Pornography Has Been Around A Long Time, Regardless of What Grandma Says

I’ll admit it. I’m surly today. I just found out I’m going to have to drop $3K on my daughter’s dental work and it’s the first Halloween that neither of my kids are doing anything and I really just want to turn off my lights and draw the shades. But, while I was in the waiting room at the dentist I just read an article from some senior citizen’s magazine where several people over 65 were complaining about how the world has changed, specifically sexual standards including pornography. Their attitudes and white-washing of the history was frustrating to read.

I’m not here to defend pornography at all, but I think it’s buffoonish to pretend like it didn’t exist in the first 80 years of the 20th Century. I don’t mean to attack senior citizens at all, and if any read this blog, I’m not talking about you. It’s your Golden Girls-watching brethren who need to recognize they hold some responsibility for where we find ourselves today. It wasn’t my generation or the next one making sex-soaked films in the 60s and 70s that became the norm in Hollywood.

If you want me to point out 1,000 things that are better now than they were in the past, I easily can. From safety standards to communications to health care to transportation, it’s impossible to make a solid argument that things were better back then…whenever you decide “then” was.

Yeah, maybe you didn’t have to have school shooter drills, but you did have air raid drills. If you’re going to believe you had a more moral, less sexualized society, I’d point out to you the teenage (15-19) pregnancy rate in 1957 was 9.6% while in 1979, that figure was 11.1%. In 2015, it dropped to 4.3% — less than half of what it was during your romanticized vision of society.

There’s too much sex on TV compared to your day? We have 800 channels now. There’s too much everything on TV compared to when there were three channels. Times Square in NYC became a cesspool for strip clubs and adult theaters in the 1960s. Sixty years later, you won’t find any adult entertainment there. Exponentially more cities and towns have strict rules about or against adult entertainment businesses than ever before.

The reality is, those who condemn the youth of today as immoral were once labeled that as well and it’s been happening for ages:

“The free access which many young people have to romances, novels and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth…” – Rev. Enos Hitchcock, 1790

“Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day.” – Granville Stanley Hall, 1904

“Many young people were so pampered nowadays that they have forgotten there was such a thing as walking, and they make automatically for the buses… unless they do something, the future for walking is very poor indeed.” – The Falkirk Herald, Scotland, 1951

If you want to believe there really wasn’t porn in the 1950s, one only has to point out that Playboy made its debut in December 1953. That means somebody who is 70 today was 4 years old when it debuted. You can look back into the 1920s and see widely distributed magazines with naked people that were produced specifically for titillation. Let’s not forget all of the art created between 1500 and 1900 that had adult themes. I’m not talking about naked angels. There was plenty of hardcore nudity in paintings during those 400 years. Want to go further back? There are erotic paintings and carvings that have been found in caves dating back to the paleolithic era more than 50,000 years ago and plenty also found in Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago. Let’s not even talk about what the Greeks and Romans were into.

The world has always been a sexual place; it’s how we get the new humans here. I understand that we have technology that makes ease of access to sexually explicit materials easier than in the past, but Playboy isn’t still around because the Internet appeared 20 years ago. Playboy is struggling because the Internet appeared. Somebody caused its circulation to rise to 7 million per month in the 1970s, when these moral people interviewed for the article were in their 20s and 30s. But I’m sure they never looked at one.

I take exception to the romanticism, nostalgia and rose-colored glasses that the past is looked upon and the scorn with which the present and future are seen. I hear the word “millennial” tossed around like it’s a horrible thing, but I’ve never seen a more ethically conscious, morally aware generation. I think the future is in good hands with your grandchildren. Perhaps your distaste comes from the job you did raising my generation. Maybe my generation took notes and tried to do better.

I could give more than enough examples to fill volumes of books, but I know that the current group of older, conservative people who rue the day and wish things were like they were in the good old days are simply not going to understand what the rest of us already know: There never were good old days and if there are, these are the good old days for today’s youth. Your generation brought the same things every generation brings to the table, advancement of science and culture that scared the people who came before you.