Sunday, May 09, 2004

Abu Ghraib and Pornography

The Belmont Club links to an article by Donna Hughes in National Review that brings up the connection between the Prisoner Abuse photos and pornography:

    The images from Abu Ghraib are trophy pictures. The sadistic MPs are shown posing, smiling, and gloating over their victims and what they have made them do. Similarly, I found numerous offers on the Internet from pimps for men to bring cameras and video recorders with them to make trophy images and videos of their sexual use of women and girls.

    Why are we shocked by these images from Abu Ghraib, but when the victims are women (or gay men) the images are called pornography or "adult entertainment"? Why can we easily see the violations of human beings in one set of images, but miss it in others? What if the Iraqi men had been forced to smile, could we be convinced that there was a newly formed "publishing and film production" company in Baghdad instead of sexual abuse and humiliation being perpetrated?

I have actually thinking about this connection since the pictures first came out. There are many porn/fetish sites on the internet that would love to have acquired these photos before they became public domain. I am sure there are already sites trying to peddle "previously unrevealed" photos, whether legitimate or fake. And even pictures that don't specifically deal with sexual humiliation and abuse are often obtained from less than willing subjects. There is a kind of trophism even in "softcore" pornography.

The horror we feel at the exposure of US misbehavior is partly from a sense of betrayal (as noted in the Belmont Club post) and partly from sympathy with the victims of this outrage. But I think this reaction highlights the naivete of people who wink at even consensual sexual misconduct. Once we have cordoned off sexual behavior as existing in a private area, unsusceptible to public censure, it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish "freedom as long as no one is hurt" from "freedom to do what ever feels good".

I realize that I am making a sort of slippery slope argument here, which has fallen out of favor in recent years. But why do you suppose the perpetrators have claimed in their defense that there were insufficient guidlines in place? Could it be because standards have fallen so far that there is now no agreed upon presumption of moral behavior? No doubt I am overreacting, but the partisan glee with which some people have tried to make use of this scandal makes me doubt whether our culture currently agrees upon any fundamental truth.

No comments: