Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


Pepè Le Pew or Hugh Hefner? Who’s The Real Villain?

 

- Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and Matt Maddox

This piece was originally published on The Stream.

A cartoon skunk is now the face of the rape culture. Pepè Le Pew, the lovestruck, clueless, ostensibly French, romancing skunk has found himself in the crosshairs of New York Times columnist, Charles Blow. In a recent column, he said that the besotted skunk normalized the sordid culture of rape. In an otherwise thoughtful piece on how children experience racism, Mr. Blow’s toss-away condemnation of a cartoon skunk garnered him the most attention. In response to the outcry, he doubled-down. Unfortunately, blaming a cartoon character for the rape culture minimizes both the suffering of rape victims and the deepest roots of the problem.

A better cultural icon to cancel would be someone like Hugh Hefner, and the deep root of the rape culture problem: the Sexual Revolution itself.


Pepè Le Pew Normalized Rape Culture?

Mr. Blow defended himself on Twitter, expounding on the romantic rodent’s sexual misconduct. “1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, w/o consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won’t release her. 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping.”

Perhaps Charles Blow should re-watch those old Pepè Le Pew episodes (if they’re not canceled yet). He might see that Pepè is presented as someone the other characters avoid. He’d also see that even Pepè Le Pew doesn’t like when the tables are turned. The obvious comedy of the situation might be too nuanced for a grown up to get. But kids understand intuitively that the seductive skunk is not a role model, but a laughable character, whose antics should not be replicated.

Let’s Start With Hugh Hefner

If we are going to retroactively cancel cultural icons because of their encouragement of rape culture, let’s start with Hugh Hefner. Reflecting on his work in an interview in 2010 he said, “The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous. Women are sex objects.”

Printing a magazine that taught millions of boys that women are merely objects for sex does far more harm than a clueless skunk amorously chasing a cat. Hugh Hefner did incalculable harm to those millions of boys accidentally exposed to porn at a young age through his magazines.

Pornography and Sexual Violence

Pornography, though doesn’t merely degrade women in the eyes of the consumer. Pornography also tends to be an escalating behavior.Fight The New Drug (an anti-pornography website) puts it this way, “Because of porn’s addictive nature, porn consumers usually need an ever-increasing dosage over time in order to feel the same level of enjoyment. They often have to seek out more extreme and hard-core forms of porn.” For too many consumers, this more extreme and hard-core porn includes violence.

Dr. John Foubert, a leading expert on sexual violence, examined the link between pornography and sexual violence in a recent article. He found: “That 95% of the time when someone is violent with another person in porn, usually a man toward a woman, the recipient is shown as either liking that violence or having no objection…Pornography teaches boys to hit girls and shows girls that they should like it.”

 

In addition, Mr. Blow’s colleague at The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof, wrote a blockbuster report on how Pornhub profits from sexual violence. Kristof’s article featured the terrible story of a woman, now 23, who was adopted from China. Her adoptive parents forced her to appear in violent pornographic videos uploaded to Pornhub, from the time she was 9 years old.

The same report from The New York Times quotes the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s statistics on how the exploitative content of minors has exploded. In the space of four years (2015 to 2019) there was a shocking 964% increase, going from 6.5 million reported exploitative images, to 69.2 million reported such images and videos. In the face of this type of data, it’s hard to blame the rape culture on a cartoon skunk kissing a painted cat.


 

The Pervasive Ideology of the Sexual Revolution

But underlying all of the rape culture, is the pervasive ideology of the Sexual Revolution. The core tenant of the Sexual Revolution is that everyone deserves to have sex all the time with no consequences anywhere: sex is an entitlement. This ideology permeates society. Even Nicholas Kristof in his fine expose, couldn’t help but opine that “It should be possible to be sex positive and Pornhub negative.”

We’re not so sure. Writing in the National Catholic Register, one of us challenged the Sexual Revolutionary view. Evidently Kristof and Blow both accept the idea that lack of consent is the only possible basis for judging a sexual encounter as immoral. We think this places more weight on “consent” than it can bear.

The #MeToo movement bears this out. So do the cases of Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, or former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. While these three men operated in different sectors of society, they all operated according to the tenets of the Sexual Revolution. Weinstein promised his victims stardom through his wealth and influence. Epstein offered his victims the possibility of modeling careers. McCarrick gave advancement in the Catholic Clergy to his victims.

The power of these men enabled them to silence their victims and create a system of compromised individuals who helped enable the victimizers. Their heinous acts are really little different from the back-alley rapist, the sadomasochistic pornography producer, or the child sex abuser. All these predators embrace the idea that they are entitled to sex. Other people are objects for them to use in what is no more than a physical act.

 

Canceling a Skunk is a Cheap Shot

Focusing on a cartoon character, when the porn industry makes billions, is a cheap shot. The porn industry might actually fight back. Canceling a skunk when a cad like Hefner gets a pass, is unconscionable. The Ruth Institute stands by the ancient Catholic teaching that no one is entitled to sex. The only way to combat the rape culture is to diagnose it accurately, recognize where it comes from, and speak for the victims.

 



PornHub's Problem isn't Consent

This article was originally published December 17, 2020 in the National Catholic Register.

by Jennifer Roback Morse

I commend New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Visa and Mastercard for exposing and fighting the plague of the sexual exploitation of children on the internet. Kristof’s pathbreaking story shows just how widespread kiddie porn really is, and how easily the innocent can be entrapped in its snares. Hawley has introduced legislation making it easier for victims to sue. And Visa and Mastercard have withdrawn their services from the Pornhub site. This issue transcends liberal and conservative, left and right. However, something more needs to be said.

In his Dec. 4 story, Kristof focused on the pornography distribution site Pornhub. He noted that a search on the site for “girls under 18” and “14yo” both yielded more than 100,000 videos. They include the rape of children, as well as strangulation and other vile acts. The mega-site attracts more than 3.5-billion visits a month, making it the 10th most-visited website in the world.


Largely in response to this story, Visa and Mastercard announced that they would no longer allow their cards to be used to pay for services on Pornhub. In addition, Hawley filed the Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act, creating a private cause of action for victims of rape and sex trafficking. The act would allow victims to sue websites that knowingly depict forced sex acts, criminalize the knowing distribution of videos of coerced sex acts, including criminalize “revenge porn,” which is the non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit images by an ex-lover to cause embarrassment or distress to the victim.

All these are good steps. I very much appreciate Kristof and The New York Times for this reporting. However, there is still one thing that troubles me.

Kristof stated, “The issue is not pornography but rape. Let’s agree that promoting assaults on children or on anyone without consent is unconscionable. The problem with Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein or Jeffrey Epstein was not the sex but the lack of consent — and so it is with Pornhub. ... It should be possible to be sex positive and Pornhub negative.”

Perhaps it “should be possible.” But I’m not convinced. I think this is one of those exquisite distinctions that is possible in theory, but not possible in fact. The reason? The underlying principle of pornography is that sex is a recreational activity with no intrinsic moral or social significance. The only possible problem with porn or with any sex really, is a lack of consent. Assenting to this view of human sexuality is, I suppose, what it means to be “sex positive.

But this view places more weight on the concept of “consent” than it can reasonably bear. We’ve seen throughout the #MeToo movement, that power imbalances can blur the lines between consensual and nonconsensual sex. As Catholics, we have seen many of our bishops ignore the sexual harassment of seminarians, under the theory that they were adults. And I think we have all seen enough to conclude that being “sex positive” does not actually empower the potentially weaker party. Potential victims, such as seminarians in relation to their superiors, employees in relation to their bosses, and children in relation to anybody, are not in a position to give meaningful consent. Our current crop of ideas about sexuality actually disarms potential victims, placing too much responsibility on their shoulders and ignoring their vulnerability relative to the offenders.

Kristof quotes some of the victims. Their responses are telling.

"I had expected the survivors to want to shut down Pornhub and send its executives to prison. Some did, but others were more nuanced. Lydia, now 20, was trafficked as a child and had many rape videos posted on the site. “My stomach hurts all the time” from the tension, she told me, but she doesn’t want to come across as hostile to porn itself.

“I don’t want people to hear ‘No porn!’” Lydia told me. “It’s more like, ‘Stop hurting kids.’”

In my opinion, Lydia doesn’t need to be “nuanced.” She has every reason to be angry. She should not have to worry about whether she comes across as “hostile to porn.” She has every right to be just as darned hostile as she wants.

Here is Kristof again:

"I asked Leo, 18, who had videos of himself posted on Pornhub when he was 14, what he suggested.

“That’s tough,” he said. “My solution would be to leave porn to professional production companies,” because they require proof of age and consent."

I don’t think this line can hold. “Consent” isn’t strong enough. An arbitrary age isn’t strong enough. The underlying problem is that too many of us believe sex is a recreational activity to which all consenting adults are entitled. In fact, some go so far as to believe that a person cannot have a healthy or meaningful life without plentiful sexual activity.

These ideas about human sexuality have put down very deep roots in individual minds and in public institutions. As a culture, we have no objective moral reference point by which to judge any particular intimate encounter, apart from “consent." And let’s face it, we can easily deceive ourselves when we are deciding whether to excuse ourselves or restrain ourselves. In an intimate encounter, almost by definition, there is no one else around to judge us. The power of “sex positive” ideas will bulldoze through the thin line of “consent.”

I propose an alternative view of human sexuality. No one is “entitled” to sexual activity. Sex is something sacred, that potentially holds the literal power of life and death. The lifegiving potential of sex, the life-threatening power of sexual exploitation, we should accept these as facts, not as outmoded prejudices that we are well rid of.

I don’t think poor Leo should be put in a position to have to say this is “tough.” What happened to him was wrong. What led up to what happened to him was also wrong, including the thought processes and ideas.

I hope people from across the political spectrum can work together to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children. It’s an issue of justice for the victims of child sex abuse. This plague is eating away at the soul of our society. I appreciate Nicholas Kristof’s important work on this subject. I do hope he will be willing to rethink some of his ideas. He is right on the brink of a breakthrough. And I also hope everyone reading this, will pray for him.

 



Internet Child Porn Issue Transcends Left and Right--Ruth Inst.

“We commend New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) for exposing and fighting the plague of the sexual exploitation of children on the internet,” said Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.

In a December 4 story, Kristof focused on the pornography distribution site Pornhub. Morse commented: “The writer noted that a search on the site for ‘girls under 18’ and ‘14yo’ each yielded more than 100,000 videos.”

She charged: “The Pornhub videos include the rape of children, as well as revenge pornography, strangulation, and other vile acts. The mega-site, which attracts more than 3.5 billion visits a month, making it the 10th most-visited website in the world, does nothing to police its content. It has no incentive to do so. Like other sex-traffickers, it monetizes the suffering of children.”

Along with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), Hawley has filed the Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act, creating a private cause of action for victims of rape and sex trafficking – as well as those whose intimate images are distributed without their consent -- to sue websites that profit from their suffering and degradation.


The act would allow victims to sue websites that knowingly depict forced sex acts, criminalize the knowing distribution of videos of coerced sex acts, criminalize revenge porn, and require sites like Pornhub to create notice and takedown procedures.

“This is an issue that transcends liberal and conservative, left and right,” Morse said. “It’s about justice for the victims of child sex abuse and fighting a plague that’s eating away at the soul of our society.”

The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization, leading an international interfaith coalition to defend the family and build a civilization of love.

Jennifer Roback Morse is the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives.

See also:

Ruth Inst: “Cuties” Proves Need for Presidential Debate on Family Issues

Virtue Signaling Without Virtue: porn industry brags about its voluntary shutdown over coronavirus

Melea Stephens “The Pornography Effect: The Problems Reach Further Than You Could Imagine”

Dr. Don Hilton “Can We Actually Lose Our Empathy? What Pornography Does to The Mind”

Melea Stephens "Everything you need to know about porn, dangers and side effects

Chris McKenna "Protecting Young Eyes"

To schedule an interview with Dr. Morse, contact info@ruthinstitute.org.

 

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