they would simply outlaw the act . . .

Bobby O'Byrne

Chicago

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